The Anaheim Ducks hit on some key players in their selections at the 2011 NHL Draft. The team might have walked away from the draft saying that the best case scenario is getting a top-six winger, a bottom-four defender, a starting goalie, and a bottom-six center. Hitting on all those is not a bad weekend’s work.
While the Ducks did not hold on to at least the bottom-six center, they got some very key pieces for a team that is getting younger and younger each year while remaining competitive. The Ducks went to their old standbys of Europe and the U.S. development leagues to pull together one of their stronger draft table performances.
At the time of the CSS final rankings in 2011, the Rikard Rakell was coming off a very good, near point-per-game rookie season in the OHL after making his way over from the junior ranks of the SHL. Nonetheless, his 30th overall ranking for North American skaters suggested a bit of a reach – one that has proven the Ducks’ scouts right.
After being chosen by Anaheim in the first round in 2011, Rakell went on to have modest success with the Plymouth Whalers for the next two seasons. While he moved over a point per game, he never really dominated on the stat sheet quite like some of the other first round picks had. However, Rakell was a solid and responsible two-way player, which is often more coveted at the NHL level. He did so while maintaining a good junior level of production, as well. All in all, he still compiled a junior career of 151 points and 69 goals in 149 games. In his two years between the draft and pro level, Rakell also participated in two separate World Junior Championship tournaments with Sweden, taking home gold in 2012 and silver in 2013. He was an excellent contributor in both tournaments.
Since turning pro in 2013-14, the now 23-year-old has become a prime fixture in the Anaheim pipeline and on the NHL roster. He got a cup of coffee in his first pro season, and also managed 37 points in 46 AHL games that year. In 2014-15, he made the Ducks team out of camp and played exclusively with the NHL club aside from a conditioning stint in December of that season. In 2015-16, he took a major step, registering his first 20-goal NHL season and finishing fourth in points behind the big three of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. He also finished just one goal behind Kesler for second on the team in that category.
Rakell’s responsible, two-way game, coupled with his mid level scoring ability has seen him become one of the burgeoning young two-way wingers in the NHL.
Patience with goaltender development is almost always required. As the level of competition increases, young athletes often have to develop a whole new set of abilities just to adjust to the speed of the game. This can obviously be challenging for such a pivotal position.
From the outset of the 2011 draft, though, John Gibson was far and away the best goaltender available. Although it appears now as a fairly weak goaltenders draft, a few of the 19 netminders selected remain legitimate prospects. Even so, Gibson has emerged as the best of the group. The Pittsburgh native was noted for his ability to win at every level, starting with winning gold with team USA in the U18 World Championship in 2011.
After that summer, he moved from the U.S. NTDP to the OHL for a step up in level of play. He continued to play well with the Kitchener Rangers, posting an impressive .928 save percentage in the 59 games he played during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 regular seasons. In the latter season he was also the stalwart goaltender of Team USA at the U20 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. The U.S. took home gold on the back of a sparkling .955 save percentage and 1.36 goals-against average from Gibson. He was voted the tournament’s MVP. He also built on that junior performance with a surprising selection to the Men’s World Championship roster as a 19-year old. He ended up playing five games for the U.S. with a .951 save percentage, earning a bronze medal in the process.
Since the accolades of his junior years, Gibson has gone on to be one of the more steady AHL goaltenders with Anaheim’s affiliates, the Norfolk Admirals and San Diego Gulls. While early injuries kept him in and out of the NHL roster full time, 2015-16 marked a big step in his career as he managed to take hold of a split starter job with Freddie Andersen, posting a .920 save percentage in 40 games. With the uncertain contract status of Andersen, plus a rather shallow Ducks goaltending pipeline, after several long years of waiting it looks like Gibson should be handed the full-time starter reins in 2016-17.
The 6’1″ Swede William Karlsson was another pick in a long list of selections from northern Europe for Anaheim. They certainly love digging into Finland and Sweden for their players, and have done quite well at it over the years. Karlsson, a product of Västerås’s youth program, had a massive 54 points in 38 games his draft year. After being selected in the second round in 2011, sandwiched between Miikka Salomaki and Scott Harrington, Karlsson moved up to play in the Allsvenskan with the senior team of Västerås HK. While his club did not get promoted at the end of the year, Karlsson did.
After that point-per-game season in the Swedish second tier he moved to HV71 in the SHL. He was not able to replicate the same sort of goal scoring prowess, scoring just four goals in 50 games, but the speed and creativity with the puck saw him post 24 assists. In his second year with HV71 in 2012-13, a year in which he was an alternate captain, he scored 15 goals and raised his point totals to 37 goals in 55 games. It was a nice reward for the Ducks, who had offered him an ELC at the end of the previous year. In 2014-15, it took Karlsson just about a month-and-a-half to fast-track to the NHL level, almost completely bypassing the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. In just 37 AHL games, Karlsson scored 24 points and 37 assists. His strong, two-way acumen was also a nice boost to his skill set.
However, the young Swede often struggled at the faceoff dot, and had some difficulties moving to the wing on such a deep Anaheim team. Pigeonholed for what would be a third- or fourth-line center job, the Ducks moved Karlsson out in the James Wisniewski deal at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. Wisniewski would end up being a troublesome deal for Anaheim – however Karlsson has had struggles of his own since joining Columbus. An injury held him out of almost all potential games with the Jackets at the end of 2014-15, and in 2015-16 he was barely above baseline as a possession player, getting low third-line minutes. He did, however, pot 20 points, which gives hope that he can still be a solid third-line option in the future.
3rd round, 65th overall: Joseph Cramarossa, C, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Joseph Cramarossa, from the draft to now, has always been a blue collar, grinder-type player. The winger had put up a modest 32 points in his second season with the Mississauga Majors. Post-draft, he posted similar numbers to 2010-11, but in 2012-13 he broke out. Cramarossa led the Belleville Bulls in points with an unexpected 63-point campaign. However, he was paired up on a line with Brendan Gaunce and Daniil Zharkov, who had 58 goals between them. With that in mind, the rugged winger getting 44 assists makes a little more sense.
Since turning pro in 2013-14, Cramarossa has gone back to being a more defensively reliable, low-scoring bottom-line option. He has posted just 17 goals and 31 points in 162 AHL games, but has seen usage on the penalty kill, along with showing versatility to switch between wing and center. It is hard to say where Cramarossa fits in with the Ducks organization in the future, but he has shown plenty to slot in as a depth forward in the AHL.
3rd round, 83rd overall: Andy Welinski, D, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Since his draft, Ducks fans have been very excited about Andy Welinski. From the outset of his college career with the University of Minnesota-Duluth he has proven to be a mobile and threatening puck mover. Not once in his four-year collegiate career did he drop below 18 points, and over the years he became much more of a defensively responsible player. He did so while not sacrificing any of his aggressive offensive style.
With scouts believing him to be a bit of a project player with top-four pairing potential, the Ducks sat on him for four years at Duluth, turning him pro after the Bulldogs were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in March. He appeared in five regular season games and all eight playoff games with the San Diego Gulls.
The 2016-17 season will be a huge year for Welinski, as it will be his first full pro season, and the depth chart on defense should be wide open.
The speedy Max Friberg was one of three Swedes selected by the Ducks in the 2011 draft. Much like Rakell and Karlsson, Friberg played with the junior and second division Swedish teams before making the jump to Timrå IK and the SHL post-draft.
In two seasons in the SHL, Friberg posted low scoring numbers, but still managed to catch some intrigue from Anaheim’s development staff. Part of it may have been his otherworldly World Junior Championship in 2012 where he led Team Sweden and the tournament in goals with nine en route to gold.
In 2013-14, his first year of AHL hockey, he showed some flashes of that scoring ability, posting 17 goals and 40 points. In the following two seasons, Friberg continued to be a productive scoring option at the AHL level, but not a real bountiful scorer or dynamic player. Feeling like he had perhaps topped out or leveled off in his trajectory, the Ducks dealt Friberg to the Montreal Canadiens straight-up for depth goaltender Dustin Tokarski on January 7th of this year. With Montreal, Friberg has continued the same sort of tweener play that may get him looks in the NHL, but not a full time gig.
6th round, 160th overall: Josh Manson, D, Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 99
Sometimes good picks come where you least expect them. With this late pick, the Ducks opted to go with the son of former NHL tough guy Dave Manson. Josh Manson was a rugged and defensively oriented rearguard who was playing in the British Columbia high school league at the time of his draft. He committed to Northeastern University, where he played three seasons and was the teams alternate captain and voted best defensive defenseman in the Hockey East conference in his final NCAA season (2013-14).
Manson was one of the last players cut from the Ducks’ camp in 2014, just two days before the season began. However, he was back up just 20 days later and making his NHL debut. He had several call-ups and send-downs during 2014-15 but has since solidified himself as a reliable bottom-pairing option for a deep defensive pipeline in Anaheim. Not bad for a sixth round selection.
View the video below for a look back at the 2011 NHL Draft of the Anaheim Ducks, including draft footage of Rickard Rakell and Andy Welinski, and footage of John Gibson from the 2011 NHL Combine.
Prospect of the Month
Last month didn’t end well for any Ducks prospects, but Mike Sgarbossa proved to be a key cog in San Diego Gulls’ postseason play. In the Gulls’ first round matchup with the high-flying Texas Stars, Sgarbossa helped his team dismantle their Pacific division rivals in four games. He personally had a goal and four assists in the series, along with logging 14 shots in four games. His usage on the power play and penalty kill were also key elements. Unfortunately, Sgarbossa was injured at the end of the series, and missed all but the final game of the Ontario series with a foot/ankle injury. His loss as the Gulls’ top center was a massive blow to their hopes at beating rival Ontario, and the Gulls ended up bowing out in five games. Had he been available it may have challenged the center group of Ontario more, and could have helped San Diego overcome a dismal power play in the series.