The follow up to my first prospect blog where I judged the top-20 1st round prospects drafted during the Gretzky era in their development. This will be a short piece because of Maloney only drafting three guys in the first round so far.
2009: New management in place and a new outlook on drafting. Or was there? Maloney once again took a risky pick so early by drafting Oliver-Ekman Larsson out of division 2 in Sweden. This was a good year for Swedish defenseman, and while OEL was considered a top-15 pick, not many believed he would go 6th overall. The smooth skating Swede had size, skill, great vision and all the other tools to become a responsible two-way defender. He remained in Sweden the following year and put up another great year in division 2, though many worried why he was not playing in division 1. His world junior performance was excellent and he proved to be one of the best defenders in the whole tournament. When he came to camp in the fall of 2010, I did not know what to expect out of the young man. He would have to adjust to the smaller ice surface and deal with a league much faster with much more hitting than division 2. He was very impressive and was the fastest defenseman on the ice. His calm puck movement and steady defensive play allowed him to make the team. He has played a limited role as a 6th defender only playing around 15 minutes a night, but that is only because of Tippett's preference for veterans and the trades that brought in Klesla and Rozsival. He has looked good for a rookie, not making many mistakes. Watching him it is easy to see in 2-3 years he will be a big name defenseman.
Judgement: Developed well, though he is not playing too many minutes he spent a full year improving and was not thrust on the team right away like many former prospects. With Jovo-Cop likely gone this summer, look for OEL to step up in a big way next season.
2010: Following the idea that defense wins championships, defender Brandon Gormley was selected at number 13 and goaltender Mark Visentin at number 27. Most scouts were shocked that Gormley fell to the 13 spot, he was considered by many as the 3rd best defender in the draft and a lock for a top-10 pick. He is a jack of all trades defenseman with a good shoot, good speed and good defensive positioning. He plays a similar game to OEL, a solid two-way game with some offensive flair. He has improved his play in the Q, getting to over a PPG as a defenseman but has had the injury bug now for two seasons causing some worry. Visentin had a very good year in Niagara posting up very good numbers on a rather mediocre squad. He struggled at the WJC, though he was clearly the best of the Canadian goalies there. He has built on a great season with another in Niagara leading them into the playoffs with a .917sv% and 30 wins. So far in the playoffs he has an insane .977sv% and has only allowed 3 goals in 4 games. The young man has serious talent and could be the successor to Breezer within the next 3-4 years.
Judgement: Developed well, both have improved and developed well in the year since they were drafted. While Gormleys injury troubles may keep him out of a Yotes jersey next year, he will get time in the AHL for sure. Visentin has stepped up his game when it counts, the playoffs. He is a good 3-4 years away and with Brygalov in net for the forseable future he will not need to be rushed like many young goalies are.
Thanks for reading.