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Trading Up At The Draft: The Top Five

Photo: fineartamerica.com

By Thomas Harrington

The Anaheim Ducks have two first-round picks in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft: the ninth overall pick and the 29th overall pick. After the first round, the Ducks will have the following picks: 39th overall, 101st overall, 132nd overall, 163rd overall, and 186th overall. While there will be a number of good prospects available when Anaheim makes either of their first round picks, the Ducks could be interested in some players who will be chosen earlier.

While it’s incredibly rare for a top pick in the draft to be traded, there’s always a chance that a deal could be made. In fact, since 2013, only two top 10 picks have been traded during draft weekend. With that in mind, as in years past, I’ll look at every team with a pick before Anaheim’s second first-round pick, and examine if there is a deal to be made. Also, not every team will be willing to trade their pick or be interested in what Anaheim has to offer. If I don’t think there’s a deal to be made, I’ll say so and move on to the next team.

As I go through these deals, I’ll only use Anaheim players who I think might be traded. Players who have no movement and no trade clauses will not be included in any of these deals, so Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves, and Cam Fowler will not be included. While it’s possible that any of them could decide to waive their clause, going into convincing a player to waive their no trade or no movement clause is something I won’t be considering. Second, players who I think are core pieces of the team will be left out, so Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, John Gibson, Hampus Lindholm, Ondrej Kase, and Jakob Silfverberg will not be included in any of these proposals. That’s not to say these players won’t be traded, just that I think that it’s highly unlikely that they will be. I also won’t be too concerned about cap space since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% in the offseason.

One other thing to keep in mind: the Ducks may be wary of shipping a good player to a division rival, or even another team in the Western Conference. While the Ducks certainly do trade with other teams in the west, most of the recent major trades, like Brandon Montour or Sami Vatanen, were with teams out east. More minor moves, like Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, or Pontus Aberg, were with Western Conference teams.

So, with those players out of the way, here are the players who I think could be used by Anaheim to get a higher pick in the first round: Nick Ritchie, Adam Henrique, Daniel Sprong, and Devin Shore. As a former first-round pick, Ritchie has decent value, but not enough to snag a top pick by himself. He just had his most successful season, so he could be attractive to some teams. Henrique is a very good second or third line center, and with Kesler out for the year, the Ducks may opt to not trade him. However, of all of Anaheim’s likely traded players, he’s the one who could bring back the best return, so if the Ducks do want to move up significantly in the draft, he’d likely be the player moving. Sprong can score, but he struggles in other areas. The Ducks are pretty deep at right wing, so they could move him to try and move up at the draft for a team who needs NHL scoring right now. Shore is a useful role player who is relatively young and is on a good contract. However, he’s not a top scorer, and the Ducks could choose to fill his minutes with a prospect next season instead, making him potentially expendable.

Anaheim’s picks, especially either of their first rounders, could also be in play, as could a number of their prospects. If Anaheim wants to land a top five pick, then I believe that any of their prospects could be traded, especially if the Ducks feel like the drafted player could step into the NHL next year. Even Sam Steel, Max Jones, or Troy Terry could be traded if it meant the Ducks were bringing in a top-five pick. However, the later the pick, the less likely Anaheim will be to trade one of their top prospects.

The talk of this draft has been all about two players: Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Those two will be the first two picks in the draft. After those two, there are a number of players that many teams are excited about: centers Alex Turcotte, Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach, and Peyton Krebs, as well as defenseman Bowen Byram, winger Matthew Boldy, and winger Cole Caufield. While one of these players will be available at ninth overall, most will be gone, so if the Ducks want a specific one of them, they’ll likely need to make a deal. Also, there are a number of other prospects in the draft that the Ducks could be targeting a little later in the first round, but they’ll need to trade up from their second first round pick to make it happen.

One other thing to keep in mind about this draft. Some people view the talent level from 3-10 as pretty even. That could make Anaheim less likely to trade up if they truly believe the player available at ninth overall will be comparable to the players selected third, fourth, and fifth overall. However, it could also mean that other teams are more willing to trade down. So if Anaheim really has their eyes on one of the top centers in this draft, they might be able to make a deal.

With the background out of the way, I’ll focus on the first five picks in the draft for now, and examine the later picks in the future.

Top Two Picks

For the fifth time in his career, sixth if you include the time he went first overall, Taylor Hall’s team holds the first overall pick. Given the season that the New Jersey Devils just had, I’d be shocked if they traded the first overall pick. They’ll take Hughes and be quite happy about it.

The New York Rangers hold the second overall pick. They are currently in the middle of a rebuild, and could really use the kind of scoring that Kakko could bring them. I don’t see a deal happening here either, especially after how dominant he was the recent World Championships.

Third Pick

With Hughes and Kakko gone, the draft is really going to begin with the third overall pick, held by the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago was the big draft lottery winner, moving up nine spots in the order. Given the expensive contracts they have, I doubt they’d be willing to move the third overall pick. But, at times this season, they looked like an elite playoff team. They aren’t as far away from the playoffs as some thought when the season started. And, as this year has shown, you just need to get in and anything can happen.

With that in mind, I think that the Hawks could trade the pick if they were offered the right deal. The Ducks would have to start with the ninth overall pick. I doubt the Hawks would want to trade out of the top 10. They still want to get a solid prospect out of this. Chicago is strong down the center, with Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome leading their centers in points last season. They also had two other centers with over 30 point seasons, so they probably won’t be interested in Henrique. Then again, if Chicago did acquire him, they’d be one of the deepest teams at center in the NHL. Instead, I think that Chicago would want one of Anaheim’s center prospects. While the Ducks wouldn’t want to trade Steel, they’d have to at least consider it if it meant a chance to draft one of the top prospects in this draft. However, I don’t know if Steel and the ninth pick would be enough for the third overall pick. I think Chicago would ask for more than that, and I don’t think the Ducks would want to give up that much more, so ultimately, I don’t see a deal here.

Fourth Pick

The big loser of the draft lottery was the Colorado Avalanche. They held the Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick, and Ottawa finished dead last in the league, but they dropped three spots to fourth overall. Colorado made it game seven of the second round before losing to the San Jose Sharks. They have a boatload of young talent on their roster, led by the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. They also have a ton of cap space. At the deadline, the Avalanche tried to upgrade their center depth, picking up Derick Brassard, but he didn’t do much in the playoffs and only had four goals in 20 regular season games. He’s a free agent on July 1st and will almost assuredly leave.

So Colorado could potentially be interested in an NHL center to really solidify their forward lineup. I think that they’d be interested in Henrique. So the Ducks would offer Henrique and the ninth pick for the fourth overall pick. The Ducks may still need to include something else to make it happen; a mid-level prospect like Chase De Leo or Antoine Morand might also be asked for. The Avalanche would still have a top 10 pick, get an NHL center to really solidify their forward group, and a decent prospect to help in the future. The Ducks get a chance to select one of the top prospects in the draft, something that could be huge for this team going forward.

Fifth Pick

After finishing with the second to worst record in the league, the Los Angeles Kings were the other big draft lottery losers, as they will pick fifth in June. The Ducks and Kings rarely make deals with each other, and I don’t see that changing for this pick. The Kings desperately need some good, young, cost-controlled players. That’s exactly what they will get with who they pick at fifth overall.

Next up, I’ll take a look at the teams picking from sixth to 10th and see if there are any deals for the Ducks to make.

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June 19th, 2019

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