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Ducks 2017 Draft Review
By Thomas Harrington
It’s time to take a look back at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and see how the Ducks did. I figure that five years is enough time to evaluate a draft class. While sometimes it will take longer than this to properly determine if a player will someday make the NHL, overall, most will clearly be NHL players or not within 5 years of a draft.
I’ll first go over the players who Anaheim selected, and take a look at what they’ve done in the past five years, regardless of whether they stayed with Anaheim or not. I’ll then take a look at the players taken within 10 picks after Anaheim’s selection to see if the Ducks should have made a different choice. If a player is taken towards the end of a round, then I’ll go 10 picks into the next round. Just because a team found a gem in the sixth round of the draft doesn’t mean Anaheim chose the wrong player a hundred picks earlier, it means that the entire league (including the team who eventually picked that player) missed on that player in the first five rounds of the draft. I’ll also be more critical of players chosen in the first three rounds of a draft than players chosen towards the end of a draft.
Nico Hischier was chosen first overall by New Jersey, followed by Nolan Patrick to Philadelphia and Miro Heiskanen to Dallas, but the best player from this draft was chosen fourth, when the Avalanche picked Cale Makar who scored 29 points in 20 playoff games and won the 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy and playoff MVP. Other notable players to come out of this draft include Elias Pettersson, Nick Suzucki, Robert Thomas, Jason Robertson and Martin Necas. So far, eight players from this class have eclipsed the 100 point mark, and Pettersson and Hischier have both passed the 200 point mark.
Anaheim’s 2017 class wasn’t a great one, and was certainly a step below the 2016 class (which wasn’t great either). However, a large part of that is because Anaheim did not have a first round pick in 2017, while they had two in 2016. It was the first time since 1999 that the Ducks did not have a first round pick. Overall, Anaheim had just five picks in this draft. The Ducks chose Max Comtois 50th overall, Antoine Morand 60th overall, Jack Badini 91st overall, Kyle Olson 122nd overall, and Olle Eriksson Ek 153rd overall.
Anaheim’s first round pick was traded to Dallas in the Patrick Eaves deal. The Stars then traded it to Chicago and they selected Henri Jokiharju 29th overall. Anaheim’s sixth round pick was traded to Florida when the Ducks acquired Colby Robak; the Panthers chose Sebastian Repo 184th overall. Their seventh round pick was traded to Chicago when Anaheim picked up Corey Tropp; the Blackhawks picked Joshua Ess 215th overall. The Ducks acquired the pick they used on Comtois from Toronto in the deal that sent Frederik Andersen to the Leafs.
After being drafted, Comtois recorded 85 points in 54 games in the QMJHL and had six points in seven games at the World Juniors. The next season, he had a great training camp, made Anaheim’s opening night roster, and had two goals and seven points in 10 games before being returned to juniors. He also had a brief stint in the AHL on a conditioning assignment where he had one goal in four games. Comtois had 48 points in 25 QMJHL games and five goals and six points in six World Juniors games.
He split the next season between Anaheim and San Diego, scoring 24 points in 31 games with the Gulls and 11 points in 29 games with the Ducks. He made the NHL on a full time basis in the 2020-2021 season, scoring 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games, leading the Ducks in goals and points, while also finishing third in assists. He also played for Canada at the World Cup where he scored four goals and six points in 10 games. This past year didn’t go as well for Comtois, though he finished the season on a three-game goal scoring streak. Overall he scored six goals and 16 points in 52 games and was a healthy scratch many nights, while also dealing with injuries and COVID-19. Comtois played at the World Cup again, scoring three goals and seven points in 10 games.
Despite the season from hell he just went through, Comtois’ 67 career points rank 15th overall in the 2017 draft class, and second for players taken from the second round. The only player from the second round with more points than him is Robertson who was chosen 39th overall. So even though Comtois had a rough season, as long as he can rebound, he looks like a good pick by the Ducks and may turn into an excellent one.
The two seasons after Morand was drafted saw him put up back-to-back 70 point seasons in the QMJHL. He was also Halifax’s captain in his final year of juniors. He joined the Gulls for the 2019-2020 season and had 16 points in 54 games. The next year he only recorded one goal and six points in 21 AHL games before being traded to Tampa in the deal that brought Alexander Volkov to Anaheim. He played for their AHL affiliate in Syracuse for the rest of the season, scoring five goals and 12 points in 19 games. Despite his offensive boost when he first joined the Crunch, his numbers fell this past season to four goals and 10 points in 44 games, before being traded again, this time to San Jose. He finished the season with the Barracuda where he had a goal and four points in 14 games.
Morand was never expected to be a scorer at Comtois’ level, but there was hope he’d turn into a good shutdown center who could put up some points. Unfortunately, other than the end of the 2020-2021 season, the offense just hasn’t come to him at the AHL level. Jake Leschyshyn was taken two picks after him by Vegas and now has 41 games of NHL experience; he would have been a better pick. Early in the third round Carolina chose Morgan Geekie, who has over 100 games of NHL experience and would have also been a better choice.
After being drafted, Badini spent three years at Harvard University. He was never a big time point producer for them, but managed to score 51 points in 97 NCAA games. He turned pro in the 2020-2021 season, splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. With San Diego, he played in 23 games and had one assist. With Tulsa he appeared in 14 games and scored a goal and two points. This past season, he spent the entire year with San Diego, scoring two goals and seven points in 46 games. He was primarily used on the team’s fourth line and saw some time on the penalty kill.
The 3rd round of the 2017 NHL Draft hasn’t produced a ton of talent. Geekie leads all players with 22 points; only eight skaters have made the NHL. A couple of players chosen early in the fourth round have made the NHL, but most haven’t amounted to much. The only player in the fourth round who has is Drake Batherson, but he was chosen 30 picks after Badini, so while Anaheim did miss on him, so did the rest of the NHL. Another possibility would have been goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who has 51 games of NHL experience for Boston, though he was also picked after the 10 pick mark. Honestly, Badini wasn’t a bad pick, but Anaheim could have done better. He’s become a useful AHL player and that’s not terrible value at the end of the third round, though there were certainly better options available.
After being drafted, Olson spent the next three years in the WHL. He had one great season where he put up 70 points, but in the other two he had 18 points and 32 points, so the 70 was clearly the outlier. He turned pro in the 2020-2021 season, playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Anaheim had chosen not to sign him, so he joined Pittsburgh as a free agent. He scored two goals and six points in 23 games that season, and had 12 goals and 21 points in 71 AHL games this past season.
Neither of the two players chosen after Olson in the fourth round have made it to the NHL. The fifth round has produced only five NHL skaters, and Jacob Peterson leads them with 12 goals and 17 points in 65 games. He was the eighth pick of the fifth round and would have been a better selection than Olson. That being said, Olson is similar to Badini: he’s decent AHL depth. For a late fourth round pick, that’s not terrible value.
Olle Eriksson Ek
After being drafted, Eriksson Ek spent two years playing in the HockeyAllsvenskan and J20SuperElit in Europe before coming stateside in the 2019-2020 season. He spent his first year in North America playing in the ECHL. The next season he only played in 5 ECHL games, while getting 15 in the AHL with San Diego. This past season he was San Diego’s backup, appearing in a career high 26 games, though his 3.44 goals against average and .880 save percentage weren’t great.
Neither of the final two players chosen after him in the fifth round have made the NHL. Only three players from the sixth round have made the NHL, with Sasha Chmelevski leading with eight points and Morgan Barron with 27 games. Both were taken pretty far into the sixth round, well after the 10 pick mark that I’m looking at. No goaltenders in the sixth round have made it to the NHL, but two from the seventh round have. Cayden Preimeau has played in 18 NHL games and Dylan Ferguson has played in one. While not a great pick, goaltenders are usually slower to develop than other positions, but being a backup in the AHL five years later isn’t quite where I was hoping Eriksson Ek would be. However, for a late fifth round pick, finding an AHL goaltender isn’t a bad pick. Hopefully he can have a better year next season.
2017 Draft Class Grade
Overall, I’d give Anaheim a C+ for this draft. If Comtois can rebound and become the 20 goal scorer we hope him to be, or Eriksson Ek becomes a starter in the AHL or makes it to the NHL, then that grade could rise. With five picks and none in the first round, Anaheim chose one NHL player and four AHL depth players. With the later picks, AHL depth isn’t bad, but I’d have preferred to see Anaheim get more out of their second (Morand) and third (Badini) round picks. And none of these players chosen after Comtois have become more than AHL depth. It would have been nice to get at least an impact AHL player or two. The 2017 NHL Entry Draft had some very good players come out of it, but it doesn’t look like a great draft class five years later, which could also account for Anaheim not doing great in this draft.
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July 20th, 2022