Draft strategy: Pacific Division
A look at strengths, weaknesses and recommended strategies for each team
Most NHL teams say they subscribe strictly to the "best player available" theory. In my experience, some are being honest, some do that in the first round (and incorporate their depth charts beyond) and some take position into account from the beginning. If I were running a team, I'd fall somewhere in the middle because of the very marginal differences in prospect value outside the very top.
Team strategies in the draft should be slightly more complex than simply, "Draft the best player." Teams should try to balance their depth chart if the option is within a reasonable talent range, or they can make trades to either address the need or trade to a spot where the player they want would be a better value. In this series, I'll recommend the best strategies for every NHL team going into this year's draft, division by division. For more on the draft prospects mentioned here (and many more), be sure to check in on our Top 100 NHL draft prospects list.
For the purposes of this column, team strengths and weaknesses generally refer to a team's under-23 NHLers, or players who have not lost rookie eligibility. Players not specifically mentioned are included in the evaluation.
Strengths: The Ducks have one of the best young cores in the NHL. Cam Fowler is an emerging star blueliner, fellow defenseman Hampus Lindholm was one of the league's top rookies in 2013-14, and while Sami Vatanen isn't at the same level, he's a pretty good defensive prospect himself. John Gibson is an elite goalie prospect who showed flashes of what he can be in the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Rickard Rakell and William Karlsson are both very strong center prospects.
Weaknesses: I don't think the Ducks have an issue on the wing, but some of their top wing prospects in Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly haven't seen their development go as hoped, although they are all still NHL regulars. Nic Kerdiles and Nick Sorensen are among the club's promising wing prospects.
Recommended strategy: As a team on the upswing to contender status -- and one with a pretty deep system -- the Ducks are likely at a point where they need to be aggressive at the draft. That can mean taking home run swings on Russians, trading depth for quality and anything else that can get them good players on their NHL team the fastest. Their system is well-rounded enough where they don't need to pick for position. With two first-round picks (Nos. 10 and 24), they are a team to watch on the first night of the draft.
To read more about the recommended draft strategies for each team in the Pacific Division, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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