With the 2020 NHL Draft less than a month away, Assistant General Manager Martin Madden and his staff are gearing up for the final stretch of prep work before the Ducks makes their selections over an important two-day frame, Oct. 6-7.
First-round picks are always coveted, and this year the Ducks have two. They nabbed the sixth overall selection by way of the NHL Draft Lottery back in June, and saw their second first-rounder land at 27 when the Boston Bruins were eliminated in the Second Round against Tampa Bay.
So, what might we expect from the Ducks when the draft rolls around? Madden dishes on that and more in a recent Q&A he did for AnaheimDucks.com.
Picking in the 25-30 range is something the Ducks are quite familiar with over the years. What can we expect with pick No. 27?
We've had a lot of experience drafting in that range, 25-30, over the last six, seven, eight years. We always end up with a player in our top-20 on our list. We believe we'll get a really good prospect in that part of the first round. We're excited about that.
Three picks in the top-36 also give you and your staff some flexibility when it comes moving up or down, right?
Yes. We're always flexible with that. We look to move down more often than we look to move up. Usually there's more value in doing that, but last year we almost had a deal to trade up. If there's somebody we believe is great value who slips a little bit, and, in our minds is great value, we would definitely look at that possibility. We've got a pretty good prospect pool. If we can add a player we believe is at the top of that range that's still available by trading up, we'd use a second-round pick to do that.
We see it every year - a team that goes off the board in the first round. Do you think expect any surprises before the Ducks make their pick at six?
I don't know if you'd call them surprises. The only surprise that could happen is if one of the consensus top three falls out of the top five. That would be a surprise to me, but I don't see that happening.
Since we last talked in the days leading up to the NHL Draft Lottery, have your final rankings changed at all?
As I mentioned then, we went away a little bit after our meetings. We had a week of follow-ups on the amateur side. Since the Return to Play, all the amateur scouts have helped on the pro side and have watched a lot of teams on the pro side. This week, we're just getting back into getting updates on our amateur prospects. We'll be attacking pockets of our list in the upcoming weeks.
Update us on what's going on with the European pro leagues.
Every level of Swedish hockey is playing exhibition games at this time. The Swedish under-20 team had a camp and played against Division 1 and an Allsvenskan [professional league in Sweden] team. The under-18 had an internal camp. They played against each other and I think against a Division 1 team, as well. Those games are happening. You get an update, a little bit, on those guys, as well as some Russians and Finns that are also playing. The Finnish league [SM-liiga] will start up later than the Swedish Hockey League, but they're still practicing and playing exhibition games. We've gotten a look at some of those guys. The under-20 Finnish team also had a camp and played exhibition games against pro teams.
When we talked in June, you said you could make a case of a dozen or so of the top-ranked prospects who could potentially be impact players relatively soon. Is that still the case?
I think so. Ten would be really easy to see, and I don't think there will be less than that from this draft. The first round is deep. Putting 20 names in there and thinking that 15, 16 or 17 of them will be impact players three to four years from now isn't out of the question.
Having said that, at what point in the first round could you see things opening up in terms of teams going off the board?
Right after the top 12. I think there will be some surprises for the casual observer. There might be players that are still consensus ranked in the first round that people see in the bottom first [round] that go within the top 15. I can see that happening.
Have trade talks around the league picked up at all with the draft on the horizon?
No, not quite yet. I believe Bob [Murray] is getting more and more calls as teams are getting eliminated. Teams are concerned more about their pro players at this point. You saw a trade for a pick [on Sept. 2] that was salary-cap related with [St. Louis goaltender] Jake Allen going to Montreal [for a third-round pick and seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft]. Those types of deals will happen. But in terms of moving up or down, those types of situational draft trades, we're a ways from that.
Let's talk about our 2019 draftees for a bit. What kind of progress has Trevor Zegras made?
He's serious about this upcoming season, whenever that starts. He's continuing to get stronger. First of all, the transition to college hockey was relatively seamless. After playing on the wing for a good part of his under-18 season, he was able to play college hockey as a No. 1 center at a good program in a good league. He continued to get better away from the puck. His situational awareness is good. It's a matter of him applying himself defensively, and he did that while continuing to produce. That was his challenge last year, and he rose up to meet it. That was the most important part of last year. This summer was dedicated to adding some mass and getting stronger to handle one-on-one battles at the pro level. He's continuing to do that.
How about Brayden Tracey? His season got off to a strong start in Moose Jaw, but it didn't carry over to Victoria after the trade. What happened there?
Todd Marchant [Ducks Director of Player Development] got to see him play quite a bit. I saw him the last weekend before things were shut down. Victoria played a completely different style than Moose Jaw. In Moose Jaw, they basically had one line and he was on the ice all the time and taking chances offensively. He needed to do that for them to get any production, whereas in Victoria, it was a team concept. It was a defensive-minded coaching approach. He had to play within that system. It was an adjustment at first, but he looked really comfortable and created a lot of chances in that last weekend when I saw him in Portland. I was pleased with the progression at that time. I know he's had a really good summer in the gym. I think he's going in the right direction.
How does Henry Thrun opting to play in the USHL next season affect his development?
In our situation, that was a wise decision on his part. He knew he wasn't going to be able to compete until January as it stands [in the NCAA], unsure of what the Ivy League was going to do afterwards. When you're 19 and you have an opportunity to compete and play at whatever level that is - the USHL is still a competitive and fast league - I think it was a wise decision. He'll continue to get better offensively at that level, that's for sure. He'll have more time and space than he had last year at Harvard. He'll continue to gain confidence. I wouldn't think it will be a great challenge for him defensively, but at least he'll be active and continue to get better every day by practicing with kids his age. For sure it's not the college level, but it's better than not playing.