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Ducks First Round Review
By Thomas Harrington
While there was no consensus on the best prospect in the draft, center Shane Wright was the presumptive first overall selection through much of the season. Instead, Montreal chose Juraj Slafkovsky to start off the draft. New Jersey held the second overall pick, but after choosing several high end centers over the last several years, they opted to choose defenseman Simon Nemec. Arizona was third and they took Logan Cooley. Wright would fall no further, as Seattle selected him fourth overall. The top five was finished off with Philadelphia taking Cutter Gauthier. Outside of Wright, the most interesting player to watch was Danila Yurov. He’s a top 10 talent but the Russian factor caused him to drop, and Minnesota scooped him up at 24th overall. Slovakia was a big winner in the first round, as for the first time in NHL history, Slovakian players were picked first and second overall.
The Anaheim Ducks started out with two first round picks, 10th overall and 22nd overall. The Ducks didn’t make any trades and kept both picks. With the 10th overall pick, the Ducks chose defenseman Pavel Mintyukov. He’s a big kid, standing at 6’2” and has a lot of offensive talent and is one of the smarter players in the draft. He projects as a top four defenseman, and has a shot at becoming a top pairing defenseman if his defensive game can improve enough. With the 22nd overall pick they chose center Nathan Gaucher. He’s a big center at 6’3” and uses that size effectively on the forecheck. He’s a 200 foot player who can play on the second line, but might be most effective as a great third line center. He’s a very competitive player but doesn’t have a huge offensive ceiling.
Mintyukov played for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL last year. He played in 67 games and scored 17 goals and 62 points. As a defenseman, he led his team in assists and points, while finishing 6th in goals. He finished third in points and fifth in goals by a defenseman in the OHL. Mintyukov did not play in any playoff games because Saginaw was one of the worst teams in the OHL. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not play in any hockey games in the 2020-2021 season. Before coming to Canada to play in the OHL, he played in Russia, primarily in the MHL in the 2019-2020 season. Mintyukov was one of the few Russian players who teams weren’t worried about because he played in North America this past season.
I think there’s a chance Mintyukov will play one more season in the OHL to continue to round out his game, and then turn pro in the 2023-2024 season. However, it wouldn’t shock me if he spent the next two years in the OHL before turning pro in the 2024-2025 season. Because of the transfer agreement between the NHL and CHL, he’s not eligible for the AHL, which is where the Ducks would probably prefer he play for the next year or two. It’s exciting to think of him playing with Jamie Drysdale in a few years’ time. Combined with last year’s second round selection of Olen Zellweger, Anaheim’s defense could be very exciting in the near future.
Gaucher has played for the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL for the past three seasons. This past season, he scored 31 goals and 57 points in 66 games. He finished third in goals and points on the Remparts. In 12 playoff games, he scored three goals and nine points. During the pandemic-shortened season he scored 14 goals and 31 points in 30 games. In Gaucher’s first season in the QMJHL he scored 13 goals and 24 points in 59 games.
Most players picked in the 20s are at least two or three years away from the NHL. However, given Gaucher’s size and style of play, there’s a chance we could see with Anaheim much sooner than that. But, he’s got some work to do before he’s truly an impact player in the NHL, so I think he’ll be in juniors for the next two years and then spend some time in San Diego before he makes his way to Anaheim.
I had the Ducks picking two wingers in the first round. Instead, they went with a defenseman and a center. Mintyukov was on my short list for 10th overall and I was very happy to see the Ducks pick him. Gaucher was not on my short list for 22nd overall, but he was on my original list of players. I like the pick, and hope that I end up loving it in the years to come. Mintyukov has the potential to really be a great defenseman down the line, and could really solidify Anaheim’s defensive core in a few years.
Gaucher really gives the Ducks a ton of depth down the center. From Trevor Zegras to Mason McTavish to Isac Lundestrom to Sam Steel, the Ducks have four centers 23 or younger. To say nothing of prospects like Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Josh Lopina. Adding Gaucher into that mix really gives the Ducks a lot of depth and flexibility at such an important position. The Ducks have six more picks in rounds two through seven: 42nd overall, 53rd overall, 75th overall, 107th overall, 139th overall, 154th overall, and 178th overall. With those picks, I’d expect the Ducks to take at least a few wingers, as well as another center or two.
The first round is over, and while these two players probably won’t make Anaheim a better team this coming season, I do hope and expect big things from them in the years to come.
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July 7th, 2022