June 5, 2018
By Steve Brown
Successful organizations build through the draft and the Anaheim Ducks have been no different. Creating organizational depth is key to both NHL and AHL success, ensuring the prospect cupboard is stockpiled with talent.
Anaheim has participated in 25 drafts since entering the NHL in 1993. The organization has selected 186 players in those 25 years with 38 percent (70 total players) appearing in at least one game with the Ducks. In addition, 110 selections (59 percent) have appeared in at least one contest for the NHL club’s primary affiliate in the American Hockey League (San Diego, 2015-present; Norfolk, 2012-15; Syracuse, 2009-12; Iowa, 2008-09; Portland, 2005-08; Cincinnati, 1997-2005; Baltimore, 1995-97) or International Hockey League (San Diego, 1993-95).
Since the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, the Ducks have drafted 58 players. Of those 58 players, 38 have appeared for the organization’s AHL team (San Diego, Norfolk and Syracuse), with 27 draftees making the jump to the NHL with the Ducks in the NHL. Matter of fact, 26 Anaheim draft selections have appeared in a game with the Gulls the past three seasons.
Thirteen of those 58 selections the last nine drafts have not yet been eligible to make their professional debut based on age or continuing their development at the collegiate level.
A total of a potential 38 players (81 percent) of the 47 drafted players eligible to play professionally have begun their professional careers within the organization since 2009. Not a bad number.
A few primary examples of the Ducks drafting prowess:
- All seven players selected by Anaheim in the 2011 NHL Draft have played at least one NHL game – and all of them made their NHL debut for the Ducks. It’s only the fourth time in NHL history – since the first NHL Draft was held in 1963 – that a team has selected at least seven players in a single draft and seen each appear in the NHL. The others: the 2009 New York Islanders, 1979 Boston Bruins and 1979 Philadelphia Flyers (all of which had seven draft picks). The seven Ducks selected in at that 2011 draft were Rickard Rakell (1st rd., 30th overall), John Gibson (2nd rd. 39th oveall), William Karlsson (2nd rd. 53rd oveall), Joseph Cramarossa (third rd., 65th overall), Andy Welinski (third rd., 83rd overall), Max Friberg (5th rd., 143rd oveall) and Josh Manson (6th rd., 160th overall), all of whom played at least a few games with the Ducks.
- The six defensemen that dressed for Anaheim in Game 2 of the 2017 Western Conference Final vs. Nashville (and each of the last six games leading into it) were all drafted by Anaheim. Those players were Cam Fowler (2010, 1st rd., 12th overall), Hampus Lindholm (2012, 1st rd., 6th overall), Josh Manson (2011, 6th rd., 160th overall), Brandon Montour (2014, 2nd rd., 55th overall), Shea Theodore (2013, 1st rd., 26th overall) and Sami Vatanen (2009, 4th rd., 106th overall). This marked only the second time since 1991 that an NHL team had played a playoff game with six defensemen all drafted by the club. The only other team to do so since 1991 was Nashville (2015). Anaheim’s six defensemen had an average age of 23.6, the youngest among all playoff teams up to that point (based on last game lineups). The Ducks also had 13 total players in their lineup drafted by Anaheim, the most in the NHL all postseason at the time.
With Anaheim’s primary development affiliate in San Diego and closer than ever, player development is more prominent and a focal point of Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray and his staff. The Gulls are now the stepping stone to the NHL with a 90-minute drive up the Southern California coast. To date, 26 different players drafted by Anaheim have appeared in a game with San Diego through the first three seasons of the affiliation, with 15 players making their NHL debut with Anaheim the last three seasons. Only one of the 15 players did not appear in a game for San Diego: Troy Terry, who made his debut with Anaheim on Mar. 27, 2018 at Vancouver. In the last two seasons alone, 12 players have made their NHL debut with the Ducks while also appearing in a game with the Gulls.
- Jacob Larsson (Oct. 13, 2016 @ Dallas)
- Nick Sorensen (Oct. 13, 2016 @ Dallas)
- Joseph Cramarossa (Oct. 23, 2016 vs. Vancouver)
- Ondrej Kase (Nov. 2, 2016 vs. Pittsburgh)
- Brandon Montour (Dec. 28, 2016 @ Vancouver)
- Kalle Kossila (Jan. 25, 2017 vs. Edmonton)
- Nic Kerdiles (Feb. 22, 2017 vs. Boston)
- Jaycob Megna (Apr. 6, 2017 vs. Chicago)
- Giovanni Fiore (Oct. 7, 2017 vs. Philadelphia)
- Kevin Roy (Nov. 9, 2017 vs. Vancouver)
- Andy Welinski (Dec. 11, 2017 vs. Carolina)
- Marcus Pettersson (Feb. 15, 2018 @ Chicago)
Of the 12, only Kalle Kossila was not drafted by Anaheim (unsigned college free agent).
The Gulls, along with head coach Dallas Eakins, continue to develop Anaheim’s top prospects as they prepare for life in the NHL. First round selections such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (2003), Cam Fowler (2010), Rickard Rakell (2011), Hampus Lindholm (2012) and Nick Ritchie (2015) are expected to make an impact at the NHL level, but not only are Anaheim’s top draft selections reaching the NHL, but late round selections such as Kase, Megna, Manson, Roy and Welinski are making the jump and proving that Murray and his staff are finding continued success year in and year out.
The future continues to be bright for the Ducks organization with 2016 first round selections Sam Steel (30th overall) and the aforementioned Jones, who made his professional debut for the Gulls in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Steel had one of the most successful junior seasons on record in 2016-17, as he was named the WHL Player of the Year. Steel also won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer. In 66 games with Regina, he recorded 50-81=131 points with a +49 rating to lead all Canadian Hockey League players in scoring (includes WHL, OHL & QMJHL). Steel’s 131 points were the most in the CHL by a player age 19-or-younger since Patrick Kane (145 points for London) and John Tavares (134 points for Oshawa) in 2006-07. Steel also recorded the highest points per game average (1.98) of any WHL player age 19-or-under since Jarome Iginla (2.16) of Kamloops in 1995-96.
In 2017-18, Steel helped lead Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 World Junior Championship and was named the 2018 Memorial Cup MVP after leading all skaters in points (13, 2g/11a) and assists in five games. His five assists (all primary) on May 23 vs. Swift Current in the final round-robin game tied a Memorial Cup record for assists in a single game, held by Jonathan Drouin (Halifax Moosehead – May 26, 2013) and Dan Hodgson (Prince Albert – May 14, 1985). He also tallied the game-winning goal in a 4-2 Semi-Final win vs. Hamilton to send the Pats to the final.
Anaheim’s draft prowess has been obvious, but it’s also the development of those draft selections that benefit an organization over time. Only three players in 25 years of Ducks history (Oleg Tverdovsky in 1994, Chad Kilger in 1995 and Cam Fowler in 2010) have made the immediate jump from the draft to the NHL. An emphasis on development in San Diego has been prominent since the team arrived in 2015 with Eakins at the helm of the team’s primary affiliate. The Gulls have posted a 118-71-10-5 record (.615 points percentage), with the 118 wins leading the Pacific Division. Under Eakins, the club’s .615 points percentage is the second highest all-time by a head coach of an Anaheim Ducks primary affiliate and the 118 wins rank tied for second (also Moe Mantha from 1996-00). Only Kevin Dineen’s 135 wins and .623% with the Portland Pirates from 2005-08 rank higher than Eakins among Anaheim primary affiliate coaches.