Having already covered a total of ten Eastern Conference teams, we now turn our focus to the next five: the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and the Washington Capitals.
Needless to say, drafting between 18th and 30th overall, the pickings get a little slim towards the end.
That said, many have seen players slip through the cracks.
Will the 2010 edition of the NHL Entry Draft be any different?
The Ottawa Senators' strength prospect-wise is on defense, where they feature the likes of Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. All three of these players are capable of cracking the Senators lineup this season, if not next.
Of the three, the Senators are most excited about Karlsson, who looks to be NHL-ready.
At forward, the Senators feature the likes of Louie Capourusso, Ilya Zubov, Andre Petersson and Roman Wick.
None of these players are expected to be in the Senators lineup anytime soon.
With aging forwards Alex Kovalev and Daniel Alfredsson expected to be on the downside of their careers, a forward is a must for the Sens. And, seeing as the Senators are so deep on the blueline, it would appear as if the Sens would be wise to select a forward with their 16th overall pick.
While it is tough to predict which players will still be on the board at 16, there are a few players that may intrigue the Senators.
Expected to be a top five pick before the 2009-10 season began, John Macfarland has watched his stock drop to the point that he is now expected to be taken anywhere from 10th-20th.
Macfarland, a centre, would be a great candidate for the Senators, especially if you put any stock into those pesky Jason Spezza trade rumors.
Other candidates include Jaden Scwartz, Jeff Skinner, Riley Sheahan and, slightly off the board, Ryan Spooner.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a stable group of young talent in their system that includes the likes of left winger Eric Tangradi (expected to make a push to make the Pens roster in 2010-11) and defenseman Simon Despres (who will be with the Pens before long as well).
With the Penguins allocating so much of their Cap to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal, it is essential that the Pens continue to bring in new, cheap blood to off-set paying their big four.
Going forward, the Pens defense looks solid with Alex Goligoski, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik. These three make up a formidable trio that possess a good combination of offensive ability and defensive savvy.
Centre is the Penguins biggest strength where Crosby, Staal and Malkin make up the NHL’s most feared 1-2-3 punch.
Where the Pens could use help is along the boards. Clearly, a winger with a scorer's touch is badly needed. Therefore, without question, the Pens will draft a winger if possible.
With the 20th pick, the Penguins will likely select a project player and, if he’s available, I would think they may take a flyer on Russian forward Kirill Kabanov (regardless of his “issues”).
Other candidates may include Stanislav Galiev, Beau Bennett, Ludvig Rensfeldt or Quintin Howden, who has a decent two-way game and good offensive instincts.
Either way, Pittsburgh will likely get a player that is a year or two away from making an impact with the big club.
Patience is of the utmost importance here.
One area that the Buffalo Sabres are strong in is between the pipes, so you can take goaltenders off their list.
Tyler Myers emerged as the Sabres go-to defenseman last season, playing with a combination of vigor and an offensive flare that should serve him well going forward.
Forwards Tyler Ennis, Zack Kassian and Nathan Gerbe all appear to be knocking on the NHL door, while veterans Tim Connolly (17 goals, 65 points in 73 games played), Derek Roy (26 G, 69 points, 80 GP), Jason Pominville (24 G, 62 Points, 82 GP) all look to be on the right track. Thomas Vanek is also very much in the mix with 28 goals and 53 points through 71 games.
I guess what I am getting at is this: The Sabres will draft the best player available, regardless of position.
Some players that may be available when the Sabers draft 23rd overall include: centres Tyler Pitlick, Riley Sheahan and Jaden Schwartz; defensemen Jarred Tinordi, Alex Petrovic and Dylan Mcilrath may also be available.
As for wingers, Emerson Etem may still be on the board, as may the aforementioned Quinton Howden and ultra-pest Brad Ross (who would be a great fit in Buffalo).
The New Jersey Devils gave up their first round draft choice to the Atlanta Thrashers in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal; a deal the devils would like to have a do-over on!
Unless they can manage to pick up a first round draft choice via trade (which is unlikely), the Devils will select 38th overall.
With the 38th selection the Devils will likely take the best player available with an emphasis on a defenseman, a cornerstone of New Jersey’s success for the past two decades.
As far as prospects go, forwards Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson are leading the way, with Matt Corrente and Alexander Urbom emerging as the Devils top two defensive prospects.
U.S. Under-18 team defenseman Stephen Johns (Jon Merrill’s defensive partner) would make an intriguing pick, as would Brock Beukeboom (son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom).
Forwards Teemu Pulkkinen, Petr Straka and Jordan Weal would also make nice fits.
For the record, Jeff Frazee looks to be the future between the pipes for the Devils and is developing well.
When you finish with the NHL’s best regular season record you don’t need to make many changes.
That said, when you lose in the first round of the playoffs to an eight seed, you might want to take a look at your compete level!
Brad Ross, an agitator who played for the Portland Winterhawks last season, would be a perfect fit for the Capitals, who could use his compete level, toughness and tenacity.
That said, the Capitals need a centre, which may mean taking a look at the likes of U.S. High School sensation Brock Nelson, Peterborough Petes standout Ryan Spooner or North Vancouver, B.C. native, Jordan Weal.
Defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson both look to be NHL-ready and should be given every chance to make the big club next season.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will assume the starter's role next year, backed up by Michal Neuvirth, who just may emerge as the better goaltender in the long run.
The Capitals may also elect to use their pick as part of a trade to bring in some immediate help down the middle.
Given their Cap concerns, they will have to be careful about the amount of salary they take back.
That concludes my three part series on the NHL’s Eastern Conference teams. If you missed parts one and/or two, check out my profile for the articles or use the links below.
***For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com
Until next time,