20 Jun 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Ducks general manager Bob Murray knew precisely what he wanted and needed in the NHL draft months ago. As the team’s interim coach, he could have done something about it, tanking the final games of the 2018-19 season and ensuring a chance at a top-three selection.
Instead, and probably against Murray’s better judgment, the Ducks went 14-11-1 after he fired Randy Carlyle and assumed the coaching duties Feb. 10. The Ducks ended the season in eighth place in the reverse standings and then fell to ninth in the draft lottery.
“The interim coach screwed this up,” Murray joked. “That’s why he retired before he got fired.”
So, scratch likely No. 1 selection Jack Hughes from Murray’s wish list, and Kaapo Kakko, too. Alex Turcotte, Kirby Dach and Trevor Zegras also could be snapped up before the Ducks make their pick. Dylan Cozens could be available, though, and if he is, he’s probably going to be a Duck.
Murray wants and needs a center with the first of his two first-round selections Friday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Ducks also have the No. 29 overall pick, and then will make five selections Saturday, when the second through seventh rounds are conducted.
This will be the Ducks’ highest pick since they took defenseman Hampus Lindholm sixth overall in 2012. Four of the Ducks’ past five first-round picks have been forwards, with defenseman Jacob Larsson the lone exception. The Ducks selected Larsson 27th overall in 2015.
“We need more centers,” Murray said, addressing his primary need in the first round. “You’re never wrong with centers because centers can always play the wing. Wingers can’t play center. It’s just the way it is. So you get centers who can play the wing.”
Ryan Getzlaf has been the Ducks’ No. 1 center for so long it’s difficult to remember a time when he wasn’t slotted onto their top line. But it’s likely the grizzled veteran will drop to the second line this coming season in favor of one of the Ducks’ prospects, possibly Sam Steel or Isac Lundestrom.
Getzlaf will assume the role Ryan Kesler played for so many seasons. Kesler’s career is in jeopardy after he underwent hip surgery that could sideline him for all of next season and perhaps beyond. The Ducks plan to place Kesler on long-term injured reserve when the season begins.
Adam Henrique is expected to maintain his position as the third-line center, with Devin Shore likely filling the center spot on the fourth line. Carter Rowney also could shift from right wing to center, as he did for many of his shifts last season.
“We’re hoping some guys will go before some other guys,” Murray said of landing a center who is capable of challenging for ice time next season. “We’re hoping for some breaks in there. We’re hoping two defensemen go in the first eight. That would help us tremendously.
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“If everyone (on the Ducks’ wish list) is gone, I could move back and get a bunch of other things. We believe in some people later. At nine, if any one of three guys is there we’re going with them. I need somebody to jump in there (in the Ducks’ lineup next season).”
No question, the Ducks also could use a talented prospect to add to their defense corps, particularly a right-handed shooter. Bowen Byram would certainly fit the bill, but he’s not likely to drop beyond the fifth overall pick, which is held by the rival Kings.
Philip Broberg is another defenseman who could be selected in the top eight.
“I think it’ll be a forward,” Murray said of his top pick. “I’m hoping for a forward, a center, but some of these kids are centers and wingers. Some of them, again, they all prefer center. But at the end of the year, at 18, they end up playing the wing. They’re talented. This is a talented group.”