Every year, the SB Nation NHL team sites get together and run a simulation of what the first round of the NHL Entry Draft might look like. Playing Armchair GM has been more difficult this year, as we evaluate eligible players on a shortened, and in some cases cancelled, seasons. If our Mock Draft is any indication, the first round is far from set in stone.
This year, the Anaheim Ducks are armed with the third-overall pick. Before we get to the picks, I’ll run through my thought process as a pretend general manager.
The last couple of drafts have seen the Ducks targeting defenders early and often. The 2021 Draft Class features a number of defenders who are expected to go in the first round.
But with Henry Thrun, Jackson LaCombe and, of course, Jamie Drysdale on the up-and-up, I went into this pick hoping to fix the fact that last year’s Anaheim Ducks couldn’t score to save their lives. Unless Owen Power falls to third, the Ducks should pursue a forward.
Here were the picks ahead of the Ducks:
- Owen Power — Buffalo Sabres
- Matthew Berniers — Seattle Kraken
With the third pick in the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, Anaheim Calling selects winger Dylan Guenther from the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
There isn’t much of a consensus on where Dylan Guenther may fall, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie is high on the forward, ranking him second-overall. His lowest ranking comes in at 12th-overall, and it seems likely that Guenther gets taken in the top five.
Armed with an explosive shot, the winger (who shoots right, but can play on either side) scored at a two points per game average in 12 games with the Oil Kings in 2021, who played just 23 total games due to coronavirus. He ranked third on the team in goals with 12, despite playing half as many games as the two players above him.
The previous season saw him as a point per game player, with 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists) in 58 games. At the 2021 IIHF U18 tournament, Guenther was on the championship Canadian team, scoring four goals and three assists in seven games.
His speed and shot make him a type of complete player that will shortly be ready for NHL ice, something the Ducks will absolutely be looking for in their third-overall selection.
Why not Guenther?
It’s difficult to argue against the incredibly small sample size of 12 WHL games and seven tournament games in 2021. For a pick so early in the draft, general managers don’t like to take risks and unfortunately, a spectacularly small sample size last year is a bit of a risk.
His defensive play and physicality in particular have seen some strides, but is difficult to evaluate over such a small number of games. Guenther will almost certainly return to the WHL next season, where some of the defenders in this draft class might be able to step into the NHL more quickly.
There’s also the versatility of a winger who can play on either side, versus a center who can also play wing, to consider. The Ducks may prefer a strong center if they are to take a forward at third, though I’d argue that Guenther having the best shot of the draft class puts him ahead of any center.