It’s that time once more, when your Peerless Prognosticator dons his thinking cap and provides you, the erudite hockey fan, with a look into the entry draft. We have not seen any of these fine gentlemen in action, but quite frankly, we don’t think it matters. After reading and listening to the usual media suspects opine on such things over the years, we think our track record is just fine by comparison. So, as we eagerly await men in top hats and tuxes pulling Gary Bettman out of a tree stump to see if he sees his shadow to proclaim three more months of off-season, here are the only picks you need to get you off and running for another beer…
1 Tampa Bay
Steven Stamkos – C (Sarnia Sting): 61 games, 58-47-105, +18
Needs: Tampa had and continues to have goaltending issues. But in the long term, they look reasonably solid with Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius in the prospect pool. It is a club without much offensive depth on the parent club, once one gets past Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and its prospect pool does not look especially promising in that regard. They need some offensive punch.
Twice in franchise history the Lightning have held the first overall pick. In 1992, the Lighting selected Roman Hamrlik with their first ever draft pick. In 1998, the Lightning picked Vincent Lecavalier. This year, they will pick Stamkos. There has been no drama about this pick – no wonder over the who, no rumor about trades, nothing. His name is an anagram for “man stokes vets.” Maybe he can lift Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and the rest of the Lightning out of the cellar.
2 Los Angeles
Drew Doughty – D (Guelph Storm): 58 games 13-37-50, -1
Needs: The Kings were 28th in goals allowed per game last year. It is a reflection of weak defense and goaltending. There are no franchise goalies expected to go at the top of this draft, but there are a number of defensemen with promise. That is the key need moving forward – for next season and looking further into the future.
The Kings have had two number-two picks in franchise history – Doug Smith in 1981 and Jimmy Carson in 1986. Both had decent careers (Carson had a 55-goal season with the Kings before being part of an answer to a trivia question – “who did the Kings give up for Wayne Gretzky?” -- Smith played in 535 games in his career).
Last year, Karl Alzner was described as the most “NHL-ready” of the defensemen in his class. His partner on the Canadian world juniors team might carry that label into this draft. Ottawa Senators coach Craig Hartsburg had Doughty on that juniors team and said of him, “He's been dominant at both ends of the rink. Offensively he's carried the puck with authority. He's been strong defensively, he's killed penalties, he's been outstanding." The Kings could use that sort of defenseman.
Zach Bogosian – D (Peterborough Petes): 11-50-61, +8
Needs: Well, they need a coach, but there aren’t any who are draft eligible. They need defense. 29th in goals-allowed last year, a team with one defenseman on the plus side of the ledger (Niclas Havelid) and two worse than -20, little in the way of blue line prospects in their system.
Bogosian is described as a more physical player than Doughty, and this would fill a gap created when the club dealt Braydon Coburn to Philadelphia in 2007. In his own words, “I like to compete, that’s my game, and some nights I might not always be on top, but I always compete.” This pick bears watching. The Thrashers essentially passed on last year’s draft with single picks only in the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Will they move this pick for volume – to try to restock the club?
Atlanta has never had a third-overall pick, but they spent much of their early history (their first four years) with first or second overall picks. They netted: Patrik Stefan, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Kari Lehtonen. Stefan might be considered a bust (188 points in 455 NHL games, and he spent last year in Europe), but the other three are foundation players, even if Heatley is playing that role in Ottawa.
4 St. Louis
Luke Schenn – D (Kelowna Rockets): 7-21-28, +5
Needs: For years, St. Louis was that team that was solid enough to make the playoffs, but not so good as to win the prize. Their needs have that same feel to them – they appear reasonably solid as most positions in the prospect pool, but few players jump off the page. What that means is that they don’t have one specific need, but they could stand improvement overall. This is a situation made for the “best player available” pick…or a trade.
Schenn is described alternately as a “defensive” or “shut down” defenseman. But there might be more there. A member of the Rockets management said of him, “…we really liked his passing…as a young guy he was just a great passer of the puck…we knew he was an excellent young guy who made very good decisions with the puck."
Only once have the Blues had the fourth overall pick. They selected Gene Carr with that pick in the 1971 entry draft. He played 14 games with the Blues before moving on to four other teams and 451 more NHL games.
5 NY Islanders
Alex Pietrangelo – D (Niagara IceDogs): 13-40-53, +29
Needs: Describing what the Islanders don’t need would be a much shorter list. But this being a draft deep in defensemen at the top of the board, the Islanders could do worse than pick one here.
Pietrangelo is described as “smart,” “poised,” and a “puck-moving defenseman.” The last of these can be descriptive, or code for “doesn’t play to his size.” Listed at 6’3”, 206 pounds, the physical side of his game is characterized as “developing.” But he had a big year and a fine playoff season (before illness – mononucleosis – knocked him out).
The Islanders have some experience with this slot. They picked Darius Kasparaitis at #5 in 1992, Eric Brewer in 1997, and Raffi Torres in 2000.
Colin Wilson – C (Boston University): 37 games, 12-23-35, +12
Needs: A center. This is the first of two picks the Blue Jackets have in the first round (they have Colorado’s #19 overall pick; they have three of the top 37 picks overall), and the possibility exists here that the Blue Jackets will move one of the first rounders for immediate help (fun fact: Columbus didn’t have a center with as many as 35 points last year, and it’s not like they have a lot past Derick Brassard in the prospect pool).
Reading about Wilson, one gets an image of a solid player (he should be; his father Carey played 13 seasons in the NHL). There might be forwards with more upside than Wilson (Nikita Filatov comes to mind), but Columbus needs to build a foundation – something that has been lacking in their eight-year history.
Columbus has had the sixth overall pick twice in their history, selecting Gilbert Brule in 2005 and Derick Brassard in 2006. Brule has 146 games of experience, but scored only one goal this past year (and that on October 31st) while spending 16 games (plus 13 playoff games) in Syracuse in the AHL.
Cody Hodgson – C (Brampton Battalion): 68 games, 40-45-85, +15
Needs: A GM. No, seriously. The Globe and Mail reported last Thursday that Cliff Fletcher would hang on to the term “interim” general manager for “at least” one more year. What in heaven’s name is in the water in Ontario?...LSD fizzies? The scenario, as that story points out, somehow leads to Brian Burke making his way to Toronto. In the meantime, the Leafs are doing…well, what exactly? Punting the season?
In the meantime, Hodgson is another one of those guys who looks like he will be a solid, but perhaps not spectacular NHLer. Given the shortage of pivots in the Maple Leaf system, they could do a lot worse (and might even try to, like drafting Cody Gifford).
Toronto has had two #7 selections since the draft was instituted -- Russ Courtnall in 1983, Luke Richardson in 1987 (would that be 1987 B.C., or does it just seem that way?)
Tyler Myers – D (Kelowna Rockets): 65 games, 6-13-19, -16
Needs: In the long term, the Coyotes will need to fill some holes on the blue line – they have two defensemen under contract after next year (Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek). They only have four forwards signed, but seem deeper up front in the prospect pool.
If one looks up the word “project” in the dictionary, young Mr. Myers’ photo might appear. He is a converted forward who is 6’7.” He’s got some catching up to do in a game that seems to have been reengineered to benefit players of smaller stature. However, he is ranked highly on a number of boards (for example, Central Scouting has him as the #3 North American defenseman, ISS has him as the #6 defenseman, The Hockey News has him 5th).
Three times has Phoenix had the eighth overall pick (including its previous life in Winnipeg) -- Andrew McBain in 1983, Pat Eleniuk in 1986, Peter Mueller in 2006. Given Mueller’s rookie season, perhaps they are getting better at this.
9 Nashville (from FLA)
Mikkel Boedker – LW (Kitchener): 29-43-73, +6
Needs: Forwards. Nashville has a young defense and a good prospect pool at that position. However, it is a team that has some difficulty scoring now and doesn’t have as deep or rich a pool of forwards coming through its system.
“Good puck skills”…”quickness and breakaway speed”…”great foot-speed”…”soft hands”…”natural playmaking skills.” Anyone in Nashville fit that description? The thing is…he bears a strange resemblance to Doogie Howser. We don’t know if that’s disqualifying or not, but we thought we’d point it out.
Nashville has never had a ninth overall pick in their short history, but they’ve had the sixth pick three times – Brian Finley in 1999, Scott Hartnell in 2000, and Scottie Upshall in 2001. Good thing the Preds aren’t picking sixth…or else Boedker might need to test his affinity for cheese steaks a few years from now.
Josh Bailey – C (Windsor Spitfires): 67 games, 29-67-96, +30
Needs: Centers. Vancouver has one center under contract after the 2008-2009 season (Ryan Kesler), and their prospect pool is not deep at this position.
The Hockey News reported one scout as saying that Bailey would “probably max out as a 60-point guy.” Well, Vancouver had one center last year with 76 points (Henrik Sedin)…the next one (Kesler) had 37. 60 would be an improvement.
Vancouver has had four picks at this slot in its history -- Garth Butcher in 1981, J.J. Daigneault in 1984, Brad Ference in 1997, and Luc Bourdon in 2005…all were defensemen.
Colten Teubert – D (Regina Pats): 66 games, 7-16-23, -8
Needs: The Blackhawks have a decent group of young defensemen – Cam Barker, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith (all under 25), but there isn’t much in the pipeline past that group.
Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodlief said this about Teubert in his look at defensemen for USA Today…” Out of all the top defensemen this year, he's the one who scares and intimidates opposing forwards with a mean, nasty, consistently physical component. He's a huge bruiser who hits to hurt and makes forwards pay a dear price for wandering into the crease when he's on the ice.” Pat Kane will breathe easier if this guy arrives.
Chicago has had three #11 overall picks since the amateur draft was instituted -- Wayne Davison in 1963, Dave Manson in 1985, and Pavel Vorobiev in 2000. Davison never played for the Hawks, Manson played in more than 1,100 NHL games (432 of them with Chicago), Vorobiev in 57 games before returning to Russia in 2006.
12 Anaheim (from EDM)
Kyle Beach – C (Everett Silvertips): 60 games, 27-33-60, -4
Needs: Anaheim is getting long in the tooth in a few positions, most notably at center and defense. They appear deeper among prospects on defense than they do at center.
A scout commenting in The Hockey News described Beach as a six-foot-three-inch Sean Avery. Woodlief describes him as an “abrasive agitator.” Anaheim has a theme – “super size.” For example, in the last three drafts only two of 19 players selected were under 6’0.” And, the Ducks are famously rough around the edges. They’re probably cheesed that Teubert is gone at this position. But Beach might do fine.
The Ducks have had one 12th overall pick in their history -- Alexei Smirnov in 2000. Please, don’t thank me for pointing that out.
Luca Sbisa – D (Lethbridge Hurricanes): 62 games, 6-27-33, +21
Needs: Perhaps a goalie. Ryan Miller is entering his walk year, and there will be persistent wonderment over the possibility of his leaving for Detroit the following year as a UFA. They need to consider where Jhonas Enroth fits in the scheme of things. But Buffalo is an interesting mix. Only three players under contract for next year are over 30 (Jochen Hecht, Jaroslav Spacek, Toni Lydman). Goalie issues aside, they could opt for any position on the board.
Reading about this youngster, it seems scouts are as much impressed with his decision to come to North America to acclimate himself to that style of play than anything he did on the ice (he is a native of Switzerland). The director of Central Scouting called him “a smart player who moves the puck at the right time and carries the puck correctly.” He seems a good fit with Buffalo’s approach.
The Sabres have spent a lot of picks at this position in the past – Larry Playfair in 1978, Joel Savage in 1988, Phillippe Boucher in 1993, Drew Stafford in 2003, Marek Zagrapan in 2004.
Colby Robak – D (Brandon Wheat Kings): 71 games, 6-24-30, -6
Needs: Carolina is in a bit of a mess. They have three defensemen under contract after this next season, none of them younger than 31; their prospect pool at this position is very thin.
Robak is a big guy (6’3”, 194) who was described by a scout quoted in The Hockey News as being similar to Bret Hedican – another Hurricane (currently a UFA).
You have to go all the way back to 1982 – when the Hurricanes were the Hartford Whalers – to find a #14 overall pick…Paul Lawless. He had 239 games in his career with four teams. Carolina is hoping this works out better.
Zach Boychuk – C (Lethbridge Hurricanes): 61 games, 33-39-72, +26
Needs: see above, ninth overall pick
Boychuk seems to be one of those guys who plays with the motor revved up. He reads like a Chris Bourque with more offensive upside.
Nashville has had one pick at this spot in their history -- Alexander Radulov in 2004.
Joe Colborne – LW (Camrose Kodiacs): 55 games, 33-57-90, +48
Needs: The Bruins aren’t set at any one position for the foreseeable future, unless Tuukka Rask is their goalie of the future. They could use some help on the wings going forward.
Colborne is a big guy (6’5”, 190). He is also described as needing to ramp up his intensity. He’s off to the University of Denver next year – one of the finer NCAA programs, so he’ll have a chance to develop the holes in his game. Work ethic might not be an issue, but it will be a question.
Mike Bloom in 1972, Clayton Pachal in 1976, Dwight Foster in 1977, Al Secord in 1978, Dmitri Kvartalnov in 1992. Bloom, Foster, and Secord played in a significant number of games, but generally with someone else.
Mattias Tedenby – LW (HV-71): 23 games, 3-3-6, +5
Needs: This is not an especially old team requiring plug-ins, but it is not at all deep in skill, either. The Flames need to upgrade in that respect.
In looking at several opinions on Tedenby, the player he seems projected by most to become is a Martin St. Louis type player. He’s certainly small enough (5’9”, 165). Now, as to whether he can take the pounding or avoid it…
The Flames have one 17th overall pick in their history -- Chris Biotti in 1985. Please note that he was picked before the Flames selected Joe Nieuwendyk in that draft (27th). Biotti never played a game in the NHL.
Michael Del Zotto – D (Oshawa Generals): 64 games, 16-47-63, +7
Ottawa has been so talented for so long, it was bound to happen that the well would dry up. Their prospect pool is – these days – rather thin. They seem especially thin regarding defensemen in the pipeline.
Reading about Del Zotto, the player that came to mind was “Mike Green.” He’s described as a good puck mover and shooter – a “prototypical” offensive defenseman – but perhaps with some weaknesses to attend to in the defensive aspects of the game.
Ottawa has never had an 18th overall pick in its history. The closest they’ve been to this position is when they selected 16th in 2002 – Jakub Klepis. Be afraid….be very afraid, Senators fans.
19 Columbus (from COL)
Zac Dalpe – C (Penticton Vees): 46 games, 27-36-63
Needs: see above, seventh overall pick
Dalpe could fill out some (170 pounds on a six-foot frame), but the common thread in descriptions of him is that he has the skills, and he is among the fastest risers in the assorted draft rankings.
Columbus has never picked from this position. Usually, their first round picks are in the single digits overall…ok, not usually, in every draft they’ve had so far.
20 NY Rangers
Nikita Filatov – LW (Moscow CSKA):
Needs: Wingers. After Alexei Cherepanov, there seems to be a big drop off in the prospect pool. And, after next season the Rangers have four wingers on their roster under contract, none of whom look to be a scoring line player.
There is no doubt about Filatov’s willingness, even eagerness to play in the NHL (``I want to play in the NHL right now and I’ll do anything to make that happen as fast as possible…”), and the NHL’s Director of European Scouting, noted a couple of weeks ago that ``If Nikita can guarantee that he will play in North America next year, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be a top-five selection.’’ The trouble is in that word, “guarantee,” and that word could make him this year’s Alexei Cherepanov, who dropped to 17th in last year’s draft (scooped up by the Rangers), although Filatov’s contract is up with his Russian squad. Frankly, it’s difficult to see him dropping this far based on the lavish praise heaped on his game in scouting reports…but if anyone might drop this far, it would seem to be this player.
The Rangers have had three picks in this position since the debut of the amateur draft -- Cam Allison in 1963, Jack Egers in 1966, Steven Rice in 1989. Allison never played in an NHL game, Rice played only 11 games with the Rangers on route to a 329-game career with three clubs, and Egers played 14 games in the Capitals’ 1974-1975 natural disaster of a season.
21 New Jersey
Chet Pickard – G (Tri-City Americans): 46-12-4, 2.32, .918, 2 shutouts
Needs: Yes, it’s time. Martin Brodeur will be 37 years old when next season comes to a close, and the Devils farm system is littered with guys in a off-Broadway version of “Waiting for Marty (to retire, or maybe slow down).” Jeff Frazee, Jordan Parise, Josh Disher, Jason Smith, Matus Kostur, Ari Ahonen, Jean-Francois Damphousse, Scott Clemmensen, Chris Mason, Frederic Henry, Luciano Caravaggio, Scott Swanjord, and Judd Lambert are the goalies drafted by the Devils since Brodeur was picked #20 overall in 1990.
Pickard has some experience in replacing a highly-thought of goalie, albeit in miniature. He replaced Carey Price at Tri-City. And as for that, well, as reported at NHL.com…” All the media was talking about the Carey Price ghost. I never put pressure on myself. I knew I was a good goalie."
New Jersey has never selected 21st. But they have selected 20th on two occasions – Travis Zajac in 2004 and that Brodeur guy in 1990.
22 Edmonton (from ANA)
Tyler Cuma - D (Ottawa 67’s): 59 games, 4-28-32, +4
Needs: The Oilers have stockpiled a fair amount of young talent. The parent roster is young, and they have players coming through the system that could step in over the next several years. They might be thinnest on the blue line.
The sum of the descriptions of Cuma suggest a solid, not flashy player, a good, all-around player. He seems to excel more at the offensive aspects of the game.
Only once has Edmonton selected in this spot, taking Marc-Antoine Poulliot in 2003.
John Carlson – D (Indiana – USHL): 53 games, 9-28-37
Needs: There aren’t many teams with better or deeper prospect pools than the Capitals. The Caps can go a number of ways (although this is a team that tends toward the “best player available). The club has a long history of emphasizing defense and two-way play. Since the lockout, six of ten first or second round picks have been defensemen. But on the other hand, if there is one persistent weakness, it is at center. The team has one center under 35 on the parent roster under contract past next season (Nicklas Backstrom). Despite the numbers put up by Mathieu Perrault in Canadian junior (233 points in his last two seasons), there is no slam dunk second line center in the system.
OK, here’s the deal. Bengt Gustafsson was and remains our favorite Cap of all time, the epitome of the two-way player who subordinated some of his offensive game to fit into the Caps’ style of the time. The sentimental pick would be the Caps taking his son, Anton. Where did we miss that part where sentiment played a role in building a team? Anton has potential, but he is also a big unknown, not having yet played against elite competition. Carlson, while not addressing “need,” is perhaps a longer term project for the blue line. One comparison he draws – from Bob McKenzie at TSN – is to Mike Komisarek. That sort of defenseman is in short supply in the Caps’ system.
The Caps have had three picks at #23 in their history – Paul MacKinnon in 1978, Miika Elomo in 1995, and Simeon Varlamov in 2006.
Erik Karlsson – D (Frolunda-SWE): 38 games, 13-24-37
Needs: Only Brent Burns and Nick Schultz among under-30 defensemen are signed to the parent club after next season. The farm system looks light in defenseman prospects.
Karlsson will need to bulk up, or risk getting mauled in front of his own net. His skill set descriptions include the usual references to stick, skating, and passing ability.
Minnesota does not have a 24th overall pick in their history. The closest they’ve been to this spot is in 2003, when they selected Brent Burns 20th overall.
Nicolas Deschamps – C (Chicoutimi Sagueneens): 70 games, 24-43-67
Needs: not much. Montreal is young and deep, both on the parent roster and in its farm system.
Deschamps led all rookies in the OMJHL in scoring. He seems, from descriptions of him, to be something of a late bloomer or late riser in the rankings, with the potential to be a fine all-around player.
Montreal has had two picks at this spot since the inception of the amateur draft – Terry French in 1971, and Alexander Perezhogin in 2001. French never played in the NHL and Perezhogin played 128 games in the league before signing to play in Russia last year.
26 Buffalo (from S.J.)
Jake Allen – G (St. John’s Fog Devils): 9-12 3.14, .901, 2 shutouts
Needs: see above, 13th overall pick
Allen didn’t have a great regular season (he was a rookie in the QMJHL), but had an excellent World Under-18 torunament. He is the youngest of the top-five goalies ranked by ISS; he might take the longest to develop. But the Sabres might be thinking down the road with respect to their goalie situation.
The Sabres have picked twice in this slot in their history – Mike Anderson in 1982 and Greg Brown in 1986
Cody Goloubef – D (Wisconsin-NCAA): 40 games, 4-6-10
Needs: Philadelphia has one defenseman (two, if one counts Ryan Parent, who did not have a consistent role on the parent roster) under the age of 33 under contract past next year – Braydon Coburn. They have a number of prospects with some potential to draw an NHL paycheck, but there doesn’t seem to be high-end potential there. They also lack a clear #1 goaltending prospect.
Goloubef finished his freshman year at Wisconsin with four goals – three of them were game winners. Hey, his name is GOAL-a-bef…he’s got to be a good player. What comes out from reading about this youngster is that he is a solid two-way player whose offensive game might be hidden a bit under a bushel basket at Wisconsin.
Philadelphia has selected 27th overall twice in its history, picking Scott Melanby in 1984 and Jeff Woywitka in 2001.
28 Los Angeles (from DAL)
David Toews - LW (Shattuck-St. Mary’s): 51 games, 44-56-100
Needs: see above, second overall pick
If there is a theme in this draft, it’s “bloodlines.” There seem to be a lot of candidates whose brothers, fathers, or grandfathers have come this way before. Toews is the brother of Jonathan, and he seems to suffer in the comparison. It doesn’t appear he’s as highly thought of as his brother, but that hasn’t kept him from being ranked highly on some charts (ISS: 27, CSS: THN: 40).
The Kings have had two selections at this position in their history – Paul Holden in 1988 and Brandy Semchuk in 1990
29 Atlanta (from PIT)
Jake Gardiner – D (Minnetonka-HS): 21 games, 20-28-48
Needs: see above, third overall pick
Gardiner is a converted forward, and with that would appear to be the problem of his brains catching up with his skills. He is described, though, as one of the best skaters in the draft. But if there is an odd undercurrent here, it is that there are rumblings that the Thrashers could move goalie Kari Lehtonen. Could they package him and this pick and move up?
Atlanta has never picked from this position. The closest they’ve been is at #30, where they took Luke Sellars in 1999 and Jim Slater in 2002.
Aaron Ness – D (Roseau): 31 games, 28-44-72
Needs: Whatever they are, Detroit seems to fill them. They bring back virtually everyone of consequence from last year’s Stanley Cup champion, but after next year things get interesting. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are UFAs. The interesting fact here is that with their last eight first round draft picks (going back to 1993), the Red Wings have taken defensemen.
Ness is smallish…ok, small (5’10”, 162), but his coach said, “he sees the ice and moves the puck better than any player I've ever seen. He reminds me of Phil Housley.”
There are lots of place out there that have worked very hard in assessing this talent, and it is such a benefit to hockey fans that such sources are available (for us to torture the information). The usual suspects like the Central Scouting rankings, ISS, Red Line Report, TSN, or The Hockey News year after year provide hockey fans with just about everything they could hope for in terms of pre-draft reviews and analysis. But there is also another crop of sources that do their own analysis or aggregate the data available…nhlentrydraft2008.com, mynhldraft.com, as well as the assorted mock drafts one can peruse at dcprosportsreport.com/NHLMocks.htm. Seek, and you shall find. It certainly is a golden age for the draft geeks out there.