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Ducks pile up picks

by John Kreiser

OTTAWA -- Anaheim General Manager Brian Burke went for quantity in the 2008 Entry Draft. He's banking on quality, too, especially on the blue line.

The Ducks wound up with 10 picks, the second-highest total of any team. Seven of the 10 came in the first three rounds, allowing Anaheim to restock with the young talent it needs to carry big-ticket players. It's a formula that helped carry the Ducks to the 2006 Stanley Cup.

Burke also showed he's willing to go against the grain – he took the only U.S. high school player to be selected in the opening round. Jake Gardiner was the first of five defensemen taken by the Ducks.

"I think the GM's job is to adjust your depth chart by trade, not at the Draft," Burke said of his philosophy. "You draft the best athlete available that fits our profile, the type of kid we try to look for."

Here's a look at the Ducks' 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 17, Jake Gardiner, D, Minnetonka (Minn.), (USHS)
- A switch from forward to defense turned Gardiner from just another Minnesota high school player into the Ducks' first-round pick. Gardiner made the switch from forward to the blue line before Minnetonka High School's 2007-08 season. The self-proclaimed "average skater" opened scouts' eyes as a defenseman, scoring 16 goals and adding 27 assists in just 25 games while becoming a finalist for Minnesota's "Mr. Hockey" award, given to the state's top prep player.

That was enough for the Ducks, who face the possible loss of Scott Niedermayer and want to get younger on the blue line.

"He can fly. He’s a great skater," Burke said of Gardiner, who will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall. "We think he’s going to develop and fill out and learn the game. We think his upside is terrific."

No. 35, Nicholas Deschamps, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) - With one of the second-round picks they got from Phoenix in a deal for the No. 28 choice in the first round, the Ducks landed Deschamps, who had an excellent rookie season with Chicoutimi, scoring 24 goals and finishing with 67 points, tops among all first-year players in the QMJHL. That earned him a berth on the league's All-Rookie team. He also earned Best Defensive Player honors.
No. 39, Eric O'Dell, C, Sudbury (OHL) - With the other pick they got in the deal with Phoenix, the Ducks picked O'Dell, who played 28 games in his first season with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves and produced 14 goals and 32 points after being promoted from Cumberland in Junior A. O'Dell, who was drafted on his 18th birthday, has good puck skills – but at six feet tall and 174 pounds, he needs to get bigger and stronger.

No. 43, Justin Schultz, D, Westside (BCHL) - The Ducks' turned to the British Columbia Hockey League for their third second-round pick and selected Schultz, who had a fine first season in the BCHL with nine goals and 40 points. At 163 pounds, he'll have to get a lot bigger to compete in the NHL. Schultz is headed to the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2009.

No. 71, Josh Brittain, LW, Kingston (OHL) - The 6-4, 210-pounder played his first OHL season for Kingston and was fourth on the team in scoring with 51 points (28-23-51) in 68 games, enough for the Ducks to use their first of three third-round picks. Brittain improved as the season went on, battles hard and goes to the net – traits that should stand him in good stead if he makes it to Anaheim.

No. 83, Marco Cousineau, G, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) - Cousineau dropped from seventh in the midterm rankings to 20th at the end of the season. He was 34-19 with a 2.81 goals-against average and four shutouts in his first full season in juniors.

No. 85, Brandon McMillan, C, Kelowna (WHL) - His second junior season was better than the first – 15 goals and 41 points in 71 games. His checking skills should earn him a chance at an NHL job, but at 188 pounds, he'll have to get stronger, and he needs to improve his offensive game.

No. 113, Ryan Hegarty, D, U.S. Under-18 (USDP) - Hegarty, who comes from a hockey family in Massachusetts, is headed for the University of Maine after putting up seven goals and 19 points in 47 games with the U.S. Under-18 team. At six feet and 196 pounds, he has the size to play at the next level.

No. 143, Stefan Warg, D, Vasteras Jr. (Sweden) - Anaheim continued to pile up defensemen by taking Warg, a 6-2, 187-pounder who was 2-6-8 in 31 games for Vasteras' junior team in Sweden.

No. 208, Nick Pryor, D, U.S. Under-18 (USDP) - The Ducks acquired Philadelphia's seventh-rounder for their own seventh-round pick next year and picked Pryor, a Woodbury, Minn., native who's also with the U.S. Development Program, where he had three goals and 11 assists in 45 games. His father, Chris, played in the NHL from 1984-90 for the New York Islanders and Minnesota North Stars.

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