Ducks 2008 draft review

By Ryan Madden

The Anaheim Ducks entered 2008 draft weekend holding seven draft picks.  GM Brian Burke was very active during the first night of the draft, twice trading down in order to acquire additional draft picks.  When all the selections were made, the Ducks acquired three top 40 picks for the 12th overall, selecting at Nos. 17, 35, and 39.  Burke also was able to obtain the 208th selection from the Flyers in exchange for the Ducks 2009 seventh-round pick.  By the end of the weekend, the Ducks added 10 new draftees to their prospect pool. 

Many of their selections were players who improved significantly during the course of the year, and who have extremely high upside.  The ten prospects selected consisted of five defensemen, four forwards, and one goalie.  The Ducks also selected four players from Canada’s gold medal winning U18 team, as well as two from USA’s bronze medal squad.

Jake Gardiner, D – MN-HS Minnetonka   

17th overall
Jul. 4, 1990, 6’1, 173

Gardiner is a converted forward who has only been playing defense for one season.  He played the 2007-08 season on his Minnetonka High School team in Minnesota, where he was one of the finalists for the Mr. Hockey award for the top high school player in the state.  Gardiner is a very fast and explosive skater, who projects as an offensive blue liner in the NHL.  He scored 16 goals and added 27 assists last season in 25 games. 

He is committed to playing for the University of Wisconsin Badgers this fall, a program coached by Mike Eaves that is well respected for producing and recruiting top-notch defensemen.  Badgers’ assistant coach Mark Osiecki works with the defensemen, and he is one of the best college coaches for tutoring young defenders and preparing them to play the pro game.  Gardiner should have a great opportunity to learn his new position with the Badgers.  He will need a few seasons of development, but when he emerges, Gardiner could well be a real gem.    

Nicolas Deschamps, C – QMJHL Chicoutimi

35th overall
Jan. 6, 1990, 6’0, 173

Deschamps, like Gardiner, is a player who rose up the draft rankings very fast this past year.  Undrafted in his first year of QMJHL eligibility, he stepped into the Sagueneens’ lineup this past season and won the QMJHL award for Offensive Rookie of the Year.  A very good skater who battles hard for the puck, Deschamps played on the Sags top line all season and finished second on the team in scoring with 67 points in 70 games. 

Deschamps also represented Canada at the U18 Championship in April, where he helped the team to win gold.  He scored three goals for Canada in his seven games.  Deschamps is a player who makes good things happen for his team.  He will need to improve his strength and his hands before he becomes a pro level player, but his skating, work ethic and hockey sense are all very good.    

Eric O’Dell, C – OHL Sudbury

39th overall
Jun. 21, 1990, 6’0, 174

With their second pick of the second round, the Ducks selected Deschamps’ linemate on Canada’s U18 team, Eric O’Dell.  O’Dell played the majority of last season with the Cumberland Grads of the CJHL, where he scored 56 points in 34 games.  However, a deadline deal in the OHL of his rights from Oshawa to Sudbury sparked a change of plans for O’Dell, who decided to play in the OHL.  He achieved enormous success with the Wolves, notching 32 points in 26 games, and winning the February OHL Rookie of the Month award en route.  All of which led to his invitation to play for Team Canada in April, where he had four points in seven games. 

O’Dell is a hard working player with very good offensive skills, and great on-ice vision.  His strength and skating need some work, but he is a very good prospect who still has quite a bit of upside, considering he has yet to play a full OHL season.  This season the Wolves should have a much more dynamic squad, so it will be an important year to see how O’Dell develops. 

Justin Schultz, D – BCHL Westside

43rd overall
Jul. 6, 1990, 6’1, 163

An offensive defenseman from the BCHL, Schultz continues Anaheim’s trend of choosing players who were big risers in the draft.  Little known at the start of the season, Schultz’s offensive upside was high enough that some experts were seeing him as a potential first rounder in the draft.  Schultz had 40 points in 57 games for Westside, and was named the Top Defenseman of his conference in the BCHL, which is no small feat for a 17-year-old. 

Schultz has really good hockey sense, is very good at moving the puck, and has a special knack for creating offense from the back end.  Obviously, the big knock on Schultz at 6’1, 163 is his size.  He will have to get stronger and prove himself capable of handling bigger opponents before he is ready to play pro hockey. 

Another University of Wisconsin recruit, Schultz will return to Westside next season for another year, before joining the Badgers for the 2009-10 season. 

Josh Brittain, LW – OHL Kingston

71st overall
Jan. 3, 1990, 6’4, 210

Brittain is another player who developed well this season.  He started out the season slowly, but his game really came together when Larry Mavety took over the Frontenacs bench in mid-November.  From that point onwards, Brittain’s game really progressed, and he started to produce, finishing the season with 28 goals and 51 points in 68 games.  Brittain was named to Team Canada’s U18 team that won gold in Kazan, Russia.  He had one point in seven games for Canada. 

A big power forward, Brittain likes to play physical and take the puck to the net.  He is also not afraid of dropping the gloves.  Brittain has good hands and a good strong shot, and showed last season a knack for scoring goals.  He is a hard worker who skates fairly well for his size, but will need to keep improving in this area.  He is the biggest player the Ducks drafted this year, and he will take a few years worth of development before he is ready to play pro hockey.  Players with his size and scoring ability are hard to find. 

Marco Cousineau, G – QMJHL Baie-Comeau

83rd overall
Nov. 9, 1989, 6’0, 195

One of the top goaltenders in the QMJHL last season, Cousineau led his team to the second best record in the league.  Unfortunately for him and the Drakkar, they were ousted in five games by Rimouski in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.  Cousineau finished the season 34-19 with a .903 save percentage and a 2.81 goals against average.  He competes hard for the puck.  He hates getting beaten and is a fierce competitor.  He’s a butterfly goalie, good positionally, and very coachable. 

Not as hyped as many of the other goalies from this year’s draft, Cousineau flew under the radar all season.  Nevertheless he is a goalie who, despite his somewhat smaller height, could well surpass some of the goalies ranked ahead of him, due to his hard work and determination. 

Brandon McMillan, C – WHL Kelowna

85th overall
Mar. 22, 1990, 5’11, 188

Another very fast skater selected by the Ducks, McMillan is not known for his scoring, but for his solid two-way play, his speed, his aggressive forechecking, and his leadership.  McMillan was also a member of Canada’s U18 gold medal winning team, where he had 3 points in 7 games playing on a line with Brayden Schenn and Calgary’s Greg Nemisz.  He scored 41 points in 71 games for Kelowna last season.

McMillan projects as a third liner, but players with his speed, leadership, and work ethic are very valuable in the NHL.  McMillan competes hard for loose pucks and plays a very smart hockey game, choosing the safe play rather than trying to do too much.  He will need to get physically stronger in order to make up for his lack of ideal NHL height. 

Ryan Hegarty, D – USNTDP U-18

113th overall
May 16, 1990, 6’0, 196

Hegarty is a defensive defenseman who played last season with the US National Development Program, where he tallied 19 points in 47 games.  He was a member of the USA U18 team that won bronze in Kazan, Russia.  He had three points in the seven games in Kazan.  Hegarty is a bit small for a defensive defenseman, which probably accounts for his being available in the fourth round.  He is a very smart player, choosing the safe option rather than putting his team at risk.  A good skater and smart puck distributor, Hegarty is not the type of player who impresses with flashy plays, but rather with his steadiness and strong positional play. 

Hegarty has committed to the University of Maine for next season, where he should see plenty of ice time as a freshman for the Black Bears.

Stefan Warg, D – SWE-Jr Vasteras

143rd overall
Feb. 6, 1990, 6’2, 187

Warg is a big strong defense-first defenseman who was drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the CHL import draft out of Sweden and should be playing with them next season.  He scored two goals and had eight points in 33 games for Vasteras in the Swedish junior league last season.  Warg attended the Ducks conditioning camp this June. 

Warg is a smart player who makes good passes and skates well.  He will need to fill out and learn the North American style of play.  With the right development, he has the size and skills required to become a solid NHL defenseman.

Nick Pryor, D – USNTDP U-18  

208th overall
Sep. 9, 1990, 5’11, 184

Pryor is a 5’11 offensive defenseman.  He is a very good skater and moves the puck well.  He needs to get stronger in order to be able to handle larger forwards down low.  Pryor had 14 points in 53 games with the National Development Program’s U-18 team.  At the the U18 Championship in Kazan, he was held pointless in seven games. 

One of the youngest players eligible for this year’s draft, Pryor will play for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL this season before attending the University of Wisconsin in 2009.  Pryor was the third Badgers recruit selected by the Ducks in 2008.