Ducks 2002 draft evaluation

By Kevin Forbes

In the big scheme of things, the 2002 draft could be viewed as the beginning of a change of philosophy for the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Previously a franchise that looked to draft from the Europe leagues as much (or more) than North America, in 2002 only a single European was selected by the Ducks. This habit has continued in every draft since.

In terms of numbers, the 2002 draft wasn’t that successful for the Ducks, with just two picks making it to the NHL and just one player still with the organization. Overall, the team didn’t do too badly, with an average of 31.5 NHL games per pick placing them just inside of the top third of the league. However, Anaheim’s average is almost exclusively thanks to a single player.

Joffrey Lupul, RW/C
1st Round, 7th overall – Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 237

Drafted as a center, Joffrey Lupul has spent his entire NHL career lining up in a right wing role. After the draft, he played one final season with Medicine Hat and also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors. Once 2003-04 season rolled around, he made it to the NHL and has not looked back since. He enjoyed a strong rookie season with 13 goals and 34 points in 75 games, one of the only bright spots on a Ducks squad that was disappointing overall. When the lockout hit, Lupul found himself playing in the AHL with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, tallying 56 points in 65 games while also taking the time to round out his game further. The work he put in while in the minors paid off when the NHL resumed in 2005, with the Alberta native scoring 28 goals and 53 points in 81 games for the Ducks. More notably, he was a key part of the Ducks playoff run in the spring of 2006, garnering 11 points in 16 postseason games, including an NHL first: four goals in a playoff game, including a game winner, during a Western Conference semifinal game against the Colorado Avalanche. So impressive was Lupul’s second season in the NHL that he was included as one of the centerpieces in the infamous Chris Pronger trade with the Edmonton Oilers that off season. The trade saw Lupul return to Alberta, where his grandfather is one of Edmonton’s owners, a team which also happened to be Lupul’s favorite growing up. However, his stay in Edmonton hasn’t lived up to the "local boy does good" appeal that some Oiler fans have hoped it to be, with Lupul scoring just 28 points including 16 goals in 81 games in the 2006-07 season, his lowest NHL output to date.

Tim Brent, C
2nd Round, 37th overall – Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, OHL
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 15

The twice-drafted Tim Brent is one of the more interesting prospects in the Ducks organizational pipeline. The 2002 draft marked the first time that the Ducks selected the Cambridge, Ontario native. Named captain of the St. Michael’s Majors shortly thereafter, he had an impressive 2002-03 season with 66 points in 60 OHL games, while continuing to play a strong two-way game. He followed that with a strong 2003-04 campaign, tallying 67 points in 53 games and was also an alternate captain for a silver-medal winning Team Canada at the World Juniors. Unfortunately, Brent was unable to agree with Anaheim on contract terms and re-entered the draft in 2004. The Ducks showed they still wanted the gritty center and selected him again in the third round, 75th overall. After a new agent and a contract, Brent began his professional career, although it wasn’t all roses after that. His first two seasons in the AHL, with Cincinnati and Portland respectively were rife with injury troubles. Brent missed a total of 77 games during those first two years, due to a number of injury troubles. Healthy for the 2006-07 campaign, Brent was one of the last players cut at Anaheim’s training camp and produced solid numbers in Portland with 30 points in 48 games. This past seasno also saw his NHL debut, with him scoring a single goal in 15 NHL games. Brent will once again challenge for time at training camp this fall.

Brian Lee, D
3rd Round, 71st overall – Erie Otters, OHL
Status: Bust

Not to be confused with the Ottawa college prospect of the same name, Brian Lee was a solid defender for the Erie Otters when the Ducks selected him in 2002. Primarily known for his defensive ability in his first three seasons in the OHL, Lee joined the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at the end of the 2002-03 season for a nine-game amateur tryout. He scored a single goal with the AHL team and returned to the OHL the following season, where he broke out offensively with 40 points in 68 games. However, this sudden offensive output wasn’t enough to garner an NHL contract from the Ducks. Lee completed his overage year with Erie, leading Otters defensemen with 34 points in 67 games. He briefly joined the Greenville Grrowl in the ECHL at the end of the 2004-05 season and spent the entire 2005-06 year with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL, tallying a goal and seven points in 47 games. Lee spent his 2006-07 season bouncing around the minor pro landscape, playing most of the year with the Gwinnett Gladiators in the ECHL, while also seeing a few games with the AHL‘s Chicago Wolves, before ending the year with the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL.  He has the skill to be an AHL player, but may lack the drive.

Joonas Vihko, C
4th Round, 103rd overall – HIFK Helsinki, Finland
Status: Bust

Drafted at the age of 21, Vihko was selected in the hopes he could step directly into the NHL lineup like a number of overage Europeans the Ducks selected in the past. He was quickly brought over to North American after being drafted for the 2002 rookie camp, but did not play during the rookie tournament. Soon afterwards, he was returned to Finland. A former SM-Liiga Rookie of the Year, Vihko’s speedy play has allowed him to produce at a fairly consistent rate throughout his career, although there have been dips, such as during the lockout year when the tide of NHLers into the European pro leagues meant less chance for Vihko to play regularly. Having spent most of his career with HIFK Helsinki, he was sent to SaiPa Lappeenranta in the 2005-06 season, where he put up career totals of 32 points in a total of 56 games. Vihko, now 26, played the 2006-07 season with HPK Hameenlinna, garnering 22 points in 46 games. In the end, Vihko’s 5’9 stature no doubt limits his chance of having an NHL impact.

George Davis, RW
5th Round, 140th overall – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL
Status: Bust

Known for his bruising play, George Davis was, for a time, the top fighter in the QMJHL. Drafted from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, he was traded to the Halifax Mooseheads partly through the next season and was signed to a three year deal prior to the 2003-04 season. After attending the Ducks’ rookie and training camp, the Cincinnati Ducks’ training camp and the ECHL‘s San Diego Gulls’ training camp, Davis was returned to the Mooseheads for a final season. He also played in seven AHL games during that 2003-04 season. The 2004-05 season was the lockout year and due to the numbers game, Davis found himself lacing up for the Kansas City Outlaws in the UHL. In 60 games with the Outlaws, Davis had four goals and eight points. The following season, Davis was sent to Anaheim’s AHL affiliate Portland Pirates training camp and was cut from the team after a very unimpressive showing. Without reassignment, Davis landed in the Canadian Elite Hockey League, a semi-pro league set up in the Canadian Maritimes. When the CEHL folded after a single season, it appears that Davis’ hockey career also ended.

Luke Fritshaw, D
6th Round, 173rd overall – Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
Status: Bust

A hard-nosed defenseman, Luke Fritshaw spent his entire WHL career with the Prince Albert Raiders. Not offered a contract by the Ducks after two seasons high on penalty minutes, but low on production, Fritshaw had an impressive overage season, where he tallied 41 points in 72 games for the Raiders. This was more than double his production from the previous two years combined and he was able to parlay it into a minor pro career so far. His professional hockey life began in 2005-06, when, after participating in the Florida Panthers rookie camp, he played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the ECHL, scoring two goals and netting nine points in 59 games. He followed that with a strong 2006-07 season, starting with an appearance at the Manitoba Moose (AHL) training camp before playing most of the year with the Rockford IceHogs in the UHL, tallying 30 points in 75 games, along with 180 penalty minutes. 2006-07 also marked his debut at the AHL level, playing in a single game for the Milwaukee Admirals.

Francois Caron, D
9th Round, 261st overall – Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL
Status: Bust

A two-way defenseman for the Moncton Wildcats, Francois Caron played for the Cats at the same time as Anaheim prospect Nathan Saunders. In fact, Saunders was drafted a season after Caron, no doubt catching the eye of Ducks scouts checking up on Caron. The Montreal native stayed with the Wildcats for the remainder of his junior career and was not signed to a deal by the Ducks. Prior to his overage season in 2004-05, he participated in the Montreal Canadians rookie camp and then signed a deal with Kansas City Outlaws of the UHL. After 13 games of minor-pro hockey, Caron eventually made his way back to the Wildcats and was key contributor during their playoff run that year, with three goals and 10 points in 12 postseason games. Caron appears to no longer in hockey.

Chris Petrow, D
9th Round, 267th overall – Oshawa Generals, OHL
Status: Bust

A defenseman for the Oshawa Generals when he was drafted, Petrow suffered through numerous injuries in both the year before and the year after he was drafted. Allegedly, this led to the Ducks not making an offer to keep his rights before the signing deadline in 2004. Oshawa newspapers reported that Petrow was no longer an Anaheim prospect prior to the 2003-04 season; however this information could not be confirmed with another source. Petrow enjoyed a strong 2003-04 season, with 26 points in 62 games, blowing his previous career high of seven points far out of the water in his first healthy season. His over-age season in 2004-05 was split between Oshawa and the Kingston Frontenacs, tallying a total of 20 points in 63 games. Petrow is currently in his second season playing for the University of Western Ontario Mustangs. Interesting enough, Petrow also participated in the NHL’s Research and Development camps during June of 2005, where a number of ideas to improve the game, such as zero tolerance on obstruction, larger nets and different lines on the ice were demonstrated.

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