Ducks 2009 draft preview

By Chris Shafer

Top 10 Prospects

1. Jake Gardiner, D
2. Mark Mitera, D
3. Matt Beleskey, LW
4. Brian Salcido, D
5. Brendan Mikkelson, D
6. Brett Festerling, D
7. Steven Kampfer, D
8. Brandon McMillan, LW
9. Logan MacMillan, LW
10. Nicolas Deschamps, C

A lot has changed for the Ducks in the course of two seasons since they won the Stanley Cup. Veteran forward Teemu Selanne is still a force on the team though age coupled with injuries have slowed him down. Instead, former prospects like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan have emerged to take the lead on a Ducks roster. Back on the blueline, the faces that brought Lord Stanley to Orange County, California are beginning to shift, as Francois Beauchemin and Scott Niedermayer may look to explore free agency this offseason. Even Chris Pronger has only a year left under contract. Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, and Sheldon Brookbank have been brought in to stabilize the defense of the future.

With six of its top seven prospects as defensemen, Anaheim is certainly looking at who can replace its veterans down the road. Slowly the defense is getting younger while the additions they have brought to the offense through the draft continue to excel, though with Ryan graduating to the Ducks full time there will be no serious punch in their prospect pool. The talent on defense is deep but not elite. The forwards still within the system work hard in all three zones, but may lack the production needed to help out the club with secondary scoring. J-S Giguere and Jonas Hiller will likely remain in net for the team though the depth at goaltending in the organization’s pool is troubling.

In order to solve all of these problems, the Ducks currently have five selections in the 299 draft. They are without picks in the second and seventh rounds. With only one pick in the first two rounds, their options are limited for retooling the prospect pool.

Team Needs

Secondary scoring still seems to be the biggest issue with the current team. While Getzlaf, Perry, and Ryan provide a stellar top three that could scare any opposing defense, beyond them there is only the soon-to-be 39-year-old Selanne and an emerging undrafted center in Andrew Ebbett. Rob Niedermayer and Todd Marchant will also be free agents as of July 1 though the production they provided this past season was limited. Samuel Pahlsson and Chris Kunitz have been moved to new teams as well. Prospect Matt Beleskey performed fairly well in the AHL this past season with the Iowa Chops, but he is certainly not expected to be a big contributor on the NHL level just yet. This likely leads to the Ducks looking offense early in the 2009 draft, but with the 15th overall selection as their only pick in the first two rounds it will be hard to bring in as high-end aprospect as the organization would like. Even then it is doubtful any could possibly make an impact immediately.

Organization Strengths

The organizational strength of the Ducks continues to be the defense. With a changing of the guard on the blueline already underway in Anaheim as well as a number of solid prospects at the position it seems like they will be set for a long time. Jake Gardiner and Mark Mitera as a talented puck moving defenseman and a solid shut-down defenseman, respectively, could very well be a good NHL pairing soon.

Organization Weaknesses

The Ducks certainly lack depth at the forward position. Behind the top three forwards there is very little in the way of production down the road. There is also a lack of any kind of high-end forward in the prospect pool with the graduation of Ryan.

There is also a clear void at the goaltending position. Hiller is currently 27 but only has one year left on his contract. Giguere on the other hand, who led Anaheim to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, is already 32 with two years left on his contract. While the Ducks do have goaltenders such as JP Levasseur, Mattias Modig, Sebastian Stefaniszin, and Timo Pielmeier in the system, seeing any of them between the pipes in the NHL down the road is a hard sell.

Draft Tendencies

In the past the Ducks have heavily favored North American talent at both offensive and defensive positions. They have also tried to select based on character and all-around play in every zone. Grit is not a necessity, but it helps of course. Size has been important.

With a new general manager in Bob Murray, it is unclear what draft tendencies will stick with the organization that came about under the Brian Burke regime.

If the board does not fall the way they want, it is not hard to believe the Ducks would be willing to move down in order to get more selections in the first two rounds this year. If they feel they can get quality players later in the first round or during the second round of this deep draft class, there is no reason for them to stay at 15 and pick up a player on the back end of the top talents.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result: Louis Leblanc, C — Omaha Lancers (USHL)

Leblanc is comfortable both in open ice and along the boards with good stick movement and evasiveness.  He has no problems weaving through defenders in the slot. His vision and knowledge bolster his abilities.

His speed and overall skating are solid, and he certainly plays with an edge. In addition to his great stick-work he is not afraid to battle for rebounds in front of the net. He’ll get his fair number of points, and play in all zones. He is intense on the forecheck while remaining defensively responsible and is not afraid to take the body. On top of that he will do the little things to help a team win such as block shots or take a hit to move the puck.

Leblanc offers a very good option to mature in a couple of years. He is relatively low-risk, but does not offer the same possible reward as others in the draft. He does offer more offensive potential than anyone currently in the Ducks’ system.