By Thomas Harrington
After drafting the 24th pick(which I projected to be Riley Tufte), the Ducks will step back up to the podium for the final pick of the first round, acquired from Toronto when they sent Frederik Andersen there earlier this week. The Ducks have a number of options with the 30th pick.
First, they can package it with something else to try and move up in the draft. It’s usually easier to trade up in the first round if the other team can still keep a first round pick. Having two first round picks give the Ducks a lot of flexibility in this regard, especially if they decide to package both together and really move up at the draft. Second, the pick could be used to bring in a top line left winger. The 30th pick alone would probably not be enough to bring in the type of impact player Bob Murray will be seeking, but it could be a part of a larger deal. Third, if the Ducks think there will be enough quality prospects a little later in the draft, they could trade down and try and pick up a second rounder or two this year. Finally, the Ducks could choose to keep the pick and make their second selection of the first round.
Just as I did for the 24th pick, I have examined several mock drafts and read over scouting reports of players likely to be available when the Ducks pick again. Unsurprisingly, the 30th pick of the draft is much harder to predict than the 24th. By the time a team gets to the end of the first round, there will inevitably be some players available who some people thought were locks to go in the first round. There are also a large number of players who could be considered good enough to go at the end of the first round or beginning of the second. All of which means I’m about to take a shot in the dark here.
There are a couple of goalies who are predicted to go towards the end of the first round or early in the second, but I will not be including them in my prediction. I do think the team will take a goalie, but not till the later rounds. The Ducks currently only have two goalies in their prospect system and do need to re-stock, but given the youth of John Gibson and the fact the Ducks need a veteran backup for Anaheim, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them to target a goalie with this pick. It could happen–it actually wouldn’t surprise me if it did–but I’m going to go under the assumption that Anaheim has its eye on a goalie in the later rounds. My reasoning for this is simple: goalies are notoriously hard to predict and arguably take the longest to reach their highest level. It makes little sense to draft a goalie in the first round, especially when the Ducks need more top end talent at forward. Also, Bob Murray loves drafting defensemen who can skate, so it wouldn’t shock me to see a defenseman taken, especially if Tufte is their choice earlier. If the Ducks pick a defenseman with the 24th pick, then I’m sure they will pick a forward with the 30th selection.
Skaters who I think are likely to still be available include Pascal Laberge, Boris Katchouk, Kale Clague, and Vitalli Abramov. I also think that Brett Howden will still be available. There are of course several more players who could be available here, but based on my research these seem the most likely five. There’s an outside chance that Alex DeBrincat or Rasmus Asplund could fall to Anaheim at 30, but I expect both to be gone by the time Anaheim is making their second pick. However, if either of them are still available at 30, I think Anaheim will take one of them.
Laberge is a very safe pick. He looks to be a solid second line center someday. If the Ducks want to draft a known asset, he would be it. Katchouk is projected to be a top six forward who doesn’t back down from anybody. He had 61 penalty minutes in 63 games last season, while scoring 24 goals and 51 points. Clague is an offensive defenseman with blazing speed who can skate the puck incredibly well. He needs to work on his consistency, but descriptions I’ve read of him remind me of fellow Anaheim prospect Brandon Montour. If the Ducks feel he can follow a similar path to Montour’s, he would be an excellent pick. Abramov was the QMJHL Rookie of the Year this past season, scoring 38 goals and 93 points in 63 games. He’s only 5’9”, but he’s fast, hard to hit, and very competitive. After passing on Howden at 24th overall, I think it’s highly likely that he is available again. He’s a two-way center with a very well rounded game. He’s not going to wow you with his fancy skills and stick work, but will put in a solid effort on a nightly basis and knows how to score.
With the 30th overall pick, I predict the Anaheim Ducks will select Vitali Abramov. I went back and forth on this one, but in the end, I think Anaheim takes the player who puts up points. While a little small, he’s a dynamic goal scorer, the likes of which Anaheim does not have in their farm system. Besides being rookie of the year in the QMJHL, it was also his first season in North America, meaning he was out of his comfort zone. As he acclimates to things this side of the pond, he very well could become an even better player. If not him, then I think Anaheim will take either Howden or Clague. Howden because after passing on him at 24, he’s too much of a complete player to pass on a second time. Clague because he’s a highly skilled defenseman, the type of player Anaheim loves to draft, and if they take a forward with their first pick, they’d probably feel comfortable taking a defenseman with their second pick.
If Tufute is available at 24th overall, I’m reasonably confident that the Ducks will at least seriously consider him if they end up passing on him. With the 30th pick, my confidence in my prediction is much less because of how much mock drafts and draft boards differ in this range. Thankfully, Anaheim’s scouting staff has done a great job in recent years, especially with late first round picks. They picked Rickard Rakell at 30th, Jacob Larsson at 27th, and Shea Theodore at 26th in the last few years. Extending that into the second round, they got John Gibson at 39th, William Karlsson at 53rd, Montour at 55th, and Julius Nattinen at 59th.
I have faith that Anaheim’s scouting staff will select two very good players on Friday.
For more on Anaheim’s draft picks and potential trading options please visit: Ducks Draft Order, Potential First Round Trades
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