Top 10 prospects
1. Luca Sbisa, D
2. Jake Gardiner, D
3. Matt Beleskey, LW
4. Kyle Palmieri, RW
5. Mark Mitera, D
6. Peter Holland, C
7. Brendan Mikkelson, D
8. Dan Sexton, RW
9. Brandon McMillan, LW
10. Nicolas Deschamps, C
The Ducks looked like they could be among the top teams in the West this season, having enjoyed a 2009 playoff run that saw them upset the top-seeded San Jose Sharks and force the eventual Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings to a seventh game. However, the Ducks struggled all season and were not in the mix for a playoff spot down the stretch. They still managed an 11th-place finish, missing the playoffs by six points.
It’s unclear whether GM Bob Murray will take this time to patch up the team’s current holes, or take a season or two to step back and rebuild the core. With young stars like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan getting better by the season, there’s no doubt the team can remain competitive. Much will depend on the futures of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, both of whom have flirted with the idea of retirement.
Either way, the Ducks have a good opportunity next week to reload through the draft. They are one of four teams to have two selections in the first round, with their own pick at 12, and the pick acquired from Philadelphia in last year’s Chris Pronger trade at 29. They also have the option of taking Philadelphia’s third-round pick this year or next, in addition to five other selections in this draft.
The Ducks have needs at every position. Ryan being a restricted free agent this summer offers the potential that five of the top seven highest paid players on the team are forwards. Anaheim was the highest scoring team that didn’t make the playoffs, but they would have liked to see their second and third lines chip in more offense consistently throughout the season.
On the back end, the recently-acquired Lubomir Visnovsky is the only defenseman under contract for next season who played regularly in the NHL, with the likes of Steve Eminger, Sheldon Brookbank, and Brett Festerling spending time in the NHL, but serving regularly as healthy scratches. Additionally, the trade of Jean-Sebastien Giguere opens up a need for a proven backup goaltender, as Curtis McElhinney is inexperienced and under contract for just one more season.
Some of the holes on the defensive end will be filled by prospects, as mobile defenseman is possibly the strongest asset in the Anaheim system. Top prospect Luca Sbisa made a positive impression before being sent back to the WHL, and he’ll be looking to stick in the NHL this season, or at least be the team’s top AHL call-up. Brendan Mikkelson is also very close to a regular NHL job, with Jake Gardiner, Mark Mitera, and Matt Clark looking to chip in a few years down the road. Sami Vatanen and Justin Schultz have also shown considerable promise.
The team also boasts a good number of hard-working, bottom-six forwards. Dan Sexton and Brandon McMillan both had exceptional seasons and could be fit for regular spots in that area within two seasons. Matt Beleskey also fits this mold, though there is still hope that his touch around the net could make him a reliable second line winger.
Despite the team going after two forwards in the first round of last year’s draft, scoring forwards are still in demand — especially when the salary cap is considered and the Ducks may have to move some bigger contracts should they need more proven defensemen. Both of last year’s picks showed promise, but also set themselves back — consistency being Peter Holland’s issue, and off-ice issues with Kyle Palmieri.
Igor Bobkov is currently the team’s top goaltending prospect, but is still a few years away while most of the team’s other goaltending prospects made only minimal progress. An early pick could be used to snag a goaltender, though the forwards are the more pressing need.
Former GM Brian Burke made no secrets about his tendency to favor bigger, physical players who often tended to be North American. Bob Murray broke this trend with his first draft. Though not entirely soft, both of Anaheim’s first-round picks were smaller and known more for skill than bruising ability. They also drafted three European players, having selected just four (two goaltenders) in Burke’s four drafts.
Vatanen is very unlike a player that Burke would draft — known for high skill, but offering a very small frame for a defenseman. However, the selections of physical defensemen Matt Clark and Scott Valentine showed that there is still a desire for players with a mean streak.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft results
12th overall — Ryan Johansen, C (Portland, WHL)
Johansen is a tall, playmaking center who recorded 69 points in 71 games as a rookie in the WHL. He has great vision and controls the puck patiently in the offensive zone. Now standing at 6’3, Johansen is still getting used to using his large frame as he has grown close to six inches since being drafted into the WHL. He would be a great fit on Anaheim’s top two lines in the future as the team has many skilled wingers around the same size.
29th overall — Charlie Coyle, RW (South Shore, EJHL)
Coyle is a smart selection for the Ducks as he will have plenty of time to mature at Boston University, where he will start in the fall. The cousin of former NHLer Tony Amonte, Coyle is familiar what it takes to be an NHL player and already possesses the size to contribute at the collegiate level, having been one of the most impressive performers at the NHL combine. Coyle has a smooth set of hands for someone of his size, as a quick skater who is comfortable bringing the puck in close for a finesse move, or dropping his shoulder to power past defensemen.