Ducks 2004 draft evaluation

By Chris Shafer

Unlike the Ducks’ 2003 NHL entry draft which paved the way for a Stanley Cup in Anaheim, the 2004 NHL Entry Draft wasn’t nearly as important to their success. While the Ducks did draft some players who seem to have turned into solid NHL skaters, none survived with Anaheim for very long. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have an impact with the Ducks through other avenues such as trade, but from a draft class that in retrospect was not nearly as deep as 2003’s, Anaheim still managed to find value for the players they selected.

Ladislav Smid, D – Liberec Bili Tygri HC (Czech)
1st Round, 9th overall
Status: NHL Player
202 NHL Games Played

When drafted, Smid was a solid positional defenseman out of HC Liberec in the Czech League with good size at 6’4. He has since jumped up to 226 lbs., but he hasn’t done this while in the Ducks organization. After being drafted ninth overall in 2009, he has progressed very well, but sometimes suffers from consistency issues now with the Edmonton Oilers, making the value that Anaheim got for him all the more impressive.

In July, 2006, Smid was sent to Edmonton along with the Ducks’ 2002 first-round draft pick, Joffrey Lupul, for the bruising star defenseman Chris Pronger. Pronger gave Anaheim that extra boost along the blueline.

Smid would never play a single game in a Ducks jersey though as he moved on to his new team in Edmonton. With a defensive core full of plenty of offensive firepower in Edmonton such as Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, and Lubomir Visnovsky it isn’t easy for Smid to stand out. In fact, in 202 NHL games played with the Oilers, he has only scored three goals while adding 22 assists. His career -37 in the league doesn’t exactly help his bid for more playing time behind a deep defensive unit, and with players like Jeff Petry, Theo Peckham, and Taylor Chorney within the Oilers system it may take a toll on Smid who becomes a restricted free agent this offseason.

Jordan Smith, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
2nd Round, 39th overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

Smith was ranked 51st among North American skaters by Central Scouting going into the 2004 draft. As a solid defensive defenseman for his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he was named the best defenseman on the OHL squad after finishing with 26 points in 68 games and tying for a team-high +12.

He progressed well in 2004-05 with 32 points in only 64 games and even played five AHL games with the then Anaheim AHL affiliate Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, registering just one assist.

He was in the middle of his first full season of professional hockey with the new Ducks’ affiliate, the Portland Pirates, when disaster struck in the form of errant puck that deflected into Smith’s face after a shot from Jeff Tambellini, a former first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings. Smith unfortunately lost all vision in his left eye and because of this was forced to retire from pro hockey. In direct result of this incident, the AHL declared protective visors mandatory from the start of the 2006-07 season onward.

Smith then went back to school to get a degree in teaching at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Over two seasons in the CIS, he played only 21 more games.

Kyle Klubertanz, D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
3rd Round, 74th overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

For their third defensive selection in a row, the Ducks went with an American out of the USHL who possessed very good potential as a puck-moving defenseman. Despite his average size, Klubertanz wasn’t exactly a pushover on the ice. Klubertanz displayed an attitude in the USHL that carried with him through the rest of his career.

While with the Green Bay Gamblers for his final USHL season of 2003-04, he finished third on his team in scoring as a defenseman and sixth in the league among defensemen with 27 points in 57 games.

In order to improve his defensive game, Klubertanz went straight to the University of Wisconsin after his final season with the Green Bay Gamblers. There he had four solid seasons with NCAA career highs during his sophomore year good for four goals and 17 assists. After his senior season, he joined the Portland Pirates at the end of their 2007-08 season in order to help out for the postseason. He would play five regular season games as an AHL player along with one postseason game without registering anything more than two total penalty minutes.

Without an entry-level contract with the Ducks, Klubertanz signed with TPS Turku (FNL) in Europe for the 2008-09 season where he finished third among defensemen in scoring on the team with 12 points and fourth among defensemen with an even plus/minus ratio as a 22-year-old.

Tim Brent, C – Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
3rd Round, 75th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
16 NHL Games Played

Brent came off a solid season with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL back in 2002 when the Ducks decided that they liked the center enough to take him 37th overall. But Brent and the organization never could work out a contract and so, two seasons later, after Brent had progressed well through the final season of his OHL career, the talented forward re-entered the draft.

Viewed as an all-around solid forward with two-way capabilities, leadership, determination, and talent Brent was a player that the Ducks didn’t want to let go of. With the pick right after they selected Klubertanz, the organization decided to once again select Brent.

Brent and the organization finally struck a deal and he joined the Mighty Ducks in 2004-05 but only managed 18 points including five goals in 46 games played. In 37 games the next season with the Portland Pirates, he tripled his total amount of goals from five to 15 and finished the season with 24 points in only 37 games.

The next year he would start with the Pirates once again, but during call-ups to Anaheim totalling 15 games he would score his only NHL goal to date. His AHL numbers got much better as well as he scored 15 goals while adding 14 assists in 48 games. That offseason of 2007 though he would find himself traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization for center Stephen Dixon. 2007-08 was Brent’s breakout year with a brand new organization and in 74 games he more than doubled his previous AHL career high in points with 61 including 18 goals and 43 assists.

Then he would find himself traded once again in the offseason for Danny Richmond of the Chicago Blackhawks. In his first season with the Rockford IceHogs, he played 64 games and finally hit the 20-goal plateau in the AHL on his way to 62 points in 64 games. He would play two more NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks though he did not register a point. This offseason Brent becomes an unrestricted free agent, and his future remains unknown.

Matt Auffrey, RW – U.S. National U-18 (NAHL)
6th Round, 172nd overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

Auffrey was selected 172nd overall by the Ducks who had to wait through the fourth and fifth rounds since they traded those picks for a selection in 2003. At the time, Auffrey was a 6’2, 203 lbs. power forward with plenty of upside. He had all the makings of a quality selection in the sixth round, but problems with his effort and consistency came back to haunt him.

Auffrey originally planned on attending the University of Wisconsin with Klubertanz, but the right winger’s stay at the university was short-lived. It was hard for him in the NCAA only playing 25 games in his rookie season, finishing with three goals and five assists. He would play only one game of his sophomore 2005-06 season before venturing to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. There he seemed to feel more comfortable, scoring 24 goals and adding 26 assists in 50 games. He would even get a pair of games in the AHL with the Portland Pirates that season, registering an assist.

The following season of 2006-07, Auffrey ended up all over the map playing seven games with Kitchener, 27 games with the Brampton Battalion (OHL), and 31 games with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL). All of this movement produced 27 goals an 30 assists during the regular season for Auffrey’s post-draft high of 57 points in 65 regular season OHL games. The five playoff games he would suit up for with with the Kingston Frontenacs resulted in a team-leading performance of seven points (four goals and three assists).

From there, Auffrey ended up in the ECHL playing with three teams over the course of two years including the Augusta Lynx, the Florida Everblades, and the Dayton Bombers. He started off strong with the Lynx playing 72 games and registering 50 points with 25 goals and 25 assists, but the following season he would be traded during the season to Florida, and finally to Dayton. He finished his 2008-09 ECHL season with 68 games played and only 42 points though he did manage to play two more AHL games for Albany River Rats, once again only registering one assist.

Gabriel Bouthillette, G – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
7th Round, 203rd overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

When Bouthillette was drafted out of the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL he was coming off a stellar performance as a backup goaltender behind 2003 Philadelphia draft pick David Tremblay. In his 2003-04 campaign, Bouthillette only played 17 games but came away with an impressive record of 17-4-2 while posting a 2.20 GAA along with a .907 save percentage. The Ducks were hoping that his performance in net as a backup to Tremblay would transfer to a starting position and a long career as a solid goaltender.

Since Tremblay was going to remain as the starter for the Olympiques, Bouthillette was moved to Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) where he would get the starting position that the Ducks hoped would be his opportunity to blossom. But it ended up being the goaltender’s worst year between the pipes finishing with a record of 15-33-5 in 58 starts. As a starter with the Titan he wasn’t even able to reach the number of wins that he had the previous season as the backup in Gatineau. His stats did not at all read like an NHL draft selection as he posted a poor 3.19 GAA along with a .894 save percentage.

The next year with the Titan would be much better for Bouthillette who won 34 contests and lost 20 times through his 57 appearances in net. His stats were much better as well with a 2.81 GAA and a .905 save percentage.

Afterwards though Bouthillette did not end up making it to the Ducks’ AHL affiliate. Instead for the 2006-07 season he joined the Trois Rivieres Caron and Guay of the LNAH in Canada. The semi-pro league is often considered the roughest hockey league in the world with many teams icing enforcers with a reputation for on-ice incidents. He played only four games in his first season in the LNAH but moved on to the Sorel-Tracy Mission (LNAH) for his 2007-08 season where he was given the starting job.

Matt Christie, C – Miami University of Ohio (NCAA)
8th Round, 236th overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

Going into the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Christie was actually ranked higher by Central Scouting than the Ducks’selection two rounds earlier in Auffrey, but Christie fell in the draft largely due to his small frame at 5’10, 192 lbs. Christie had a great freshman year of 2003-04 at Miami University of Ohio registering 35 points including 21 goals in 41 games. To add to his resume, Christie was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team and led the entire CCHA in power-play goals. Despite his size he definitely had the attitude of a much bigger player going into his sophomore season.

The next year he only played 33 games but managed one more point than his previous season. His goal total dropped by six, but his playmaking abilities had gotten better with better teammates and more responsibility on his team. The next two seasons his production would drop significantly. In 2005-06, his goals dropped from 15 to seven and his assists dropped from 21 to 17 even though he played 39 games. In 38 games in his senior season, he only managed one more goal than his junior year, finishing with 25 points in 27 games.

It wasn’t all bad for Christie though as he earned a chance at the end of the 2006-07 season to join the Portland Pirates of the AHL. He scored two goals in five appearances with the team, but would start the 2007-08 season with the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL. In 53 games with the Lynx, he scored 11 goals and racked up 30 assists for 41 points, and during his call-ups to the AHL he managed nine points including four goals in 18 games.

But that was it for Christie who did not return to the Ducks system for the 2008-09 season.

Janne Pesonen, RW – Oulum Kärpät (FNL)
9th Round, 269th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
7 NHL Games Played

Every offseason there seems to be one or two players from a European league that either went undrafted or did not sign with the team that drafted them who cause a stir in the free agent market. In the 2008 offseason, the Ducks’former ninth-round selection out of Oulum Kärpät (FNL) was one of those players.

In 2003-04 he won the SM-Liiga rookie of the year award with Oulum Kärpät as he led the team to their first championship since 1981. Over the course of four more full seasons with the team, he won three more championships including the playoff MVP in 2007. In 2007-08 he led the SM-Liiga in goals, points, and plus/minus earning an award for each achievement. His goal totals for five seasons were 17, 11, eight, 22, and 34 respectively which, included with his two from a nine-game trial stint two years before his rookie season in the SM-Liiga, brought him to 94 total to add to his 122 career assists with Kärpät. During this period the Anaheim Ducks had lost his rights, and in the 2008 offseason there was a bidding war for Pesonen’s services.

He was signed to a one-year entry-level deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins who put him into the AHL with their affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a disappointing preseason. He only played a total of seven games with the NHL Penguins through the course of the year without getting his name on the score card once, but in the 70 games he played with the AHL Penguins he could not be stopped. He tallied 32 goals and added another 50 assists for a total of 82 points finishing fourth in the entire AHL in scoring, setting a record for the highest scoring Finn in AHL history while setting the bar high as the single season points leader for the Baby Penguins through their entire history.

With Pesonen’s entry-level contract up with Pittsburgh, they will likely try to retain his services while Anaheim is left with nothing to show for the pick.