Ducks’ Rich History of Drafting Defensemen

With the 2018 NHL Entry Draft less than a week away, it’s an exciting time for organizations and their fans, as they are on the cusp of infusing their prospect pools with more young talent and hope for the future.

The Anaheim Ducks, despite being in existence for not even 30 years, have a strong track record in the draft, particularly when it comes to drafting and developing defensemen. While the club could use some more speed and creativity up front, they could also benefit from bolstering their blue line, and to that end, they might find a talented defenseman worth taking with the 23rd overall pick. If that happens in the first round or even after that, that blueliner could very well become the next name in a long list of impact players to make a name for themselves in Anaheim—especially in recent years.

Defensemen Drafted by Ducks in Past Decade

Brandon Montour (2nd Round, No. 55 Overall in 2014)

Most recently, the Ducks have begun to see a nice payoff from a second-round pick they made in 2014. They selected right-shooting defenseman Brandon Montour 55th overall that year, and after putting up some nice offensive numbers in the AHL in 2015-16 (12-45-57 in 68 games) and 2016-17 (13-19-32 in 36 games), he earned a promotion to the big club.

Brandon Montour Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Montour made his presence known in the 2017 postseason, notching seven assists in 17 games while playing a reliable defensive game. This past season, he ramped up the offense and finished with nine goals and 23 assists in 80 games. While offense is what he’s known for, Montour’s defensive game and impact on possession were somewhat spotty.

Nevertheless, those were sore spots for the Ducks as a whole in 2017-18, and Montour is still just 24 with and acclimating himself to the NHL game with only a season-plus under his belt. For a second-rounder, he has already provided the Ducks with a nice return, and Anaheim should continue to see additional and more significant dividends from him down the road.

Hampus Lindholm (1st Round, No. 6 Overall in 2012)

Despite the Ducks selecting Hampus Lindholm all the way up at the No. 6 spot in 2012, he actually saw three other blueliners go ahead of him: Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, and Morgan Rielly. Out of those, the Ducks seem to have landed the best of the bunch.

Lindholm is arguably Anaheim’s best all-around defenseman right now. The smooth-skating Swede plays in all situations and has always been reliable in his own end. In the 2017-18 season, he was one of few Ducks players who found himself on the right side of the possession coin, helping drive play and generate more scoring chances than the team yielded while he was on the ice. The fact that he did this on a team that struggled in this area all year speaks volumes to the level of his positive impact.

Hampus Lindholm Anaheim Ducks
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks, Oct. 24, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lindholm is also adding tangible offense to his game, as he scored a career-high 13 goals in 2017-18. The best part? He’s only 24 and still improving.

Josh Manson (6th Round, No. 160 Overall in 2011)

Every now and then, a late-round draft choice turns into something substantial. That’s what happened for the Ducks in 2011 when they extracted some serious value with the 160th overall selection by taking Josh Manson. 

The son of former NHLer Dave Manson, Josh became known as an excellent shutdown defenseman while playing collegiately at Northeastern University. Fast-forward to 2018, and he is now a rock on Anaheim’s back end, pairing with Lindholm to form the Ducks’ most effective blue-line duo.

Josh Manson Anaheim Ducks
Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Never known for his offense, the 26-year-old Manson has begun to develop that part of his game; he scored a career-high 37 points (seven goals and 30 assists) in 2017-18. The Ducks believe in and have come to rely on Manson so much that they parted with another promising young blueliner they drafted, Shea Theodore, in an Expansion Draft trade with the Vegas Golden Knights just to ensure that Vegas would not select Manson (or Montour), who the Ducks could not protect officially after using their defense slots on Lindholm, Cam Fowler (more on him shortly), and Kevin Bieksa as a result of his no-movement clause (NMC).

Cam Fowler (1st Round, No. 12 Overall in 2010)

Ahead of the 2010 draft, Cam Fowler was one of the top-rated draft-eligible prospects. For whatever reason, however, he fell out of the top 10 and into the Ducks’ lap at No. 12. Anaheim nabbed him after seeing defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Dylan McIlrath go ahead of him at the No. 3 and No. 10 spots respectively (ouch for the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers).

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Fowler made an immediate splash, suiting up as a regular for the Ducks as an 18-year-old in the 2010-11 season. He demonstrated his offensive talents, picking up 10 goals and 30 assists in his rookie campaign. Since then, he has continued to work on his overall game and has become Anaheim’s consistent leader in ice time per game. He might not be as strong a possession driver as Lindholm, but he eats up tough minutes and matchups and chips in offensively as well. The Ducks have since rewarded him with an eight-year contract extension that takes hold beginning with the 2018-19 season.

Sami Vatanen (4th Round, No. 106 Overall in 2009)

While no longer a member of the Ducks, Anaheim is still gleaning value from its 2009 fourth-round selection of Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen, having traded him to the New Jersey Devils this past season for help up front in the form of center Adam Henrique.

Before the trade, Vatanen became a regular on the back end for the Ducks despite some nagging injury issues over the years. He flashed some offensive skill in 2014-15 and 2015-16, scoring 21 goals and 75 assists over the two campaigns. Vatanen has since become a key piece on the rising New Jersey Devils; he tallied 28 points in just 57 regular-season games with them and figures to be a mainstay on their blue line for at least the next couple of years.

Sami Vatanen New Jersey Devils
Former Duck and current New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, Henrique thrived in Anaheim following the trade, so this is a deal that has worked out well for both clubs.

Who Are the Next Ones?

The above players are selections that have panned out well for the Ducks just since 2009. Before that, they drafted other successful blueliners over the years, including Ruslan Salei, Oleg Tverdovsky, and Vitaly Vishnevsky.

Furthermore, they have several young defensemen in the pipeline who are vying for regular NHL time soon. Marcus Pettersson (38th overall in 2014) saw significant action with the Ducks late this past season while Jacob Larsson (27th overall in 2015) looks to crack the NHL for good in 2018-19. Josh Mahura (85th overall in 2016) has continued to excel and improve in the WHL and could eventually provide Anaheim with more offense from the back end.

And then there’s the upcoming draft. Selections could shake out in a multitude of ways before the Ducks’ pick at No. 23, but no matter what happens, there will be talent available for them. Defensemen to keep an eye on around that spot include Ryan Merkley and K’Andre Miller.

Will the Ducks take another blueliner? Or will they go with a forward? Be sure to comment below with how you think the Ducks will proceed.