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Reviewing Anaheim’s 2014 Draft Class
By Thomas Harrington
After a less than stellar 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Ducks had a much better one in 2014, though not without controversy. Florida held the first overall pick and they selected Aaron Ekblad. Going into the draft, the Ducks had two first-round picks: their own and the one that they acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade. The Senators had a poor season, giving the Ducks the 10th overall pick.
At the draft, the Ducks traded their own first-round pick, as well as a third-round pick in 2014, to Vancouver as part of the package to bring Ryan Kesler to Anaheim. As a result, the Ducks only picked five times in 2014, but they did find four NHL players. They chose Nick Ritchie 10th overall, Marcus Pettersson 38th overall, Brandon Montour 55th overall, Matthew Berkovitz 123rd overall, and Ondrej Kase 205th overall.
The year before he was drafted, Ritchie had 74 points in 61 games, but it was his playoff performance that cemented him as a top 10 pick in the eyes of several scouts and analysts. The Peterborough Petes were down 0-3 in the OHL Eastern Conference Final. With their backs to the wall, Ritchie stepped up and had four points over the next three games, helping force a game seven. In game seven, he picked up an assist in regulation, then scored the overtime game-winner, completing the dramatic comeback.
After he was drafted, Ritchie spent two more years in the OHL before turning pro. He split time between the AHL and NHL in his first pro season, scoring 30 points in 38 AHL games and four points in 33 NHL games. While his NHL production wasn’t great, his AHL production was enough to get Anaheim fans excited about his future. He was with the Ducks for the entirety of the 2016-2017 season, scoring 28 points in 77 games. It wasn’t the big jump in offensive production that many hoped for, but he had improved over his rookie season.
Unfortunately, Ritchie seemed to plateau, or even get worse, after that season. He scored 27 points the following season and saw his penalty minutes rise. In the following year, he scored a career-high 31 points, but he only had nine goals. Power forwards are known to take time to develop, but Ritchie’s falling goal totals and rising penalty minutes were certainly alarming. This past season, he played in 41 games for the Ducks before being traded to Boston for Danton Heinen.
The first round of the 2014 Draft has some very desirable players, many of them taken after Ritchie. Given the year that Ritchie had, I do understand why Bob Murray and the Ducks chose him, but ultimately, he didn’t work out as they hoped. That’s a problem for a first-round pick and an even bigger one for a top 10 selection. There are several other players who Anaheim could have taken, and the one that many are quick to point to is David Pastrnak.
However, while that was a miss, many analysts had him as a late first-round or even second-round pick. Very few envisioned him as a top 10 prospect, so I get why Anaheim didn’t take him. In fact, in reviewing my old notes from that year, the highest I saw him listed in mock drafts was 11th overall, while most had him in the 20s, or out of the first round entirely. Instead, the bigger miss to me was Detroit choosing Dylan Larkin 15th overall. He’s third in points by players taken this round and has become a top center for the Red Wings. His speed and skill would have been incredibly useful for the Ducks these last couple of seasons.
After being drafted, Pettersson spent a few years in Sweden before coming to North America for the 2017-2018 season. He split time between the NHL and AHL that season. The next year, he was in the NHL on a full-time basis. Unfortunately, the Ducks were in desperate need of offensive help at the time and traded Pettersson to Pittsburgh for Daniel Sprong. He played in 57 games for Pittsburgh and established himself in their top four. This season, he had played in 69 games before the season was put on pause. Pettersson was never going to be an offensive star, but he has become a reliable defenseman for the Penguins.
After being drafted, Montour spent the next season first in the USHL, then the NCAA then finished the season in the AHL. The 2015-2016 season was his first full pro season, as he suited up for 68 games with the Gulls and scored 57 points. The next year he made his NHL debut and played in 27 games for the Ducks. He became a full-time NHL player in the 2017-2018 season and scored 32 points in 80 games. The following year, Montour and the rest of Anaheim really struggled. Fearing that Montour’s next contract would be more than the Ducks could afford, Montour was traded to Buffalo for a first-round pick and Brendan Guhle.
In the second round of 2014, there’s only one defenseman who has put up better numbers than Pettersson, and that was Montour. Montour is second in points by all players chosen in this round, and Pettersson is fifth. So the Ducks made out pretty well in this round. However, Christian Dvorak leads all players with 115 points from the second round. I do think Montour was the right pick for Anaheim to make, but Dvorak would ultimately have been a better one than Pettersson was, especially when the Sprong deal is factored in.
However, with no third-round pick, I’ll expand the comparisons for Montour through the entire third round, instead of just the first 10 picks. And there’s one player that Anaheim, and the rest of the league, missed. As with Nikita Kucherov in 2011, Tampa Bay stepped up and made one of the best picks in the draft after the first round. With the 79th overall pick, they selected Brayden Point, and he is currently fourth in points by all players taken in this draft. Still, Pettersson was a solid selection, and Montour was a great one considering how the rest of the second round has turned out.
After being drafted, Berkovitz spent three seasons in the USHL. He then sat out the 2017-2018 season and has been in the NCAA for the past two seasons. He’s technically still an Anaheim prospect, one of the oldest in their system. As a result, it’s not fair to fully judge this pick a failure because Berkovitz could still turn into a useful NHL player, though his odds are definitely long at this point. Only nine players from the fifth round of 2014 have made it to the NHL, and Oskar Lindblom leads them with 57 points in 134 games. Philadelphia chose him 138th overall and will likely go down as a better selection than Berkovitz.
After being drafted, Kase spent a year in Europe before coming stateside for the 2015-2016 season where he played in 25 games for the Gulls. Unfortunately, he missed time with an injury that year, something that has continued to plague him throughout his time in North America. The next season, Kase played in 53 games for the Ducks, and then 66 the next year, scoring 20 goals and 38 points. If not for his injuries, he was looking like a late-round steal by the Ducks. The 2018-2019 season saw Kase suit up for only 30 games because of injury. This past season, Kase just didn’t look like the same player as previous years, and in 49 games he had only scored seven goals and 23 points. The Ducks decided to trade him to Boston as a result.
Only five players were picked after Kase in the draft, but surprisingly, two of them have actually made it to the NHL. However, they’ve played a combined 26 NHL games. Meanwhile, Kase leads all players from this round with 97 points in 204 games. Not only was Kase the right pick by the Ducks, but he was also far and away the best pick of the seventh round. Getting a 20 goal scorer this late in the draft was great work by the Ducks. Unfortunately, injuries have really hurt Kase’s career, but hopefully, he can get things back on track in Boston once hockey returns.
While not as strong as 2011, I do believe that 2014 was Murray’s second-best draft as GM of the Ducks. He found NHL players with four of his five picks, and who knows, maybe Berkovitz will turn into an NHL player someday. The only real blemish on this draft is Ritchie, but as I stated earlier, I do understand why he was chosen. I can forgive the Ducks for passing on Pastrnak, but missing on Larkin does bring Anaheim’s grade down for this draft. However, finding Kase in the seventh round does help to mitigate this somewhat.
Overall, I’d give the Ducks a B+ for this draft. Hitting on four of five players and getting Kase in the seventh and two top-four defensemen in the second round make for an excellent draft. Ritchie is the only downside here. However, even though Anaheim shouldn’t have picked him 10th overall, his 111 points are 17th among all players from this draft. Given that he still brought some value to Anaheim, they still keep a high grade. However, if Anaheim had made a better selection here, they could have matched their grade from 2011 or even exceeded it.
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May 5th, 2020