Coming into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Anaheim Ducks had three major problems. Their first and most pressing issue was depth among forwards. While they had very talented forwards, there was a considerable lack in secondary scoring. Their second need was a quick recharge to the prospect pool which had been nearly depleted. Their third concern was the age of their defense. General Manager Bob Murray had already put together a plan to overhaul the blueline with the acquisitions of Ray Whitney, Sheldon Brookbank, and James Wisniewski, but at that point the centerpieces of the Ducks’ high-caliber defense were aging, namely Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.
With a couple of trades on draft day, the Ducks addressed every issue.
The first trade of the draft sent Pronger to Philadelphia. Along with him, the Ducks sent restricted free agent prospect Ryan Dingle. The return for the trade though answered many of the Ducks’ needs. Joffrey Lupul was welcomed back to Anaheim to help out immediately with secondary scoring. Also brought into the prospect pool was the Flyers’ 19th overall selection, Luca Sbisa, who played very well for the Flyers this past season as an 18-year-old. He is a slick skater who absolutely loves to take the body. While his defensive play could use some seasoning, it is possible for him to play as an immediately effective addition to the Ducks’ defense. Included in the trade were the Flyers’ 21st overall selection in 2009, which the Ducks later traded down, the Flyers’ first round selection in 2010, and a conditional third-round pick.
Anaheim then used the 21st overall selection from the Pronger trade in a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets to move back to the 26th overall pick, which had changed hands five teams before the Ducks used it. Along with it came the 37th overall, giving Anaheim a second-round selection as well.
Peter Holland, C — Guelph Storm (OHL)
1st Round, 15th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 220
Holland is a center whose stock was falling coming out of the NHL combine and entering the draft. It was feared by many that Holland’s lackadaisical attitude would cause future problems in his development. But the Ducks decided that their need for center depth outweighed any concerns about the big forward.
Holland has good size, skating, and vision. He has a very good shot and the ability to work the puck. His defense is solid as well, along with his faceoffs. His work ethic and attitude are his biggest issues, but his skill made the selection worthwhile in Murray’s mind.
In 68 games played in the OHL this season with the Guelph Storm, Holland scored 28 goals and added 39 assists. Holland could take a while to progress to the NHL. He is certainly not ready immediately and an approach similar to the one that the Ducks took with Bobby Ryan might be the best course of action when dealing with their first selection this year.
Kyle Palmieri, C — US NTDP U-18
1st Round, 26th overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 191
The Ducks received another first round selection through Philadelphia at the 21st overall spot but traded back with Columbus in order to pick up an additional second rounder. With the 26th pick, Anaheim selected Kyle Palmieri out of the US U18 program.
Unlike Holland, Palmieri is a small but crafty set-up center, with the vision to find nearly anyone on the ice. He makes up for a lack of physicality with his beautiful shot and his ability to read the play. His most important attribute however might be patience, deciding whether to quickly break out or instead wait for something to develop instead.
His 2008-09 season in the USNTDP left him with 15 goals and 15 assists in his 33 games, but his abilities are far beyond that.
Like with Holland though it could be a while before Anaheim gets the chance to move Palmieri into a full-time role on the Ducks’ squad. Right now the young center is slated to move on to Notre Dame University.
"It’s just a great school. It’s a great team," Palmieri said when asked about his plans to attend the university. "Coach Jackson has been there the last couple of years and really moved the program in a forward direction, and I can just see him keep on doing that and hopefully we’ll be successful this year."
Though he did say that he planned on graduating from the school, he made particular mention of coming out to join the organization.
"I know I’m graduating from there, but as far as professional hockey comes, when I feel like it’s time and I’m ready to play, I’ll make that jump."
Palmieri considers himself a hard-working player who can bring energy to the lineup in every game. For now he plans to bring his determination and work ethic to college, but if he continues to improve and play the same style of hockey that Ducks orginally saw in him, there’s no reason to suspect that he will play at Notre Dame for all four years.
Matt Clark, D — Brampton Battalion (OHL)
2nd Round, 37th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 205
With the second-round selection the Ducks acquired by trading back with Columbus, they went defensive, adding to their two big names Jake Gardiner and Mark Mitera. Though Clark was not taken in the first round like the other two, he offers the Ducks’ a future low-risk shut-down defenseman.
His offensive abilities will never be world class, but he can rack up a few points here and there. In his rookie OHL season with the Brampton Battalion, the sturdy blueliner earned 23 points with only three of them being goals. That does not mean he can’t improve his game in the offensive zone, but the reason the Ducks selected him at the 37th spot was so that he could give them a future option as a big, defensively sound defenseman. A grouping of Gardiner, Mitera, Sbisa, and Clark in the defensive prospect pool certainly helps improve the outlook of the Ducks organization at the position down the road.
Igor Bobkov, G — Magnitogorsk-2 (RUS)
3rd Round, 76th overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 192
At 6’4, Bobkov certainly stands tall between the pipes, and his status as the only Russian goaltender taken in the 2009 Entry Draft only solidifies that. A late riser on draft boards due to the U18 World Championships in which he was named top goaltender, visa issues kept him from the draft and will also unfortunately keep him out of developmental camp with the Ducks this season.
Bobkov has plenty of talent, but it will take further time to adjust to the North American style. He will continue to work in Russia and aim for the league from there.
Sami Vatanen, D — Jyp Jr. (FIN)
4th Round, 106th overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 163
As the top rated Finnish defenseman in the draft, Vatanen could boast an impressive resume including a bronze medal at the Under-18s. As captain of Team Finland, he earned five assists and a +6 rating for the tournament while leading his team to a victory over Canada in order to finish third.
While the Ducks went with a big, sturdy shut-down defenseman in the second round, this pick used on Vatanen brought the organization an undersized, but speedy puck-mover with excellent vision. While his size is a concern, he tested well at the combine in terms of strength and stamina and is thought to be very gritty.
He has speed backwards and forwards but has a tendency to take risks. He doesn’t exactly have a booming shot but certainly has the ability to find other players on the ice waiting to shoot on net. Most of his upside comes from his talents with the puck as opposed to his positioning and defensive play, but he holds up well defensively too. He will need to continue to progress in order to make it into the NHL. Vatanen will remain in Finland next year.
Radoslav Illo, C — Tri-City Storm (USHL)
5th Round, 136th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 161
Illo was born in Slovakia but came to the United States in order to play for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. In his rookie season at the age of 18, he finished second on his team in points with 21 goals and another 12 assists. Illo accomplished all of this though while only playing 47 total games. Before coming to the States, he played well in the Slovakian U-18 league, putting up impressive numbers.
While he may have the potential to develop into an NHL-caliber center, Illo doesn’t seem to have the size to go along with the position. These days in the league there is added emphasis on having size down the middle, something the Ducks have tried to take to heart in recent years including this draft class. Though at 6’0 he is taller than Palmieri, Illo is 20 lbs. lighter. In order to become a successful NHL center he will likely need to get much stronger.
Scott Valentine, D — Oshawa Generals (OHL)
6th Round, 166th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 196
With their last selection of the draft (their 2009 seventh was traded to acquire a pick last year), the Ducks selected a physical defenseman who played on both the London Knights and Oshawa Generals of the OHL for stints this past season. Valentine is a mean defenseman who is not afraid to hit, but still holds considerable offensive abilities. While he is not the best possible size for a physical blueliner in the NHL, he has time to grow into his frame.
At the end of the draft, Valentine represents a player who could certainly become a solid NHL player should he continue to progress. He only adds to Anaheim’s newfound prospect depth at the position.