Even though it’s only been about a month since the NHL Draft, the Ducks pulled off some miraculous moves that deserve a second look. Through seven rounds and seven selections for the Ducks, let’s go back over the picks.
With the 9th pick overall, Bob Murray and the Ducks selected New Yorker, Trevor Zegras, a 19-year-old winger and center combo. He’s 6’0”, 170 lbs, and shoots left-handed. Not many people expected this much talent to fall to number nine, most had him picked by the Red Wings or the Oilers a pick or two before the Ducks, but as we know, the Red Wings made a bombshell pick of defenseman Moritz Seider at seven, and the Oilers elected to select a defenseman in Philip Broberg at eight instead. Zegras had a fantastic year in the USDP on the U-18 Team. His final stat line was 60 GP, 26 G, 61 A, TP 87, and a PIM of 94. He came in third out of his teammates, just finishing behind Jack Hughes (50 GP, 34 G, 78 A, 112 TP, 28 PIM) and Cole Caulfield (64 GP, 72 G, 28 A, 100 TP, 39 PIM). His time on that team was most likely what propelled him so high in the draft, as well as his history of being mostly reliable when it comes to playing every game he’s needed for. It can be said that expectations were very high for Hughes, he was unanimously accepted as the first overall pick for months before the draft, and Caulfield was projected to be another top ten pick due to his scoring ability. But Zegras was a mystery when it came to where he was going to be drafted, as he’s such a special kind of athlete, someone that can fill a role and do it with passion and skill. Zegras fills his role as center and as a winger, which will be incredibly useful for an aging Ducks core of centers and a drained core of Left Wingers currently on the team. And for that kind of gift to fall to number nine is a mystery to most anyone that knows the situation the Ducks are in. As great of a piece, as he is, it’s also his skillset that makes sense for a team that Bob Murray is trying to make younger and faster.
When talking about Zegras, Future Considerations had this to say, “A slippery and shifty skater, he has exceptional foot mechanics and clean edges that allow him to be evasive…”
In watching highlights of Zegras, it’s clear that his skating abilities are light-years ahead of most other Ducks prospects that have yet to make the club, and along with his elite skating comes his passing skills.
Hockeyprospects.com, when talking about his passing abilities, said, “Zegras is one of the best playmakers in this class who can make unique plays by using his dynamic passing ability”.
Looking back at the statistics, 61 Apples on the season for the USDP is nothing shabby, it’s actually pretty incredible. But even outside of the USDP, Zegras has shined in other leagues when it comes to assists as well. 72 overall in his 58 games with the USHL, and 42 assists in 28 games played with the USHL-Prep league. Combined with fantastic young scorers like Rakell, Silfverberg, Sprong, and Kase, it can be assumed, or at the very least hoped for, that he will blossom into a superstar. But, Zegras will not be eligible to start with the Ducks at the beginning of the season, due to his admission into Boston University. He has stated, however, that he would like to sign with the Ducks towards the end of the 2019-2020 season and compete for a roster spot, as reported by the Orange County Register. It’s a plan that Bob Murray scoffed at, so even though we might not get to see Zegras this season, make sure to keep his name stored in the back of your mind because he just might be the next big thing to hit the Pond.
Next up on the drafting order, Bob Murray and the Ducks selected an 18-year-old Canadian scoring left-winger in Brayden Tracey at 29th overall. He’s 6’0”, and 176lbs, and he shoots left-handed. While reading some opinions about this draft from Ducks fans, it seems like a lot of people were left confused by this pick, and there were other more prioritized picks that people wanted. Tobias Bjornfot, Robert Mastrosimone, Lassi Thomson, and Brett Leason are a few names going around, but at the end of the day, Murray most likely was thinking not in terms of a good single player, but rather in terms of a complementary player to Zegras to conclude the first round. Brayden Tracey is exactly the compliment he was looking for.
Taking a look at his best stat line, Tracey had an impressive ‘18-’19 season in the WHL. 66 GP, 36 G, 45 A, 81 TP, 28 PIM. Out of his seasons in multiple leagues, the most noticeable statistic is always his goals statline. Two 36 goal seasons in ‘18-’19 and ‘15-’16, followed by 25 and 21 goal seasons in ‘14-’15 and ‘17-’18. Tracey is someone that thrives most when he has teammates that can set him up. Quoting Future Considerations again, “He has a quick shot and seems to recognize when passing lanes open and he appears to play with patience when he has the puck…” So, what could be better than stealing an elite passer in the first round? Stealing a talented scorer to go with him in the first round as well. With both on the wing, Ducks fans might get to see a show so spectacular that would only be matched by when Kariya and Selanne were on the wing together. The main problem that Tracey finds himself stuck in is his high PIM. In ‘14-’15, he had a career high 46 PIM stat. Luckily, his PIM has gone down drastically since then, only earning 28 minutes in his best overall season so far, ‘18-’19. Out of five playoff appearances in his leagues, he has only racked up 18 PIM, with eight minutes being his highest in ‘15-’16. A high PIM is a problem Murray was well willing to take in order to secure such a talented scoring winger, and considering that it’s been getting better over the years, the stat is not too much of a problem. He’ll likely be developed in San Diego well before he reaches the Ducks, and by that point, hopefully Zegras and Tracey will be used to being wingers together.
The next pick for the Ducks came at 39 in the second round, and they would end up selecting 18-year-old Minnesotan defenseman, Jackson Lacombe. He’s 6’1”, 172lbs, and he shoots left-handed. Finally, the Ducks had chosen the defenseman that most fans were clamoring for. Albeit a late pick, Lacombe’s stat lines wouldn’t show it.
In his best season, which was ‘18-’19 with USHS-Prep, his stats were 54 GP, 22 G, 67 A, 89 TP, 54 PIM. For a defenseman, he’s known as a great puck handler and scorer as well, so yet another steal for Bob Murray. Quoting Mckeen’s Hockey about his puck handling ability, “His hands are quick, and he has shown the ability to react smartly to pressure.” Jackson is a fresh addition to a very grey area for the Ducks, and his scoring might not be nearly as important as his actual defensive play. His skating skills are very impressive, and he’ll most likely keep up in stride with the team’s other prospects, so Ducks fans might expect to see him within two or three years after he’s finished up at the University of Minnesota and once he’s been brought up through San Diego. He’ll be a very welcomed addition to the defense, that’s for sure.
At pick 101, the Ducks selected an 18-year-old defenseman, Massachussetan Henry Thrun. 6’2” and 192lbs, he’s yet another left-handed shot. It was a good draft for left-handers. Thrun is more of an average defenseman than Lacombe in the sense of his ability to skate well and block shots instead of a lot of scoring skills.
In his best season, ‘17-’18 in the USDP on the U17 team, his final stat line was 58 GP, 7 G, 32 A, 39 TP, 12 PIM. Thrun has the potential to be a good set-up man, having back to back seasons of 29 and 32 assists in ‘17-’18 and ‘18-’19, but Bob Murray wasn’t looking for a combo player here. Murray was looking more for some good defensive depth for the team down the road in selecting Thrun.
When asked about him, Future Considerations wrote, “A smart defensive defenseman, Thrun has great vision and an excellent understanding of the game”.
A majority of games played through a season, low PIM numbers, he’s the kind of defenseman you want out on the ice for every game. He’ll be going to Harvard this year, and eventually, we’ll see him in San Diego competing for a spot on the top club. A very promising defense piece for sure.
At pick 132, the Ducks selected another 18-year-old Minnesotan in center Trevor Janicke. More depth at center for Murray, which is now and has been an incredibly strong part of the team. Janicke is a blossoming prospect like his fellow draftees. He has been improving on the statistics side of things, as shown in is increasingly impressive numbers.
Janicke’s best year was the ‘18-’19 season in the USHL, ending up with a stat line of GP 58, 22 G, 26 A, 48 TP, 40 PIM. Another younger player with a high PIM, he could use some developing in the AHL, or possibly below that level to get up to speed with the other prospects. He’ll still be a great piece to the team in the future, and will hopefully become a talented NHL Center. He’ll be going to the University of Notre Dame this year, but Ducks fans can probably expect a long wait before seeing Janicke on the team, let alone in San Diego.
William Francis and Matthew Hill
For picks 163 and 186 (a swap from St. Louis), the Ducks capped off the draft by selecting 18 year old Minnesotan William Francis, and Ontario native Matthew Hill. Both are defensemen. Francis is 6’5”, 207lbs with a right-handed shot, and Hill is 6’4”, 196lbs with a left-handed shot.
Francis’ best season was in ‘17-’18 with the USHS-MN league, and his stat line was GP 25, 8 G, 23 A, 31 TP, 38 PIM. He ended up with four points and only two PIM in the playoffs that year. For Hill, his best year was ‘18-’19 in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. His stat line for that season was GP 65, 2 G, 11 A, 13 TP, 46 PIM. It was a strong ending to an incredibly strong draft, bolstering the defense further for the future. William Francis is completing High School while finishing off his time with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, and Matthew Hill will play another year in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. Ducks and Gulls fans can expect to see Hill a little sooner than Francis, but both could potentially work together on defense someday.
In conclusion, the Ducks made the 2019 NHL Draft one to remember. Bob Murray made seven selections that included one center, one winger, a center and winger combo, and four defensemen. Although a few of these picks might take anywhere from one to three years to join the club in Anaheim, all of them look to have bright futures with enough development and practice.
In one draft, Murray took a sluggish defense and bolstered it back to health, a depleted wing and enhanced it, and made an even stronger center core. It almost makes up for the incredibly silent off-season. So Ducks fans, rejoice that the distant future is looking ever so bright, even if the immediate future isn’t to some.
Featured Image: NHL.com/ducks Statistics Courtesy: eliteprospects.com