Jun 272015

There weren’t too many surprises in the first round of the draft. Sure, the Bruins made a big splash by giving up Dougie Hamilton for something a little better than what an offer sheet would’ve netted, but even the slight drops by Lawson Crouse, Travis Konecny and Oliver Kylington were expected.

Even with all the talk that the Coyotes were unsure of who to take third overall, and the Blue Jackets looking to move up, the top eight picks went as expected. Potential first-line center Dylan Strome was too hard to pass up for the Coyotes, a team that’s never really had a legitimate No. 1 center, and the BJ’s got Zach Werenski, arguably the third-best defenseman in the draft but certainly top ten material.

Still, there’s plenty of chew on in the aftermath of the draft, especially just days from free agency on July 1.

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2013 NHL Mock Draft

 Posted by at 7:29 AM  2 Responses »
Jun 262013

It’ll be an interesting draft in New Jersey with what is considered to be one of the deepest draft classes in years. Comparisons have been made to the 2003 draft class (arguably the best ever) that produced 16 all-stars in the first round. Like the 2003 class with Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal, there is no clear consensus on whom the first overall pick should be. There are an equal number of good prospects on forward and defence and a lot of draft picks will be made to address a specific need.

Because there is so much talent this year, teams cannot strike out with their first round picks. GM’s who have looked ahead and managed to acquire numerous picks in preparation for this year’s draft class include the Blue Jackets and Flames, each with three first round picks. The Canadiens have six picks in the first three rounds, more than any other team. Other teams, such as the Canucks, may regret trading away their second round pick.

In making these picks, consideration was taken into a team’s draft history, the organization’s needs as well as data and observations made by journalists, experts, scouts and yours truly.

Without further ado, here’s the 2013 Armchair Hockey Mock Draft!

(Click for 2011 and 2012 Mock Drafts!)

*Player ranks, provided in brackets, are based on Central Scouting’s final list, with “NA” denoting North American skaters and “E” denoting European skaters. The number corresponds to the player’s overall ranking within his own category.

1. Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax Mooseheads (Rank: NA2)

The logical pick would be Jones because the Avs lack depth on the blueline but are very deep down the middle with O’Reilly, Duchene and Stastny. Sakic and the Avs are leaning towards a forward though, based on the idea that you can never have enough depth up front. In fact, it’s believed that Drouin and Barkov are the Avs’ other two choices. Roy saw plenty of MacKinnon in the Q and the big center’s 13-point performance at the MemCup convinced Avs brass that he was the best player in the draft. If the Avs do end up walking away with Jones, it wouldn’t be with the first overall pick.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C

2. Florida Panthers – Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks (NA1)

The Panthers could add a little of everything but defence is a more pressing need. Gudbranson and Kulikov are the only regulars under the age of 25, while up front they already have reigning Calder winner Huberdeau with Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore. It’ll be an easy pick for the Panthers, as they’d be more than happy to scoop up whoever’s left, be it MacKinnon (perhaps the better fit) or Drouin.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C; Nichushkin, RW

3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Chelyabinsk (E2)

The top three picks (in no particular order) are believed to be Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin, but Nichushkin is making scouts think twice. Nichushkin’s best asset is his speed, which he uses to great effectiveness, and there is the belief that he could be the second or third-most talented player in the draft. The smart money may be on Drouin, but the Lightning aren’t averse to taking risks (Brett Connolly) or ignoring the “Russian factor” (Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevski). Other than Jones, there are no other defencemen who are quite worthy of being taken in the top five, which rules out Nurse, though Tampa could use another body on their blueline.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C; Nurse, D

4. Nashville Predators – Aleksander (Sasha) Barkov, C, Tappara (E1)

The Preds are in an interesting situation because this is the highest they’ve ever drafted since taking Legwand second overall in their inaugural season. (That’s also a testament to how good of a job Poile and Trotz have done, by the way). Barkov has a higher offensive ceiling than Lindholm and more physically mature than Monahan, which gives him the edge. Down the road, the Preds can ice a future first line with Barkov and Filip Forsberg, giving them two offensive dynamos, something they’ve never ever had. Drouin would be a great pick too, but Barkov plays a position that’s tougher to fill.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Lindholm, C; Nurse, D; Monahan, C

5. Carolina Hurricanes – Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax (NA3)

If Drouin falls to fifth, it’ll certainly be quite the surprise. Considered a top three pick, Drouin falls to fifth with Tampa taking a chance on the wildly talented Nichushkin and Nashville opting for a much-needed center. With Drouin, the Canes get a highly talented player who can play with either Eric or Jordan Staal, or perhaps form a terrifying blend of speed and skill with Skinner. This is the best case scenario for Carolina because, traditionally, the team doesn’t draft European players or defencemen in the first round, which rules out Lindholm, Nichushkin and Nurse. If Drouin isn’t available, the smart money is on Monahan or even Shinkaruk.

Other candidates: Lindholm, C; Monahan, C; Shinkaruk, C/LW

6. Calgary Flames – Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (NA4)

Feaster hasn’t been shy about his attempts to move up, recently offering all three of the Flames’ first round picks to the Avs for the first overall pick. The re-building Flames could use a little of everything. Feaster’s best option is to take the best player available and that’s Nurse. Not only has Nurse’s stock skyrocketed the most for players in the top 10, he fills a need with Calgary short on blue chip defenceman. He also has athletic bloodlines, being the nephew of Donovan McNabb. The temptation is to take a scorer like Monahan, but the Flames already have two red light machines in Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Lindholm, C; Ristolainen, D

7. Edmonton Oilers – Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas (E3)

I have a feeling the Oilers desperately want Nurse, a player who can bring some sandpaper to a talented but underwhelming blueline. If Nurse isn’t available, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to trade out of the top ten to get a veteran player or a lower pick to draft Ristolainen or Zadorov. Remember, Horcoff and Hemsky don’t have futures in Edmonton. Lindholm is also known to be a defensively responsible player, a dimension that most of the Oilers’ high-octane forwards lack.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Shinkaruk, C/LW; Wennberg, C; Ristolainen, D

8. Buffalo Sabres – Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (NA6)

The Sabres don’t have a glaring hole in their pipeline, which means they’ll be taking the best player available. Shinkaruk doesn’t have the same goal scoring ability as Monahan, but Shinkaruk has excellent hands and explosive speed, something that may need replacing if Vanek is dealt. Shinkaruk’s small size at just 5’10” won’t deter the Sabres from taking him, even if they do need a little size. That certainly can be addressed later in the draft with their other first round pick acquired from Minnesota.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Wennberg, C

9. New Jersey Devils – Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa 67’s (NA5)

Perhaps the best goal scorer left in the draft, the Devils are also filling a need for a second center behind Zajac. A team with financial troubles and a crippling, cap-unfriendly contract courtesy of Kovalchuk, the Devils will have to hit home runs in the draft and bring up young talent on entry-level contracts to stay competitive. Fucale, the only goaltender worth taking in the first round this year, is a reach with the ninth pick and the Devils never seem to be concerned about life after Brodeur.

Other candidates: Ristolainen, D; Pulock, D; Mueller, D; Wennberg, C; Domi, C

10. Dallas Stars – Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgarden (E5)

Wennberg’s two biggest assets are his speed and hockey sense. He doesn’t possess any overwhelming offensive skills, though some scouts believe that will come later when he continues to develop. The Stars will be tempted to take a blueliner at this spot but after acquiring Joe Morrow, Kevin Connauton and Cameron Gaunce, the Stars will take an offensive forward. This will be rookie GM Jim Nill’s first draft and coming from the Detroit organization he won’t be afraid to take Europeans.

Other candidates: Domi, C; Zykov, LW

11. Philadelphia Flyers  – Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (NA12)

Pulock’s stock fell after being ranked as the sixth-best skater in Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings. A right-handed (an absolute premium) offensive defenceman who scored 45 points in 61 games, Pulock will help the Flyers’ transition offence, something Holmgren (perhaps too rashly) attempted to fix by signing Streit to a four-year extension. The Flyers may take a forward if they do end up moving either Brayden Schenn or Couturier, but getting more mobile defencemen is the more pressing need. Since the Flyers bought out Bryzgalov this summer, Fucale would be an interesting pick, but 11th overall might be too early.

Other candidates: Ristolainen, D; Zadorov, D; Mueller, D; Bigras, D; Fucale, G

12. Phoenix Coyotes – Max Domi, C, London Knights (NA19)

Ranked as the 19th-best North American skater, the general consensus is that Domi is one of the most talented offensive players in the draft and will be taken in the middle picks of the first round. There are plenty of options at this spot and the Coyotes will take the best forward available, although they may be leaning towards a center. The Coyotes lack top-end forwards and, if taken, Domi automatically becomes their top offensive prospect.

Other candidates: Zykov, LW; Horvat, C; Mantha, RW

13. Winnipeg Jets – Valentin Zykov, LW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (NA7)

Though not particularly tall at 6’, Zykov possesses a big frame that he uses to shield the puck effectively. He’s noted for having a good work ethic and his willingness to play in the Q, especially in Baie-Comeau, has won some scouts over. (Insert “Winnipeg is just as bad” joke here). Zykov may have to switch wings with Kane and Ladd set as the Jets’ left wingers but that shouldn’t be a problem. With Zach Yuen re-entering the draft, Cheveldayoff may wish to replace that lost depth, but defence is one of Winnipeg’s deeper positions anyway with Trouba joining the club next year, potentially with Redmond and Postma becoming regulars as well.

Other candidates: Horvat, C; Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

14. Columbus Blue Jackets – Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS (E4)

There’s a good chance Ristolainen gets taken earlier, but the knock against him is that he doesn’t impress with any of his skills. He has the size and skating ability and plays a steady two-way game. Though he led all TPS defencemen in scoring, Ristolainen’s at his best when he is in position and taking few risks. New GM Jarmo Kekalainen stated publicly he will take the best player available, and if Ristolainen falls this far he’s certainly the runaway candidate. Think a poor man’s Kimmo Timonen – just as steady but without the 40-50 point potential – when it comes to Ristolainen.

Other candidates: Mueller, D; Horvat, C; Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

15. New York Islanders – Zach Fucale, G, Halifax Moosheads (NA1)

The Islanders used all seven of their picks last year on defencemen, which means it is highly unlikely they’ll use their first pick on another defenceman though Mueller, Theodore and Bigras are solid choices. It’s tough to gauge when goalies will get drafted since they’re drafted more on organizational need rather than talent. The Isles are deep at just about every position except in net. Nilsson and Poulin represent the only depth the Islanders have in net with Koskinen spending the 2012-13 season in Finland.

Other candidates: Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW; Horvat, C; Hartman, RW

16. Buffalo Sabres – Nikita Zadorov, D, London Knights (NA22)

The Sabres are in for more changes down the road, one of which could be trading franchise goalie Miller. It’s no secret that the Sabres lack size and Miller is tired of getting run over by opposing forwards. Zadorov can solve all of those problems. A 6’5” defenceman, Zadorov is at his best taking the body. Scouts believe he’s still very raw, but once he develops more technical puck skills and plays more consistently, there are those who believe he can be a top pairing defenceman. Worst-case scenario, Zadorov becomes a serviceable number four defenceman. Having taken Shinkaruk with an earlier pick, the Sabres can afford to take a risk and reach for Zadorov.

Other candidates: Bigras, D; Mueller, D; Theodore, D; Rychel, LW; Horvat, C

17. Ottawa Senators – Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound Attack (NA14)

The Sens are brimming with excitement to see what Zibanejad and Silfverberg can do with a healthy Spezza and Karlsson, but the blueline needs shoring up. Scouts are divided over Bigras. Some think he’s an excellent, all-round defenceman who plays in all situations while others think he benefitted from playing on a deep Attack squad. That Bigras plays close to Ottawa means the team can keep a closer eye on him. With Karlsson, Wiercioch and Cody Ceci, the Sens blueline could use more grit.

Other candidates: Mueller, D; Theodore, D; Horvat, C; Rychel, LW

18. Detroit Red Wings – Bo Horvat, C, London Knights (NA15)

Less offensively gifted than Domi but more dynamic at both ends of the ice, Horvat is the more versatile of London’s two prized forwards. Considered a player who can be a 20-30 goal scorer in the NHL with good intangibles, Horvat is also used on the penalty kill and oozes leadership, having captained Team Ontario at the U17 World Challenge. Babcock praised Detroit’s depth and versatile players in the playoffs and having Horvat certainly helps. He has the potential to wear a letter some day.

Other candidates: Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

19. Columbus Blue Jackets – Anthony Mantha, RW, Val-D’Or Foreurs (NA10)

Two reasons you can get excited about the 6’4” Mantha: he led the Q with 50 goals, nine more than Drouin, and possesses good skating ability. Two reasons you can’t get excited about Mantha: he’s not a particularly good playmaker and many have questioned his intensity level. When a prospect’s work ethic is questioned, it can negatively impact his draft stock. Similar labels were placed on Jamie Benn (not dedicated to fitness), Byfuglien (simply too fat) and Getzlaf (didn’t care), but all three would be top picks in re-drafts. Mantha’s too talented to slip all the way to the lower rounds, but based on talent alone he should be a top 15 pick.

Other candidates: Theodore, D; Mueller, D; Rychel, LW; Burakowsky, LW

20. San Jose Sharks – Shea Theodore, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (NA11)

After Jones and Nurse, clearly the two best defencemen in North America, there’s a glut of comparable mid-tier defencemen. Theodore and Mueller both make bigger impacts on the offensive end of the ice, though Theodore has the higher offensive ceiling with 19 goals to Mueller’s 6. San Jose has found a successor to Thornton in Couture but not Boyle, and if Theodore is still available, Wilson will snatch him up quickly. With Burns becoming a regular winger, the Sharks defence will be even more depleted. The knock against Theodore right now is that he tries to do too much. He needs to be more efficient.

Other candidates: Bowey, D; Morin, D; McCoshen, D, Morrissey, D

21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor Spitfires (NA17)

Domi and Rychel will get the hype regardless of their draft stock by virtue of their dads. (A little less so for Burakowsky). The draft will be interesting early on with the Avs openly declaring that they’ll pass on the top-ranked player. Once Barkov and Lindholm get drafted after the big three, it’ll be wide open. This is a talented class and teams will look to fill specific needs if two players are comparable. Rychel, a two-time 40-goal scorer in the OHL already, has the ability to become a rough-and-tumble version of Scott Hartnell but better. He’ll surely be a fan favourite with father Warren being a former Leaf, too.

Other candidates: Nastasiuk, RW; Mantha, RW; Hartman, RW

22. Calgary Flames – Mirco Mueller, D, Everett Silvertips (NA9)

The Swiss native climbed three spots from 12th to ninth in Central Scouting’s final rankings and a large part is due to Mueller’s excellent production in the Dub. A smooth skater who has good size at 6’3”, Mueller needs to fill out a little more. At this point in the draft, though it is a deep class, teams will be looking to stockpile talent regardless of position or maturity. Because Mueller played so well in his first year with Everett (31 points in 63 games), scouts believe he has some upside that may make him a second-pairing defenceman down the road.

Other candidates: Carrier, LW; Nastasiuk, RW; Hartman, RW; Burakowsky, LW

23. Washington Capitals – Ian McCoshen, D, Waterloo Blackhawks (NA24)

The Caps are flush with talent on the wings and have two young goalies already with the big club, which means McPhee will be looking to fill a need. None of the forwards left have any tantalizing offensive abilities, and if they do, they come with major weaknesses in other parts of their game. Committed to Boston College, McCoshen has been compared to Brooks Orpik, and the Caps sorely need a defensive conscience on their blueline to cover pinches from the point by Green or Carlson.

Other candidates: Morin, D; Bowey, D; Hagg, D; Lazar, RW/C; Hartman, RW

24. Vancouver Canucks – William Carrier, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (NA18)

In the past, the Canucks have drafted players who were considered safe: Hodgson was viewed as the most mentally mature (that wasn’t the case) and Jensen was seen as a solid but unspectacular NHLer (he has a limited offensive ceiling). Despite missing half the season due to an ankle injury, Carrier finished the season as the Eagles’ top scorer with 42 points in 34 games, a testament to his abilities and poor supporting cast. Carrier is a risk because high point totals from the Q have to be discounted and his skating needs work, but the Canucks have played it too safe for too long.

Other candidates: Lazar, RW/C; Petan, C; Burakowsky, LW; de la Rose, C

25. Montreal Canadiens – Ryan Hartman, RW, Plymouth Whalers (NA16)

Hartman’s stock climbed over the last part of the season because he was so astonishingly consistent with his effort level. At 5’11”, Hartman is a versatile forward who can play center and plays much bigger than his body would suggest. He’s a pest and the best kinds are the ones who can put the puck in the net, too. Having another Brendan Gallagher-type player in the lineup wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Other candidates: Lazar, RW/C; Morin, D; Burakowsky, LW; de la Rose, C; Gauthier, LW/RW

26. Anaheim Ducks – Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski Oceanic (NA23)

The Ducks have a little bit of everything in their pipeline, from speed from the back end (Lindholm), scoring from the checking line (Rakell) and scoring from the wings (Etem) and centers (Holland). What they lack is size and toughness – Morin is 6’6”. He is mobile but scouts are divided about his talent level. He is ranked as high as 10th and as low as 32nd, depending on the source. He is raw and needs more seasoning but he adds an extra dimension to the Ducks defence. The Ducks have done well with USNTDP kids in the past, which makes J.T. Compher a good pick as well.

Other candidates: Bowey, D; Lazar, RW/C; Klimchuk, LW; de la Rose, C; Compher, LW

27. Columbus Blue Jackets – Andre Burakowsky, LW, Malmo (E6)

GM Kekalainen said he’d like to move up in the draft, which means that there’s a strong likelihood that the Jackets’ 14th and 27th overall picks are the ones being dangled as trade bait. There is nothing the Jackets don’t need and Kekalainen is still filling the cupboard. Born in Austria but playing for Sweden, Burakowsky has NHL bloodlines, with father Robert a former Ottawa Senator. As a young player, Burakowsky’s minutes with Malmo were limited and having been cut from the Swedish national junior team it was difficult to get a good read on him. However, scouts believe he’s a very talented player with speed to burn.

Other candidates: de la Rose, C; Klimchuk, LW; Lazar, RW/C

28. Calgary Flames – Curtis Lazar, RW/C, Edmonton Oil Kings (NA20)

Lazar was ranked in the top 10 to start the season, but he lacks the high-end talents of his elite peers. Still, he projects to be a very good second or third line player with intangibles. Lazar captained Team BC at the Canada Winter Games. That Lazar plays close by in Edmonton is a bonus. Whether or not Lazar can be a center in the NHL remains to be seen, but if he does he’ll add depth down the middle playing behind Mark Jankowski.

Other candidates: Gauthier, LW/RW; de la Rose, C; Klimchuk, LW; Morrissey, D; Bowey, D

29. Dallas Stars – Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna Rockets (NA32)

There are a large number of players who will be borderline first round picks and the difference could come down to a team’s need. Bowey’s draft stock fell a bit in the final rankings, but he’s an excellent skater with good size and shoots right. He didn’t improve in his second season with Kelowna as many had hoped, but he comes from a team that’s known to produce excellent defencemen. After taking Wennberg 10th overall, the Stars will likely opt for a defenceman here.

Other candidates: Morrissey, D; Heatherington, D; Hagg, D; Diaby, D

30. Chicago Blackhawks – Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert Raiders (NA27)

Teuvo Teravainen headlines a group of highly talented forwards who have yet to make the NHL, but depth on defence was vital to the Blackhawks’ success in the playoffs. With little confidence in Leddy, Quenneville relied heavily on Keith, who played the most minutes in Game 6 and played huge roles on defence and transition offence. Morrissey is undersized at 5’11” but he’s a superb skater who plays with an edge.

Other candidates: Heatherington, D; Hagg, D; Diaby, D

Seven honourable mentions:

Jacob de la Rose, C, Leksand (E7)

Considered a “safe” player, de la Rose may be passed over in the first round because he doesn’t possess good offensive upside. Teams may be better off taking a risk with a more talented player, especially in the late first round.

Frederik Gauthier, LW/RW, Rimouski Oceanic (NA8)

Ranked eighth by Central Scouting, Gauthier is a key omission from this mock draft. Gauthier’s biggest strength is his size at 6’5” and over 200 pounds, but his technical skills are lacking and he didn’t dominate enough in the Q, the overall weakest of the three CHL leagues. Size can’t be taught, but neither can talent.

Zach Nastasiuk, RW, Owen Sound Attack (NA13)

Nastasiuk’s stock kept going up and up with each passing game and shot from his 33rd ranking to 13th, making him one of the biggest movers. However, he still projects to be a third liner in the NHL. He’s a risky pick because scouts are unsure about his offensive ceiling. A true wild card, Nastasiuk can get drafted anywhere after the 10th pick depending on how enamoured teams are with his rising stock.

Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Regina Pats (NA25)

If there is a player on this list who should be drafted in the first round, it’s Klimchuk. Despite scoring 36 goals and 76 points in 72 games, scouts believe that Klimchuk can put even better numbers with better teammates. He is a quick player and projects to be a depth scorer in the NHL.

Adam Erne, LW, Quebec Remparts (NA26)

A strong skater and even stronger on the puck, Erne fell from 13th in the Midterm Ranks to 26th. Part of the reason for the fall may be Erne’s conditioning. Still, Erne is a good offensive player and could become a second line forward.

Nicolas Petan, C, Portland Winterhawks (NA33)

Undersized at just 5’8”, Petan will most likely move to the wing in the pros. However, he is a gifted offensive playmaker, averaging over an assist per game en route to a 120-point campaign. That he comes from a strong WHL club certainly makes him an attractive pick.

Jun 232012

What an interesting first round and one of the most memorable in recent years. The highlight was obviously the Jordan Staal trade,  but unlike last year, there was some intrigue as to who the Oilers would take. The day before the draft, it was almost a sure thing the Oilers would take Nail Yakupov, but 15 minutes before the start of the draft, there was a good chance the Oilers would take Ryan Murray instead.

I don’t think any team did particularly poorly. I think some picks were better than others, obviously, but you could really justify all of them. I will say that the player I’m looking forward to playing most in the NHL is Alex Galchenyuk and the player I’ll be keeping an eye on for awhile is Mark Jankowski. Hampus Lindholm, Filip Forsberg, Radek Faksa, Tomas Hertl and Brady Skjei were my favourite picks, and Stefan Matteau going to the Devils and Malcolm Subban going to the Bruins wins sentimental points with me.

1st overall –  Nail Yakupov, RW
There was some worry that the Oilers may choose Ryan Murray with their first pick after Murray’s brother, Nathan Murray, tweeted (since deleted) and implied that the family may have to make trips to Alberta more often. Had GM Steve Tambellini taken Murray with the first pick, it would’ve been a colossal waste. He could’ve easily traded down to the No. 2 or No. 3 spot to nab Murray. Good thing that didn’t happen.

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Jun 232012

The Jordan Staal trade was interesting because I thought that Carolina would realize their unique bargaining position and capitalize. They did, and I thought the price was relatively moderate for a guy like Staal, especially considering what Columbus GM Scott Howson is trying to get for Rick Nash.

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Jun 182012

I’m one of those few guys who actually gets as excited for the draft and July 1 as Opening Night. It’s an interesting draft year – asides from three top-end forwards, it’s the year of the defensemen, especially reliable puck-movers and some really great skaters. I figure teams will be looking to fill holes in this year’s draft rather than taking the best player available. Looking at different draft lists, there’s even no consensus on where Ryan Murray may end up. Some have him as high as second overall, while others have at least a couple of defensemen ahead of him.

Here’s my annual mock draft. Take a gander. (Here’s the 2011 mock and the draft grades).

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May 272012

Returning from a one-month hiatus (finishing up my internship at the Hockey Hall of Fame), just in time for the finals… except I think I speak for everyone when I say I would’ve liked to see a LA-NY matchup.

The Kings and Devils (anyone predict that?) met only twice this year, both times in October, and both times the Devils won. Except that’s a moot point because the Kings are a drastically different team, and the Devils too after adding Marek Zidlicky. It’s not a particularly sexy matchup, but it’s an intriguing one. I don’t think this will be a barnburner-type series like Detroit-Pittsburgh, Vancouver-Boston, or Philadelphia-Chicago, but more like Anaheim-New Jersey or Carolina-Edmonton (God forbid). These two teams aren’t exactly the darlings of their respective cities (that’d be the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, and Jets) yet find themselves at the pinnacle of their sport. Fans will realize that they’re playing for a championship trophy, but it’s different in hockey cities who know the sheer gravity and consequence of winning (or losing) the finals.

Regardless, we always learn a few things about the NHL (and hockey in general) by this time of the year. Here’s some things to keep in mind.

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Aug 202011

I love talking about prospects because there’s never any one consensus. Even for a home run like Sidney Crosby, in 2005 no one was exactly how good this kid could be. Was he a 400 ft. home run or a never-seen-before 600 ft. home run? Some thought he was a franchise player, while others thought Crosby could be even more than a franchise player.

Talking prospects with hockey observers is an exercise in sifting through bullshit weeding out biases. It’s way too easy to get excited by the 17 year-old 6’5″ giant who’s being compared to Pronger, but also the mysterious Russian kid your team took a gamble on in the sixth round. You comb the Internet for whatever you can find about your team’s mysterious prospect, but then you realize the biggest problem with scouting reports is that there’s rarely anything negative. So you’re reading about this kid with “decent hands” and “good speed” without realizing that those words mean nothing without a proper context. Meanwhile, the team’s hyping up the prospects to make some money and when you’ve finally absorbed all the information, you’re probably ready to declare some fourth round pick a gem when he’s still the third scoring option as an over-ager on his junior team. When you get to this point, you might as well make wearing rose-coloured glasses mandatory. (I should add that it’s really easy to fall into that trap. Why do you think we have Leafs fans?)

I had issues with ESPN’s piece which ranked the league’s best pipelines (covered by Puck Daddy) but most of them were relatively minor and ESPN’s hockey coverage has already become a running joke. But with the way vancitydan at Nucks Misconduct responded, you’d think Grant Sonier had personally insulted him. For the most part I agree with him that ESPN doesn’t give Vancouver enough credit, but I hardly think the Canucks’ pipeline is all that desirable either.

vancitydan then compares previous regimes to Gillis’ track record, how we got “lucky” when Kesler fell to 23 when he was ranked just 16th among North American skaters, then slams Nonis (who has the best track record of the three) for a “horrible” ’06 draft only to yield a “good pick” in Grabner. I have to agree the 2007 draft was a disaster but without Nonis the Canucks also wouldn’t have Edler, Hansen, Schneider, or Raymond. Gillis gets a good rep for being a good GM but his character-driven draft strategy hasn’t fared to well either. The biggest finds weren’t through the draft, but rather through free agent signings.

(If you don’t want to read me rant on Canucks prospects, feel free to skip to the last paragaraph.)

I don’t expect much from Steven Anthony (not this one), a player who I got to see every now and again over the past two years. He’s skilled, but he’s also small and that works in the Q, but his defensive deficiencies and general lack of hockey awareness holds him back. He had his best year in his fourth major junior season, and was still under a point per game despite having Jurco, Huberdeau, Galiev, Beaulieu, and Despres. Remember Prab Rai? Everyone was jacked up to get him and he’s going to have a hard enough time cracking the Moose roster. Darren Archibald comes in a similar fashion, in that he’s only ever been a point per game player as an overager.

The two I would agree on would be Anton Rodin and Bill Sweatt, the more talented (and still playing) of the two Sweatt brothers. With the Canucks’ luck with Swedes, Rodin’s an intriguing prospect, highly touted both in Sweden and overseas. It’s rare when two sides come to a consensus so that’s usually a good thing. (A lot of Swedish scouts were unconvinced by Brunnstrom). Sweatt’s a potential late bloomer and I’ll usually give college kids a couple more years because their development comes at a much more slower (arguably steadier) pace than junior players. There’s some potential there but I wouldn’t play him anywhere the bottom six so that’s a big enough hurdle there: to be good enough to be considered a top six NHL-calibre winger.

Jordan Schroeder’s an interesting case. The general consensus in 2009 when the Canucks drafted him was that he was a steal. THN had him ranked 8th, and his main asset was that he would be great for the “new NHL.” But that was 2009, when scouts thought good skating ability is enough to get by, but that’s just not the case, since there’s just as many kids with good skating ability but are considerably bigger than Schroeder. He had a tough year with the Moose and was moved all over the lineup. Scouting is about perception, and while vancitydan fawns over Schroeder’s highlight reel, I can point out just as many reasons why Schroeder won’t be an impact NHLer.

0:43-:050 – There’s no way Schroeder lays out anyone in the NHL and the victim, Andy Bohmbach, is a lanky forward with zero future in the NHL. Also notice how when Schroeder goes to the net he still tends to stay on the perimeter.
2:47 – That’s awful coverage against Hershey’s Ashton Rome. He wasn’t anywhere near the play. We know he’s magic with the puck but hockey’s mostly played without the puck on your stick.
3:10 – Against the Marlies it looks like Schroeder really wanted that puck.
3:29 – He gets hammered right after he releases his shot. He won’t get that shot off at the NHL level.
3:53 – He can’t even catch Bill Thomas on a partial breakaway, even with highly touted footspeed and “new NHL” toolbox. (I could do this forever)

Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve look to be keepers and Eddie Lack seems like a really great find, but the rest aren’t especially noteworthy. Nicklas Jensen appears to be the only notable from our 2011 class, and even then he’s not a prospect with a particularly high ceiling. You could already see the brimming optimism vancitydan has for Honzik, who has been compared to Pekka Rinne, although it had been previously established that Anthony was a Crosby type, further proof that player-to-player comparisons are ridiculous and futile. The same goes for Labate and Grenier – they’re projects at best.

I think you have to be really careful about hyping up prospects for your own team because you have to be aware that 29 other fanbases are doing the exact same with their players. But like vancitydan said, it’s “just an opinion though,” to which I’d like to just add, “perception isn’t always reality.”

Jul 132011

I must profess that I’m by all accounts a complete hockey nerd.

If it’s something about hockey, I’m interested. It doesn’t have to be something at the NHL level – I’m equally interested in pieces about advanced stats, hockey sabremetrics, the juniors, overseas, and minor leagues, from the pitiful LNAH to the IHL to AHL to NHL. Of course my two main interests remain the NHL and Canadian junior hockey, in part because it’s practically forced down our throats every goddamn day (a word on media coverage shall be reserved for another day).

But anyway, this year’s draft kinda stunk because there wasn’t really any drama at all. Heading into the weekend, no matter how good the betting odds were that Gabriel Landeskog or Jonathan Huberdeau or Adam Larsson could leap-frog Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and get picked first overall by the Oilers, you just couldn’t make that bet. At least last year with the Tyler SeguinTaylor Hall debate, there was still some intrigue when Steve Tambellini walked up to the podium (I stand by my belief that both teams would’ve been better off if the picks were flip-flopped but whatever – with those two it’s more like picking either the hot blonde or the hot brunette). I’m gonna guess that the 2012 Draft will be more 2011 than 2010.

In my top 5 “Top 5 Quintets”

I usually keep a top 5 list in my head every year just so I have an idea of what’s coming up. The 5 may not be the BEST prospects (usually 3-4 are though), but guys I like to keep an eye on for one reason or another. For my 2012 list, I have (in no particular order): Nail Yakupov (Sarnia, OHL), Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia, OHL), Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw, WHL), Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL), and Ryan Murray (Everett, WHL). (My 2011 list was Landeskog, Bartschi, R. Murphy, Musil, and Saad. 2010: Seguin, Granlund, Campbell, Forbort, and Kabanov.)

I’ve seen a bit of Frk when I was living in Nova Scotia and the kid’s good – good speed, great hands, a NHL-calibre top-six winger (represented by Allan Walsh, @walsha, who frequently uses hashtags like #frktastic and #pavelectric to pump up his clients) – but in any draft I’m not sure I’d take him in the top 5 (or even top 15). Murray’s not a guy I compare to Carolina’s Ryan Murphy, a small, more skill-oriented style, but more two-way. (If you’re confused, don’t worry, I was for awhile too. First, there’s the aforementioned Ryan MURPHY, then there’s Everett’s Ryan MURRAY, while there’s a Connor MURPHY, also a defenseman, taken by Phoenix this year.)

The two guys you REALLY want to keep track of in 2012 are on the same team (Sarnia, which produced Steven Stamkos) and they’re both Russian – except they couldn’t be more different. Yakupov (#10) hails from Nizhnekamsk, a city in northern Russia whose KHL team features PAVEL friggin’ BRENDL (!!!) and Alexander Bumagin (the only name that is funny whether you pronounce it right or wrong) and nicknamed the “Petrochemists” (I shit you not). The basic principle with Russian prospects is this: they can all skate like the wind, handle the puck, and score goals like crazy. Yakupov’s cut from the same cloth.

The other kid’s Galchenyuk (#94), but other than having a Russian last name that’s about all the two share. His dad’s a former hockey player who came overseas at a time not many Russians did, and toiled in the minors for quite a while. THN’s Ryan Kennedy did a good article on him but the general idea you need to form is that he’s a hometown boy with hockey genes, great connections (Igor Larionov‘s a family friend), and wanted to play in the OHL after seeing the kind of reception John Tavares received. Yakupov might have the higher-end skill set but I think mid-way through the year Galchenyuk’s intangibles will shine through and he’ll be the consensus first pick.

OKAY, done. Sorry for going on FOREVER, but that’s the way I am when you get me talking hockey.

MacKinnon wearing #22. Wouldn’t want to make the comparisons too damn easy, right?

Anyway, the guy you REALLY should be keeping an eye on is Nathan MacKinnon, a 2013 draft eligible. He was most recently picked by Baie-Comeau first overall in the QMJHL bantam draft (isn’t it crazy how the junior hockey system works? Kids get projected a value on them at a really young age) and traded to Halifax (which features Frk and produced Jakub Voracek and Brad Marchand). The Mooseheads DESPERATELY wanted MacKinnon because they missed out on Sidney Crosby (I’d love to see Rimouski merchandise sales from ’03-’05). Cole Harbour’s a Halifax suburb and the Mooseheads would benefit greatly (mostly economically) from having the QMJHL darling play in front of his hometown crowd and the Q’s biggest Maritime market. The Moose were the worst team in their division last year and their 20 wins were a 3-year high. Considering the number of players junior teams go through each year, they’re far removed from their Voracek-led 42-win, division title-winning campaign in 2008. Two years of MacKinnon, at least one with Frk, could change that.

(If you’re wondering what sort of haul Baie-Comeau got in return, I wouldn’t sweat it. Trades in junior hockey aren’t like trades in the pros, where it’s often made to plug lineup holes or address locker room issues. You’ll never ever see a team swap superstars like in the NHL because there’s no point in upsetting a loyal fanbase for a chance that you MIGHT be better off with Player A than Player B because Player A is a better penalty killer. The only trades that happen are the ones where a Memorial Cup-bound team wants to beef up their lineup (the London Knights were notorious for doing this) or because a team wants to market a player for financial profit, as is, so far, the case with MacKinnon. Trades in junior hockey can often be even colder than the ones in the pros because there’s little inherent loyalty in 16-18 year old players who play only a couple of years before moving on.)

Exactly how good is MacKinnon? I’m not sure, exactly, but there sure is a lot of hype. While he may have been the first pick of the QMJHL draft, he still has to compete with players from two other CHL leagues, not to mention Swedes and Russians from overseas. There’s ZERO DOUBT in my mind that he’s NOT the next Sidney Crosby, even if he is the number one rated prospect. His career may mirror Crosby’s very closely so far, but if you’re from the same small community, and seeing the kind of image Crosby has crafted, wouldn’t you want to follow the exact same blueprint?

That MacKinnon’s trade, however unsurprising, made TSN’s front page headline is pretty noteworthy in itself. Some players love feeding off the kind of energy hockey-mania can bring (like Galchenyuk) while others tend to stay far from it (most recently Mike Richards). Again, playing hockey in Canada means living under constant media scrutiny.

I hope MacKinnon didn’t agree to play at Shattuck-St. Mary’s just because “Crosby did it.” I hope he doesn’t think he’s going to be the next Crosby. Sure, it’s high praise, but it’s one with really lofty expectations. Undoubtedly the comparisons will always be there. It will always come with the territory for any player to ever come out of Cole Harbour, or even Nova Scotia, for that matter. And the truth is, very few of those kids ever make it to the NHL, much less as stars. I’m not rooting against MacKinnon or saying he won’t succeed, but I am saying beware the hype machine.

Sidenote #1: Crosby will come back to start the season. I’m pretty sure of it and he’ll still be the best player in the game. But if he misses any more time, if there’s any more setbacks to his recovery from his concussion, there’s going to be even more MacKinnon stories.

Sidenote #2: If MacKinnon’s career ends up resembling nothing like Crosby’s, 1) he should still be really happy about how far he’s gotten, and 2) I’m raising my future kids in Cole Harbour.

2011 Draft Grades

 Posted by at 3:02 PM  2 Responses »
Jun 282011

The first day of the draft featured no real surprises. Some teams made some great moves, others not so much. Some chose to focus on the draft while others continued the wheeling and dealing that has become so commonplace this summer. Here’s the original mock draft. (Rounds 1-2 and only noteworthy prospects taken in round 3 or later were considered.)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1), Oscar Klefbom (19), David Musil (31), Dillon Simpson (92)

The Oilers made no surprises by taking RNH first overall, then proceeded to round out their depleted defensive corps by getting Klefbom, a highly-regarded Swedish defender who has Erik Karlsson-like offensive upside, a shut-down type in Musil, and dipping into history a little by taking Dillon Simpson, the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. A great haul by Steve Tambellini and I think adding Ryan Smyth is going to be a popular move. I don’t think I can fault any of those moves. Grade: A+

Matt Nieto (47)

The big move on draft day wasn’t the picks, it was getting Brent Burns for cheap. Now with the back end further solidified (much needed), the Sharks are much better and deeper team. Their powerplay is dangerous now with Burns and Dan Boyle, even though both are right-handed (Boyle is obviously the triggerman, Burns more the rover) and Nieto, a goalscorer, certainly is able to replace Devin Setoguchi, who must’ve been choked after signing a three-year extension to stay in the Bay Area. Grade: B for Nieto (aka Setoguchi clone), an A+ for the day.

Mika Zibanejad (6), Stefan Noesen (21), Matt Puempel (24), Shane Prince (61)

I don’t think much of Puempel (can’t play defense) and I’m not too familiar with Noesen (grinder at NHL level), but I Zibanejad was a great pick (made much more sense than Couturier, who I had them picking) and Prince is a splendid speedster with some great hands. With 63 assists for the 67’s, Prince was a major reason why Tyler Toffoli (Kings, 47th overall in ’10) had such a great year (57 goals). Bryan Murray‘s serious about this re-build and the draft was a great start. Grade: A

Mark McNeill (18), Phillip Danault (26), Adam Clendening (36), Brandon Saad (43), Maxim Shalunov (109)

The Blackhawks know how to pick players and I like all five picks. After losing so much depth due to Brian Campbell‘s contract, Stan Bowman completely re-stocked, taking a big centre, a skilled playmaker, a puck-moving defenseman, a power forward, and a mystery Russian that no doubt has some sick hands. Bowman covered all the bases so what’s not to like? Grade: A

Chris Gibson (49), Nick Shore (82)

Like the Sharks, the Kings big moves weren’t made with the draft, but rather acquiring a potential power-altering player in Mike Richards. It’s a foregone conclusion that Jonathan Bernier is leaving some time down the road, which makes picking Gibson a smart move. Nick’s older brother, Drew, is a prospect for Florida and both play for the Denver Pioneers. Grade: B+ for draft, A for the summer (would be an A++ if they managed to keep Brayden Schenn, but that deal wouldn’t have happened then).

Gabriel Landeskog (2), Duncan Siemens (11), Joachim Nermark (93)

The Avs were rumoured to like Huberdeau better, but I guess a Peter Forsberg parallel is hard to pass up and Landeskog was my second-ranked skater anyway. Siemens is a good pick although I think he went a little high because I see him more as a Bryan Allen stay-at-home type (Klefbom was available). Nermark plays for Linkoping in the Elitserien and was the top scorer at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament with 11 points in 5 games. It’s a great value pick in round 3. Grade: B+

Dougie Hamilton (9), Alexander Khokhlachev (40)

With such a young corps of forwards (Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton lead the way at age 25,Tyler Seguin is the youngest at 18), the emphasis is on replacing Zdeno Chara on the blueline sometime down the road. Thanks to the Phil Kessel trade and the Leafs’ (somewhat) unpredicted woes, the Bruins entered the top 10 and took the second-best defenseman in the draft. Khokhlachev is a great pick at 40, a high-end scorer that the Bruins can take a chance on. Grade: B+

Ryan Murphy (12), Victor Rask (42)

Murphy’s a GREAT pick but Jim Rutherford HAS to be patient – there’s no use selecting such a high-end defenseman and then end up trading him away for multiple inferior pieces (cough, Jack Johnson, cough). Murphy will follow top prospects Justin FaulkJamie McBain, and Brian Dumoulin as Rutherford revamps his blueline (which may still feature Joni Pitkanen, despite previous rumours suggesting otherwise). I thought a team might’ve taken a stab at the Swedish Rask in the late first (Detroit or Vancouver) but he slipped as the year went on and still a valuable prospect. Grade: B+

Rickard Rakell (30), John Gibson (39), William Karlsson (53), Joseph Cramarossa (65), Max Friberg (143)

Interesting that the Ducks went with a Swede in the first round, since the last Euro they took in the first round ended up not playing a single game for them (Ladislav Smid, 2004). Taking Gibson was great though, with Jonas Hiller battling some head problems. Friberg was a name that really popped out for some reason, and it was only through a little digging that I remembered watching the kid at the WJC for Sweden (he’s not on hockeyDB, so check out EliteProspects.com). He’s a speedy little guy, but like other late Euro picks you have to wonder if he has the skill, size, and drive to compete in the NHL. Intriguing indeed. Grade: B+

Ty Rattie (32), Dmitrij Jaskin (41), Joel Edmundson (46), Jordan Binnington (88), Ryan Tesink (162)

I really like the Rattie and Jaskin picks, as the Blues stay true to their draft trends by taking skilled wingers. Binnington’s the top ranked OHL goalie and might take awhile to develop, but that’s fine because the Blues are trying to get Jake Allen and Ben Bishop over that developmental hump. Tesink is yet another Sea Dog that will benefit greatly from playing with some high quality players. Grade: B+

Tyler Biggs (22), Stuart Percy (25)

Brian Burke loves his forwards big and bad, which means he wasn’t going to walk out of Minnesota without one of Biggs or Saad and Percy, his personal favourite. Biggs is your prototypical power forward – a bruising 6’2″, 200 lbs. winger with decent hands. However, you can’t help but think that Burke’s a little more than irked that he lost out on Mike Richards (offered a Nazem Kadri/Nikolai Kulemin package). Grade: B+, for getting the guys he wanted

Jonathan Huberdeau (3), Rocco Grimaldi (33), Rasmus Bengtsson (59), Vincent Trocheck (64)

Quite an eclectic group by Dale Tallon. Huberdeau’s a high-end scorer and he’ll be the future centre of the franchise (move aside, Stephen Weiss). Huberdeau’s not a Jonathan Toews-type player, far from it, but Tallon envisions this guy playing a similar role for a floundering franchise (I actually see Huberdeau as more Patrick Kane). Grimaldi’s a Martin St. Louis type, standing only 5’6″ but speaks like a champion. Here’s what he said prior to the draft about his stature and career:

“It’s impossible,” said pride. “Risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered heart.

Hard to pass up on a guy like that although Hart Trophy material he is not. Bengtsson should not be confused for the footballer of the same name who plays for FC Twente in the Eredivisie (the Netherlands’ pro soccer league) but apparently wowed everyone at the combine with 3.6% body fat. Trocheck averaged about a point per game for Saginaw. Grade: B

Sean Couturier (8)

The Flyers envision Brayden Schenn and Danny Briere as their top two centres (I think Claude Girouxstays on the wing) and Couturier is a great number three. Word is that the Flyers would’ve picked Siemens (a definite reach, but they also need defensemen) if Couturier had already been taken, but his stock kept falling little by little since the WJC. Paul Holmgren sounded ecstatic that Couturier fell to him and there was no way he’d pass this up. Grade: B

Ryan Strome (5), Scott Mayfield (34), Johan Sundstrom (50), Robbie Russo (95)

There was no way the Islanders weren’t going to pick Strome to compliment John Tavares. Mayfield’s committed to Denver next year and he projects to be a number three or four dependable defenseman while Russo is definitely the more offensively gifted prospect (wore Mike Green‘s 52 for the US Development Team and committed to Notre Dame next year). Grade: B

Jamie Oleksiak (14), Brett Ritchie (44), Matej Stransky (165)

I honestly thought the Stars were going to take Armia, with their solid history of developing Finns (Jere Lehtinen, etc.) and they needed a centre with Brad Richards leaving. Oleksiak’s size is a HUGE draw but plays on an average team (Northeastern won just 14 games last year) in a really tough conference (Hockey East) which may or may not be a positive. Stransky, on the other hand, could be an absolute STEAL. A Czech native, Stransky just completed his first season with Saskatoon and any European who is willing to play junior hockey earns bonus points with me. Grade: B

Joel Armia (16), Dan Catennaci (77)

As TSN showed, this is the first European taken by Darcy Regier since… well, Dennis Persson in 2006 (0 NHL games). You can’t fault his logic – those North American kids have really served Buffalo well and if I ever became a GM (drool) I’d have a similar draft strategy. Most Finns play a rough and tumble game though, so Armia isn’t a reach. Catenacci follows the long line of undersized skill forwards (5’10”, 71 pts in 67 GP) in Buffalo’s system. Grade: B

Vladislav Namestnikov (27), Nikita Kucherov (58)

Steve Yzerman surprised me by taking a Russian, although given his stature in the game it’s hard to say no to him and the fine Florida weather. Namestnikov also plays for London in the OHL under Dale Hunter, which really almost doubles his value. Kucherov is an 18-year old who suited up for CSKA for 9 games and while I know close to nothing about him, it’s hard to imagine him NOT being your typical skill-oriented, speedy Russian. If Yzerman ever has trouble convincing these Russian kids to stay, I’m sure Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov are just a phone call away. Grade: B

Nicklas Jensen (29)

Was I surprised about this pick? Absolutely not, especially with how fellow Dane Jannik Hansen has performed. Jensen’s a player very much in the same mold, a hard-working, two-way forward who can play all three positions and has some scoring ability (thinking back now, the Johan Franzen comparison might be a bit of a reach). Sound familiar? It should, because this has been the Canucks’ MO for drafting since the Burke regime. Jensen will make the NHL but what sort of impact will he make? Grade: B

Tomas Jurco (35), Xavier Ouellet (48), Ryan Sproul (55)

It doesn’t shock me at all that the Wings took Jurco, who slipped out of the first round. They’ll take their time with him, of course, but I keep wondering when Ken Holland will make that big move and take a marquee forward to replace Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the future (probably never). Grade: B, because we know their scouting department is great.

Magnus Hellberg (38), Miika Salomaki (52)

With Shea Weber getting at least $6 million, the normally cost-conscious Preds may have a problem on their hands if ownership can’t approve another $6 million deal for Pekka Rinne. Hellberg was the first goalie to be taken, even though both Chris and John Gibson were ranked higher. Salomaki is a Finn, the Preds have been pretty good with those (Kimmo Timonen) and was among the top 10 European skaters. Did I mention these two players have some pretty badass names? Draft: B

Mark Scheifele (7), Austen Brassard (149)

I thought the Jets would make much more noise at the draft considering the strong contingent of fans they have, but the only ripples they caused was going off the board a little and taking Scheifele (not really sold on him yet either). With Dustin ByfuglienTobias Enstrom, and Zach Bogosian it made sense to pass on Dougie Hamilton, but I wonder if Kevin Cheveldayoff couldn’t have traded down… Grade: B-

Sven Bartschi (13), Markus Granlund (45), Tyler Wotherspoon (57)

Jay Feaster‘s first draft since his Tampa days went pretty well, although I was very surprised he didn’t go after a centre (Armia or McNeill, who I thought they would take) until pick 45. Markus, the younger brother of Mikael, is one of Minnesota’s top prospects. Wotherspoon’s a stay-at-home type defenseman with a bit of a mean streak playing on a stacked Portland Winterhawks squad. Not a bad haul but the Flames still don’t have a C. Grade: B-

JT Miller (15), Shane McColgan (134)

I’m not too familiar with Miller, but knew he was a kid whose stock rose considerably as the year went on. The Rangers aren’t averse to taking risks at the draft and Miller was ranked 23rd among NA skaters by Central Scouting. McColgan, on the other hand, was projected to be a first rounder but faded quickly early in the season, much like Ambroz, though he did recoup some lost value with 19 points in 10 playoff games with Kelowna. Grade: B-, but also a high potential for a C-

Connor Murphy (20), Alexander Ruutu (51), Lucas Lessio (56)

I know better than to question most of Don Maloney’s moves, but most Coyotes draft picks don’t blow anyone away. Even Kyle Turris, praised by Wayne Gretzky himself, took awhile to assert himself in the lineup. The sample size for evaluating Murphy is small (just 9 games for the USNTDP) and I didn’t even have him in my first round mock draft but the Coyotes obviously saw enough to make a bit of a gamble. Ruutu, no relation to Jarkko and Tuomo, is the son of the Coyotes’ scout, Christian Ruutu and plays in the SM-liiga despite having been born in Chicago. Grade: B-

Jonas Brodin (10), Zack Phillips (28), Mario Lucia (60)

If I remember correctly, Brent Burns was traded after they took Brodin, although I’m sure taking Brodin had NOTHING to do with that trade. I’m not sold on Brodin – at 10 I think it’s a bit of a reach, especially with Klefbom (19th, Oilers), Siemens (11th, Avs), Murphy (12th, ‘Canes), and Beaulieu (17th, Habs) still available. Phillips brings some much needed size to the Minnesota lineup and in a bit of a shocker they plucked Lucia from their own backyard, drawing cheers from Xcel. Lucia’s father, Don, is the head coach at the University of Minnesota. Grade: B for picks, C+ for the day (we’ll see how Charlie Coyle turns out)

Adam Larsson (4), forfeited pick (69)

The Devils got really lucky and they know it. Larsson’s just what the doctor ordered for the Devils’ cement-footed defense. The Devils usually aren’t big players on draft day although I would’ve liked to see a move to replace the forfeited pick (thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk and his first cap-circumventing contract). Grade: A+ for Larsson, C for the rest.

Joe Morrow (23), Scott Harrington (54)

Morrow must’ve been too good to pass up at 23 because I would’ve taken a scoring winger, like Jurco, Nieto, or Rattie. Long-term, I’m not sure where Morrow fits, assuming that Ray Shero‘s happy with his defensive corps right now (I would). Either way, that’s a decision for later, but what confuses me even more is taking another defenseman in round 2. Are the Pens going after a winger on July 1 that we don’t know about? Grade: C

Patrick Koudys (147)

Koudys wasn’t the only Caps pick but certainly a player I felt could make the biggest impact down the road. Entering his sophomore year at RPI, Koudys is a stay-at-home that may stabilize the Caps’ back end. For the most part, the Caps have been good at drafting but given George McPhee‘s aggressive ways (dealing away picks) it might be quite some time before we see an early round impact prospect from Washington. Draft: C, for nothing spectacular

Nathan Beaulieu (17)

Interesting the Habs went with a CHL prospect, considering that from ’06-’09 they took a string of NCAA players (Louis Leblanc played one year at Harvard before joining the Q), but at 17 Beaulieu was too hard to pass up. Of the four Sea Dogs players (Huberdeau, Phillips, Jurco), only Beaulieu is a defenseman. He may be tall, but it’s hard to see any Q defenseman play a dominant physical game. He projects more to be a puck-mover, and maybe a second unit PP QB. Grade: B+ for Beaulieu, a C for nothing else of note.

Boone Jenner (37), Seth Ambroz (128)

With that Jeff Carter trade (the Jackets haven’t heard from him and he’s yet to make a public statement) and these so-so picks (two players whose stock fell considerably, now the Jackets are just crossing their fingers), the question isn’t whether or not they’ll make the playoffs (they won’t) but how long Scott Howson will be able to keep his job. Anytime you can acquire a player of Carter’s calibre is a bonus, but he’s not the type of player the Jackets need, not to mention he’s got that hideous contract. Draft: B-, and a C- for all the moves so far.

Wow. That was long. Thanks for reading!

2011 Mock Draft

 Posted by at 1:26 PM  3 Responses »
Jun 232011

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer, WHL (6’1″, 170 – NHL:1, TSN: 1, ISS: 1)

He’s by far the most talented kid in this year’s class so that totally negates the Oilers’ need to take a defenseman. Truth be told, the Oilers need a centre anyway and last year passed on Tyler Seguin, who was my top 2010 prospect, so they won’t be doing that again. You can’t really go wrong with a WHL kid anyway.

2. Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John, QMJHL (6’1″, 168 – NHL: 3, TSN: 3, ISS: 3)

I hear rumours that the Avs are really high on Huberdeau and with constant rumours about Peter Stastny‘s murky future with the team, I can see Greg Sherman completely revamping the team and going with Matt Duchene and Huberdeau down the middle. They just got Erik Johnson so they’ll pass on Larsson.

3. Gabriel Landeskog, LW – Kitchener, OHL (6’1″, 207 – NHL: 2, TSN: 4, ISS: 5)

This pick was a little hard to make out because I’m not sure how Dale Tallon wants to build this team. Is he looking for a franchise forward or building from the net out starting with Jacob Markstrom? He already has Erik Gudbranson, but if he takes Larsson he could have two potential Norris guys. If he wants to build the Panthers like the Blackhawks, he’ll need a Jonathan Toews-type, a franchise-material player, and that’s what I think Tallon does. He does like his Canadian kids but Landeskog’s like Ryan Kesler – Canadian game, wrong passport.

4. Adam Larsson, D – Skelleftea, Elitserien (6’3″, 200 – NHL: 1, TSN: 2, ISS: 2)

If I’m Lou Lamoriello, I’m ecstatic. Larsson’s a potential top three pick and it just so happens he fell to a team that desperately needs defensemen. The Devils are already playing 5-on-4 in their own zone on a nightly basis thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk anyway so Larsson’s a no-brainer here.

5. Ryan Strome, C – Niagara, OHL (6′, 183 – NHL: 8, TSN: 7, ISS: 9)

The Islanders may be tempted to take a defenseman but Travis Hamonic made an impression this year (26 points, +4, 103 PIM) and Calvin de Haan is turning pro next year. The focus is on offense and the Islanders love high-end skill players (Nino Niederreiter, 41 goals), and since Josh Bailey can’t win face-offs (44%) and Jack Capuano has no other scoring centre, Strome is the best fit.

6. Sean Couturier, C – Drummondville, QMJHL (6’4″, 195 – NHL 6, TSN: 5, ISS: 4)

I wasn’t too impressed with Couturier at the WJC but he still projects to be a solid two-way player, which is what the Sens need after dealing away Chris Kelly and Mike Fisher. The Sens have taken defensemen in their previous two first round picks (Erik Karlsson in ’08, Jared Cowen in ’09) so Bryan Murray has to be leaning towards a forward here. The last time the Sens used a top 10 pick on a forward was in 2001 when they took Jason Spezza (2nd overall) but all the top-flight pivots are already off the board. They’ll pick the Patrick Eaves (2003) and Nick Foligno (2006) type here.

7. Dougie Hamilton, D – Niagara, OHL (6’4″, 193 – NHL: 4, TSN: 6, ISS: 6)

It’s hard to tell what Kevin Cheveldayoff will do because he has no body of work to reference from at the NHL level. I don’t trust Dustin Byfuglien yet so he’ll have to have another 50-point season to convince me (same with Tobias Enstrom) so I’d play it safe and go with the best defenseman available. (Sidenote: once the first defenseman after Larsson goes, the rest will get snapped up in a hurry.)

8. Ryan Murphy, D – Kitchener, OHL (5’11”, 176 – NHL: 9, TSN: 8, ISS: 8)

In another version I had the Jets upping the ante and taking the more talented Murphy, but I think Cheveldayoff will like Hamilton’s size more. The Jackets aren’t averse to picking players who lack considerable size (Matt Calvert, Kris Russell) so they’re not going to be shy about taking Murphy, who will be taken this high thanks to Ryan Ellis (100 points in 58 games) silencing any doubters about small but skilled defensemen. (EDIT: The Flyers just acquired this pick and Jakub Voracek (and another 3rd round pick) in exchange for Jeff Carter. The Flyers need defensemen so this pick remains unchanged – in fact, Murphy makes more sense on Philly, which already has an outstanding Kitchener alum in Mike Richards.)

9. Nathan Beaulieu, D – Saint John, QMJHL (6’2″, 185 – NHL: 5, TSN: 11, ISS: 14)

Since players with French names have served Boston so well (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand), why not continue the trend? The B’s already have Seguin so they’ll want to shore up an old blueline with a kid they can really take their time to develop.

10. Mika Zibanejad, C – Djurgardens, Elitserien (6’2″, 191 – NHL: 2, TSN: 9, ISS: 7)

I imagine the Wild would want to add a little more excitement so I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved up (likewise for Winnipeg). Unfortunately there are no hometown kids to pick this year (not that they would’ve cared to anyway – they traded Nick Leddy and passed on Jordan Schroeder) but the Wild have done some good things with Euros. Zibanejad’s mysterious enough to cause some buzz.

11. Sven Bartschi, LW – Portland, WHL (5’11”, 175 – NHL: 7, TSN: 16, ISS: 11)

I just kinda have a feeling on this one. If Sherman was smart he’d take a defenseman, probably Brodin or Siemens, but I just can’t see it. The Avs were built with some top-flight European wingers back in their heyday and Bartschi fits that Marek Svatos (Slovak) / Wojtek Wolski (Polish) mold, although this is a whole new different regime. (Might as well collect all the countries – Bartschi is Swiss).

12. Duncan Siemens, D – Saskatoon, WHL (6’3″, 197 – NHL: 10, TSN: 13, ISS: 12)

We know Jim Rutherford‘s revamping the defense and Joni Pitkanen is walking. The smart money’s on Rutherford to take a defenseman, although we all know he doesn’t like to do it and the last one didn’t quite pan out so well (Jack Johnson). I think the Hurricanes would like to get bigger and stronger, more Bryan Allen than Pitkanen.

13. Mark McNeill, C – Prince Albert, WHL (6’1″, 204 – NHL: 14, TSN: 19, ISS: 21)

The Flames need just about everything in the pipeline but since there are no defensemen and goalies worth taking anymore, they’ll fill a need by taking a scoring centre. I had Mark Scheifele going to the Flames here at one point but McNeill’s a WHL kid and West teams tend to stick with the Dub.

14. Joel Armia, RW – Assat Pori, SM-liiga (6’3″, 191 – NHL: 4, TSN: 14, ISS: 13)

The Stars have had tons of success with Europeans and Joe Nieuwendyk‘s played with a couple good ones too. Armia’s Finnish, which works in his favour because this is the same organization that’s produced Jere Lehtinen (1992, 4th round), Jussi Jokinen (2001, 6th), and Antti Miettinen (2000, 7th), although none were first round picks. I have a feeling Armia’s going to be a player of similar ilk, but more of Lehtinen’s calibre than the latter two.

15. Brandon Saad, LW – Saginaw, OHL (6’1″, 208 – NHL: 19, TSN: 22, ISS: 24)

From what I’ve heard, Saad was going to go the NCAA route before suddenly changing his mind. He’s big, strong, and he can score, exactly the type of the players the new John Tortorella-era Rangers like. It might be a reach taking Saad this high but that’s why the Rangers are never boring on draft day.

16. Mark Scheifele, C – Barrie, OHL (6’2″, 177 – NHL: 16, TSN: 12, ISS: 18)

The Rangers could use a centre too but I think Saad was too enticing a player to pass up, which means the Sabres can quit whining about Tim Connolly. Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb are already in the system and the forwards lack size, so adding Scheifele helps, even if he needs to add about 20-30 lbs.

17. Jamie Oleksiak, D – Northeastern, H-East (6’7″, 244 – NHL: 13, TSN: 17, ISS: 16)

The Habs love their NCAA kids (Max Pacioretty, Ryan McDonagh) and I think they finally realized the importance of having a real stay-at-home guy like Hal Gill. Oleksiak has the size and infinitely more talent than Gill. With Carey Price and PK Subban the Habs will have to build from the net out in the future, so you might as well beef up the last line of defense a little more.

18. Ty Rattie, RW – Portland, WHL (5’11”, 170 – NHL: 17, TSN: 25, ISS: 28)

I don’t know what it is about the Blackhawks, but they’ve got some really good hockey names going on over there – Sharp(ie), Kane(r), Keith, (Seab(s))rook, (Hoss)a, and Leddy. They’re easy to remember and even easier to come up with lame monikers for. Ratttie will join that group and I really never have any doubts with Blackhawks picks. They just know how to pick ’em.

19. Jonas Brodin, D – Farjestad, Elitserien (6’1″, 165 – NHL: 3, TSN: 10, ISS: 22)

Now that we have small forwards galore, how’s about we shore up that blueline, Steve? At this point Brodin’s the best defenseman left in the draft and given the recent success of Europeans with the Oilers, they won’t be shy to come over. Some don’t think Brodin will fall this far but I think after Ryan Murphy and co. go, it’ll be awhile before we see another defenseman.

20. Zack Phillips, C – Saint John, QMJHL (6’1″, 181 – NHL: 15, TSN: 28, ISS: 34)

I envision Phillips more as a winger than a centre and Huberdeau and Beaulieu lead the pack in Saint John, but I trust Don Maloney. Whoever he takes has a good chance of making the NHL and even though Phillips’ skating may hold him back, I can see him eventually on a line with Kyle Turris.

21. Oscar Klefbom, D – Farjestad, Elitserien (6’4″, 196 – NHL: 6, TSN: 21, ISS: 10)

The Sens are like the Canucks of the East – little history to speak of when compared to the other Canadian teams in the same conference but just really, really good at drafting Swedes. He can really fire the puck and after what Erik Karlsson showed this year (13 goals), how can you not take him?

22. Tyler Biggs, RW – US NTDP, USHL (6’2″, 210 – NHL: 22, TSN: 15, ISS: 31)

The Ducks are like the Flyers – no matter how small or skill-oriented their teams are, you’re gonna leave the game with bruises and cuts. The Ducks like their players rugged – at least tough enough to play a phyiscal game and score goals (Emerson Etem) – and Biggs definitely fits the bill, even if he doesn’t come with the high-end talent Corey Perry does.

23. Tomas Jurco, RW – Saint John, QMJHL (6’2″, 193 – NHL: 20, TSN: 29, ISS: 25)

From now until the end of Sidney Crosby‘s time, Ray Shero might just as well devote his entire staff to scout just wingers. With the defensive corps locked up long-term and Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the Pens just need to keep mucking about until they find the magic formula. Jurco’s got the hands… but is he top six? The Pens are willing to bet that he is.

24. Nicklas Jensen, LW – Oshawa, OHL (6’2″, 188 – NHL: 21, TSN: 24, ISS: 22)

The biggest criticism against Jensen is that he isn’t a very physical player despite possessing good size. That’s not a problem for the Red Wings, who aren’t afraid to select Europeans or take players that maybe need a little longer than usual to develop. His big size and scoring ability reminds me of Johan Franzen.

25. Boone Jenner, C – Oshawa, OHL (6’1″, 194 – NHL: 18, TSN: 26, ISS: 38)

While there are only a handful of standouts in this year’s class, by the mid to late first round team’s will be drafting based on need. It’s a deep draft in that there’s tons of guys who can play in the NHL, it’s just that they might be only bottom six players. Jenner’s got the right attitude the physical skills to do just that.

26. Vladislav Namestnikov, C – London, OHL (6′, 170 – NHL: 11, TSN: 31, ISS: 37)

Some teams don’t take Russian kids in certain rounds of the draft because there’s always so much uncertainty with them. With the Caps it’s different because the allure of being able to play with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin is quite substantial. Taking Namestnikov is a great pick and he’s already on the same continent, which always helps.

27. Rocco Grimaldi, C – US NTDP, USHL (5’6″, 160 – NHL: 32, TSN: 23, ISS: 15)

The Lightning surprised everyone by taking Brett Connolly last year and I think they’ll surprise everyone again by going with the smallest player in the draft. I’ve heard tons about Grimaldi but never seen him play, but he’s been compared to Martin St. Louis so that’s great news.

28. JT Miller, C – US NTDP, USHL (6’1″, 198 – NHL: 23, TSN: 18, ISS: 17)

The Sharks scouting staff scored huge points unearthing Joe Pavelski from Wisconsin and Miller may sneak under the radar (ranked 59th by THN). He’s a centre right now but probably fits better as a winger in the NHL and the Sharks are deep down the middle already anyway.

29. David Musil, D – Vancouver, WHL (6’3″, 200 – NHL: 38, TSN: 41, ISS: 27)

The Canucks have let so many kids get plucked from their own backyard, they really should start to defend their territory. The big one, of course, is Milan Lucic (2006), but there have been others, like Cody Franson (2005) and Jon Blum (2007). Kevin Connauton played superb hockey with the Giants (72 points). The Canucks would like to nab a forward here but with Vancouver you can never have enough defensemen.

30. Stuart Percy, D – Mississauga, OHL (6’1″, 184 – NHL: 53, TSN: 34, ISS: 50)

Percy’s the name everyone’s whispering that could be a surprise first rounder, and if that’s the case, there’s a headline to be had, so you know Brian Burke‘s on it. I’m not bashing him, but if anyone can give his team a little more (mostly) positive nudge it’s him. The Leafs could use another forward but Percy’s a good prospect.

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