Well it wasn’t quite the blockbuster event that many were hoping for, with the exception of Mike Gillis and the way his brain works, but in terms of the draft itself it was as intriguing an event as ever. Anaheim had to wait over 2 and a half hours to make their first selection, and made 5 picks in total. Let’s take a look at how the day went down for the Ducks.
#26 OVERALL – SHEA THEODORE
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
2012/13 Stats: 71GP - 19G - 31A - 50P
Rankings: Bob McKenzie #44, Central Scouting (North America) #11, ISS #38, McKeen’s #49, Corey Pronman #30
Definitely taken in the right range at this point in the draft (though rankings were all over the place), this selection was briefly discussed yesterday here and was also considered a possible selection at this point by Anaheim back in early June. You can check out full scouting reports on him in that first link, but to briefly sum up:
- Talented offensive blueliner;
- Top-end skating talent;
- Great shot;
- Defensive game is still developing;
- Could stand to put on some more muscle mass.
So where does he slot on Anaheim’s depth chart? Well it’s safe to say he’ll be spending at least 2 more years in junior, followed by probably at least one season in the AHL minimum - he won’t be helping the big club anytime soon. But rest assured, in terms of pure talent level he sits right behind Hampus Lindholm, last year’s 6th overall selection. Lindholm gets the nod thanks to a better two-way game and being further along in his development cycle. If developed right, Theodore could be a top 4 defender in a few years time, but in the meantime requires significant development to reach that potential. Still, this low in the first round that is the kind of player one should expect, and is no bad thing.
#45 OVERALL – NICK SORENSEN
Farevejle, Denmark (represents Sweden internationally)
Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
2012/13 Stats: 46GP - 20G - 27A - 47P
Rankings: Bob McKenzie #54, Central Scouting (North America) #48, ISS #55, McKeen’s #47, Corey Pronman #48
Another guy taken “in the range” of where scouts had him ranked, Sorensen had an injury plagued season, the second in a row, but showed well enough in the games he did play for the Ducks to take him on. He is a skilled offensive player with a physical nature to his game. Here is what Corey Pronman has to say on him:
He has above-average top speed, which he couples with a fair amount of puck skills, creativity, and offensive instincts. This combination of offensive skills projects him as a player with scoring line upside. He also displays a good level of physicality while not taking too many penalties. He needs to continue to gain strength while working on his defensive play. Whoever drafts him will be adding a player with quality tools to their organization, but also one who has a history of injury in consecutive seasons.
The Scouting Report meanwhile agrees with Pronman’s assessment of his skating, but is more wary of his offensive ability:
Has first round pedigree but has really struggled his North American transition with injuries… Foot speed and skating ability projects well to the NHL level… Shows solid 2-way play and potential PK ability… Needs to show more offensively…Creativity is fairly average.
Only time, and a full healthy season, will tell us which scout is closer to the mark, but either way both reports suggest he is a very talented skater who may have been taken higher were it not for the injuries. He will have some competition on right wing, with both Emerson Etem and Rickard Rakell in his way, both highly talented with better draft-pedigree, but that’s certainly not to say he doesn’t have a chance. It’s never bad to have depth at a position, and he might receive an opportunity on the left side where the Ducks are slightly weaker among prospects. He is likely 3 years away minimum from seeing NHL action – 2 years of junior, 1 year in the minors – but has top-6 potential.
#87 OVERALL – KEATON THOMPSON
Devils Lake, North Dakota
2012/13 Stats: 26GP - 3G – 6A - 9P
Rankings: Bob McKenzie #72, Central Scouting (North America) #53, ISS #49, McKeen’s #85, Corey Pronman #72
Named after the man synonymous with Beetlejuice and Batman (he’s not), Keaton Thompson is once again a player taken in the range of his ranking. Thompson is a keep-it-simple-stupid kind of defender out of the much-vaunted US National Development Team. His offensive stats don’t stand out in any way, but that’s not really what got him drafted. Corey Pronman:
Thompson is not a highly skilled player, nor a flashy one, but he plays an advanced and mature game for his age. He was up-and-down this season, tailing off toward the end of the campaign. He shows a good panic threshold with the puck, and he tends to make good decisions. He knows how to position his body and his stick in such a way to make him an effective defender despite his slightly undersized frame.
He is a quality puck mover who makes good outlets, and he can be decent on the power play. Thompson is an above-average skater with good footwork, top speed, and closing ability. Combining those attributes with his defensive sense allows him to make a lot of stops. However, he is fairly average with the puck, and as an NHLer, he does not project as a significant offensive player. He also needs to get a little stronger.
And here’s The Scouting Report:
North Dakota native is committed to play in the NCAA with the Fighting Sioux… Impressive allaround defenseman with great understanding of the game and ability to buy time… Makes great outlet passes and rarely forces the play… Projects to have NHL value at both ends of the ice.
So, a safe defensive player with a good frame but lacking size, and perhaps an underrated offensive game. A nice piece to have in the system, and from the sounds of it the team will have plenty of time to let him develop: he is apparently slated to spend one more year in the USHL, and is committed to join North Dakota of the NCAA in 2014/15, where he could spend anywhere from 1 to 4 years playing. Keaton probably slots in around the middle of the pack of the Ducks’ cluster of defense prospects; again, added depth is no bad thing.
#147 OVERALL – GRANT BESSE
Benilde-St.Margaret’s (High School, Minnesota)
2012/13 Stats: 25GP - 44G - 25A - 69P
Ranking: Central Scouting (North America) #106
There’s not a lot of information available on this player, and with HockeyDB stating he played for Omaha in the USHL and others stating he was in the Swedish second division it get’s a little cloudy. After a little Googling, it was possible to find some info on him from the Bucky’s 5th Quarter blog over at SB Nation. Their bio on him suggests he’s slightly bigger than the NHL.com bio, but either way he’s an undersized forward. Nonetheless he had terrific scoring numbers playing for his High School, and that has earned him a chance to play for the Wisconsin Badgers of the NCAA. His season also earned him player of the year honours from the Star Tribune Metro and even more significantly, the Minnesota “Mr Hockey” Award – a very prestigious title, with past winners including Nick Bjugstad, Nick Leddy and Ryan McDonagh – signifying that despite the lack of information available, he is a prospect of some interest. Here is what his head coach at Wisconsin Mike Eaves has to say about him, via Bucky’s 5th Quarter:
As a junior last year, he led the state in scoring and led his team to the state championship. He is very skilled, sees the ice well, can shoot, handles the puck and has great vision. He’ll bring a lot of offensive tools to the shelf.
Bucky’s 5th Quarter has their own scouting report on him:
Besse has many skilled facets to his game, but there’s no question his shooting ability is what makes the Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward stand out. Besse has a quick release and the ability to get his shot off even with defenders draped all over him. Wisconsin has lacked pure goal scorers recently, but Besse should help fill that void when joins the club next fall. He’s not overly physical, but Besse did play more aggressive with his body last season. He’s not afraid to give and receive contact when necessary.
While he’s not a burner, Besse is a fluid skater, and his intelligence and anticipation always seem to put him in the right spots to make plays. Even though he’s left-handed, Besse enjoys playing on the right wing, where he can open up on the weak side to unleash his shot. Given that Wisconsin is so left-hand dominant, I’d expect Besse to continue playing on the right side next season for the Badgers.
Besse will be remembered as one of the best high school players in Minnesota history. His 163 career goals rank fifth all-time in state history, and his 272 points rank him seventh. While his career numbers will keep him in the record books, he’ll forever be known as the kid who had the best state championship game of all time. As a junior in the AA title game vs. Hill-Murray, Besse registered all five of his team’s goals — including three short-handed — in a 5-1 victory. Besse finished the tournament with eight goals and 11 points in three games.
I included this much information on him because the more I read on him, the more he sounds like a prospect of high interest. He’s got many things in his way, including players like Sorensen, Rakell and Etem, as well as being undersized, but he sounds like a guy who should have a close eye kept on him. He’s likely several years away, perhaps playing through most if not all of his college eligibility. He hasn’t even played an NCAA game, let alone pro hockey, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That said, this kid certainly has talent.
#177 OVERALL – MIRO AALTONEN
2012/13 Stats: 32GP - 11G - 5A - 16P Rankings: Central Scouting (Europe) #40, Corey Pronman #86
Another player that required some digging around on, but Corey Pronman did have some stuff on him over at Hockey Prospectus. Despite the Ducks selecting him at 177 and him being 20 years old (and thus twice undrafted), don’t be fooled – this guy was ranked in Pronman’s Top 100 prospects for the 2013 draft and that is no mean feat. Here’s how he describes the diminutive Finn:
Despite being twice undrafted, Aaltonen took a significant step forward this season, showing quality offensive ability, particularly in U20 play. He is a creative, puck-possession type forward who has elements of flash and creativity in his game. He is a gifted puck handler, and he couples that with good offensive playmaking awareness. He shows the ability to make quick, correct decisions in tight spaces.
He is also a solid to above-average skater, who may not have the ultra top gear desirable for a smaller player, but he certainly displays good speed. To that, his size is his major issue. He is 5’10″ with a frame that needs bulk. He works hard, he will throw his body, and he will drive to the high percentage areas, but he still needs to develop his physicality. He also needs to improve his defensive play.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the kind of player that Detroit always seems to nab and they turn into stars years down the line? Of course, the likelihood of that happening is extremely low, and expectations should be kept in check — as they should for all prospects — but it’s not like this is completely off the board. ”Puck-possession” is the phrase that caught my eye in the above report, as that is a skill that the Ducks could most certainly use – not that Aaltonen will be able to help with that for a long time, but it’s a good aspect for a prospect to have. He put up decent stats in a men’s league despite being undersized, and you simply never know. The Ducks’ do have some depth at center, so Aaltonen will really have to improve and impress down the line, but the Ducks don’t need him yet, not to mention it’ll be nice to see some competition for spots in the future.
HOW DOES THIS DRAFT RATE?
Of course, it’s very hard to evaluate a draft right away because for so many of the players selected there isn’t a lot of information, and we won’t know how they turn out as players for at least another 5 years yet. Some players expected to be sure-fire NHLers will flame out before getting close, and others considered long-shots will end up as NHL regulars, it’s just the way of hockey.
That said, from the information available right now for these players, the Ducks appear to have drafted very sensibly, not taking any “reach” picks (i.e. players ranked a lot lower) in the top 100, and after pick 100 have selected players passed over by other teams who are low-risk, high-reward types. All the draftees can actually play hockey, in other words no enforcer types. They are all regarded as good skaters, and all have an offensive dimension, or at least offensive potential. It’s hard to argue against that strategy.
It’s hard to imagine any of these guys turning into superstars, barring one of them raising their level of play by a completely unpredictable margin, so it’s doubtful this will be a “draft for the ages”, but very simply the Anaheim Ducks have added some very good young players to the organisation. Can’t complain about that.