Ahh draft day, after trade deadline day, quite possibly the most exciting day in hockey. No matter how badly your teams season ended, NHL entry draft day offers every team hope for the future.
Sadly, not every team will be lucky enough to find themselves a “Stud”, but this years crop of talent is deep, with more than a fair share of intriguing prospects. Looking at my crystal ball, I have elected to take on the task of not only predicting where teams will finish, but also the prospect that makes the most sense for said teams to draft.
Let’s take a look at the bottom feeders and whom they will target at this years entry draft, will the Toronto Maple Leafs add Brayden Schenn to their stable of young talent, or will they opt for a talented Russian D-Man by the name of Dmitri Kulikov (My hidden gem in this years draft).
Without further ado, let’s take a look at this year's sweet 16...
1. New York Islanders- There is no suspense as to whom the Islanders will take in the one spot, without question John Tavares, a gifted Centre, will be this year's No. 1 pick overall.
2. Colorado Avalanche- It was a close race for the bottom, but in the end I see the Avalanche falling into the 29th spot, I guess that Andrew Raycroft signing paid off after all, huh?
Victor Hedman, a talented rugged defenseman from Sweden, will be scooped up at the No. 2 spot. The Av’s need D very badly, and a goalie wouldn’t hurt either.
3. Tampa Bay Lightening- If the Lightening end up in the number three spot it will be interesting to see whom they draft. The Lightening need Defense in a big way, so losing out on Hedman will sting; in the end, I see the Lightening sticking with their plan to add a defenseman, taking Jared Cowan.
Sure, they could opt for another young offensive player, but the Lightening need defense so badly they will opt for Cowan. Don’t put it past the Bolts trading away this pick to a team in the top six, Cowan should still be there if they opt to make a deal.
4. Atlanta Thrashers- The Thrashers got their future D-Man at last years draft, now it’s time to add some offense. The Thrashers will likely chose Centre Matt Duchesne, he has sick hockey sense and would be a great compliment to Ilya Kovalchuck.
The Thrashers could risk trading down in hopes that Duchesne slips, but don’t count on it.
5. Phoenix Coyotes- Another brutal season from the ‘Yotes “Earns” them a top five pick, great work Gretz! The Coyotes need defense, but they will be hard pressed to resist this years crop of offensive talent.
In the end I see the Coyotes opting for talent down the middle in the form of Evander Kane. Kane, a Centre, was a valuable member of Canada’s Gold Medal winning junior team.
He is exactly what this team needs, he is crafty, has a ton of heart and could be the future leader of the Coyotes. Phoenix has a ton of talent on the wing, so Kane is a perfect fit here.
6. Los Angeles Kings- The kings have arguably the best stable of young talent in the entire NHL, they will look to add some offense in the form of Forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson out of Sweden. Svensson is a speedy winger, a bit undersized, but he owns a deadly shot and should fit in nicely with the Kings’ young stable of talent.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs- The Leafs could use a little bit of everything, but in the end I see GM Brian Burke bringing in a familiar bloodline, his name is Brayden Schenn. Schenn, a gifted two-way Centre, will fit in nicely with the Leafs.
He’s not as NHL ready as his brother Luke was, but he should be a real threat to make this team out of training camp.
Schenn is good defensively, has great hockey sense and has a bit of a physical game too, everything you want in a player when you are in a re-build. I do not see any goalie going in the first round, the Leafs would be smart to use a second rounder to select a goalie...
8. Dallas Stars- The Stars need a player with a little piss and vinegar in him, there are a couple of prospects that fit that bill, Right Winger Zack Kassian and Centre Nazim Kadri.
In the end I think the Stars will opt for Kadri, he is a physical player who is smart and has all the tools to be successful. If the Leafs opt to leave Schenn on the table it will be Kadri they take in his place.
9. Ottawa Senators- When you look at the Senators lineup a couple of key ingredients are still missing from the pie, a second line centre and depth at Defense. I think the Sens will try to kill two birds with one stone and draft Defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Ellis is a gifted Power Play specialist who has a ton of heart. He is undersized, but he should turn into a gifted player in no time, Ellis is what the Sens need right now.
10. Edmonton Oilers- 2008/09 was a disappointment for the Oilers for sure. The Oilers have plenty of talent up front so I will predict they will go for a defenseman, the not so obvious choice is Dmitri Kulikov out of the QMJHL.
Teams are hesitant to draft Kulikov as there is still no transfer agreement between Russia and the NHL, that said, he is scary talented and teams would be foolish to skip over him on that factor alone.
The Oilers will get a hell of a player in Kulikov who is above average in just about everything, and hey, Kulikov will love Edmonton, the cold weather and isolation will surely remind him of Mother Russia!
11. Buffalo Sabres- The Sabres will look to increase their offensive output, as such, I expect them to take Centre Matt Duchesne. Make no mistake about it, Duchesne could go as high as Fifth overall, he is a legitimate franchise player who brings tremendous goal-scoring abilities and that’s just what the Sabres need right now.
12. Minnesota Wild- It’s no secret that this franchise is all about playing a defensive style, but with Marian Gaborik likely on his way out and the prospect of bringing in a quality offensive free agent into the fold a tough sell look for the Wild to go with...a defenseman...Little known Simon Despres is puck moving D-Man, who should fit innicely with the Wild right away.
13. Nashville Predators- The Predators were oh so close to making the playoffs this year, their biggest obstacle? Offensive depth. The Preds will gladly take Centre Jordan Schroeder in the 13 spot. Schroeder, who has seen his stock plummet this season, is a gifted player and should be a great fit with last years pick Colin Wilson.
14. Florida Panthers- Coming along nicely, but they could use a player with a physical game, someone like Right Winger Zack Kassian. Kassian has been compared to Dallas forward Brenden Morrow, if this kid plays anywhere near what Morrow brings every night the Panthers will be thrilled.
15. Anaheim Ducks- Close call, in the end I see the Ducks squeaking into the playoffs. Anaheim will likely go for a forward, perhaps a guy like Brayden Schenns linemate Left Winger Scott Glennie. Glennie is speedy, has great hands and should be a good fit in Anaheim.
16. St. Louis Blues- The Blues could go either way here, they need depth at every position. In the end, I see the Blues selecting Centre Jacob Josefson out of Sweden. Josefson would be a nice fit in St. Louis, he is NHL ready and has been compared to the likes of Mike Modano in the past.
There you have it, my top 16 picks for this years NHL entry draft.
A couple of players to keep your eyes on that might just move up in the draft: Dylan Olson- Defense, Ryan O’Reilley- Forward, Landon Ferraro- Centre, Peter Holland, Centre, Carter Ashton- Right Winger.
As I mentioned above, I don’t see a goaltender getting picked in the first round, as such, there is value to be had in the second round.
The top rated goalies from Central Scouting are as follows- North American Goalies- 1. Edward Pasquale- Saginaw (OHL), 2. Scott Stajcer- Owen Sound (OHL), 3. Micheal Lee- Fargo (USHL), 4. Olivier Roy- cape Breton (QMJHL), 5. Jean-Francois Berube- Montreal (QMJHL).
Top ranked European goalies are - 1. Robin Lehner- Frolunda Jr. (Sweden Jr.), 2. Mikko Koskinen- Blues (Finland), 3. Lukas Flueler- Zurich (Swiss), 4. Juraj Holly- Chomutov Jr. (Czech Republic Jr.), 5. Marek Mazanec- Plzen Jr. (Czech Republic Jr.).
Let’s hope Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and Company beat the other GM’s to the punch and add another goaltending prospect to the stable of talent they already have; after watching Justin Pogge with the big club I am not so sure he is the right guy for the job.
If it were up to me, I’d like to take a shot on Robin Lehner. Lehner, who is from sweden but plays for Frolunda’s Junior team out of Finland, is a big goaltender who likes to challenge the shooters.
If not for Lehner, team Canada Jr. would have smoked Sweden, without question Lehner was the reason they kept it close, he has the makings of a great goalie and would be a welcome addition to the Leafs...Please Mr. Burke, make it happen, you will not regret it...
Until next time,
Peace! check out www.TOsports.ca