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NHL Entry Draft 2018: Part 2 - Guess The Selections (Round 1-2)

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Benny and I take our best shot at who we think the Ducks will take

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Who should the Ducks take with the 23rd and 54th overall selection?

The NHL entry draft approaches! Benny and I have done our best to break down how the Ducks stand in terms of personnel, now we take a stab at predicting who we think they might select whilst throwing in a little bit of alternate-reality hopes and dreams selections because - why not?

Round 1: 23rd selection

Benny:

[Logical] Who they should take:

Grigori Denisenko - LW - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

I think the Ducks need to start planning for life after Getzlaf. This may not necessarily mean a #1 pivot, and certainly the Ducks are light on RW prospects more than anything, but they need to acquire a player that can carry the offence and drag the fans out of their seats. Rakell is possibly one such player, but in 4 seasons time (approximately when any prospect selected in this draft is ready to go) he’ll be near enough to 30 and already outside of his goal scoring prime. Assuming he continues to score with the freedom he’s shown the past 2 seasons, he may also price himself out of the Ducks budget, and no longer be here. However, here or not, he will take up substantial cap space and be on the downhill slope.

Enter Grigori Denisenko.

The Ducks will want to play their cards right with him should they select him, as it is always a danger selecting talented Russians not already in North America. In many cases they may not wish to travel to North America under the rookie salary constraints when they can make substantially more money playing in the KHL. Make no mistake, Denisenko has the talent to make that money. Denisenko has the potential to be a home run of the likes of which the Ducks haven't selected since…Bobby Ryan. Potentially even the twins.

Denisenko is a playmaking (left) wing with excellent vision and ridiculous hands. He has the ability to dart in and out of traffic with excellent edge work, drawing lines that other players don't have the creativity to see, the agility or acceleration to get to, or the overall ability to execute. While he may be slipping down the draft board due to the “Russian factor,” it is by no accounts a reflection of his overall ability. I’ll put it out there right now: Denisenko has the highest skill level of the Russians in the draft (inclusive of probable top 3 pick Andrei Svechnikov). While I wont go quite as far as to say Denisenko will be the scorer that Artemi Panarin is - after all he did have a dismal MHL season points-wise - they play a similar (traditional Russian winger) style offensively.

Naturally, as with all prospects, there are criticisms to be made. To draw parallels to previous Ducks prospects, Denisenko could afford to be less selfless with the puck. In many respects he’s similar to Getzlaf, in that he will look to pass before shoot. This isn't necessarily a problem, yet Denisenko has beautifully soft hands and the accuracy of one of the best snipers in the game. Not utilising this skill is a flaw of the highest order.

A further similarity to Getzlaf is that Denisenko isn't afraid to get into the corners and engage physically - a potential problem only due to his smaller stature. At present he stands ~5’11 and is ~170-180 lbs soaking wet (a further similarity to Panarin), thus a physical game may potentially cause him to suffer injuries against the much larger NHL player group.

However, the greatest criticism that can be leveled against him is his, early days Bobby Ryan-esque, refusal to backcheck. In fact his defensive game at present is very near non-existent. For a Ducks fandom that has for some reason decided that goals only count for half if you don't backcheck twice beforehand, this may be a flaw that they can’t overlook. For Murray’s administration, that appears to value “two-way” play over game breaking talent, this could be the kiss of death.

However, if Murray is true to the new team principles he hinted at during the end of season press conference, then Denisenko is the fast, high-octane scoring star that the Ducks could conceivably build their future around. Given the lack of game breaking forwards in the Ducks prospect pool, picking him is the logical conclusion.

[Realistic] Who they will probably take:

Jared McIsaac - D - Halifax Moosheads

I really want to say Serron Noel (because he’s a big - ok he’s huge - power forward, RW) or Filip Hallander (because he’s that Murray-esqe Swedish sleeper pick, C/W), but Ryan McLeod or Jared McIsaac are the two that strike me as the two most likely selections for the Ducks.

Typically, I would think that McLeod is the sure selection here given that he’s essentially a taller Andrew Cogliano, and that Cogliano will be pretty much finished by the time McLeod will be ready to go. He’s “safe” and Bob Murray loves safe. However, with the current road block of pivots already playing, and with the prospect pools already well stocked with middle 6 pivots and left wings, there doesn't appear to be a clear roster spot for him (assuming everything pans out).

Thus Jared McIsaac is the anointed one.

He’s very much a 200 ft, two-way defensemen, that plays a very good mix between shutting down the opposition and using his smooth skating to contribute on the offensive end. What will likely appeal to Murray is McIsaac’s ability to smother puck carriers coming in on the rush, either stepping into them or funnelling them to the outside. Given the troubles that the Ducks had with the Sharks in the recent playoff series loss, and the troubles they had with that all season against faster skating teams, McIsaac would be a partially knee jerk reaction to that loss, and yet, a solid selection for a team that currently plays a number of fleet-footed offensive defensemen but few with considerable defensive acumen.

McIsaac is a big, mean, smooth skating defenceman that may be the best in the draft crop at shutting down opposing forwards. Notable, given that McIsaac has improved as he has put on size and mass, which suggests that he has further development within him once given access to NHL calibre support staff. Although at 6’1 and ~200 lbs he isn't far away from being physically ready to move into professional ranks as is.

However, on the flip side, it should be noted that McIsaac is prone to forcing plays which may inhibit him in a Carlyle coached defensive scheme that very much dictates that defensemen force plays up the boards - regardless of whether or not it is the correct play to make at the time. While a harsh consideration, it may potentially provide McIsaac with an environment in which he is set up to fail, thus turning the administration and fans against him.

Additionally, McIsaac is prone to taking bad penalties, which is a bugbear of the Ducks already. Once considered a chance to be a top 5 pick in this draft, McIsaac has underwhelmed offensively and taken enough bad penalties to warrant him slipping down to the later parts of the 1st round. Specifically, the left shooting defenseman’s scoring at even strength was underwhelming, as the majority of it came on the powerplay (55%). Not quite a sky is a falling scenario given he was 11th in the league for primary points, yet it would be nice to see more 5v5 offense.

McIsaac also has some issues with his overall awareness and of processing plays made in tight and at high speed, which may have contributed to his -4.54 relative goals-for percentage (raw GF% was 51.88%) As the league moves further towards high skill forwards who can stick handle in a phone booth and towards higher-paced hockey, this presents an area of concern and for improvement. However, with years prior to turning pro, he has the time to develop greater patience with the puck, and better decision making with and without it.

Given the lack of similar player types on the Ducks at present, and coming through in the future, I think this provides Murray an opportunity to select a player who will contribute to an NHL roster, giving safe defensive minutes, and a hard edge that currently only Manson truly provides. McIsaac has the potential to be a top pairing guy, although at present it seems he won’t be that offensive standout that people love. He will, however, be a regular NHL player, and provide a defensive foil for the many offensively orientated players the Ducks currently have - and will have - on the back end.

The Ducks will be jubilant picking this former projected top 5 pick and moulding him to be the Chris Pronger they’ve been looking for since they traded Pronger away for reasons that mystify the mind to this very day.

[Overly Ambitious] Who I would love them to take if available:

Grigori Denisenko - LW - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Grigori Denisenko. I’ve spoken of him enough, but there simply isn't a player that is as capable of tearing a game open as he is in their draft position. I want to be entertained, and Denisenko is the guy I’ve anointed to do exactly that. It’s the logical choice, and now that John has told me that he was mocked to be taken by the Ducks in one of the projections, it’s my fan-boy dream.

FYI: Skip the first 60-90 seconds of the video.

John:

[Logical] Who they should take:

Martin Kaut - RW - HC Dynamo Pardubice

As I concluded in part 1 of this draft series, I believe the Ducks are in dire need of a right winger. The Hockey Writers pre-draft rankings as of May 1st (post the U18 WJCs) have the following in order of ranking for that position:

Andrei Svechniko (2nd overall), Oliver Wahlstrom (8th overall), Vitali Kravtsov (16th overall) and Martin Kaut comes in at - sheer coincidence I swear - 23rd overall.

Kaut plays in the Czech Tipsport Extraliga, which is also where the Ducks found Ondrej Kase. He had a quiet start to the year but saw his confidence as well as his final year totals boosted after an impressive stint at the World Juniors playing on a line with Hurricanes prospect Martin Necas and the highly touted Filip Zadina (ranked 3rd overall by most).

He put up 7 points in 7 games (2 goals and 5 assists) and finished the year at Dynamo Pardubice with 16 points in 38 games. He did, however, put up 5 points in 7 games in the playoffs for his club. Those Czech league numbers might hurt his final rankings which is why he could fall to 23 or later, but his showing in international play has put his name on the map. He has very good top end speed but has a knock on his first step acceleration. However, he makes up for that with...well I’ll just let this scouting report cover it:

Sound familiar?

His offensive game emphasizes getting into tight areas where his quick hands excel but he is also deft with the tip and quick to pounce on rebounds. He is said to have a good wrist shot and an above average snap-shot but his one-timer could use some work. He is a solid playmaker that anticipates well and excels at the cycle.

Defensively, he is strong positionally and good on the back-check but, although he is willing to take a hit to make a play, is shy about applying physical pressure in the same vein. He uses his stick well to intercept passes and is not afraid to lay down the body to block a shot.

He isn't your atypical Ducks first rounder - given he is not a “safe” bet to come over. He was drafted by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the CHL import draft but did not report which is a concern. But on the flipside, Kase came over (eventually) and the Ducks ace in the hole is the fact that Petr Sykora is playing on Kaut’s team. Who better to talk up the beaches and lifestyle of SoCal?

[Realistic] Who they will probably take:

Serron Noel - RW - Oshawa Generals or Bode Wilde - D - NTDP U18

Noel is one of the youngest prospects eligible for this draft and thus his game is still very raw but his size and style of game screams “Future Duck”. Just 17 and already 6’5” and over 200 lbs, he is monstrous. Described as a power forward that is a menace in front of the net, Noel has more than a few knocks on his game - his biggest being his skating; which he took huge strides (bad pun) to improve this year to the point where scouts are raving at his new found agility for being such a big kid.

He is additionally criticized for being too easily knocked off the puck and needing to get stronger on his skates. He also does not shoot enough, seemingly only taking the shot from high danger areas which has lead to an abnormally high shooting percentage.

He put up 53 points in 62 games and tallied just a single assist in 5 playoff games. He is your carbon copy Anaheim Ducks safe bet pick - projected to go late in the first round but is a skilled power forward project with upside.

Wilde is one of many talented right shooting defenders in this draft - which just so happens to be something the Ducks are in need of. Much like AC Associate Editor Felix Sicard, Wilde is a Montreal native that has defected to the United States. He spent that last two years with the National Development program but will be joining the University of Michigan in the fall from which the likes of Zach Werenski and Jacob Trouba have recently emerged.

He put up 41 points in 61 games this year but did not contribute on the scoresheet at the World Juniors - mostly due to roster depth. Wilde skates well for his size, is strong on his skates, and has good two way ability. He is adept at clearing the front of the net and winning puck battles. His acceleration allows him to join the rush and he walks the line on the power-play with ease.

Offensively, he has a hard shot with a unique ability to get on net (much like recently retired Francois Beauchemin) and has the skill and patience to run the power-play. However, he can also be victimized by bad decisions. His knocks are an inconsistent defensive game (sounds like a young Theodore), needing to work on his gap control and sometimes taking himself out of position to pursue a hit.

[Overly Ambitious] Who I would love them to take if available:

Grigori Denisenko - LW - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Yeah I’m on the same train as Benny here. Ever since I saw him mentioned in several mock drafts as the Ducks 23rd pick I haven't been able to picture anybody else. He is probably the only player available outside of the top 10 that has game-breaking talent. Projected by reports to go anywhere from 12th to 21st - there is an outside shot that he could fall to the Ducks at 23rd. Do not forget that back in 2010, Cam Fowler was projected to go anywhere from 3rd to 6th but fell to the Ducks at 12th. He has insanely good puck handling skills, excellent skating with high top speed and tremendous vision - his only knocks being that he has a tendency to be too generous with the puck or as we Ducks fans know it: “F$#$kn-shoot-Getzlaf-itis”.

He put up 22 points in 31 games for the Yaroslavl junior team but his best showing was with the national team where he put up 11 points in 14 games of international play.

Benny has pretty much said everything else that needs to be said about him but I just wanted to add one further tidbit which is neither here nor there: Anaheim has not drafted a Russian since Igor Bobkov back in 2009 and have drafted just 13 in their history. They have had more failures than successes which may have lead to the overall lower number taken, but I think Washington has proved more recently with Kuznetzov - that if you can afford to be patient, the trade-off is worth the risk.

Round 2: 54th Selection

Benny:

[Logical] Who they should take:

Slava Demin - D - University Of Denver

The second round is harder to pick than a broken nose, as there are a number of players who are all over the place with respect to their mock draft status. Benoit-Oliver Groulx is one who is projected to go anywhere from 18th to 54th, despite being ranked in the 20’s by most scouting agencies. Dominik Bokk is another who seems to be all over the place (and who the Ducks could and should also consider with their 1st rounder, or trade to acquire an early 2nd/late first to get him), although his stock is climbing. Should, for whatever reason, someone like that slide, then that is the most logical choice for the Ducks. But that's a boring and safe answer, so discarding the long drop types, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Ducks should select Stanislav Demin.

Slava (Stanislav) Demin, (ranked 42 by future considerations, and 40 by NHL Central Scouting) is a California born, left shooting, defenseman who is orientated to the defensive defenseman side of the ledger. He may in fact be one of the best defensive defenseman in the draft. The Ducks will have a good knowledge of him, as he came up through their minor hockey system before attending Junior A (to maintain college eligibility), and on that basis alone it would be a shame for him to go elsewhere.

Demin has an aggressive edge to his game and an active stick. While he appears to be an instinctive type of player, it should be noted that his on-ice positioning and ability to read the play is exemplary. Personally, I like that he appears to have a great awareness of his own body, which allows him to throw his hips around and separate the attacker from the puck. He isn't a quick skater, but he has a long and wide stride that make is difficult to move him from the puck. Combined with his good size, this allows him to exit the defensive zone and initiate the rush, all the while fending off opposing players.

However, if there are concerns about Demin, its that he may be too defensive. He did near double his offensive contributions between this season and last (5 goals to 9, 27 points to 45), but he concerns about Junior A offense translating to higher levels will be maintained. This merely means that his calling card will remain as a defensive player.

He is committed to the University of Denver next season, which likely gives the Ducks time before he’s pressing for a roster spot. Overall he’s a 200ft player, who has great situational awareness and a crisp outlet pass. He is most definitely a work in progress, but with him committing to Denver, and the Ducks roster spots being mostly filled for the next few seasons, Demin would have the time to develop his game before coming home to sunny California.

For those that would query why the Ducks should take a safe player such as Demin, I would counter that it allows the Ducks to take chances elsewhere in the draft (and in coming seasons). Demin will be that player who can allow the fleeter skaters and higher octane offensive players to run wild, while maintaining a safe defensive structure. His handedness may not truly mesh with the Ducks current crop of defensive prospects (and NHL players), yet this may not always be true - in 4 seasons the Ducks very well may have acquired a gifted right shooting offensive defenseman for Demin to partner. That Demin is a product of the Anaheim hockey system is a draw card that will be hard to go past. Under the current administration, the Ducks fans have been sold a bill of goods on physical play and defence wins championships - Demin ticks those boxes. As a local product he’s sure to be a fan favourite.

[Realistic] Who they will probably take:

Filip Johansson - D - Leksands IF

Filip Johansson is, in many cases, slotted to go in the 3rd round (ranked 68th by future considerations), although it wouldn't surprise to see him go before the Ducks second round pick either given his biege-but-effective play at the under-18’s Five Nations Tournament. That's right. Beige and Swedish. Murray wont want to let this dream package get through to anyone else. As an aside he’s the 10th ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting, so it wouldn't be a reach to grab him in the Ducks current 2nd round position.

If he’s still on the board when the Ducks pick, lock it up. Given that the Ducks went heavy on forwards in the past two drafts, and that Sami Vatanen and Shea Theodore are no longer Ducks, there seems to be little reason not to select defensemen with the top two picks in this season’s draft (assuming McIsaac in the first).

Johansson plays a simple, yet effective, game built on the back of a high hockey IQ and excellent ability to transition with the puck into the offensive zone, and get back quickly and smartly. Due to his smart decision making and awareness of what is happening around him, this allows him to initiate the breakout with crisp, clean passing that may remind fans of Cam Fowler’s defensive-to-neutral zone playmaking.

Johansson is a right hand shooter, with a good long reach which can be used to disrupt passing and inhibit offensive actions. However, he can sometimes be too reliant on this which leads to his biggest flaw: gap control. In many ways he simply gives the offensive player too much space. A flaw that the Ducks saw in this season’s debutant Marcus Pettersson. This deficiency could potentially limit Johansson coming into pro ranks. However, he is better at getting back than Pettersson is, and thus it seems likely that it is an issue that can be fixed with time and coaching.

On most teams, I would suggest that Johansson projects as a safe second pairing guy. He won’t wow anyone, and in many cases won’t be noticed. But as a 2nd round pick, the Ducks would be getting a regular NHL player who can provide safe, no fuss minutes. I think he’s Murray’s pick for the 2nd round. Welcome to Swedenheim, Johansson.

[Overly Ambitious] Who I would love them to take if available:

Niklas Nordgren - RW - HIFK

I’m reasonably certain that Jesse Ylonen wont be available (someone is going to take him on his international play alone), so I’m going to push him out of my mind and plump my second choice for this slot, his Finnish countryman Niklas Nordgren.

Let’s be honest, you were waiting for the inevitable Finnish inclusion into the list weren’t you? Well, this diminutive Finn is likely to have jumped up a lot of scouting lists after leading the Gold Medal winning Finnish squad in scoring at the World Under-18’s. This performance coming on the back of utterly destroying the Finnish junior league (42 points in 28 games). Following his destruction of the junior league, the powers that be granted him a 15 game showing in the top pro league, in which he put up 3 helpers.

Nordgren averaged 11:50 of ice time per game and posted a 50.5% corsi-for percentage this season; which is better than either of the highly touted Finns (Kotkaniemi, 49.7%,;or Kupari, 46.3%). Nordgen is a right shooting winger standing at 5’7”. However, his diminutive stature belies how strong he is on his skates and his willingness to get involved physically. The Finn is a quick skater with a low centre of gravity making it hard to shift him off the puck; a skill that he’s worked hard on over the past two seasons and a necessary sacrifice as his skating has not always been good enough - particularly for a small player. In fact, it may have been the one thing that was holding him back from stardom.

Outside of his skating, Nordgren is a crafty puck handler in tight spaces, has superb vision, and owns a great wrist shot despite being more of a playmaker. Defensively, he’s incredibly responsible, is always moving his feet to get back into position, and isn’t afraid to block shots or engage opposing forwards physically in front of the net. He is an active checker, both on the forecheck and the backcheck.

If Nordgren can continue to improve his skating, and find new and creative avenues to score he could be a steal of the highest order. I want to say it...so I will. Niklas Nordgren might be the most undervalued guy (relative to his ranking) in the draft. The Ducks need RW’s, they need flow, and they need Finns. Given that small is the new big, in the NHL at large, this is a match made in heaven.

^ Not a bad pro debut hey?

John:

[Logical] Who they should take:

Jett Woo - D - Moose Jaw

The second round is a murky crapshoot of “who might be left” and complete “wow this guy is still around?” revelations. For this selection I am hinging on the later. Final NHL central scouting rankings have him 28th among North American skaters, various mock drafts have him going in the 20s of the first round BUT the Athletics top 100 ranking has him way down at 68 which is enough for me to put him here as the Ducks logical pick for their 54th overall selection. The son of Larry Woo (who you might know as Park Kim in both Goon movies) he already has NHL size and muscle topping the scales at over 205lb and standing at 6’0”. At the age of 17 in his 2nd full year with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL he put up 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists) in 44 games setting career highs in all categories. His points totals fell off in the playoffs - totaling 3 points in 14 games but he did contribute a respectable 2 points in 5 games for Canada at the U18s. He does not have a heck of a lot of high end skill but does have some offensive upside to go with his very smart hockey sense in the shutdown role. His bio reads a lot like a smaller Josh Manson, he has a mature defensive game with good cap control, foot speed and great timing. Knocks on his game include his recent injury woes which could (hopefully) lead to him falling to late in the 2nd. Oh yeah, and he is a righty.

[Realistic] Who they will probably take:

Stanislav Demin (aka Slava Demin) - D - Wenatchee Wild/University of Denver

Given how deep this draft is on blue liners I am almost assuring that Anaheim will take at least two and I am very confident that they will take one in the 2nd round. Slava Demin may sound Russian but is actually OC homegrown, born in Cypress, CA he played for the Junior Ducks Bantam as a 14 year old and for their U16s as a 15 year old. His parents came to the US from Russia in 1999, a year before be was born.

He is projected to go anywhere in the 2nd round but is not likely to last until the 3rd based on his pure defensive ability. Clubs may pass on him due to the lack of evidence as to his offensive upside but make no mistake, Demin has immense defensive awareness. He has just completed his 2nd season with the BCHLs Wenatchee Wild setting career highs in goals, assists and points with 9 goals, 36 assists and 45 points in 57 games. What I like most about what the scouts say about him is his ability to turn the puck over, which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the modern game. His knocks are being “too defensive” - always making the safe play and sacrificing potential offensive opportunities because he is so risk averse. If you are a defenceman and your only criticism is being too defensive - I personally don't have a problem with that. My issue is he is another lefty, but if the Ducks grab a right shooting defender ahead of Slava, I would be happy if they picked him up. He is committed to the University of Denver this season - from whence Troy Terry has just emerged and one could hope the same program that produced Will Butcher (albeit without head coach Jim Montgomery now) may potentially awaken the same offensive potential in the young Demin.

[Overly Ambitious] Who I would love them to take if available:

Ryan Merkley - D - Guelph Storm

This one is a total longshot, the Athletic ranks him 11th overall but pretty much everyone is in agreement that the range for where this exceptionally gifted offensive blueliner might go is very wide. His scoring ability is undeniable, he put up 55 points in 62 games as a 16 year old and followed that up with 67 points in 63 games this past season as a 17 year old; good for 37th overall in the OHL and 3rd among blueliners. Those kind of stats scream first rounder but they come with a caveat; over those two seasons Merkley suffered a -41 and -29, his rookie season -41 effort was a league worst among defenders and this past season he was 5th worst. I realise +/- is an unreliable stat but those numbers are backed up by feedback from scouts suggesting that Merkley too often makes a bad pinch or a poor pass. He is a high risk/reward player whose character may also result in his dropping into the mid to late 2nd round.

But attitude can be easily fixed with time and maturity, the defensive side can also be coached given more time which is something the Ducks have with their young blueline. With Mahura now entering the pro-ranks Merkley would be the perfect part to restart the now slowing Anaheim manufacturing line of defencemen.

Check back for the third part covering our thoughts and predictions on the remaining rounds.

Note: Heat chart graphics are from prospect-stats.com.