Ducks Address Multiple Needs on Day 1 of 2022 Draft

The Anaheim Ducks arrived in Montreal this week with two first-round picks in hand, looking to add another high-end prospect (or two) to their current rebuilding process. They did just that, addressing multiple needs at the top and tail-end of the first round.

Targeting Defensive Depth at 10th Overall

After Simon Nemec, David Jiricek and Kevin Korchinski went off the board at second, sixth and seventh overall, respectively, the number of high upside defensemen was beginning to drop drastically. Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek didn’t drop his resolve, though. The Ducks selected defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, their first selection of a Russian-born player in the first round in nearly two decades.

With Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson shipped out at last season’s trade deadline, the defensive depth chart was a bit thin behind Cam Fowler, Jamie Drysdale and promising youngster Olen Zellweger. The Ducks do have a handful of defensive prospects plugging away at the collegiate level, but adding Mintyukov to the organization gives them a player with a bit more upside than them.

Though there’s been concern regarding Russian prospects because of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Mintyukov is currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Saginaw Spirit, so his path to the NHL shouldn’t be impacted.

With Mintyukov, the Ducks are getting a big-bodied defenseman with high offensive skill, great mobility and a heavy shot. His 62 points in 67 games this season were third among OHL defensemen and came on a team that finished second-to-last in the standings.

Mintyukov’s ability to carry the puck up the ice is a valuable asset as well, and he uses it to his advantage on many occasions. However, his aggressiveness on offense can often lead to lapses when recovering defensively at times. If he can continue to improve his defensive play, though, his journey to the NHL could be fairly quick.

Ducks Go Big Body at 22nd Overall

After going defense with their first pick, it almost felt like a foregone conclusion that the Ducks would select a forward with their second pick of the first round. They did just that by selecting Nathan Gaucher of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

Nathan Gaucher Quebec Remparts
Nathan Gaucher, Quebec Remparts (Photo: Jonathan Roy)

Gaucher is a big boy, coming in at 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds already at age 18. Predictably, some of his best work comes in the corners digging for picks or in front of the net and being a nuisance for opposing goaltenders and defensemen. His style of play harkens back to some of the teams from the 2000s, a hulking force who can bounce you around but also put the puck in the net with ease. It’s the way the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, after all.

Gaucher projects to be the third-line center behind Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish — who the Ducks invited to Montreal to announce the pick — if all goes well. If Isac Lundestrom can continue his development, the Ducks could potentially have four solid options down the middle in the future.

Related: Anaheim Ducks Draft Nathan Gaucher 22nd Overall

Defense is Gaucher’s forte, and having someone to take on the more difficult matchups in order to free up more offensive zone time for Zegras and McTavish is likely what the Ducks had in mind when making this pick.

The Ducks’ first two picks could not have been the more polar opposite in a high-octane offensively-minded defenseman and a big, bruising defense-first forward. With these two first-round picks, Verbeek just continues to leave his imprint during his first full year as general manager.

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