Mighty Ducks 2005 draft preview

By Kevin Forbes

Mighty Ducks Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Getzlaf, C
2. Ladislav Smid, D
3. Corey Perry, RW
4. Chris Kunitz, LW
5. Mark Popovic, D
6. Micheal Holmqvist, LW
7. Tim Brent, C
8. Alexei Smirnov, LW
9. Joel Perrault, C
10. Vladimir Korsunov, D

For the third consecutive year, Anaheim enters the NHL entry draft with a new face
in the role of General Manager. However, despite the recent hiring Brian Burke, many of the behind the scenes staff remain the same. Director of
scouting Alain Chainey, former director of hockey operations Chuck Fletcher, former assistant GM David McNab and even former interim General
Manager Al Coates are all still part of the organization. The sole exception is former director of player
personnel Tim Murray, who accepted a position with the New York Rangers’ scouting staff. Player-development consultant Tom Watt was also released, and Bob Murray joined the team as senior vice president of hockey operations. What this all boils down to is that on draft day, there should not be too much of a shift
in strategy.

Having been slotted in the No. 2 slot in Friday’s draft lottery, and possessing Tampa Bay’s second-round pick, the 31st overall, thanks to the Vaclav Prospal trade, the Ducks are in very good position going into the 2005 entry draft.

Team Needs

First and foremost, Anaheim needs to either re-sign offensive defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh or find an adequate replacement on the market. The smooth-skating Latvian was an important part of the Ducks 2003 playoff run and his absence from the
line-up the following year due to injury was a big reason for Anaheim’s downfall. His offensive contributions were sorely missed both on the
power play and during regular action and his importance will only be heightened now that Niclas Havelid is an Atlanta Thrasher. The Ducks need a
power play quarterback if they are to succeed in the near future.

Secondly, an upgrade of talent in the forward corps is required. Steve Rucchin and Rob Niedermayer are two examples of players better suited for a third line shutdown role, but by necessity are forced into the top six. They also are required to add much needed size to the scoring lines. The Ducks are a different team when Mike Leclerc is in the
line-up, but due to injuries, that isn’t often enough. A solution must be found.

Elsewhere in the organization, there is a lack of goaltenders that will
undoubtedly require the team to sign a free agent to fill out the Portland
Pirates farm club. While the NHL tandem of Giguere and Bryzgalov looks to be solid, the cupboard is bare after them. If injuries strike, Anaheim could be in a very desperate spot.

Finally, Anaheim needs to upgrade at the enforcer position. Garrett Burnett has an option for another year of service, however, he is simply not skilled enough to
take a regular shift. Anaheim does need someone in the line-up to keep opponents honest, but
needs to find someone who can bring more to the table than Burnett.

Organizational Strengths

Anaheim continues to have a very deep and balanced prospect pool. The system is studded with players known for their leadership and
versatility. Up front there’s everything from pure offensive threats like Corey Perry, two-way talents such as Chris Kunitz and developing power forwards like Dustin Penner. Meanwhile on the blueline, Ladislav Smid, Mark Popovic and Kurtis Foster are all ready to challenge for a spot in the NHL
line-up. Anaheim boosted their defensive future last summer by acquiring five
blueline prospects through the draft, trades and signing free agents.

At the next training camp, there are many forward prospects who could challenge for spots on the third and fourth lines if the team chooses to go in that direction. The same could be said for filling out any empty spots in the defensive pairings. Conversely, these players could be used as trade bait for teams looking to offload high-priced veterans under the new
salary cap.

Organizational Weaknesses

Despite the depth, there is some concern about when these prospects will be ready to make an impact at the NHL level. Anaheim ideally needs some top prospects to take on important roles with the team now and unfortunately most are not at that stage. With key players expected to move on due to age or free agency in the upcoming years, the next generation needs to step up.

As mentioned above, goaltending is a real concern for the organization. This is especially true if Ilya Bryzgalov is unable to shake the inconsistency he suffered through in Cincinnati last year and cannot live up to the title of “goaltender of the future”.

While re-signing or replacing Sandis Ozolinsh is a short-term solution, ideally there needs to be a
power play quarterback developed inside the organization to take the reins. Ladislav Smid is the best bet, but his offensive potential is relatively untapped after playing the last two years in the Czech Senior Extraleague. If he isn’t the answer, someone else needs to be found. Keith Carney is another blueliner who should be given a reduced role in the next few years. The Ducks depend too much on the 35-year-old and there needs to be someone ready to take over his ice time.

A top line power forward type would also be desired. This could potentially be Ryan Getzlaf if he is brought into the league on the right wing as expected. However, if Getzlaf is shifted to the wing, then Anaheim needs a center capable of anchoring a scoring line.

Draft Tendencies

Despite the changes in the front office, most of the minds guiding the Ducks in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft will remain the same as they have in previous drafts. Anaheim has only traded
its first round pick once, and never drafted a goaltender in the first round. Neither of those
trends are expected to broken.

In the three drafts that have occurred since Pierre Gauthier was fired as the Mighty Ducks General Manager, only four of Anaheim’s 25 selections were drafted from
European leagues. This doesn’t count Finnish blueliner Juha Alen in 2003, who was drafted from the NCAA. Of those four European selections made, three of them were from Finnish Elite League teams, the sole exception being Czech blueliner, Ladislav Smid who was Anaheim’s first pick in 2004.

The Ontario Hockey League has provided 28 percent of the 25 draft choices made over the past three years, but that
figure does count Tim Brent twice. Brent was selected first by Anaheim in 2002 and then again
in 2004. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the NCAA provided 16 percent each. In fact, 2002 was the only year in the history of the Mighty Ducks that the team did not choose at least one player from the US college ranks.

The Western Hockey League has contributed 12 percent of the players selected and the USHL has provided 8 percent. The final 4 percent comes from the US National Team Development Program, where, in 2004, Anaheim selected Matt Auffrey, who is now with the University of Wisconsin.

Over those same three drafts, picks have been evenly split between defensemen and forwards. Out of the 25 picks made, 52 percent were forwards and 44 percent were blueliners. There has only been one goaltender selected in the past three years, which accounts for 4 percent of the selections.

Player most likely to be taken with first
selection
(Hockey’s Future staff
mock draft result): Jack Johnson, D, USNDTP

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