Following our assessments of the Ducks list and prospect pool (here), our selection for rounds 1 & 2 (here) and the two picks they have in the 3rd round here, the final part of our Entry Draft preview is upon us, thanks for sticking with it!
Rounds 4, 5 & 6
These rounds are harder to predict but just to throw some names out there here are some ideas to close out how things might go for the rest of the draft.
Round 4 - 116th Selection:
I am completely aware that the Ducks won’t draft a single Russian player - let alone the 30 I’ve already mentioned (I have a bunch of them in my top 100 this draft season) - because of reasons. However, I think they should look at the left shooting rear-guard, Bogdan Zhilyakov in the 4th round.
He’s currently scheduled to go somewhere in the 5th round, and is the 45th ranked European skater (by NHL Central Scouting). With that in mind, it can be said that he’s a smooth, fast skater that routinely out-skates the forecheckers before connecting on crisp and hard tape-to-tape passes out of the defensive zone.
He isn't the most dynamic player offensively (read: he’s safe/beige), which is apparent given the lack of offense from him in MHL and international play and this may hold some concerns for the team drafting him. Yet, despite the lack of scoring, I would argue that he has the tools to run a power play with his quick feet and underrated shot - I would suspect that he simply requires the green light from coaches, and some good ego boosting, to allow him to do so.
Zhilyakov has good size, currently standing in at around 6’1 and 175 lbs, and if the Ducks were to bring him over and develop him slowly - both parties would require patience - they could have a really good player on their hands.
Round 5 - 147th Selection
For my 5th round choice, I’ll lead you towards former #3 overall (OHL) draft pick Connor Roberts. He’s a big, physically dominant 17 year old that plays in a somewhat similar manner to Ducks captain, Ryan Getzlaf - although many will note the highlights packages on Youtube focus predominantly on his goal scoring. At ~6’4 and 215 lbs, Roberts is already sized for the NHL. When combined with his quality skating and solid puck handling, Roberts presents an intriguing case this late in the draft.
Prior to this season, Roberts had competed for team Canada in the Youth Olympics in 2016, collecting 4 points in 6 games. A potential foreshadowing of what may lay ahead for him. Yet, despite that showing in tournament play, and his high billing in the CHL draft, Roberts hasn't yet caught the world on fire in his OHL play.
A relatively substandard season for the Hamilton Bulldogs (15 points in 63 games) in the 2016-2017 season rolled into a slow start in the 2017-2018 season (8 points in 22 games). This, in part, led him to be traded to the Flint Firebirds - a trade that was seemingly made for the Firebirds to acquire draft picks going forward. Since that point in time his game has elevated (27 points in 44 games), and he has developed his confidence to go with this.
As one of 5 potential NHL draftees on the team, the Firebirds played Roberts on the first line with one of the other NHL hopefuls, Ty Dellandrea (ranked 30th by Future Considerations). Furthermore, Roberts was also given power play time. Time in which he scored 5 markers.
Taken together, this may be a sign of their growing trust in him, and it certainly shows a player who began to thrive with greater responsibility. Nonetheless, Roberts 35 points on the season ranked him well into the 100’s for total points amongst OHL forwards. This places him firmly into the “diamonds in the rough” category at present day, and there are still many doubts as to whether or not he will continue to improve. The danger that he’s just a big kid in a small kid’s world is also somewhat troubling given the lack of offense.
With all of that said, Roberts is in a good situation in Flint and has the chance to grow with a collection of solid young players, including Dellandrea and 2017 #10 OHL draft pick Ethan Keppen. Given his unique combination of size and speed and with the growth he showed when given greater responsibilities on with his new team, I would think the Ducks consider him in the 4th round. Assuming the Ducks take defencemen early - a very likely scenario - I would be more than happy to take Roberts instead of Zhilyakhov in the 4th round.
It is my belief that he could be a prime candidate to break out offensively in the next two seasons, which would make him a steal this late in the draft. However, as a worst case scenario, he projects as a bottom 6 centre that can provide some snarl in that roster space. Thus, I think Roberts is a fine selection and a relatively safe bet this late in the draft.
Round 6 - 178th Selection
For the Ducks 6th round pick I’m going to throw two names at the wall, aiming for the second name and knowing full well that neither has even the slightest chance of sticking - although if the Ducks do pick one of these guys, get prepared for the “I told you so’s”.
The first name that I’ll mention is Andrej Kukuca. Kukuca is a 6’2, right-shooting Slovakian pivot. A right-shooting big centreman who just happened to put up 41 goals and 67 points in 42 games. Slovakian leagues may not be as good an indicator of NHL suitability as other European leagues may be, however, it is noteworthy that Kukuca scored more than any other player in Europe last season. Only the 17 year old Czech giant Adam Klapka came close.
Klapka is, of course, the second name I’ll throw out. He scored 32 goals and 46 points in 36 U-18 games. He also had 2 assists in his three U-20 games. Fine totals, and worth a look at deep into the draft. But what makes him a consideration for an NHL spot in the future? Well I mentioned giant did I not? Klapka, stands at ~6’7” and weighs nearly 238 lbs. At 17 years of age!
Let’s be frank here, the Draft is a lottery, and the lower ends of the draft have odds so poor it’s hardly worth mentioning the names of anyone involved. But since the Ducks are going to pick players this late, why not pick them on potential upside? A growing boy who is already 6’7” at 17 years old and who loves to bury the biscuit seems like a pretty crazy ceiling for a lottery ticket to me.
Imagine for a moment that they also take Curtis Douglas in the third round and Adam Klapka, and both players pan out? Wouldn’t it just be a little bit silly to have two ~6’8” monsters who can score, bearing down on the opposition? It may be a silly little dream with very little chance of panning out, but that's the draft, and in particular, that’s the draft when you’re picking in the 6th round.
Round 4 - 116th Selection:
Lets look back at the Ducks previous selections at the 4th round:
2017: Kyle Olson - C - WHL
2016: Jack Kopacka - LW - OHL
2016: Alex Dostie - C - QMJHL
2012: Andrew O’Brien - D - QMJHL (later traded for Max Gortz)
2012: Kevin Roy - LW/C - USHL
2009: Sami Vatanen - D - SM-Liiga
Upon first glance Anaheim appears to have shied away from fourth rounders entirely during their existence to date. Vatanen and Belesky (and possibly Roy) are the only success stories thus far. Of the now 25 years that the franchise has been in existence, Anaheim have had 22 fourth round selections and with the exception of Belesky - dating back to selections made before Sami it gets a little ... bad. Coincidence or not - this bad period ends with Bob Murrays first draft in 2009, in which he selected Sami Vatanen at 106th overall.
Given I believe the Ducks will take their minimum two defencemen in the higher rounds and either take a goaltender in the third or fifth round I believe they will target a forward in the fourth.
Justin Ducharme - RW - Acadie-Bathurst Titan/Chicoutimi
Yes that is the recent Memorial Cup winning Titan and yes the same team Antoine Morand was on (now traded to start his final junior year). Ducharme was a huge part of the Titan penalty kill. He is described as being a potential sleeper due to his speed and ability to read the play.
The depth chart with Acadie-Bathurst limited his overall ability to progress but he has also since been traded and will begin the year with Chicoutimi where he could be played in all situations.
His regular season numbers aren’t that impressive (23 points in 53 games) but his playoff numbers are intriguing; 11 points in 20 games in both the QMJHL championship and the Memorial Cup, indicating he plays well in the big games. I promise he is the last potential draftee I apply this label to, but he could be the next hotshot penalty killer to replace Cogs.
Round 5 - 147th Selection
The Ducks last 6 years in the 5th round have looked like this:
2017: Olle Eriksson-Ek - G - Super Elit
2015: Troy Terry - C/RW - USNDP
2014: Matt Berkovitz - D - USHL
2013: Grant Besse - LW/RW - USHS-MN
2012: Brian Cooper - D - USHL
2011: Max Friberg - RW - J20 Elit
So based on this small sample size you can either gamble on a small forward and hope it pans out (Terry, Friberg), a steady defender and hope he develops an offensive game (which none of the above have done) or an unheralded goaltender that may have flown under the radar but definitely has potential. I would like the Ducks to go the latter route with this pick.
I have seen some recent mock drafts pointing toward this kid going to the Bruins in the fourth round but he also goes undrafted on some boards and with the exception of the press coming out of the Memorial Cup, has almost no hype.
Max Paddock - G - Regina Pats
The 17 year old took over from the starter midway through the season going 13-2-1 with a 2.33 GAA and a .920 SV%. He was named the WHL Rookie Of The Month in March and finished the season with a semi-respectable but not particularly standout numbers of 2.90 GAA and a .904 SV%.
Despite missing the Pats first round series due to injury, he was back for the Memorial Cup and looked very good, finishing the tournament with the most saves (168) and 2nd best save percentage. Not bad considering his competition. He was described as being the difference in a minimum of two if not three of the Pats 6 Memorial Cup games - including a semi-final against the highly touted Hamilton Bulldogs. If ever there was a goaltender to take a flyer on with a later rounder - Paddock is a good bet.
Round 6 - 178th Selection
Given the Ducks do not have a 7th rounder I would like to include two players here for consideration. It is always a great story to find a gem in the last round of the draft and Josh Manson proves that Anaheim has definitely had luck in the 6th before. Based on their past experience in this round they have either taken a lower ranked Goaltender (Metcalf 2015), American defencemen with unknown upside (Ruggiero, Lind), or Europeans that have scoring skill but no guarantee of coming over (Aaltonen). I would like to combine the last two conditions for one of my picks and just go off the board completely for my other suggestion.
Vladislav Yeryomenko - D - Calgary Hitmen
Vladislav Yeryomenko is a 19 year old right shooting defender from Belarus playing in the WHL for Ryan Getzlaf’s former club, the Calgary Hitmen. He was draft-eligible last year but was not chosen due to scouts being shy of his dubious sheltered usage on a stacked Hitmen squad (25 points in 62 games). However, his most recent year of progression has caused him to lift into the 90-100s selection area (41 points in 63 games).
Having been elevated in the Hitmen lineup by a combination of shifting pieces and a new coach, he gradually added to his game and by year-end was one of the better all-round blueliners on the roster.
His upside is that of a roaming offensive defencemen, joining the rush at the right times and reading defensive coverage to coordinate or finish plays. This skill set also translates to the powerplay where he is never stationary. He opens passing lanes by shifting constantly and switching positions, causing nightmares for opposing penalty killing units. His downsides are on defense where he is too reliant on positioning rather than physicality and can sometimes get caught against quicker forwards. His age presents a shorter development time, but if he can continue to improve with the Hitmen with his existing instincts on offense, he could be a high reward late pick.
Liam Kirk - LW/C - Sheffield Steelers
Now for my off the board pick.
This kid isn't so much a secret given he has had lot of attention heading into the draft owed to being possibly the 2nd ever player developed and drafted out of the UK (the last was in 1986). But despite playing in a less-than-comparable league to those generally combed for potential NHL talent, Kirk presents a curious case.
Playing for his local Sheffield under 16 club in 2013, Kirk scored 54 points in 16 games as a 13-14 year old. That is 3.4 points per game folks. As a 16 year old he put up 98 points in 17 games for the U18 club. 5.8 points per game for those keeping track at home. Last year as a 17-18 year old he contributed 16 points in 52 games for the Elite League level version of his club playing mostly 4th line minutes against men and expats of various European and North American leagues. He also potted 14 points in 5 games for Great Britain at the Div2 U20s - again not the usual level competition that NHL draftees are typically taken from but interesting nonetheless.
He has indicated that he would like to take his game further and CHL teams have expressed interest in taking him in the import draft, so the door is open for him to come over and see how his talent compares with his North American peers.
This feels more to me like a 7th round pick but again - the Ducks dont have one - so I just like the feel good story element based off how Nathan Walker has been able to develop some of his game in his home country of Australia (4-3 games with the Sydney Ice Dogs in between his Czech stints) before getting drafted out of HC Vitkovice. The NHL needs more stories like this to grow the game globally.
Honourable mention: Otto Kivenmaki, LW, Assat Pori
Because I couldnt leave without a Finn or a little guy.
Kivenmaki has been mentioned in some circles as a sleeper. At 5’8” and 137 pounds he put up 37 points in 37 games for the Assat U20 team in the Junior A SM-Liiga this season, but some teams may be scared off by his size. Described has having great hockey sense and acceleration to match his soft hands, the Pori native also boasts exceptional playmaking skills and timing. As is often the case with smaller forwards, his defensive game is lacking but given he can make a lot happen offensively, the trade-off may be worth it.
I believe that the selections I’ve made for the “logical,” “realistic,” and “ambitious” criteria over these articles show two clear trends: 1) Potential game-breaking skill; and 2) Unique player characteristics.
The rationale for that is that I believe that the Ducks require a change, and a move away from two-way players that do not excel at either end of the ice. Steady players are and always will be required, and to that end there are some players who do fit that profile. Yet, it should be considered that game breaking talent isn't steady: it’s erratic and wild.
All the teams in the post season (with the exception of maybe the Golden Knights) this season showed up to the dance with players that turn the course of a game. Notably this was mostly on the offensive end, yet an incredible defensive talent would do the job just as well. It’s this type of player that the Ducks are missing on their roster (sans Ryan Getzlaf) and in their prospect pool.
It is my strong belief that for the Ducks to be a cup contender in the future, and with regularity, they need to acquire the unique talent that is required to reach the upper echelons of the hockey stratosphere. I believe this to be the most glaring weakness in the Ducks player pool.
That said, I would like to pick up a good RW prospect somewhere along the lines, given the dearth of them currently in the system. However, this doesn’t appear to be a plausible outcome in this draft, as Noel (covered by John) may be the highest rated RW in the Ducks sights. Assuming they do not acquire Noel, covering the right wing position would then require them to take a leap of faith on higher risk prospects. A risk that seems unlikely give Murray’s draft history.
If anything, I believe that this will be a defence heavy draft for the Ducks. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but may necessitate a trade down the line, or even a trade on draft day.
Furthermore, given the state of the current list, the projected players available at each draft position, and Murray’s end of season comments, I very much doubt that the current selection of picks is what they finish the draft weekend with. I do think Murray will hoard his picks, and it’s very likely he’ll acquire some solid future NHL players if he does so. However, I think we’ll find he’ll accrue at least one more pick in the first two rounds, and two more picks within the first three.
Overall, while I would love to believe that Murray will take some chances on game breaking talents, I think he’ll play it safe. This will result in some regular, but unspectacular future NHL players selected in the first two rounds, and maybe a single further one selected amongst all the picks from rounds 3-6 (or 7 if they acquire another one late). Overall, a solid weekend tying up many years of hard work for the scouting group.
As much as I have tried to understand where and how the Ducks will select this upcoming draft I can ultimately only guess. I have seen enough scenarios and names to know, however, that this particular class is extremely deep on defence which, if history is any indication, can only mean good things for the Ducks.
With Bob Murray's indication that he wishes to change the direction of this roster and what with the recent success of teams that push the speed and transition game, this draft marks a potential turning point for whether or not Murray was serious about finally adjusting this club’s focal skill set for the future.
All eyes will be upon who the Ducks select with their first pick. Do they finally take another Russian as Benny and I hope? Will they restock the blueline with some offensive-movers and try to heal the wounds left by losing Shea Theodore to their own contract mismanagement? Do they find the next franchise between the pipes? Or perhaps the future after Getzlaf?
We will just have to wait and see.
Note: Heat chart graphics and North American stats can be found at prospect-stats.com.