Anaheim Ducks: Is the 10th Overall Pick on the Block?

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – JULY 23: A general view of the draft board from the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021, in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks have finally locked in their draft selection spot for the 2022 NHL Entry Level Draft. As was likely, the lottery balls didn’t bounce their way, and they’ll end up drafting 10th overall, in the position that they finished the season from the bottom. The question for management right out of the gate is “Are there any prospects that will be available at #10 that the Ducks can use?” The answer is of course, yes. Whether it’s taking a gamble on Brad Lambert’s upside, Frank Nazar’s versatility, or the high-rising Jonathon Lekkerimaki, there are always a multitude of talented options that the Ducks can pick up.

The follow up questions are then, “Will these players fit into our current timeline?” Perhaps more interesting would be “What if we traded the pick?” The first question is probably harder to pick than most people would assume. Let’s assume a four-year development pathway from the draft to the NHL for a drafted prospect. At this point, more than half of the Ducks current roster will be on the outside looking in. People have loved Sonny Milano and Troy Terry this year, yet in four years they’ll be 28- and 30-years-old. The Ducks very literally just traded a couple of 28-year-olds. Whoever the new player is, will absolutely fit around Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish, so in a lot of ways it depends on what management see as the core building blocks for this team. If it is the recently selected draft picks of Zegras, McTavish and Jamie Drysdale, then they should absolutely fill out their prospect pool with another talented young player. But what if they believe the core is between Terry and Zegras? All of a sudden, the timetable for playoff performance moves up. Which leads us to the second question, “what if they did trade the pick?” Notably there have been a few trades in the past 20 years that have involved a top-10 draft pick. The list is as follows:

·       2002 – Tampa Bay Lightning trade the #4 pick to the Flyers for Ruslan Fedotenko and two second round picks.

·       2005 – Atlanta Thrashers moved the #8 selection to the San Jose Sharks for the #12, #49 and # 207 draft picks.

·       2007 – San Jose (again!) acquires the #9 draft selection from the St Louis Blues. It was a convoluted season of trades that had many first-round picks changing hands, but ultimately ended up as #13, #44 and a third rounder the next season to move to the #9 overall pick.

·       2008 – New York Islanders trade the #5 selection to Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs moved #7, #68 and a second rounder the next season to move up two spots to the #5 pick.

·       2008 – New York Islanders trade the Toronto #7 pick to the Predators. This trade was for the #9 and #40 draft selections.

·       2011 – Columbus Blue Jackets trade the #8 pick to the Flyers (again!). The overall trade was the #8 and #68 picks, as well as Jakub Voracek, for Jeff Carter.

·       2012 – Carolina trades the #8 pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jordan Staal. It wasn’t a one for one swap, as Carolina also included Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin.

·       2013 – New Jersey Devils trade the #9 pick to the Vancouver Canucks for Corey Schneider.

·       2017 – Arizona Coyotes trade the #7 pick to the New York Rangers. As with some other trades this wasn’t a one for one swap, and was actually, Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta for the #7 pick and Anthony DeAngelo.

·       2019 – Ottawa Senators trade the #4 pick to Colorado Avalanche. The trade was Matt Duchene for Kyle Turris, Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, the #4 pick and the #63 pick.

·       2020 – San Jose Sharks trade the #3 selection to Ottawa Senators. This one is a bit of a weird one that goes back to the previous year. San Jose moved Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers a conditional 2019 second round pick, a conditional 2021 first round pick, a conditional first round pick no later than 2022 and the 2020 pick for former star defenceman Erik Karlsson and Francis Perron. Yikes.

·       2021 – Vancouver Canucks trades the #9 pick to the Arizona Coyotes. The trade was Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland for Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, a 2022 second rounder, a seventh rounder in 2023 and the #9 draft pick.

All in all, it’s quite a few trades, and one would suggest somewhat lopsided towards the team acquiring the top-10 draft selection. In most cases these trades were made by teams who believed they were better than they were and swung for the fences in what they believed was a one-off down year, or that they just needed a little something to tip them over the edge.

I would argue that the Ducks, a team hungry for success after half a decade of mediocrity and downright god-awful hockey, could potentially buy into some high shooting percentages and believe they’re on the cusp of breaking through into the next tier of team. Truly there aren’t that many differences between the Ducks this past season and the Vancouver Canucks in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. I don’t mean by results but by their desperation to see playoff hockey again. Both teams had young pieces, and both were really much worse than their records indicated.

Conversely there are questions as to whether a Jordan Staal type of acquisition would be what the Ducks really need or want. Staal has been a fine player for Carolina and a decade later they have to say they have gained their fair share of value from the trade, but is Staal the difference maker that Ducks fans would dream of if they traded this pick? It’s arguable whether the Ducks need a difference maker if they’re all in on Milano and Terry, however, one season of success is a far cry from certainty.

These negatives however, pale in the face of what may be available. It’s worth noting that most Ducks fans seem to believe that many, if not all, the second-round picks acquired in trade by the Ducks in recent history will be moved towards young players who can fit in with the current group. If that is true, then it would stand to reason that in addition to this the Ducks could also move their first-round picks for greater value players. And if that’s the case they very likely can acquire a trove of young-ish players to fill out the roster and contribute. Devon Toews was acquired for second round picks, so what might a #10 pick acquire?

Once again, it likely will be determined by where management, or fans, believe the Ducks sit as a team. If the going is good and players like Terry are the core that can win the team a Cup, then they should absolutely fire all their bullets and build around him. They’re a team with assets and cap space, and there’s no reason they can’t buy their way into a couple of Cup runs. However, Columbus remains a warning for that type of thinking given they made a trade for Jeff Carter and didn’t reach the post season for another three years. It isn’t to say being aggressive is a bad idea, it just hasn’t really work out by trading top-10 picks. Conversely to the gambling mentality, the Ducks could build around Zegras and McTavish, and use this pick to add to the prospect pool of riches. It doesn’t mean that they won’t ever make the playoffs with Milano and Terry, just that they won’t be considered the core group and the target will be for when McTavish matures as a NHL player. If a 2003 run happens in the meantime, they can always take a gamble then.

Of course, other options are available. They could trade back a couple of places and acquire a further second round pick. Or they could attempt to move up by spending one of the many they have acquired. To me this last option seems more feasible and why not if there is someone they really like. Alternatively, again, the Ducks could blaze their own trail and find a trade that blows everything before it out of the water. The 10th overall pick may not be sexy or even “good,” but it provides the scope for a lot of option depending on the internal perception of the tea.