The Anaheim Ducks were not even close to touching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third year in a row; it is no surprise considering how poorly they have played this season. However, while Bob Murray‘s playoff dreams quickly died, what we can look forward to is another high draft pick. As things currently stand, the Ducks have a good chance of selecting in the Top 5 at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Looking at the current state of the team, the Ducks could benefit from drafting a player at almost any position. However, they already have a good foundation with their previous Top 10 selections from the last two drafts, Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. With a creative playmaking center and dynamic offensively-minded defenseman already in their arsenal, it might sever the Ducks well to look at players who excel at different positions.
Granted, players such as Luke Hughes or Matthew Beniers would still be great complementary pieces for the Anaheim Ducks, and sometimes it’s worth taking the best player available. However, there are some hidden gems ranked outside of the Top 5 that shouldn’t be overlooked. One that particularly piques my interest is Dylan Guenther.
The 18-year-old Alberta native is projected by most experts to go outside of the Top 5 this year. This year’s draft, however, is considered to be very defense-heavy and most teams looking to draft forwards would benefit from taking a center. But, if the Anaheim Ducks already believe they have their number one center for the next decade in Trevor Zegras, it may be worth looking at a player who could be serviceable on the wing.
Dylan Guenther Profile
Born: April 10, 2003 (18 yo) Edmonton, AB
Draft Year Team: Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Height: 6’1″/185 cm
Weight: 181 lbs/82 kg
Success at the Junior Level
According to Corey Pronman, Dylan Guenther’s only flaw is that he doesn’t play center. However, despite his preference to play on the wing, the young forward has set himself apart since his rookie season with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2019-20. At just 16-years-old, Guenther was given top-line responsibilities, Edmonton’s solution at the time to drive their shallow offense.
Nevertheless, despite the pressure of shouldering such a tremendous responsibility, he thrived. In 58 games, he registered 59 points (26g, 33a) with his club. Although the season ended prematurely due to COVID-19, his incredible performance would see him set new franchise records in both goals and points for rookies. At the conclusion of the season, he was awarded the Jim Piggott Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
When the pandemic hit, however, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the return of the WHL. In order to get him playing, Edmonton loaned him to the Sherwood Park Crusaders where he would put up 9 points in 8 pre-season games and 5 points in 4 regular-season games.
The WHL has since resumed play, their regular season starting in March, and Guenther has come out of the gates swinging. In just 12 games, the sophomore winger and Oil Kings alternate captain has posted 24 points (12g, 12a). This included 7 points in his first two games.
His success this season has continued on the international stage as well, serving as an alternate captain for Team Canada at the U-18 WJC. Team Canada was an absolute powerhouse at the U-18’s this year, outscoring their opponents 51-12 in the 7 games throughout their gold medal campaign. Guenther posted 7 points during the tournament, including two game-winning goals.
Areas of Improvement
While we love Pronman’s enthusiasm when it comes to the young Edmonton, Alberta native, there are a few areas where he could show some improvement. The most notable is his lack of strength, which is most noticeable in the defensive zone.
He has all the tools to be an effective asset defensively, but his physical play in the defensive zone doesn’t always match the effort he puts forth in the offensive zone. There are times where he tends to be slow in his defensive contributions, such as entering the zone or putting pressure on an attacker.
He is not physically imposing by any means, but there are also moments he tends to struggle when it comes to getting past the last defender. Putting on a little more muscle will hopefully encourage him to use his frame more, which will bode well for him, especially when facing bigger and physical defensemen. Improving his strength will also help him to win battles along the boards and in front of the net.
Whether it be a bit of overeagerness on his part or simply just misinterpretation of a play, Guenther can sometimes make ill-advised passes. He could also improve on how he manipulates his space when he is in possession of the puck.
His game is far from a finished product, but he has all the ingredients to be an NHL star. He shows a willingness to work hard, and as his development continues, he will likely become a more well-rounded player in all facets of the game.
The Upside in Adding Guenther to the Anaheim Ducks
An issue the Anaheim Ducks currently have is an overabundance of playmakers. Outside of Jacob Perreault, they don’t have a player who is an explosive goal scorer. It has been more evident this season than ever before, ending the season 31st in Goals For. They need finishers. And now, Dylan Guenther has entered the chat.
Guenther can score goals from all over the offensive zone. He has a quick release, and his shot is both powerful and accurate. He tends to be a one-touch shooter, releasing the shot almost as soon as he accepts the pass. While he loves showing off his high-end one-timer and dangerous wrister he isn’t afraid to get in down low and burn goalies with an elevated backhand.
He has very crafty hands, sound positioning, and is deceptive with the puck on his stick. Guenther can also change his shooting angles instantaneously, which makes it extremely difficult for defenders to get in his way and block the shot.
Guenther is also a very skilled skater. It takes him only seconds to reach his top speed. His ability to accelerate so rapidly makes him dangerous and hard to contain in the neutral zone. Paired together, his agility, smooth skating, and fancy edgework make it easy for him to create odd-man rushes. With open ice in front of him, he always sees and plays the game just a few steps ahead of his opponents.
While I did mention earlier that the 18-year-old winger had some areas he needed to improve upon defensively, he still plays a stellar two-way game. He’s taken a significant stride forward this last season in his defensive game. One thing that might make him stand out to Bob Murray is the fact that he’s willing to get into the dirty areas and play with grit, while still maintaining a level head and keeping himself out of the penalty box.
He is constantly putting pressure on his opponents and making their lives miserable whenever he is on the ice and doesn’t already have the puck. His stick is always active, he isn’t afraid to play an aggressive game, and he has been a big part of his team’s penalty kill as well as the go-to guy in close situations. Sure, sometimes he overcommits, but the pros definitely seem to outweigh the cons in this situation.
With all of that being said, Guenther is a very driven, dedicated, and talented individual. Murray has been fortunate to draft talent in the last two drafts, but adding a player of Guenther’s caliber could help him get all of his Ducks in a row sooner rather than later (pun intended.)
Bob Murray Can’t Waste an Opportunity to finding a Solution for Goal Scoring
The Anaheim Ducks need goal scorers, and they don’t have time to waste in finding them. Of course, they could always find these players by testing their luck on the trade market or in free agency. But, why not find a player you can eventually parade around as a homegrown product? In this instance, you know what you’re getting and, from day one, you can steer their development in the direction that is right for the franchise.
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- Anaheim Ducks 2021 Draft Profile: Luke Hughes Lives up to his Pedigree
There have been rumors that GMBM will be seeking out a defenseman once again, there have even been mentions of goaltenders, but in my opinion, finding players who can score goals in these next two drafts is essential to starting this rebuild off on the right foot.
Max Comtois took a big step forward this season, but if all you can get from your highest goal scorer is 16 goals and you’re not doing anything to fix that when there is a solution right in front of you, the Anaheim Ducks might have deeper seeded issues than we all realize; and we already know this team is chalked full of issues!
Whether it’s Guenther or Matty Beniers, the Anaheim Ducks have the opportunity to add forward depth to their prospect pool. There are quite a few stellar defensemen in this year’s draft too. However, the Ducks need to tackle one issue at a time, and quite frankly, it’s impossible to overlook their lethargic offense.
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