2000 Mighty Ducks Draft Preview

By Martin Dittman

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That certainly proves
true for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Like in past drafts, the Ducks are
looking for hard working forwards who can put up big numbers. That’s easier
said than done. The Ducks still lack pure scorers in their system and more
importantly, lack character players with strong skills.

The obvious need is for a power forward. Jay Legault is yet to blossom in
the AHL and other potential power forward candidates have been
disappointments. Mike Leclerc had an inconsistent first NHL year and Peter
Leboutillier and Jeremy Stevenson might have worn out their welcomes. The
forwards who do score for the Ducks have been criticized for a lack of hard
work. Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne are fine scorers but they aren’t the
type to battle in the corners or lead by example.

The Ducks have had relatively successful drafts the last few years. They
have taken players out of relative obscurity and found legitimate prospects.
Others have become potential steals like that of college standout Jordan
Leopold. The Ducks are expected to focus on a group of European forwards
this draft.

POTENTIAL FORWARD CHOICES:

Martin Samuelsson -

Samuelsson would fit in perfectly with the Ducks. The Ducks have a fetish
for Swedish players and Samuelsson is one of the best in the draft. His
speed is suited perfectly for the Ducks but more importantly, he plays a
tough game. Unlike most European players, Samuelsson doesn’t mind battling
in the corners – the perfect solution for the Ducks. Unfortunately, there
are questions about Samuelsson’s ability and a shoulder injury has hampered
him in the last season but don’t count out the Ducks taking a look at him.

Nikita Alexeev -

Alexeev has fantastic skill and a gigantic frame. At 6’5, 215, he would be
a welcome addition to a system made up of mainly smaller players. Another
bonus is his blazing speed. Like Samuelsson, a fleet footed player fits in
perfectly with the smooth skating Ducks. Alexeev has characteristics of
prospect Maxim Balmochnkyh. Like Balmo, Alexeev is considered an
underachiever. The biggest knock against Alexeev is how he plays. Even
with his huge body, he rarely takes advantage of it.

Pavel Vorobiev -

Vorobiev has plenty of upside but like the others, people question his
ability. He plays a feisty game which has garnered him much attention. Add
to that, his great puck ability and you have a complete player or do you?
Vorobiev has been knocked by many who see him as overrated but most scouts
believe he could be a steal if he falls out of the top 10.

Vaclav Nedorost -

Nedorost has heart and character which makes him an obvious choice for the
Ducks. But he’s a center and the Ducks have a surplus at that position.
Granted, they aren’t as skilled, but the Ducks need wingers badly. Scouts
believe Nedorost is more defensive than offensive which may also turn the
Ducks off from him.

Alexei Smirnov -

Smirnov is one of the draft’s true wild cards but will probably be gone by
the time the Ducks pick. He has all the size, skill and talent the Ducks
are looking for but unless they trade up, there’s a good chance he’ll
already be drafted which is a shame. For a team that’s desperate for power
forward, Smirnov is worth the risk.

Alexander Frolov -

Frolov should draw some attention from the Ducks. Like the others, he has
good size and plays a complete game. A bonus is he’s looked at as a sure
bet to be an NHLer. He has been a consistent scorer in Europe unlike others
who are often cast as enigmas. Expect the Ducks to strongly consider Frolov
and depending on he’s available, he may be their choice.

There are plenty of other potential choices as well but size will be on the
wish list. Chances are if you do not play a gritty game, the Ducks will pass
and pick someone else. And don’t count out the Ducks making a deal to move
up in the draft or to improve the team right away like last year’s Oleg
Tverdosky trade. Most people belive the Ducks covet some of the top 10
prospects including Scott Hartnell. If the right deal comes along, Pierre
Gauthier may jump at it.

THE DEFENSE RESTS

Unlike past years, defense will probably be a second priority for the Ducks.
The Ducks are deepest at defense and lack scoring more than defensive play.
The Ducks will probably pass on a defenseman in the first round although
Brooks Orpik and Ilya Nikulin will probably grab their attention. Orpik’s
tough play will garner attention from plenty of teams but Orpik will
probably be gone by the time the Ducks get up to the stage. Nikulin has
great size but is considered a high risk pick. A longshot choice could be
hard nosed Anton Volchenkov. Expect the Ducks to wait until the later
rounds to choose any defenseman and focus on their scoring problems early.

GOALTENDING

Before the Ducks traded for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, goaltending was high on
the list of draft possibilities. But the combination of Giguere and Gregg
Naumenko solidifies the position for years to come. While Gauthier often
regrets giving up draft picks, relinquishing a second round pick for Giguere
was a smart move. The Ducks couldn’t have gotten anything better with the
pick and Giguere is better than goalie who would’ve been available to the
Ducks.

PAST DRAFTS

The Ducks have several tendencies. They are not afraid to draft European
players and have stocked the organization with plenty. They range from
European veterans like Niclas Havelid, Pelle Prestberg and Petr Tenkrat to
European developmental players like Alexandr Chagodayev and Andreas
Andersson. You can expect the Ducks to go both routes again, taking a
chance on little known players like Havelid was. Havelid ended up as one of
the more consistent Ducks during the season.

The Ducks also draft plenty of NCAA Hockey players. Jordan Leopold, Mat
Snesrud and Brian Gornick are some of the more recent ones but of that group
Leopold is the only legitimate prospect. It’s a pretty good bet the Ducks
will use later rounds to choose college players once again.

THE BEST AVAILABLE

The Ducks also have a belief to take the best player available but some
drafts tell otherwise. The choice of Vitaly Vishnevski was controversial
because to most people, Vishnevski wasn’t the best left. But on the Ducks
list he was – and it is paying off in big dividends today.

The Ducks also say their goal is to not focus on a particular position but
the forward position is probably too deep to pass by for a higher rated
defenseman. Either way, Anaheim’s choice in the 2000 draft should stir up
the pot between Duck fans.