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A Broader Look At Anaheim’s 2016-2019 Draft Classes
By Thomas Harrington
Now that I’ve graded Bob Murray’s drafts from 2009 to 2015, I’m going to look back at Murray’s four most recent drafts. I won’t give a final grade, but I’ll give a brief overview of the prospects chosen and if I think it will end up being a good draft by the Ducks or not. I’ll also mention any players who Anaheim has missed.
Starting with the 2016 NHL Draft, the Ducks chose Max Jones 24th overall, Sam Steel 30th overall, Josh Mahura 85th overall, Jack Kopacka 93rd overall, Alex Dostie 115th overall, and Tyler Soy 205th overall. They had two first-round picks and two fourth-round picks while having no picks in the second, fifth or sixth rounds.
Four years later, I do think that Jones and Steel were both good selections. While neither has reached their full potential, I’m excited for the future of each, and Steel in particular. I think he’s going to become a second-line center who can play on the top line when called upon. Jones looks more like a third-line winger right now, but I’m hoping he can become a top-six power forward in the future.
Mahura is another good defensive prospect who has split time between the NHL and AHL. Even though Anaheim’s defense isn’t what it once was, it’s still a deep enough group to make it difficult for younger players to crack the lineup on a consistent basis. I do think we’ll see a lot more of Mahura over the next couple of years. Kopacka has had a couple of decent seasons in San Diego, but he’s struggled with consistency issues.
I think this coming season will be very telling of which way his career is going to go. Dostie already has three pro seasons under his belt and will be an RFA this summer. He hasn’t put up great numbers in the AHL, but this past season was his best before things were put on hold. Soy never signed a deal with the Ducks and doesn’t have much pro experience. For a player taken towards the end of the draft, that’s not entirely surprising.
Overall, I think Anaheim did well in 2016. I think their first three picks will become NHL regulars, but their final three picks haven’t done much. However, Kopacka and Dostie have helped out in San Diego, so Soy is the only pick that hasn’t helped Anaheim in some way.
The end of the first round of 2016 hasn’t produced a lot of high-end players yet, but Brett Howden does have more points and games in the NHL than Jones does. Still, I think Jones was a solid pick for the Ducks, as was Steel. However, there is one pick in the second round that would have been better than either. With the 39th overall pick, Chicago chose Alex DeBrincat. At this point in time, he’s put up more points than almost every player taken in the first round. Things could change over time, but Anaheim missed by not choosing him. The third round has only produced a few NHL players, and Mahura is among them. I think he was a very good selection by the Ducks.
Similarly, the fourth round hasn’t produced a lot of NHL talent, but Victor Mete has played in 171 games and would have been a better pick than Kopacka. For players picked after Dostie, there aren’t a lot of NHL players yet, so it remains to be seen if he was the right pick. Only two players from the seventh round have played in any NHL games. Joachim Blichfeld is one of them and he was picked after Soy. Still, he’s only played in three NHL games, so right now, it’s hard to say whether or not there were better options than Soy.
In 2017, Anaheim chose Max Comtois 50th overall, Antoine Morand 60th overall, Jack Badini 91st overall, Kyle Olson 122nd overall, and Olle Eriksson-Ek 153rd overall. Anaheim had two second-round picks and no first, sixth or seventh-round picks. Of these players, only Comtois has made it to the NHL.
With no first-round pick, it will be hard for this draft to be a great one for the Ducks. However, getting Comtois in the second round is looking like an excellent choice. He has yet to fully establish himself in the NHL, but I look forward to him and Jones jockeying for time in Anaheim’s top six over the next few seasons. This was Morand’s first year of pro hockey, and he didn’t put up a ton of points in the AHL. Still, some players take a while to adjust to pro hockey, and the next two seasons will give a better idea of what kind of career he’ll have.
Badini has spent the last three seasons in the NCAA after a year in the USHL. Anaheim signed him to his entry-level contract at the end of March and he has yet to play in any pro games. He’s another player who will take a couple more years to see what Anaheim really has on their hands. Olson never signed with the Ducks and is currently a free agent. He’s spent the last few seasons in the WHL. This was Eriksson-Ek’s first season in North America and it was spent in the ECHL, largely because of the number of goaltenders that Anaheim has at the AHL and ECHL levels. Hopefully, he’ll get some time with the Gulls this coming season.
Currently, Comtois leads all players from the second round of the 2017 draft with 18 points. That tells me two things. First, right now, he was absolutely the right player to take, though that could change, and two, that the players from this round are still developing and it’s too soon to judge them. The third round only has two players who have made it to the NHL, so it’s too soon to say if Morand was a good second-round pick or not. The same can be said of Badini and Eriksson-Ek. Honestly, the best part of this draft is that three years later, of the five players picked, four of them are still with the organization and can still be a part of the future.
2018 Draft Class
In 2018, Anaheim chose Isac Lundestrom 23rd overall, Benoit-Olivier Groulx 54th overall, Blake McLaughlin 79th overall, Lukas Dostal 85th overall, Jack Perbix 116th overall, Roman Durny 147th overall, and Hunter Drew 178th overall. The Ducks had two third-round picks and no seventh-round pick in this draft.
Of these seven players, Lundestrom is the only player to make it to the NHL so far. Two years after the draft, that’s not all that surprising. So far, he only has six assists in 30 games and it will be some time before it’s clear if he was a good pick or not. The second round only has two other players to play in a couple of games, and the rest of the rounds have no players to make it to the NHL.
In other words, it’s too soon to say if better players were available when Anaheim made their picks. Groulx recently wrapped up a strong junior career and will be turning pro next season. Dostal was named the best goaltender in the Liiga for this past season. After Lundestrom, those are the two prospects that I’m most excited for in this draft and I look forward to seeing what all of these players do next season and beyond.
2019 Draft Class
Finally, in 2019, Anaheim chose Trevor Zegras ninth overall, Brayden Tracey 29th overall, Jackson Lacombe 39th overall, Henry Thrun 101st overall, Trevor Janicke 132nd overall, William Francis 163rd overall, and Matthew Hill 186th overall. The Ducks had two first-round picks and two sixth-round picks but did not have any selections in the third or seventh rounds.
Only five players from 2019 have made it to the NHL. Of Anaheim’s selections, Zegras is obviously the most exciting one, but Thrun turned a lot of heads in his freshman season as well, scoring 21 points in 31 NCAA games.
While it’s still too soon to grade Anaheim’s most recent four draft classes, I am excited to see how these players develop over the next several years. Many of them will make their way to Anaheim, many will be minor league players, some of them won’t play for Anaheim or San Diego at all, and hopefully, some of them will turn into stars for the Ducks.
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May 14th, 2020