Saturday, June 25, 2011

NHL Draft Round 1 Recap

I offer my best summary of the first round. A lot happened, and it would be too grueling to go into all details here. But I will try to hit the big ones and give everyone a good picture of a very exciting first round.

Here is the Draft Board for Round 1:

Round one

#PlayerNationalityNHL TeamCollege/Junior/Club Team
1Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C) CanadaEdmonton OilersRed Deer Rebels (WHL)
2Gabriel Landeskog(RW) SwedenColorado AvalancheKitchener Rangers (OHL)
3Jonathan Huberdeau (C) CanadaFlorida PanthersSaint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
4Adam Larsson (D) SwedenNew Jersey DevilsSkellefteå AIK (SEL)
5Ryan Strome (C) CanadaNew York IslandersNiagara IceDogs (OHL)
6Mika Zibanejad (C) SwedenOttawa SenatorsDjurgårdens IF Hockey (SEL)
7Mark Scheifele (C) CanadaWinnipeg JetsBarrie Colts (OHL)
8Sean Couturier (C) CanadaPhiladelphia Flyers(from Columbus)Drummondville Voltigeurs(QMJHL)
9Dougie Hamilton(D) CanadaBoston Bruins (from Toronto)Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
10Jonas Brodin (D) SwedenMinnesota WildFärjestads BK (SEL)
11Duncan Siemens(D) CanadaColorado Avalanche (from St. Louis)Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
12Ryan Murphy (D) CanadaCarolina HurricanesKitchener Rangers (OHL)
13Sven Bärtschi (LW) SwitzerlandCalgary FlamesPortland Winterhawks (WHL)
14Jamie Oleksiak (D) United StatesDallas StarsNortheastern Huskies (Hockey East)
15J. T. Miller (LW) United StatesNew York RangersUS NTDP (USHL)
16Joel Armia (RW) FinlandBuffalo SabresÄssät (SM-liiga)
17Nathan Beaulieu(D) CanadaMontreal CanadiensSaint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
18Mark McNeill (C) CanadaChicago BlackhawksPrince Albert Raiders (WHL)
19Oscar Klefbom (D) SwedenEdmonton Oilers (from Los Angeles)Färjestads BK (SEL)
20Connor Murphy (D) United StatesPhoenix CoyotesUS NTDP (USHL)
21Stefan Noesen (RW) United StatesOttawa Senators (from Nashville)Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
22Tyler Biggs (RW) United StatesToronto Maple Leafs(from Anaheim)US NTDP (USHL)
23Joe Morrow (D) CanadaPittsburgh PenguinsPortland Winterhawks (WHL)
24Matt Puempel (LW) CanadaOttawa Senators (from Detroit)Peterborough Petes (OHL)
25Stuart Percy (D) CanadaToronto Maple Leafs(from Philadelphia)Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL)
26Phillip Danault (LW) CanadaChicago Blackhawks (from Washington)Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
27Vladislav Namestnikov (C) RussiaTampa Bay LightningLondon Knights (OHL)
28Zack Phillips CanadaMinnesota Wild (from San Jose)Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
29Nicklas Jensen (LW) DenmarkVancouver CanucksOshawa Generals (OHL)
30Rickard Rakell (RW) SwedenAnaheim Ducks(from Boston via Toronto)Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

It was no shock when the Oilers drafted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall. The Oiler scouts compared the kid to Gretzky, I mean come on. But what transpired after that was nothing but unpredictable.

The Avs selected Landeskog which was a pretty well predicted pick, although Larsson may have fit better. However, the Panthers turned down Larsson, also, and selected a scorer in Huberdeau. It was believed that Tallon would go for the best player available at the 3 slot, regardless of position. However, Tallon felt confident that his defense in the future was strong enough to let Larsson pass but his offense was not strong enough to let Huberdeau pass.

Huberdeau is a forward who can play wing and center. His versatility is an afterthought though when you look at his size and stick skills. He is a little pre-mature and relies heavily on finesse moves that may not work in the NHL. But a learning year in the NHL should take care of it. Tallon picked Huberdeau for the future, and it is still up in the air whether another year of juniors would be more beneficial to the young French Canadian, or if a hard but educational year in the NHL would work best.

In case you missed it the Panthers also unveiled their new jersey tonight. Here are the pics : Cats

I believe that with the Panthers lack of depth at forward, a 3rd line role for Huberdeau would be best. He needs to learn quickly the difference of playing in the CHL and the NHL. He can not do this if he goes back to juniors. The NHL will help bring his mental and physcial toughness up greatly.

Although I wanted Landeskog in a Panthers' jersey, Huberdeau was the right pick as to who was left on the board. Especially when you consider that Tallon was working on a move to aquire over-paid D Brian Campbell. Campbell was traded to Florida from Chicago for Rusty Olesz. Both players sported contracts that their old team wanted no part of. Olesz cap hit is much more friendly at just over 3 million, along with a shorter duration. However, Campbell is the better player and helps the Panthers attempt to make the salary cap floor for next year. 

This is a trade that benefits both teams, as each lose a player that they no longer wanted, and gain a player that they can use. Chicago can use Olesz on the third line while Campbell becomes a good 4th Defenseman (or higher) on the Panthers. 

After the 3rd overall selection of Huberdeau by the Panthers, the Devils snatched up (in my opinion) the best player in the draft in Adam Larsson. Larsson plays right into the Devils strength, all around defense. Then the Isles took C Ryan Strome. Which was a little off the board, as I thought a few of the D prospects available would greatly help the team. However, Strome's performance in the end of the CHL year gave a lot of teams something to ponder. 

The Senators took dark horse Mika Zibanejad, who I placed at 10 because I did not forsee a team willing to stray away from more highly scouted CHL prospects, at 6. Zianejad is an interesting pick for Ottawa. It was obvious that they would take a forward, with all of their offensive woes lately but with Sean Couturier still on the board I did not think Zibanejad's number would be called. However, despite the surprise, I think Zibanejad will flourish in Ottawa and in a few years most will look back and ask why he wasn't placed higher in a lot of mock drafts.

The second most surprising move of the draft (we will get to number 1 in a bit) happened at number 7. 

With Winnipeg's first 1st round draft pick since Shane Doan, the Jets went completely off the board with Mark Scheifele. Winnipeg, formerly Atlanta, has a solid young core going into the draft but many thought that both offense and defense could use bolstering in the first round. Especially if they wanted to give their home crowd a playoff series in the near future. Instead of selecting the more NHL ready, and more highly touted prospects such as D Ryan Murphy or D Dougie Hamilton, the Jets selected a guy many had out of the top 15. 

If this was the player the Jets so desperately wanted, wouldn't it make sense to trade down, get at least another draft pick to add to your arsenal and still get the guy you covet?

Only time will tell how this pick works out, but in my estimation the Jets may be looking back at this and questioning themselves. 

The Philadelphia Flyers followed the shocking pick at 7 with an absolute steal at 8. They selected C Sean Couturier. Couturier was projected to be a top 5 pick, and once the top overall pick. His ranking fell due to a bout with Mono over the course of the season. He was the only draft eligible player to be on the Canadian World Juniors team, ahead of Nugent-Hopkins and Huberdeau. 

Couturier gives the Flyers great depth at center. Even more depth than if they kept Richards and Carter. I will repeat that. Even more depth than if they kept Richards and Carter. 

Carter and Richards are good hockey players and much more of a known quantity than Schenn and Couturier, but Schenn and Couturier have the potential to be great hockey players. I personally believe Carter can not be a great hockey player unless he starts to bring it come playoff time (which he has not). I believe Richards has the capacity to be a great 2nd line center, but not in Philadelphia. The media, the front office, the players, everything was not in the right balance for him to be at his best. In simpler terms, Carter and Richards couldn't reach full potential in Philly anymore, Schenn and Couturier still can.

Couturier is a center that is highly skilled and big. He has the shot that Carter possesses but also has a lot more of the character and grit that Carter lacked. By the time Couturier is ready, Briere will be traded or moved to wing to give Couturier the 3rd line slot, behind Giroux and Schenn. This will give the Flyers 3 two way centers with a lot of skill and a nose for the crease. This is something the Flyers specifically wanted to target and were lucky enough that Couturier fell as far as he did.

Rounding out the top ten the Bruins picked Hamilton, a defenseman I was surprised lasted as long as he did, and the Wild picked defenseman Jonas Brodin, a Swede to make it four Swedes in the top 10.

The other notable move made during the first round was a trade between the Sharks and Wild.

This move is my pick for most shocking of the night. The Sharks acquired D Brent Burns and a 2nd rounder next year. Though Burns is a very poised, young defenseman with size on his side, the Sharks gave up newly re-signed F Devin Setoguchi, 20th overall skating prospect Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick.

In my opinion this is 3 first rounders: one proven (Setoguchi was a top 10 pick in 2005), one a mature (but young) prospect and solid late first rounder (Zack Phillips). In return you get a 2nd defenseman and a 2nd rounder. Steep price to get Burns. I believe that the Sharks needed to keep Coyle, and the deal would be more balanced (but still a win for Minnesota). 

Phillips played a unheralded role in the Sea Dogs' Memorial Cup championship. He was one of the few who could keep up with Huberdeau and put a lot of pucks in Huberdeau's wheelhouse. Phillips, while not a safe bet, is still a valuable commodity. 

Toronto was agressive to get the 22nd pick by trading the 30th and 39th to Anaheim. Because of this vast overpayment by the Maple Leafs, the price to move up in round 2 may have gone up a little bit. 

What the Maple Leafs trade for the 22nd shows is that for the most part (after the 5th pick or so) teams were not reacting to who was still on the board, who was ranked where but, rather, picked "their guy." A lot of teams made choices that were far off from their actual draft number, or did not mesh with who was still available. 

One theory as to why this happened was that this draft class was weaker than normal and that the draft fell in three or four clusters: the top 5 prospects, 6-15 area prospects, 15-50 and then finally everyone else. This cluster draft is in opposition of the usual rigid hierarchy. Inside the clusters, it is a blind guess trying to decide where the players would/will go. It really came down to who the management of the respective team felt comfortable with. A lot of teams had their blinders on at the draft and did not pay attention to what team overlooked what prospect a few picks before and so forth.

Despite what seemed like arbitrary draft pickings from the teams in round 1, the draft has been exciting so far. A few surprise picks, a few jaw dropping trades, and (luckily) more than a few good looking female hockey fans made a declared weaker draft a lot of fun.

Tune in today at 11 AM for the continuation of the NHL Entry Draft Rounds 2-7. It will be broadcasted on the NHL Network.

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