Archive for June, 2010
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
A few things that stood out during round three.
The Maple Leafs finally had the use of their 29th place finish, taking Greg McKegg with the second pick of the third round. McKegg had stellar numbers last season with the Erie Otters, scoring 37 goals and 85 points in 67 games. He also has a very young looking face and body type, meaning his 6-foot-1, 180 pound frame has room for growth. He is more of a finesse man than the truclant Brad Ross taken in the second round by Burkie.
The next pick that caused a stir was Russian Kirill Kabanov going to the Islanders in the 65th slot. Kabanov is known to have first round talent but was way to risky for anyone to touch early. He played for the Moncton Wildcats but walked out on the team, has been through differing agents, and you it’s tough to trust this shifty forward will ever be a team player on the Islanders roster. But if he does pan out he could be ANOTHER young top six forward on Long Island.
The Kings may have swiped a steal in round three, taking Jordan Weal from Regina with the 70th overall pick. Weal is just 5-foot-9, 162 pounds which is the reason he slip all the way to the third round, but he scored an impressive 37 goals and 102 points in 72 games last season. If he had the ability to overcome his size as a teen in the WHL, why not in his 20s for L.A.?
The Leafs had a second pick in round three which was acquired from the Kings for a 3rd rounder in 2012. With this 79th overall pick they grabbed Sondre Olden from Modo, Sweden. Sondre was born in Olso, Norway and was not expected to be selected at this stage of the draft. He caught the eye of the scouting world at the U18 tournament in Fargo, North Dakota; a big, lanky player who skates well for his size. He is also said to have good hand eye. Many CHL teams have also inquired about Olden and he should be heading to North American in the near future.
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Just like round one where the Ontario Hockey League had the first three picks (Hall, Seguin, and Gudbranson), the OHL was busy in round two as well.
The Boston Bruins used the 32nd pick of the draft (pick two of round two) taking Jared Knight from the London Knights. This was somewhat of a surprise, as Knight was ranked out of the top 60 by many experts. At this point it seems that rankings out the window. Knight is a small, quick forward who had 36 goals in 63 games last season.
Next up was Sudbury Wolves captain John McFarland who had slipped right through the first round, and was swiped up by the Florida Panthers with the third pick of the 2nd round. McFarland had a dud season in 2009-2010, especially for a kid with his up-side, and no one seems to know why. He had 30 goals and 50 points in 63 games. Not what the former 1st overall pick in the OHL draft was looking for in his NHL draft year.
But I’ll bet he bounces back and is a force in the OHL next season. Another good pick for the Panthers who are beginning to dominate this draft.
After McFarland went his former Toronto Junior Canadians teammate Devante Smith-Pelly to the Anaheim Ducks. The Mississauga Majors forward plays a solid positional game under coach Dave Cameron and has some dangles on offensive. His speed is a question mark, but after a summer or two in the gym this kid could be dynamite.
Two Ottawa 67s went in Round 2, forwards Dalton Smith (34th, Columbus) and another former Junior Canadian, Tyler Toffoli (47th, Colorado). Interestingly, Toffoli has always been the higher prospect of the two but Smith looked very solid in the OHL playoffs and at the combine, and moved up in the opinion of many (including the Blue Jackets brass). TSN had Toffoli in their top 30, with his 37 goals and 79 points in 65 games, while Smith was ranked 65th with just 44 points in 62 games. Another example of rankings not matching to selections.
Other 2nd round OHLers included Oshawa Generals forward Christian Thomas, who is the son of ‘stumpy’ Steve and was a key part in the John Tavares trade from Oshawa to London. Thomas went 40th to the Rangers. Also, forward Ryan Spooner of the Peterborough Petes was selected 45th by the Boston Bruins and Philip Lane of the Brampton Battalion went 52nd to the Phoenix Coyotes.
And did I mention the Toronto Maple Leafs finally got involved in the draft (in the 5th hour of action)? The Leafs traded a yet to be named player to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 43rd pick in the draft. With that pick Brian Burke chose the agitator in this year’s draft, Brad Ross of the Portland Winter Hawks, who played on a line with Ryan Johansen and Nino Neiderreiter, the 4th and 5th overall picks. Ross had 27 goals and 68 points in 71 games to go along with his 203 PIMs.
Stay tuned to Howard Berger’s blog for more on this deal by the Leafs.
Friday, June 25th, 2010
The first round is in the books and there were a few storylines worth mentioning.
First off, Taylor Hall went first overall, beating out Tyler Seguin. I often wonder if this whole Taylor versus Tyler debate was concocted by the media for entertainment purposes. Was Hall’s number one ever really in jeopardy? He has been the top stud for three years now and backed it up with back-to-back Memorial cup MVPs. You can’t turn that down, and the Oilers didn’t.
After Seguin went second, and Erik Gudbranson third, things took a turn. Two Portland Winterhawks’ shot up the charts and went four and five to the Blue Jackets and Islanders respectively.
Ryan Johansen shot up the draft rankings throughout this season, including on draft night. It was thought he may sneak in to the top ten but the big winger blew past a trio of defenders on to the Blue Jackets.
Next up was Johansen’s line-mate Nino Neiderreiter (note my previous blog – huge fan of Neiderreiter). These two selections just go to show how little the rankings mean. I like how these teams can ignore the hype and select their favorites.
Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley were the ones ranked in the four and five slots, but both D-men slipped out of the top ten. The hard nosed defender Dylan McIlrath jumped ahead of both in the draft and went 10th to the Rangers (again, previous blog, yours truly sings his praises).
It was a relatively weak night in the trade department. The one decent sized deal was between the Canucks and Panthers: Ballard and Oreskovich to the Canucks for Bernier, Grabner and 25th pick.
The one player who pops up on the ‘not selected’ list was John McFarland of the Sudbury Wolves. At one point last year he was being discussed in the same sentences as Seguin and Hall. I’m gonna bet you haven’t heard the last of Mr. McFarland.
Friday, June 25th, 2010
The first round is packed with interesting options, even for teams not in the top ten. Lots of talk today that the Florida Panthers 15th overall pick is available via trade, and there will be plenty of spicy players available at this point in the draft.
I’ve got a few favorites in the group outside the top ten that I’m sure you want to hear about.
First off, Dylan McIlrath sounds like an enticing option for teams who just missed the playoffs last year. He is 6’4, 212 and known as the meanest player in this year’s draft (169 PIMs in 2009-2010 with Moose Jaw). He still has a baby face as well, meaning he could get even nastier in the future. Dallas, Anaheim, Phoenix (Calgary pick) and St. Louis are lined up eleven through fourteen, and McIlrath would fit any of their defensive cores well in the future.
My other favorite in the mid-range first round rankings is Nick Bjugstad who won Minnesota’s honourable Mr. Hockey Award and will play for the University of Minnesota next season. Bjugstad is a 6-foot-5, 188 pound centre, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the draft since Nik Antropov in the late nineties. This monster had 29 goals and 60 points in 25 games for Blaine High School last season. Bjugstad could make Florida forget about Nathan Horton quickly, or make Bryan Murray a little more trigger happy with Jason Spezza in Ottawa. Imagine if Bjugstad slipped to the seventeen slot and landed in Colorado?
The plethora of American talent stands out when looking at the bottom half of the first round rankings. Along with Bjugstad there are a few appealing defenders in Derek Forbot (6’4, 200 – University of North Dakota next season), Jonathon Merrill (6’3, 200 – University of Michigan), and Jarred Tinordi (6’6, 205 – Notre Dame). Tinordi is my favorite of this group. Son of Mark Tinordi, he was the captain of US under-18 team and could be nasty once he fills out that 6-foot-6 frame. Nashvillecould use a d-man in the 18 slot after losing Timonen and Hamuis, no? But this trio could go anywhere from Phoenix in the 15 slot to Washington at 26.
And the attractive American options don’t end there. The two Californiaboys, Emerson Etem and Beau Bennett both have tremendous upsides. Speed is in the Etem genes as both his parents were Olympic rowers, and he is often known as the fastest player in the draft. He is thought to be landing in the late teens, possibly fitting in nicely on the young Avalanche bench? The small but shifty Bennett is said to be somewhat of a sleeper, and could land later in the first round, in places like Pittsburgh or Chicago. Yikes.
Then there are the Russians. Talent aplenty with Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kunetsov, and Kirill Kabanov, but there is big risk of these players being difficult to sign. The KHL is an inviting option for young Russians these days. You think the Capitals or Pens might take a shot at an impressive but risky Russian who has slipped through the first round?
As I said in my previous blog, Alex Burmistrov, a Datsyuk like talent, enjoys North America and shouldn’t be a problem. I would even take him in thetop ten.
Also worth mentioning are Ontario forwards Austin Watson and John McFarland. I saw Watson play an entire playoff series against the Mississauga Majors and he looked strong even against Dave Cameron’s shutdown defense. John McFarland is somewhat of a mystery. It’s been well noted that he has fallen all the way down the rankings throughout this season. The talent is clearly there, but how is his demeanor? I’d have no problem selecting him if he makes it in to the twenties without being selected.
Come join my live chat room on FAN590.com at 6:30 for the entire first round, tonight!!
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
The 2010 NHL Draft is known for the debate between Taylor and Tyler. We’ve heard the argument since the fall: Who will go first, the junior legend, Taylor Hall, with his back-to-back Memorial Cup MVPs, or the mature centre, Tyler Seguin, whose upside is tremendous?
Well I’ll tell you, I’ve had just about enough of this squabble. They’re both studs and will both be NHL staples for the next 20 years. The only ones who should worry about their selection order are the two young men themselves, mainly because the player who goes first overall will have to spend a significant part of his career up in dreary Edmonton. Yikes.
The real action begins after the Bruins embarrass Leaf Nation by selecting second overall. Then what?
The scouts say a trio of defensemen are ranked from three through five, their order being the only debate – Eric Gudbranson (shutdown man – Kingston Frontenacs), Cam Fowler (offensive minded – Windsor Spitfires), Brandon Gormley (multi-purpose – Moncton Wildcats). But with Florida, Columbus, and the Islanders selecting three through six, I’m skeptical of this ‘group two’ viewpoint. Do these teams really want defensemen?
First off, the Panthers have just traded for ANOTHER defenseman in Denis Wideman to go along with the plethora already on their roster. Will they take Fowler, Gudbranson, or Gormley in the three slot to add more to their blue-line? I sure wouldn’t. With Nathan Horton gone their forward unit is getting slightly thin.
Second, it seems defensemen are often harder to peg at this young age than forwards. For instance, in the 2008 draft Tyler Myers went 12th, the fifth blue-liner selected. These teams have been bad for years and need help sooner rather than later. In my mind, the Islanders are the only ones who should be venturing into the D-men.
Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve taken a real liking to a number of forwards who are hovering behind the previously mentioned defensive trio in the rankings.
Nino Niederreiter (6’2, Swiss, Portland), Ryan Johansen (big centre, also Portland), Brett Connolly (dangles, Prince George), Jeff Skinner (50 goals, Kitchener Rangers), and Alex Burmistrov (crowd pleaser, Barrie Colts) have all shown signs of stardom over the past season (or two in Connolly’s case).
Niederreiter has been my favorite of the bunch. Playing for the underdog Swiss at the World Junior Championship, he was a thorn in the side of every powerhouse team he faced, including an outstanding game against Canada. I then saw him live at the Home Hardware Top Prospects Game and he stood out among all the forwards. Big, strong, fast, and involved, he has the ability to score.
Ryan Johansen was Nerderreiter’s line-mate all season in Portland, and has shot up the rankings throughout this season. The centre-man has been compared to the likes of Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar.
Brett Connolly, on the other hand, was injured all season (playing just 19 games) but has shown outstanding scoring talent whenever he is available, and is said to be healthy once again.
Jeff Skinner got better and better all season long, including a dirty playoff where he scored 20 goals in 20 games, and had the Mem. Cup champs from Windsor down 3-0 in the OHL Western Conference final.
And lastly, Alex Burmistrov was a thrill to watch for the Barrie fans throughout his first year in North America. One of the storylines in this draft is the Russian risk: will they stay in the NHL or head back to the KHL in Russia? But Colts former coach Marty Williamson is certain teams don’t need to worry about Burmistrov.
Any NHL team looking for a more immediate influence will have to think twice about this bunch of forwards before selecting a d-man from ‘group two’.
As for the Taylor versus Tyler debate, I’m with most who believe Taylor Hall must go first. He’s a winner. He and his Spitfires were impressive in the playoffs: they beat Seguin’s group in Plymouth (4 games), then came back from a 3-0 deficit to win game 7 against Kitchener. They swept Barrie for the OHL title, and won 12 straight games en route to their second consecutive Memorial Cup victory. Hall was the MVP and put on a show.
Tune in to this wonderful draft blog on Friday night and Saturday morning as I give all my thoughts and feelings on each selection. You can also venture over to Howard Berger’s blog for all the Toronto Maple Leafs’ news and notes.