At the time of writing this piece, Game 4 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals was just mere hours away. Tampa Bay was up 3-0, and it looked as though the series against Corey Perry, a former Anaheim Ducks favorite, and the Canadiens was likely nearing its conclusion. The Canadiens fought and won their first game of the series, but Tampa only needs one more win to raise the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row.
Once the playoffs are wrapped up, the next focus for the hockey world will be July 23rd, the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. It is safe to say Anaheim Ducks fans are waiting eagerly for the day to arrive, the team currently holding the third overall pick in the midst of Bob Murray’s mysterious rebuild.
While the GM has spoken over the years about the team being competitive, after the futility of the past year Murray may finally be in the understanding of where his team is at. While teams continue to prepare for the weekend, fans continue to read different mock drafts about which team will take who.
2021 Draft Picks are Up in the Air
Among these mocks, one thing remains consistent, the inconsistent. Unlike previous years, this draft is much more up in the air than in the past. Some point at the talent while others discuss the impact that COVID-19 has played on so many of the development leagues, including one of the most talent-driven in the Ontario Hockey League being suspended for the entire year.
As the draft nears one of the most common takes is that the teammates from Michigan, Matt Beniers and Owen Power, will likely be the first two picks in the draft. The Buffalo Sabres and Seattle Kraken will likely look at taking the best player available for two different reasons. Seattle is building their team from scratch, whereas the Sabers need all the help they can get.
Of course, the third pick in the draft is the Anaheim Ducks, who will have options once they are called to the podium. While selecting third will give the team a great opportunity to pick an impact player, there is no consensus on who could go where in this draft. And while most teams going in have an idea of what they desire in the first round, the Ducks have many holes they need to continue fulling in order to rebuild their prospect pool.
Trading Down Could Earn Anaheim Ducks Impact Player and Late First-Rounder
About a month ago, our staff did a quick roundtable in regards to who we think Bob Murray could select at third overall. Out of five of us, we pretty much had four different answers. And while I mentioned Beniers and Power have been commonly seen as going in the top two, the opportunity of that changing is possible as well.
With this draft being as wide open as the experts are saying, the Anaheim Ducks could have the opportunity of getting a player further down in the Top 10. Looking at the Ducks’ needs, the first thing that stands out is forward depth. Dylan Guenther is ranked on Elite Prospects as high as #2 and low as #12. William Eklund (#2-#7) and Kent Johnson (#6-#15) are also great forward prospects but where they land is up in the air.
Maybe Bob Murray wants to continue bolstering the depth with guys like Simon Edvinsson (#2-#14), Luke Hughes (#3-#11), or Brandt Clarke (#2-#6), there is still an opportunity to get them past the third pick. Picking any of these guys would be a great move by Murray and there could be an opportunity to take advantage of a team that has a specific player in mind.
The Detroit Red Wings will be going into the draft with the 6th and 23rd (from Washington) picks. General Manager Steve Yzerman took the reigns of the rebuild and is soon preparing to reap the rewards of a rich prospect pool.
However, he could potentially be enticed by a certain player and would want to jump on the opportunity to get the guy he wants. If that’s the case, could Bob Murray swing a trade and bring in the two Red Wing picks to give Yzerman the guy he wants with his team ready to close out their rebuild?
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Another team of intrigue is the Columbus Blue Jackets. With having the 5th overall pick GM Jarmo Kekalainen was able to gain the 25th overall pick from Toronto as well as one of the final two picks in the first round from Tampa Bay. Unlike Detroit, the Jackets have been a competitive team as recently as last year, with a lot of good pieces to build around. While there are a lot of questions up in the air in regards to Seth Jones‘ situation, maybe there is a player that Kekalainen is willing to trade two of his three firsts and move up two spots.
While many criticize Bob Murray for the job he does and his seeming lack of interest to rebuild, you have to remember that Murray has been able to score extra first-round picks in the previous two drafts. While trading Brandon Montour in order to eventually select Brayden Tracey may not have been the most popular move, moving out Ondrej Kase while knowing the team wasn’t competitive and eventually getting Jacob Perreault may end up being a great move in the near future.
Murray could make it three drafts in a row having two first-rounders while still getting an impact player to add into the prospect pool. While Columbus and Detroit could be comfortable staying where they are at, it would not hurt for Murray to do some exploring and see if there is an opportunity to gain the draft capital.
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