By Thomas Harrington
After picking twice in the first round of the draft(Max Jones 24th overall and Sam Steel 30th overall), the Ducks entered the second day with four more picks: the 85th pick in the 3rd round, the 93rd pick in the 4th round, the 115th pick in the 4th round, and the 205th pick in the 7th round.
The Ducks were without a second round pick, as they traded it to Vancouver for Kevin Bieksa last year. That pick ended up in Pittsburgh with Nick Bonino when the Canucks acquired Brandon Sutter from the Penguins. Players taken in the second half of the draft are almost always projects and take several years to get to the NHL, if they make it there at all. Still, virtually every draft has at least one or two more very late picks become good, if not great, players in the NHL. Remember, Josh Manson was a sixth round pick in the 2011 Draft, and look where he is today.
With their four final picks of the draft, the Ducks picked defenseman Josh Mahura, left winger Jack Kopacka, center Alex Dostie, and center Tyler Soy. Overall, the Ducks have drafted five forwards, one defenseman, and no goalies this weekend. Given their prospective needs, it’s good to see the Ducks stock up on forwards, especially at left wing and center. Combined with the four forwards the Ducks took at the draft last year, it’s clear that Anaheim’s goal was to stock up on forwards the way they have on defensemen. While it’s unclear if the Ducks will be as successful in terms of drafting NHL talent, it is clear that they were successful in getting good depth throughout their forward prospect line. It was a little surprising to see the Ducks not take any goalies, but given John Gibson’s age, it’s not a huge need in their pipeline right now. One other interesting note about this draft: every player the Ducks took is currently playing Canadian Juniors. In recent years, the Ducks have taken a lot of Swedish and college bound players, so it’s a little bit surprising to see the focus on the CHL.
Mahura played for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL last season. He’s a stay at home defenseman with very good skating skills who plays well at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t put up many points but he does have an excellent shot. Mahura missed most of last season with a knee injury. He only played in two regular season games and collected one assist. However, he did return for the playoffs and played in all 17 games for the Rebels and scored two goals and four points. It was Mahura’s rookie season the year before that got him noticed by NHL scouts. That year, he played in 51 games for Red Deer and scored two goals and eight points. As with most young players, he needs to work on his consistency going forward and also his level of aggression as he is sometimes too passive when he defends. He won’t ever be a top pairing player, but could turn into a solid fourth or fifth defenseman who can play in almost any situation.
Kopacka played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL last year. A self described skilled forward, he put 20 goals and 43 points in 67 games, a solid rookie season from the young winger. He showed that he can play in the top six in the OHL; going forward he’s going to need to show that he can not just play, but be successful in the top six. Kopacka is willing to go into the corners and battle for the puck but does need to work on his physical play going forward. If Kopacka works out, he could turn into a power forward with very good foot speed.
Dostie played for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL last season, his third season with the club. Dostie is already 19, so he’s a little older than most players taken on draft weekend, though it’s certainly not unheard of to see players who are 19 taken in the draft. Dostie took huge strides in his offensive game last season. After scoring 22 goals and 54 points in 68 games in the 2014-15 season, he put up 25 goals and 73 points in 54 games last season. Seeing a player make that kind of improvement in fewer games is a great sign for his development. Given his age, he’ll spend at least one more season in the QMJHL and then look to either turn pro, or stay in juniors for one final overage season. If he can put up similar or better numbers for the Olympiques next season, I think he’ll find his way to San Diego shortly after that.
Soy is another 19 year-old player who the Ducks took. He’s spent the last three seasons playing for the Victoria Royals of the WHL and worn an ‘A’ for the last two. Similar to Dostie, he took huge offensive strides this past season. In the 2014-15 season, Soy scored 28 goals and 63 points in 69 games. This past season, he exploded for 46 goals and 85 points in 72 games. He’ll spend another season in the WHL and then either go pro or spend one more season in the WHL. Seventh round picks are always a crapshoot in terms of what they will develop into, but if he can score at a similar or better pace next season, it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up in San Diego shortly thereafter.
Overall, I think it was a good weekend for the Ducks. They didn’t draft any elite level talents, but given the picks they had, I think they got very good value. Max Jones is an excellent pick for 24th overall, and while Sam Steel is a little more of a reach, he could turn into a very good player. Remember, the last player the Ducks took 30th overall was Rickard Rakell, and he’s worked out pretty well so far. In an interview today, Bob Murray called Jones a strong player who can skate well but is a little immature. He called Steel a very smart player. On day two, the Ducks continued drafting forwards to fill an organizational need. They picked up some skilled players who need a bit of work, but it will be exciting to watch how all of these prospects develop in the coming years.
Up next for Anaheim is July 1st, the first day of free agency. Right now, NHL GMs can talk with pending unrestricted free agents, gauging their interest and figuring out who they can likely sign when free agency opens. You can bet that Murray is in contact with the players he is targeting. It’s also likely that Murray is still in constant communication with other teams regarding possible trades. Even though no major trades went down during the draft for the Ducks, it doesn’t mean they are closed for business. A trade could happen at any time.
For now, a big warm welcome to all six players that Anaheim drafted this weekend. I look forward to following their development in the coming years and hopefully seeing them in Anaheim someday. Click the tweet below to follow each player’s twitter account!
For all Ducks signings, trades, and draft picks visit: Anaheim Ducks Transaction Tracker
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