For the past decade, the Anaheim Ducks have been pretty much a perennial Stanley Cup contender. After winning it all back in 2007, the franchise has had only a couple of bad years. While it's true the Ducks probably wouldn't have won a Stanley Cup if wasn't for free agent signings like Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, the same can be said about their drafted players. The Ducks would be a bottom feeder if wasn't for the players they drafted like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
With Duck always being a competitive team, they have not had a whole lot of high draft picks. They have instead been stuck with late first round draft picks. For the most part, the Ducks have actually found some gems at the end of the first round, but that doesn't mean they don't regret some of their draft choices. In hindsight, they had a chance to draft some elite players. If they had drafted certain players instead of their original choices, it's almost a guarantee there would be more than one Stanley Cup on the franchise's resume.
Here is how the last 15 first round picks of the Ducks could have and should have gone.
15 Anze Kopitar (2005)
Original Pick: Bobby Ryan
The 2005 NHL Entry Draft was all about one player, the hockey prodigy Sidney Crosby. Unlike most drafts, the second player taken was not going to compared to the first player taken, simply because Crosby was on a whole other level. The Ducks ended up taking Bobby Ryan. While Ryan was no "Sid The Kid." he has been a pretty good NHLer in his own right.
Bobby Ryan would play four-plus seasons for the Ducks, recording at least thirty goals in each of his full seasons with the team. While there is no doubt that Ryan was a good fit on the Ducks, Anze Kopitar would have been an even better selection. Not only has Kopitar put up more points than Ryan, he is one of, if not the NHL's best two-way forward.
14 Claude Giroux (2006)
Original Pick: Mark Mitera
Anaheim selected Mark Mitera with 19th overall selection out of the University of Michigan. They hoped he would develop into a solid shutdown defenseman, but that didn't even come close to happening. Mitera tore his ACL in his final season of college, which seemed to hamper his development. By 2013, his career was over having not appeared in a single NHL game.
Just three picks after the Ducks took Mitera, the Philadelphia Flyers selected their future captain in Claude Giroux. While it took a few years for him develop into the player he is today, it was more than worth the wait. If the Ducks had Ryan Getzlaf and Claude Giroux down the middle, chances are the franchise would have more than one Stanley Cup on their resume.
13 Max Pacioretty (2007)
Original Pick: Logan MacMillan
The Anaheim Ducks must have really liked what they saw in Logan MacMillan. The forward out of the Quebec league wasn't expected to go until the middle of the second round at best. The Ducks didn't want to take a chance that another team wouldn't grab him, so they took him early with 19th overall selection. By 2010, the Ducks had already given up on him and shipped him off to Calgary.
If the Ducks were looking for a left winger who could score, they should have taken a longer look at the player who went just a few picks later. The Montreal Canadiens took Max Pacioretty with the 22nd overall selection, a decision they definitely don't regret. Only two players from the 2007 draft have scored more goals than Pacioretty. The Ducks already have some great goal scorers, but you can never have too much scoring.
12 John Carlson (2008)
Original Pick: Jake Gardiner
The Ducks used the 17th overall pick to select defenseman Jake Gardiner. He wouldn't even suit for a single game for Anaheim as he was shipped off to the Maple Leafs in 2011 for François Beauchemin. While Gardiner has turned out to be a solid offensive defenseman for Toronto, he can be mistake machine.
Ten selections after the Ducks took Gardiner, Washington took another defenseman in John Carlson. Not only has Carlson been an equal if not better offensive player than Gardiner, he is absolutely rock solid defensively. The Ducks are already loaded on defense, but the addition of Carlson would give them arguably the best defensive corps in the league.
11 Ryan O'Reilly (2009)
Original Pick: Kyle Palmieri
During his time as a Duck, Kyle Palmieri had put up a decent amount of points. The speedy player recorded 29 points in just 57 games during his final season with Anaheim. Although he was finally started to show some promise, the Ducks traded him in 2015 to the New Jersey Devils for a couple of draft picks.
Palmeri had a breakout season with Devils in 2015-16, recording a career-high thirty goals. While the Ducks are probably upset that they gave up on Palmeri too soon, they are probably even more upset they missed out on drafting Ryan O'Reilly. Not only has O'Reilly produced at the same offensive level as Palmeri, his two-way game is absolutely top notch.
10 Nick Leddy (2009)
Original Pick: Peter Holland
After being taken with the 15th overall pick, Peter Holland has shown flashes of promise but has been a bust for the most part. During his three seasons with the Ducks, Holland appeared in just 29 games with the team recording just seven points. While he had a decent couple of seasons with the Maple Leafs, Holland is slowly playing himself out of the league.
Just one pick after the Ducks took Holland, the Chicago Blackhawks selected defenseman Nick Leddy. While his rookie season wasn't anything special, he recorded 37 points in his sophomore campaign and has only gotten better since. While Ducks aren't currently hurting on defense, Leddy would still be an improvement over some of their current blueliners.
9 Justin Faulk (2010)
Original Pick: Emerson Etem
The story of Emerson Etem was supposed to be a feel-good one. Etem was the highest-drafted Southern California born-and-trained player in Anaheim Ducks history. While he was a very productive player in the minors, when he got to chance the play with the Ducks he was mediocre at best. Etem returned to the Ducks in 2016, but he has only played three games with the team due to injury.
While drafting the hometown boy earned them praise from fans, the Ducks missed out on drafting one of the best defensemen to come out of the 2010 draft. The Carolina Hurricanes took Justin Faulk early in the second round, and he has since become by far the team's best defenseman. Faulk is a very gifted offensive defenseman who also logs a ton of minutes.
8 Vladimir Tarasenko (2010)
Original Pick: Cam Fowler
Let's get this straight, Cam Fowler is a terrific defenseman for the Ducks. Anaheim's 12th overall selection in the 2010 draft had a fantastic rookie season, recording forty points. Ever since his rookie year. Fowler has continued to be one of the Ducks best all-around defensemen.
As good as Cam Fowler has been for the Ducks, if they had the chance to go back and draft Vladamir Tarsenko instead, they would do it in a heartbeat. While he had a bit of a slow start to his career, Tarasenko has developed into one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the entire league. Corey Perry isn't getting any younger and a guy like Tarasenko could have been the perfect player to pick up the slack.
7 Rickard Rakell (2011)
Original Pick: Rickard Rakell
This the first entry on the list where the Ducks made the best decision when drafting a player. With the very last pick of the first round, Anaheim drafted a gem of a player in the Swedish forward Rikard Rakell. His first few seasons with the Ducks were actually quite underwhelming. While his two-way game was solid, his offensive game needed to be turned up a bit more.
Rakell had a breakout year in 2015-16 with the Ducks, recording 20 goals and 43 points. Anaheim fans probably would have been happy if Rakell turned into defensive forward who could still put in 20 goals a season. However, Rakell took his game to a whole other level in 2016-17, recording his first 30-plus goal season. While it may just be a fluke season for Rakell, if he can be a consistent twenty goal man the Ducks will be more than happy.
6 Hampus Lindholm (2012)
Original Pick: Hampus Lindholm
The Anaheim Ducks had the 6th overall selection in the 2012 draft and they used that pick to take Swedish defenseman Hampus Lindholm. By being a top ten selection, that comes with a lot of high expectations for a player, but so far Lindholm has exceeded expectations. He has quietly become the team's number one defenseman.
Lindholm isn't super flashy offensively, but he is an absolute stud defensively. He also has a mind for the game that makes every play he does look effortless. While great players like Jacob Trouba and Filip Forsberg were taken shortly after Lindholm, the Ducks still made the right decision by solidifying their backend for years to come.
5 Shea Theodore (2013)
Original Pick: Shea Theodore
In 2013, the Ducks continued their trend of selecting a quality defenseman when they took Shea Theodore with the 26th overall pick. Eight defensemen were taken before Theodore, but it's safe to say in hindsight that other teams regret not taking Theodore instead.
The Ducks are currently flushed with great players on their blueline, so they have had the luxury to bring Theodore along slowly. He has split his time with Ducks and their AHL affiliate in San Diego. When he has got a chance to get into Anaheim's lineup he has shown why he is such a highly regarded prospect. Theodore is as smooth of a skater as there can be, and his first pass is outstanding.
4 Dylan Larkin (2014)
Original Pick: Nick Ritchie
Of all the entries on this list, this was the toughest decision to make as both players are pretty even. Dylan Larkin exploded on the scene as a rookie with the Detroit Red Wings in 2015-16. The speedster put up an impressive 23 goals and 45 points in his first NHL season. However, this season has been a bit of struggle for Larkin, as barely hit the 30 point mark.
The Ducks original first round pick in 2014 was Nick Ritchie. The power forward struggled mightily in his rookie season with the Ducks, recording just four points in 33 games. Luckily for Anaheim, Ritchie's sophomore season in the NHL has been much better. While Larkin is clearly the better player right now, Ritchie might end up being the better player in the long run.
3 Sebastian Aho (2015)
Original Pick: Jacob Larsson
The Anaheim Ducks took defenseman Jacob Larsson with the 27th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Although it's still early, it's looking like the Ducks might have wasted a pick. Larsson made his debut with the Ducks this season, but after just four games he was loaned back to his team in Sweden. The chances are Larsson will stay in Sweden for the next couple of seasons to develop his game. The best case scenario for the Ducks is that Larsson develops into a decent shutdown defenseman.
While Ducks are going to have to wait for Jacob Larsson to make an impact in the NHL, 2015 second round pick Sebastian Aho has already become one of the Carolina Hurricanes best offensive weapons. As a teenager, he finished second on the team in points. If his rookie season is any indication, Aho is going to be a great player for years to come.
2 Brett Howden (2016)
Original Pick: Max Jones
it's hard to judge a player who is less than a year removed from being drafted. However, it is safe to say that Max Jones' first season after being drafted has not raised his stock. The power forward had not seen his offensive output increase from his draft year. He also needs to be a more disciplined player, as he was suspended this season for 12 games after delivering a dirty crosscheck.
Unlike Max Jones, Brett Howden has seen considerable improvement in his game from a year ago. The Moose Jaw Warriors captain scored impressive 38 goals in just 58 games. It looks like the Tampa Bay Lightning made the right selection taking Howden, while the Ducks taking Jones seems like it has a chance of backfiring on them.
1 Sam Steel (2016)
Original Pick: Sam Steel
As of right now, it's looking more and more like Sam Steel is the steal of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 30th overall pick of the Ducks had a pretty solid draft year playing for the Regina Pats of the WHL. He finished second on the team with a more than respectable 70 points.
As good as Sam Steel was last year, he has been completely on fire this year. He led the entire league with an incredible 131 points. The selection of Steel looks even better considering that he still plays on both sides of the ice and he's not afraid of finishing his checks. It's still very early but the Ducks might found their next superstar player.
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