Welcome to the second edition of the Anaheim Ducks’ roundtable discussion. The Ducks’ season has been over for quite a while, but there is still plenty to discuss as the NHL Entry Draft nears. I was joined by fellow Ducks contributors Anthony Ciardelli, Eddy Jones and Stephen Dohner.
We discussed who the Ducks should target in the first round of the draft, the status of the organization’s prospect pipeline, and which prospects are primed to break out in the 2020-21 season, among other things.
Who Should the Ducks Draft in the First Round?
Eddy Jones – Alexander Holtz & Best Player Available (BPA)
What the Ducks do at sixth overall likely sets the tone for their second pick (acquired from Boston in the Ondrej Kase trade) in the opening round. Several enticing options at forward should be available for Anaheim, with the likes of Cole Perfetti, Alexander Holtz, Lucas Raymond and Marco Rossi all in play. Trevor Zegras headlines the Ducks’ young forward group, but adding one of those names would seriously improve the team’s depth up front.
Jamie Drysdale presents an interesting option for the Ducks and they could finally add a point-producing right shot defenseman to the fold. Ultimately, I would take Holtz at sixth overall. The idea of pairing a pure shooter like that with a creative playmaker like Zegras is just too good to pass up on.
With Boston’s pick, I would advocate taking the best player available. The Ducks should add a defenseman but could do that with their 36th overall selection. Some names that I would like to see available would be Tyson Foerster, Thomas Bordeleau or Helge Grans.
Anthony Ciardelli – Alexander Holtz & Shakir Mukhamadullin
Since the Ducks are so high up in the draft, they have a wealth of options to go with. But if I’m Bob Murray, I’d take Holtz. The Swedish forward has precisely what the Ducks have lacked since Corey Perry was in his prime––finishing ability. Though the Ducks are also desperately in need of a franchise defenseman, I don’t think Drysdale will be available when the Ducks make the No. 6 pick.
For their second pick––which is sure to be at the end of the first round––I’d go with a slightly unorthodox pick for Murray: Russian defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin. I was the one passionately behind Mukhamadullin for The Hockey Writers mock draft.
Murray isn’t known for picking Russian players, but there is a lot to like about Mukhamadullin. He’s big, very strong in his defensive zone, and although he isn’t known for his offensive ability, the physical gifts are there for that to develop. The thing that appealed to me most was his reputation as a “crease clearer.” Ducks goalie John Gibson has had opposing forwards set up camp in front of him for two seasons. It’s time that changes, and Mukhamadullin can help.
Stephen Dohner – Lucas Raymond and Jérémie Poirier
With the sixth pick, there’s a bit more pressure to get it right because of the number of players with such high upsides. For me though, it comes down to two players––Drysdale and Lucas Raymond. The Anaheim offense is anemic and the power play is nonexistent. Getting someone who can be a true power-play quarterback––like Drysdale––or has high end finishing skill––like Raymond––would seem to make too much sense to pass on whichever is available there. If it came down to both, I’d take Raymond.
The Boston pick is the easy one for me. Jérémie Poirier is an insanely skilled defenseman. He’s also a phenomenal liability. He can skate the puck end to end and make a few people look silly while doing it. He can also get caught up ice and out of position.
We’ve heard for years now about the Ducks’ ability to develop defensemen. Well, let’s see how true that is. Use that second first-round pick on a player with definite question marks, but unquestionable skill.
Derek Lee – Jamie Drysdale & BPA
The Ducks currently lack depth in the right-handed defensemen department, which makes Drysdale the ideal choice at sixth overall. His smooth skating and ability to eat minutes is exactly what you want from one of your top defensemen. While Drysdale’s defensive acumen currently leaves plenty to be desired, it’s something that he can improve on in no time as he wouldn’t be getting thrown immediately into the Ducks’ lineup.
There’s a handful of players that I can see the Ducks going after with their second first-round pick depending on who they actually get with the sixth overall pick. Brendan Brisson, Justin Barron and William Wallinder are all players I’ve seen projected to go in the late first round but unless a big name drops all the way to Anaheim’s pick, I’d expect them to go with the best player available.
What Position Should the Ducks Focus on Strengthening in the Draft?
Eddy Jones – Goal scorers
The Ducks really only have one position of strength in their prospect pool and that’s at center. This is also only the case if Zegras ends up being a center at the NHL level. Anaheim isn’t in a position to be drafting based on positional needs at this point. Take the best player available and sort everything out down the road.
On a considerably basic level, they should be looking to add some pure goal scorers to their system as well as some offensive-minded, puck-moving defensemen. Other than that, the goal should be to add the best player available no matter where you’re picking or who they selected at previous picks.
Anthony Ciardelli – Defense
The Ducks should still focus on defense. After elite scorers, franchise defensemen are tough to find. The Ducks did pick four defensemen out of their seven picks in 2019, but before that, they chose only two in three entire drafts.
Though I picked Holtz with their first pick, I’d still pick Drysdale if he’s available. I want the Ducks to select at least one defenseman with their first three picks. The higher in the draft they can concentrate on defensemen, the better.
Stephen Dohner – Goal scorers
The biggest deficiency on the team and in the pipeline right now is goal scorers. If Anaheim’s scouts can identify players with scoring upside late in the draft, they would be fools not to take the chance. They need scoring, regardless of what position it comes from. You can’t win games if you can’t score goals and right now, Anaheim can’t score goals and aren’t winning games.
Derek Lee – Defense
Would I like the Ducks to add another goal scorer to their pipeline? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But, as we recently saw with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a high-powered offense can only get you so far when the backend of your team is absolutely porous.
While I’m not entirely convinced by some of the Ducks’ young forwards just yet––specifically guys like Max Jones and Isac Lundeström––they were a bit unlucky last season and I can see some of them becoming depth scorers, especially someone like Maxime Comtois.
Before the 2019 NHL NHL Draft, the Ducks hadn’t gone defense-heavy in a draft since 2014. I’m of the opinion that it will always be easier to find forwards that you can plug in and shift up and down the lineup in an attempt to get the offense going.
It’s a lot harder to find a steady defenseman who’s capable of playing over 20 minutes per game and there’s currently no defenseman in the Ducks system that can do that.
Thoughts on the Ducks’ Prospect System
Eddy Jones – Grade: B-
With the likes of Jones, Comtois, Troy Terry and Sam Steel graduating from prospect status, the letter grade for the Ducks’ prospect pool has taken a hit. Zegras tops the list as the Ducks’ best prospect and is a major reason why they rank higher in comparison to other teams. He’s one of the best prospects outside the NHL and is an important piece of the Ducks’ future.
Brayden Tracey, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Henry Thrun and Lukáš Dostál all project to be impactful players at the next level and round out a decent crop of prospects on the way for Anaheim. However, with only one game-breaking talent on the way, I give them a B- for a letter grade. Ask me again after the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and this will likely improve.
Anthony Ciardelli – Grade: B-
I think it’s in a state of transition. Now that Steel, Jones, Terry and Comtois are probably going to spend much more time in the NHL, the Ducks’ system is really in a state of flux.
The Ducks drafted those players mentioned above when they were competitive. Since their rapid fall from grace, most of their higher draft picks were still playing amateur hockey, as of last season. Since Zegras and Tracey among others are about to turn pro, it’s going to improve rapidly. That will only get better after the upcoming draft.
I have confidence in Murray to do just as well with the high-quality picks he’s gotten from the Ducks’ futility as he did with the lower quality ones when they were good.
Stephen Dohner – Grade: B
Beyond Zegras, there’s a lot to like but nothing to really get your heart going. Hunter Drew is a stay-at-home, right-handed shot with a bad attitude, so I’ll always be pulling for him. Who doesn’t love a baby Josh Manson?
Thrun seems to be turning heads at Harvard which is always nice. Antoine Morand and Groulx should be interesting to watch develop over the next couple of years. But overall, it’s a B/B+ prospect pool at best. It could definitely be worse, but it could be a lot better too.
Derek Lee – Grade: B-
Prior to the draft, this might be the weakest the Ducks’ pipeline has looked in quite a while. Jones and Comtois along with Steel and Terry should all be full-time players in the lineup in 2020-21 and will no longer be prospects.
Behind Zegras, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about. Guys like Brendan Guhle and Josh Mahura haven’t been able to fully breakthrough yet and others like Groulx and Tracey are still a ways away from being in the NHL.
Dostál is someone whose name gets thrown around a lot and he’s performed well in Europe to this point. I’d like to see him make the transition to North America where the ice is a little smaller and there’s a bit more physicality before I put out any more thoughts on him.
Which Prospect is Primed to Break Out in 2020-21?
Eddy Jones – Zegras
If we’re talking a breakthrough at the NHL level, then Zegras is an obvious choice. All eyes will be on him once the Ducks hit the ice again to prepare for the 2020-21 season. Outside of him, I think this is the year that Comtois and Mahura cement their spot on the Ducks’ roster. Both have been bouncing between Anaheim and the San Diego Gulls over the past two seasons and are bound to get some more chances next season.
Mahura has a difficult path to the NHL with the likes of Jacob Larsson, Christian Djoos and Guhle all vying for the same spot. Comtois’ spot isn’t any easier to win as he’ll be competing with Sonny Milano, Danton Heinen and Jones among others.
Anthony Ciardelli – Dostál
It would be easy to say Zegras or Tracey, but my money’s on the goaltender, Dostál. Although will be back in Finland to start next season, I believe that is to get him more ice time since the AHL isn’t slated to return until December, while Liiga will begin in October.
Once the AHL returns, you can bet Dostál will be in San Diego at some point, and I think his success will translate. As a commenter mentioned in my recent article about Dostál, if you’re a foreign goalie excelling in professional hockey in Finland––a country known for developing world class goaltenders––you are probably world class yourself.
Stephen Dohner – Comtois
For me, Comtois is the pick here. He has the size, skill, and disposition to make a difference quicker than most. He captained Team Canada at the World Junior Championship so I think he’s got an edge up on some of the other prospects mentally.
He’s got a higher ceiling than Jones, and he’s already shown that he can finish at the NHL level. If anyone is primed for a meaningful breakout, I think it’s him.
Derek Lee – Comtois
Comtois has done fairly well in his time with the big club and has already shown he know what spots to go to without the puck on offense. He also plays a pretty rough game and I think he’s a player that will exceed getting into those dirty areas. Comtois played a lot with Ryan Getzlaf during the 2019-20 season and had some chemistry playing alongside Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg during the 2018-19 season as well. He should have no trouble slotting into a top-6 role in 2020-21.
Which Prospect Are You Most Excited About (other than Zegras)?
Eddy Jones – Dostál
It’s a close battle between Groulx and Dostál, but ultimately I have to go with the Czech goaltender based on how dominant he was in the Finnish Liiga this season. He was named the best goaltender in the league, finishing with the top win percentage of all goalies with 73.2%. His 1.78 goals against average (GAA) and .928 save percentage (SV%) ranked second and third, respectively.
It’s been over a year since the Ducks signed Dostál to an entry-level contract, and you have to think it’s almost time that he comes to North America to spend some time with the Gulls in the AHL. Even though John Gibson holds down the crease now, it’s never a bad thing to have an extremely talented youngster waiting in the wings.
Anthony Ciardelli – Dostál
I wouldn’t write what I just wrote about Dostál without believing it. I am most excited about him because if his success in Finnish pro hockey translates to the AHL and NHL, how could I not be? While the Ducks’ goaltending position is in good hands with John Gibson, having another star goalie in your system would be an embarrassment of riches.
Stephen Dohner – Tracey
Anaheim has been trying for over a decade to draft a winger who can play on the top line with Getzlaf. The fact that the closest they’ve come is moving Rickard Rakell over to the wing says all you need to know about how it’s gone. Tracey is probably a few years away at least, but giving him time to develop while Anaheim starts to see what’s up with some of their older prospects seems like a best of both worlds situation.
Derek Lee – Thrun
I enjoy seeing the players from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program make their way up to the NHL and then succeed as a pro. So I was extremely happy to see the USNTDP alumnus get snapped up by the Ducks in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Thrun, who plays college hockey at Harvard, has good size and can more than handle his own at both ends of the ice. He’s capable of moving the puck well and could become a player who eats a ton of minutes for the Ducks. He doesn’t necessarily have the skills to be a top pair defenseman, but he has a solid all-around game. I think a lot more people would be excited about Thrun if he was right-handed.
Prospect Most Likely to be Traded
Eddy Jones – Terry
Terry is the clear choice to me. It’s not that he’s worse than other prospects or that he’s been significantly more disappointing. It’s that Anaheim has other players in the same position who can do exactly what Terry does now.
We haven’t seen enough of Comtois yet for me to be convinced that he should go. Jones plays a completely different style of game than any of the other prospects in the system and Steel is the Ducks’ future second line center. On defense, they aren’t in a position to move on from prospects like Guhle or Mahura just yet.
Anthony Ciardelli – Dostál/Terry
It’s hard to believe the Ducks would be able to roster both Dostál and Gibson in the NHL for very long, so it feels like it’s in the cards that they will trade Dostál at some point. How long will it take? That’s hard to say, but he could net a significant piece in a trade that will speed up a rebuild if he continues to thrive.
My other guess would be Terry. Fans have pinned their hopes on Terry, but he hasn’t realized a lot of his potential. He still has value since he’s so young, but don’t forget that he’s a fifth-round draft pick. If the Ducks can include him in a trade package or trade him alone for a higher round draft pick or an established NHL player, I consider that an upgrade.
Stephen Dohner – Lundeström
I have unapologetically and unreservedly hitched my wagon to Lundeström. He is by all accounts a smart and skilled forward who plays a 200-foot game. He lacks the offensive upside to be a top-6 center, but he absolutely has the potential to turn into a quality defensive forward who can do it a bit of everything.
Add in the fact that he can play all three forward positions and he’s a prime candidate to be thrown into a bigger trade. Everything I said about him is the kind of stuff general managers love to hear. If Anaheim makes a move this year that requires them to add a prospect, I think it will be Lundeström
Derek Lee – Terry
Having seen Terry play in-person at both the college and professional level, I’m a big fan of his game. However, he hasn’t stood out much in his time at the top level. Terry doesn’t possess the rough, gritty style of play that Jones and Comtois both have. He could potentially match the playmaking and scoring ability of Steel but is still far behind in both regards.
I would like to see Terry be a lot more aggressive in the 2020-2021 season as there were many instances this past season where he passed up a good goal-scoring opportunity in order to try to pass to a teammate. The Ducks have a lot of players who can pass the puck well, but they need someone on the end of those passes to score goals.
Given how many forwards will be competing for roster spots next season––even without the inclusion of Zegras––Terry could become expendable in the event that the Ducks want to go out and acquire a more established player.
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs currently in full throttle, the Ducks still have a long time to wait before Murray and newly appointed assistant general manager Martin Madden make a selection with the sixth overall pick. It will be an even longer wait before the 2020-2021 season gets underway but it will be an important one for head coach Dallas Eakins as he oversees the development of the Ducks’ young players.
Jones, Terry, Steel and Comtois all will have the opportunity to seize full-time roster spots and while others like Mahura and Lundeström may be further behind in their development, but they need to take the next step in order to continue their growth. Regardless of who the Ducks pick at sixth overall, they will be adding an extremely talented player to their pipeline alongside Zegras.