The Anaheim Ducks had a more successful 2013 season than many people expected. After struggling in the 2011-12 season and failing to make the playoffs, the franchise looked ready for a rebuild. However, with a fresh season under new coach Bruce Boudreau in 2013, they surprised everyone and won the Pacific Division. The wealth of prospects that the franchise has are developing well, and a few are starting to poke into the NHL and make an impact.
After what you could consider a successful 2013, despite the early first-round playoff exit, the Ducks look ready and primed to move into the draft and add to an already impressive group of talented prospects.
Top 10 Prospects
1. Emerson Etem, RW
2. John Gibson, G
3. Rickard Rakell, RW
4. Peter Holland, C
5. Hampus Lindholm, D
6. Sami Vatanen, D
7. Nicolas Kerdiles, C
8. William Karlsson, C
9. Devante Smith-Pelly, LW
10. Antoine Laganiere, C
The Ducks have various tools in the toolbox right now, but what they need most is more of them. They have a wide variety of talent in many positions and roles, but they have a limited number of said players. Some surefire depth players and secondary scorers would definitely ease the reliance on the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry to be scoring at a point-per-game pace. There is an older group of players that eat up significant playing time for the Ducks and if they do not properly prepare for a changing of the guard, it could be a sharp decline when the page turns. At the end of the 2013 season the Ducks were 20th in the league in average age, with 12 players on the active roster over the age of 30 and five over the age of 35.
The Ducks’ bread and butter seems to be in drafting and developing players that combine physical dominance with an offensive flair. Power forwards are of no short supply in the Ducks system, and the emergence of Emerson Etem and the development of Peter Holland are adding to a group that already has Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry. Past the big physical grinders, the Ducks received great 2013 performances from young skill players Kyle Palmieri and Nick Bonino as well, and the addition of Rickard Rakell and one or both of Nicolas Kerdiles or William Karlsson could further add to the variety up front.
While they do not exactly have an established core on defense to work around, Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa are still solid options moving forward despite having down years. With Lindholm and Vatanen behind them, the Ducks could have a very powerful top-four in the very near future. Francois Beauchemin was as solid as a rock in his return to Anaheim, and Ben Lovejoy also looked like a reinvented player after joining the team from Pittsburgh.
Goaltending continues to be a tremendous area of strength with Anaheim, as the relatively unknown Viktor Fasth stepped up and earned split playing time with Jonas Hiller. Norfolk got an MVP worthy year out of Frederik Andersson, and John Gibson was an international sensation at both the 2013 World Junior Championships and the men's 2013 IIHF World Championships for the United States. Anaheim sports perhaps one of the deepest groups of goaltenders from NHL to CHL right now.
The Ducks opened a new door this season with head coach Bruce Boudreau and continued to shut the door on the old ways and styles of Randy Carlyle. What Boudreau and General Manager Bob Murray now have to work with is a group of big physical power forwards and a mixture of young, high-flying skill players. However, there are some concerns moving forward.
First off, the age and shelf life of forwards Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu again have to be worrisome moving forward for the team, as the loss of one or both of the aging veterans would be significant. The Ducks really do not have many suitable options at left wing, nor do they have a skilled top-six center and penalty killer that could readily replace Koivu. The team could conceivably move forward with Andrew Cogliano in that role, however the offensive upside of Cogliano is limited and he is not an ideal top-six center. The same could be said for Daniel Winnik who, despite his hot start, settled into the more realistic bottom-six center.
There also were not many high scoring options with the AHL Norfolk Admirals, who were one of the lowest scoring teams in the AHL this year. If there is a loss of any high end skill players to free agency or retirement there are going to be big shoes to fill. While they have a solid group of two-way character players in the bottom-six, the offensive output is going to rest firmly on the shoulders of just a few players as the team is currently constructed. With one slump or injury, the Ducks could lose a significant part of their production.
Defensive depth at both the NHL level and below is a significant weakness for the organization, as again they have several aging players in Toni Lydman, Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, and Francois Beauchemin, and no real options to replace them outside of Lindholm or Vatanen moving forward. After those two prospects there is a considerably drop in quality.
In recent years the Ducks have drafted heavily out of the USHL, NCAA, and the Swedish Elite League. Since 2010, Murray has drafted six players from Europe and nine out of the USHL or NCAA for a total of 15 out of the 23 selections from the past three seasons. It has been a good mixture of skill and speed from Europe, and size and strength from American developmental institutes.
Ten defensemen have been drafted in the past three years, as well as two goaltenders. Look for the team to perhaps draft forwards, and particularly on the wings, as only five selections have been wingers in the last three drafts.
The Ducks enter the 2013 NHL draft with seven picks, one in each round: The 26th, 45th, 87th, 117th, 147th, 177th, and 207th.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
Ian McCoshen, D, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
With his penchant for drafting USHL products, it will be tough for Bob Murray to lay off big American defenseman Ian McCoshen. Even though the real organizational need lies at left wing, McCoshen could be a much needed stalwart on the blue line after Vatanen and Lindholm in the prospect pool. McCoshen has a skill set that reads a lot like current Ducks blueliner Francois Beauchemin. He has a big slap shot, excellent gap control, decent skating, and an aggressive defensive style. At 6’3 and 207 pounds, he already has the right size to play at any level. It is also a bonus that he is committed to Boston College, as the Ducks have a plethora of defensive picks in the system from recent drafts who are still trying to cut it. McCoshen can take his time and develop even further.