With the 2018 NHL Draft taking place this Friday and Saturday in Dallas, we asked a handful of Ducks to recall their experiences of the draft and the days leading up to it. Their recollections are part of a feature series titled Draft Day Memories.
For any player drafted into the NHL, the chances are strong he remembers exactly where he was the moment it happened. For many, that momentous achievement takes place inside the arena in which the draft is taking place. But for others - those who don't attend - their stories are uniquely special.
Josh Manson has become a stalwart on defense for the Ducks since he made his NHL debut on Oct. 31, 2014. Alongside his usual partner Hampus Lindholm, the two have evolved into a dynamic shutdown pairing that logs heavy minutes against the opposition's best lines.
Manson's draft story is distinctive for several reasons. First, he wasn't there for the 2011 edition at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Because the odds were stacked against him, he felt he was better off not attending. Furthermore, he didn't even know the second (and final day) of the draft was well underway when his name was called.
"I was on the fence of whether I was going to get drafted or not," says Manson, who ended up getting selected in the sixth round (160th overall). "It just didn't make sense for me to go. It all happened for me pretty late on, too."
He had just finished his second season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). He put up solid numbers - 12 goals, 35 assists and 47 points in 57 games - and did so as a first-time defenseman. Manson was a forward up until then, labeling himself as an "everyday fourth-line winger." But when a slew of injuries hit the team hard, his coach had little choice but to throw the young Manson on defense. It was a season of transition, but also one of opportunity.
"It was at the end of the season - that summer - when all of a sudden I started talking to a couple of NHL teams," Manson recalls. "I wasn't on the radar at all. Just after the year when I switched to defense is when I started talking to a couple of NHL teams. That's when I got an agent and things started to pick up a little bit like I might be drafted. Nothing was ever set in stone. I was like 'I'm not going [to the draft]. There's no point.'"
He recalls only a handful of teams he spoke with at that time, and the Ducks were among them.
"[Anaheim] was the first team I talked to," Manson says. "Glen Cochrane [an amateur scout with the Ducks] is the one who scouted me out of the BCHL. He was first person I spoke to that said good things. Other than that, there were maybe two or three other teams. I think Boston called me. I heard Toronto called my teams during the season. That's all I can remember."
When the draft came around, Manson knew the odds were stacked against him. He didn't want to get his hopes up in any way. "In my mind, somebody is going to have to take a chance on me," he remembers thinking at the time. "It's a small chance if I get drafted. There really wasn't a need to mentally prepare for anything compared to guys expected to go in the first or second round, or someone who drops in the draft."
As per tradition, Manson says he watched the first round of the draft because he enjoys seeing where the top picks end up. That year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers. Then it was Gabriel Landeskog to the Colorado Avalanche. Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida) was third, Adam Larsson (New Jersey) was fourth and Ryan Strome (New York Islanders) was fifth.
Knowing there was a slim chance he could be drafted in the later rounds, Manson had intentions of following along. Unfortunately, he got the times mixed up.
"I wasn't even watching it on the internet or TV," he admits. "I had plans to go golfing with my buddies because I wanted to take my mind off the draft. That morning, I was brushing my teeth. It was like 10 a.m. and my agent called me and said I got drafted. I was like shocked. 'It happened already?' I didn't even know it was supposed to happen yet."
Manson was caught totally off guard.
"We got two holes in and then I quit," Manson says with a laugh. "I couldn't do it because I was on the phone too much."
If there was ever a team that would take a chance on him in the draft, Manson says it was Anaheim. "The Ducks were the frontrunners in my mind because that was the only team I really spoke with in person. They were the ones I thought were the strongest or most inclined to pick me. At the same time, who knows what could've happened."
What if he ended up going undrafted? The possibility was real. At the time, Manson says he was "just kind of winging it."
"I don't even think I knew the point of going to Junior 'A' was to get a scholarship," he says. "My whole first year, I didn't talk to a team. I was just playing hockey and hoping for the best. If I didn't get drafted, I think I would've just kept playing. I still had another year of Junior 'A' left. I would've went back to it. I would've kept going for a scholarship and tried to make it to college and then try to be a free agent pick up."
Instead, Manson was among a Ducks draft class that all went on to appear in at least one NHL game. Anaheim's first selection that year came at the very end of the first round when it picked Rickard Rakell with the 30th overall choice. From there, the Ducks selected John Gibson (39th overall) and William Karlsson (53rd overall) in the second round, Joseph Cramarossa (65th overall) and Andy Welinski (83rd overall) in the third round and Max Friberg in the fifth round (143rd overall).
Manson went on to have a successful collegiate career at Northeastern, playing three seasons with the Huskies from 2011-14. In 99 career games with the Huskies, Manson compiled 21 points (6g/15a) with a +12 rating and 158 penalty minutes. He concluded his collegiate career by being named a Hockey East Second Team All Star and the Best Defensive Defenseman after captaining Northeastern to a 19-14-4 record in 2013-14.
From there, he made his pro debut with the Norfolk Admirals at the tail end of the 2013-14 season. He split the 2014-15 season with Anaheim and Norfolk before becoming a full-timer in the NHL during the 2015-16 season.
Manson feels grateful the Ducks gave him an opportunity, and he's doing everything he can to return the favor.
"I just try to prove Anaheim made a good pick by taking a chance on me in the sixth round," he says. "I want to show Anaheim they made a great choice in 2011 and that I've tried to be nothing but a positive for this organization since they selected me. Prove that it doesn't matter if you're picked in the first round or second round. You make things work."
Manson's journey to the NHL can serve as inspiration for anyone drafted in the later rounds, or perhaps even those that have gone undrafted.
"The road isn't done if you don't get drafted," he says. "It's not the end of the world. There are still channels to the NHL and professional hockey. Nothing ends because you don't get drafted, and nothing ends if you don't get drafted early on. There are still chances to continue working and making your way up the ladder.
"When I got drafted, that was the first realization I had that there is a chance I could play pro hockey," he says. "I could turn my passion into an actual career. Just because you don't get drafted doesn't mean it should be the end of your dream."