Ducks Sign Top Pick From Last Year’s Draft

The Mighty Ducks signed Russian defense Vitaly Vishnevski, their first-round pick in the 1998 draft, to a three-year deal believed to be worth $975,000 a year.

Vishnevski will compete for a job in training camp, but, at 19, he will probably spend time in the minor leagues. Still, he is advanced for his age, having played with the Russian national team at the World Championships.

“He’s one of the better defensemen outside the NHL,” Duck General Manager Pierre Gauthier said, “but he’s still young. His development is more important than our short-term needs.”

The Ducks were attracted to the combination of Vishnevski’s size and speed. He is 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, but hardly looks it when he skates.


“He’s one of those big Russians we’ve seen in the NHL for the last 20 years,” Gauthier said. “I don’t know how they develop them. He’s hard and he has grit. He has that effortless look when he skates.

“I don’t think you should compare a 19-year-old to a NHL star, but he plays the same style as [New Jersey’s] Scott Stevens.”

The Ducks made Vishnevski the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. He was the youngest player in the 1998 World Junior Championships and was rated the best defenseman in the 1999 World Junior Championships.

Gauthier will now focus on signing Niclas Havelid, the team’s third-round pick in June, before Thursday’s deadline for signing European players. Havelid, 26, will likely play with the Ducks this season if he signs.

The Ducks also have five free agents of note left to sign: Ruslan Salei, Oleg Tverdovsky, Jason Marshall, Pavel Trnka and Antti Aalto.