The Anaheim Ducks had one of the most talked about first days of any team at the draft. They were poised to make noise anyway, with their two first round draft picks, but if Ducks fans knew they would end up with Cam Fowler and Emerson Etem, they likely would have asked what the price to trade up and get them.
Both of the team’s first round selections had fallen considerably from where most expected they would go.
Overall, the team added eight new prospects in the form of five forwards and three defensemen. They did not have a pick in the 3rd or 4th round, though they did have the option of taking Philadelphia’s 3rd, something that will transfer to next year. This means that day two of the draft was filled more with late round, long-term projects who will be worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Cam Fowler, D – Windsor (OHL)
1st round, 12th overall
6’2, 190 pounds
December 6, 1991
Fowler was one of the biggest surprises of the day. Slated in almost every mock draft and ranking to be in the top five — most in the top three — cameras focused on an anxious looking Fowler as team after team passed on him, and he slipped out of the top ten. Fowler was a point-per-game rookie with Windsor in the OHL, helping them capture the Memorial Cup, and played a big role on Team USA’s blue line as they won gold at the World Junior Championships.
One of the youngest ever college commitments (Notre Dame), scouts talked about Fowler for years leading up to this draft as potentially one of the best defensemen to come out of this year’s draft. This was mostly because of his skating ability, which was often compared to Scott Niedermayer’s, and his effortless and confident puck moving ability. He played two seasons with the US National Development Program and started to solidify the hype. When he broke off his college commitment to play for Windsor this year, it was assumed that the more rigorous OHL schedule would give scouts a better idea of how his game would adjust to the next level.
He did prove that his offensive talents were nothing to scoff at, putting up 55 points in 55 games while adding 14 more in the playoffs. However, some questioned his defensive ability as he is not overly physical and it took some time for him to adjust to playing positionally at the OHL level. Fowler does have tremendous smarts and has had success without needing to play physical. It will likely be this question that proves if he is the franchise defenseman he was billed as for the entire season, or if defensive deficiencies leave him as more of a second pairing, powerplay specialist.
Etem wasn’t quite the slip that Fowler was, but he was still considered a first round lock, making his availability at a pick acquired in the Chris Pronger trade a surprise. Despite the chorus of boos that reigned down from the Los Angeles crowd when they approached the podium, even Kings fans cheered Etem’s name. Etem is a local product from Long Beach, having grown up 45 minutes away from Anaheim.
Despite just average size, Etem plays a powerful game and has a knack for scoring goals. He scored 37 in 72 games with Medicine Hat this season. Etem has one of the best releases in the draft and can get off a hard, accurate shot from just about anywhere on the ice. He also has decent speed, though his overall ability is still being fine-tuned since he grew up playing roller hockey instead of ice.
Etem was teammates with Fowler in 2008-09 at the US National Development Program, and if neither find themselves in the NHL to start the season, they could find themselves teammates again with the United States at the World Junior Championships.
Devante Smith-Pelly, C — Mississauga (OHL)
2nd round, 42nd overall
June 14, 1992
Smith-Pelly plays like a typical Duck forward. He plays more of a power game than a finesse one, known more as a north-south type of player. He brings energy in the form of his top-notch work ethic to the rink every night, and creates chances through his excellent speed, tenacity around the puck, and defensive savvy that helps him to create turnovers. While not blessed with elite offensive skills, Smith-Pelly can produce offense simply because he is always around the puck, and it seems to find him in prime scoring areas.
Smith-Pelly played more of an energy role for the Majors last season, but broke out this year to lead the team with 62 points in 60 games, while also posting a +27 rating. He likes to hit and his strength is already well above that of his peers. This means that he can hit hard and often, and is difficult to knock off the puck. He projects as a second or third line player who will play well defensively, but could also play a complimentary crash-and-bang role alongside two more skilled players.
Christopher Wagner, RW — South Shore (EJHL)
5th round, 122nd overall
6’0, 195 pounds
May 27, 1991
The Ducks had previously traded their 3rd round pick for Evgeny Artyukhin and their 4th for Joakim Lindstrom, but they made a move to acquire the second pick of the 5th round, trading forward Mike Brown in order to select Wagner, who was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility in 2009.
The Ducks took a risk with Wagner, a product of the EJHL, which typically does not produce many players who get drafted. However, Wagner was a teammate of Charlie Coyle, who went in the first round to San Jose. He also leaves the EJHL as the league’s career leading scorer, a feat he accomplished in just two seasons. He recorded 83 points in 44 games on the season, adding another 19 points in nine playoff games. He is known for his all-around scoring ability, from his touch around the net to his finesse stick-handling ability that allows him to rag the puck against his inferior competition.
Taking a chance on a player from a more non-traditional league is risky, but an all-time scoring champion and league MVP like Wagner leaves it looking like a pick that could net a very high return. Wagner is headed to Colgate University in the fall, where he’ll be getting a fresh start against much older, bigger, and more seasoned competition. Given that he’s jumping straight from the EJHL, a productive freshman season could see him rocket up the Ducks’ charts.
Tim Heed, D — Sodertalje (SEL)
5th round, 132nd overall
6’0, 165 pounds
January 27, 1991
A trend that emerged before Bob Murray took over the Ducks drafts was a heavy favoring on drafting taller, typically North American players. Murray has shown no hesitation to go to Europe, drafting Heed in the 5th round, one of two Swedish players selected. Heed, like Sami Vatanen in last year’s draft, is an undersized offensive defenseman known for his above-average puck-moving ability. He is a smart player with a big shot and an already very responsible decision-making ability that’s made him a regular in the SEL at just 19 years old.
Heed enjoyed a tremendous breakout season this year. He produced just eight points in 32 games in the Swedish under 20 league last season, but exploded for 37 in 32 games this season before being promoted to the country’s top league. He recorded 10 points in 27 games on a struggling club there, and is slated for full-time duty next season. Despite his great hockey sense and offensive talents, Heed has a ways to go before making the NHL. He desperately needs to put on weight before he’ll be ready for the North American game, and his defensive positioning will need refinement as he was a forward for most of his career.
Andreas Dahlstrom, C — AIK (SWE-2)
6th round, 161st overall
6’0, 176 pounds
June 22, 1991
Dahlstrom is the third of four players taken by Anaheim who were passed over in 2009. Like Wagner, they are looking to hit big on a late round gamble who has not had much exposure.
Dahlstrom is not from an unknown league like Wagner though, having been in the popular Swedish club AIK’s system since 2007. The issue with him is that he has had a lot of trouble staying healthy, limited to just 11 games this season. Dahlstrom is considered to be among the most offensively gifted Swedes, but hasn’t been able to prove that with a full and healthy season. He is very creative and is especially dangerous as a playmaker. Despite his small sample size this season, he did record ten points in the five games he played at the under-20 level.
Despite not being a main contributor, with just three points in the six games he played, Dahlstrom would have been a regular on the AIK team that earned a promotion from the second tier league in Sweden, the Allsvenskan, back up to the SEL. It’s believed he will get a chance at a regular roster spot, which would be huge for a player with only ten professional games under his belt. However, if his inexperience is showing, it’s possible he could be loaned out to a second-tier team until he feels more comfortable.
Since they shot for offense with their first two selections at the defensive position, it only makes sense that the Ducks would take a chance on a big, defensive defenseman this late in the draft. Lind was considered one of the top USHL prospects available for the draft, but slipped to the 6th round because his production was not where it was expected to be.
His skating ability and confident puck-moving indicate that he should be more of an offensive performer, but he produced just six goals and 16 points on a team that struggled to produce offense all season. Lind was slated to attend Notre Dame in the fall, but given their already deep lineup and impressive freshman class that includes a few other 2010 draft picks, like Jarred Tinordi (22nd overall, Montreal) and Stephen Johns (60th overall, Chicago), he’ll play one more season with the Steel before heading to college in 2011.
Brett Perlini, RW — Michigan State (CCHA)
7th round, 192nd overall
6’2, 200 pounds
June 14, 1990
With their final selection, Anaheim took a player with very interesting pedigree. Both Perlini’s father and grandfather played professional hockey, his father doing most of it in England, where Perlini began playing hockey. His family moved back to Canada in time for him to play his junior hockey, and he just finished his sophomore season at Michigan State, having been passed over in two NHL drafts.
Perlini was not a regular in the beginning of the season, but he quickly bested the three points he put up as a freshman with 12 in 20 games as a sophomore. The highlight of his season came when he was named the MVP of the Great Lakes Invitational, an annual college hockey showcase held at Joe Louis Arena. He was also named the Spartans “Most Improved Player” and will be in line for a much bigger role as a junior. The Ducks hope that this trend continues, and that Perlini is just a player who took a little bit longer to develop.