June 16, 2017

By Steve Brown

Successful organizations build through the draft and the Anaheim Ducks are no different. Creating organizational depth is key to NHL and AHL success, ensuring the prospect cupboard is stockpiled with talent. Since 2010 Anaheim has drafted 46 players. Of those 46 players, 30 have appeared for the organization’s AHL team (San Diego, Norfolk and Syracuse), with 19 draftees making the jump to the NHL with the Ducks in the NHL while 23 have appeared in games with the Gulls. Eight of those 46 draftees have not yet been eligible to make their professional debut based on age or continuing their develop at the collegiate level.

Thirty of a potential 38 players (79 percent) drafted have begun their professional careers within the organization. Not a bad number.

A primary example of the Ducks drafting prowess: The six defensemen that dressed 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 than ever. The Gulls are now the stepping stone to the NHL with a 90-minute drive up the Southern California coast. Twenty different players drafted by Anaheim appeared in a game with San Diego during the 2016-17 season, with eight Gulls players made their NHL debut with Anaheim this season. Seven of the eight were Anaheim draft picks: Joseph Cramarossa (2011, 3rd rd., 65th overall), Ondrej Kase (2014, 7th 4th rd., 205th overall), Nic Kerdiles (2012, 2nd rd., 36th overall), Kalle Kossila (undrafted), Jacob Larsson (2015, 1st rd. 27th overall), Jaycob Megna (2012, 7th rd., 210th overall), Brandon Montour (2014, 2nd rd., 55th overall), Nick Sorensen (2013, 2nd rd., 45th overall).

The Gulls continue to develop Anaheim’s top prospects as they prepare for life in the NHL and in 2016-17 six first round selection’s made appeared in a game for San Diego. Four were Anaheim draft selections, including Emerson Etem (29th overall in 2010), Shea Theodore (26th overall in 2013), Larsson and Max Jones (24th overall in 2016), with Stefan Noesen (21st overall in 2011, Ottawa) and Jeff Schultz (27th overall in 2004, Washington) joining the Anaheim selections.

First round selections such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (2003), Cam Fowler (2010), Rickard Rakell (2011), Hampus Lindholm (2012), Nick Ritchie (2015) are expected to make an impact at the NHL level, but not only are Anaheim’s draft selections reaching the NHL, but late round selections such as Kase, Megna, Manson, Chris Wagner (2010, 5th rd., 122nd overall) are making the jump and proving that Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray and his staff are finding continued success throughout 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 Game 3 vs. Ontario in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Steel had one of the most successful junior seasons on record in 2016-17, as he was named the Western Hockey League (WHL) Player of the Year (Four Broncos Memorial Trophy). 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.