The 2023 NHL entry draft has concluded, and the Anaheim Ducks will fly home from Nashville with nine new prospects in their organization. This year’s draft was considered by many to be not only one of the deepest in recent memory but the one with the most elite talent at the very top of the draft as well. The Ducks entered the draft week in an envious position, holding the second overall selection and six more in the top 100. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that this draft has the potential to be franchise-altering.
The Anaheim Ducks lost the NHL Draft Lottery to the Chicago Blackhawks on May 8th and the right to select Regina Pats’ superstar and generational talent, Connor Bedard. They did, however, win the second lottery and the right to select second overall at June 28th’s NHL entry draft in Nashville, TN. Leading up to draft night, the consensus choice at second overall was University of Michigan center Adam Fantilli with Orebro HK center Leo Carlsson picking up some buzz and causing some to speculate whether Anaheim would buck consensus. In the last 18 months, the Anaheim Ducks hired a new General Manager (Pat Verbeek) and a new head coach (Greg Cronin). They were about to add another big piece to their organization. When the big board said the Anaheim Ducks were on the clock after the Blackhawks and their new franchise player cleared the stage, it was time to make one of the biggest (if not the biggest) draft decisions in franchise history.
Here are the players the Ducks selected, accompanied by a brief analysis and scouting reports:
1st Round (2nd overall)
Leo Carlsson – C – Orebro HK – SHL
6’3”, 194 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 44 GP, 10 Goals + 15 assists = 25 points
Related Page: Leo Carlsson Draft Profile
The Ducks started the fireworks early on draft night by selecting Leo Carlsson ahead of Adam Fantilli with the second overall pick. While it’s easy to be slightly disappointed by not seeing the Ducks select the Hobey Baker-winning Freshman from Michigan with dynamic skating, lightning hands, and a desire to attack at will, it’s just as easy to rationalize selecting Carlsson ahead of him. The imposing Swedish center is fresh off one of the five most productive draft-eligible seasons in the history of the SHL. He represented his country at the World Junior Championships, where he scored three goals and three assists in seven games. In May, he donned the yellow and blue again at the IIHF World Championships, where he scored another three goals and added a pair of assists in eight games.
Leo Carlsson is a far less flashy player than Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, or Will Smith. His impact on games is far less noticeable. His biggest attribute is between his ears. He thinks the game is at an incredibly high rate. He is constantly scanning and aware of where all the other nine skaters are on the ice and his relation to them, processing how plays will progress and reacting accordingly. He is computing five steps ahead of his opponents and playing chess for the entire 60 minutes of the hockey game. Carlsson is elite at protecting the puck and extending plays. He excels in the small areas of the ice and will often draw defenders toward him to open up soft spots in defensive coverage where he can thread pinpoint passes to teammates in dangerous areas. He may not be the most technically proficient skater, as he is still learning his body, but he doesn’t let it hinder him and doesn’t waste a stride. Pucks aren’t in danger of breaking in half when he shoots as he even takes a cerebral approach to his shot. He shoots for high percentage areas of the net, will aim to generate a tip, use a screen, or shoot for a rebound. In the defensive zone, he is always in his proper position, supporting the puck, engaging in battles, and eliminating opposing lanes.
Pat Verbeek, Martin Madden, and the Ducks scouts knew selecting Carlsson second overall would surprise people, upset some, and raise questions. It’s the rare occasion where taking the safe player is the risky pick. They know how important this pick is to the future of the franchise, and missing on it could be devastating. They know that their reputation and possibly their jobs are on the line with this pick, and they did it anyway. That displays how confident they are in their process and in the player they selected. It should ease some of those concerns. Leo Carlsson is (perhaps) the best prospect the Anaheim Ducks have ever had.
2nd Round (33rd overall)
Nico Myatovic – RW – Seattle Thunderbirds – WHL
6’2”, 181 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 68 GP, 30 Goals + 30 Assists = 60 Points
Anaheim started day two off, where they ended day one; by taking a big swing against consensus. Though Myatovic was rising up draft boards as the draft approached, the rangy winger was mostly ranked in the 60s. There was a chance Myatovic would have been available with the Ducks’ later picks, but they weren’t willing to take that gamble. Myatovic spent his season on one of the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League and represented them as they went on to become runners-up for the Memorial Cup. In that tournament, Myatovic scored four points in five games. With a surely increased role in 2023-24, look for Myatovic’s production to skyrocket.
Myatovic is known for his complementary skills. He is a fantastic off-puck attacker who constantly finds soft spots in defenses. His biggest contribution will be the space he creates for his playmaking linemates. He’s a menace in front of the net and in corners, making life incredibly difficult for opponents. He’s strong on his edges, which makes him hard to knock off pucks and win battles against. When he does lose those battles, he is quick to recover and reengage. He is working the entire time his skates are touching the ice. Touch around the net is how he will tally most of his points at the next level.
2nd Round (59th overall)
Carey Terrence – LW – Erie Otters – OHL
6’1”, 179 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 67 GP, 30 Goals + 17 Assists = 47 Points
Related Page: Carey Terrence Draft Profile
The Ducks clearly entered the middle rounds with an agenda to prioritize goal-scoring and work rate. Terrence wore an “A” for the Otters and led them in scoring as they struggled to win games all season. At the season’s end, he represented the USA at the U18 World Championship, where he scored two goals and four assists in seven games en route to a gold medal.
Terrence is a forechecking juggernaut. He’s disruptive as an F1 or F2, especially. He plays fast and hard on loose pucks regardless of zone. He has a nose for the net and is willing to take punishment to get there. He’s not the smoothest skater, but he plays fast and is always involved around the puck. He loves to get to the front of the net to set screens, get tips on pucks, and bang home rebounds.
2nd Round (60th overall)
Damian Clara – G – Farjestad BK – J20 Nationell
6’6” 207 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 35 GP, .903 SV%
The Anaheim Ducks have made it a tradition to exit the draft with at least one goaltender. They identified Clara as the guy they wanted and selected him near the end of the second round. There had been a run on goalies in the draft heading into Anaheim’s pick, and it didn’t seem like they thought he’d be available when their turn came around again.
Clara’s trademark is obviously his size. He is keen enough to know how to use it to his advantage and eliminate shooting angles. He’s athletic and especially mobile for his size.
3rd Round (65th overall)
Coulson Pitre – C – Flint Firebirds – OHL
6’1”, 172 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 59 GP, 25 Goals + 35 Assists = 60 Points
At the top of the third round, the Ducks were back on the train of drafting guys who are a nightmare to play against. Pitre is the kind of player that won’t be a star but will be an absolute fan favorite with the effort he puts forth on a nightly basis. There won’t be a lot of Coulson Pitre jerseys in the Honda Center crowd, but every championship team has a player like him on their roster.
With his tenacity and physical play, Pitre is good at everything and will make opponents’ lives miserable. He is another great small-area battler who thrives deep in the offensive zone. He is disruptive on the forecheck and can create opportunity from the chaos that ensues. He’s eager and more than willing to get to the dirty areas and lay the body before bringing the puck out of those situations to create for himself and his teammates.
3rd Round (85th overall)
Yegor Sidorov – LW – Saskatoon Blades – WHL
6’0, 176 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 53 GP, 40 Goals + 36 Assists = 76 Points
After their run of high-motor players, the Ducks opted for high-upside skill with their second pick in the third round. Sidorov’s point total is outstanding, and that production continued during Saskatoon’s playoff run, where he scored 19 points in 16 games before they were eliminated. Sidorov was passed over in the 2022 entry draft but refined his offensive craft enough to earn himself a third-round selection in 2023.
Sidorov is crafty, clever, and lethal with the puck on his stick. He seemingly has the puck on a string as he meanders around the ice and can rip a shot from any angle in the blink of an eye. He can dangle out of small areas and create from seemingly innocuous plays. He’s always supporting around the puck, involved in every play, and quick to hop on a puck that is jarred loose from a battle.
4th Round (97th overall)
Konnor Smith – LHD – Peterborough Petes – OHL
6’6”, 209 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 65 GP, 3 Goals + 12 Assists = 15 Points
The Ducks took to the blue line for the first time in the 2023 draft with their fourth-round selection by taking a large human being in the form of Konnor Smith. The towering defenseman was a big (pun intended) piece along the blueline for the OHL Champion Petes. He tallied just one assist in five Memorial Cup games as the Petes lost in the semi-finals of that tournament.
Smith’s defining asset is obviously his size. He is a tough player to match up with in battles as he makes doles out punishment to players who strive to get to the dangerous areas of the ice. He has limited mobility and puck skills but defends the rush particularly well for someone of his size and skating ability. Martin Madden stated in a post-draft interview that Smith brought something rare in this draft; nastiness. If his path leads to the NHL, it will likely be as a bottom pair, shut-down defenseman.
5th Round (129th overall)
Rodwin Dionicio – LHD – Windsor Spitfires – OHL
6’2”, 207 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 50 GP, 15 Goals + 35 Assists = 50 Points
The Ducks did what is craved of teams with their late-round picks; they took a home run swing. Dionicio played both wing and defense in 2022-23, but when he was traded from Niagara to Windsor, his offensive game was unlocked. He found himself free to be as creative as he wanted, and it paid off on the scoresheet when he totaled 43 points in 33 games for Windsor. There has been chatter about Dionicio making the switch to wing full-time. It will be interesting to see how Verbeek and his scouts want to move forward with his development and where they ultimately see him moving forward.
Dionicio has every tool in the bag except one. He is endlessly creative with the puck on his stick. As a defenseman, he sees the ice and processes plays at an accelerated rate as he activates from the blueline or jumps up to join rushes. He has otherworldly vision and can thread needles to teammates across the zone with passes that find their way under sticks and through legs. He is physical and quickly turns defense into the offense after winning board battles. His Achilles heel is his skating. His stride is weak and clunky, and his edge work leaves much to be desired. The Anaheim development staff will certainly be looking to iron out that wrinkle in his game.
6th Round (161st overall)
Vojtech Port – RHD – Edmonton Oil Kings – WHL
6’2” 176 lbs.
2022-23 Stats: 46 GP, 4 Goals + 13 Assists = 17 Points
The Ducks got fantastic value out of their sixth-round pick in the 2023 Draft. Port’s stat line won’t blow anyone away, but anyone who watched Port play can see how his production could easily improve as time goes on. His Oil Kings team was far and away the worst team in the WHL last season and only managed 24 points in the standings. They will likely be an improved team in 2023-24 and Port will be quarterbacking a more potent powerplay.
What stands out most about Port is his play-killing. He is adept at stifling a breakout before it starts by pinching down the half-wall in the offensive zone and eliminating the winger outlet for the opposing team. He also thrives defending the rush. He uses his skating ability to dictate where he wants the attacker to go and seals him off accordingly. When he gets to loose pucks, they are turned up ice very quickly and he isn’t shy about joining a rush himself. Nothing about his game says he is a 17-point defenseman from an offensive perspective. With his talent and play style, don’t be surprised to see him closing in on a point-per-game next season.
Pat Verbeek and the Ducks scouts attacked the 2023 NHL Entry Draft with a game plan, and they stuck to it. They went in with the knowledge they were going to be selecting a potential franchise player with the second overall pick. They also targeted a certain type of player with their next few picks; big, high-compete, high-motor forechecking forwards who are good in tight areas and can finish. They like to leave every draft with a new goalie in the pipeline, and that trend continued. After that, they took some high-upside swings with their later picks; something teams should be doing with those picks anyway, as they already have a low success rate of making the NHL.
While many heads may have been scratched upon first look at the Ducks draft, digging just a little deeper will reveal a strategy that never wavered. They identified their targets and left Nashville with an even brighter future than when they arrived. The next step is to develop these young players and mold them into NHL players that fit the style of game they are attempting to play.