Ducks 2018 Draft Review

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

It’s time to take a look back at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and see how the Ducks did. I believe 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 it to the NHL or become an impact NHL player, 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 the Ducks or not. I’ll then take a look at the rest of the players taken in the same round 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 as well.

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.

The Buffalo Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin first overall, followed by Andrei Svechnikov to Carolina, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the Montrel Canadiens. However, the Ottawa Senators may have gotten the best player in this draft when they took Brady Tkachuk fourth overall; he leads all players with 275 points. Vancouver took Quinn Hughes seventh overall, and he leads this draft class with 215 assists, the only player from this year to break the 200 assist mark.

Anaheim’s 2018 draft class won’t go down as one of their greatest, but there are actually a couple of players who could still turn into future NHL players, so this is a group to continue to keep an eye on in the years to come. The Ducks made seven picks in this draft, including two in the third round and none in the seventh round. 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 acquired the 79th pick from New Jersey as part of the Sami Vatanen deal. Anaheim traded their seventh round pick to Toronto for Jhonas Enroth.

Isac Lundestrom, 23rd Overall

After being drafted, Lundestrom played in the NHL, AHL, and SHL in the 2018-2019 season. He recorded two assists in 15 games with the Ducks, six assists in 12 games with the Gulls, and two goals and nine points in 17 games with the Lulea HF. He also played for Team Sweden at the World Juniors, scoring a goal and four points in five games. The following year was spent only in North America. He played in 15 games for the Ducks and recorded four assists; he also played in 43 games for the Gulls, where he scored six goals and 21 points. The 2020-2021 season was disrupted by the pandemic, and Lundestrom spent some time in the HockeyAllsvenskan, but spent most of the year with the Ducks, where he scored six goals and nine points in 41 games. Lundestrom had his best offensive year the following season when he scored 16 goals and 29 points in 80 games. This past season, his offensive totals fell to four goals and 14 points in 61 games. However, he did suffer a major hand injury which accounts for some of his lost offensive production.

Among players taken in the first round of 2018, Lundestrom’s 58 points ranks 15th. The only player taken after Lundestrom in the first round with more points than him is defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who Toronto took 29th overall. None of the players picked in the first 10 picks of the second round have outscored Lundestrom, and the only player from the second round to do so is Sean Durzi who was picked 52nd overall. Lundestrom was never going to become an offensive powerhouse, but five years later he’s looking like what he appeared to be when he was drafted: a safe pick who didn’t have a huge ceiling but was going to play in the NHL someday. For a relatively late first round pick, that’s not bad, especially when he’s outscored most of the players taken soon after him.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx 54th Overall

After being drafted, Groulx spent the next two years in the QMJHL, playing for the Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats. He was more than a point-per-game player in the QMJHL and followed that up by turning pro in the 2020-2021 season, playing in 42 games for the Gulls and scoring 10 goals and 29 points, while also adding a goal in three playoff games. The next year he made his NHL debut, getting 18 games with the Ducks and scoring a goal and three points. This past season, he primarily played in San Diego and was one of their more consistent players, scoring 18 goals and 39 points, finishing second on the team in both categories. He also played in two NHL games at the end of the season but was scoreless.

Groulx is the first of two players who I think will continue to develop in the years to come and who could turn into solid NHL players. Among players drafted after him in the second round, only David Gustafsson has more points; he has seven in 74 career games. Among players chosen early in the third round, Jack McBain and Jordan Harris have significantly outscored Groulx, while Jan Jenik has five points. If Groulx can turn into a consistent NHL player, the Ducks can still be happy with this pick. Even if Groulx stays primarily as an AHL player, I still don’t think he was a bad pick. While you want more out of second round picks, the second and early third round of 2018 hasn’t produced a ton of NHL talent. To me, the big miss was McBain; I’m fine with Anaheim passing on the rest.

Blake McLaughlin 79th Overall

After being drafted, McLaughlin spent four years at the University of Minnesota, where his offensive numbers improved every year. He had 20 points in 35 games as a freshman and finished with 33 points in 39 games as a senior. He turned pro and joined the Gulls for the end of the 2021-2022 season. He scored a goal in seven regular season games and had an assist in two playoff games. McLaughlin struggled in his first full professional season and was scoreless in 24 AHL games. He finished the season in the ECHL where he scored 34 points in 43 games.

Lukas Dostal 85th Overall

After being drafted, Dostal played in several leagues overseas, including the Czechia U19, Czechia, Czechia2, Liiga, and Mestis. In the 2019-2020 season, he played only in the Liiga and put up some great numbers, including a 1.78 goals against average, a .928 save percentage, and three shutouts. He started the next season in the Liiga and was playing even better, and came over to North America when the AHL got its season started following a delay because of the pandemic. He played in 40 games for the Gulls in the 2021-2022 season and won 18 of them, and also made his NHL debut, getting four games with the Ducks and winning one of them. Dostal started the year in San Diego  but was called up to Anaheim several times and was the team’s backup by season’s end. He won 11 games for the Gulls and four more for the Ducks.

McLaughlin hasn’t panned out since the Ducks took him, but Dostal looks like a future NHL goaltender. The only question is whether he’ll end up staying a backup or becoming a starter. After Groulx, Dostal is the second prospect from this draft who I think will continue to develop in the years to come. There have been very few NHL players to come out of the third round after McLaughlin and Dostal were drafted. The only one with any kind of significant NHL time on his resume is Connor Dewar, who has played in 116 NHL games. Among all goaltenders taken in the draft, Dostal is first with 20 starts and third in wins with five. Dewar would have been the better pick over McLaughlin, but Dostal was a good pick by the Ducks and may turn into an excellent pick down the line.

Jack Perbix 116th Overall

After being drafted, Perbix spent a year in the USHL, playing for both the Green Bay Gamblers and Des Moines Buccaneers. He then went to the University of Minnesota the following year and spent three years there, finishing with 12 points in 38 games as a junior. He transferred to Western Michigan University for his senior year. Perbix set a new career high at his new school, playing in 39 games and scoring six goals and 19 points.

Only one NHL player of note has come out of the fourth round of the 2018 draft, but he was taken four picks after Perbix. Philipp Kurashev was taken 120th overall by Chicago and has scored 23 goals and 62 points in 191 games. If Perbix signs with Anaheim and becomes a good bottom six forward, then this won’t sting as much, but that seems unlikely. This is a pick that the Ducks definitely want back.

Roman Durny 147th Overall

After being drafted, Durny played for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL, playing in 50 games and winning 29 of them. He turned pro the next season but only played in the ECHL, suiting up for 13 games for the Norfolk Admirals. The following season, he started overseas in Slovakia, but came stateside when North America started up playing hockey again. He spent the entire year in the ECHL, winning 14 games for the Tulsa Oilers. In the 2021-2022 season, Durny only played in one game for Tulsa and lost. Anaheim did not qualify Durny after that season, and he left as a free agent. Durny played for four different teams this past season, all in Slovakia. He didn’t put up great numbers with any of them; the best were with HC 19 Humenne in the Slovakia2 where he had a goals against average of 3.14 and a save percentage of .902.

Among players taken after Durny in the fifth round, only Filip Krahl and Declan Chisholm have appeared in any NHL games, with both of them appearing in two games. There also weren’t any stars chosen in the sixth round, though Pontus Homberg, the first pick of the sixth round, does have 37 games of NHL experience. So Durny wasn’t a great pick, but this wasn’t a big miss by the Ducks either.

Hunter Drew 178th Overall

After being drafted, Drew played for the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL, scoring 50 points in 61 games. He was 19 when picked, so Drew was older than most players picked in this draft. He turned pro the following season, splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. He only played in five games for Tulsa, and spent most of the year with San Diego, playing in 29 games and recording seven points. He started the 2020-2021 season in Slovakia before coming back to North America and spent the rest of the year in the AHL, scoring 12 points in 33 games.

Drew was drafted as a defenseman but played forward for part of the 2020-2021 season and made the switch permanent the next year. He made his NHL debut in the 2021-2022 season, getting two games with the Ducks, and recorded a career high 38 points in 64 games with the Gulls. This past year was a down one for Drew, as he fell to 11 points in 44 games with the Gulls before being traded to Chicago for Josiah Slavin. Drew remained in the AHL and played in 16 games for Rockford but was scoreless.

The San Jose Sharks chose John Leonard four picks after Anaheim took Drew. He leads the sixth round in points with 16 in 64 games. Expanding to the seventh round, Slavin, the player Drew was traded for and chosen 193rd overall, has one assist in 15 NHL games. So there were better choices after Drew, but none of them stood out or have become difference makers. If Drew had not regressed this past season, I think the Ducks would have been very happy with this pick.

Final Grade

Overall, I’d give Anaheim a B- for this draft. They made a very safe pick towards the end of the first round who has developed pretty much as expected. There were a couple of players chosen after Lundestrom who you could argue are better than him, but no real NHL stars. The Ducks missed on their first third round pick and their fourth round pick, while there really haven’t been any impact players to come out of the fifth round or later. Though given how late Drew was taken, getting a decent AHL player was a nice selection.

This grade could go up if Groulx and/or Dostal become NHL players or NHL stars someday. With seven picks, the Ducks chose one NHL player, four minor league players, and two who the jury is still out on. The 2018 NHL Entry Draft won’t go down as a great draft, and while the Ducks did miss out some solid players, none of their picks are ones that the team will look back on with huge regrets.

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June 25th, 2023


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