Even for relatively young franchises, such as the Anaheim Ducks, it is important to reminisce, and retrospectively analyze the progress the franchise made.
One key element in a franchise’s development is strategic draft picks during the entry drafts each year.
It’s always interesting to see how some late-round draft picks can really flourish and have impressive careers.
To follow is my list of the 15 best draft picks of all time, chosen by the Anaheim Ducks. Please note that some of these individuals may not have made their mark in Anaheim, but regardless had strong careers.
Drew Miller is our first honorable mention, and even though he was not necessarily a stable constant on the Anaheim lineup, he did end up meshing well with other teams, scoring 40 of his 55 career points outside of Anaheim.
Miller is definitely still growing as a player, however he has not made enough of a mark to earn a top 15 spot on this list.
Our second honorable mention is long-time Duck, Mike Leclerc, who spent all but 50 of his career games in an Anaheim sweater, and scored 132 of his 158 points. Again, he was clearly a solid pickup in the 1995 draft, however not strong enough to make it to the top 15.
As a defenseman, scoring 85 points in 310 games as a Duck is rather noteworthy. Havelid had a pretty impressive career in Anaheim, and he continued to impress while he played in Atlanta at New Jersey.
Havelid also works off the ice, operating a charity based in Atlanta that operates alongside other charities to help build homes for low-income families. In short, both on and off the ice, Niclas Havelid made his name known as both a reliable defender, and a philanthropic and charitable member of the community.
Martin Gerber is a goaltender who was chosen in the eighth round in the 2001 entry draft as the 232nd pick overall. With a career record of 113-78-21, Gerber has been a stable backup goaltender for five separate NHL teams.
With 10 career shutouts and an impressive 2.63 goals against average, Gerber has made his name as a dependable backup when a starting goaltender needs a break. He currently plays in Edmonton, where he has won each of the three games he has played in. Gerber earned his spot on this list, however not the top 10, mainly because he never flourished as a No. 1 goaltender.
Vitaly Vishnevsky spent 416 of his 552 career NHL games in Anaheim, and certainly made a name for himself in that time. Despite having just 68 career NHL points including just 16 goals, Vishnevsky was a fantastic defender who focused on things aside from point production.
Drafted fifth overall in the 1998 draft, Vishnevsky is still remembered as a stay at home defenseman who was a force to be reckoned with. This gritty blue liner was often called upon to shutdown opposing team’s top performers, and managed to make a name for himself in a way that was arguably more impressive than strictly statistics.
Even though Jordan Leopold never played a single game as a Duck, he still has had an impressive enough career since his draft year back in 1999 to make this list at No. 12.
Leopold has played 507 games split between five franchises and has scored 170 career NHL points. This 6-foot-1 blue liner currently plays for the Buffalo Sabres and had am impressive season, tallying a career-high 35 points in 71 games last year. Thus, despite not playing in Anaheim, Leopold has made enough of a splash in the NHL to earn a spot on this list.
After being drafted seventh overall in the 2002 NHL entry draft, Joffrey Lupul tallied 34 points in 75 games his rookie year of 2003-2004 with Anaheim. Then in the 2005-2006 season Lupul posted an impressive 53 points in 81 games.
Following those two seasons in Anaheim, Lupul spend three seasons split between Edmonton and Philadelphia before another brief stint as a Duck. Although plagued by injuries in his most recent time in southern California, he still managed to make a strong influence with 27 points in 49 total games played before being traded to Toronto.
Despite being inconsistent lately, Lupul still managed to post 273 career points in 464 NHL games earning him a stable spot at No. 11 on this list.
Regardless of the fact that he is just 19 years old, Cam Fowler, who was favored to be a top pick in the 2010 entry draft, dropped all the way to 12 when he was picked up by Anaheim.
Cam Fowler has 46 points in 91 games played as a Duck and has seriously helped Anaheim find a way to succeed even after the retirement of star defender, Scott Niedermayer.
Fowler has made quite the name for himself as a smart, reliable defender with a sniper shot to accompany his surreal puck handling and skating abilities. I think it goes without saying Fowler has truly proven he’s an absolute force on the blue line, and is just beginning to create his legacy as a Duck.
Drafted second overall back in the 1994 entry draft, Oleg Tverdovsky became the franchise’s first big name defender. This 6-foot-1 blue liner made a name for himself as a true stalwart on the blue line.
Tverdovsky spent 324 of his 713 career games as a Duck, and recorded 170 of his 317 career points in Anaheim. Tverdovsky had some of the best seasons of his career in a Ducks jersey, and since has played with five other NHL franchises, making his presence known in more ways than statistics alone could demonstrate.
For a player like Ruslan Salei, who was drafted back in 1996, there’s always a sense of nostalgia reminiscing about his nine seasons as a Duck, or the impressive 917 career games played. Salei made his presence known on the blue line as a back stopping defender who worked hard to keep the puck away from his net, toward the opposing team’s net.
Salei played 594 of his 917 career games in Anaheim, and tallied 105 of his 204 points as a Duck. After his stretch with the Ducks, he played with three other NHL teams before he moved his skill set to the KHL in Russia.
All in all, Salei was always a stalwart defender and clearly earned his spot as the eighth-best draft pick of all time for Anaheim.
Long-time Duck, Steve Rucchin, made his name centering Anaheim’s two superstars, Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya. The fact that Rucchin managed to complete the trio and keep up with those two stars says volumes about his skills. That line was the trio that essentially carried the franchise to a lot of their early successes.
Rucchin recorded 432 points and played 616 of his 735 career NHL goals in Anaheim. Even though it is indirectly the talent of Selanne and Kariya who helped him into the seventh seat on this list, Rucchin managed to keep up with that powerful duo, and proved he is a stellar center and worthy of his spot on this list.
Drafted 35th overall in the 1996 NHL entry draft, Matt Cullen has proven his worth with six separate NHL teams, posting impressive statistics through most of his career. Cullen currently plays center for the Minnesota Wild, serving as an alternate captain.
Cullen’s statistics essentially speak for themselves, considering he played in 427 of his 973 career NHL games as a Duck and tallied 200 of his 508 career points in Anaheim.
In short, Matt Cullen has proven himself a valuable player in several different franchises, and continues to grow as a player in the NHL and prove that he deserves this spot as the sixth best draft pick by the Anaheim Ducks.
Current captain and stellar playmaker, Ryan Getzlaf, jump starts our top five draft picks of all time. Getzlaf has been considered a possibility for the best power center in the league at just 26 years old. This 6-foot-4, 220-pound gritty center is known both for his aggression and power, as well as his impressive stick handling and scoring abilities, allowing him to consistently post 70 points per season.
Getzlaf centers two other young stars on Anaheim’s top line, and has proven how threatening he is both as a linemate, and as a sniper forward. A leader both on and off the ice, Anaheim’s current top line center clearly earned his spot on this list with 423 points in 445 games in Anaheim.
The youngest member of Anaheim’s top trio of forwards is Bobby Ryan, who was runner-up for the Calder Memorial trophy for rookie of the year his first full year in Anaheim. In 264 career games with Anaheim, he has scored 110 goals and 98 assists giving him an impressive 208 total.
Bobby Ryan is known around the NHL for being both a big bodied forward who can throw his weight around and be aggressive, as well as pull off unbelievable plays based just on skills alone. Arguably one of the most versatile players on the Ducks’ current roster, Bobby Ryan is probably one of the more underrated and under-recognized players who consistently scores 30 goals, however his role on the top line is stable enough to land him in our No. 4 seat.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was chosen by Anaheim 44th overall in the 2000 draft, spent a lot of his time as a Duck playing from the shadow of then-stellar starting goalie, Jean-Sebastian Giguere. Considering Bryzgalov was clearly strong enough for a starting goaltender job, he took his talents to Phoenix, and later to Philadelphia where he continued to grow as a goalie.
This Vezina Trophy Nominee has a career record of 156-116-35 and 23 career shutouts to his name. Coupling that with a 2.58 goals against average and .916 save percentage and it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bryzgalov is my pick for the third best all-time Anaheim draft pick.
Whenever writing about Corey Perry I never know why it is really necessary to explain his appearance on a list like this. Perry has a Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, Hart Memorial Trophy and Rockey Richard Trophy to his name, making him a shoo-in for this kind of list.
Despite being chosen nine spots after linemate Ryan Getzlaf in the 2003 draft, Perry has played in a few more games, and was the first to tally a 50-goal season. In his 464 career games in Anaheim, he has 378 points and 559 penalty minutes to his name.
Despite the amount of time this power forward spends in the penalty box, he still manages to make his presence known and hated in front of the other team’s goaltender, acting as one of the league’s most effective screens. So safely in our No. 2 spot is superstar, Corey Perry.
My No. 1 pick for the all-time best draft pick by the Anaheim Ducks is Paul Kariya, who was chosen fourth overall back in the 1993 draft. Kariya played 606 of his 989 NHL career games with the Ducks and registered 669 of his 989 points as a part of Anaheim’s roster.
Kariya is widely considered the first true superstar of the franchise, and helped lead the young Ducks franchise to unexpected successes shortly after their inauguration. This speedy sniper forward tore apart opposing defenses and quickly made a name for himself as an absolute threat offensively.
Kariya will undoubtedly be inducted into the hall of fame, and will go down in Anaheim Duck’s history as the most famous captain, and obviously worthy of his seat atop my best overall draft pick list.