Special to AnaheimDucks.com
Most players, pundits and hockey diehards associate Ducks defense with two main qualities: physicality and mobility.Andy Welinski
, a third-round draft pick by Anaheim on Saturday, has both.
“I’m a good skater,” said Welinski after the Ducks selected him 83rd overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. “I like to be physical as well and I think being a bigger body out there is one of my strong suits.
“I think I’m pretty nice off the ice, but on the ice, I think there’s a time and a place to be a little aggressive and mean.”
NHL Central Scouting Services pegged the 6-2, 195-pound defenseman at No. 48 for North American skaters in its final rankings.
The Duluth, Minnesota native had the special honor of being selected not only in his home state, but at an arena he’s familiar with. The state high school hockey tournament is annually held at Xcel Energy Center, where he played with his former team Duluth East in 2009 and 2010.
“It’s happening so fast, it’s hard to kind of grasp right now but it feels great,” said Welinski, who had plenty of family and relatives on hand.
Friend and former Duluth teammate, Derek Forbort, was selected in last year’s first round (15th overall) by the rival Los Angeles Kings. Both could wind up moving from the chilly Midwest to sunny, Southern California.
“Derek’s a pretty good friend of mine,” Welinski said. “It would be cool to see him down the road here.”
Both Forbort and Welinski are defensemen that decided to leave Duluth East High School – a powerhouse hockey school in Minnesota – one year early to play juniors and accelerate development.
Welinski, 18, suited up for the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Green Bay Gamblers, where he scored eight goals and eight assists in 62 games while registering a plus-15 rating.
It was a tough choice. Even though his high school team – and good friends – made it all the way to the state championship game in 2011, Welinski stands by his choice.
“It was tough. In Green Bay, I watched all the games,” Welinski said. “I had a lot of buddies on the team and stuff like that. I was very happy for them – it was good to see them get as far as they did. Looking back at it now, I’m happy with the decision. Obviously, I missed out on the state tournament but it was a decision I had to make, and looking back at it, I’m happy with it.”
Welinski will head back to Green Bay for one more season before returning to his hometown, this time to play for the NCAA’s defending national champion University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
With plenty of interest from Canadian juniors and other hockey leagues, this is the route he wanted to take.
“I think growing up in the U.S., everybody wants to play college hockey, where a lot of guys want to just go straight to the NHL,” said Welinski, who tries to model his game after Kings defenseman and U.S. Olympian Jack Johnson. “I think my dream was to play college hockey and I’m on my way towards that.”
Welinski may be a few years away from the NHL, but he believes he’s got the tools and demeanor to eventually crack Anaheim’s lineup and help continue their winning culture.
“They have a very good D-core there right now,” he said. “They pride themselves on being a very good defensive team.”