The Anaheim Ducks went into the 2013 NHL Draft already featuring one of the better systems in the NHL. With top-end talent like Emerson Etem, Hampus Lindholm, and John Gibson headlining the ranks, the Ducks had five selections to fill in the depth behind the burgeoning young stars.
The team went with a selection of two defenders, two wings and a center, focusing primarily on offensive upside. Youth was also a factor as the Ducks selected four players 18 and under, which is helping extend the longevity of their system significantly. Also, much like past drafts Bob Murray dove into a variety of leagues, including the U.S. National Team Development Program, the CHL, and Scandinavia. The Ducks have had one of the more successful draft formulas in recent years, mixing best available board picks with organizational need. The 2013 draft for the Ducks, while limited in selections, looks to have followed the same formula.
While seemingly an odd and off the board pick from the Ducks, Seattle Thunderbird product Shea Theodore was a selection that makes sense taking in the entirety of the Ducks system. While Lindholm is more of an all-around defenseman and Sami Vatanen an offensive heavy defenseman, Theodore fills in well as a skilled puck-mover and outlet defenseman.
Theodore, just 17 years old, is heading into his third year with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, and has been a consistent point-getter and powerplay quarterback. Last season he had 50 points in 71 games, and although the minus-24 is a bit concerning, Seattle was not the strongest squad this season by any stretch of the imagination, ranking seventh in the Western Conference and 17th of 22 teams in the WHL. His vision, hockey sense, and passing skills are top notch already and at such a young age the Langley, British Columbia native has a lot of time to grow in a crowded pipeline.
Considered a powerplay specialist as well, Theodore came in at #11 in the final rankings for Central Scouting, which was a jump up from 17th at the midway point. B.J. MacDonald of Central Scouting summed up Theodore for the Ducks, saying that, “He can lay down a pass just as good as anyone in the league, always on the tape. He's really heady and really smart, and he actually runs [Seattle’s] powerplay… Good size, good movement.”
Although Hockey's Future didn't catch up with Theodore at the NHL Draft, we did interview him at the 2013 NHL Combine. You can view that conversation here in this HF video.
Anaheim continued a trend in recent years of drafting talent out of Sweden. With Lindholm and Rickard Rakell among the talented Swedes taken in the draft by Anaheim and Jakob Silfverberg now joining that group via trade from Ottawa, they added another name in Nick Sörensen to the long list of Scandinavian imports.
Sörensen, who holds dual citizenship with his native Denmark and Sweden and was playing in Sweden until he was selected by the Québec Remparts in the CHL import draft in 2011-12, has shown solid offensive skill and tenacity at every level thus far. At 6’1 Sörensen plays a game that fits his size. He is a crash-and-bang style player who is tough to play against in the corners and along the half-wall but also shows a shot release and offensive mindset that is absent from many prototypical grinding power forwards. With that in mind he fits nicely into the Ducks system.
The 47 points in 46 games this last season with the Remparts put Sörensen amongst the top-10 in rookie scoring in the QMJHL, and he also had a very impressive postseason with Quebec netting seven goals and 10 points in 8 playoff games. The biggest concern with the young winger though, and likely the main reason he dropped from 27 to 48 in the draft rankings with CSS, is nagging injuries which have already caused him to miss the better part of two seasons. However, if he can stay healthy Sörensen has a great skill set and could be a steal even at 45th overall, especially in a Ducks system that meshes well with his style.
In our Hockey’s Future 2013 Staff Mock Draft, I mentioned that Bob Murray loves going after American-born defenseman out of the USNTDP, and therefore had the Ducks selecting Ian McCoshen (FLA) in the first round. Murray did come through on that tendency towards American defenseman, but it was not until the third round when he selected Keaton Thompson.
Thompson plays a low-flash, low-risk style game. He is an incredibly solid skater and does the little things right as a smaller stay-at-home defenseman a la Rob Scuderi. Probably the best thing going for Keaton Thompson is he will get a chance to be under the tutelage of a defenseman with similar stature in former Anaheim Duck player turned assistant coach Scott Niedermayer.
In reality, Thompson had an average 2012-13 season with the USNTDP with eight points and a minus-two rating in 26 USHL games. However, he is exactly the kind of mid-round draft pick that if developed properly can turn into a coveted piece in any system. At 18 years old the North Dakota native has plenty of time to develop as he heads to the University of North Dakota to begin his NCAA career next season.
Grant Besse, RW, Benilde-St. Margaret’s High (MN-HS)
5th round, 147th overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 172
Grant Besse falls into the category of a low-risk, high-reward selection as a fifth round pick. The young Minnesota-native comes with a wealth of high school accolades including a 2012 Minnesota State hockey championship with Benilde-St. Margaret’s prep school and a Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award. However, he also stands in at 5’9 and 172 pounds.
Given how Besse was one of the more decorated and prolific athletes in Minnestoa prep school hockey history, the Wisconsin Badgers did not hesitate in recruiting the young man to their program. How prolific was Besse? In 149 career high school games he had 160 goals and 129 assists for a grand total of 289 points. While Besse certainly will not emulate his near two-points-per-game pace at the college level, the choice to attend a university will only help the high school standout. From here on out he will be a small fish in a big pond, playing against much older players, and trying to apply his tremendous offensive skillset at another level.
Besse certainly has his work cut out for him, but the possibility of him growing from an already outstanding young career was worth a fifth round pick in GM Bob Murray’s mind.
Miro Aaltonen, C, Espoo Blues (SM-liiga)
6th round, 177th overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 168
In another low-risk, high-reward move the Ducks went to Finland and drafted small but skilled forward Miro Aaltonen. Aaltonen, at 20 years old, has been playing in the SM-liiga of Finland for almost two seasons now as well as being a regular amongst the Finnish U20 and U18 teams.
Aaltonen had a sizzling 2012-13 season as a 19-year-old, scoring 11 goals in 32 SM-liiga games and impressing in pre-tournament play for Finland's U20 team. Unfortunately while at the tournament he suffered a horrific broken ankle in the first World Junior Championship game against Latvia. Remarkably, he returned to play for Espoo's junior team in the U20 playoffs and had 13 points in 8 games.
At 5‘10 he is by no means incredibly undersized, but he will need to learn to deal with physicality of a bruising North American style game in order to progress. Fortunately Aaltonen has plenty of role models to follow in the Ducks organization with smaller Finnish legends like Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu currently on the team. Aaltonen was skirting around the 20’s in the mid-season European rankings from CSS, but injuries and questions about his physicality dropped him to 40th in the final rankings. If he can make the adjustment to the physicality, get stronger, and most importantly stay healthy, Aaltonen has a good chance at being a late round gem given his offensive skills.
Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter: @SirJDL