This years NHL Draft is one of the most intresting in years. Over the last few years, the number one pick was pretty much a forgone conclusion. Ovechkin in 04, Crosby in 05, Johnson in 06, Kane 07, Stamkos 08, and last year John Tavares going #1, everyone knew that was the pick for the whole season. This year is different as the drama at the top of the board this year of course revolves around the Tyler vs Taylor debate. Both have been fantastic this season, but the truth is, when Taylor Hall's name is called 1st on Friday night, I doubt anyone will be suprised. I mean the guy is the back-to-back Memorial Cup MVP!!! Nobody's ever done that before. So there really isn't as much drama as the media is playing it up to be. As much as Edmonton needs a #1 pivot, you don't pass on a Taylor Hall. I believe there will be a few pre-draft trades involving some veterans tomorrow. My predictions:
- The Los Angeles Kings start things off by sending goaltender Jonathan Quick to Philadelphia in exchange for Scott Hartnell. This works for both teams because Philly will get their bonafide #1 goaltender and L.A. can hand over the reigns to youngster Jonathan Bernier and add Hartnell to the Anze Kopitar show on offense.
- The Panthers will also move a goaltender, sending one of the most underrated goalies in the league, Tomas Vokoun, to San Jose in exchange for the rights to Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe. This allows Florida a couple of nice pieces to start the rebuild with and allows the Sharks to compete for a cup why incorporating some of their younger forwards into the top 6. A defenseman such as Bryan McCabe or Keith Ballard could also be involved, but I don't if San Jose can make that work without sending back more salary, and it doesn't apper that they have any bad contracts.
- L.A. will make a move again, acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk's rights for a 2nd and 4th round draft pick. The Kings will sign him to a 6 year deal and promptly trot out what could end up being the top line in hockey with Hartnell-Kopitar-Kovalchuk.
Now the draft will begin:
1. Edmonton Oilers- Taylor Hall LW Windsor
Edmonton can't pass up the chance to draft a franchise player in Taylor Hall. With Hall, Eberle, MPS, and Linus Omark, the future up-front is bright in Edmonton.
2. Boston Bruins (aquired from Toronto)- Tyler Seguin C Plymouth
The rich get richer as Boston lands another highly touted prospect in Tyler Seguin. With the recent acquisition of Nathan Horton, the Bruins may have the luxury of sending Seguin back to juniors for another year of development.
***TRADE*** With Seguin off the board, the Panthers pull the trigger on a trade with the Anaheim Ducks that sends the Panthers #3 and #50 picks to Anaheim for #12, #29, and #42.
3. Anaheim Ducks (aquired from Florida)- Cam Fowler D Windsor
And within the span of a few minutes, Anaheim locks up the kid who will be the heir to Scott Niedermayer. Cam Fowler is the best defenseman in the draft and will play in the show next year. The Mike Green comparisions are incorrect, the kid is more like a more offensivly inclined Duncan Keith. Florida really doesn't need another defenseman with Dimitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison, Keaton Ellerby, and Colby Robak in the organization already.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets- Erik Gudbranson D Kingston
Columbus executives will be high-fiving each other that they didn't trade this pick for Jason Spezza. Gudbranson is the big, mean, nasty defenseman that Columbus has lacked. He will make a great tandem with John Moore for years.
5. New York Islanders- Brandon Gormley D Moncton
The Islanders get a terrific 2-way defenseman in Gormley. A linemate for John Tavares seems to be a need, but with Kirill Petrov apparently ready to jump to North America, and no other forward worth the risk at the 5-spot, it's either trade down or take Gormley. He'll have a nice mentor in Mark Streit to show him the ropes.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning- Nino Niederreiter LW Portland
The Lighning can go two ways with this pick- they can go goalie and take Jack Campbell, or they can select Nino as a potential linemate for Steven Stamkos. As enticing as Campbell sounds, they already have a potential NHL #1 in the system with Dustin Tokarski, and a future line of Niederreiter-Stamkos-Ashton brings back memories of the Stanley Cup days in the Bay.
7.Carolina Hurricanes- Derek Forbort D USNTDP
Carolina reaches a bit here, but Forbort is their man. A big, bruising 6'5" d-man will be a pillar on the back end with Jamie McBain in the future for Carolina.
8. Atlanta Thrashers- Ryan Johansen C Portland
On the heels of the huge trade to acquire Big Buff, Atlanta selects a kid whose a few years away, but no doubt he is talented. Johansen has yet to grow into his 6'3" frame, but when he does he will be a force to be reckoned with. Another possibility here is Brett Connolly.
9. Minnesota Wild- Brett Connolly RW Prince George
Speaking of which, Brett Connolly is the biggest non-Russian question mark in the draft. Injuries limited the WHLer to only 16 games this year. If he played the entire season, he may have been right up there with T&T for the #1 spot.
10. New York Rangers- Jeff Skinner C Kitchner
The draft's biggest secret is let out of the bag as New York nabs Skinner at 10. This kid just scored goals, tallying 70 this year between the regular season and playoffs. In a draft with few NHL ready prospects, Skinner may make the jump to the pros next season.
11. Dallas Stars- Mikael Granlund LW HIFK Helsinki
The first international player selected (Swede Nino Niederreiter doesn't count IMO because he played in the W) Granlund is the second coming of the Koivu brothers. Most scouts believe he has the highest Hockey IQ in the draft.
12. Florida Panthers (aquired from Anaheim)- Alexander Burmistrov C Barrie
Florida trades down to get their man as Burmistrov will be groomed to be the #1 center in Florida and hopefully resemble his NHL comparison, Pavel Datsyuk. Burmistrov makes the puck look like its stuck to his stick as he makes defenders look like cones with his amazing hands.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (acquired from Calgary)- Dylan McIlrath D Moose Jaw
Time for the 'Yotes to get some bite as they select the meanest man in the draft. McIlrath is known to be the best fighter in the WHL, a phenominal feat in its own, but theres more to the man than iron fists. He could become a fantastic shut-down guy with good coaching, and if all else fails, he can draw some fans into the building with his tendency to defend himself and his teammates.
14. St.Louis Blues- Nick Bjugstad C Blaine (Minnesota H.S.)
Already armed with the best prospect pool in the NHL, St.Louis takes a flier on a project with all the physical tools to excel at the next level. Bjugstad's 6'5" frame is tantalizing, and he's taking the Erik Johnson route by developing his tools at the University of Minnesota.
15. Florida Panthers (acquired from Boston)- Austin Watson RW Peterborough
After sending Nathan Horton to the Garden, Florida selects his heir in Austin Watson. The difference between the two is Watson is very coachable, but not as offensivly gifted. At the begining of the year, Watson was a 3rd-liner on the stacked Windsor team and began to excel in a shut down type role. When he was sent to Peterborough, his stock sky-rocketed as he started lighting up goalies like Christmas trees, before he inexplicably disappeared in the playoffs. Watson has potential to be a premier player in the show.
16. Ottowa Senators- Riley Sheahan C Notre Dame
I don't believe Jason Spezza will be dealt on draft weekend, but just in case he decides to pull a Heatley, Ottowa need to protect themselves. Sheahan has been an elevator this year, rising up and down the board continuously. He still is a year or two away, but could eventually develop into a very good center for the Senators.
17. Colorado Avalanche- Jack Campbell G USNTP
Jack Campbell is the next Ryan Miller. The kid is the best goalie to come around in years, and has turned down University of Michigan to fast-track his development with Windsor of the OHL. Colorado has nothing in net behind Craig Anderson, and Campbell will be a welcome addition to the pipeline.
18. Nashville Predators- Emerson Etem C Medicine Hat
Nashville gets a loud ovation as they select California-bred Emerson Etem at 18. The notoriously offensivly-challenged organization gets a true speedster in this kid. Etem will be taking outlet passes from Ryan Ellis for years as Nashville begins to add some offense to the repitoire.
19. Los Angeles Kings- Beau Bennett RW Penticton
The roof blows off the Staples Center as the hosts select hometown kid, an former Los Angeles Jr. King Beau Bennett in the 1st round. The Denver recruit is bit of a lesser known commodity to us on the East-coast, but make no mistake, the 120 point man in the BCHL can play.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins- Vladimir Tarasenko RW Novosibirsk
The Russian-factor came into play with Tarasenko's drop. A top 10 talent, he falls into the lap of one of the most international based teams in the league, and gets to become the sidekick to fellow country man Evgeni Malkin.
21. Detroit Red Wings- Mark Pysyk D Edmonton
A safe pick for a team who isn't really a huge risk taker as is, Mark Pysyk falls cause of his limited upside, but he will be a 10+ year vet in the show. If it wasn't for his brutal team, Pysyk might be a top-10 selection. Detroit lands another steal with this kid.
22. Phoenix Coyotes- Tyler Pitlick C Minnesota State
The nephew of former NHLer Lance Pitlick, Tyler is another solid addition to Phoenix's prospect base. A talented 2-way center, Pitlick needs to develop for a few years before he jumps to the big leagues.
23. Buffalo Sabres- Quinton Howden LW Moose Jaw
The former 1st overall selection in the WHL Bantamn Draft, Howden helps Buffalo get bigger while his speed fits their style of play. He would be a ver nice compliment to Tyler Ennis down the line.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (acquired from Atlanta)- Jarred Tinordi D USNTDP
The Blackhawks will most likely be drafting the best player available, and that happens to be 6'6" Jarred Tinordi. The Blackhawks had to make a few painful trades over the course of draft weekend to cut the cap hit, but rebuilding the prospect base with Jeremy Morin, Nick Leddy, and now Tinordi eases those pains.
25. Vancouver Canucks- Alexander Petrovic D Red Deer
A bit of a reach at 25? Yes, but it's necessary. The Canucks lack a big, tough, shut-down defenseman with the expected departure of Willie Mitchill, and Petrovic can fill the gap. Alex had a bit of a free-fall after he was dismantled by The Undertaker Dylan McIlrath in a scrap during the CHL Prospect's game, but McIlrath crushes everyone and for my money Petrovic is the seconds meanest kid in the draft pool.
26. Washington Capitals- Evgeny Kuznetsov LW Chelyabinsk
The Russian-factor is overrided by the Ovechkin factor in Washington as the Caps snag a steal in Kuznetsov. He probably won't make his way over here next year, but with the assumed departure of Alexander Semin on the horizon, Kuznetsov may be his heir.
27. Montreal Canadiens- Jonathan Merrill D USNTDP
A potential steal for Les Canadiens as Merrill falls to them based on character issues. Montreal will let him sit at the University of Michigan for a few years and let him mature before he enters the hockey fishbowl of Montreal.
28. San Jose Sharks- Charlie Coyle RW South Shore
With the predicted trade of Devin Setoguchi to Florida, the Sharks need to build up their forward depth and do that by selecting Coyle. Many people may not know of Coyle, but the B.C. commit chose to play in a weaker league to get more playing time in all situations this year.
29. Florida Panthers (acquired from Anaheim)- Kirill Kabanov LW Moncton
Ah, the mysterious Kirill Kabanov. The young Russians story is a strange yet compelling one. With what would be their 3rd pick of the first round, Florida can take a chance on a top 5 talent who could channel memories of the Russian Rocket Pavel Bure in Florida if he can develop more.
30. Chicago Blackhawks- Calvin Pickard G Seattle
With the final pick of the first round, Chicago adds some depth between the pipes with Calvin Pickard, younger brother of Miluakee Admiril and former Nashville 1st rounder Chet Pickard. Chicago will allow Calvin to finish his junior career before he makes the jump to pro hockey, and eventually develop him into an NHL #1.
Best Players left:
The first round only has 30 spots, but there will be more than 30 NHLers coming from this class. Here's a look at some other potential first rounders or later round steals.
Tyler Toffoli C Ottowa- Toffoli is not the greatest skater, but is a great 2-way player who can light the lamp if needed.
John McFarland C Sudbury- McFarland had a nightmare season this year. Billed as a potential top 10 selection, the former #1 selection in the OHL Priority Selection may fall out of the first round. Some team will pick him and hope to find his game that made him the top Midget Minor in N.A. in 2008.
Jaden Schwartz C Tri-City
The USHL's leading scorer last year, Schwartz will be heading to Colorado College next year in hopes of developing into a solid NHLer.
Justin Faulk D USNTP
Justin Faulk may be the sleeper of this year's draft. He has a buller for a slap-shot and will eventually become a terrific offensive defenseman for an NHL franchise. Faulk will head to Minnesota-Duluth next season.
Brock Beukeboom D Sault Ste. Marie
The son of former Edmonton Oiler standout Jeff Beukeboom, Brock posses a great clapper from the point and a mean streak that makes his father proud. If Edmontom holds onto the 31st pick, I can see them tabbing Beukeboom and developing him for a few years.
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