Ranking What The Ducks Could Do With The 3rd Overall Pick

Photo: NHL

By: Logan Orsini

The Anaheim Ducks will have the 3rd overall pick in the up and coming 2021 NHL Draft. In usual Anaheim fashion, they were the only team to drop in the draft lottery, with the young Seattle Kraken franchise jumping them to secure the 2nd overall pick.

Though this may seem disappointing, Anaheim will still have a plethora of talent available when they get on the clock.

This draft is rather unusual. The reason for this being that due to COVID-19 shaking the sports world, some of these players were unable to play due to their leagues being shut down. The ones who did play even had altered seasons due to the pandemic. Because of this, this years draft class has been rather difficult to analyze.

BUT… due to my amateur hockey knowledge I was able to gather as much information and video as I can to break down who I believe could benefit the Ducks the most and join an exciting youth pool within the organization.

Last year when covering draft prospects, I predicted the Ducks drafting Drysdale at 6th overall, so let’s see if I can get lucky again.

The List

Before starting, I want to note that this years draft is all over the place. It isn’t the worst prediction to say that the Sabres are taking Owen Power with the first overall pick, but I would not be surprised if they decide not to. Same could be said for Seattle.

Regardless, at least one of these players (or possibilities) will be available when the Ducks are on the clock.

Photo: Rena Laverty/uscho.com

1. Matthew Beniers

If Seattle passes on Beniers, the Ducks should take him to bolster their center pipeline.

This last season at the University of Michigan, 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points in 24 games finishing 3rd in scoring on the team. As the youngest player on Team USA’s roster at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, he had 3 points in 7 games while playing in an important depth role on the team which included killing penalties and being put out in important defensive situations.

What highlights Beniers play the most is just his all around solid play on both sides of the puck.

He possesses solid offensive capabilities including good speed and playmaking ability. With or without the puck in the offensive zone, he is dangerous. On the defensive side, he is constantly causing the opposing team to make mistakes and capitalizes on them. He is reliable to put out on the penalty kill and key defensive zone situations. He plays on both sides of the puck with tenacity and grit.

 

While there isn’t one part of his game that stands out from the rest, his only downside is that he is not a flashy player. He doesn’t make highlight reel plays often, but he consistently makes the right one that puts his team in a great position.

His high motor combined with a smart hockey IQ gives him the potential to be a solid two way center in the NHL.

Beniers could fit well playing with or behind fellow American and World Juniors teammate Trevor Zegras. While Zegras provides the playmaking and goal scoring on the first line, Beniers will bring a solid two way game on the second.

The Ducks are lacking a solid two way center. When healthy, Ryan Kesler played that role extremely well during his time in Anaheim, and he was a key role in the runs that the Ducks made. Those types of players are crucial to a teams success.

The Ducks desperately need goal scoring, but it is often the case that when teams draft for needs instead of taking the best player available, it can come back to bite them. If Beniers is available at 3, the Ducks would be wise to take him.

NHL comparison

 

Photo: mgoblue.com

2. Kent Johnson

For those of you raving about Cole Caufield, this might be the closest you’ll get…

Playing winger alongside Matthew Beniers at the University of Michigan, Kent Johnson netted 9 goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 26 games this NCAA season.

In the 2019-2020 season, Johnson was the BCHL MVP and the CJHL’s Top Forward. Playing for the Trail Smoke Eaters, he netted 41 goals and 60 assists for 101 points in 52 games. His current rights are owned by the Everett Silvertips when he was drafted 208th overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

Coming off an incredible year in the BCHL, Johnson took another big step in his development in his strong play in the NCAA this year.

Johnson’s skill and offensive creativeness is what stands out the most about his game. He is a flashy player who is not afraid to showcase his crafty stick handling at anytime in the game. His soft hands combined with his patience allow him to be a force on offense.

 

He is a strong skater as well with solid top end speed and a good first step. He uses angles and stops and starts well, tricking defenders while playing in the corners.

Along with his skills, he has a high hockey IQ too. He has the ability to read defenders well. When they are playing him tight, he will use his stick handling to evade them. When they are backing off to give respect to his skating, he uses his accurate wrist shot to put the puck on net.

Downsides are he is not great defensively and has a slight frame. He needs to improve his two way game and put on some weight.

He took some big steps in his development the last two years. He has the potential to take even bigger ones if he plays play another year in the NCAA then possibly a year in the AHL. I would be shocked if he is not available at 3rd overall, so he is someone to keep an eye on.

He’s as creative as they come and a walking highlight reel. If the Ducks are looking for flashy offensive skill, look no further. His skill made him play very well alongside a solid playmaker in Matthew Beniers. I can only imagine how he would play alongside another playmaker in Trevor Zegras

Player Comparisons

 

Photo: Elvira Holmström

3. William Eklund

Aside from having great offensive talent, what might excite Ducks fans about Guenther is that he is a natural winger.

From Haninge, Sweden, Eklund put up a solid 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 40 games in his second season for Djurgardens IF of the SHL this last season.

He was supposed to play an important role on Team Sweden at the World Juniors, but unfortunately a positive COVID test did not allow that to happen.

Eklund has phenomenal offensive ability. What stands out the most is his play down low in the offensive zone and in the dirty areas. He has solid top end speed, but is an elite skater when it comes to his footwork and edges. He uses his strength on his skates to score goals from the dirty areas on the ice. He obtains a wicked wrist shot that is accurate as well.

 

This though does not take from his passing and playmaking abilities. His puck control and strong skating deep in offensive zones gives time for his teammates to get open. He has the ability to make seamless passes.

Here is a good example:

 

Eklund has a decent defensive game as well. His hard nosed play along the boards makes him a good force in the defensive zone. What I noticed is that he has great transition play when getting the puck out of the zone, knowing when to keep the puck on his stick or dish it out to his teammates for a quick breakout.

He’s a bit undersized at 5’10”, but that doesn’t mean much in today’s speed and skill based NHL. I’d like to see him utilize his shot more too. He’s get a great accurate shot, but doesn’t use it much and tends to be a little too unselfish.

I’ve always liked players who excel as only 17 or 18 year olds in the SHL. It’s one of the best leagues in the world that plays a similar style to what most NHL teams play like, with an emphasis on speed and skill.

It’s been a while since Anaheim as gone down the Swedish pipeline, and I’d say it’s gone pretty well in the past when they do.

NHL comparisons

 

Photo: Rena Laverty/usahockeyntpd.com

4. Luke Hughes

Last year, I mentioned the Colorado Avalanche plenty of times in my draft prospect profiles. Mainly because they did a very good job rebuilding their team to be a powerhouse in the NHL today. One part they addressed a lot is their blue line. They have two offensive defensemen that carry their back end, Cale Makar being their number one guy and Sam Girard right behind him. Both players make huge differences in games, both being full of skill and speed.

The Duck see promise in Jamie Drysdale, and along with fans, are expecting him to be the number one defensemen in the near future. So, why not take a similar approach and draft another young defensemen with a lot of promise.

Luke Hughes, the younger brother of Jack and Quinn, netted 6 goals and 28 assists for 34 points in 38 games for the USNTDP this last season. He was supposed to play for Team USA at the U18s, but an injury sidelined him. He is committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, just like his brother before him.

Luke mostly resembles Quinn, except much taller standing at 6’2. His overall offensive skill is what highlights his play. He is a strong skater on the back end and loves to push the play offensively.

When in the offensive zone, he is excellent at walking the line with the ability to slow the play down. He is a smart player and has a very high hockey IQ. He uses his speed and puck control to know when to take a shot and when to pass it off to teammates. He is never afraid to jump up in the play to create a scoring chance.

 

Defensively, he utilizes his size and loves to play physically. His lengthy frame and long stick allows him to disrupt passing lanes with ease. This also helps him close the distance on opponents.

One downside about his game is that he tends to be too offensive. Often he can get caught out of position rushing up in plays, which can lead to odd man rushes. Though, his offensive capabilities cannot be taught.

 

Hughes, like his brothers, shows much promise in his game. A couple years of development in the NCAA could make him ready for the NHL. He can easily be a top two defender on a team.

NHL Comparisons

 

Photo: USA Today

5. Trade the #3 pick to the Buffalo Sabres for… Jack Eichel?

Woah. I know. Before you call me crazy, just hear me out.

Let me put my mad scientist coat on.

Eichel, 24, is going to be traded before the start of the 2021-2022 season.

Pierre Lebrun of the Athletic said in the article below, “Teams I believe make sense: Los Angeles, Minnesota, Anaheim, Columbus, and the Rangers, among others.”

It’s been known that Bob Murray and the Ducks made serious efforts to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois at the trade deadline, and they also reportedly called about Patrik Laine as well. It’s clear that they are at least willing to gamble. And, with the Ducks shedding a lot of cap space this summer, money will not exactly be an issue.

The Ducks have been linked to Eichel trade rumors for a while, but nothing but small speculation. Now, these talks are seeming to really pick up steam.

So let’s just get right to what everyone wants to know, what will it cost?

To acquire a talent like Eichel, Bob Murray is going to need to play his best hand. But Buffalo is going to want either Zegras or Drysdale involved. I cannot see Bob Murray letting one of his two white whales go, so this trade will be difficult to make happen.

The Ducks do have some leverage on everyone else. Of all the teams that are rumored to have interest in Eichel, the Ducks hold the highest draft pick out of all of them at #3 overall. The Sabres could have two picks in the top 3 just like that.

Aside from picks, they have plenty of talent in their youth pool. Troy Terry and Isac Lundestrom‘s stock has been rising, along with Max Comtois having a semi breakout season. Josh Mahura is still touted as having solid potential on the back end as well.

One prospect that Buffalo could like is Jacob Perreault. In his two years in the OHL, he had 69 goals in 120 games. Last season he netted 17 points in 27 games for the Gulls. The late first round pick has plenty of goal scoring potential and could be an asset in a possible trade.

Here’s what I drew up the Ducks giving up:

  • 2021 1st Round Pick #3 overall
  • Max Comtois
  • Jacob Perreault

 

I am not saying they are going to trade all these, but they are assets that have value. A trade with this big of magnitude has plenty of possibilities, so this is a solid base to start at.

Bob Murray’s time at the helm is coming to an end. With one year left on his contract, this could be a last ditch Hail Mary pass from him.

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July 18th, 2021