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Reviewing Anaheim’s 2011 Draft Class
By Thomas Harrington
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft was Bob Murray’s third draft as Anaheim’s GM, and it has become one of the most successful drafts in team history. After a lackluster draft in 2009, followed by a better one in 2010, the Ducks selected seven players in 2011.
For the first time in team history, every single player selected in the draft played at least one game for the Ducks. That is still the only time that has ever happened for the Ducks, and I’m guessing that there aren’t many years where other teams can say that.
2011 saw the Edmonton Oilers select first overall again, and they selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He’s turned into a good player for them, but better players were selected after him. Overall, the top 10 players selected were pretty good, as five of them went on to play at the NHL All-Star Game. Only one other player picked in the first round of 2011 has played in an All-Star Game.
The Ducks actually had the 22nd pick in the draft and were hoping to select Stefan Noesen with that pick. However, Ottawa picked him at 21st overall. With the player they wanted gone, Anaheim opted to trade that pick to Toronto for the 30th overall pick and the 39th overall pick. Toronto took Tyler Biggs. He has yet to appear in the NHL, while the Ducks picked Rickard Rakell 30th overall and John Gibson 39th overall.
Nine years later, that’s a trade that Anaheim won hands down. With the rest of their picks, Anaheim selected William Karlsson 53rd overall, Joseph Cramarossa 65th overall, Andy Welinski 83rd overall, Max Friberg 143rd overall, and Josh Manson 160th overall. The Ducks had no picks in the fourth or seventh rounds but did have two picks in both the second and third rounds.
After being drafted, Rakell spent a couple of seasons in the OHL before turning pro. He split time between the NHL and AHL in the 2013-2014 season before playing 71 NHL games the following year and recording 31 points. Ever since, Rakell has been a fixture in Anaheim’s top six, scoring over 30 goals twice. The last couple of seasons haven’t been great for him, but he’s far from the only Anaheim player to see his offensive production drop in the last two years.
Rakell was the sixth 2011 first-round selection to play in an All-Star Game. Rakell was the last player picked in the first round, and based on the first 10 players picked in the second round, he was an excellent selection. However, if I expand my gaze to the rest of the second round, the Ducks, as well as the rest of the league, missed out on one very important player. But, as I said in my initial post, I’ll usually only be looking at the first 10 picks of the following round when comparing players taken at the end of a round. With that in mind, Rakell was definitely the right player for Anaheim to take at the end of the first round.
John Gibson and William Karlsson
After being drafted, Gibson played a couple of years in the OHL before turning pro. He split time between the AHL and NHL for a couple of seasons and shared the crease with Frederik Andersen for a time, but has been Anaheim’s starter and MVP for the last several seasons. He’s become one of the top goaltenders in the NHL during his time in Anaheim.
After being drafted, Karlsson spent several seasons playing in Sweden before coming to North America at the end of the 2013-2014 season. The next year, he split time between the NHL and AHL. Going into the playoffs, Murray wanted to upgrade Anaheim’s defense and traded him in a package deal to bring in James Wisniewski.
With the Ducks, Karlsson only had three points in 18 games. In Columbus, he scored 45 points over the next couple of seasons while playing in 162 games. He looked like a serviceable player, but not a great one. Then, he went to Vegas at the expansion draft and had an offensive explosion. He scored 43 goals and looked like an elite center in his first season with his new team. Karlsson scored 24 goals the following season and had 15 when this season was interrupted.
Both Gibson and Karlsson were excellent picks. Goaltending usually takes a little while to develop; the Ducks were patient with Gibson and were rewarded. However, Anaheim was not as patient with Karlsson and got burned. Given that they were gearing up for a Cup run, and the fact that Karlsson didn’t do much in his two seasons in Columbus, I was okay with him being traded away. It took his arrival in Vegas for Karlsson to turn into the player everyone hoped he would be.
For Gibson, I do think that the Ducks made the right call. He’s been their starter for several years and has seven more years left on his current contract. If he can play at a similar level to his last few years, once Anaheim’s rebuild is over, they should give up a few goals. However, I do think Karlsson ultimately was the wrong pick, and not because he was traded away.
With the 58th overall pick, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected future Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov. Karlsson has become a great player in Vegas, but they missed out big time on Kucherov. Even if Karlsson had become the player he is today while in Anaheim, this still would have been a missed pick by the Ducks. Still, even with Kucherov being selected five picks later, Karlsson was a solid choice at this point in the draft, just not the fantastic one that Kucherov turned into.
After being drafted, Cramarossa spent a couple of years in the OHL before turning pro. His next few years were spent in the AHL and ECHL, but he finally broke through to the NHL in the 2016-2017 season, playing in 49 games for the Ducks. He was then traded to Vancouver where he played in 10 games to end the season. Ever since that season, Cramarossa has spent his career in the AHL.
The third round of the 2011 NHL Draft wasn’t particularly deep. Cramarossa’s 10 career points rank 10th among players taken that round. Still, a couple of more useful players were taken shortly after Anaheim selected him: Adam Lowry went 67th overall to Winnipeg and Nick Cousins went 68th overall to Philadelphia. They are second and third in scoring by players selected in this round.
After being drafted, Welinski spent four years in the NCAA before turning pro. He made his NHL debut in the 2017-2018 season, getting seven games with the Ducks, while also playing in 51 AHL games. He followed that up with 27 NHL games the next season. This season, Welinski has spent the entire year in the AHL, suiting up for 42 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Oddly enough Welinski’s six career points rank 11th among players chosen in this round, just after Cramarossa. Of the players chosen after Welinski in this round, Josh Leivo is the only skater to have a solid NHL career, and he has 65 points in 169 career NHL games. So he’s certainly not a star, but Anaheim would have gotten a better player with him. There is another All-Star and Stanley Cup Champion chosen in this round after Welinski, and that’s Jordan Binnington. However, until his miracle run with the Blues last season, he had been a career minor league goaltender. No one knew what they had in him, including St. Louis, and I don’t fault Anaheim not choosing him, especially after taking Gibson earlier in the draft.
Since Anaheim didn’t have a fourth-round pick, and Welinski was a late third-round pick, I’m going to break my 10 player rule and expand my search to see if there was a better player than Welinski at some point in the fourth round and not just 10 picks into it. It turns out, there is. With the 104th pick, Calgary selected Johnny Gaudreau. His small stature scared many teams off, but he’s become one of the league’s top-scoring wingers since he was chosen. So I’ll give Anaheim a pass for not taking Binnington, but they definitely missed on Gaudreau when they chose Welinski.
With no fourth-round pick, Anaheim didn’t draft again until late in the fifth round when they took Friberg. After being drafted, he spent a couple of years in Sweden before coming to North America. He got one NHL game with the Ducks in the 2014-2015 season and followed that up with five more in the following season. He spent the next year in the AHL before returning to Sweden where he’s still playing.
Only 12 players from the 2011 fifth round have made it to the NHL, including a couple taken after Friberg. The most notable is Nikita Nesterov. He’s played in 132 NHL games and has scored 33 points. So while Anaheim missed with Friberg, it wasn’t a big miss.
With their final pick, Anaheim selected Manson 160th overall. After being drafted, he spent three years in the NCAA before turning pro. He made his NHL debut in the 2014-2015 season, suiting up for 28 games with the Ducks. The following season, he was in the NHL on a permanent basis and has been ever since.
Manson was far and away the best player chosen in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft. He leads all players in games played, assists, and points while ranking second in goals. He’s become a physical force on Anaheim’s blueline and when paired with Hampus Lindholm, he’s been on one of the better defensive pairs in the league.
2011 will go down in Anaheim as one of the greatest drafts in team history. Besides the cool stat of every single player getting in at least one game with the Ducks, Murray was able to find a top-six winger in the first round, a starting goaltender in the second round, a top-six center in the second round, and a top-four defenseman in the sixth round.
Hitting on four out of seven picks is a great draft for any team. Every player seeing some NHL action is an added bonus. Also, for the three picks that didn’t amount to NHL players, they were good AHL depth in Norfolk and San Diego for a number of years before moving on to other teams.
Overall, I’d give the Ducks an A for this draft. The only real blemish was not picking Kucherov with one of their first three picks. But given the value that Anaheim did get with those three picks, and the fact that almost every team passed on him twice before Tampa selected him, tells me that no one had any idea of the player that he would turn into. Even the Lightning didn’t, or else they would have grabbed him in the first round with their first pick.
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April 25th, 2020