Last week, armed with the ISS draft primer, index cards, and lots of beer, my good friend Andrew and I sat down to do our mock draft. We had it done, and I even previewed it on Su Ring’s radio show last Sunday. Then, disaster struck. 2 picks were traded, throwing the draft strategy for at least half the league into question, and B.D. Gallof posted a fantastic piece on this site that alluded to the Islanders’ draft strategy and showed that my initial hunch was likely wrong.
Therefore, last night, we re-did the mock draft from the ground up. Due to a running gag involving the auto spelling correction on my iPhone, we’ve decided to call it the “Ducked” Version.
Three things to go over, right out of the gate. First, we did take trades into consideration. Frankly I think a mock draft is useless if you assume each team actually drafts in its original spot, since that never happens. In addition, we are considering both off the board picks and sliders. I’m not sure if I personally agree with one of our sliders, but there are many factors, and we’ve tried to get into the heads of the individual GM’s and make a move that they could make in the same situation. Finally, I’m going to mention two big trends that I think will drive this draft as we move forward.
Without further ado, away we go:
1. Edmonton Oilers – Taylor Hall, LW (Windsor – OHL)
The Oilers answer this year’s John Tavares/Matt Duchene Question in the same way the Islanders answered it last year. They wouldn’t go wrong with Tyler Seguin, who when all is said and done could be the best player of this draft, but the Oilers need the dazzling scoring ability of new Canadian hero Taylor Hall. When all is said and done, this is a pretty easy pick.
2. Boston Bruins (From Toronto) – Tyler Seguin, C (Plymouth – OHL)
Serious questions about this team’s heart abound after their embarrassing performance against the Flyers in the playoffs, in which, leading 3-0, they managed to snare defeat from the jaws of victory. Some wondered if trading this pick for an immediate star was the better bet than trading the 15th, but the Bruins never seriously considered that, and you could understand why. Seguin is a dynamic force with a nasty streak who could easily develop into a consistent 90-100 point player in the NHL. The guarantee of one of Seguin or Hall allowed the Bruins, likely thinking they were playing with house money, to roll the dice on the Horton trade.
3. Florida Panthers - Brett Connolly, LW (Prince George – WHL)
From all reports Connolly is their guy, since the Panthers showed a surprising lack of interest in any of the elite defense prospects. The best situation for the Cats is to trade down and get a top 6 back in return since they have enough picks, but the current draft slotting doesn’t allow this. They’ll take Connolly, who seems to have answered questions about the health of his hip to a satisfactory degree. If he can stay healthy, the Panthers will have a dynamic offensive player who will grace their top line for years to come.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets – Cam Fowler, D (Windsor, OHL)
Something about him just screams OHIO! Not to mention the Jackets need a mobile D-man and Fowler is the most NHL ready. He will immediately step in, and he has a chance to both anchor their blue line for years to come and play in many NHL all-star games.
TRADE – The Hurricanes lack depth at all positions and are starved for elite prospect talent, and the Islanders want to stockpile picks while still targeting their player. This is a good deal for both teams:
To CAR: 5th Pick
To NYI: 7th Pick, 37th Pick, and 157th Pick
5. Carolina Hurricanes (From New York Islanders) – Erik Gudbranson, D (Kingston, OHL)
The Blue Jackets hope this hulking defender with a nasty streak and maturity beyond his years will anchor the blueline for many years to come. They also hope that the similarities to Drake Berehowsky, the last such defender drafted so high from Kingston, are unfounded.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning: Brandon Gormley, D (Moncton, QMJHL)
Some see Gormley as a “safe” pick, but he is a great complement for Victor Hedman. The Lightning hope they now have a top defensive pairing to go with their elite offensive talent, and they hope Dustin Tokarski arrives soon to lock down their goaltending.
7. New York Islanders (From Carolina) – Ryan Johansen, C (Portland – WHL)
We agonized over this pick, because like B.D. I have enormous personal affection for Nino Niederreiter. I almost put him in this pick a few times, but it just didn’t seem to fit as well as Johansen. This big center projects to be a Ryan Getzlaf or Joe Thornton (hopefully without the rep for playoff thumb-sucking…) type, with smart 2-way play. He rocketed up the draft board, and Garth Snow is glad to have him. I’m not going to the Draft Party tonight (I swore off it after 2008), but I’d be interested to see how the Islanders fans respond if this is the case.
(Blogger’s Note: I think if the Islanders pick at 5 they take Niederreiter)
8. Atlanta Thrashers – Jack Campbell, G (US NTDP)
Jack Campbell, who had an otherworldly season, backstopping the USA to gold at the World Junior Championships and winning many other accolades, is the answer to the long-term goaltending question in Atlanta. He will play in Windsor of the OHL next year, but he could challenge for the starting job soon after.
9. Minnesota Wild – Mikael Granlund, C/W (HIFK – Helsinki)
A smallish, skilled European with a rep for making those around him better? That screams Minnesota Wild to me. Granlund, who has been compared to a more offensively-gifted Saku Koivu, proves emphatically that the Wild are no longer that defensive, trapping team. He should be ready in 2 years, and the Wild will be glad when he is.
10. New York Rangers – Vladimir Tarasenko, LW (Sibir – KHL)
The Rangers have had good luck with Russian players, and they can afford the bribe money to get him out of the KHL, so they will not be able to pass on this dynamic offensive force whom many believe is NHL-ready now.
11. Dallas Stars – Nino Niederreiter, W (Portland – WHL)
I’m as surprised as any of you that El Nino fell out of the top 10 in this mock, but he ended up being second choice for many of the teams ahead, and Dallas is all too happy he fell into their laps. Niederreiter brings dynamic offensive ability and one of the ultimate intangibles: a burning desire to win. He’ll fit in well with a suddenly rebuilding Dallas team.
12. Anaheim Ducks – Jon Merrill, D (US NTDP)
The Ducks need a top-4 defender with offensive gifts and a strong physical game, like Chris Pronger. Since we can’t recall such a player ever playing for the Ducks, we believe they will be looking at one of the 2 big defenders. Merrill has the edge over Forbort because his offensive upside is higher, his hockey sense is high, and he has a proven record on the power play. There are some questions about his attitude after he got in trouble for underage drinking, but the Ducks are seduced by his talent and hope Red Berenson straightens him out (Merrill is Michigan-bound for next year).
13. Phoenix Coyotes – Derek Forbort, D (US NTDP)
There is a bumper crop of defensemen from the US development program this year, and the Coyotes are happy this particular one is still there. The Coyotes D corps is aging, and Zbynek Michalek is almost certainly gone as a UFA this year. The Coyotes will not get Siouxed (Forbort is UND-bound) for making this pick. He is likely a 2-3 year developer in the WCHA and may get used to the cold enough to adjust to life in Winnipeg or, should the Coyotes stabilize their situation, melt in the desert. Team brass hope he will join last year’s 1st round pick, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, on the blueline for many years to come. Stay tuned, the Coyotes aren’t done re-tooling their D just yet.
14. St. Louis Blues – Jeff Skinner, C (Kitchener, OHL)
A player touted by some as the best pure goal scorer in the draft, but whose ranking is far from settled in the scouting community, falls into the Blues’ laps at 14. Skinner oozes goal-scoring ability, and the Blues hope he will anchor their center corps along with Inglourious Backes and the rest of the Basterds.
15. Florida Panthers – Austin Watson, RW (Peterborough – OHL)
We looked into the possibility of the Panthers trading this pick for Jeff Carter, but the Panthers’ salary cap figure made us think it wouldn’t work from their perspective (if they trade the pick, however, that’s what I predict). Florida falls in love with the versatility and hockey smarts shown by the 6’3 Watson, who has a big projectable body and excelled in every role he played in junior. I hope he enjoys South Beach…um…Sunrise.
16. Ottawa Senators – Alexander Burmistrov, C (Barrie – OHL)
Burmistrov has gone on record many times saying how much he despises the KHL, but he still slides because every Russian player has to be considered a risk and some might think the centerman doth protest too much. After all, Alexander Radulov made the same noises about his desire to play in the NHL before he was drafted, and that didn’t work out well. The Senators are glad to take this talented playmaker, one of the best players in the draft. Where’s Brian Burke to take this pick out of spite?
17. Colorado Avalanche – Dylan McIlrath, D (Moose Jaw – WHL)
The Avalanche are looking D, and they go for the home run with the hulking and physical McIlrath, whose game can best be described as, well, “rath.” This nasty, bruising defenseman needs to improve his hockey sense and skating, but the Avalanche are deep with soon-to-be-ready D prospects like former BU defensive partners Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen. They can give him a few years to develop at his own pace.
Trade: The Predators have a dearth of picks in the later rounds, and with the recent trading of Arnott and Hamhuis they’re looking to re-load. Buffalo is looking D and has the bullets to move up:
To NSH: Picks 23, 75, and 143
To BUF: Pick 18
18. Buffalo Sabres (From Nashville) – Mark Pysyk, D (Edmonton – OHL)
Some consider Pysyk a “safe” pick, but he’s the right pick for a conservative, team-oriented GM like Darcy Regier. Pysyk does his job effectively and has received high marks for his skating. He’s not overly physical, but he has some offensive upside, and his positional play is top-notch. He’ll look good in Buffalo.
19. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Howden, LW (Moose Jaw – WHL)
Howden is another player whose hockey sense is off the charts; the rep is that he can beat you many different ways and loves to set up in front of the net. Make Howden a special project for Ryan Smyth, who made a nice career out of this sort of play. Another tough player to go with the physical nature of the Kings, who are setting up to be dangerous for years to come. There is enough depth on this team at all levels for Howden to progress at his own pace.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins – Emerson Etem, C/W (Medicine Hat – WHL)
Some have Etem ranked top 12 or even top 10, but he slips to 20 (this is a very fluid draft) and the Penguins are glad he’s there. The team in constant search for a winger for Crosby hopes the talented and smart Etem can be a part of the answer.
21. Detroit Red Wings – Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW (Brynas IF – Sweden)
A talented, scoring Swede with a rep for doing dirty work and an emphasis on the little things that win games? Jeez, this sounds like the kind of player the Red Wings dig up in the later rounds. Rensfeldt is not far away from being NHL-ready, and the fans in the self-proclaimed “Hockeytown” will be glad when he comes over.
TRADE – A blockbuster, in fact. Brian Burke has been noticeably silent since he traded this year’s 1st as part of the Phil Kessel deal, but here’s a chance to make a deal that benefits everyone. The Coyotes are still looking for anchors at D to replace their aging core and those who will depart via free agency. They also have a glut of forwards in their system, and Brian Burke needs a top-6 winger. We propose this deal, headlined by players who have something to prove and fill each team’s respective needs:
To PHX: Tomas Kaberle, Jerry D’Amigo, Jesse Blacker
To TOR: Picks 22 and 113, Scottie Upshall
Upshall, who was on pace for 30 goals before a knee injury stopped him at 18, is a great fit for a wide-open Toronto team, and Phoenix can replace his spot in the lineup with one of Boedker, Turris, Tikhonov, or the recently-acquired Lee Stempniak.
22. Toronto Maple Leafs (From Phoenix) – Nick Bjugstad, C (Blaine HS – MN)
This year’s Mr. Hockey slips a bit due to concerns over the quality (or lack thereof) of the program at the University of Minnesota, as Bjugstad is slated to be a Golden Gopher next year, but Brian Burke just can’t resist his combination of size, two-way play, and smarts. Burke also hopes this “size” will soon translate to “truculence.”
23. Nashville Predators (From Buffalo) – Tyler Toffoli, RW (Ottawa – OHL)
A smart, competitive wing with great hands and a solid work ethic, Toffoli fits well with the team David Poile is building in the Music City. He’s elevated his play throughout the year, and if he gets stronger and improves his defensive zone play the Preds will have a very nice player. I hope he enjoys country music.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (From Atlanta) – Tyler Pitlick, C (Minnesota State – WCHA)
Pitlick is a rangy, versatile forward who fits the Best Player Available criterion for the Blackhawks, whose depth may suddenly be questioned now that they’ve won their Cup and hit cap trouble.
25. Vancouver Canucks – Riley Sheahen, C (Notre Dame – WCHA)
Vancouver is looking for the Best Forward Available, and that falls to the playmaker with superior vision, Notre Dame’s Riley Sheahen. He is likely a longer-term project in South Bend, though it could prepare him quite well for life in British Columbua. The Canucks are content to let him progress at his own pace with last year’s top pick, Jordan Schroeder, in the fold for next year. Sheahen should improve his skating and consistency to get a better shot at the big leagues.
26. Washington Capitals – Jarred Tinordi, D (US NTDP)
This huge defenseman, who plays a similar snarly game to his father, Mark Tinordi, is the Best Player Available for a Capitals team that looked unbeatable for most of the regular season but folded like a cheap tent in the playoffs. Tinordi can add to a growing young D corps that includes Mike Green, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner, and he has shown flashes of leadership, having captained what some consider the best US U-18 team in history.
27. Montreal Canadiens – Jaden Schwartz, C (Tri-City – USHL)
The Canadiens have a size problem that is not getting better with this pick, but Schwartz could be the real deal. Schwartz is an excellent playmaker with highly-praised vision who is willing to get into the dirty zones and make plays. That tips the scales for the Habs, who get bonus points if they enunciate his name in a way that makes it sound French. He could be a trade-up target, especially for the hockey sense-crazed New York Islanders. Hat tip to us for not putting him in the Blues’ slot, facilitating a cheap and easy “Bear Jew” joke.
28. San Jose Sharks – Charlie Coyle, RW (South Shore – EJHL)
Being a BU alum, I wasn’t too thrilled about sending future Terrier (and cousin of Tony Amonte) Charlie Coyle to Silicon Valley, but he is the best fit for them. Coyle is a strong wing who could develop into a power forward and will get a ton of high-level ice time on a suddenly decimated BU team, which has said goodbye to Colin Wilson, Matt Gilroy, Brandon Yip, Nick Bonino, Kevin Shattenkirk, Colby Cohen, and Vinny Saponari (kicked off the team) in the past 2 years. The Sharks can allow him to progress on Commonwealth Ave at his own pace…Tony, please don’t hurt us for this.
29. Anaheim Ducks (From Philadelphia) – Jason Zucker, LW (US NTDP)
Having already added Jon Merrill, the Ducks go back to the US U-18 program for his teammate, the lightning fast, smart, and hard-working Jason Zucker. He has a strong compete level, and if he improves his offensive instincts he could be another Jason Blake.
30. Chicago Blackhawks – Beau Bennett, RW (Penticton – BCHL)
The Blackhawks close out the first round with the brilliant hockey mind of Beau Bennett, who is fast and agile with great offensive instincts. He’s a bit of a project, but the Hawks can wait, especially with Pitlick in the fold a few picks earlier.
This concludes the mock draft, but I just wanted to share 2 quick predictions about how this draft will go:
First, the Tyler Myers Effect will be in full swing. The towering d-man, fresh off his Calder win, could entice some teams to go late-90′s Mike Milbury and take chances on big projectable bodies on the backline. Forbort, Merrill, Tinordi, and even Gudbranson are great examples of how we could see this playing out.
Second, this is very much a get your guy sort of draft, so expect a lot of maneuvering and a lot of both off the board picks and reaches. The rankings are so fluid that teams can’t afford to chance that their targeted player will not be available at a later point.
About the Author: Tech Entrepreneur, Islanders fan with the scar (David Volek's overtime goal) to prove it, college hockey fan (Go BU!), a little too interested in business and politics writes about the Lighthouse Project at Let There Be Light(house) - lettherebelighthouse.com Twitter: LetThereBeLH