Fruitful 2011 draft has given the Ducks staying power as Stanley Cup contender – Orange County Register

These days, Tyler Biggs is earning a living playing pro hockey. It isn’t bad living. Making money where he plays a game. This isn’t to say that 9-to-5 cubicle job is not appealing. But to cash checks for something one has done and loved since childhood? It is living the dream, as they often say.

Biggs is 24 and in his second season with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. A big, rangy forward, he is one of their better offensive players. He’ll get in a fight from time to time. Fans voted him their most popular player. The Wings happily signed him to another contract in October.

It is highly unlikely that Biggs will ever suit up in the National Hockey League. Most players don’t. Most who are lucky enough to be drafted don’t. But he was a first-round selection and many do in this age when teams are more reliant than ever on young, homegrown talent. They’re expected to make it.

Biggs will always be seen as a bust in Toronto, the team that took him in 2011. He’ll also be the one who unwittingly helped kick off a draft for the Ducks that in time might be seen as the greatest in franchise annals.

Seven players were chosen by the Ducks over two days inside Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. When defenseman Andy Welinski made his debut on Dec. 11, the Ducks gained the distinction of having all seven of their picks play in the NHL. Noteworthy for sure, but that alone doesn’t make it special.

It has the look of something that set the franchise up for lasting future success, much the way 2003 did the same for them in taking eventual 12-year linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round. Rickard Rakell is their best goal scorer. John Gibson is their undisputed No. 1 goalie. Josh Manson is an ascending hard-hitting defenseman.

The development of the three into featured players has allowed them to keep their Stanley Cup aspirations as Getzlaf and Perry, who hoisted the Cup in 2007, have aged. And while William Karlsson is two teams removed, he’s becoming a star with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “You hope to get two players with a chance to play and a third that can you sit somewhere in the organization. You hope to have to have three who can contribute to the organization five or six years later.

“Some teams get four or five who eventually play. How many guys really come on to be fixtures in an organization? In that draft, we got three of them who are…

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