1) Most of the news out of the Eastern Conference this week was overshadowed by the scary incident that took place in the Rangers win over the Flyers. Marc Staal was hit in the face by a puck and it is still unclear how severe the injury is. We all hope that he will get lucky when the news breaks. Obviously this brought the visor debate back to the front of everyone’s mind. Do I think the NHL should mandate visors? No, it is up to the players to decide. But I do think that all players who don’t wear visors need to seriously reconsider their position. To quote Dwight Schrute, “the eyes are like the groin of the head.” They need, and deserve, some protection.
Despite all of the injuries and suspensions that occurred this past week, there was no shortage of positive story lines. Buffalo responded much more aggressively in defense of their goalie and a couple NHL teams released their youngsters to the Canadian National JR. team. On top of this, the NHL Board of Governors approved a radical re-alignment of the current conference system. Here are some points to consider from the NHL’s ninth week.
This week is going to be a little different. Due to a crazy schedule involving Grad school applications, several overtime shifts at work, and my birthday, I will condense the musings into one article for this week. However week nine will see a return to normalcy.
With that said, week eight had no shortage of good and bad story lines to follow. The NHL saw a rash of injuries to top tier players while three struggling coaches were also canned. The Bruins also handed out a significant contract extension to a struggling player. On the flip side a talented youngster continued to show that his hot start was no fluke and a couple perennial Cup contenders began to separate themselves from the pack. Here are some points to consider from the NHL’s eighth week.
John Tortorella is a media darling because he gives people some very good soundbites. He’s a very honest person who is team-first about everything, and he appreciates the hard-working players, which makes Ryan Callahan such a great and logical choice for captain. He went off again last week about Dan Girardi’s snub on the all-star ballot, and it’s not surprising because everyone knows the ballot is a joke. Check out Armchair Hockey’s 2011-12 All-Stars after the jump.
Week Five is in the books and one thing is for sure, the Champs are back. For me, this week was dominated by the stellar play of the Boston Bruins. Beyond that, we saw the value of visors, the Dallas Stars continuing their roll, and the first career goal for an impact youngster. Here are some points to consider from the NHL season’s fifth week.
One week of hockey in the books; it’s great to have it back. This week has had no shortage of surprises as some pre-season favorites have stumbled out of the blocks while several unexpected teams have come out flying. Here are some points to consider from the first week of the NHL regular season.
From the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Elliott Schlossman, the University of North Dakota is lamenting the loss of JT Miller, the Rangers’ first round pick in this year’s draft. Miller’s move to Plymouth comes at the heels of Jamie Oleksiak, Dallas’ first round selection, deciding to forgo his NCAA eligibility and play for Saginaw instead. Moves like these aren’t unusual, so the NCAA shouldn’t take this personally, and it’s NOT an indicator that the NCAA is a lesser development program than major junior.
I’ve covered this topic many, many times before but I have a few bones to pick with Schlossman:
First, you’ll see a lot of people saying that it’s the right move, because major juniors is the route to go if you want to play in the NHL (and it’s the fast route to the NHL). Second, you’ll see speculation that the New York Rangers pushed Miller to go to the OHL.
This is a battle that UND and other colleges continue to fight — the perception that they won’t develop a player as well as major juniors.
The numbers don’t necessarily tell that story.
In fact, UND’s Zach Parise has scored more NHL goals than every player that the Plymouth Whalers have produced in the last eight years combined (and Parise missed almost all of last season).
If playing in the NHL is your goal, and you’re good enough to be considered a first round pick, then major junior is the way to go. Not only is it the faster route due to more games and practises, there’s also more exposure and the major junior lifestyle mirrors the NHL more closely than the NCAA. That the Rangers have been pressing Miller to move to the OHL shouldn’t be surprising. Most NHL teams do this and I’m sure all 30 have at least thought about it. That’s not mentioning the ultimate perk: major juniors can sign entry level contracts at age 18. Major juniors also often come in contact with pro players, coaches, and trainers, things they can’t risk with strict NCAA sanctions.
Schlossman, though, questions whether or not major junior is the better development program, and lists off a bunch of stats that shows Zach Parise is far superior to the entirety of the Plymouth franchise. It’s an interesting comparison, but it holds no weight because it goes nothing to show beyond what the average fan already knows: Parise is a damn good player and Plymouth is merely a decent team without Tyler Seguin.
The numbers are irrelevant – why not compare a top flight program like UND to a top flight major junior program like the Vancouver Giants, or even Rimouski when it produced Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, and Sidney Crosby in succession? Why not compare Parise to his ’03 draft peers like Jeff Carter, Nathan Horton, or Eric Staal – all of whom have more career goals than Parise – who elected the OHL route?
If you want to look at things from a New York Rangers point of view, the Rangers have produced two 30-goal scorers in the last five years (UND has produced eight). Jagr did it once, Gaborik did it once — neither of which played major juniors. You have to go back a decade to find the last time a major junior player has had a 30-goal season for the Rangers (Eric Lindros).
So, if the rumor that the Rangers pushed Miller to go major juniors is true, that is at least a little bit mysterious, because it’s not like they’ve been hitting home run after home run with guys coming from the CHL.
Despite these comparisons with the Rangers and the Whalers, it couldn’t save the Sioux from losing Miller.
Again, here Schlossman’s comparisons are irrelevant. At the time Jaromir Jagr and Marian Gaborik broke into the league, there were much fewer Europeans playing junior hockey. The practise was very rare and unheard of. Tomas Kopecky moved overseas only after he was drafted and Rusty Klesla had made the move before entering junior hockey, spending one season with the USHL. Suffice it to say, had Jagr or Gaborik played in major junior, I would imagine that their production would far exceed 30 goals.
The Rangers aren’t expecting a “home run” by sending Miller to the OHL. When it comes to hockey, there are no “home runs,” unless you’re a Crosby or Ovechkin. There’s too much volatility with the quality of prospects in the first round alone to suggest anything of the sort.
It’s not that major junior is the “better” route, but it certainly is a faster route to the NHL. For some, like Parise, fellow Devil Travis Zajac, and Jonathan Toews (all UND products), the NCAA was the right choice and due to the more mature competition they’ve matured faster both on and off the ice. Some guys are better off in junior hockey, like Patrick Kane (he probably wouldn’t have survived in NCAA). Some players would’ve benefited from playing junior hockey (like Jordan Schroeder) while others would’ve been better off staying in the NCAA (Louis Leblanc).
Keep in mind the Rangers are a professional hockey team. They have their own interests, and their interests are to improve their hockey club, and the best way to speed up the development of their prospects is pressuring them to move to major junior.
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 Seguin–Taylor 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.
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.
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.
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 Faulk, Jamie 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 Byfuglien, Tobias 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!
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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