When Andy Welinski came over the boards 1:37 into the first period of a game against the Carolina Hurricanes last December 11 at Honda Center, it was more than a milestone in the hockey career of the 24-year-old defenseman. It was a historical moment in the history of the Anaheim Ducks franchise.
Welinski's NHL debut that night meant all seven players selected by Anaheim in the 2011 NHL Draft have played at least one NHL game - and all of them debuted for the Ducks. It's only the fourth time in NHL history - since the first NHL Draft was held in 1963 - that a team has selected at least seven players in a single draft and seen each appear in the NHL. The others: the 2009 New York Islanders, 1979 Boston Bruins and 1979 Philadelphia Flyers (all of which had seven draft picks).
No one is prouder of that success than Martin Madden, Anaheim's Director of Professional/Amateur Scouting now in his 10th season with the organization. "It's fun, and it's nice to look back and remember how it all unfolded," says Madden, whose role has him evaluating players in North America and Europe throughout the year and working with the Ducks' other scouts in producing a prospects list in preparation for the Draft. "We're happy that these guys have had a chance to play at this level."
The seven Ducks selected in at that 2011 draft were Rickard Rakell, John Gibson, William Karlsson, Joseph Cramarossa, Welinski, Max Friberg and Josh Manson, all of whom played at least a few games with the Ducks and three of which have become accomplished veterans in Anaheim.
It was an intriguing draft for the Ducks because of what transpired in the first round that day in St. Paul, Minnesota, not to mention what occurred in the sixth (more on that later). "We were excited about the draft as a whole, actually," Madden recalls. "We thought the end of the first round and the second round had a lot of talent."
The Ducks held the 22nd pick in the first round and were eyeing a winger from Plano, Texas named Stefan Noesen. But when the Ottawa Senators selected Noesen a pick prior to the Ducks taking the stage, the Anaheim brass had to scramble. They quickly sent the 22nd pick to Toronto in exchange for the final selection in the first round (30th overall) and the 39th pick, which the Ducks used to select two players who have become pillars of the franchise: Rakell and Gibson.
(Ironically, Noesen ultimately came to the Ducks with Jakob Silfverberg in a 2012 trade that sent Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, and Noesen played briefly in Anaheim before being claimed by New Jersey off waivers last January.)
More on those the 2011 Ducks draftees:
Rickard Rakell - RW (first round, 30th overall)
The native of Sundbyberg, Sweden has evolved into one of Anaheim's top forwards, a cerebral player who is a force at both ends of the rink. He signed a six-year deal with the Ducks at the beginning of last season.
"Before we made the decision to trade with Toronto, there was still one guy on our list I won't name, but he wasn't a consensus pick," Madden says. "So we traded down, and he got picked before we got Rickard at the end of the first round. And Rickard has definitely turned out to be a better player than he is."
In 263 career games (all with Anaheim), Rakell has 70 goals and 79 assists, with a career-high 33 goals in 71 games last year.
"Rickard has even more skill than we realized at that point," Madden says. "He was a really good two-way player that particular year and played a PK role for the Swedish National Team at the World Juniors as a 17-year-old. His production and skill level continued to improve throughout his junior career."
John Gibson - G (second round, 39th overall)
Gibson has emerged into Anaheim's No. 1 goalie the past two seasons and was named to the All-Star Game in 2016. He and Frederik Andersen combined to win the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2015-16, given to the "goaltender having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against."
A native of Pittsburgh, Gibson played for the United States at the 2012 and 2013 World Junior Championships, and in 2013 he earned MVP honors while being named that year's top goalie in helping the U.S. to a gold medal. He has also represented his country at the World Championships and World Cup.
Gibson was ranked first among North American goaltenders by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau going into the draft, and Madden says the Ducks were fortunate to get him at pick No. 39. "We were probably a little too cute with the way we looked at things back then," he says. "We knew Nashville was looking for a goalie after the first round. Historically, they've liked the same players we've liked, and they ended up selecting a goalie - but it wasn't John. So we were lucky to get him. He has developed into one of the top goalies in the league."
William Karlsson - C (second round, 53rd overall)
Madden says that of the three forwards Anaheim was eyeing in the first round - including Noesen and Rakell - that Karlsson was the one they coveted the most. "But doing our homework, we got a clear sense there wasn't that much interest in him in that spot," Madden says. "He wasn't even coming to the draft since he and his agent figured he was going in the third round. We just slotted him below those two guys. There was another guy in the mix that we're not gonna name, but he was involved as well before we decided to trade down."
The native of Märsta, Sweden had two goals in 18 games with the Ducks in the 2014-15 season, during which Anaheim traded him to Columbus with Rene Bourque and a 2015 second round pick for defenseman James Wisniewski and a 2015 third round pick. Karlsson played two more full seasons with the Blue Jackets, who made him available for the 2017 Expansion Draft. He was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights and has blossomed this season with 15 goals in 31 games so far.
"He was a skinny kid, very good two-way guy at the time of the draft," Madden says. "But it was clear that it was going to take a little longer with him. He was under 165 pounds, no muscle on him. It was all hockey sense and heart. He actually improved a little more quickly than we thought he would, and the year we traded him, he played some games for us and had a good impact."
Joseph Cramarossa - C (third round, 65th overall)
Coincidentally, Anaheim acquired the Islanders' fourth pick of the third round in a 2010 trade for Wisniewski that concluded his first stint with the Ducks. They used it on the Markham, Ontario native Cramarossa, who was in Anaheim's minor league system for a few years before playing 49 games with the Ducks last season. He was ultimately claimed off waivers by the Canucks in March of last year and is currently with Stockton, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
"We thought of Joseph as a hard-working, competitive, bottom-six type guy," Madden says. "We thought he had more offense to his game than he's shown so far as a pro. But he was a battler, he was gritty, he was scrappy and we thought he would be a different type of player than the two forwards we had taken at that point in the draft."
Andy Welinski - D (third round, 83rd overall)
Welinksi has two assists in the two games he's played with the Ducks, and has had an impact with the San Diego Gulls the past couple of seasons. The Minnesota native spent four years with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and was named USA Hockey's Junior Player of the Year in 2012 while playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.
"Our U.S. scouts at the time, Kevin Murray and Matt Laatsch, saw big upside with Andy in terms of the way he played the game at both ends of the rink," Madden recalls. "You could tell with his poise, and he was a very good skater at that point. We knew he was a long-term project, and he's been a steady improver along the way. That's why we know we haven't seen the last from Andy. He's had two good games so far with the Ducks, and I think he's got the hockey sense and the skill and the skating ability to make it a career. I think he's going to be in the league for a while."
Max Friberg - LW (fifth round, 143rd overall)
The Swedish winger played just six total games with Anaheim while spending the bulk of his time with the team's AHL affiliates in Norfolk and then San Diego. He's currently a captain with Frölunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League.
"He's another guy we really liked as a staff," Madden says. "We probably questioned his offensive upside, but we thought he was a character kid who would maximize his talent. Two years later, we were probably more excited even than when we drafted him."
That was after Friberg had nine goals in six games for Team Sweden at the World Juniors, where he helped them capture the gold medal. Anaheim ultimately traded Friberg to Montreal for goalie Dustin Tokarski. Friberg never played a came with the Canadiens, instead playing with their AHL affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps.
"We were all very sad to see him go," Madden says. "He was a great guy in San Diego, and he would have probably been a captain by now if he had stayed. But we had needs for a goalie, so we made that move. But he's a great kid with great character, and he was a great mentor to William Karlsson and Rickard Rakell in the minors. He's a natural-born leader."
Josh Manson - D (sixth round, 160th overall)
The story of Manson's selection by Anaheim is noteworthy, and not only because he went from a sixth round pick to a mainstay on the Ducks blue line who signed a four-year contract extension last October.
Madden had never seen Manson play going into the 2011 draft, but Ducks scout (and former NHL defenseman) Glen Cochrane was very high on the son of former enforcer Dave Manson.
"It might be my best pick because I listened to what Glen had to say, and he was passionate about Josh," Madden says. "At that point, he was a 19-year-old who had been a forward most of his life. But they moved him back to defense, and Glen got to see him play a few games down the stretch of the regular season" (for a team called the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the Junior "A" British Columbia Hockey League). He said, 'Martin, this guy is a really good prospect. Hardly anybody has seen him play defense, and I'm really excited about his potential.'
Unfortunately, the Ducks didn't have a sixth round pick and thought they were done for the day after making their choice in Round 5. "And Glen was not happy," Madden recalls with a chuckle. "I said to Bob, 'Glen is adamant, this kid is a player.'"
So the Ducks made their second trade with Toronto that weekend, getting the Maple Leafs' sixth round pick in exchange for Anaheim's pick in the same round of the 2012 draft. Anaheim took Manson, who is now in his fourth full season with the Ducks and "has gotten better every day since the day we drafted him," Madden beams. "He's done everything we've asked of him. Everything about Josh, and the way he's approached his career, he's been a great Duck."
Manson's story is just one of many to come out of that historical 2011 draft, of which Madden will always have fond memories. "If we could do that every year, it would be great," he laughs. "But we're happy it worked out. The best thing is that many of those guys are main contributors to the Ducks that didn't just go through the system and play a few games. Many of those guys are really good players, and that's what makes that draft special for us."