The Anaheim Ducks were one of the most talked about teams heading into the NHL draft, mainly due to rumors circulating about them being in active trade talks to an acquire a new center.
As expected, early in the day a trade was announced, and the Ducks made a huge splash by acquiring Ryan Kesler and a third round pick in the 2015 draft in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Anaheim’s first round pick (24th) in 2014, and Anaheim’s third round pick (85th) in 2014. This trade gives the Ducks one of the best one-two punches down the middle in Ryan Getzlaf and Kesler and will help come playoff time with the amount of grit and leadership that those two players alone can bring to a team.
Moving forward after the trade, the Ducks still had five picks in the draft, including the Ottawa Senators first round pick at 10th overall, and a pair of second round picks (the Ducks had previously acquired the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ second round pick). The Ducks’ draft strategy was pretty clear: grab the best available forward prospect early in the draft, and then use three of their following four selections to shore up their defensive depth.
When we here at Hockey’s Future did our annual Staff Mock Draft and Nick Ritchie was available at the 10th pick, I thought it seemed like an absolutely perfect fit but wasn’t sure if Ritchie would make it that far down in the actual 2014 NHL Draft. Obviously things worked out and this is the perfect fit for the Ducks as well as for Ritchie and his style of play.
When you see Ritchie’s size, it is clear right away that we are dealing with an NHL sized frame. He also already possesses an NHL-caliber shot. In the Ontario Hockey League with the Peterborough Petes, Ritchie was flat out dominating with his physical play at times, and his team leading 136 penalty minutes are a testament to how much he likes to flex his muscle. In addition to leading the Petes in penalty minutes, he also topped the team in goals with 39 (tied for 12th in the league) and points with 74. Where he needs to improve is very similar to most young players: he needs to round out the finer points of his game and focus on the little details. He also needs to work on his overall conditioning and to add more muscle to that already attractive frame.
Ritchie has been a highly-touted player for a long time now dating back to his minor midget days with the Toronto Marlboros. That season saw Ritchie dominate his age group, and if it were not for the fact that Aaron Ekblad (FLA) was granted exceptional status to the enter the OHL draft a year early, Ritchie who went second overall, very well could have been the first player taken in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.
He entered the OHL for the 2011-12 season and though his Petes team failed to reach the post-season he wasted no time making an impact. His 39 points (16 goals) left him fifth on the team in scoring, and with 60 penalty minutes, he showed no signs of being intimidated by older players and increase in competition. He returned to Peterborough in 2012-13 and though it was another disappointing season for his team, he continued to show steady progression in his game, despite only appearing in 41 of his team’s games. He registered 35 points in those 41 games, and his 18 goals represented a new OHL high for him.
This season, his draft year, Ritchie did a great job of staying healthy, appearing in 61 games and really putting his team on his back for much of the season. Playing on a line with fellow 2014 NHL draft prospect Eric Cornel (BUF), he equalled his previous OHL season high of 39 points, on just goals alone. In the playoffs, he was instrumental in helping his team knock off the heavily favored Kingston Frontenacs in the first round.
He seems likely to return for his last year with Peterborough in 2014-15, but it is easy to envision Ritchie in the Ducks lineup in the very near future. His physical style of play will suit the Ducks perfectly. It is a situation that Ritchie is very happy to be a part of, as he told Hockey’s Future, “It’s an unbelievable feeling, to get drafted by such a good team and such a good organization. I’m thrilled; I don’t even know what to say right now.”
Marcus Pettersson was one of the most intriguing prospects headed into the 2014 NHL Draft. At 6’3”, he possesses good size and a very projectable frame. He is a very good skater and plays a steady two-way game. The one really interesting thing about Pettersson is that just a few seasons ago he was playing center. Now he has made the transition back to defense and has done a good job of learning his newfound responsibilities, while his time spent playing forward has really helped the offensive side of his game.
Pettersson plays for Skelleftea in his native Sweden and spent the majority of the season with their under-20 squad, while also suiting up for ten games with their men’s team. With the junior club, he was dominant at times with his mobility and impressive passing, and he managed 18 points in just 38 games. While with the men’s team, he failed to register a point but displayed the solid positioning and two-way game that has made him such an impressive story after only playing the position for a short time.
He is 6’3” but only 160 pounds, so bulking up and getting stronger is his main priority. He is a very raw prospect at this point, much like Hampus Lindholm was when he was drafted in 2012, and returning to Sweden next season and gaining valuable experience while continuing to play against men is exactly what Pettersson needs. His upside is very high and the next few seasons will be an exciting time for him.
Pettersson makes yet another Swede that the Ducks have accumulated in the past few seasons and he acknowledged that after being drafted, “It’s great, they got a lot of Swedes, and it’s a good organization and a good hockey club, so it’s exciting”.
Pettersson spoke with Chapin Landvogt of Hockey’s Future at the U18 World Championship, with that conversation captured in this HF video.
With their second pick in the second round of the draft, the Ducks took a real homerun swing with offensive defenseman, Brandon Montour. Montour was twice passed over in the draft, and after making the jump from Junior ‘A’ hockey in Ontario to the United States Hockey League, he really put himself on the radar of NHL teams.
With Waterloo in 2013-14, Montour was an absolute force from the back end. His 62 points in 60 games put him ninth in league scoring (first amongst defensemen), and his skating abilities really turned heads.
His size was always a bit of a concern, and at 6’0”, he is slightly under-sized for an NHL defenseman , but as long as he can continue to add muscle without losing speed then his size shouldn’t be an issue at the next level.
Montour will begin his collegiate career next year at UMass-Amherst and will be given plenty of time to grow his game. The Ducks currently have a few young puck-moving defenders on their pro roster, so there is no reason to try and rush Montour through college if he needs more time. He needs to continue to work on his defensive zone coverage and adding more muscle will make him more effective at clearing the front of the net.
Matt Berkovitz, D, Ashwaubenon High School (WI HS)
5th Round, 123rd overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180
After having selected three times in the first 55 picks, the Ducks did not select again until the fifth round. With their fourth pick of the draft, the Ducks continued the trend of adding defensive depth to their organization. With the 123rd pick, the Ducks selected Matt Berkovitz from the Wisconsin high school ranks, and in doing so added yet another future member or the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
Berkovitz is a very good skater and is a good thinker of the game. It is a worn out cliche, but Berkovitz like almost every young player needs to continue adding weight and muscle if he wants to succeed at the professional level. He projects as a steady, two-way defenseman, but due to him playing against a lower level of competition in high school, it becomes difficult to project where and when he could fit into an NHL lineup. He will be given plenty of time grow at the University of Wisconsin and will be joining fellow Ducks prospect Grant Besse on the Badgers’ roster.
Berkovitz met with the media after being chosen by the Ducks, with some of his comments being captured in this HF video.
Ondrej Kase, RW, KLH Chomutov (Czech Extraliga)
7th Round, 205th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 165
With their final selection in the draft, the Ducks took another swing for the fences when they drafted their first player from the Czech Republic since 2004 (Ladislav Smid). In Ondrej Kase, the Ducks selected a very offensive player who has already spent considerable time playing against men in his homeland. Kase has very quick hands and sees the ice extremely well. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but he does own a very underrated shot, as well. At 6’0”, he is never the tallest guy on the team, but he is not so short that it becomes a huge issue.
In the Czech Republic during the 2013-14 season, Kase appeared in 37 games with KLH Chomutov’s men’s team, and with seventh points (four goals), he did not look out of place. He also spent time with his club’s under-20 team where he fired 15 points in just seven games, and he was also loaned to SK Kadan of Czech Republic’s second highest league, and had three goals and an assist in just five games. If that were not enough, Kase also represented his country at the 2014 World Juniors. During the tournament, he was a consistent offensive threat for a team that was struggling to put the puck in net, finishing with three points in five games. He will return to his homeland in 2014-15 and will need to add a lot of muscle and strength over the next few seasons to help him have success at the North American professional levels in the future.