Madden draft

The hard work is (nearly) finished and it's almost time to meet some new Anaheim Ducks next week in Las Vegas.

The Ducks will be busy early and often at the 2024 NHL Draft, armed with the third overall selection, an additional first rounder and a total of eight picks in the initial three rounds.

With one week to go until draft night, caught up with Ducks Assistant General Manager and Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden for what to expect inside Sphere.

On the strength of the draft class
I really do think the top 12 is a good class. It's not elite because beyond that number one pick, I don't see the obvious, for sure elite player that will come out of it. I know there will be one or two. But it's rare that you can go down into 12, 13 and think we've got a for sure top-four defenseman or top-six forward who can have an impact, not just be a complementary player. So it is a good top 10 or top 12 and it's better than we thought. I think it's a little stronger than we anticipated. Overall it's an average draft class I would say. I would've said in October that it was below average in terms of depth. But going through the process the whole year, going through our assessment and looking at who we think we're going to get in the second and third round rounds, I think it's at least average if not a little better than that. 

On the lack of consensus after the first overall pick
If you go back to 2019, there was a lot of variability in the top-10. If you look at the 32 teams' draft lists now, I think it might be kind of similar with a lot of different types of players involved. Off the top of my head, I would say the 2019 draft is most similar to this year.

On balancing fit against taking the best player available
Fit is a talking point. It is something we discuss as we project our young core into the future. But we can't be distracted from analyzing who the best player at third overall will be five years from now. That's our job. It doesn't matter if the player fits better or what we think will need three years from now. If he turns out to be the 10th best player or the 20th best player of this draft, then we will have missed...Obviously we can't just say that we don't talk about fit and that it doesn't influence a little bit on the decision making, but at number three it's not going to have a big impact. 

On finalizing the draft board
We'll be finalized by Thursday afternoon. I think we're close to it now, but after we meet on Wednesday and Thursday morning, by Thursday afternoon, we should have a strong, strong list and know where we're going.

On the impact of GM Pat Verbeek
Pat sees enough junior hockey to ask the right questions and to have his say on a number of players around our picks. To have a knowledgeable hockey executive being part of the process helps. It helped in the past. It's helping now. It bonds the group together. [The scouts] feel they're heard. They feel they're allowed to have their own opinions and to convey those. They can be respected even though at the end of the day we might be going in a different direction. So we're in a good place.

On having eight picks in the first three rounds
We love to have extra second round picks (laughs), so we're excited. As we always say, when you're on the road and you're away from home as much as we are, it's nice to know that it'll matter on draft day. We will get for sure three players (#3, #31/32, #35) that we will be really excited about. I'm convinced of that. And then as usual, you need a little luck for that end of the second and early third, but we'll be able to add depth to our prospect pool and hopefully we get lucky and a few guys that we really like falling to our spots. 

On the expected impact of the third overall pick
We are drafting someone who will be an impact player for the Ducks within five years, regardless of which direction we go. I am convinced of that. So he's going to be a big part of this organization moving forward. 

On the evolution of the scouting process
Obviously you keep learning along the way. It's a collective process. I always wanted it to be that way, but it is not just a consensus. You have to be able to listen to not just the strongest voice but the voice that makes the best argument for a particular player in a particular spot. I am more convinced of that every year. It's not because three quarters of the room thinks one thing that's the right answer. It's about staying humble, keeping your ears open and staying open-minded all the way through out the process. 

A lot has changed over the years with access to better video and analytics. That's become a part of our process that was not really there 15 years ago. We'd watch players on video, but now it's an integral part of the way we build the process throughout the season, not just at the end of the year. So we keep evolving, try to learn from teams who've done well over the years and try to not make the same mistakes we've made before.

On top-ranked defensemen Artyom Levshunov, Anton Silayev and Zeev Buium
Levshunov is a solid two-way guy. He's got really good tools. He's physically mature, close to being able to play in the NHL. He still needs some seasoning but he's got a lot of tools that are close to being NHL ready. I think he's going to be able to play defensively and add a little offense, maybe a little bit more than that. And he's a right shot.

Silayev is a unicorn, just a big guy who can really skate and has a really good defensive awareness. He had a great start to the season and had to deal with some injuries in the second half, but showed he was able to adapt to different levels. He's a really interesting player.

And Buium is a winner. He's won everywhere he's been. He led that Denver team to a championship. He's a really smart, mobile modern defenseman. That's the way I would put it.

On the considerations for the third overall pick
We debated between eight players. 

On the passing of Ducks scout Glen Cochrane
It's been an emotional year throughout the organization. It's been great to have [Ducks Goaltending Coach Sudarshan Maharaj] being part of the meetings and the draft. Unfortunately, we lost one of our own, though. Glen was with us throughout my tenure here. Fifteen years working alongside him and to lose him hurts a lot. He was a great friend to all of us on the amateur side. He was a true team player. It's a big hole.

Not having Glen's voice and big personality with us in Buffalo (at the NHL Scouting Combine), it was hard. We think about him every day. We're going to honor him this year by having the best draft we've ever had.