Erratic Patrick Kane Remains at Top of 2007 Draft Class
After the NHL draft next weekend, hockey analysts will be quick to judge who were the winners and losers in the annual selection meeting.
The keys to succeeding at the draft are finding the best value for the selection position. The best general managers are able to maximize those picks.
But when it comes to judging drafts accurately, you need to take time and let the players develop so their true ability comes out and can be proven. It takes years to do that and a draft class's rating will change after year hree, four, five and later on. In the NFL, draft experts likes to wait three years before judging the strength of a draft class. In the NHL, five years may be even more appropriate.
You have to give players who are as young as 17 at the time of the draft at least that long to develop and show off their talent.
The top of the draft in the NHL is usually a dependable place to get started. The Chicago Blackhawks used the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft to select Patrick Kane. The Philadelphia Flyers followed by selecting James van Riemsdyk with the No. 2 pick.
The 2007 draft is the only time in NHL history that American-born players were selected withe first two picks in the draft.
Here's our look at the Top 5 players from the 2007 draft.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, No. 1 Selection, 1st
It was slightly over two years ago that Patrick Kane scored the decisive goal in overtime that gave the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup with a six-game triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kane's quick shot from the left wing appeared to disappear when it went under Flyers' goalie Michael Leighton.
Nobody knew where the puck was for several seconds. However, Kane knew that Leighton had not stopped the shot and began his memorable dash up the ice that signaled the start of the team's first Stanley Cup celebration since 1961.
Kane and Jonathan Toews have proved to be the Hawks' most talented players. While Toews is viewed as the team's responsible leader—as indicated by the nickname Captain Serious— Kane has not reached that level of maturity.
An offseason trip to the campus of the University of Wisconsin resulted in reports of rowdy and drunken behavior that has the team worried about his commitment. There were pictures of Kane lying on the ground littered with empty beer cans, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Despite his off-ice difficulties, Kane has scored 126 goals and 369 points during the first five years of his career. There have been concerns about his conditioning and focus, but Kane is a proven scorer who should remain a major offensive force for years to come.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, 22nd Pick, 1st Round
Midway through the 2010-11 season, the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins were engaged in another classic hate battle at the Molson Centre.
It was a particularly vicious game, and when Max Pacioretty started racing up the ice in pursuit of the puck, he paid no attention to Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara skating next to him.
Chara attempted to bump Pacioretty off the puck along the boards, but the point of impact was the stanchion near the players' bench. Pacioretty's head bounced off of it and he fell to the ice with a sickening thud.
It was an awful development and the resulting neck injury kept Pacioretty out for the rest of the season. However, he came back healthy in 2011-12 and developed into a full-fledged star. He scored 33 goals and 65 points for the Canadiens.
If Montreal is going to return to playoff status in the next year or two, Pacioretty is sure to play a huge role.
Wayne Simmonds, Los Angeles Kings, 61st Pick, Second Round
The Los Angeles Kings made Wayne Simmonds the last pick of the second round in the 2007 draft. He used his size, speed and hitting ability to make the team and the Flyers targeted him when they decided to trade Mike Richards following the 2010-2011 season.
Simmonds thrived in Philadelphia, finishing the regular season with 28 goals, twice as many as he had with the Kings the previous season. Simmonds has shown he will go to the dirty areas in front of the net in order to score a goal or make a play that will enable a teammate to get a legitimate scoring opportunity.
Still, it had to be a mixed blessing for Simmonds, who saw his former Kings' teammates skate around the Staples Center with the Stanley Cup after their six-game triumph over the Devils in the Finals.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks, 9th Pick, 1st Round
Logan Couture is well on his way to developing into one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league.
After treading water in 2009-10 and dressing only 25 times, the Sharks decided that Couture was ready by the start of the 2010-11 season. He became a Top six forward and did not disappoint, scoring 32 goals and 56 points. He was especially effective when the Sharks were on the power play, scoring 10 goals with the man advantage.
Couture continued to advance last season, scoring 31 goals and 65 points. He added 10 power play goals and he has quick hands that allow him to deflect shots and get off quick wristers. Couture senses the opening in the defense and he knows how to exploit it. He should be a mainstay in the San Jose lineup for years to come.
James Van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers, 2nd Pick, First Round
Injuries help James van Riemsdyk to 43 games in 2011-12, but there is no reason that he still cannot develop into a dominant forward in the future. He should be able to score 30 or more goals consistently.
The Flyers were thrilled with van Riemsdyk's development in 2010-11, when he scored 21 goals and had 40 points. He knows how to use his big body to find room in front of the net, but he could still grow more comfortable in establishing himself down low. When van Riemsdyk is playing effective hockey, he uses his quick wrist shot and deft fakes to make his scoring plays.
Van Riemsdyk scored seven goals in 11 games in the 2010-11 postseason. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would like to get a bit more consistency from van Riemsdyk and show more responsibility on the defensive end.