Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For Your Mockification -- The Peerless' 3rd Annual Draft Mocknostications

And now, we bring you what all of you have been waiting for…

The 3rd Annual Peerless Draft Mocknostications

While we are a practicing member of the Bloggerhood of Hockey Bloggers, we cannot claim to have seen any of the fine young men who might be selected in this draft in actual hockey action. We are hard pressed to spell their names correctly (yeah… spell “Paajarvi-Svensson” without looking it up). But this will not keep us from sounding authoritative and certain in our conclusions, no matter how batty they might be… sort of like Don Cherry, without the weird suit coats. So, without further introduction…

Once more, in a tradition carried down from the ages, the clock strikes 7:00 pm on Friday. Gary Bettman will be greeted by throngs of adoring fans adept at masking their cheers as boos. The Commissioner will slither to the podium, clear his throat, flick his forked tongue once… twice… and announce… “with the first overall pick in the 2009 National Hockey League entry draft, the New York Islanders select…

1. New York Islanders -- John Tavares, C. Oshawa Generals/London Knights, OHL (60 games, 58-46-104, 54 PIMs)

Former picks at (1): Rick DiPietro (2000), Denis Potvin (1973), Billy Harris (1972)

What do the Islanders need?... Divine intervention. That’s not far from the truth. In terms of immediate needs, the Islanders have some talent on the blue line (Mark Streit and…) and at right wing (Kyle Okoposo and…). Everywhere else, it looks really grim. For the Islanders, there is no “draft for need,” since they need everything. Tavares will step right into the lineup, probably as their top line center, on opening night. He can’t help but be a shot in the arm. The Islanders did not have a center with as many as 40 points last year. Shoot, they didn’t have a forward with 40 points.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning – Victor Hedman, D. Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik, SEL (43 games, 7-14-21, 52 PIMs)

Former picks at (2): none

What do the Lightning need?... A brain. Last year, the Lightning made a lot of noise by ordering up a bunch of checkbooks and almost going through the whole lot of them. And that makes one wonder if, having lost the lottery to pick first, they would trade this pick (we did say they needed a brain?). If you’re a Caps fan, you hope they do, because they almost certainly won’t get value comparable to what Hedman offers down the road. Hedman isn’t likely to have quite the immediate impact Tavares has (will the Lightning front office have enough brains to recognize they need to be patient?), but he might be the more valuable player in the long run.

3. Colorado Avalanche – Matt Duchene, C. Brampton Battalion, OHL (57 games, 31-48-79, 42 PIMs)

Former picks at (3): Curtis Leschyshyn (1988,Quebec Nordiques)

What do the Avalanche need?... a fuller cupboard. What happened to this franchise? So good for more than a decade, the fall was hard and fast, and it isn’t as if there is a deep prospect pool waiting to step up. For the Avalanche, it’s back to basics – building strength down the middle. And this is a team that did not have a 60-points scorer last year. Duchene might not step in right away, but he won’t be long in moving up the ladder.

4. Atlanta Thrashers – Evander Kane, C. Vancouver Giants, WHL (61 games, 48-48-96, 89 PIMs)

Former picks at (4): none

What do the Thrashers need?... Better luck. This will be, if they don’t trade it, the sixth top-five pick in the Thrashers’ history. The others were Patrik Stefan, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, Kari Lehtonen, and Zach Bogosian. Of that group, only Kovalchuk and Heatley could be said to have fulfilled any significant portion of the potential such a top pick suggests, and Heatley achieved his in another city (we’ll wait on the matter of Bogosian). In any case, the Thrashers have had a poor batting average with high picks. And now, Evander Kane. Kane might not step in right away, either, but his jump to the Thrashers might be faster than Duchene’s. Atlanta had four players with 50-plus points last year. Two of them – Slava Kozlov and Todd White – will be at least 35 at season’s end next year, and Ilya Kovalchuk might not even be a Thrasher at the end of the year. Kane could be on the fast track to the big time.

5. Los Angeles Kings – Brayden Schenn, C. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (70 games, 32-56-88, 82 PIMs)

Former picks at (5): none

What do the Kings need?... Time. More than any team in the top five, the Kings can keep one eye on need while looking for the best player available. They had eight players 25 or younger who skated at least 40 games last year. Jonathan Quick tended goal in 44 games and won’t be 24 until January. The Kings look to be pretty deep in prospects at lower levels. This pick might have gone to the Scrabble triple word score from Sweden, and the Kings having selected fellow Swede Oscar Moller in 2007 might have lent weight to that view. But Moller had experience in North American hockey before the draft, having skated with Chilliwack in the WHL in the season leading up to the draft. The Kings will look west again, not east.

6. Phoenix Coyotes – Jared Cowen, D. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (48 games, 7-14-21, 45 PIMs)

Former picks at (6): none)

What do the Coyotes need?... Stability. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a story concerning the Coyotes and their ownership situation or potential relocation or financial woes. This was a team that was five games over .500 as late as January 20th (and they pancaked the Red Wings, 6-3, to get there). They finished the season 12-20-2 and have spent the off-season wondering where they’ll be this time next year. And into this maelstrom will be deposited young Mr. Cowen, who represents the real wild card of the top 20 or so picks. He had a serious knee injury in January, and that could be what makes him a wild card here. Otherwise, he seems to have the physical tools -- 6’5” and 220 or so pounds. Even with the injury, he seems to be the highest rated defenseman in this draft not named “Hedman,” and the Coyotes could probably use some beefing up on defense among their prospects.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs – Zack Kassian, RW. Peterborough Petes, OHL (61 games, 24-39-63, 136 PIMs)

Former picks at (7): Luke Richardson (1987), Russ Courtnall (1983)

What do the Leafs need?... A couch. Yeah, a couch… In places other than Toronto, there seems to be a perception that Maple Leaf fans have a sense of entitlement – deluded at that – that they are the Yankees of the north, the gold standard of hockey (in Toronto there seems to be a morbid, “what other ways can we find to suck” attitude). When did they win a Stanley Cup last, again? That speaks to a lack of patience, that somehow, if they just add a part or two, they’ll be right back in contention. Well, they drafted fifth overall last year, and now they go seventh. The Leafs need lots of parts. Kassian is a stretch here, seeing as how the consensus seems to think he’s a 10-20 pick. But we suppose one has to remember who is doing the picking here, too. Kassian seems like a player Brian Burke would like, more so than the smaller, if more skilled forwards who would be available here.

8. Dallas Stars – Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D. Leksand-IF, Swe II (39 games, 3-14-17, 32 PIMs)

Former picks at (8): Richard Matvichuk (1991, Minnesota North Stars), Derian Hatcher (1990)

What do the Stars need?... More than you might think. The Stars haven’t drafted in the top ten since 1996 (Richard Jackman, for those keeping score). It speaks to the strength of the organization over the last decade-plus. But that era seems to have come to an end. What’s worse, the team – reflecting its consistently low draft position – doesn’t seem to have a lot of high-end prospects in the pipeline, especially on defense. And that’s where Ekman-Larsson comes in. OEL was a plus-44 in 39 games. Sure, this was done at the second level of hockey in Sweden, but he also won’t be 18 years old for another month.

9. Ottawa Senators – Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW. Timra IK, SweJE (50 games, 7-10-17, 4 PIMs)

Former picks at (9): Brian Lee (2005)

What do the Senators need?... Juice. Last year, the Senators finished 23rd in the NHL in scoring. An odd thing, given that the Senators employed Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley. But there it is. The Senators don’t have any scoring depth, and they might be losing Heatley – who has requested a trade – before too long (perhaps at this draft). And it isn’t as if there is much by way of scoring forwards in the prospect pool. Picking Magnus Triple Word Score could help the Senators start stocking up some offense-oriented forwards for the day (soon) when Heatley might be gone and the day (maybe not long after) when Alfredsson will be gone.

10. Edmonton Oilers – Ryan Ellis, D. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (57 games, 22-67-89, 57 PIMs)

Former picks at (10): none

What to the Oilers need?... A quarterback. The Oilers got respectable offensive production from its blue line last year – four defensemen had at least 30 points, and all of them were “plus” players. But Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky will be 33 at the end of next year. Denis Grebeshkov is an arbitration eligible free agent. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot in the system as far as offensive defensemen go. Ellis was the OHL defenseman of the year in the OHL this past season and led all defensemen in assists and total scoring (with a plus-52 to go along with it).

11. Nashville Predators -- Jordan Schroeder, C/RW. University of Minnesota, NCAA (35 games, 13-32-45, 29 PIMs)

Former picks at (11): none

What do the Predators need?... great balls o’ fire. Nashville has something of a reputation that followed the Caps around in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s…defense-first, scoring where they can get it, competent goaltending. What might surprise some folks is that since the lockout, the Predators were in the top half of the league in scoring for three years running (5th in 2006-2007) before tumbling to 24th last year. And looking at the forwards, there is potential there down the road, but there would seem to be room for a kid who comes out of a big-time program with as much skill as Schroeder seems to have displayed.

12. Minnesota Wild – Nazem Kadri, C. London Knights, OHL (56 games, 25-53-78, 31 PIMs)

What to the Wild need?... A new attitude. The Wild play before sellouts every night. What they haven’t done is play an especially high-energy style of hockey. That might change now, with Todd Richards taking over behind the Wild bench. Since the lockout, the Wild have seen their offensive production slip slightly, but consistently, from an average of 2.76 goals per game in 2005-2006 to 2.61 goals per game last year. In that time, they have not been ranked higher than 18th in scoring. And this is a team that employed Marian Gaborik (occasionally) over that time. Unfortunately, the prospect pool for the Wild does not seem conducive to a more offensive style of play. The Wild could use more depth in skill. Kadri would appear to provide that.

13. Buffalo Sabres – Scott Glennie, RW. Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (55 games, 28-42-70, 25 PIMs)

Former picks at (13): Marek Zagrapan (2005), Drew Stafford (2004), Philippe Boucher (1991), Joel Savage (19988), Larry Playfair (1978)

What do the Sabres need… XXL. What do the following prospect forwards have in common – Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy? All are 5’9” or shorter, and none weigh more than 170 pounds. The new NHL is more accommodating than its predecessor in tolerating players lacking size, but Buffalo could use more of it up front. Glennie will bring more size, and without sacrificing a solid two-way game, if his press is to be believed.

14. Florida Panthers – John Moore, D. Chicago Steel, USHL (57 games, 14-25-39, 50 PIMs)

Former picks at (14): none

What do the Panthers need?... That Ponce de Leon guy to show up again. The Panthers had seven defensemen last year who played in at least 68 games. Four of them are 30 or older. Three of them – Nick Boynton, Karlis Skrastins, and Jassen Cullimore are unrestricted free agents. And then there is the big free agent prize – Jay Bouwmeester – who looks to be moving somewhere. There is some talent in the pipeline, but there are holes that will need to be filled.

15. Anaheim Ducks – Louis Leblanc, C. Omaha Lancers, USHL (60 games, 28-31-59, 59 PIMs)

Former picks at (15): none

What do the Ducks need… OH-fense. Ryan Getzlaf will play another dozen years and probably have a Hall of Fame worthy career. But last year the Ducks didn’t get much out of the center position after Getzlaf, and it appears to be a shortcoming in the prospect pool, too. Leblanc could fill a need and be the best player here. Besides, for a guy who sounds like he might have written the great Western novel, he has to go west, right?

16. Columbus Blue Jackets – Drew Shore, C. USA-U18, USDP (62 games, 17-32-49)

Former picks at (16): none

What do the Jackets need?... “C” doesn’t just stand for Columbus. No center with the parent club had as many as 50 points last year. Derick Brassard will be such a player at some point, but for the time being he has to come back from a shoulder injury. In the system, Columbus seems thin in this area. Drew Shore is not thin – at least he won’t be when his frame fills out.

17. St. Louis Blues – Jeremy Morin, LW. USA-U18, USDP (46 games, 26-22-48, 99 PIMs)

Former picks at (17): Marek Schwarz (2004), Barrett Jackman (1999)

What do the Blues need?... Not much. Prospect-wise, that is. The Blues are fairly well off at most positions in terms of prospect depth. A winger wouldn’t hurt, especially on the left side. The Blues can afford to look at needs in terms of 3-5 years down the road as much as “best player available.” Morin would get to measure himself against his favorite player (Patrick Kane, according to the NHL.com scouting report) who has Morin’s favorite goal celebration.

18. Montreal Canadiens – Dmitry Kulikov, D. Drummondville, QMJHL (62 games, 12-50-62)

Former picks at (18): Kyle Chipchura (2004), Matt Higgins (1996), Brad Brown (1994), Gilbert Delorme (1981), Norm Dupont (1977), Bruce Baker (1976), Paul Reid (1964)

What do the Canadiens need?... “D…D-D-D-D.” The Canadiens have five, count ‘em, five unrestricted free agent defensemen (Schneider, Bouillion, Dandenault, Komisarek, and Brisebois). Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik have two years left on their respective deals, but Markov will be 31 at the end of next season, and Hamrlik will be 36. Their prospect system seems short on that specie of player, at least in terms of filling all those potential holes down the road.

19. New York Rangers – David Rundblad, D. Skelleftea HC, SEL (45 games, 0-10-10, 8 PIMs)

Former picks at (19): Lauri Korpikoski (2004), Stefan Cherneski (1997), Bruce Buchanan (1968)

What do the Rangers need?... A good slap. That not generally being the object of the draft (although a lot of Ranger fans might line up for the opportunity to bestow one upon the genius who hung $11.5 million in cap hit for two defensemen – Wade Redden and Michal Roszival – of dubious value around the team’s neck), the Rangers might have to settle for a defenseman who might provide some blue line pop down the road. Despite his numbers, Rundblad is said (at least in the scouting report quoted at NHL.com) that “he has a very good…right-handed shot.”

20. Calgary Flames – Landon Ferarro, RW. Red Deer Rebels, WHL (68 games, 37-18-55, 99 PIMs)

Former picks at (20): Denis Gauthier (1995), Miles Zaharko (1977, w/ Atlanta Flames)

What do the Flames need?... Some polish. Calgary has something of a reputation for hard-nosed play, and there appear to be a number of prospects at forward who can fill that role. What the Flames seem to lack in the longer term is higher-end skill. That’s might be difficult to get as the draft moves into the lower half of the round, but Ferarro reads like a guy who can fit in the Calgary mold, yet still provide a bit of a skill upgrade.

21. Philadelphia Flyers – Robin Lehner, G. Frolunda, SWE-JR (22 games, 3.05, .916)

It doesn’t seem to be a big draft for goaltenders, but there has been only one year in this decade when a goalie wasn’t selected in the first round (2007). Philadelphia, which seems to have a long history of treating goaltenders as if they were a big pile of steaming Cechmanek, needs to address a real shortcoming in their organization. The Flyers do not have a certain NHLer in their system.

22. Vancouver Canucks – Stefan Elliott, D. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (71 games, 16-39-55, 76 PIMs)

Former picks at (22): Curt Fraser (1978), Jeff Bandura (1977)

What do the Canucks need?... It’s the letter that comes between the “C” and the “E,” as in “defence.” Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell will be 35 and 33, respectively, at the end of next season. Mattias Ohlund is an unrestricted free agent. The prospect pool looks deep at forward; at defense, not so much. A lot of mock drafts have Elliott going here. Hey, why not?

23. New Jersey Devils – Calvin DeHaan, D. Oshawa Generals, OHL (68 games, 8-55-63, 40 PIMs)

Former picks at (23): Nicklas Bergfors (2005), Jeff Christian (1988), Ricard Persson, Craig Billington (1984)

What do the Devils need?... Some “O” for the “D.” No Devil defenseman not named “Niedermayer” has scored as many as ten goals in a season since 1994. Yeah, in New Jersey, defensemen play defense. They got a grand total of one goal out of their defensemen in the first round series of the playoffs. Of course, a player picked here isn’t going to solve that problem next year (or the year after that, or the year after that), but the Devils don’t have anyone who would seem to address that issue anywhere in their system, either.

24. Washington Capitals – Jacob Josefson, C. Djurgartens IF Stockholm, SEL (50 games, 5-11-16, 14 PIMs)

Former picks at (24): Errol Rausse (1979)

What do the Caps need?... Something to fill those donut holes. After Nicklas Backstrom, name a center – on the parent roster or a prospect – who immediately comes to mind as a top-two line sort of player three or four years down the road. The candidates are of the “well, maybe” sort, if that (that includes last year’s edition of Swedish center – Anton Gustafsson). Reading a scouting report on Josefson… “He is a very good two-way player. He has a very good responsibility for his defensive duties. He's more a playmaker, a guy who sees the ice really well, creates a lot of scoring chances with his passing skills. He's very good with the stick and very good in traffic because he is an excellent stickhandler. He's a smooth passer with very soft hands”… he sounds like another Swede picked three years ago.

25. Boston Bruins – Chris Kreider. C. Andover, HS-MA (26 games, 33-23-56)

Former picks at (25): Kevyn Adams (1993), Mark Howe (1974)

What do the Bruins need?... “D”…for “depth.” Kreider is almost too good a pick here. A native of Massachusetts, attends Andover, will matriculate to Boston College. And that last part suggests this as something of a high-risk/high-reward pick. Kreider isn’t heading off to BU until the fall of 2010. Is his performance at this level a bit of a mirage? Reading the scouting reports, it seems to be a concern, but not enough of one to suggest that he has anything but a lot of talent that is just undeveloped.

26. New York Islanders – Peter Holland, C. Guelph Storm, OHL (68 games, 28-39-67, 42 PIMs)

Former picks at (26): Zigmund Palffy (1991)

What do the Islanders need?... everything…well, except for a number one center. They just drafted one in John Tavares. Doesn’t mean they still don’t need help at the position.

27. Carolina Hurricanes -- Simon Despres, D. St. John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (66 games, 2-30-32, 74 PIMs)

Former picks at (27): none

What do the Hurricanes need?... binoculars. They need to look a fair way down the road and think about what their blue line might look like 3-5 years from now. Frantisek Kaberle, Niclas Wallin, and Joe Corvo are UFAs after next season (all will at least 33). Dennis Seidenberg is a UFA now. So, after Joni Pitkanen and Anton Babchuk (who they have to re-sign as an RFA), who is in the wings, so to speak? It doesn’t seem a deep prospect pool.

28. Chicago Blackhawks – Carter Ashton, RW. Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL (70 games, 30-20-50, 93 PIMs)

Former picks at (28): Rene Badeau (1982), Steve Ludzik (1980), Tim Trimper (1979), Michael Archambault (1970)

What do the Blackhawks need?... patience. Last year, the Blackhawks picked Kyle Beach, a winger who might have been the biggest of the high-risk/high-reward picks in that draft, given his reputation for volatility. A player like Ashton brings similar size, if not the potential problems. This would be the counterpoint to the longer odds (with potential for bigger payoff) that Beach was last year.

29. Detroit Red Wings – Carl Klingberg, LW. Boras HC/Vastra Frolunda HC (18 games, 6-3-9, 2 PIMs)

Former picks at (29): Niklas Kronwall (2000), Jeff Sharples (1985)

What do the Red Wings need?... not to upset the apple cart. They’ve been a well-oiled machine for a decade or more, so why do anything different? In this case, they’ve done well employing Swedes, and they’ve done well (some might say surprisingly well) employing Swedes who can hold their own physically (Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen).

30. Pittsburgh Penguins – Jordan Caron, RW. Rimouski, QMJHL (56 games, 36-31-67, 66 PIMs)

Former picks at (30): Jim Hamilton (1977), Bernie Luckowich (1972)

What do the Penguins need?... a good swift kick in the… OK, that’s the Caps fan in us talking. The Penguins have lived off the product of epic suckitude in the early part of the decade, the sort of which saw them pick fifth, first, second, first, and second over a five year period ending in 2006. Now, they have to keep it going with picks at the other end of the round. Two years ago, the picked Angelo Esposito at 20, sent him to Atlanta as part of the Marian Hossa deal, then watched Hossa head to Detroit. Last year, they didn’t have a first round pick (again, a product of the Hossa deal). Now, they draft 30th. And they still could use wingers.

And there you have it, the last mocknostication you'll ever need. And, as always, don't use these picks for cash wagering... unless you plan to share the winnings.