By Thomas Harrington
The first round of the draft had some surprise picks, starting with Columbus taking Dubois at number three overall. From there, the draft board seemed to never quite get back to what people expected to happen. After a couple of days of trade rumors, the Ducks opted to keep both of their draft picks.
Anaheim Selects Max Jones With The 24th Overall Pick
With the 24th pick, the Ducks took left winger Max Jones. Jones played for the London Knights of the OHL last year, the Memorial Cup Champions. Jones is not the first Memorial Cup winner from London picked by the Ducks; the first was Corey Perry. While Jones doesn’t have Perry’s goal scoring ability, it’s fair to say that they play a similar in-your-face style. I had thought that Jones would be gone before the Ducks made their pick, so I was really happy to see him still available. With the 30th overall pick, the Ducks selected center Sam Steel. Steel played for the Regina Pats of the WHL last season. Steel is a prospect that I don’t know much about, but I have complete trust in Anaheim’s scouting staff. They’ve made some excellent picks in recent years, especially towards the end of the first round and into the second.
Jones is a nasty piece of work; he put up 103 penalty minutes in 63 games last season. Jones also had a 12 game suspension for a blindside hit to the head in the playoffs. Along with his nastiness, he can also score; he had 28 goals and 52 points last season. As long as Jones has learned from his suspension, I really like this pick. He’s a hard-nosed, physical player who goes into the dirty areas and can score big goals. He’s incredibly strong, and combined with good foot speed, this makes it very hard to keep him away from the front of the net.
Jones is only 18 and not NHL ready, meaning he will most likely spend the next two years developing in the OHL. When his time with the Knights is done, depending on where both he and the Ducks are at, he will either join Anaheim or head to San Diego for some more seasoning before he looks to join the big club. Personally, I prefer players to take a bit more time to develop before getting the call up the NHL, so I’m hoping he sees at least a bit of time with the Gulls before making his way to the Ducks. Traditionally, Anaheim has been weak on the left side over the last several years. Between Jones and Nick Ritchie, hopefully that problem has been solved going forward. The two of them will give Anaheim two left wingers who will, simply put, be painful for opposing teams to deal with, as both are big and like to hit. It will take a few years, but they could give Anaheim a nasty, physical left side of the ice.
One thing that really stands out about Jones is his production at even strength last year. The Knights had an absolutely loaded roster, meaning Jones saw only a little bit of power play time. Of his 52 points, 39 of them came at even strength. Considering he was playing behind Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, and Matthew Tkachuk, that’s pretty good production. He also tied for fourth in OHL rookie scoring last season. Every rookie who scored more than him, except for Alex Nylander, played in more games than he did. He ended up being a finalist for the OHL Rookie of the Year.
Going forward, there are two things that Jones needs to work on: his consistency from game to game and taking too many penalties. If he can put forth a high effort level on a nightly basis, he will be a great fit in Anaheim for years to come. He’s a power forward who had a very good rookie season in the OHL. I’m excited to watch how he develops over the next couple of years. Jones plays with an edge, but he’ll need to make sure to toe that edge and not step over the line going forward. He’s already faced one major suspension. He needs to working on playing a physical brand of hockey, but not going too far with his play.
Anaheim Selects Sam Steel With The 30th Overall Pick
Steel is a playmaking center who is a bit of a project and is a few years away from making it to the NHL. With the Pats, he scored 23 goals and 70 points in 72 games last year. His 47 assists and 70 points were both second on the team. In the playoffs, he really stepped up and scored six goals and 16 points in 12 games. On the man advantage, Steel scored eight goals and 30 points. He’s considered one of the best passers in the WHL.
Besides his passing ability, Steel is an excellent skater and instantly becomes one of Anaheim’s fastest prospects. Between his skating and passing, I’m excited to see what kind of player he develops into. Based on everything I’ve read, he reminds me a bit of Andy McDonald. A small, fast player who is an excellent passer but knows how to score. He’s a long way from being the next McDonald, but he’s got the tools to become a similar type of player. Steel also wore an ‘A’ for Regina last season. Like a lot of Anaheim prospects picked in recent years, Steel is a very smart player. Him being one of the leaders in Regina is an added bonus on top of that. He’s got excellent vision on the ice, but does need to work on his game away from the puck
Between Steel, Julius Nattinen, and Rickard Rakell, the Ducks finally have some very good, young centers in their system. Rakell obviously had a huge season for Anaheim last year, and Nattinen had a strong first season in the OHL. While none of these three are future franchise centers, they give Anaheim a level of young depth at that position that they have lacked for a very long time. Steel will spend the two seasons in the WHL before turning pro, and I’m almost certain that he will take some time in the AHL before coming up to Anaheim. The Ducks don’t need a center next season, but in a few years, when he’s NHL ready, they just might. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are both on the wrong side of 30, meaning the Ducks will need some youth injected into their lineup at center. Nattinen will hopefully make the jump in the next couple of years, with Steel looking to join Anaheim sometime after that.
There are two things that Steel needs to work on: putting on more muscle and consistency. He’s listed as 175 pounds while standing 5’11”. Like most young players, he can sometimes struggle from game to game, and he’s going to need to figure out how to be his best on a nightly basis if he wants to be in Anaheim in a few years.
Overall, I like both of Anaheim’s first round picks. Of the two, I’d say that Jones has a better chance of cracking Anaheim’s lineup before Steel does, but both will take a couple of years to get to that point, so things could change in that time. With these two picks, Anaheim filled two huge areas of need in their farm system: left wing and center. Going forward with the rest of the draft, the Ducks don’t have a second rounder, but do have a third rounder, two fourths, and a seventh round pick. I’m not sure who the Ducks will pick, but I’m betting there will be at least one goalie and one defensemen taken on day two of the draft. Beyond, the other thing to watch for is to see if Anaheim can trade up and get a second round pick. There were able to get one for next year from Toronto, and will most likely try and acquire one for this year.
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