After a long playoff run that evoked memories of their magical 2003 drive to the Stanley Cup finals, the newly-renamed Anaheim Ducks found themselves drafting in the same position as they did in 2003: 19th overall. With the Ducks already possessing a strong system,
they were able to relax a bit at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Instead of looking to make
a big impact on draft day, the club was content to address small gaps in the organizational depth chart and tweak the prospect pipeline.
Anaheim drafted just five players in 2006, a number that tied the 2000 draft for the fewest Ducks selected. Anaheim had previously traded away their second round pick to Washington in the deadline deal for Jeff Friesen as well as sending their third round pick to Vancouver as compensation for signing Coach Randy Carlyle. They were able to replace those two picks with a second rounder from the Canucks (originally from the New York Islanders) acquired in the Keith Carney deadline deal and a third rounder from the New York Rangers (originally from the San Jose Sharks) acquired for defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. Meanwhile, the Ducks fifth round selection was sent to Columbus in the Sergei Fedorov deal and their seventh round selection had been sent to the San Jose Sharks at the 2005 draft for the fifth round pick that Anaheim used to select Brian Salcido.
True to their previous draft tendencies, Anaheim’s draft was populated with Canadian Hockey League players. Their top pick was out of the CCHA in the NCAA and a single European was drafted, a veteran player from Finland. In fact, there were
few surprises among the Ducks picks, with Anaheim choosing two defensemen and a trio of forwards. The only expected pick that did not occur was Anaheim fortifying their situation between the pipes. The team chose not to offer a contract to
Gabriel Bouthillette and with one of the Ducks NHL goaltenders rumored to be
dealt, the position will only grow weaker.
Mark Mitera, D – University of Michigan, CCHA
Selected 19th overall (1st round), 6’3, 202 pounds
In a move originally predicted in the Hockey’s Future staff mock draft, the Ducks used their first pick of the draft to select Mark Mitera. A native of Michigan, Mitera plays for University of Michigan Wolverines. In 39 games with the Wolverines, he had 10 assists and 59 penalty minutes. Mitera also played a key role for the United States at the 2006 World Juniors in Vancouver. In seven games playing for his country,
he had 27 penalty minutes and was a -1.
Not known for his offensive skills, Mitera describes himself as follows: “I’m a defensive-defenseman. I’m a big physical guy, who’s a team player. I see the ice well and I make good passes. I’m a good hardworking player.”
He could eventually be called upon to become a defensive stalwart on the Ducks blueline, in the mold of former
Duck Keith Carney. Mitera sees his skating as the biggest thing that he feels he needs to work on, noting that “A big defenseman like myself can’t get away with hooking guys and holding on to them.”
The selection of Mitera allowed the Ducks the freedom to send Ladislav Smid, a former first rounder and their top defensive prospect in a package to the Edmonton Oilers to acquire star defenseman Chris Pronger. It has been rumored that the Ducks were willing to part with Smid if the deal was right and by acquiring a defenseman like Mitera, the blow of losing a player of his caliber was lessened dramatically. Interestingly enough, immediately after being drafted, Mitera admitted that he tries to style his game after Pronger. “[Pronger]’s a big guy, and a physical player. Guys don’t want to come down on his side. He’s got a shot from the point and I’d like to mold myself after him.”
Bryce Swan, RW – Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Selected 38th overall (2nd round), 6’2, 191 pounds
With former Mooseheads like Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Joe Dipenta already on the NHL roster and a plethora of prospects and players having passed through the Anaheim system with ties to the Nova Scotian team, the Ducks once again added a Halifax Moosehead to their stable of young players. Early on in the 2005-06 season, Bryce Swan was listed as a potential first round selection candidate. Unfortunately for him, injuries limited his role and effectiveness and he fell to the Ducks second pick of the draft, 38th overall. Appearing in only 34 games, with 14 goals and 25 points, Swan also saw time in 11 playoff games with two goals and seven points, placing him second on the team in postseason scoring.
A versatile grinder, Swan drives to the net hard and plays a classic power
forward style. Never one to back down, it is worth noting that his injury troubles were more a result of freak incidents
than bad luck with his gritty style. With a bit better luck next season, he should be one of Halifax’s go-to offensive players as well as being looked upon to be a leader on and off the ice.
John DeGray, D – Brampton Battalion, OHL
Selected 83rd overall (3rd round), 6’4, 204 pounds
Listed as a probable second round player by most pre-draft publications, Anaheim was more than happy to select John DeGray with their third pick. The big Brampton rearguard must wake up each morning to the smooth sounds of Bachman-Turner Overdrive because he’s mainly known for “Takin’ Care of Business” in his own end. In 68 games last season, he failed to score a goal and picked up 10 assists, along with 103 penalty minutes and a +10 plus/minus. He followed that with no points in 11 playoff games and a -6 plus/minus.
As mentioned, DeGray will never light the league on fire offensively, but he’s a rock on the blue line. He skates well, although that could still use a bit of improvement and using his size a bit more would help his game out considerably. However, at the end of the day, DeGray projects to be a solid defensive player who could play second pairing minutes, especially when paired with a more offensively daring player.
Matt Beleskey, LW – Belleville Bulls, OHL
Selected 112th overall (4th round), 5’11, 202 pounds
Matt Beleskey was Anaheim’s fourth pick and can be considered to be another player who fell slightly past where he was expected to be drafted. Hockey’s Future had ranked the Belleville Bull ahead of John DeGray, the Ducks previous selection when ranking the top 40 OHL players. After missing the beginning of the season with a knee injury suffered during Canada’s Under-18 Summer Camp, Beleskey finished the season with 20 goals and 40 points in 61 games for Belleville, placing him third on the team in scoring. He also had a goal and three points in six playoff games.
A gritty forward who never quits, Beleskey patterns his game after Wendel Clark. Like Clark, he revels in playing the physical game and the attitude he brings to the Bulls have led to him being named alternate captain of the team. While there a number of things he needs to work on, such as his skating, Beleskey’s approach to the game will always give him a chance.
Petteri Wirtanen, C – HPK Hameenlinna, SM-Liiga
Selected 172nd overall (6th round), 6’1, 202 pounds
For the Ducks final selection, they went to Finland, their “favorite” European country to pluck their World Junior captain out of SM-Liiga. Out of the five Europeans selected since 2002, four have been Finnish. At the age of 20, Petteri Wirtanen was passed over in previous drafts, but 2005-06 marked his first full season in Finland’s top league. In 50 games with HPK Hameenlinna, Wirtanen scored eight goals and had 11 points along with 24 penalty minutes.
A hard working two-way center, who excels on the penalty kill, Wirtanen might play in North America as early as this fall. According to Finnish media reports, Wirtanen has already signed a contract with Anaheim and is expected to join the Portland Pirates this fall.
Anaheim has continued to address needs in their prospect pipeline after the draft concluded. Since then, the Ducks have signed three undrafted free agents. Colby Genoway is a former University of North Dakota forward who had an impressive AHL rookie season last year for the Hartford Wolf Pack. Clay Wilson is a former Michigan Tech defenseman who started last season in the UHL but played the majority of the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL. Ryan Carter is a forward signed directly out of Minnesota State University where he played the
past two seasons.
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