2022 Team Canada Roster Projection 2.0

Back to back days with a blog out.  That’s nothing.  You should see how many pieces I have that I’m currently working on.  It’s making it quite the bitch to do a new podcast.  It’s also making it quite the bitch to set this up as a business as I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.  I’ll get around to it, just need to get ahead of things!

Anyway, we are now HOPEFULLY a little over a year away from teams being selected for the 2022 Olympics!  Obviously, we can’t even be certain that they’re going to take place with the way things have gone, so this is a bit of an assumption on my part.  And I know what they say about people who make assumptions, but I feel as though I’m already an ass, so what difference will it make?!

Lot’s to get to, so I won’t waste any more time with an opening.  But before I begin, don’t forget to:

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Forwards

Connor McDavidBrayden Point – Mitch Marner

Jonathan Huberdeau – Sean Couturier – Nathan MacKinnon

Brad Marchand Sidney Crosby – Mark Scheifele

Jonathan ToewsPatrice Bergeron – Mark Stone

Bo Horvat

Alexis Lafrenière

So the first thing you notice with my lines is the configurations, and even though this is more about projecting the roster than giving my opinions on it, I believe the brass would at least give this consideration.  This started while I did this piece and was giving thought to where I should spot Bo Horvat.  And the more I looked at it, the more I liked the idea of putting our best 200-foot centres in the middle, and allowing are perennial Hart Trophy candidate burners on the wing.  The big thing I believe it does is gives them a max amount of offensive freedom. Does that make sense?

What I went for here is McDavid, MacKinnon, and Crosby to be anchoring their own lines.  That’s why you don’t see a line of McDavid – Crosby – MacKinnon.  The four centres I have actually in the middle are four of the best defensive centres in the game, and the less defensive responsibility both McDavid and MacKinnon have (the way they currently play), the better in my opinion.  But there is no doubt that you can argue it would be risky to play McDavid and MacKinnon out of position.  That’s fair, but I would say to that, you’re going to be doing it with a few centres anyway, so what does it matter who it is?

The other thing you may have noticed is that while I did that, each line has both a natural LH centre and a natural RH centre.

They’ll be very careful to ensure they ice the fastest team they possibly can.  I really learned this with the 2010 Olympics.  It’s not the bigger ice surface, it’s more so the competition.  In 2010, Chris Pronger was still a number one defenceman in the league, and he was essentially a pilon in the Olympics.  The same guy led the Flyers to the final that spring.  I had never seen Pronger look so ordinary.  So you need tremendous speed.  Bo Horvat, passable.  Mark Stone, JUST passable.  The other guy I’d love to have on here is Ryan O’Reilly, but already you’re looking at running the risk of not having enough speed!  He’s one of my favourite players in the league, but if I’m picking the team right now I have to go with Toews over him.

While I’m at it, let’s not sleep on Toews for this team.  And no doubt, some of it is the amazing experience and leadership he brings to the table.  But the guy can also still really play!  His skating hasn’t fallen off much over the years, he’s still one of the best defensive forwards in the league in my opinion, he should be on this squad if he maintains the level he is currently at.

I personally would prefer Bergeron teaming up with Toews and Stone to form an incredible tough minutes line (as I have it), but you know full well that if Bergeron is still at a level good enough to make the squad (very questionable given his age) that they’ll be pretty tempted to put Bergeron with Marchand and Sid.  Completely understandable, but man…I just love the way I have the lines and feel as though they’d be impossible to match up with.

Alexis Lafrenière as one of the extra forwards I’m sure will be controversial, but obviously, I’m projecting here.  He’s entering the league as a 19 year old, and on a team that is ready to win.  So he is likely to have a monster rookie season.  I just think the hype that’ll be surrounding him combined with the thought of giving someone so young the experience will be too difficult for the brass to pass up.  No doubt though, at this point he is the easiest player to take off and replace with someone much more establish who is still in their prime.

Obviously, I’m not so narrowminded to say “this is the team, and nobody else is a candidate.”  Hell no.  First and foremost you have to remember, this is me projecting.  We’re splitting hairs here with so many players.  Here is who else I had under consideration:

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Mathew Barzal – Here’s a guy who is a perfect example of how I’m projecting and not what I would do.  Barzal is too terrific of a skater and a talent for me to keep him off my team.  But I don’t know how the brass will view him.  Barry Trotz being named head coach (very possible) would without a doubt help his cause.

Travis Konecny – I love Konecny.  I’d have a tough time keeping him off mainly because I believe he’s a perfect complimentary player.  One reason I believe it’ll be extremely difficult for Barzal to make the team is that he’s a pure driver who might have trouble playing that complementary role.  A guy like Konecny won’t.

Pierre-Luc Dubois – Underrated player, and playing for this team where he’d get to move to the left side, he could be to this team what Jamie Benn (his draft year comp) was to the 2014 team.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – I’ll be called an Oilers homer for this (and several things throughout this), but he’s better than most think.  It appears as though Dave Tippett is permanently making RNH McDavid’s LW moving forward, and that will without a doubt help his case as we all know how badly some overrate players having chemistry.

Ryan O’Reilly – Another extremely difficult player to leave off.  This is one of the best 200-foot players in the league today.  But this is the Olympics, this is big ice, this is a different speed.  I think he is going to be in tough.  Having said this, if he can sustain the level of play that he is currently at, I’m not sure they can keep him off the team.

Steven Stamkos – Most will hate this, but his stock was shot thanks to that playoff run by Tampa.  I’ve said forever, he’s the most overrated player in the league.  Don’t confuse THAT with me suggesting that he’s not amazing, I just never believed he was one of the top players in the league as he was advertised to be.  Still, I barely left him off this roster and believe that he could have a great 2nd act if he stays with Tampa and simply settles into a complementary role.  Still one of the best snipers in the league.

Jaden Schwartz – Basically…see Konecny, except Schwartz is a better defensive player.  I am such a massive fan of Schwartz and believe he’d fit with anyone on any line.

Rising

Tyler Bertuzzi – Pretty big dark horse candidate obviously.  He might be my new Brad Marchand eight years later in that I pushed so hard for Marchand in 2014, and they have similar games to each other.  I talked about Marner and Barzal being able to play without the puck, well Bertuzzi can do that.

Anthony Cirelli – Don’t sleep on him.  Might be too out there at the moment for some, but the way he is progressing I believe he is going to warrant heavy consideration.

Kirby Dach – I was livid that the Hawks kept him last season.  I was a massive Dach supporter going into the 2019 draft and really liked the pick.  But he needed a year in Saskatoon in my mind.  It started out well, then he hit the wall early and hard, so I felt like I was correct.  Wow!  The way he played in the playoffs, and not just the fact that he looked terrific, but the role he played for the Hawks, it was as impressive of a performance that I’ve seen from a 19 year old kid who wasn’t a phenom.

Nick Suzuki – After the playoffs, all of a sudden Suzuki was the second coming of Henri Richard.  It became flat out absurd what people were claiming they see him becoming.  Having said this, if you’ve followed my draft rankings over the years then you’d know how highly I thought of Suzuki going into the ’17 draft and it’s never gone away.  I need to see much more before I’m ready to start seeing him as someone you build the franchise around, but no doubt Suzuki has everything needed to be on the radar for the Olympic team.

Robert Thomas – The only question I have is whether or not Thomas can reach the level that I believe he is going to get in the next 13 months.  If he can, he’s on the team.  But that is a pretty tall task.  Make no mistake though, I believe Thomas is going to become one of the top centres in the game very soon.  Tyler Bozak is on the last year of his deal, Ryan O’Reilly is getting older, Brayden Schenn is getting older, the Blues are likely going to be leaning more and more on Thomas both offensively and defensively.

Fading

Jamie Benn – I believe most know this by now that he’s nowhere near the level he once was, but I still felt the need to point it out.

Taylor Hall – I don’t mean that his game is fading as much as I just believe his stock in general has.  And he has never had the support of the Team Canada brass as he was passed over multiple times for both the 2014 Olympic team and the 2016 World Cup team.  By the way, the 2016 World Cup was a disgrace and everyone involved with putting that tournament together should be deeply ashamed of it.  I said it before the tournament, during the tournament, and clearly still feel that way today.

Tyler Seguin – A hybrid of Benn and Hall really.  He’s peaked.  Still a very good player (not worth the money he’s getting, but very good), but not Team Canada good.

John Tavares – Never been a massive fan of him on the big ice (though for a while, loved the thought of him on a line with Stamkos and Sid for Canada), and he’s now 30, 31 by the time the team is selected.  Much like with Seguin, not saying he now isn’t great, just not Team Canada great.

 

Defence

Morgan Rielly – Alex Pietrangelo

Shea TheodoreJared Spurgeon

Josh Morrissey – Cale Makar

Thomas Chabot

Drew Doughty

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.  I know Drew Doughty is the Jonathan Toews of defencemen for the analytics community.  But I also do not believe that Doughty’s actual skill has fallen off much, at least not when I’ve seen him play.  He looks like a dude who has his rings, has his contract, and he’s very content right now.  But if you put him in a pressure cooker like the Olympics would be, I think he’d still be incredible.  Maybe that’s very wrong, but it’s the way I see it.  I always say, I’m not anti analytics at all, but I just feel like Doughty has much more to give than they suggest.

Maybe the second most noticeable thing on there is Jared Spurgeon.  He is full value to be on this team.  I just barely kept him off last time around, this time I got him in there.  He’s the most underrated defenceman in the league.

Finally, I said this last time, I’ll say it again: this is a projection, not what I would necessarily do.  Dougie Hamilton, for me, from the outside looking in, should be on the team.  I don’t believe he will be.  The guy was in trade rumours AGAIN this season.  He is clearly not a popular dude around the league.

Again, I’m not putting this opinion in stone by any means, so here are the others I looked at for the blueline:

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Matthew Dumba – Dumba is likely much further off than the others I’m putting in this section.  But I’ve always been a big fan, and the guy has all the tools to really pop at some point.  So while I really doubt it happens in the next 13 months, it wouldn’t stun me.

Aaron Ekblad – Has really bounced back.  The big thing that keeps him off for me is the foot speed on the big ice, but I love him.  Really was torn on putting him on there because what I have isn’t a very big blueline.  For me, that doesn’t matter.  It likely will for whoever is selecting the team though.

Ryan Ellis – We all sleep on him because he plays in Nashville and gets overshadowed by guys like Josi, but he is more than qualified with how he moves the puck.

Dougie Hamilton – As I already laid out, he should make it, but I bet he won’t make it.  If this is me simply picking a team, I have him on there.

Jake Muzzin – Barely missed for me.  Very much so on the radar though.  He is so underrated.

Darnell Nurse – There is an Edmonton writer who is nice enough to follow me on Twitter (a few actually, but one in particular).  Shortly after I released my first roster projection back in early July, that writer then was discussing how Nurse has a shot at making the team, for the exact same reasons that I had laid out in my piece.  If that writer is reading this and IF that writer did in fact get the idea from reading my last piece…I’m not mad at all.  I’m actually flattered.  BUT…I would like a DM on Twitter because I believe I could be a very good contributor for you…ANYWAY, Nurse.  He has to take steps this season obviously for this to get serious.  As I’ve said a thousand times by now though, I believe he is going to continually get better and that we still won’t see Nurse hit his peak until 28 or 29.  He turns 26 in February.

Colton Parayko – We are really going to see what he can be now with Pietrangelo gone.  But Parayko was already logging more of the tougher minutes for the Blues.  He has all the tools to not only play on Team Canada, but still become a Norris candidate.

Devon Toews – I can’t believe the Avs stole him from the Islanders and only had to give up a couple of 2nd round picks to do it.  This kid is so solid and I believe will get a good long look from the brass, especially playing for a team like the Avs, who enter the season as perhaps the favourites in the West.

Rising

Bowen Byram – Byram will be full-time with the Avs next season on a blueline that will likely be viewed as the best young blueline in the league.  He has a great chance to be on the radar.

Jakob Chychrun – Big, can skate, and can defend.  Chychrun isn’t going to get much publicity playing in Arizona, and even less so with what a shit show they’re becoming.  But they need to keep an eye on him.  I have him as “rising”, but could easily put him as “close”.  Some will no doubt argue him over Josh Morrissey and I understand it.  As for the whole “isn’t he American?!” thing, he represented Canada at the U-18’s in 2016, so I believe he’s considered Canadian internationally.  Having said that, the U-18’s aren’t the deciding factor on that.  I believe the U-20’s are, so I’m not 100% on this.

Noah Dobson – I realize he hasn’t had a great start to his career this season, but what I know is that I was super high on Dobson in his draft year, and he did nothing to hurt that opinion in his draft +1 season.  Big, moves it extremely well, and is a terrific skater.  It won’t be long until he pops and is in these discussions.

Fading

Brent Burns – Even at his peak, I’ve never been the biggest Burns fan.  Not that he wasn’t great, but he’s never been good in his own zone and felt he got overrated.  Now, he’s purely a PP weapon.

Mark Giordano – He’s fallen off this season from what he was last season, and he’ll be 38 by the time the team is picked.  I’m not writing him off because this guy has defied the odds his entire career, but you have to think that he’s going to lose a step in the next 12-13 months.

Duncan Keith – Love him, but he’s not what he was.

Shea Weber – Of the players in this section, he might have the best chance.  As we speak, while he isn’t what he was, the fall hasn’t been anywhere near what it was expected to be.  As much shit as I give Marc Bergevin, the Weber/Subban swap was actually a home run for the Habs.

 

Goaltenders

Carey Price

Jordan Binnington

Carter Hart

I don’t believe I need to spend much time explaining the tendy’s.  For Price not to be their guy, it would need to be a combination of him dramatically falling off, and someone else (most likely candidate being Carter Hart) to have a monster season.  Binnington is straight-up recency bias on my part, and Hart is straight-up projecting and believing that by the fall of 2021 he is in the mix of the best goaltenders in the game.

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Braden Holtby – I’m not going to remove him from consideration yet.  A) they’ll love his experience.  B) let’s see how he’ll do with a lighter workload in Vancouver.  I have a feeling that it could do big things for him.

Darcy Kuemper – Since arriving in AZ, he has been tremendous.  I worry though that it has much more to do with Rick Tocchet’s system than anything else.

Cam Talbot – Nobody noticed apparently (seemingly, not even the Flames), but Talbot got his career back on track in Calgary last season.  He was spectacular from about December on.  His 2017 workload set him back in 2018, which likely hurt his confidence in 2019.  It appeared that as the 19-20 season wore on, Talbot’s confidence continually got back to where it was.  If it can stay there, he’ll have a shot to make this roster.

Rising

McKenzie Blackwood – Was last year for real?  If it was, the Devils not only have their goalie of the future on their hands, but Blackwood may have an opportunity to win gold for Canada again after his bid with the 2016 World Junior team came up short.

Tristan Jarry – He had an INCREDIBLE start to the season.  Keep an eye on him because if he can regain that form with some consistency, he’ll be on the radar.

Fading

Marc-Andre Fleury – Not even sure it needs to be explained at this point, but just in case.  No way he can play through that sword injury he suffered.

Matt Murray – Call me crazy, I actually believe Murray will get his career back on track.  No doubt, Pierre Dorian got flat out stupid with both the acquisition price he paid, and then the contract he gave Murray.  Having said all this, his game and stock are fading at this point.

General Manager

George McPhee – There are MANY reasons why I believe McPhee would be a very good selection, but the three biggest reasons I like him for this is A) “hockey man” (you know Tom Renney will want that)  B) he had success doing something very similar when he put together the 17-18 Golden Knights roster, and C) he is in a situation right now with the Knights that he doesn’t need to be so hands-on with Kelly McCrimmon now the GM.

I’d love to give you other options, but the issue is that I’m not sure how many GM’s would be willing to take on the 2nd gig.  Yzerman did in 2014 and then immediately stepped down once the Olympics were over.  I have to think someone like McPhee who in his case can defer some of his work, or perhaps someone who was a GM and currently is out of a job is going to take the job.  So yes Oilers fans, and yes Canadian hockey fans…Peter Chiarelli is going to be considered for this gig in my opinion.  He is out of a job, has the experience, and was with the 2014 management team.  So he has the resume to get the job (as much as that both pains me to type and makes me cringe).

 

Coach

I’m not going to call this one, I’m just going to give you what I believe will be the list of candidates.

Mike Babcock – Oh?  You don’t think they would?  I do.  Especially if he doesn’t have a full-time gig with anyone.  He never did anything that was incriminating, just stupid and disrespectful.  It doesn’t take away from the guy being one of the best coaches in the league since he took over in Anaheim for the 02-03 season.

Jon Cooper – Also a candidate to coach the U.S. in this tournament.  Obviously, you can’t ignore the job he’s done with the Lightning over the years.

Ralph Krueger – He needs to have one big season with the Sabres.  If he does, you better believe the media specifically will be pushing HARD for him to get the gig.  I don’t know if a coach in league history has been more overrated than Krueger.  Having said that, I don’t think it’s bad logic having a guy who knows the big ice well and that the players will run through a wall for in a short tournament.

Dave Tippett – Call me a homer, that’s cool, I get it, but look at the job the man did with the Oilers this season.  And look at the job the man did with Arizona when he stepped into a complete mess in 09-10.  And look at the job the man did his entire tenure in Dallas.  He is an incredible coach.

Barry Trotz – Plain and simple, I believe he’s the best coach in the game today.  He’d be my choice.

There are a TON of other options.  If George McPhee is the GM, then both Gerard Gallant and Peter Deboer will be heavily considered and are both fully qualified to do the job.  Alain Vigneault is often forgotten about as one of the top coaches in the game, but look at the improvement in Philly this season.  Bruce Cassidy, Joel Quennville, Jared Bednar, Bruce Boudreau, lots of guys who are either highly respected or are continually gaining that ground.

 

Who knows how this roster is going to shake down though?  I’m sure everyone reading this has their own thoughts, which makes this topic so much fun!  It is very difficult to say even when the winter Olympics will take place, and therefore when the teams will be selected.  And who knows?  They agreed to go, but it will obviously need to make sense for health purposes for the league to go.  So we’ll see what happens.

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Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – October, 2020

Before I get going, Joey Moss.  I haven’t done a podcast or another blog since the news came down on Monday, and obviously it is a CRUSHING blow to the organization and Oilers fans everywhere.  I admit, I didn’t know just how well Joey was known to hockey fans and media outside of Alberta.  I knew he was KNOWN, but not to the extent he was.  I told this story on Twitter, but I got to meet Joey once.  December 14th, 1998.  I did a job shadow with Rod Phillips for the day.  After going to the Oilers practice, Rod took me down into the room.  Rod was saying hi and talking to everyone as you could imagine, and I was just kind of standing there in awe of the fact that people who were in my life but had never met were all in front of me at once.  All of a sudden I felt a pretty hard shove on my shoulder, and it was Joey Moss.  And I legitimately thought Joey was pissed, and that he thought I had snuck into the room or something!  And so I panicked and was immediately explaining that I was with Rod, and Joey says “No!  What’s your name?”  “Oh, I’m Tyler” and he just smiled and said “I’m Joey.”  And went on with his work.  And as I said on Twitter, I think he was pissed…but he was pissed that Rod didn’t introduce us sooner!  It was just one experience, but you could tell he was such a welcoming guy.  And don’t think he just hung out in the room or that he was some charity case!  The man worked his ass off and did everything he could for the organization.  He really was a legend in Oilers history, and in hockey history.

Rest in peace Joey, you may be gone but your legend will live on forever.

photo courtesy of Global News

 

No easy way to transition from that, so you’ll have to forgive me on that.

This is my most in-depth piece yet on the Oilers system!  10 honourable mentions.  I also do grades for what is in the system.  And simply put, I feel good about the Oilers system.  Look, are they drafting exactly the way that I would?  No.  But when looking at the system do I feel good about this teams ability to pump out plenty of NHL talent in the years to come?  Absolutely.

So let’s get right to it.

 

System Grades

Goaltending: B

I badly wanted Askarov to somehow fall to them in the draft, it would have bumped this grade to an A+.  Having said that, it’s not bad.  I still don’t feel as though we know what Stuart Skinner can or will be, but he’s likely only a big season away.  As much as I didn’t like the Olivier Rodrigue pick, I feel SO much better about him today than I did post World Juniors.  He was terrific in his final two months in the Q, and on top of that we’re seeing more proof that smaller goalies can still perform at a high level in the league.  So that is encouraging, and that actually applies even more to Ilya Konovalov who had a horrible 2020 season, but is off to a good start in the KHL this season.

Left Defencemen: A

The strength of the system is on the left side.  As long as they take their time allowing Broberg to work on his game they possibly have a star on their hands (for sure a top-four guy).  Samorukov also has excellent upside and is trending very well.  Lagesson looks primed to be their number 7 D-man this season, and Niemelainen is now signed and given his tools there is no reason he can’t be a bottom-pairing guy, or better yet an excellent complementary/”safety net” partner for someone who plays a higher risk game in the top-four (think Marc Methot type).

Right Defencemen: B+

I often have to remind myself that Bouchard is still a part of this even though I’m positive he’s going to step in soon and going to be a top four guy.  But he is, and then behind him isn’t much.  Kemp and Berglund, and neither guy looks like they’ll be too exciting for fans, but if they can simply be bottom pair guys that should be perfect for the Oilers long term needs.

Wingers: B

This is tricky with the wingers and centres.  I believe that safely, they have a lot of wingers.  With two of those players (Holloway and McLeod), it remains to be seen whether the organization sees them as centres or wingers.  I believe it’s safe to say that one of them will and the other won’t.

Centres: C+

If they NEED Holloway to be a 3C, I think he’ll be one hell of a 3C, and actually projects perfectly to be a tough minutes 2C on most teams.  The problem is that after that…there isn’t much at all in the system.  Obviously I mentioned McLeod who definitely has 2C ability in his own right.  But he’s much more of a question mark to play the middle long term.  After that, don’t give me Lavoie, he’s a winger in pro hockey.  The wildcard is Marody.  If he can bounce back, I don’t think he has GREAT upside, but can play.  There are a lot of projects in the system down the middle.  Even just one of them popping would be pretty big for the organization.

Speed: B+

This was a tough one to grade.  On one hand, the three best skaters in the system are total burners and are likely to play in the show.  But after that, it’s not too pretty.  Still, I think the fact that the three who are tremendous skaters are going to play goes a long way.  This club is set up to potentially be a BEAST if they can develop the right guys, and I’m going to go more into that in an upcoming blog.

Skill: C+

It’s not as prevalent as I’d like it to be.  This is why I initially had such an issue with the Holloway pick is my mindset for the Oilers entering the draft was that they simply needed to load up on pure skill, and loved the idea of Lucas Reichel in particular by the time they were on the clock.  I’m being generic here by just saying skill, but basically I’m looking at vision and hands.  To my eye, they have four potential snipers up front in the top 20, three pure playmakers, and then just one highly skilled defenceman.

Gamesmanship: D

Only two guys to my eye who will bring actual gamesmanship.  Doesn’t mean there can’t be more, as I do see some guys who might provide it.  Depends how bad some guys want it.  Corey Perry for example wasn’t known for his greasy game when he was drafted, it developed over time as many questioned his toughness…if you can believe that.

Size: A+

It’s not a trait many like to talk about these days, but it’s still something.  A team as a whole being big is more exciting than a player…if that makes sense.  And just because it got badly overrated in the past doesn’t mean it should now be completely ignored.  There are only two guys in my top 20 who anyone would even deem to be “undersized”, and I wouldn’t deem either of those two undersized by today’s standards.  Other than those two “undersized” guys…this is a BIG team.  And again, I will be doing a piece on the size and speed with this organization in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

 

2021 Draft

Initially, I was going to just do a little section here looking at who the Oilers might be interested in for the 2021 draft.  Obviously being THIS far out, a ton of assumptions are made.  But I always feel as though it is better for fans to have a face attached to that pick, rather than just blindly screaming “trade the pick!!!” since they don’t know who that pick is.  Anyway, it ended up becoming a full blog that will be out very soon, so keep an eye out for that.

 

Honourable Mentions

***Note***

All of the stats are from their 2020 seasons.  I realize that a lot of these prospects are playing again, but at this point, I don’t feel like there is enough of a body of work to get too far into it at this point.  I might mention it here or there, but for the most part, I don’t talk much about their early returns for the 20-21 season.

 

Maxim Beryozkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 216  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 51  G: 25  A: 29  P: 54

DOB: 10/12/01, Chita, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 138th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

As I did post-draft in 2019, I’m going to run down the list of selections the Oilers made that didn’t make my top 20 in my honourable mentions.  I would guess that they noticed Beryozkin initially while watching their 7th rounder from 2019 Maxim Denezhkin, as they were teammates last season.  This season, Beryozkin is playing in the K for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl with fellow Oilers prospect Ilya Konovalov.  You take a look at the size Beryozkin and it’s easy to see why a team would like him.  Great size and from what I’ve read has pretty good skill too.  The question will be whether or not he can improve his skating.  The little I’ve seen of him, he has really heavy feet to my eye.

 

Filip Engarås

Team: New Hampshire  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 8  A: 7  P: 15

DOB: 05/16/99, Stockholm, SWE

Acquired: 6th Round, 169th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I won’t sugarcoat this: I hope they know what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to Engarås, because this pick has most people scratching their heads.  Most of you likely don’t care about them pissing away a 6th round pick, but to me it would be telling of how well the organization is run in general.  I actually wonder if this is a favour for someone.  Think that’s crazy?  I have it on pretty good authority that’s how the Anaheim Ducks got Josh Manson.  Manson was in his last year of eligibility, didn’t appear to be much of a prospect, and Dave Mason’s old D partner Bob Murray selected Dave’s boy.  It happens often, and this is one of the very rare examples of it working.  Anyway, I have no clue if that’s what happened here, but I just wonder because it is a bizarre pick.  Conflicting reports on how well Engarås can skate, average size, average skill, it just doesn’t make much sense from the outside looking in.  We’ll see though.  Who knows what they might know.

 

Jeremias Lindewall

Team: MODO  League: J20 SuperElit

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  G: 11  A: 17  P: 28

DOB: 01/02/02, Sollefteå, SWE

Acquired: 7th Round, 200th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Again, I’d be lying if I said I knew a lot on there last three 2020 selections at this point.  I’d like to think I do a shit ton of work on the draft, but the fact is that when you get past about the 3rd round/top 100, draft boards look wildly different from each other.  Having said this, I actually really like everything I have found thus far on Lindewall, and perhaps like him best of the last three selections they made.  Good size, good wheels, very good on the boards, very willing to receive and dish out punishment, he’s a very intriguing prospect.

 

Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 20

As I said last time around though with Blümel, he likely will need to do something to stand out.  I can’t see him becoming a top-six player, so I believe his best bet is going to be that he develop a tremendous 200-foot game.  You can say that with most players, but most prospects have a trait that stands out or that can be seen as their jumping-off point to develop into something.  I don’t see anything like that with Blümel, so a strong defensive game could be that something to set him apart.  Frankly, I don’t see what they saw with Blümel, but he has a lot of time to work with, and the organization has a lot of time before a decision is needed of whether or not to sign him.

 

Skyler Brind’Amour

Team: Quinnipiac  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 4  A: 9  P: 13

DOB: 07/27/99, Raleigh, NC

Acquired: 6th Round, 177th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

This is the first time I’ve written about Brind’Amour, and full disclosure…it’s to get me to 10 prospects for the HM’s.  I do not understand why they liked him with the 177th pick in that draft OTHER than the fact that they were pretty desperate for centres in the system at the time and hadn’t taken one to that point in the draft.  He’s never shown much in my opinion, but he’s only entering his sophomore season at Quinnipac so there is time before they even have to make a decision.  And by then, who knows?

 

Maxim Denezhkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 52  G: 19  A: 25  P: 44

DOB: 12/10/00, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 7th Round, 193rd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Not your typical Russian prospect.  The things that come to mind with Denezhkin are character, hard-working, 200-foot player, he’s a more interesting prospect than perhaps most realize.  It’s not to suggest that he doesn’t have some skill because he does.  The concern I have is foot speed.  I’m not going to pretend I’ve watched a ton of Denezhkin, but enough to have the opinion that the skating needs quite a bit of work.  It has actually been a bit of a trend with Oilers picks in rounds 2-7 with the current regime.  It legitimately makes me wonder if they see skating issues as an easier flaw to overcome now than it was a decade or more ago?  They wouldn’t be wrong to have that opinion as we’re seeing more and more players overcome skating issues after being selected.  Anyway, an interesting project who has a lot of time to develop.

 

Michael Kesselring

Team: Northeastern  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 205  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 2  A: 3  P: 5

DOB: 01/13/00, New Hampton, NH

Acquired: 6th Round, 164th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The Edmonton Journal/Cult of Hockey had him much higher than I do, but it isn’t as if I don’t see what they do.  My claim to fame with Kesselring is that I predicted the Oilers having interest in him pre 2018 draft.  He was the exact prototype that the Chiarelli/Gretzky regime always targeted late in the draft (RHD with size and mobility going the college route).  What I’m unsure on is Kesselring’s skating.  I’ve heard some suggest that they love his skating, but the few times I’ve seen him play, I haven’t felt the same.  Still, he’s a project who has a long runway with this only being his sophomore season at Northeastern.  That means he’ll for sure have this season and next to develop before the Oilers may have to make a decision on him (though they will technically have until the 2023 off-season).

 

Patrik Siikanen

Team: JYP  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 28  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

DOB: 04/16/00, Espoo, FIN

Acquired: 7th Round, 195th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I’d love to twist this in a way that makes it sound better than it is, but I can’t.  And trust me, I very badly want to see him become something.  Anytime you can nickname a guy “Siikanen destroy”, you’re pulling for him!  But here is the reality of this pick: he has time.  That’s the big reason for the selection.  Siikanen had good size, skates well, plays with intelligence, and has a lot of time before a decision needs to be made on him.  I could be mistaken, but I believe they still have two seasons to wait and see.  Don’t ever expect that he’s going to explode offensively and be the 2nd coming of Pavel Datsyuk, but he has the tools to potentially be a bottom-six player someday.

 

Aapeli Räsänen

Team: KalPa  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 17

I’m starting to REALLY hate this kid.  Why?  Because it’s getting frustrating trying to figure out what they might do with him!  I have a HUNCH…just in trying to read the tea leaves on him…that they want him, but they want to max out his time before they put him in the AHL.  But that’s me speculating.  I’ve always liked him as a potential 4C. Think Mark Letestu.  A 4C who can do a little bit of everything.  I will say, I was blown away with how much enthusiasm Scott Howson had last spring when speaking of Räsänen.  Howson was excited that Räsänen started producing more while playing the wing on the top line at BC.  It was…bizarre.  It would be crazy at this point to expect Räsänen to become anything more than a very solid 4C who can handle tough minutes, be sound in his own zone, and a good penalty killer.

 

Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 15

Probably the last time he will be on this list as his days are numbered with this organization.  Anton Forsberg is now in the fold to split time with Stuart Skinner (the right call), and that means Wells is gone.  Maybe dealt, maybe bought out (you might ask why they would buyout someone on his ELC and the reason is to open up a spot as you can only have 50 players under contract), or maybe he spends one more season splitting time with Olivier Rodrigue if there is an ECHL season.  But barring Wells getting that chance in the ECHL and tearing up the league, he’s done with the Oilers.  He’s an HM because as you likely know by now, it’s never sat well with me how this organization treated Wells.  It has never seemed to matter what he’s done, it’s always been about other guys.  If I’m Wells, I use that as MASSIVE motivation once I’ve moved on.  I will add though that it’s fair to have the opinion that if he wilted once things got tough then he was never going to make it.  I just think that when developing prospects (goaltenders in particular) I believe you need to build their confidence as much as anything else.

 

That concludes my longest honourable mention section I’ve ever done.  Don’t tell me I’m not thorough or giving this enough thought!  And the truth is, many of those HM’s could make the back end of the top 20.  But if we’re splitting hairs, they didn’t, and here is who did:

 

20. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 18

Yeah, I get it.  You’ve given up on Safin.  I don’t blame you.  He doesn’t have the best motor, he was set back with hip issues the entire 18-19 season, and then he didn’t exactly set the ECHL on it’s ear last season.  But I need to see how this season goes before I give up on him.  And obviously, “this season” remains a pretty big question mark.  The tools are all here though.  The skating ability, the size, the physicality, good skill, he’s potentially a player who can move up and down your lineup.  Not that he plays anything like Zach Hyman, but think of that kind of guy.  No doubt, looking increasingly as though Safin will not reach that level, but he’s still only 21.  Still too early to give up on someone with this much ability.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

19. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

Acquired: 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 16

Let’s be honest here…Mazura is in my top 20 (again) mainly for two reasons.  1) the size/skating combination is overly intriguing for me.  2) as I’ve talked about plenty of times now with him, he is an extremely likeable kid.  But that’s really it.  Sure, you can point to his awesome numbers last season, but he was playing at Kimball Union.  Dominating at a prep school at 19 years of age isn’t exactly a reason to get giddy.  But we’re going to see once he starts at Providence.  THEN we’ll have a much better idea of what the Oilers got.  As of writing this he is on loan to the HIFK U20 team where he is a PPG through three games.  But again, the strength of competition isn’t exactly brutal.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

18. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 12

It’s been a nightmare for Marody since Kale Kessy laid a filthy/cheap hit on him in the first round of the 2019 AHL playoffs.  Marody was tracking towards a legitimate opportunity with the Oilers in the fall of 2019 with a good training camp, and that hit derailed not only that opportunity, but his entire 19-20 season.  Is it fair to put it all on that hit/one concussion?  Maybe not.  But it seems very unlikely that it isn’t related.  But here is the good news for Marody: the door is still open.  Thanks to Covid, he has had a lot of time to not only get his head straight, but train in general.  The pandemic could have been a blessing in disguise for a kid like Marody.  He perhaps needed time off more than anyone.  So we’ll see how he bounces back.  The skill is there, the motor is there, the skating is questionable, but I believe it’s passable.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

17. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 19

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  When/if the AHL season starts up, that’ll be when we get to see how far (if at all) Niemeläinen has come since playing in the OHL.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

Previous Rank: 13

Let’s be honest about Berglund: there isn’t much reason to get too hyped about him these days.  His skating is his weakness, and it’s never really progressed over the years to my eye (not that I’ve watched him super closely, but have a fair bit and then a lot last season being Broberg’s partner).  He’s got a safe, stay at home game that can be useful, and the Oilers are thin on the right side moving forward, especially now that they’ve let Matt Benning walk out the door.  But it’s interesting to think of Benning, because Berglund has a lot of the same game Benning brings.  Not as physical of a defender, but a kid who takes pride in his defensive game.  Moving forward, the Oilers look set on the right side in the top four with Bear and Bouchard.  So all they’d really need after that is a guy who can thrive on the bottom pair and perhaps be an effective penalty killer.  That’s something Berglund definitely has the potential to become.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

15. Ty Tullio

Team: Oshawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 180  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 62  G: 27  A: 39  P: 66

DOB: 04/05/02, Lakeshore, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 126th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

These next two prospects were a breath of fresh air for myself and several Oilers fans in this year’s draft.  This new regime seemingly love their projects, and every pick they had made until the 100th and 126th in the 2020 draft (meaning, going back to their first pick of Broberg in 2019) had at least a bit of a “swing for the fences” feel to it.  These two though felt like they were just looking to put the ball in play if we’re keeping with the baseball analogy.  Tullio was the second of those excellent value picks who is very exciting to have in the fold.  Tullio wasn’t in my top 64, but he was very likely 65th.  When it got down around 60, if you look at the list, I felt stronger about having some project types ahead of him as there are elements of his game I’m not a fan of, mainly his skating.  I won’t sugarcoat it: in my opinion, his skating is flat out bad.  But he is such an endearing player.  Non-stop motor, loves getting his nose dirty, has a great shot but possesses very good vision as well.  I love the pick at that spot.  On top of that, I believe he could have some trade value in the next few years because I expect him to obliterate the OHL in that time.  But that skating is going to make it very difficult for him to reach the show.  Obviously though, if he were to get it cleaned up, what a pick this could end up being.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

14. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

DOB: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Here is the other of those picks.  Savoie is interesting.  First of all, I probably didn’t track another prospect closer than Savoie last season.  I was doing colour for the Lloydminster Bobcats, and I was covering WHL/Western Canadian prospects as well.  Add to those factors that I was blown away that he wasn’t receiving the pre-season hype I believed he should be getting.  For a 16 year old kid to be the leading scorer on an elite AJHL team…that’s pretty damn rare!!  So, I began to look into the issues.  First one was his skating.  People really need to figure out the difference between pace of play and skating ability.  Savoie can skate.  He’s not a burner, but he’s fine.  He just essentially plays a lazy game.  Ok, so that’s not good.  But keep in mind, this kid was playing on a team that was ranked number one in the country, and on a line where he was strictly asked to be the trigger man.  I’ve seen this kid work his balls off when he’s had to, step up when challenged, go to the dirty areas, and then on top of that he has the hands, vision, and shot needed to make it.  Maybe I’m just being a bit of a homer for the league I broadcast games in, but I believe Savoie is going to rise to the challenge as he plays in higher levels of hockey rather than wilt.  If he was backing down when physically challenged last season, then I’d suggest he’ll fail.  But when I saw anyone touch him last season, he had vicious bite back.  You did not want to touch him, because he would be looking to spear you, or elbow you, he’s got a mean streak.  So the effort level is what really needs to be watched with Savoie as he progresses, but I’d assume/hope the Oilers organization know his character and did an insane amount of homework on him.  If that checks out, this is one hell of a pick in my opinion.

ETA: Late 24-25

 

13. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank:14

So far this season, Konovalov has rebounded nicely from a disappointing 19-20 season.  As of writing this, a .930 Sv% in 7 games played.  It has been very weird with the Edmonton media and Konovalov since he was drafted though.  No doubt, his stats jumped out when they picked him.  But through last season, despite knowing his numbers weren’t there as they had been the previous season, and very likely without having watched him, the Edmonton media were still giddy about him.  There was no way of justifying it, he had a bad season.  One person in the local media tried to claim that it was just a bad start, but failed to mention that Konovalov was lit up in the playoffs.  And you have to remember that the K is a very defensive-minded league so every goaltender has eye-popping numbers.  This season he’s gotten off to a good start, but so has Lokomotiv’s other netminder…former Bakersfield Condor Eddie Pasquale.  Strange, I never heard them crying for Pasquale to get the call-up in 2018, nor do I believe they’ll be clamouring for him to be signed next off-season…Anyway…I do love how technically sound Konovalov is with what I’ve seen of him.  He’s not overly athletic (again, from what I’ve seen) for someone sub 6’0, but he is very quick and probably goes without saying but extremely flexible as well.  Tough not to be reminded of Antti Raanta when you watch him play.  The style, the size, even the number!  But last season’s performance really holds him down in my rankings at this point.  This is the last year he’s under contract in the KHL, but barring him having an out of this world season, I’d guess another two year deal is in the best interest of both Konovalov and the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

12. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

Previous Rank: 11

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.  Fun fact here with Lagesson: He is the only prospect who I project to be “early” in a season in terms of his ETA.  Reason?  Because I believe that’s just going to be the way it works with this regime.  If you look at last season, Ethan Bear was a necessity.  Sure, he earned his spot, but they also didn’t have options!  All the other kids were slowly integrated throughout the season.  I believe that will be more so the norm.  But Lagesson at this point looks like the clear cut favourite to be the 7th defenceman.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

11. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 10

Very eager to see if Rodrigue can build off his awesome 2nd half in the Q last season.  The one reason I was actually excited about Rodrigue (I was very pissed they traded up for him in 2018) was that I felt he would perhaps have tremendous value because he could dominate the Q.  And then he didn’t even do that!  He barely made team Canada for the WJC as a 19 year old, and then even with that team being a mess between the pipes he didn’t even get a start!!  But he FINALLY started to show signs of progression once he returned from the WJC with an incredible two-month stretch to end his QMJHL career.  He would start next season in the ECHL if there is a season, pretty typical path for a CHL goaltender.  The raw ability is there.  Very quick, very athletic, needs to clean up his technical game, and we’ll see if he can develop a little more discipline mentally which is always a massive key for any young goaltenders growth.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

10. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

I talked earlier about Dylan Wells and how the organization basically showed him no faith right from the start.  Well Skinner is the opposite.  Skinner appears set to get multiple opportunities to prove himself.  I do understand the draw.  There is a lot of Devan Dubnyk that I see in Stuart Skinner.  Big (not Dubnyk big, but big), moves well, technically sound, Skinner definitely has a chance to play.  And the thing right now with Skinner is it’s very difficult to say what his upside is.  The AHL isn’t kind to goaltenders at the best of times.  When you’re playing behind such a dysfunctional team as Skinner was last season, it’s even more difficult.  So we really won’t know on Skinner until he gets a chance.  One of the positives with the Oilers goaltending right now is that the door is open for kids.  No Oilers fan is pumped with that positive, but the opportunity is there for Skinner to establish himself this season.  And if he does, I would guess he would be the goaltender the Oilers protect for the expansion draft barring an amazing season from Mikko Koskinen.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

9. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be one of the top prospects on the right side.  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  Anchoring a pairing, I can’t see him as more than a bottom pairing D-man in the show, similar to what Matt Benning is.  But I could also see him as a very nice complimentary/”safety net” type of defenceman in a team’s top four.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

8. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 4

I still like this kid’s game a lot.  But let’s take off our Oilers googles for a minute and be honest: They don’t like him.  And it appears to me that they’ve already made up their mind with him.  It’s always been very odd with Maksimov.  Despite myself and others seeing this terrific 5th round pick tear up the OHL in both his 18 and 19 year old seasons, while developing his skating, board game, and 200-foot game very well, the Edmonton media has NEVER said a word about Maksimov.  And for most of them, they get their info from people within the organization.  It was the same thing with Dylan Wells.  It looked like a heist of a pick in 2016 (ironically, also in the 5th round, also out of the OHL), yet in the 2017 draft they’re trading up to get Stuart Skinner and all of a sudden “there, they finally got a good young netminder”.  Wells was legitimately one of the best goaltenders, if not THE BEST goaltender in the CHL in 2017.  And I’ve often wondered since if the Skinner pick fucked with Wells confidence.  Fair to say that if he couldn’t handle something like that then he’d never have been able to handle the NHL, but it has still been VERY ODD.  Anyway, I see the same shit with Maksimov.  It doesn’t erase the fact that this kid has all the tools to be a damn good player.  The size and motor really stand out to me.  The skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s ok (I really disagree with those who suggest its a major flaw with him).  But again as I have maintained forever with this kid…the shot is incredible.  No backswing and a total laser just like Joe Sakic had.  And the one-timer is just as good.  A bullet that is incredibly accurate.  I badly want to see him get a legitimate opportunity in Bakersfield.  Last year was…whatever.  I knew he wouldn’t see much ice with what they had and being a rookie.  But those excuses to hold him back evaporated as the year went on, and yet Jay Woodcroft still refused to give him opportunities.  Jay was the right-hand man for Todd McLellan for a very long time, and one thing McLellan became known for was having little-no patience for European players.  I fear it could be the same with Woodcroft.  It would be very foolish for this organization to not give Maksimov the proper opportunities to succeed in my opinion.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

7. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 3

This is one mighty big season for Benson.  He got some looks last year, showed some flashes, but he couldn’t secure a spot and now he’s at a crossroads.  The opportunity is sitting there for him much like it was for Ethan Bear last season.  The top-six is not set.  Tyler Ennis is PROBABLY occupying one of the two LW spots in that top-six, and he can be caught by Benson.  This is Benson’s chance.  It’s not that he’s done with the organization if he can’t win that spot, but he might not ever have a better opportunity.  After this upcoming season, the organization has some cap space, and they have some kids coming who will make it even more difficult for Benson to surpass.  He has all the ability to make it.  But the pace of play wasn’t quick enough at last check, the feet are still a little heavy, and the edges need some work.  If he can clean those things up, man…he could be a heck of a player.  And the pace of play should come with time at the top level, I don’t view that as a major flaw.  But the explosiveness and edge work…those are much more difficult.  Far from impossible, and they don’t have too far to go, but he needs to really dedicate himself to get over the hump.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

6. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 7

I’ve always said this, but McLeod will play.  He has too much speed, size and intelligence not to play in the league.  What they’re trying to do with him is play with more of an edge and assertiveness.  Nobody is expecting McLeod to start putting people on their asses, but he needs to show that he won’t shy away from the tougher areas on the ice.  That’s THE key with this kid.  It isn’t urgent for him like it is for Benson, but don’t think McLeod doesn’t have a shot at that top six gig also.  He has everything needed to step into a spot alongside McDavid or Draisaitl and contribute.  I don’t think they’ll give him that chance this season though.  Reason being is that while I believe they want guys to earn it, they REALLY want to make McLeod earn it given his shortcomings.  It could pay off huge down the line.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 38th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 5

I had a tough time deciding who I liked better between Lavoie and McLeod.  I view McLeod as more of a certainty, but Lavoie has shown so damn much since they drafted him that I had to put him higher.  I keep thinking back to how much weight he dropped from draft day 2019 to WJC camp only a month later.  And then playing for Canada at the WJC last year, I was so impressed with his game.  He embraced that checking role Dale Hunter put him in, he didn’t pout about it.  And in doing so, he was a big asset for that club.  The opportunity MIGHT present itself before next season for Lavoie to step in pretty seamlessly for Alex Chiasson.  Nothing to do with the two being french Canadian, everything to do with them both being big, skilled, and willing to play that role.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

4. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 6

I rarely say this in my prospect write-up’s, but you can’t deny that Samorukov is more likely trade bait for this organization than he is to play for them someday.  Darnell Nurse doesn’t look as though he’s going to go anywhere (despite the fact that he is only on a two-year contract), Phillip Broberg looks like a lock to play, if the media and organization would stop giving Caleb Jones the Jeff Petry treatment they would perhaps realize that he has similar upside to Jeff Petry…So Sammy really doesn’t appear to have a spot at this time.  Still, don’t confuse that as him being chopped liver.  This is a damn good prospect who has rapidly developed at every level he’s been at.  When the Oilers drafted him in 2017, I wasn’t overly high on him.  And to his credit, his game did nothing but grow in the OHL to the point wherein his 19 year old season he might have been the best defenceman in the league.  Then last season in Bakersfield, he did nothing but get better as he adapted to the AHL.  He has all the tools.  Good size, good skating ability, moves the puck well, physical, good positionally in his own zone, good stick, he really has top-four D-man written all over him.  Not saying it’s a slam dunk, but I personally have a tough time imagining him not getting to that level.  What sucks is that he’s an excellent prospect who will likely never have that kind of value, so the organization could be between a rock and a hard place with him.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

3. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C/LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 8  A: 9  P: 17

DOB: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Acquired: 1st Round, 14th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

First of all, man…I hate saying someone is a centre/winger, because all centres can play the wing!  It still blows my mind that prominent hockey media will say things like “and he can play the wing too” about a centre.  Seriously guys?!?!  It’s literally an easier position to play, so of course a centre can play it!  There are VERY few centres who actually struggle playing the wing.  Anyway, I say it here because I’m not sure where Holloway will end up for this club.  I can argue it either way, but that is part of the charm that comes with this pick.  I have repeatedly admitted it already but will do it one more time for this piece.  I was pissed about the pick initially.  And don’t confuse this, I still would have taken three other players on the board ahead of Holloway.  BUT…the more thought I gave it, the more I loved it for the club and it actually fits tremendously well.  While Holloway wasn’t my top guy or even in my top three, he still should have been in my group of players I wanted for the club.  You might think if you go back and look at my final list of top 64 prospects “what was your issue, you had him 16th?”  Which is fair, but if you look at it, you’ll also see that I had Kaiden Guhle 13th.  Different teams should have different boards.  For the Oilers, I felt that they should have been wanting pure skill as they really lack it up front.  But they even more so lack Holloway’s complete game up front.  You talk about someone who plays a man’s game, Holloway plays a mans game.  This kid has the ability to be one of the best power forwards in the game, and one of the best 200-foot games in the game.  Does he have an overly skilled game?  No, he doesn’t.  But he’s going to produce by doing everything right and doing all the dirty work.  Without a doubt a top-nine winger down the road, but when you start to think of the upside and think about some of the comparables (Shawn Horcoff, Derek Stepan, Brandon Saad, Jakob Silfverberg to name a few), all of a sudden you start to get VERY excited about Holloway.  Add to this, good size, tremendous wheels, and a very high character kid which are pretty clearly the three traits this organization is looking for with their top picks…not a bad gameplan.  A lot of my initial dislike of the pick comes from not trusting this regime after watching the job they did in Detroit the past few seasons, and it remains to be seen with Holloway.  But there is no doubt it was more about me and less about them with this selection.  Holloway has “core piece” written all over him.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 8th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 2

So far, it looks like I was very wrong and the organization was very right about this selection, and I’m more than happy to say that.  The fear I have now is that they don’t take the time on him that they should be.  I get it.  This is going to be extremely tempting for them to bring in someone this fast and this big, but patience is huge in my opinion because Broberg has ridiculous upside, but he’s still raw in a lot of key areas of the game.  He is the type of player that organization’s constantly rush.  Jay Bouwmeester, Noah Hanifin, Jakub Chychrun, Rasmus Ristolainen, they all have such tremendous size and skating ability that teams just can’t help themselves.  But if you take the proper time, this kid could be a star.  A legitimate number one defenceman.  Someone who wins Norris trophies.  You have a player in Broberg.  At least a number five, probably a number four, and a good chance he can be a three.  But if you give him time and you bring him along slowly, perhaps he is able to really develop the rest of his game.  The D-zone play needs time (positionally he’s still a bit of a mess).  The puck-moving needs time (he won’t be able to skate it out of trouble all the time in the NHL).  He needs to see a lot of time on the PK.  He could really benefit getting some time as the top PP option in Bakersfield when the time comes.  As I wrote about in the summer, there is no need at all to rush this.  Bring him along slowly and the pay off could be enormous.  I know someone, somewhere, is screaming that they will because they do with everyone.  But they don’t.  Michael Rasmussen was a similar prospect for this regime that they didn’t give the proper time to, and now the Red Wings are paying for it.  They weren’t that patient with Dennis Cholowski either.  There is a reason we heard the media get geeked about Broberg this summer.  It isn’t because they’re all just enormous Broberg fans.  The organization wants it out there, and from reading the tea leaves, the organization doesn’t want to wait long.  Trust me…let’s hope they can resist the urge.  The downside to waiting: none.  The upside to waiting: massive.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 1

This wasn’t as certain as the last few times around.  The upside with Broberg and the hope that they will take their time with him (even if they don’t want to), makes him pretty enticing to put in this spot.  But, I haven’t forgotten what Bouchard is, unlike some.  And the fact remains that Bouchard is ready to step in, and he is the safer bet of the two blueliners at this point.  But let’s also not blindly assume the number one upside isn’t there with Bouchard, it absolutely is.  Someone who has this high of IQ and plays this methodical of a game, he’ll likely get the D-zone figured out.  To what extent, remains to be seen.  But he has the size and IQ to become as good of a defender as he wants to be.  I have been vocal about this already, but I will say it again here: I really dislike the organization buying a roadblock for Bouchard.  Bring in someone to legitimately compete with Bouchard for the 3rd pairing spot?  Awesome.  Bring in someone who prevents him from getting an opportunity?  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I know, injuries happen, he’ll get a chance at some point this season.  But he’s ready to play, especially on the 3rd pair.  Not signing Barrie would have saved over two million in cap space that they perhaps could have used on a free agent still available who fit in their top-six like Mikael Granlund.  Now, you’re looking at pissing away a year of Bouchard’s ELC, and the top-six is still lacking.  I’m all for developing guys properly, but I’m also all for knowing when the time has come for them to step in and the upcoming season was it for Bouchard.  Don’t need to GIVE him the spot, but the opportunity should be there for him to grab it.  Not only is that gone, but rumours are rampant that they’ll sign Madison Bowey to further prevent Bouchard from getting an opportunity.  Don’t get it, don’t like it.

ETA: Late 20-21

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2020 NHL Draft: Recap

This is weird.  This is always my favourite weekend of the year and was again this year.  The start of the NHL regular season was replaced with the draft and free agency.  Still had MLB playoffs going on, still had football (though not North of the border, only South), and for whatever reason Thanksgiving feels like a lot more chill atmosphere with people in general than most other holidays.  But now, we wait.  Hopefully January 1st, but the truth is that we have no clue.  I have some confidence that we are getting close to the finish line with Covid, but the problem is that the NHL will want to hold off until the last minute in hopes of being able to fill the arenas as much as they possibly can.  It’s not a fun opening to this piece, but it’s reality.  My approach is simple: It’ll be back, so let’s just get pumped for the 2021 season!

As I always say off the top doing this piece…this is for fun.  I’m not the asshole who is going to get on his high horse and suggest that I know all, nobody else knows shit, what I say goes.  Having said that…I also believe that I might have a better POV on things than some who are doing the drafting.  It’s not that I think I’m a better scout than anyone, but I do think the logic in some people and some teams drafting is very flawed.  I often wonder about how seriously teams actually take the draft when I see a kid like Ronan Seeley (who as you’ll see, his fall in this draft hit a nerve with me) fall to the 208th pick, and then to absolutely no shock to me in the slightest that it’s the team that always drafts well, and always drafts the same way that I would, who step up and take him.

But nobody has a crystal ball.  How these players fit with these organizations…unknown.  How these players fit with the teams they’ll play on as they develop…unknown.  How these players stay healthy…unknown.  How these players work on their games…unknown.  You can do all the prep you want, but the truth is that most of it is out of your hands.

With that said, allow me to say a shit ton of things that’ll look stupid over the next few years!

 

Anaheim Ducks

LOVED the Drysdale pick for them.  Most see their D as what it was 3-4 years ago, but in reality, it’s not the strength it was.  They needed someone in the system, and really needed someone for the right side.  They get both and amazing value with Drysdale.  Perreault at 27 was solid value, just surprised me given how they like to build their teams.  Ridly Greig seemed like a slam dunk there but seemed like it in several spots.  The rest of the draft was solid.  Nothing special, but solid throughout.

Grade: B+

 

Arizona Coyotes

They hardly had anything to work with to begin with, but they did nothing in my eyes that maxed out what they had.  This organization is in big trouble in my opinion.

Grade: F

 

Boston Bruins

Much like the Coyotes, didn’t have a lot to work with, but even then I wasn’t a big fan of what they did with those limited picks.  This one could bite me hard in the ass though with how well they draft, but I’m just going off what I see right now.

Grade: F

 

Buffalo Sabres

This grade is much fairer than the last two, as they had the picks to work with.  Given their needs, given the lack of picks they had, given I had hope that they were going to show signs of a corner turned…they looked like the same fuckin Sabres.  People who I have a lot of respect for really liked it for them, and that’s cool.  Those people might be very right, and I’ll look dumb.  That’s fine.  I’m not some thin-skinned fraud who is deleting tweets, advertising to anyone who’ll listen that I bat .1000, terrified for people to see them get it wrong.  In my opinion, Jack Quinn is a disaster of a pick.  The combination of this type of player rarely meeting expectations, and the true needs of this organization, it’s a disaster and I’ll be stunned if it works.  Yet…I hope I’m wrong and I hope it works because that fan base deserves so much better.  Then the Peterka pick was good value, but they traded up to do it when they were already short on picks.  And they pick a winger, when they have question marks throughout the organization down the middle, on the blueline, and between the pipes.  You know, the IMPORTANT positions.  Massively disappointing.  Hope for the sake of their fans I’m proven very wrong.

Grade: F

 

Calgary Flames

I often like and agree with what Brad Treliving does.  I know I’m supposed to hate on the Flames, but I don’t.  I do when they have a douchey team that’s going nowhere, but that’s not because I’m an Oilers fan, that’s because I’m a hockey fan.  But I’m a Tree fan, and he handled the 1st round right moving back.  Where I fear he got it wrong was taking Connor Zary given who was on the board.  But it’s not as though it was bad value.  Then, I loved where they took the shot on Poirier.  Not at all a fan of the kids game, but at 72 he’s worth the risk.  The rest was…ok, but felt he could have done much better.

Grade: B

 

Carolina Hurricanes

Completely broke my heart at 13.  Wow, like…you talk about soul-crushing…Jarvis was MY GUY for the Oilers, even more so than Askarov.  And the Oilers were sitting at 14, the very next pick…and they got “Tulsky-ed”.  June 21st, 2006 all over again (not at all, but I nearly shed a tear both times).  But it wasn’t just Jarvis.  Gunler, Ponomaryov, Nybeck, Pashin, Seeley, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  What a fucking haul!  This front office is just flat out doing everything right.  With their cap, with their trades, with their drafting, they’re among the elite organizations in the NHL right now.  I refuse to give any of that credit to Don Waddell…

Grade: A+

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Felt as though after they took Reichel (who was one of the four I had exact from my mock, only one after the top three), that they went in a different direction than what they’ve been doing.  That doesn’t mean it was bad, it was just surprising as the last few drafts they’ve gone HEAVY on playmaking skill.  We’ll see.

Grade: B-

 

Colorado Avalanche

Surprising.  That’s the only word I can think of.  Barron at 25, when they already have the blueline they have was a surprise.  But I really wonder if the mindset here wasn’t “let’s just take the kid we believe will have the highest value in a year or so given that we will need trade bait more than anyone who’ll fit in”.  Because this organization’s window is now open.  I liked Foudy for them where they got him, and wasn’t a big fan of the rest but it was fine.  Draft grade won’t look great, but I’m fully cognizant of how dumb this could look given how well they’re run.

Grade: C

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

The joke on the podcast was that his name is Chinakhov and when you play the clip of Chappelle saying “China Club” it sounds similar.  A lot of questions about that, hope that clears it up!  Anyway, you trade back in that scenario.  And you especially trade back when you lack picks.  If someone else takes him, whatever.  But this is chess, not checkers.  Value matters (or at least it should and does to the smart organizations), and the odds of someone else taking Chinakhov THAT high, or anywhere in the next 10 picks were slim to none.  Trade the fuck back.  Even if it only nets you a 4th round pick, at least you added an asset.  Hope for Kekäläinen’s sake it is a grand slam, otherwise, he’ll never live it down.  The rest was nothing special.  Embarrassing for the Jackets in my opinion.  This felt like an organization who might be “feeling themselves” a little too much thanks to a surprising season and having just got one over on Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens.  “Watch us be the smartest guys in the room”.  The guys who think they’re the smartest in the room, are never the smartest in the room, just have the biggest ego in the room.

Grade: F

 

Dallas Stars

With what they had to work with, and just with their top two picks, I was a big fan.  Bourque is a safe pick who is pretty similar to a kid like Cole Perfetti.  Very high IQ, not the best skater, not the best size, but can dish it and can rip it.  The Stars badly needed someone like that in their system, and then went for BIG upside with the next pick which wasn’t until 123rd, Antonio Stranges.  A lot like Josh Ho-Sang in my opinion, but from all accounts has nowhere near the baggage.  The rest was solid, nothing I got too excited about.

Grade: B

 

Detroit Red Wings

A mixed bag is the best way to put it.  I love Raymond, and he’s going to put up big numbers.  This team needs more foundational pieces right now, and I feel as though they passed on that.  The Raymond pick in my opinion will always be seen by fans and media as a home run given the production I expect out of him, but someone like Drysdale, Rossi, Askarov, or Sanderson would have been where I’d have gone.  REALLY liked the Wallinder pick for them though at 32.  In fact, the rest of their draft I basically loved!  So like I say, a very mixed bag.  Long term it’ll look very good in my opinion, but I can’t shake the feeling that they missed the boat at 4 even though it’ll look great.

Grade: B+

 

Florida Panthers

Excellent stuff here.  In fact, one of my favourite drafts.  I got away from loving Lundell for a while, but frankly put, the playoffs reminded me of how much those players matter, and players who are known more for their pro game and IQ than their skill are much safer picks.  Even if Lundell is a tough minutes 3C, that’s a massive piece for an organization.  Emil Heineman at 43 was right in the range where I had him and I really believe that kid will play.  Might only be a top nine winger, but he’ll play.  Smilanic, Sourdif, Benning and Puutio were all great value and each player has a lot of developable traits.  Took a tendy with their last pick too.  Can I tell you much on Devon Levi?  No.  But what I can tell you is that he’s just big enough, and he put up unbelievable numbers for Carleton Place in the CCHL last season.  A .941 Sv% in 37 games.  In the 7th round of the draft, I’d say that’s a good bet to make.  Great debut for Bill Zito as GM…even though it wasn’t any of his guys who were making the picks…

Grade: A

 

LA Kings

Another draft I was a pretty big fan of.  I feel like they did the right thing at 2 even though you couldn’t really go wrong.  LOVED the Grans pick for them at 35.  Both Detroit and LA taking Wallinder and Grans, I think that is so perfect.  Teams that I view as still years away, and teams that will take their time with talents like that…could be grand slam type picks down the road.  The rest of the draft was just solid.  I like everyone else thought they got unreal value with Chromiak at 128.  Good day for Kings fans.  They’re doing it right.

Grade: B+

 

Minnesota Wild

This felt to me like everything basically fell their way.  Rossi at 9 was a gift.  Specifically, a gift from the Buffalo Sabres.  To the point where I feel as though perhaps part of the Staal/Johasson deal was actually a flip of 8 and 9 given that Minny got fleeced, and then Buffalo made such a bad pick in my mind given their needs and that Rossi was there for them.  But that’s the conspiracy theorist in me.  Rossi is PERFECT for the Wild given their need down the middle.  Then at 37 they get one of my BOYS with Marat Bustanutdinov…sorry…Khusnutdinov.  He’s very similar to Rossi, and both guys are similar to Sebastian Aho and Brayden Point.  Liked O’Rourke at 39, hated Hunt at 65 though I knew someone was doing that as he was in my mind the most overrated prospect in this draft, but then got more great value with Novak at 146.  Home run.  As my buddy Neil pointed out (who is a massive Canucks fan), Judd Bracket knows how to draft and it showed again.

Grade: A

 

Montreal Canadiens

Another guy who knows how to draft (though maybe a bit overrated by the media) is Trevor Timmins and while I don’t like the Habs GM these days, they draft pretty well and did so again in 2020.  Guhle surprised me given how deep they are in the organization on the left side of the D, but he was my top-ranked player on the board at that time and if developed properly could be a home run of a pick.  Tuch, Mysak, Biondi, they took a lot of guys I was ok with but didn’t love.  Some good value, some not, but at the end of the day, it’s a solid list.

Grade: B+

 

Nashville Predators

Their top two picks were grand slams.  I don’t know if they’ll turn out that way obviously, but I absolutely LOVED Askarov and Evangelista.  But then…Luke Prokop at 73.  I watched over the WHL like a hawk this season, and I had trouble with Prokop in my top 25 (mind you, that ended up being all of the West, not just the dub).  I never saw the draw with him.  Ok skater for someone so big, but don’t think he’s anything (could be very wrong, as with all these kids).  It felt to me like that pick kicked off the rest of the draft for them with making questionable decisions.  Not usually what I say about the Preds drafting.  Still, I put much more weight into the early picks than the late ones.

Grade: B+

 

New Jersey Devils

Well…I absolutely hated the Holtz pick first and foremost.  I tried to drill into everyone I could that history shows snipers don’t pan out in the 1st round, and even before I had done that piece looking back at them, I never have liked taking snipers with a high pick as they don’t move the needle for a hockey club.  Teams picking high in the draft are mostly needing to rebuild.  They call it a rebuild for a reason.  It’s essentially a house.  Teams that pick snipers far too high are putting their money into a sweet man cave when they can’t afford a roof.  Now, I will say that some foundational pieces were gone, and some that were there maybe didn’t fit what they viewed as their needs.  But having said that, this was one of the worst picks in the draft in my opinion.  They did ok with Mercer, and then pissed away another at 20 with Mukhamadullin.  As for the rest of the draft, wasn’t a huge fan of it.  Some things I didn’t mind like Edwards where they got him, but for the most part I feel as though the Devils REALLY fucked up this draft.  I hope for the sake of their fans that this is a case of the old amateur scouting staff not having been overturned yet.

Grade: D-

 

NY Islanders

Not much to work with, and what they did I wasn’t a big fan of.  I’d be lying if I said I knew a ton about all their guys.  I know some of them, we’ll see.  But for now…

Grade: F

 

NY Rangers

We all know 1st overall.  I was stunned they traded up for Schneider.  Nothing of a bad pick at 19, I just thought for sure it would be Lapierre.  They did fine.  I like the home run swing on Cuylle at 60.  I think that was more circumstances last year then him being shit.  Too many tools to succeed in my mind.

Grade: B

 

Ottawa Senators

I didn’t hate their 2nd day as much as most did, but no doubt it felt like they’d do a much better job than they did.  LOVED day one for them though!  Stud centre, stud D-man, character kid with skill at 28, figured they’d be big fans of Kleven to pair with their puck movers on the blueline.  Tough to flat out hate their draft, but given what they should have done vs what they did, tough to give them a grade that says they knocked it out of the park.

Grade: B

 

Philadelphia Flyers

I really like Tyson Foerester when I’ve watched him play, but I just don’t see it.  Skating is bad, production 5 on 5 wasn’t great, I wouldn’t have gone there.  The rest of the draft was fine, obviously you know if you read my stuff this season that I feel as though Connor McClennon was a heist where they got him, but it isn’t as though he doesn’t have a massive uphill climb.

Grade: C

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Not much to work with, but didn’t like what they did with what they had.  I worry about the years to come with this organization.  Could be several dark years in the post Sid/Geno era.

Grade: F

 

San Jose Sharks

In the context of what they had to play with, I feel as though they absolutely CRUSHED it!  Great job by the Sharks staff who haven’t been the best in recent years, but definitely had a good couple of days here.

Grade: A

 

St. Louis Blues

I don’t mind the Neighbours pick, but I’m here to tell you right now that this kid isn’t Brendan Morrow as they were apparently telling people.  He’s much more likely to be Ethan Moreau than Brendan Morrow, and I’m not sure that’s fair either as Ethan had one hell of a motor just like Brendan.  Potential is there, but I’m not sure a guy with a questionable motor is all of a sudden going to turn into the wrecking ball that Brendan Morrow was.  As for the rest, again, just a draft that I didn’t personally love.  But I said the same for them in 2012 when they took some Parayko kid out of Fort Mac who I didn’t think was anything special…

Grade: D

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Sometimes it’s not so much where you get picked, but who picks you that tells the story.  I felt relieved that the kid I had 27th on my board was eventually picked by Carolina, a team that knows what the fuck they’re doing.  All year with Jack Finley, I couldn’t figure out what I was missing that other people claimed to see.  And then with their first pick, it’s the Lightning who take him, and all of a sudden I’m sticking my chest out a little further.  I think he’s Jordan Staal, and if any team is going to get that out of him, it’s Tampa…the team that doesn’t draft size…isn’t that right, media narrative?!…Wasn’t just that pick though, I really liked what they did overall.  I normally do.

Grade: B+

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

So, I don’t hate their approach to the draft like some.  I think they do a tremendous job.  Just pick the skill, and coach it up is a simple and effective philosophy.  And I was one of the people screaming that they weren’t taking Braden Schneider because this is the draft, not the big club.  Having said all this…Amirov…it isn’t a bad pick.  He has ridiculous skill.  BUT…that’s all he has, and that’s all they have.  There is not one other element in this organization.  Pure skill.  There isn’t much greasiness, isn’t much defensive play, isn’t all that much size, isn’t all that much speed, isn’t much physicality.  It’s JUST skill.  If they had stepped up and taken Ridly Greig at 15 who is a tough player to play against, tough type of player to find, AND has good skill, that would have shown me something.  But I’m losing faith in Dubas being able to figure this out.  Nothing wrong with the approach in general, and I’m not big on the whole “rah-rah will over skill, they don’t have the heart” bull shit.  But for fuck sakes Kyle, you aren’t winning shit being THIS one dimensional of a team.  Having said all this, I still love the draft approach and feel they’ll get three or four players or at least valuable assets out of this crop.

Grade: A

 

Vancouver Canucks

Hardly anything to work with, but Jurmo was pretty good to land at 82, and I am floored that Viktor Perrson lasted until the 7th round.  I don’t know what the big issue was for scouts with him, all I know is I love the skating, puck-moving, and size.  There is A LOT to work with there.  Solid draft given they didn’t have many picks.

Grade: C+

 

Vegas Golden Knights

Simply put, wasn’t a big fan.  I feel as though this organization is going to begin getting exposed a bit in the coming years.  I don’t believe they’re the brilliant organization the media makes them out to be.  Pretty easy to be brilliant when the league sets them up like they did.  “Look at all the moves they make!”  Sure…look at all the assets they were given.  I don’t think they’re shit, George McPhee specifically did an amazing job in Washington until his owner made him do one awful move at the end of his tenure.  Just that they aren’t some revelation either.

Grade: D

 

Washington Capitals

Pretty stunned that they were the ones that stepped up to get Lapierre.  I just think that kids going to be a home run of a pick.  Shit year, pretty clearly due to injuries, he’ll bounce back strong.  The rest was solid, nothing spectacular.

Grade: B

 

Winnipeg Jets

Only had four picks, but made the most of them.  I’m a little surprised that they went with Perfetti over the home town kid Seth Jarvis.  I and most others saw them as pretty similar prospects.  I like Jarvis skating much better though, so despite the points being in favour of Perfetti, I personally would be taking Jarvis.  But it isn’t as though I think Perfetti will be shit.  This might pave the way for a Nik Ehlers trade at some point.  And then Torgersson at 40…he’s just simply put their kind of player.  Big, fast, great on the wall, responsible in his own zone, zero shock that’s who they took.  Only two other picks, they were fine.

Grade: B+

 

Edmonton Oilers

I did this last year and I’m going to do it again.  My list vs what the Oilers did.  It’s not to be critical, I just think it’s fun to look at it.

14 – Lucas Reichel (I had Lapierre higher, but for the Oilers specifically I felt by the time the dust settled at 14 that Reichel was the best player for them to take…though I badly wanted and kept bringing up Ridly Greig)

76 – Ronan Seeley (27th…ends up going 208th to the team that does it better than anyone else right now)

138 – Viktor Persson (28th)

169 – Connor McClennon (54th)

200 – Kyle Crnkovic (NR…Crnkovic had I done another Western prospects rankings would have jumped up.  The closer I watched him, the fewer concerns I had about the skating.  Not sure if he can make it, but I feel as though he’ll put up numbers in the WHL over the next two seasons that will at least create a buzz around him similar to Flames prospect Matthew Phillips)

And the other thing here is that I’m fully aware that is mostly Western kids…that’s just legitimately how it fell.  The one thing that I simply can’t stand these days is the mindset of so many organizations past the 4th round who believe you take the kid who has more development time over the better prospects.  I’m not passing on good CHL players because a lesser talent doesn’t need to be signed for four years rather than in two.  Take the best player and figure it the fuck out.  I was a MASSIVE Ethan Edwards fan going into this draft.  Loved the idea of grabbing him late.  Edwards went at 120 to New Jersey, well ahead of Ronan Seeley.  Apologies to Edwards and his family if they read this, it isn’t a shot at him in the slightest (I was pumping his tires all season), but not a chance in hell should Edwards have gone ahead of Seeley.  Just by no measure whatsoever.  Yet, teams start looking for the kids with extra development time.  It’s fucked logic.  I understand it if you’re splitting hairs, but teams simply start ignoring CHL talent.  One of those teams appears to be the Edmonton Oilers who now have not taken a CHL kid past the 5th round since 2014.  I don’t agree with that method at all.  Rank them and stick with it.  You see the absolute mysteries some of the kids they’ve taken late in the last two seasons are…sure, they might know something we don’t.  But as I said earlier about the Blue Jackets, the people who often think they’re going to outsmart the room…don’t.

Anyway…now that the dust has settled and I’ve given it some good thought…even though I’m not a big fan of the pick for the Oilers, I get it.  And not just that I get it, but I am excited about it even though I still would have gone with three or four other options which I felt fit better.

They have a vision of what they want their team.  They want a team that is lightning fast, big, and high character.  And really…what’s wrong with any of that?  That’s what wins, and I don’t mean to sound like a “hockey man” when I say that, but it’s true.  Those are foundational pieces.  Even if Holloway is only a top-nine guy, he’ll be a top-nine guy who is pivotal.  Think of Sam Bennett and what he’s becoming for the Flames.  Sure, they’d like a do-over with that 4th pick in 2014, but Bennett has become a core piece for them as a top-nine guy who will likely wear a letter for that team at some point, maybe even the “C”.

But the other day I started thinking of guys Holloway could realistically become.  Not saying he will be any of these guys, but he has many of the same attributes as these players:

Mark Stone – One of the best-case scenario’s without a doubt, and by no means am suggesting this will happen.  Stone’s calling card was great hands, and that’s not it for Holloway.  But what is actually great about Stone is how he’s such a complete player.  One of the best wingers in the game thanks to the 200-foot game and willingness to do everything right.

Jakub Silfverberg – Maybe not at this point in Silfverberg’s career, but another guy who does all the right things (likely not a coincidence that he like Stone was also drafted and developed by the Senators).  Similar size and Holloway has better speed.  Silfverberg has never been known for high-end skill, just great production.

Loui Eriksson (circa 2008, not 2020) – See Silfverberg, but with better wheels.  Holloway plays more of a power game with less vision than Eriksson had in his time with the Stars, but a lot of the same attributes.

Jake Debrusk – Debrusk isn’t a highly skilled kid, he just plays the right way.  Holloway is bigger and faster but possesses the same type of work ethic and fearlessness going to the dirty areas as Debrusk.

Kyle Palmeri – Holloway more of a power game as he’s built like a tank.  But in terms of having that tremendous speed and very good two-way game, Holloway could absolutely be that level of player with a similar style.

Dustin Brown – He’s not going to be THAT physical, but Holloway is willing to throw his weight around and can be a very similar player to Brown.  On draft day 2003, Brown was known to have a better shot than Holloway currently does, but one of Holloway’s more underrated attributes is his shot.  Overlooked because he doesn’t look to just be a sniper, but he can rip it.

Brandon Saad – REALLY similar, to the point that I heavily considered having Saad as the comp on my final ranking.  Speed, size, two-way game, complete player.  Side note with Saad, loved that move by the Avs.  He’s overpaid, but given the Hawks ate a million and they shed Zadorov in the deal, felt like a huge win for the Avs who are the favourites in the West this year and in the years to come.

Chris Kreider – This was the comp that I went with for a long time, but ended up moving away from it last minute.  Still, a ton of similarities.  I’m not sure Holloway has the skill Kreider has flashed over his career, but a power game blended with nice size and tremendous speed is what I was thinking at the time and that is definitely the case.  Holloway is likely going to be a more consistent player.

Viktor Arvidsson – Obviously, Holloway has much better size.  But if you’re just looking purely at the type of game Arvidsson plays, it is without a doubt attainable for Holloway to reach that level and play that same style.

Alex Tuch – One of the hottest names around the league with fans from the standpoint of “might Vegas have to dump him for cheap?!?!”  Tuch is bigger, but the speed, size, and ability/willingness to take the puck hard to the net is very similar.

Now…that’s just the wingers who come to mind.  I’ve gone back and forth on it all season as to whether Holloway was a winger or a centre.  IF he’s a centre though, you’re looking at a lot of good possibilities too.  He said he tries to pattern his game after Jonathan Toews, and you can really see that.  Pipe dream that he gets to that level, but obviously that is music to any organization’s ears that he not only wants to play that way, but you can really see it when he plays.  Again though, that’s a pipe dream.  So I started looking at others who are Toews “like”, and it’s not nothing.

Shawn Horcoff – One of the most underrated Oilers of all-time who used decent size and great wheels to will himself into being one of the best two-way centres in the league before a shoulder injury really ruined his prime.  But from 06-08, Shawn Horcoff was an extremely valuable player.  Holloway not only has a similar game to Horc, he not only has a similar skill set to Horc, but he (from afar) also seems to have a very similar make-up to Horc.

Brayden Schenn – My comp for Ridly Greig.  One of the reasons I’m softening on the idea of Holloway is that if you like Greig, then you should like Holloway.  Holloway has better size and speed, Greig is a little more greasy, similar offensive upside.  Holloway is a much better skater than Schenn, no doubt.  But, there is a LOT in Holloway’s game that is just like Schenn.  Also, Schenn is someone who has bounced back and forth from centre to the wing and has looked better suited for both roles at various times in his career.

Bo Horvat – Same idea as Schenn.  Very similar game, but Holloway has tremendous wheels while Horvat has had to work on his skating.  But if you’re talking about the guys with “heart” and who are “clutch”, Horvat’s scouting report in 2013 had a lot of the same things in it that Holloway’s did.  Horvat got non stop “Patrice Bergeron” comps because he was “clutch” and had a complete game, but nobody was suggesting that Horvat possessed high-end skill.  Nobody is suggesting that with Holloway either.

Dylan Larkin – This was the comp I originally had on Holloway.  In 2014, I never understood why Larkin wasn’t getting top 10 hype, and even believed that the Ducks would take him at 10 in that draft (should have).  Larkin isn’t the player he looked like he might become a few years ago, but we’re still talking about a high-end 2C who can fly and does a lot of his damage by simply doing all the right things on the ice.

Philip Danault – One of Marc Bergevin’s best moves (and yes Habs fans, just because I believe he’s a bad GM who is getting worse, I have liked some of the stuff Bergevin has done at times).  Danault has emerged as a damn good two-way centre, and as is the case with all these guys, he like Holloway doesn’t have big skill.  He does it by doing everything right and playing a very responsible, very “pro” game.

Roope Hintz – The comp I settled on.  A year ago, if someone were to tell you “with the Oilers 1st round pick, they’re going to take someone who is a lot like Roope Hintz”, you’d be losing your skull.  Hintz emerged as a 2C thanks to bringing the exact same game that Holloway is capable of.  Similar powerful skating, similar size/build, similar fearlessness to play in traffic.

Tyler Bozak – This won’t excite anyone, but I’ve always been much more of a Bozak fan than most.  Bozak in his prime was a very good 2C (though he was the top guy for a Leafs team that was weak down the middle), and he hasn’t dipped too far below that level since moving onto the Blues.  Speed, responsible, he’s never going to wow anyone with his skill but he’s going to do everything right and his coach will be comfortable putting him in any situation at any time.

Derek Stepan – Basically, the exact same idea as Horcoff and Bozak.

Erik Haula – Holloway is much bigger than Haula, but again, the same idea.  A guy who does it with tremendous speed and a willingness to go to the dirty areas on the ice.

Logan Couture – Best for last?  Like Stone, this is the best-case scenario.  But Couture (like all these guys), isn’t someone who does it on skill.  Couture has great speed, ok size, and a ridiculous motor.  In fact, we probably don’t give Couture enough credit for the motor he’s had throughout his career.  I feel as though his career gets underrated because for a large portion of it he was so overrated by the media.  The key to Couture is that enormous chip on his shoulder he seems to have.  Makes him unbearable for anyone who isn’t a Sharks fan, but any fan base would kill to have a guy like that.  Holloway has a lot of the same traits…we’ll see if he can also develop that “Jordan-Esq” killer instinct that Couture developed.  Very unlikely…but possible.

I could have likely said even more players than this, but the point here is pretty simple.  Holloway has all the tools to be a cornerstone piece who his coaches love and is very difficult to find.  While I wasn’t super high on him for the Oilers, I get it.

So I’m on board.  It doesn’t mean I now love the pick.  But it’s done, and they have a great prospect on their hands.

As for the rest…

If you’ve followed my stuff this season, you know I loved the pick of Carter Savoie at 100.  Amazing value there, and while his flaws are certainly things that should concern people, I just have a feeling with this kid that he’ll be the guy who proves people wrong rather than wilts as the competition gets stiffer.  When I saw Savoie last season, I saw a guy who plays with an ego, plays up and down to his competition, and a guy who doesn’t like to get his nose dirty but when challenged he is more than willing to do so.  He’s not all that far off what Alexander Holtz is, and I’m serious about that.  Holtz plays with more energy, and obviously played against stiffer competition last season.  But if you’ve read my stuff (especially leading up to this draft in particular), you know I’m terrified to take a sniper high in the draft.  At 100, it’s cool.

It’s also cool to do so at 126, which is what they did with Ty Tullio who while I didn’t have in the top 64, he JUST missed and was heavily considered for it.  The concern with Tullio was that he lived off Nashville’s 2019 1st rounder Philip Tomasino a lot after Tomasino was dealt to Oshawa last season.  But at 126, he’s extremely similar to Savoie.  Skating concerns, not the biggest player, but can rip it.  And unlike Savoie, he is more consistent with the energy he brings and the willingness to go to the dirty areas.  Loved this pick as well.

I won’t BS anyone with the final three picks, I don’t know much other than this organization won’t take CHL kids past the 4th/5th round due to extra development time prior to needing to sign these kids.  I don’t agree with that philosophy AT ALL, but it’s what they do.  From everything I can find on who they took:

Maxim Berezkin – Big upside with size and skill, but has a long ways to go with his skating.

Filip Engarås – An older prospect who has had injury issues derail his development.  Hearing his media availability he definitely won me over a bit like Tomas Mazura did last season, so I do understand how they’d be drawn to the kid, but we’ll see.  A lot of things to like, but one drawback I’ve read/heard is that (like Berezkin) he’s not the best skater.

Jeremias Lindewall – This is actually the pick out of the final three that has me a bit excited, though not over the value they would have gotten (I’ll get into that after).   From what I can find on Lindewall, this is a kid who loves to play a heavy game, but also has the wheels to keep up.  Good size, zero flash, just sounds to me like possibly a potential Patric Hornqvist (and yes, some of that thought is where he was drafted and where he’s from).

Now, my big issue with the Lindewall pick is who was still on the board.  And look, I will say it endlessly, I’m not a scout, and while I feel I do a better job actually putting the thought into where these guys should be ranked, I don’t know what most of these guys do.  But…I’m watching Ronan Seeley fall to the 7th round, and my jaw is on the floor.  I’m sitting there watching that, texting buddies about how he is going to be a 1st round pick in the 21 draft…he’s that good and he’s getting passed on due to seemingly nobody knowing how good he is.  In no way at all is Daemon Hunt (taken 65th by Minny) a better prospect than Seeley.  Seeley is either better in every aspect, or he’s similar.  So much more offensive upside, the skating between the two isn’t anywhere close, same with the ability to move the puck, Hunt had his season cut very short due to a wrist injury (bad choice of words there as his wrist was literally cut in a game in Red Deer), but when playing he had one…ONE primary ES assist on the season.  No goals.  All the PP time for the Warriors when he was playing.  No goals.  15 assists, I believe 13 were on the PP and two of the three ES were on empty-net goals.  Maybe Hunt as a kid is of the highest character and his work ethic is legendary where Seeley might have major character issues.  Could be.  Haven’t heard that with either, but it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.  Oilers should have taken Seeley at 200 and ran.  What makes me feel stronger about Seeley however is that the team that eventually did take him were the Carolina Hurricanes, who have knocked it out of the freaking park with their drafting now for several seasons.

All things considered, it was ok.  It wasn’t what I would have liked, but I need to get over this thing where I expect them to draft exactly as I would, and if they don’t then it’s dumb.  Goes without saying, but the organization, Holland, and Wright have a ways to go before they re-gain this fan’s trust.  But it was ok, and for me, the best part of it all was moving back from 76 to 100 and gaining 126.  Not only turning one pick into two but then what they did with those two picks.  No doubt that both were high on the list at 76, so move back and get a couple of guys who you like.  From the outside looking in when that pick was up, it was clear to me that most teams were looking to take their home run swings on players rather than making rationale picks (like Savoie and Tullio were).  So that part was brilliant in my opinion.

Grade: B

Not GREAT, but solid.

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2020 NHL Draft: Mock Draft (October)

I’m tired and I’m nearly at 10,000 words, here is my latest (not sure if it’ll be the final…probably won’t be…probably tinker with things Tuesday afternoon) mock draft.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

Easy call here, won’t spend much time on why because you all know why.  Obviously, a deal for Eichel isn’t going to happen even though I felt like that would have been a huge win/win for both teams, and I won’t move off the point that A) Lafrenière should play centre down the road because he’d thrive in the middle, and B) the Rangers badly need that to happen down the road because they don’t have that legitimate number one centre elite organizations need.  If for some reason they know that Lafrenière refuses to play the middle, I would look to make a deal with the Sens for the 3rd pick.  And you wouldn’t get the 5th pick added to that, but the Sens could give the Rangers a tremendous package of picks to move up two spots, and the 3rd pick would guarantee the Rangers that they still get the future franchise centre they lack.  I know most will scoff at this idea, but in the Rangers situation, I would make that move because the Rangers appear to be a franchise centre away from joining the league’s elite.

Other Option: Trade back – Just laid it out for you, don’t think I need to go any further with it.

Possible Reach: Quinton Byfield – You can make the argument for him, especially for the Rangers.  He’s a legitimate centre, he’s got the size advantage, he’s got the skating advantage, he’s 10 months younger, he was producing at a better pace last season than Lafrenière was the previous season, and in a better league.  But it has about a 0.000000000000000000002% chance of happening.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

SOH Rank: 2nd

It is a toss-up between Byfield and Stützle.  I’m saying Byfield for a few reasons.  1) the Kings LOVE the OHL.  Now, that might be a Mike Futa thing, who is no longer with the organization.  But the way they’ve drafted in recent years, they might love the OHL more than any other team in the league.  2) the Kings won with size, especially down the middle.  While the regime that won is mostly gone, the people still in the organization were also with the King at that time.  3) I can’t imagine the league wouldn’t be pushing hard for the Kings to take a potential star of African descent.  Byfield in Ottawa wouldn’t have the impact that Byfield in a major U.S. market like L.A. would have.  It would be massive for the league.  Right or wrong, I believe it’ll play a factor in this decision.

Other Option: Tim Stützle – Again, it’s 50/50.  I know what I just wrote, but we’re splitting hairs.  Stützle would likely be the pick for most teams as he’s the riser, just think Byfield ends up being the Kings guy.

Possible Reach: Jamie Drysdale – As I just said with Byfield, they love the OHL, but was that a Mike Futa thing or is it an organizational thing?  They really need to start the rebuild on the backend.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 3rd

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Highly likely that what happens here is that the Sens simply take the guy the Kings don’t.  So, in this case, it’s Stützle.  Some debate whether or not he can play the middle.  I believe he can, and I believe he has 1st line centre ability which the Sens really need.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – I say Drysdale, but essentially it’s Drysdale or Sanderson because if they happen to love one of them more than the other and want to ensure they land him, then with the 5th pick in their possession they could afford to take that guy here and then maybe Rossi at five.

Possible Reach: Marco Rossi – Same idea as Drysdale.  Perhaps they’ll love the kid playing in their backyard so much that they ensure they get him.  By just the stats, you can justify it.

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4. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SOH Rank: 10th

Well…I kept this as was for a long time, but I’m now caving and going with what Sammy Coz believes.  Coz was the first guy to report the Blackhawks loved Kirby Dach last year, he was the first mainstream media guy (I had it a month out…NBD…) that the Blue Jackets weren’t going to take Puljujarvi in 2016, when Sam Cosentino speaks on the draft, we should all listen the fuck up!  I really dislike this pick for the Wings if it goes down like this.  Not because Perfetti won’t work out, but I view foundational pieces a certain way, and I don’t see Perfetti becoming that type of player, while others at this point are capable of becoming that guy.  The Wings have a ton of connections though to both the Perfetti family, and the Saginaw Spirit, so they know Perfetti extremely well.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – In my opinion, this is where they should be going with this pick.  I know, they took Seider last year, but it’s not as though you’re set once you have one D-man, or in this case one RH D-man.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – Not only am I a little proud of the fact I came up with this thought back in the summer, but it sounds as though it is actually on the table.  Mentioned on the latest 31 Thought’s podcast that we shouldn’t rule out Askarov at 4.  It makes a ton of sense as much as people may dislike it.  This organization isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  They take a potential superstar goaltender with this pick, and by the time they are ready to start winning again, they’ll have a stud between the pipes ready to roll.  I probably wouldn’t do it, but the logic makes a lot of sense to me.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 4th

I don’t know if people understand how great of a situation this still is for the Sens.  Sure, some combination of the 1st pick and one of the other top 3 picks would have been incredible, but they’re still getting a tremendous player at 3, and then at 5 they could perhaps get even stronger down the middle (Rossi), add big talent on the wing for whichever one of Stützle or Byfield they land (Jarvis, Raymond, maybe Perfetti is still here), they could add a franchise goaltender (Askarov) or finally they could do what I sugget and that is add a stud on the blueline with Jamie Drysdale.  I still like Drysdale better than Sanderson, but much like Byfield v Stützle at two, I view this pick as Drysdale v Sanderson and it’ll virtually be 50/50.  In my mind, even if you got it even between the two prospects, the difference maker would then be need and the Sens need a RHD more than a LHD in my opinion.  I know those Sens fans who aren’t high on Drysdale will point to high picks used on JBD, Tychonik and Thomsson in the last two drafts, but none of those kids are sure things.  I believe you need to keep stockpiling.  You can always move a RHD if you have too many.

Other Option: Jake Sanderson – Keep in mind that the Sens have taken a lot of players out of the USHL in general lately whether that be the DP or other teams in the league.  As I stated, I believe the tie breaker for the Sens should be the need for a RHD, but Sanderson is a riser and I really believe a lot of teams will have Sanderson higher on their boards.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – I don’t see him as a reach after the 3rd pick in all honesty.  On 31 Thoughts, I believe what they said the Wings, Sens, Devils, Sabres, Wild, Preds, Canes and Oilers have all had serious discussions about taking him.  Without a doubt the wild card of the 1st round.

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6. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

SOH Rank: 8th

Of all the top 10 teams, this is probably the one I have the worst feel for where they’re going with this pick, which is likely why they’re looking to slide back.  I have a feeling that the kid I have as their “possible reach” could actually be their guy.  There are actually a lot of those guys who make sense for the Ducks.  Guhle, Schneider, Lundell, Lapierre, Reichel, etc are all kids who I could see the Ducks really liking for various reasons.  End of the day though, I think it’s much more likely they stick with this pick, and if they do then in this scenario I believe that Jarvis makes the most sense for them.  I wouldn’t say they’ve LOVED the WHL over the years, but it’s been up there for the Ducks as a well they enjoy going to.  I don’t see Jarvis as a centre in the pros (I believe the Point comparisons are more about his size and the league he plays in than the actual play on the ice), but I don’t believe that will matter much to the Ducks.  He’d be a terrific fit for either Sam Steel or down the line Trevor Zegras.  And if one of those two doesn’t make it playing the middle, then perhaps you look at Jarvis in the middle.  Just don’t draft him expecting him to be that guy.  He loves to play at the top of the circles in his own zone and coaches in the show aren’t big fans of their centres playing that way.

Other Option: Lucas Raymond – I’ve had Raymond as their guy for a long time given the need for high end offensive talent they have, and the success they’ve had drafting out of Sweden over the years.  I jumped Jarvis in my personal rankings over Raymond thanks to Jarvis being a wild card to play centre in the pros, but Raymond probably has a bit of a higher offensive ceiling.

Possible Reach: Kaiden Guhle – For the same reason that Sam Cosentino loves Perfetti to go to Detroit, keep your head up about this one for the Ducks.  All the ties between the Ducks and the P.A. Raiders organization, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, and the Ducks have a need for defencemen in their system right now.  This could possibly be the reason the Ducks sound so willing to move back is that Guhle or someone similar to him is their guy.

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7. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 5th

I couldn’t do it.  I know what the pick probably should be for this organization, and it’s Jake Sanderson.  And I had that until I finished the large majority of the write-up (AKA made the final pick because I don’t map out the picks and then write, I pick and write as I go like I shouldn’t do).  Then I came back to proofread, and I just can’t do it, so I switched it to Rossi here.  It is what they’ll do if he’s on the board at 7.  There is a very strong possibility he isn’t.  Rossi makes a ton of sense for any of the Wings, Sens, and Ducks.  But I had them going elsewhere, and so I believe the Devils, despite most seeing them as having similar guys to Rossi with Hischier and Hughes, are going heavy on analytics and any team going heavy on analytics will adore Rossi.  The guy put up nearly identical PPG numbers to Lafrenière while playing in a tougher league.  Pretty damn difficult to ignore that.  And on top of it, he plays one of the best 200-foot games of anyone in this draft.

Other Option: Jake Sanderson – This would be the need pick.  And frankly, this is the route I would take if I were running the Devils.  But I’m not, and they aren’t going to do things conventionally.  The biggest reason I would jump on Sanderson if I were them is that they likely won’t get a crack at a D-man at 18 or 20.  But as I laid out when speaking of Rossi, I understand why they’d be so high on him.  It’s not like I’m not either, it’s just that I worry it’s not the pick that makes them the best they can possibly be.

Possible Reach: Braden Schneider – For the same reasons I strongly believe they’ll want Rossi, I can’t see them liking Schneider much at all.  BUT…if you’re looking at the fit and the need, Schneider makes a lot of sense for them.

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8. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

SOH Rank: 7th

This is interesting.  I’m not sure people have the Sabres taking a D-man with this pick, and I didn’t think Sanderson would get down to this point in the draft (risers rise, and I really believed Sanderson would go higher than anyone expects).  Yet, here we are.  But potentially, this is one hell of a nice surprise for the Sabres.  Dahlin and Sanderson on the left side for the next decade or more sure wouldn’t suck, and this could be the perfect situation for Jake as all eyes would be on Dahlin and he would be allowed to simply grow his game under the radar.

Other Option: Yaroslav Askarov – This was the guy I had landing with the Sabres a lot before, and please don’t give me that they have Luukkonen coming.  A prospect goaltender is far from someone any team should be simply assuming is going to be a stud.  Askarov doesn’t fix their issues for now, but if I were running the Sabres, my goal would be to fix the netminding at every level this off-season, so I would take Askarov.  If he and Luukkonen both pan out, then you either have an amazing tandem or one hell of a trade chip to play.  Not exactly a bad thing.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – I’m not sure if he’s that much of a reach, but Lapierre going top 10 would definitely stun some people.  I’ve bumped him back to 11th now that his health seems to be fine, also a bit of that is the lack of quality true centres in this draft.  The Sabres badly need someone behind Eichel.  I heard someone say the other day that they have Cozens coming.  Cozens is going to be a winger, maybe do your homework before talking out your ass (whoever that was, I caught it on 960, though I don’t believe it was a local show).  Mittlestadt still COULD become that guy, but it sure doesn’t look like he’s going to be that guy.  Lapierre has a high offensive ceiling, but he also plays a very responsible game.  He could be that tough minutes guy they badly need since foolishly giving away Ryan O’Reilly.

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9. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

There he goes.  I shed a tear as an Oilers fan.  I actually might have been the first to bring him up for the Oilers, back when I did Eric Friesen’s “99 Forever” podcast back in the spring.  I could tell that Eric was not a fan of the idea!  But that’s ok, we’re allowed to have different opinions.  But I do believe I was the first to mention it, and it’s seemingly gained steam ever since to the point where it now sounds as though he is their target at 14 should he get there.  But the Wild take him in this scenario, as they badly need a netminder of the future as well.  Unless Guerin is just this stupid, it looks to me like he might be intentionally sabotaging things there so owner Craig Leipold is forced into a true rebuild.  There is no doubt that Leipold is trying hard to resist it, but there is no way someone looks at this roster and doesn’t see how badly they need to do it.  So while Guerin fights with that, it would be wise to stash away that tendy of the future while he attempts to tear it down without Leipold being aware.  Then, by the time Askarov comes to North America and is ready to play, the Wild will be embracing the rebuild, and a potential star netminder would really speed that process up.  I know, that’s very “conspiracy theor-ish” of me, but I actually buy it.  If that isn’t the case, the Wild are FUCKED with Guerin as GM, as he’s made some awful moves already this off-season.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – The next Mikko Koivu?  He could be.  And this organization badly needs centres.  And if Guerin isn’t actually trying to undermind Leipold and actually believes in the moves he’s making, then they’d likely love the idea of taking someone who can step right in next season.

Possible Reach: Rodion Amirov – Not a reach for a few people out there, but definitely one for McKenzie, and BIG TIME by my rankings!  But the Wild haven’t feared dealing with Russian prospects.

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10. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

SOH Rank: 12th

It just makes sense for so damn many reasons.  They’ve gone heavy with Fins.  They badly need centres.  They want a team that can play “heavy” which Lundell can.  And finally…he’ll step right in.  That last one shouldn’t matter, but it will.  It always does even though it shouldn’t.  He won’t step right onto their 2nd line as they crave, but he’ll step right in and likely perform very well in the Jets system.  It just feels like a perfect marriage.

Other Option: Ridly Greig – Most of the time he’d be a “possible reach” at 10.  There are a few reasons he’s not listed as that here.  A) risers go higher than expected, and Greig has been a riser this season.  B) the Jets aren’t afraid to be their own team, and it’s worked out for them.  Mark Scheifele was a stunner at 7th overall in 2011, worked out ok.  Josh Morrissey was pretty shocking at 13 in 2013, worked out ok.  C) you talk about someone fitting with an organization, Greig’s game screams “Winnipeg Jet”.  D) the guy as the “possible reach” is just too juicy not to talk about.

Possible Reach: Jack Finley – I know I had these guys in these spots on my last few mocks, but man it feels like the Jets could pull the trigger on one of Greig or Finley.  If it’s Finley, I’d hope they do a big move to trade back with maybe Ottawa or Vegas.  But Finley fits their team perfectly, and his dad is one of their scouts.  Most are sleeping on him.  I’m not, and I do think there is a real chance he goes in the 1st round because I believe if you truly scouted him this season then you know why he didn’t tear up the WHL.

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11. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 9th

I’d heavily consider looking at a D-man here.  But I believe the thing they’re going to fight right now is keeping their window open.  I believe it’s closed.  They’re capped out, they’re getting old, nobody is intimidated playing in their building like they once were, it’s done.  But Poile is near the end and is desperate to win a Cup, I highly doubt he wants someone like Guhle with an eye towards 3-4 years down the road (and realistically, 5-6 before Guhle really starts to pop).  So I’m projecting them taking the top offensive talent on the board and at this point I see that player being Raymond.  Falling to this point would be pretty stunning to see, but while I’ve maintained that risers go higher than expected, fallers go lower than expected.  I don’t agree with the logic as to why Raymond has fallen on a lot of boards this season, but he has.

Other Option: Kaiden Guhle – This fills the need for them.  They don’t have much coming for D-men, and Guhle needs three years in my opinion before he’s ready, which by that time would have him stepping in for a guy like Ekholm in all likelihood.  Some might think they’d prefer Schneider to Guhle, but they already have Fabbro so I can’t see that being the case.

Possible Reach: Lukas Reichel – Someone is going to pull the trigger on this kid before we expect it, and the Preds draft pretty damn well.  It wouldn’t be a reach for me, but would be for most.

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12. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

SOH Rank: 13th

Word is that the Panthers are looking to move some D-men this off-season.  Makes sense, they have some depth on that blueline.  But you shouldn’t be looking at what your current needs are when it comes to the draft, and need to look 3-4 years down the road.  When the Panthers do that, then they will hopefully realize their blueline is going to be trash if they don’t do something now.  Enter, Kaiden Guhle, who needs time to develop, but I really believe will be a home run of a pick if the team who drafts him takes their time and does it right.

Other Option: Braden Schneider – All last season with those who have watched the WHL, the debate raged on.  Guhle or Schneider?  I was in the Guhle camp from start to finish, nothing made me waver.  But it’s not lost on me that others see it the other way, and if you want a D-man in the 1st round, there are really only 4 guys teams in the top 20 are looking at.

Possible Reach: Helge Grans – Take your pick of Grans or Wallinder here.  Grans and Wallinder are the Guhle/Schneider of the Swedish D prospects in this draft.  Ask 30 people who they like better with either debate, and it’s likely to come back at 15 aside.  With Grans and Wallinder, both are big projects that a team should be ready to invest a lot of time and effort in developing.  The upside on both however is through the roof.

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13. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

SOH Rank: 20th

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  I have a tough time figuring out where the Canes will go with this pick.  Jeff Marek has said that Yaroslav Askarov will not get past this pick.  However, Marek is far from an insider and has a rather poor track record when it comes to definitive statements leading up to the draft (I love the guy, but it’s not pretty…such as the Avs are 100% going to take a D-man with the 10th pick in 2015).  Askarov is gone in this scenario though, so I go back to the analytical approach.  I just don’t think Holtz and Quinn will fall the way my rankings on them suggest.  I think they’ll fall further than most realize (NHL scouts realize what I have in that snipers are high risk), but they aren’t falling out of the top 15.  And Holtz makes more sense to a team like the Canes than most landing spots, where he’d be extremely well insulated and would be allowed to simply play his game.

Other Option: Jack Quinn – Same idea as Holtz, really no need to expand on it.

Possible Reach: Lukas Reichel – As I said about him earlier, this wouldn’t be a reach at all for me, but would be for most.  He’s a riser, and risers not only go higher than anyone expects them to, they have a terrific success rate.  Carolina is the type of shrewd organization who might realize this and jump on the chance to take him.

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14. Jack Quinn

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Justin Williams

SOH Rank: 19th

Barring the right player falling to this pick (Jarvis, Raymond, Askarov), I believe that Oilers fans should be preparing themselves for Ken Holland to trade back.  It just feels to me that after you get past certain players, it makes much more sense for them to trade back and look to recoup a pick or picks they’ve lost, and Ken Holland has a long history of trading back in the draft.  Bob Stauffer has mentioned Ottawa as a possibility, that makes a lot of sense but 28 might be too low for my liking unless you’re perhaps getting a couple of their 2nd rounders rather than just one.  Would Montreal want to jump to this spot using one of their 2nd rounders?  They shouldn’t pay that price, but Marc Bergevin has done far more dumb moves this off-season.  I’ll give you one that might make a lot of sense: Vegas.  Kelly McCrimmon needs a RHD.  Braden Schneider is not just a RHD, but ready to play.  Braden Schneider plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings, who until just recently were owned by McCrimmon.  The Vegas pick is even lower than the Sens at 29, and they don’t have a 2nd in this draft so the price would need to be stiff (maybe a 21 1st that is lottery protected and a 3rd in this draft), but that might make a lot of sense for both teams.  Having said all this, I don’t do trades in my mock drafts.  For me, I don’t like the idea of Quinn for the Oilers.  I know the logic.  “A sniper playing with McDavid or Draisaitl, let the good times roll!!!  Rah-rah Oilers fan boy up!!!”  Or whatever the kids are saying these days.  If the Oilers are to keep this pick with how I have things falling here, being an Oilers fan this is the way I would personally rank it for them with this pick: Lapierre, Reichel, Greig, Mercer, Wiesblatt (which is obviously the way I rank them).  I wouldn’t be pissed about Quinn, but I would have a sick/worried feeling.

Other Option: Ridly Greig – I could see the Oilers being in love with Greig.  Who the hell knows if they will be, but I believe fans in Oil country would adore this kid.  My comp on him is Brayden Schenn, though guys like Sam Bennett and Mike Richards also come to mind when watching Greig.  Whether he be developed as a centre or a winger, he’d bring a physical element along with a responsible two way game and an ability to score in multiple ways that would be huge for a team like the Oilers.

Possible Reach: Ozzy Wiesblatt – Much like with the Canes possibly looking at Reichel, this wouldn’t be a reach by my rankings, but it sure would according to McKenzie’s board as Bob has Wiesblatt at 40.  That seems insane to me, but Bob’s list is a consensus, not one solo opinion.  Anyway, Wiesblatt is less of a swiss army knife that Greig is, but more of a safe bet as a top six winger down the road.  Yet that’s not to suggest that Wiesblatt is pure skill and brings no other elements to the table.  My comp on him has been T.J. Oshie for a long time now, and T.J. Oshie plays a very well rounded game.

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15. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

SOH Rank: 11th

Originally Pittsburgh’s pick sent to Toronto in the Kasperi Kapanen trade.  Soooooo many people have this pick being Braden Schneider.  WHAT?!?!  I’m not going to say that won’t happen or make some crazy bet that I’ll do something absurd if they were to take Schneider, but I’d be stunned let’s put it that way.  Look, they need top four RHD on their current roster.  Schneider isn’t filling that role.  The way they draft isn’t going to change.  As much as the Leafs haven’t got over the hump yet, drafting a kid like Schneider isn’t at all the way they do things.  Hendrix Lapierre on the other hand makes a TON of sense to me.  If not for the injuries last season, he’d very likely be a slam dunk to go in the 1st round, perhaps as high as 5th overall.  And the Leafs aren’t set at centre moving forward.  So if Lapierre is still available, I believe he makes a lot of sense here.

Other Option: Ridly Greig – 2nd in a row for Greig being an “other option”.  While I can’t see the Leafs giving much love to his teammate, Greig on the other hand would give the Leafs a “grit” element while fitting the things they look for (speed, skill, upside).

Possible Reach: Luke Evangelista – This is the type of player who I could see the Leafs staff both knowing, and reaching on.  He’s interesting, and a riser, and playing for a junior organization who everyone trusts to properly develop their players.  Nothing of a need, but I could see the Leafs doing it.

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16. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

SOH Rank: 23rd

Looking at what the Habs have coming on D, this feels like a nice fit.  It also feels like it’s a nice fit with how Trevor Timmins drafts.  There is no doubt that when it comes to the draft, Timmins is in full control for the Habs.  A bit overrated in my opinion, but few head scouts get more attention.  Weber is 35, Petry is about to turn 33, and the best kid they have coming on the right side is perhaps Josh Brook?  Maybe still Noah Juulsen?  But no certainty’s.  I know some Habs fans will be irate at this idea with how many D they have in the system who have good early returns, but no sure things and definitely no sure things on the right side.

Other Option: Dylan Holloway – The hunch here is likely obvious to Habs fans and draft fans, which would be that they saw a lot of him this season.  Holloway flat out scares me, I see him having a very big ceiling but worry that he’s only a top-nine winger.  But it isn’t as if the ceiling is lost on me.

Possible Reach: Justin Barron – This just barely qualifies for a reach according to McKenzie’s rankings, yet it would be for me as I have him 39th.  Still, I do find myself wondering sometimes why Barron isn’t ranked right there with Braden Schneider.  With Schneider, it feels as though people say “he’s likely a top-four D-man!!!”  And with Barron, the same people say “he might only be a number four D-man *cue the Debbie Downer sound*”.  The Habs may know Barron better than most.

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17. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

SOH Rank: 14th

I can’t see him lasting until this pick.  I truly believe that Reichel is a guy who will go much earlier than we expect.  No lie, I think he can go as high as 6th.  And I know that seems crazy, but risers go higher than anyone expects them to, and they have a crazy good track record.  So I’d be pretty stunned if he is around by this pick, but if he were, he fits the Hawks perfectly.  The way the Hawks have drafted over the last few seasons has been to simply take who they deem to be the top offensive talents on the board.  They also place an extremely high value on playmakers, which Reichel is one.

Other Option: Dawson Mercer – Most would have him going ahead of Reichel, but do I really need to lay out why I think Reichel is going to stun people in this draft AGAIN?!  Mercer does fit with the way the Hawks draft though.

Possible Reach: Mavrik Bourque – Not my most imaginative “possible reach”, as I have Bourque 24, McKenzie has him 26th, and I don’t think it’d be much of a stunner to see him go in this range.  But having said that, it probably is a little early for him, and he’d fit the Hawks style.

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18. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Hoffman

SOH Rank: 31st

Originally Arizona’s pick sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade.  It’s not what I would do here, but I believe it is the type of move the Devils will look to make as they become more analytics heavy.  Perreault has a boatload of talent, but a questionable motor.  At this point in the draft, I don’t believe that will be an issue for the Devils.

Other Option: Dawson Mercer – It might actually make more sense given the scenario here.  They pick 18th and 20th, with the Flames in between.  Mercer would in my mind be much more of a threat to be snagged by the Flames than Perreault, so perhaps they take Mercer while they can and rely on the Flames to pass on Perreault?  Mercer also fits very well with what I believe the Devils are going to do (as long as they don’t trade out of these later picks).

Possible Reach: Victor Persson – I could say several different RHD in this spot, but I chose the player who I have a late 1st round grade on (at least for this draft).  Persson has good size, is a terrific skater, can really move the puck, and has a lot of raw upside.

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19. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

SOH Rank: 15th

Another riser in the draft who quite frankly I will be surprised if he lasts this long, even though most would see him even going 19th being pretty high.  Are the Flames over it yet?  “It” being the desire to get tougher.  If you asked me this in March, I’d say no.  If you asked me this on July 31st after watching them play the Oilers, I’d say no.  But it felt like as the playoffs got going that they went from a team that was desperate to prove how tough they were, to being a tough team.  I think that series vs Winnipeg helped them grow an inch or two frankly.  Had the Jets been at full strength, they wouldn’t have won that way, but the Jets weren’t at full strength and the Flames were able to win that way, and in the process seemingly got tough.  Even if they took Greig with this pick though, I more so believe he’d fit the mold of how they should be continuing to build rather than Treliving and company having a desperate need to make soft players tougher anyway they can.  This organization lacks a superstar, and as long as they avoid a full on rebuild, it is highly unlikely they’ll land one.  So they need to build similar to how the Blues and Stars have been built.  Greig couldn’t fit that mold any better.

Other Option: Dawson Mercer – They went to the “Q well” last season when they took Jakob Pelletier.  Mercer wouldn’t be selected here for that reason though.  It would be much more to do with being a RWer they’ve craved, having the speed which they need more of, and being very close to NHL ready (if he’s not already).

Possible Reach: Ozzy Wiesblatt – Same guy as I had the Oilers “possibly reaching” on.  Again, not at all a reach for me, but would be for most.  The Flames would know him VERY well, and he fits positionally with what they’ve craved which is a top six RW.

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20. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Eberle

SOH Rank: 17th

Originally Vancouver’s pick sent to Tampa Bay in the J.T. Miller trade, then sent to New Jersey in the Blake Coleman trade.  Well, I’ve flirted with Mercer going for a few picks now, so I say the Devils finally pull the trigger at 20.  The more I think about it, the more I believe if faced with the scenario, it’s probably more likely that they’d take Mercer at 18 and chance that the Flames won’t take Perreault, but chances of my mock draft being perfect up until the 18th pick are pretty damn slim!!  Mercer like Perreault fits with the philosophy that I believe the Devils will subscribe to moving forward when drafting.  I said it in my write-up on him in my top 64, he’s one of the safest picks in the draft, definitely the safest of kids projected to go after the top 10.

Other Option: Rodion Amirov – I only have him 30th in my rankings, but this is right in the neighborhood of where McKenzie has him.  The problem is that I don’t know how a Russian prospect might be viewed by an analytics heavy organization.  Would make sense though, a ton of talent just like Perreault.

Possible Reach: Michael Benning – I can’t go with the same guy I used at 18, so I’m changing it up here.  Benning fills a need, but much more important than that if you go strictly by the numbers (which I’m not suggesting the Devils will do, just that they’ll put more stock into that than most), Benning should be a mid-late 1st round pick.  This kid equaled Cale Makar’s production in the AJHL not just last season, but the previous season as well.  He wasn’t playing on any better of a team than Makar in either season, his numbers weren’t inflated in anyway, he simply matched that production.  As much as most don’t see him going until the late 2nd/early 3rd range, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see a team step up and grab him in the 1st round.

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21. William Wallinder

Team: MODO Hockey J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rasmus Ristolainen

SOH Rank: 36th

I would not do this.  I wouldn’t touch Wallinder until the 2nd round, as I just believe that too much development time is needed.  Back in 2018, I was sky high on Serron Noel.  But what I missed (and it hit me immediately following the draft) was that the time Noel needed to develop would burn his ELC.  That’s a big deal, and I believe it’s the same deal with Wallinder.  But, someone is going to fall in love with his ceiling and want to jump on him while they can.  So I have the Jackets being that team, who are able to maintain their success thanks to a rock-solid and perhaps underrated blueline.  That blueline has nothing on the way, so Wallinder really fits.

Other Option: Rodion Amirov – He is going to go higher than where I’d take him, and I’m going to have trouble finding that landing spot.  Columbus would make sense for him though.

Possible Reach: Luke Evangelista – They not only took one of 2018’s sexiest risers earlier than anyone imagined (Liam Foudy), but because of taking Foudy they’d probably know Evangelista very well.  Maybe I’m going overboard with Evangelista, as I have him 28th, but Bob has him 50th.  But again…risers go higher than anyone ever expects them to.  For example, I had Foudy 20th in my final mock draft in 2018.  That was purposely higher than anyone else had him going, because…again…risers go higher than expected.  And even then, the riser STILL went higher than expected!

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22. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Roope Hintz

SOH Rank: 16th

Originally Carolina’s pick sent to the NY Rangers in the Brady Skeji trade.  I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but I just feel as though this is going to happen.  It’s not because of the Kreider comp, that’s just a coincidence.  It’s a bit because of need (they should now be taking every possible centre they can find if Lafrenière won’t make the move to the middle long term).  It’s a bit because of knowledge, given that they would have seen him a lot this season while watching 2018 1st rounder K’Andre Miller.  But there is something else, and I can’t figure out what in the bloody fuck it is, but it just feels to me like this is where they’ll go with this pick should Holloway still be on the board.  Now that I’ve said it out loud, you SO know it won’t happen.

Other Option: Rodion Amirov – He’s likely going to be an “other option” a lot as I go on now.  Nothing of a need, but around this area teams might start viewing him as too good to pass on.  And we know they don’t have a fear of Russian’s that others will.

Possible Reach: Marat Khusnutdinov – You want a centre late in the 1st who could become a guy that most don’t see coming, that guy could be Khusnutdinov.  My comp is Datsyuk.  By no means am I suggesting that he’s going to be Datsyuk, but not every undersized centre can be either Aho or Point.  This kid though has that kind of game.  Wouldn’t be a reach for me as I have him in this range and am a massive fan, but Bob has him 35th and most don’t have him near the 1st round.

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23. Mavrik Bourque

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Kevin Fiala

SOH Rank: 24th

Back to the QMJHL well I have the Flyers going again!  It hasn’t been that frequent over the years to be honest, it’s just that they seem to have great success drafting out of the Q.  Add to that, they could use some pure skill in their system.  I really like Bourque.  He’s not overly “dynamic” which most scouts really seem to crave, but the word I like to use for him is crafty.  He’s an extremely intelligent player, specifically in the offensive zone.  That’ll serve him well as he makes the jump to pro hockey.  I could see him being a kid who will find pro hockey even easier in a sense.  Why?  Because he’ll play with more players who can think the game like he can.

Other Option: Brendan Brisson – They’ve shown a love for the USHL in the last few seasons.  8 picks in the last two drafts of either USHL or US high school kids!  8 of 15 picks!  So watch for the Flyers to do that again, and Brisson at this point in the draft wouldn’t be much of a reach.

Possible Reach: Jérémie Poirier – Someone just might do this.  I wouldn’t, I think it’s dumb, I think he’s never going to learn, but someone might.  And if that Q connection still exists in Philly, then perhaps they make sense?

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24. Luke Evangelista

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Artturi Lehkonen

SOH Rank: 29th

A few years ago people loved the idea of the Caps taking a London Knight because of the connections to specifically Dale Hunter, and it never happened.  Last year, people slept on that idea, and the Caps took Connor McMichael who was a mother fucking home run where they got him.  I’m saying they go back to the well and grab Evangelista here, which would be a pretty stunning pick for most, but for the 9 millionth time in this mock draft I’m going to point it out, risers go higher than expected and Evangelista was a riser this season who is likely to take one hell of a jump this season as most Knights do in their 18 year old season.

Other Option: Rodion Amirov – I think most would simply assume they’d go here, and they easily could.  We know how the Ovechkin factor has been MASSIVE for this organization in not only drawing the top Russian talent, but getting the most out of those players.  It’s a tough call for me between their London connection and their Russian connection.  Either make a lot of sense.

Possible Reach: Jack Finley – Not for me, but it would be for everyone else.  I believe you’ll see this a few more times before I’m done this.  But the Caps love the WHL, and they love size as much as any team in the league.  I really believe in Finley though, and have a feeling a team will see it similarly.

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25. Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Connor

SOH Rank: 32nd

It’s a bit of an unconventional landing spot for him quite frankly, but I have a hunch that the Avs might get away from the way they normally draft here and take a home run hack.  That would be Amirov.  You talk about loaded, the Avs are freaking loaded.  This was a legitimate Cup threat this season that still had two of the best prospects in the game (Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook) in the system.  They don’t need to play this one safe, they can go for it.  So when I think of that, I think of a guy like Amirov, Perreault if he’s still around, Noel Gunler, or maybe even a guy like Tyson Forester who doesn’t fit with them at all but perhaps the logic would be if they can improve his skating enough they could have a hell of a player on their hands.

Other Option: Jan Mysak – I think this could make some sense, mainly because Mysak is a wild card to play the middle, and the Avs LOVE that.  If you’ve noticed, the Avs have taken a ton of centres over the years, knowing that they can always play the wing.  Add to this, Mysak definitely has top-six upside to help compliment the stars they already have.

Possible Reach: Ty Smilanic – Massively off the board for my liking, as Smilanic was the last player on my top 64.  But he does check some boxes that the Avs look at (speed, ability to play the middle), on top of the fact that he’s a local, but those are the main reasons I believe they’d maybe go here.

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26. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

SOH Rank: 26th

This is a bit like Holloway at 22 to the Rangers.  I can’t explain why I feel this way, but I just feel as though Zary to the Blues feels like it’ll happen.  I don’t believe most see Zary the same way I do, but the Blues draft extremely well and likely do see him that way, which is as a safe, reliable, 3C who can put up 30-40 points a season while taking on a lot of tough minutes.  And that’s how the Blues win is having a plethora of guys who can take on those tough minutes.

Other Option: Jake Neighbours – I can’t put my finger on why, but Neighbours is yet another guy who I have the feeling about, and it’s also with the Blues.  Heavy winger who can do multiple things, he fits.  It’s odd though, they aren’t big on WHL kids (only have taken one in the last three drafts), yet I really seem to like them taking a dub kid here.

Possible Reach: Jack Finley – I told you he’d be back.  His dad spent his final six seasons with the Blues, so this organization would likely know Jack very well, and he fits perfectly with the style they love to play.  I’ve said this a lot this season, but one more time…I just can’t find one reason to like Zary more than Finley as a prospect.  Yet I’m on an island with that opinion.

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27. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

SOH Rank: 18th

Originally Boston’s pick sent to Anaheim in the Ondrej Kase trade.  I believe I had this last time and I simply won’t move off this point.  Despite McKenzie having Wiesblatt 40th, I believe he’s going to go in the 1st round, and if he doesn’t it’s ridiculous.  I don’t see any reason for anyone to have him ranked out of their 1st round.  Not having him as highly ranked as I do, that’s fine, perfectly understandable.  And it’s not like Jack Finley for me, who I love WAY more than most and know that I’m going out on a limb with him.  I don’t feel I’m going out on any kind of limb with Wiesblatt.  He does everything very well, while having a terrific motor, very good skating ability, high offensive upside, and even the size is fine.  There isn’t anything that teams should dislike.  And I believe the Ducks will recognize this.  There aren’t the connections here that there are with Guhle and the Ducks, but they know the P.A. Raiders organization very well and therefore will know everything they need to on Wiesblatt.

Other Option: John-Jason Peterka – You talk about not having a good feel for where a player could land, this is me with Peterka.  I feel as though most have soured on him as the process has worn on, seeing him as more of a Michael Frolik type than anything more than that.  Still, this would make some sense as it’s likely the Ducks just look to make a solid pick here rather than hit a grand slam.

Possible Reach: Ronan Seeley – I don’t feel great about them not taking a D-man with either of their picks I must admit.  I know they like what they have on D at the moment, but you need to keep some bullets in the chamber.  They know the WHL pretty well, and if you know the WHL well then you likely know that one of the dub’s best kept secrets is Ronan Seeley.  Teams are going to kick themselves for missing on this kid.  He wouldn’t be a reach for me, I have him ranked 26th.

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28. Tyler Kleven

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Jack Johnson

SOH Rank: 58th

Originally the NY Islanders pick sent to Ottawa in the J.G. Pageau trade.  Tough to say as trades don’t happen much in the draft anymore, but I would have to think it’d be pretty damn tempting for Pierre Dorion to package this pick with 33, 51, and 58 or something along those lines and see how much higher you could get in the draft.  I think there is an outside chance that Minny would do it (though 9 to 28 is quite the move back), Winnipeg might (though again, 10 to 28 is a lot), I could definitely see the Oilers doing something with the Sens, and though I highly doubt they’d deal with each other…the Leafs would likely be willing to move back too.  But again, no trades in my mocks, so the Sens are up, and I think Kleven is a kid they’d be big fans of.  Continue to build up the blueline, and they have taken a lot of kids out of the development program and the USHL in general over the years as I mentioned earlier when speaking of the possibility of Sanderson to them.  I also like Kleven for them because they don’t have a guy coming who can be the muscle in their own zone.  Definitely not the need it once was, but you still need one or two of those guys on your blueline.

Other Option: Justin Barron – All depends on what they do at 5.  We know at 3 it’s the guy the Kings don’t take at 2 (nice spot to be in).  But they could go in multiple directions with that pick, and if they don’t take (or can’t take) Drysdale with that pick, I believe the door would then be wide open for Barron, Helge Grans, Topi Niemelä, or even someone like Michael Benning would make some sense.

Possible Reach: Joni Jurmo – For me, Kleven was a reach being ranked 58th, but not for McKenzie who has him at 36th.  Jurmo on the other hand would be a pretty big reach, who both I and Bob have 60th (I just copied Bob’s list as I always do…)  A huge reach at 28, but someone who has great size, and is one of the best skaters in this draft, so there are some tools to work with and develop.

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29. Helge Grans

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

SOH Rank: 35th

9 millionth and 1st time I’m saying this now?  I’ve lost count.  Anyway, I don’t do trades in my mock.  But watch for this one that I’m not hearing anyone talking about.  They need a RHD.  They’re up against the cap.  Kelly McCrimmon just sold which WHL franchise?  And they have a defenceman who I have going at 16 to Montreal.  He’s NHL ready, he’s a RHD, watch for the Golden Knights to throw caution to the wind and do everything they can to do a deal to jump up and take Schneider.  No idea whether or not they get it done, but a deal with the Oilers for 14 (trigger wouldn’t be pulled unless it falls right for both teams) makes a lot of sense for both.  For those currently screaming that Vegas doesn’t have a 2nd, you’re right.  So they’d need to overpay a bit.  How about a 3rd rounder in this draft (recoups the Oilers 3rd for Neal), and the Golden Knights 2021 1st (lottery protected)?  That recoups two of the four picks the Oilers have lost in the next two drafts, and the Golden Knights get their guy.  But that’s not happening here, so the Golden Knights instead turn to project Helge Grans, so at least they would then have a RHD in their system.

Other Option: Topi Niemelä – Exact same idea as Grans would be, or a trade up for Schneider would be.

Possible Reach: Eamon Powell – Powell would be a reach for sure.  59th for me, 70th for McKenzie.  And not much flash with this kid.  But he plays a super safe and responsible game.  Great skater and can move it well.  Again, RHD just like Grans and Niemelä.  Just too tough to imagine them not addressing it, both on the big club, and in the system.

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30. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

SOH Rank: 52nd

I just can’t shake this feeling.  It’s very similar to Holloway to the Rangers, and Zary to the Blues.  There is something about Foerster that I believe the Stars will love.  Maybe it’s the size?  Maybe it’s the James Neal comp and the fact that they drafted Neal?  Maybe it’s just simply that I believe they’ll take the top offensive talent who fits their system on the board?  I don’t know.  I just know that I like this fit a lot.

Other Option: Noel Gunler – Basically the exact same idea as Foerster, just think that Forester would be more likely their guy than Gunler.

Possible Reach: Will Cuylle – Again, extremely similar idea, but the difference with Cuylle is that this would be an amazing pick 12 months ago.  The problem is that he had an awful season.  He still has many intrigued however, as he hasn’t lost the size, skating ability, or shot that got him on the map.

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31. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Nate Schmidt

SOH Rank: 39th

Originally Tampa Bay’s pick sent to San Jose in the Barclay Goodrow trade.  Back when I was a kid, Doug Wilson was one of the best GM’s in the game.  Then he decided he wanted to “go for it”.  Go for what exactly, I’m not sure.  Because in my opinion, when a team “goes for it”, it is normally to get a player that is virtually unattainable for you, but you know that if you land that player it’ll be the piece you need to win.  What it’s not is adding a redundant piece for your team who is a year away from free agency and has never been the same since suffering a terrible ankle injury.  I also didn’t think it meant then doubling down and giving that player an all-time horrendous contract that cripples your team instantly.  But hey, what do I know?  Anyway, full credit to DW who fetched a 1st round pick for 4th liner Barclay Goodrow.  I say Barron here, but they could go anywhere, as they need everything.

Other Option: Jérémie Poirier – They would.  They did it with Merkley, so they’re stupid enough to relive history.  At least this time they wouldn’t be picking a kid who was once described to me as “a fucking whack job” by someone who roomed with him once upon a time.  Good Gord this organization is a mess.

Possible Reach: Jean-Luc Foudy – No real reason for this, just could see them trying to hit a grand slam out of desperation, and Foudy is very much so a boom or bust pick.  GOOD GORD THIS ORGANIZATION IS A MESS!!!

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2020 NHL Draft: Shots Fired

Anyone who hasn’t read my stuff or listened to my podcast will believe me when I say that this piece was started on July 3rd.  I have the proof on the page I’m currently typing on (every time I make adjustments it records the date and time), but there is no chance that after the Tampa Bay Lightning just won the Cup minus Steven Stamkos that people will believe that this has been my opinion for a long time now and that I was in the process of writing a piece like this.  So believe what you want, I can’t waste time arguing with anyone who calls me a liar.  I know I’m not, I know the inspiration to write this was seeing scouts and “scouts”…drool over all the kids with big shots in this draft class.

This really doesn’t have to go under the 2020 draft heading, it can be used for any of them.  But as I’m going hard doing my final list for the 2020 draft, and simultaneously doing my 2021 rankings as well, I’m reminded a ton of something that bothers me with how others view and grade prospects.  It bothers me because I flat out do not get how so many people get caught up in it, and it’s a players shot.  This draft in particular is loaded with guys who have a big shot, and all I’m hearing about with a lot of these kids is how great their shot is.  Last year this was all I heard about with Cole Caufield is look at his shot.  To say this logic is flawed…is a MASSIVE understatement.

So I thought I would dig into it a little deeper.  There is nothing analytical about this piece.  As much as I wish I could be a numbers guy, and as much as I like looking at them, I’m not the guy to talk them.  What I did here is basically took a look back at what I had written and others had written over the last decade with these players.  Snipers, shoot first, big shot, the type of player that frankly I’ve always found to be very overrated in the NHL.  Those type of players might get overrated in the NHL, but from what I saw after taking a deeper dive into things, these players should have teams running as far away from them as they possibly can in the 1st round of the draft.

I’ll go through the last decade of guys like that in the 1st round, but before I begin, please don’t forget to:

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2010

Brett Connolly – “Had he not been hurt most of this season, he would have been right there with Hall and Seguin fighting to be the top pick.”  I’m paraphrasing here, but that is essentially what was said at the time.  Funny thing is, I’m a huge fan of Brett Connolly these days.  But the reason I am is that he added to his game after appearing to be a bust.  It took him a long time to figure it all out.  And even though he did, he still has never been a guy who you’d want to spend the 6th overall pick in a draft on.

 

2011

Matt Puempel – He was the best example I could find.  Truthfully, and maybe not surprisingly given how that draft ended up being much better than people believed at the time, there weren’t many pure wingers taken in the 1st round of the 2011 draft.  But Puempel was, and scouts who liked him really loved his shot despite concerns about his skating, playmaking, and play away from the puck.  Puempel has 11 goals, 16 points in 87 career NHL games.

 

2012

Nail Yakupov – I can’t stick my chest out and claim that “I called this”.  I wish I could because I had major concerns about Yakupov.  I hated what I saw at the 2012 WJC, it was an awful draft year where guys who may have contended for the top pick like Alex Galchenyuk and Morgan Rielly ended up missing most of the season, and it was almost as if Yakupov remained the top pick through that season by default.  I CAN admit that on the day of the draft when rumours were all over the place that the Oilers were going to take Ryan Murray 1st overall, I was excited as I felt he would make the Oilers better than Yakupov would.  But they didn’t, and while drafting Murray wouldn’t have made a BIG difference, it would have been better.  Yak had no vision, awful foot speed, and lacked the hockey IQ needed to play the game he wanted to play.  On top of this, the word was that he never wanted to work on his weaknesses, only his strengths.

 

2013

Anthony Mantha – The big issue that people had with Mantha in his draft year (if I recalled correctly) is that he was so big, but so soft.  He had a lot of Dany Heatley comps going into that draft, and if you’re getting a Dany Heatley comp, you must have a pretty good shot.  Mantha has worked out fine.  He hasn’t exceeded expectations, but he’s met them.  The thing with Mantha is he’s a terrific skater and a big kid as well, so there was a lot to work with in terms of development.  If Mantha were in this draft, I wonder how much different he’d be viewed?  At the time, the knock was that he was soft, not that he was a one-dimensional player.  He wouldn’t be considered soft today though given how much the game has changed since 2013 when the Kings were in the midst of their run and the Bruins had just gone to their second final in three seasons.  That size, that speed, and a big shot…I believe scouts would have him 4th, right behind the big trio.

 

2014

Michael Dal Colle – Not the pure sniper type that others listed here were considered to be.  But Dal Colle still had that reputation of being a big shot/sniper type winger.  He appears to be scraping together a career after spending the better part of the last four seasons in the AHL.  But for the 5th overall pick in the draft (the consensus 5th overall pick), he has been a major disappointment to this point.

 

2015

Denis Gurianov – It wasn’t JUST the shot with Gurianov.  People loved his size, and loved his skating.  But the big thing people loved was his shot.  He finally emerged this season after struggling to find his way in North America for a few seasons.  Jury is still out I’d say, but given how good that draft was and that Gurianov still doesn’t look like he brings much else to the table other than speed and a shot, not sure he was worth a top 12 pick.

Brock Boeser – I’ll likely be accused of fabricating things here to help my narrative, but I honestly didn’t hear much about Boeser’s shot.  I heard about how he’s a scorer, but Boeser to me was closer to what James Van Riemsdyk is where he had terrific hands and while he was a goal scorer, he was doing it in multiple ways.  In fact, this is what I had for a write-up on Boeser in 2015, the first season I did a top prospects list.

“He scores.  He’ll get his nose dirty to score in front of the net (as pictured), he can score off the rush, he can score off the wall on the PP, he’s just a scorer.”

But even if the narrative was/is that he’s a sniper, while he’s panned out, who was the first player we’ve heard about possibly being dangled as soon as the new CBA was done?  Boeser.  Since his rookie season, his game has flatlined.

 

2016

Patrik Laine – He was getting Ovechkin comparisons entering the draft.  But the other thing to point out here is that Laine…while he’s no bust…he’s a bit of a disappointment.  Not overly, but there is a reason that the Jets have been looking to move him the last few off-seasons.  He’s capable of being the top winger in the game given his size and skating ability.  But the truth is that most nights he floats and just looks to score and do nothing else.

Kieffer Bellows – I was never too high on Kieffer Bellows, and to this point I’m not sure there is much of a player here.  His AHL numbers haven’t looked too good, he did have two goals and an assist in 8 games with the Isles this season, so not bad for your first 8 games in the show.  But he’s the type of player who is unlikely to ever be a checker.  If he’s not filling the stat sheet, he’s not doing much else for your team.  Not at all to say he should be written off though.  I would have said the same thing about Brett Connolly around 2016.  Lots of time for Bellows to figure it out.

 

2017

Owen Tippett – This was where it all started for me.  2017 draft is when I basically transitioned from doing my own prospect list once a year just to accompany my mock draft to taking it much more seriously.  And when I did, I found myself asking why people loved Owen Tippett so much?  He’s actually progressed ok.  And as I’m going to say a lot here, it isn’t as if I was suggesting he shouldn’t be a 1st round pick.  I ranked him 17th (in my 4th tier), but others had him in their top 10 all season and never really budged off that.  This is what I wrote going into the 2017 draft.

“I just don’t understand the love in for Tippett, and am starting to see more scouts see it this way.  Don’t in anyway confuse that for me not liking him, but I prefer mutli dimensional players and he in no way projects to be that.  He’s a lot like Kieffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did.  Speed, top two shot with Eeli Tolvanen in the draft, and decent size.  For the right team, I think he’d be a great addition.  But I’ve made this point the last few years and I’ll make it again.  Snipers are a luxury, not a necessity.  Teams picking high in the draft are building a house and they need to make sure they have the foundation poured and a roof on over their heads before they start building the kick ass man cave.”

Eeli Tolvanen – I brought up Corey Pronnman’s name A LOT when I was looking at Tolvanen, because he loved him (I believe he had him 4th in his rankings) and I just didn’t get it (I had him 23rd, 5th tier).  In fairness to Pronnman though, he wrote a piece earlier this year talking about his mistakes he’s made over the years when he’s scouted players, and that wins BIG points with me.  I’m not afraid to tell anyone when I was wrong, and I wish more people doing this had thick enough skin to be the same way.  Anyway, I didn’t see it with Tolvanen.  I liked him as a 1st round pick, but wasn’t getting carried away.  I was stunned he fell all the way to 30th though!  Here’s what I said at the time:

“A winger who if he isn’t scoring, isn’t contributing anything, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, I just see a player of this ilk as an easy piece to acquire.  A pure sniper with a tremendous shot, it’s a sexy type of player.  But something that I try to consider in a draft is a players stock value.  Tolvanen could easily end up having better career point totals than some, maybe even a lot of the forwards I have ahead of him.  A 5’10, one dimensional winger isn’t exactly a tough find in the NHL.  You can find this type of player for cheap in free agency, and they’re always available at the trade deadline.  Centres, defencemen, wingers with size, these guys are difficult to find.  So while the bust rate might be lower on a guy like Tolvanen, the impact they actually have on a team is limited and should things go South they have virtually zero trade value.  At least when considering a player like Tippett, he has decent size and great speed to go with that big shot.  Something else I’ve read on Tolvanen is that he didn’t interview well at the combine.”

 

2018

Oliver Wahlstrom – The “big shot” crowd broke me on Wahlstrom in 2018 and I’ve looked like a fool since.  I stood my ground on him for a long time.  This kid had a ton of skill, but what he brings to the table doesn’t translate.  But I snapped doing my final rankings that season and ranked him 7th.  There was a difference with Wahlstrom.  He wasn’t just a shot, he’s a VERY talented kid.  But people adored his shot and believed he could become a tremendous sniper.  It’s FAR from over for Wahlstrom, so don’t get this too twisted.  I’m not writing any of these kids off.  But so far, Wahlstrom hasn’t been the prospect most believed he was pre-draft.

 

2019

Cole Caufield – Which brings me to the latest in this series, and the one I’ve taken the most flack for.  Why have I taken the most flack for it?  Because I believe people can’t park their fandom at the door when watching this kid play.  You fall in love with how fun he is to watch.  He’s tiny, he works his ass off, he’s fearless, and that shot is mesmerizing.  So it felt like it became this game last season of “who can rank him the highest”.  But when I looked at him I made a decision to put the scout cap on.  The size was probably the last issue I had with Caufield.  The speed for a kid that size was probably the first issue I had though.  Then I found the assist totals to be alarming.  I’ve never seen a kid drafted with that kind of lopsided ratio of goals to assists who made the NHL.  Also, his play away from the puck left a lot to be desired for me.  So I had him 16th in my rankings.  Again, 16th isn’t 116th, but it may as well be to some.  “Try hard not to offend, try harder to not be offended.”

 

So, what is the common thread here?  It’s not that none of them have panned out.  But what I have found is that Brock Boeser is the only guy who has truly met his potential.  Laine is very close and I’d never suggest that he’s even a disappointment of a pick, but he hasn’t met his potential.  Also, it isn’t fair to judge guys like Tippett, Tolvanen, Wahlstrom or Caufield at this point.  Hell, Caufield hasn’t even played a game in pro hockey yet!  So we’ll see with those four.  But there is a very consistent theme here with most of these players that they are getting drastically overrated in their draft years.

Which brings us to this draft.  This upcoming draft is the KING of the “big shot” prospect.

Alexander Holtz

Jack Quinn

Jacob Perreault

Noel Gunler

Tyson Foerster

Brendan Brisson

All of these kids are getting a lot of love heading into this draft, mainly because they can shoot the puck.  Buyer beware.  Especially on Alexander Holtz.  There is a LOT to dislike in that kid’s game in terms of how translatable it is.  His skating is ok but needs work, his puck management needs work, he plays on the perimeter far too much, and he’s pretty bad away from the puck.  I read somewhere that he “loves to score goals”.  I think these days when we as hockey fans hear or read that, we think (consciously or sub-consciously) “that’s like Ovechkin!”  But we maybe forget with so many of these players that Ovechkin was (still is) a 6’2, 220lbs power forward who can fly.  That’s not Alexander Holtz.  Holtz is a kid with a terrific shot, but he doesn’t really bring anything else to the table.  So I’m not sure the ceiling is what people believe it is, and the floor is pretty low.

As I often say with all these types of players though, it completely depends on the landing spot.  Last season, had the Oilers taken Cole Caufield 8th, I would have liked the pick because they have the type of centres a player like that needs to thrive.  If Holtz were to be drafted by let’s say the Oilers (not because it’s my team, but some of the other teams who are set down the middle don’t have 1st rounders), I think he’d be a home run.  If a team like Anaheim, Minnesota, or Nashville takes him though, I’m not sure how he’ll do because none of those teams have that stud centre who he can live off of.

Every year these types of players get big love in the draft, but the juice is so rarely worth the squeeze.  I’ve said it a million times before, give me playmakers all day.  Playmakers can play with other playmakers, shooters can’t play with other shooters.  Playmakers can learn to become snipers, but snipers can’t learn how to become playmakers.  Teams don’t need snipers to win as we just saw with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They lost their big sniper and really didn’t skip a beat.  As I said in my write-up on Owen Tippett from 2017, it’s a luxury.  I’d love a Ferrari, but to live on the Canadian prairies, I need a truck.  That Ferrari won’t help me much in the middle of winter driving down a gravel road.  It isn’t to say that you can’t draft these types of players.  You absolutely can.  But you better have the rest of your needs taken care of, or else it better be at a point of the draft where the value is just too good to pass up.  Because as I just laid out, most of these types of players aren’t worth where they’re being drafted.

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 64 (Updated)

I did what I said I wasn’t going to do…sort of.  Not many changes to this list from what I had called my final list back in early July.  But I couldn’t go into the draft on Tuesday with a list that was covered in dust, despite most of these kids having not seen the ice since that time.  So, it is a new list, but there really weren’t a lot of changes to it, nor did I feel a need to do so.  Most of this write-up (even the opening past this paragraph) is the same as that piece.  There are likely a lot of parts that I missed where I needed to update what I have written, but this is over 11,000 words and I just worked 12 hours a day for 29 of the last 31 days with a new mock draft, podcast or two, one or two more blogs to get to before I go jump on a combine.  Excuse me if I refer to a players performance last season as “this season” a few times.

Something that I got away from this season, and had to remind myself of a lot as this season progressed…I’m not a scout.  Now, I believe that most people who do this independently aren’t scouts either despite what they’ll say.  We can have our lists, and that’s fine, but we (I say we, not they) need to quit this fucked narrative on twitter specifically where we’re all talking as if we are.  No, we aren’t.  If you’re being paid by someone, AND going to games, AND talking to the players you’re scouting, then you’re a scout.  If you aren’t, you’re not.  So much of what goes into this is getting to know the players themselves to get a better feel for players character and finding any red flags.

This draft is interesting.  You’ll see some guys claiming it’s one of the best they’ve ever seen and others who say it’s one of the most overrated they’ve ever seen.  I believe there are a few reasons for this.  1) I think some see a good draft as what the top of the draft is, which this is an excellent top of the draft, extremely top-heavy.  2) this draft is full of guys who independent/internet/twitter scouts adore.  I see a ton of wingers in this draft who’ll make someone like myself look stupid because if they get the right situation, they’re going to thrive.  The guy I keep feeling guilty about is Tristen Robins as some whose opinions I respect (Black Book, SPR) love him much more than I do.  But the fact of the matter is that I feel the same way about Robins as I do about most kids in the 14-60 (yes that wide of a gap) range.  It was the same way for me last season with Caufield as to why I was more down on Caufield than most.  These kids have to go to the right situations.  If they do, they’ll thrive.  I worry that Caufield didn’t, given the Habs lack of talent in the middle right now.  Conversely, if the Oilers took him with the 8th pick last season, it would have made a ton of sense because the Oilers have two stud centres who can do the heavy lifting.  Robins is a kid who can thrive if he’s in the right situation, but you can say the same for Wiesblatt, McClennon, Hanas, Sourdif, Savoie, etc and that’s just listing kids from the West!

There are just so damn many of THAT kind of player in this draft, which makes this draft very similar to the 2014 draft.  That draft had a clear cut top four (which this draft is probably more of a top three with all three guys better prospects than all of those top four were) and then is flooded with those complimentary wingers who probably need big-time centres playing with them to max out as players.  In 2014, David Pastrnak was all over the map on guys rankings.  So was Kasperi Kapanen.  So was Sonny Milano.  So was Nikita Scherbak.  So was Robby Fabbri.  So was Jakub Vrana.  There was no set order for those guys, and there are no set orders for the guys this season, and it’s causing a TON of drama on Twitter!!

As for me…the top three is as good as 2013 should have been (Jonathan Drouin was picked over Seth Jones…that was a thing that happened…in an organization run by Steve Yzerman, who is pretty good at the GMing).  I love the top ten I was able to put together too.  But the thing about that is…in this final draft, my top ten (for me, since it’s mine) was a hardened stance of a top ten.  I don’t really care about the order you may have them in, but that IS the top 10.

So, you’ll notice I’ve made some changes to the layout this time around.  Rather than the laundry list of information I’ve been putting up with my kids since post-2018’s draft, I instead have cut that down for this one and simply give you the option to read it all on Elite Prospects site.  So if you’re wondering about ANYTHING in regards to birthdate, stats, whatever…just click the player’s name.  That’s it.  Much more simple for me, and still right there for you too.

I don’t think anyone should worry too much about the rankings and anyone’s rankings are just simply opinions, we don’t have a crystal ball.  I’m so inconsistent when it comes to weighing value, I freely admit that.  I prefer ceiling to floor, but I feel like we all miss what players can be.  The guy I go into at length in this is Braden Schneider.  I’ve been so caught up in Schneider’s “low ceiling” this season that I was majorly conflicted on where to rank him.  But I talk about it in the write-up how I asked whether or not he could be several different players who he plays similar to and are top pairing D-men.  The answer to all of them was yes.  So Schneider has top pairing upside.  That’s pretty damn good!!!  Not that I’m all in on Schneider either, but it’s an example of how I maybe was getting a little too down on him (had him 31st on the last list, was ready to put him near 40th on this one until I revisited it and gave it more thought).  It’s TOUGH man!  The more time I put into it, the more difficult it seems to get.  And I can argue it so many damn ways for all these kids.

That being said, if you want to know how I rank these kids, just check out this piece I put out a while back.  I’m sure there are examples of me not following those guidelines perfectly, but it’s what I at least attempt to stick to.

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Tier 1

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

No brainer.  One thing though, you’ll see I have him listed as a centre.  If I’m drafting Lafrenière, I’m drafting him to be a centre.  Perhaps that won’t be the plan initially, but long term I’d want to max out an elite talent like Lafrenière and I believe you do that by using him in the middle as he is tailor-made to thrive there.  I hear a lot of talk that position up front doesn’t matter, and yet the teams who subscribe to that theory never seem to go anywhere…probably not a coincidence…As for the comp, I have yet to come up with one that I feel is spot on.  I guess you could say he’s a combination of Jonathan Huberdeau and Leon Draisaitl if you’re limiting yourself to today’s players.  I say Forsberg because I see a lot of similarities, I believe he should move to the middle, and in time I believe that’s what he’ll become…should he move to the middle.  But I do worry it’ll take a team a very long time before they figure out this needs to be done.  Word is that Lafrenière isn’t a fan of the idea.

 

Tier 2

2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

It’s insane how some have nitpicked his game this season.  He is producing at a better pace in his 17 year old season than Lafrenière did in his!  And he’s 6’4, 214lbs!  And he’s an amazing skater!  The upside is INCREDIBLE, and the floor is what?  2nd line winger?!  Wake up!  He’s closer to Lafrenière than he is to Stützle, don’t overthink this.  I know a lot of people are jumping on the Stützle bandwagon, and don’t get me wrong OBVIOUSLY Stützle could end up the better player.  But in my opinion, the ceiling and the floor are both in favour of Byfield, so I’m not sure why he’s not everyone’s number two guy other than they’ve had more time to pick apart Byfield’s game and Stützle is the shiny new toy.

 

Tier 3

3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

I was pretty early on Stützle as I had him in my top 15 last summer (that I had seen anyway, I could be wrong), and I was fully on board when he started to get top five hype.  So I get why so many love him, but the talk of him going 2nd seems absurd to me.  But don’t get that twisted, I’m a huge fan of this kid and believe he can become a number one centre.  He needs a year though before I’d be looking at him playing.  There is so much talent, but there is still quite a bit in his game that’s raw.

 

Tier 4

4. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

He has all the ability to become a franchise defenceman.  He also is in my opinion far and away the top defenceman in a draft class extremely thin on pure puck-moving D-men, which boosts his draft stock.  If your team needs a defenceman and he’s still available, they better have a DAMN good reason to pass on him.

 

5. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

The size and how his production has really come from beating up on inferior competition scares me a little bit.  You might say “Size?!  Undersized guys are now thriving you dinosaur!!”  Not what I mean bud.  I worry about the size when it comes to him playing his style of game, and doing that as a centre.  There is a reason that you don’t see many centres under 5’10 in the league.  It’s extremely difficult and you need to have an incredible 200-foot game to thrive if you’re undersized at that position.  I’m confident that Rossi could be that guy though, which is why he’s in my top 5 for my final list.

 

6. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

100% against what I believe in.  I believe you take goaltenders in rounds 3-7 and you take about three every four years, if not four in five years.  But you have to be open-minded enough to recognize when the exception to the rule comes along, and I believe Askarov is just that.  When was the last time a goaltender was even talked about as being a top 10 pick?  MAYBE Vasilevskiy?  Samsonov got hype late, but not top 10 (mind you, in what might go down as a top three all-time draft).  Given Askarov’s talent, his upside, and the track record of Russian born goaltenders of late (3/3 for those taken in the 1st round since 2006) I wouldn’t be allowing him to sit there too long.  He has the potential to change a franchise, and there aren’t many of those types of talents in this draft or any draft.

 

7. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

He has become THE riser in this draft, to the point where while I feel I’m going pretty extreme putting him 7th, I feel even stronger in the opinion that he is going top five in the draft.  Perhaps as high as 4th to the Wings.  His skating and IQ are going to give him a chance to continually develop his offensive game, which is already maybe better than most realize, he just played on the USNTDP a year too late.  But even if the offence never truly comes, he’s so good in his own zone that it might not matter.  He could end up being like Jay Bouwmeester where he has this tremendous skating ability and IQ, you’re waiting on this break out 60-70 point season, and meanwhile, the guy is shutting everyone down, playing some of the toughest minutes in the league.

 

Tier 5

8. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

Jarvis took his game to another level as the season went on.  His compete, confidence, and his assertiveness just went through the roof, and it leaves me with nothing I dislike about his game.  As for my comparison being Brad Marchand…I just mean in terms of his style and ability, none of the extracurricular stuff.  Now, the hype train on him scares me a bit, and the Brayden Point comps…fuck me.  “Small guy who puts up big numbers in the WHL, must be Point cause I just heard of Point and that was him.”  Yeah, Point is special.  Point needed to develop a tremendous two-way game to get noticed.  I don’t see Jarvis ever becoming “that” guy.  I believe he’s a 1st line winger at the next level and should be drafted as that.  Once you go overboard with expectations, you’re not helping anyone.  I watch Craig Button’s mock draft, and he’s comparing everyone to the top players in the game.  You’re not drawing more attention to the draft, you’re drawing more attention to yourself as a hot take artist rather than someone reliable for information, and you’re putting ridiculous expectations on these kids.

 

9. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

Raymond had a difficult season, but you look at the speed and skill this kid oozes and there really shouldn’t be any reason for Raymond to fall out of the top five.  Some are down on what he could be, but I don’t really get it.  The upside here is enormous.  He’s going to be the type of winger who can drive his own line and really tilt the ice.

 

10. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SPR took a lot of heat for knocking Perfetti.  I’m not as harsh on him, but I definitely think there is something to what Sean says.  I don’t think Perfetti is a BAD skater, but he isn’t a great skater and when you combine that with how he loves to dangle and struggles away from the puck, those are legitimate reasons to be concerned.  He won’t be able to dangle pro defencemen like he can OHL defencemen.  I believe he’ll have to make a lot of adjustments to thrive in pro hockey.  But having said that, I don’t view them as ones that are difficult to make.  All the tools are there to thrive.  Understand this too going back to what Sean said…just because he’s LOWER on him, doesn’t mean he thinks he’s nothing.  In 2018 I had Svechnikov ranked 6th because of the bust rate for Russian forwards taken in the top 25 of the draft since 2004 (only 1/10 prior to the 2018 draft, which has since changed to 2/10 thanks to Gurianov finally getting his career going).  But I didn’t dislike Svechnikov AT ALL, I just found him to be a much bigger risk given that info.  Caufield is another guy for me I wasn’t ranking as high as others, but having Caufield at 16 on my board didn’t mean I thought he was trash, I simply thought others were either better gambles or were more of a certainty than Caufield (I bring up Caufield more than any other player because it is such a piss off to me how people don’t get this.  I couldn’t give a shit at this point whether he busts or pops, I’m just sick of having to explain this stance to people who want to call themselves scouts who are actually just fanboys for the kid).

 

Tier 6

11. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

So difficult to rank.  I’m a huge fan with what I’ve seen, but the neck issues are troubling.  After seeing him in the Hlinka/Gretzky, I had him in my top five, but that’s about all we got to see this season.  This all depends on the medical reports obviously.  If they check out, I still believe he’s worthy of going in this range as he’s just too big of a talent, in my opinion, to pass on at a certain point.  I’ve had neck issues for a decade now that cause cervicogenic headaches.  They mimic migraines.  In fact, when I first started getting them I really believed I was having post-concussion syndrome as I had a concussion a few months prior in which I got rushed back to work running heavy equipment, so I didn’t even give any thought to it being a neck issue.  Cervicogenic headaches can be brutal, but they also aren’t overly serious (especially if your neck can constantly be worked on) and it’s nothing that a chiropractor can’t help you through.  As soon as your neck is aligned properly again, the headaches immediately go away, because they aren’t actually headaches.  Now, I’m saying all this, I don’t know that this was what the problem for Lapierre was.  I just know it was a neck issue that they thought were concussions.  But having gone through it, I would bet good money that’s what the issue has been (as long as they’re telling the truth).  Remember too, Crosby missing all that time in 2011 and 2012 with what was thought to be concussion issues, and once they figured out it was actually a neck issue, he was good to go again and hasn’t struggled with it since.  I would say in most years I wouldn’t touch him until late in the 1st, but I’m not a big fan of the depth of this draft, and it severely lacks quality centres.

 

12. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

He’s not a sexy player for fans to get excited about, but Lundell is going to be such a valuable addition for a hockey club.  A Ryan O’Reilly type centre who can thrive in any situation.  Others have dropped him in their rankings much further than this, but I wonder how much of that is perhaps Lias Andersson backlash?  It would be understandable as they have very similar games, and I’m not a big fan of his skating, but I wasn’t a big fan of ROR’s skating when he entered the league.  These type of players are just so damn valuable, I’d have a tough time watching a guy like this drop too far if I were a GM.

 

13. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

The upside is off the charts with Guhle.  Skating, size, edge, IQ, the kid checks all the boxes to at least be an NHL defenceman someday.  I believe he can be a top pair defenceman, if not a legitimate number one guy someday, but he needs time.  In my opinion, he needs two more seasons in the WHL, and one full season in the AHL.  Then we’ll see.  This is not a kid that an organization should be rushing, and if the proper time is taken, the organization which drafts will have quite the player on their hands.

 

14. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

This was/is one of the hottest risers in this draft, and a lot of people are not only sleeping on that fact with Reichel, but also on the fact that risers always go higher than expected, and those guys always seem to pan out!  I think back to 2011, that guy was Mark Scheifele.  2012 was Hampus Lindholm.  ’13 was Bo Horvat.  ’14 Travis Sanheim.  ’15 Timo Meier.  Seeing a trend?!  Anyway, as for the player…the Alex Tanguay comparison is one of my favourite that I did in this list, I just believe it’s spot on.  Skating, vision, IQ, doesn’t shy away from but doesn’t really like being anything physical.  He makes players around him better, he is very developable, I think he can be a 1st line winger.

 

Tier 7

15. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

I was high on him entering the season, and then he was so solid in a support role at the Hlinka/Gretzky, and just simply showcased it all season.  I moved him up both these rankings and my Western rankings late because I just keep going back to how physically immature he is.  Greig is going to add another 20, maybe even 30lbs to his frame!  Playing the physical/greasy style he does and showcasing that he’s committed to playing a 200-foot game, that extra size will help him tremendously.  IQ, skating, and motor to develop a very complete game.  His ceiling isn’t all that high, but the big thing for me above all else is that this kid is the type of guy who is damn near impossible to find, so grab him while you can.

 

16. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Roope Hintz

I have gone back…and forth.  How often?  About a billion times!  Here’s the thing: Holloway is playing in the NHL.  He’s at minimum a top-nine guy.  AND…he has a BIG ceiling thanks to his speed (one of the best skaters in the draft, a little like Nathan MacKinnon in how powerful his stride is) and his size (again, a little like MacKinnon in that he’s not overly tall but he’s got a thick frame).  But the problem is that in my viewings, he gets by with that size and speed and doesn’t ever showcase much skill.  At the end of the day, how often do I harp about too many independent scouts overvaluing the highlight reel shit that doesn’t win, over the subtle shit from guys who play pro games?  And that’s the deciding factor for me.  Holloway is going to play and while the pure skill upside might not be there, he is a coaches dream.  He does everything right.  He plays fearless, responsible, intelligent, he does everything his team needs of him.

 

17. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Eberle

I’m not super high on Mercer’s ability to improve greatly over what he is right now, but I see him as one of the safest picks in this draft.  This kid just seems like a guy who is going to step into a team’s top six in a year or two, and never leave.  Just an easy game for guys to gel with.

 

18. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

I’m well aware that you can read the comp, but I can’t stress enough just how damn much of T.J. Oshie I see in this kids game.  Good skater, good skill, high motor, physical, versatile, he’s a kid who can be thrown into any role, any situation, and he’s going to deliver.  I really see him as a can’t miss player.  Might only end up being a 3rd line winger, but the upside is definitely there to be a fantastic complimentary piece in a top-six role.

 

19. Jack Quinn

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Justin Williams

I didn’t like Quinn for a long time.  And I think there was a false narrative out there that he was living off Rossi, which I stupidly bought into.  But he didn’t play with Rossi five on five, and he put up 34 goals ES.  Good speed and I love his motor.  Being such a heavy “shoot first” type hurts him in my rankings as historically snipers in junior have a difficult time bringing that game to the show.  A couple other things that make me worry is the thought of how soft his minutes were playing behind Rossi, and if he plays enough of a team game to work in the NHL.  Because Quinn won’t be able play 1 on 5 in the NHL.  When I hear people talking (as a positive) someone’s ability to “create his own shot”, I don’t view that as a positive.  There are VERY few players in the history of the league who had the ability to “create their own shot”.  Maybe Quinn can, but far too many junior snipers who have had that positive of their scouting report have not only not been able to do that in the pros, but haven’t lasted in the pros.  But again, that motor suggests this kid could become more than just a one-dimensional sniper.  It’s not as though the things I have concerns on can’t be overcome.  He’ll never be a playmaker, he just will need to adjust to playing “off the puck” in my opinion and settle into being a complimentary piece.

 

Tier 8

20. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

For me, he’s this season’s Cole Caufield AKA a sniper everyone is much more in love with than I am.  So let’s go back again to the fact that I freely admit I don’t have the time to truly scout guys.  What I mostly do is absorb as much information from respected people who do scout and I have big respect for what they see.  Not that I haven’t seen Holtz, I have, but I more so rely on those eyes rather than my own.  But then I started to dig into scouting reports on him and found myself saying “wait, maybe I did see it right that he doesn’t skate well” because I had read/heard from a few different people that they thought he did and basically disregarded my own opinion.  Yeah, he doesn’t.  He’s an average skater.  He also struggles away from the puck and in his own zone, I had information suggesting otherwise.  Went back and dug into some video on him and yeah, not pretty.  And here is where I bring up the comp I use which will not have gone over well with some.  Holtz is damn near identical to Yak on paper.  Amazing shot, but he relies too heavily on it (constantly shooting from far out) and doesn’t seem to know how to find the open ice.  Now, he does play hard.  He’s got a good motor.  But he also doesn’t really accomplish much, which was Yak.  The book on Yak coming out of Sarnia was “look how much energy this guy plays with!  And he hits!”  Holtz isn’t physical, but he is active on the forecheck.  But there is an art to that as well and I’m not sure with his skating that he can be effective on the forecheck.  Now, does all this mean he’ll bust like Yak?  Yak’s rep in Edmonton was that he refused to work on his weaknesses.  As long as Holtz is a coachable kid, he’ll succeed.  So don’t get this too twisted.  I still have him 20th, not 120th.  But I completely disagree with the hype he’s been getting this season.  This is a very flawed player and typical of so many in the scouting community, they’re drooling all over someone’s shot…a skill that can be developed.  I do not get this logic from scouts.  Brandon Pirri can’t stick in the league, and he might have one of the best shots in the game.  Remember 2017 when people were gushing over Eeli Tolvanen and Owen Tippett?  What about 2018 and Oliver Wahlstrom?  Holtz has serious bust potential, and while he has the ability to be a nice complementary piece, this isn’t a piece that teams should be desperate to get near the top of the draft.  But again, it all depends on how coachable he is, and the situation he lands in.  If Holtz lands with a loaded roster which has the pieces he’ll need around him, this ranking won’t look great…but whatever, it’s my opinion.  I’m cool with your opinion’s, so be cool with mine.

 

Tier 9

21. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Staal

I’m pulling back a bit on my boy.  Nobody has changed my mind (and I fully admit, as an open-minded guy, I can be too easily influenced by what others have to say!) but I feel like putting him at 15 the last time around I was getting too caught up in his upside and not being more realistic about it.  However, I still stand by the thought that people are sleeping on him, and some of the stuff I’ve read as to why people don’t like him (believing that he played a ton with Adam Beckman, believing he was getting top PP unit time all season, his skating which is not only good for a big kid but is certain to get better as he gains strength) just is flat out dumb.  Again, I really wonder if he is so badly underrated just because people have been burned too many times by the oversized centre?  His game is so much different than so many of those guys though given he is terrific 200 feet, has a good motor, and a very high IQ.    That type of player is going to develop rapidly.  This might sound odd, but I like that he still has to think the game and doesn’t rely on his size to get by.  So I probably went too far having him at 15 the last time around as there are much safer bets, but I still see him as a certainty to play as a Brian Boyle type, probably a Michal Handzus, and a solid chance to be who I compare him to.  Not saying he won’t need time.  Two more years in the dub and then a year in the AHL is what’s likely needed.  But I like him long term.  Greig moved ahead of him for me because the more I thought about it, the more I like how hard Greig is to play against.  Both guys have 2nd line centre potential, and in my mind are safely 3C’s.  So with that in mind, give me the guy who puts the opponent’s head on a swivel.

 

22. Marat Khusnutdinov

Team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Pavel Datsyuk

IN TERMS OF THE STYLE HE PLAYS!!!  Don’t get that comp completely fucked.  Truth be told, I had a very difficult time thinking of anyone other than Sebastian Aho, and that’s been the comp I’ve used for Rossi all season and love it.  So best case, Khusnutdinov could maybe be a poor man’s version of one of the best two-way centres in league history.  But I love this kids upside and again I go back to that damn Russian forward bust rate as the only reason I don’t have him much higher.  An amazing skater who also possesses tremendous vision, terrific hands, and even is a good 200-foot player for his age.  But he had consistency issues, and maybe more than that is that size is a little scary to play the middle even though I believe he can (especially in the East where you have more finesse centres).  I love the potential here though.

 

23. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

I hate myself when it comes to Schneider.  I have gone back and forth on this for a year now.  Last summer, I didn’t have him in my initial top 10 WHL list while others had him at the top.  Then I came around on him, then I soured on him a bit more, and now I have him here.  What I’ve fought with is ceiling vs floor.  He’s playing in the NHL, I don’t have any doubt about that.  What’s his ceiling?  He can skate, and is physically developed, so why wasn’t he dominant in the dub this season?  I keep coming back to that.  Don’t get me wrong, probably the top shutdown D-man in the league, but he wasn’t overwhelming.  He missed being drafted in ’19 by six days.  A guy I constantly found myself comparing him with is Matthew Robertson, and I’m not overly sure why so many love Schneider, but didn’t love Robertson the same.  It’s not just the stats, Robertson has a little more size, as good or possibly better mobility, probably better puck skills, moves it better, I just don’t get it.  It came down to this for me: What was Travis Hamonic (the comp I used all season until this final list) when he was with the Islanders?  Top pair D-man.  Can Schneider be Brent Seabrook?  Yes.  Can he be Nik Hjalmarsson?  Yes.  Vlasic?  Yes.  Muzzin?  Yes.  Pesce?  Yes.  All these guys either were or are top pairing guys.  So I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous about this final ranking, and even more so thanks to next years draft being so rich with defencemen.  I fear a big reason some love Schneider is the lack of defencemen in this draft.  But he will likely play for a long time, and there are guys who I have ahead of him who may not.

 

24. Mavrik Bourque

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Kevin Fiala

One word comes to mind watching Bourque: crafty.  I love the IQ with this kid.  And even though he’s only 5’10, if that 165lbs is accurate, then he has 15-20lbs still to put on which could help his skating.  The skating is passable, but an extra gear for Bourque could be massive for his game.  Having said that though, I view him as one of the safest picks in this draft (which is basically all the Q kids to this point, three for three!)  I think he can play in anyone’s top six and produce because he plays a game that’s easy for other players to gel with.

 

25. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Palmieri

Peterka is a burner.  I know there is some question out there about his ceiling, but he’s a very safe bet in my mind given the speed, given the motor, and he does have some pretty good skill to go with it.  He’s got a raw game right now, so the team that drafts him likely needs to give him three full years before looking at him for a roster spot.  But again, to my eye he’s a safe bet to fill a top-nine role on any club.

 

Tier 10

26. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

It is simply amazing to me as I go back to the Finley thing for a second.  People shit on Finley because of this misconception that he played all season with Beckman, yet ignore the fact that Zary played on the best line in the WHL with two of the best players in the league (shoutout to my fellow Marwayne Wildcat alums) and trust me, that wasn’t because Zary was carrying them.  But that’s in the context of people sleeping on or shitting on Finley, not looking to hate on Zary.  There’s a lot to like here.  Two-way centre with a great work ethic, high IQ, and very good vision.  But again, I feel his stats got tremendously inflated this season, and his ES numbers aren’t anything special.  Then the skating is worrisome.  Projecting on him, I just believe he’s already maxing out and doesn’t have much more of a ceiling than this.  But there is nothing wrong with someone who is a safe bet to be a 3C who can take on a lot of tough minutes.

 

27. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Vince Dunn

He’s much like Finley in terms of this likely being a bit of a stunner, but I’ve watched the dub closely this season believe that people aren’t just sleeping on Seeley, they’re in a coma.  A very slow start, and he was a victim of playing on maybe the best blueline in the WHL.  The offensive numbers will come (though they actually did, 30 of his points came in his final 46 games).  He is a terrific skater, very good puck-mover, and is very reliable in his own zone.  I highly doubt anyone picks Seeley in the 1st round, but when it’s all said and done I believe a ton of people could be really kicking themselves that they didn’t.

 

28. Victor Persson

Team: Brynäs IF J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Brodie

I admit, didn’t know much about Persson.  Ryan Barr who does great work with his scouting mentioned him on Twitter on one day, and so I started looking into him.  Hockey Prospect also were pretty big on him, which piqued my interest even more.  Give me D prospects who can skate and move the puck.  That’s why you see Seeley in the spot above, is he can really skate and really move the puck.  Same with Persson.  And much the same with Seeley, I doubt Persson ends up being a 1st round pick, but he would be for me.  Recently was taken in the CHL import draft by the Kamloops Blazers, it could be a tremendous opportunity for Persson if he chooses to come over.  Expect some terrific offensive numbers as the Blazers have a great team returning despite losing their captain Zane Franklin.

 

29. Luke Evangelista

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Artturi Lehkonen

I was REALLY late on Evangelista.  But the more hype he got, the more I thought “I better do my homework”.  For me, I love his skating, love the IQ he displays, love his play away from the puck and in all three zones, and I love his playmaking ability.  So those are three massive checkmarks for me.  He plays a very cerebral game, and he isn’t flashy, but I personally love those players.  Every goal is worth one in hockey, you don’t get any more for it getting on highlight reels.  Plus as I’ve read some major publications say, this is a typical London Knights draft-eligible player.  Draft-eligibles rarely play up in their lineup, so their stats are always down.  So for me, I just look at all the traits, combine it with the Hunter’s ability to develop their kids, and Evangelista sneaks into the 1st round on my board.

 

30. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Sharp

Performed very well in his 22 games after coming over to the OHL.  A kid who I list as a winger and would draft him as a winger, but the potential is definitely there to continue playing the middle in pro hockey, which is always a nice bonus with a prospect up-front.  The comp to Sharp comes from the fact that while he can put the puck in the net and is a shoot-first guy, he has shown that he can be trusted in any situation which will obviously win him big points with coaches as he furthers his development.  So he’ll get a ton of opportunity to succeed.

 

31. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Hoffman

I worry about the work ethic.  It’s tough to look past the whole “privileged kid” thing when you combine what you see on the ice with the fact that he’s the son of a former NHL player (Yanic).  All the tools though to thrive in the NHL.  It’s funny with the bloodlines in this year’s draft.  Most of the time, kids play a lot like their fathers.  But in this draft you have Sanderson who is a stud two-way defenceman rather than goal-scoring winger, Finley is a giant centre rather than a puck-moving defenceman, Michael Benning is the closet because at least he plays the same position as his old man but he’s much more skilled than Brian was, Greig plays a bit like his old man but I see him as a likely centre where Mark was a winger, and now Jacob Perreault being gifted and a bit lazy where his dad couldn’t skate and really got by with his IQ and work ethic.

 

32. Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Connor

I have made no bones about how I feel about drafting Russian born forwards the last few years…I’m leery.  Andrei Svechnikov obviously is fantastic and this theory had me moronically drop him to 6th (though 2nd tier) in my final 2018 rankings, but the track record on these kids in the 1st round for over a decade has been pretty brutal.  It’s not all Russian born players, just the forwards.  So Amirov gets punished for that coming in at 30, but I’m well aware that he has tremendous talent.  I actually really like his game, and if I’m just taking that into account I’d probably rank him up around 15.  But there is just WAY too much evidence that Russian born forwards are a total crapshoot.  Fully expect him to be drafted earlier than this would indicate.

 

33. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Mangiapane

I’m not sure what you could say about Brisson that you can’t about most sub 6’0 wingers?  High IQ, terrific skill, great shot and great vision.  He’s essentially the poster child for that type of player (at least one who would be of interest).  What does have me a little worried is the skating, though it’s passable.  The other is that as you’ll notice or perhaps you read my blog on how I rank guys, those who love Brisson really love his shot.  Go back to my write-up on Holtz as to what I think of guys and their amazing shots.  For me with Brisson, I feel it’s his hands and vision make him a late 1st/early 2nd rounder.

 

34. Noel Gunler

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Anthony Mantha

Not quite as good of a skater as Mantha, but the rest really checks out, especially in terms of someone leaving you wanting more.  Gunler is another “amazing shot” guy who doesn’t bring a whole lot more to the table.  But having said that, the ability is there.  He’s still pretty thin, and he skates well, so if in time he can develop his play away from the puck there could be a pretty valuable player here.  But I have a difficult time ranking him where others do (mind you, that can be said for every “amazing shot” guy).

 

Tier 11

35. Helge Grans

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

He’s a project, and so I’d look to take him near the top of the 2nd round.  I’d wait at least three years before truly looking to sign Grans.  If he were ok with it, I’d wait the full four years to max out his development time (but obviously he’d have to be good with that, otherwise he could just become a UFA after the fourth season).  Assuming you sign him after three years, I’d be willing to burn the first season of his ELC with him remaining in Sweden.  Then I’d look to bring him over for a season in the AHL, without any thought of bringing him up to the big club.  Finally, in the 6th season of his development, THAT is when I’d start giving him looks if he’s progressed the way I assume he would.  So you’re looking at a SIX YEAR development plan!  Obviously, it’s possible it doesn’t take that long, but at this point, that’s what I’m game planning for if I’m drafting him, and that’s why I’m not touching him in the 1st round.  He might be one of the top D-men in this draft when it’s all said and done because of how talented he is.  But it’s going to take a long time if you want to do it right.  He is a terrific skater, moves the puck well, and has great size, so the tools are here.  But it’ll take some time.

 

36. William Wallinder

Team: MODO Hockey J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rasmus Ristolainen

See Grans, which is why I have them back to back and in their own tier.  Not the same player, but extremely similar in how I see them needing to be developed.  The difference between Grans and Wallinder is that Grans has shown a great ability to move the puck, and the same can’t be said for Wallinder.  But Wallinder is probably the more physically gifted of the two players.  I’d say it’s possible that Wallinder could become a tremendous shutdown guy who if paired with someone who does move the puck well could thrive in the league.  But again with both these guys, a ton of development time is likely needed if the teams who draft them want to max out their talent.  If they do that, both guys could be well worth the wait.

 

Tier 12

37. Topi Niemelä

Team: Kärpät  League: Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 163  Shot: R

Comparison: Andrej Sekera

I’ve used the Sekera comp a few times before, but I can’t get it out of my head with a kid like this who moves it really well, has good puck skills, good IQ, and is a very good skater despite not having that top-end speed.  And as I often wonder with kids who have 20lbs or so to put on their frame, how much might that improve once he gains strength?  In a draft so weak on puck-moving D, I do worry that I’m maybe overrating him a bit, but as I often point out, his top-end speed will likely improve a ton as he packs on more muscle and gains the strength he needs.

 

38. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Ethan Bear

Most are being completely ridiculous with him.  He matched Cale Makar’s pre-draft year production, and his draft year production (pre-draft they both had one more point than games played, and then this season they had the exact same 75 points in 54, and Makar’s team in those years was just as good as the Crusaders this season), except these have been Benning’s 16 and 17 year old seasons, for Makar they were his 17 year old and 18 year old seasons.  I don’t like going into stats too heavily, but this is a case where I seem to be the only one pointing this out all season while understanding that Benning has all the tools to be a top-four NHL defenceman, and yet he is getting zero 1st round buzz.  He’s not Makar, I’d never suggest that.  They play different games, and Benning doesn’t have THAT kind of upside.  But just because he’s not Makar doesn’t mean that Benning is going to be damn good.  Good skater (some have disputed this, and in my opinion those people are confusing pace that a player plays at with actual skating ability), high IQ, terrific vision, size is good enough for today’s game.  It’s funny with both Benning and Seeley, scouts will tell you that you should ignore the stats and just look at the player.  Ok…so then explain why you don’t like Seeley.  Others will tell you that stats matter.  Ok…so then explain why you don’t like Benning.  Call me crazy, but I like mobile, puck-moving defencemen and so I’m willing to take some swings on guys who fit the bill of what works in today’s game.

 

39. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Nate Schmidt

I thought specifically of Barron vs Braden Schneider.  This is what I’m basically hearing from everyone on Barron: “it’s too bad he had such a bad season, looks like a kid who still has the upside be a top-four defenceman, but likely just a bottom pairing guy”.  Now what it seems like I’m hearing from everyone on Schneider: “what a great prospect!  He looks like a kid who the upside to be a top-four defenceman!  But for sure he’s a bottom pairing guy!”  Like………WHAT?!?!  Even if Barron’s offensive game isn’t going to come, he’s still more skilled than Schneider, and can become a great defender in time.  It’s not exactly a glowing recommendation that I have Barron at 39, and then having Schneider at 24 (again, 14-60 in this draft isn’t much of a difference in this draft in my opinion), but when I compare those two it definitely becomes more clear to me that people have gone overboard on Schneider, and maybe have been too rough on Barron for a season that got derailed by a blood clot.

 

40. Yan Kuznetsov

Team: UCONN  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Marcus Pettersson

There is no flash here at all with Kuznetsov.  But I view him as an extremely safe pick as he’s an A+ defender who skates well and can move it well too.  He’d be a perfect compliment for an active defenceman much the way Marc Methot was for Erik Karlsson.

 

41. Jake Neighbours

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Killorn

I said it all season, I just didn’t understand why he was getting the hype that he was.  I like him, but a lot of people believed he was the best prospect in the dub, and that just was never the truth.  The skating isn’t great, the motor isn’t always going (it’s not as though he’s lazy, but there are times he leaves you wanting more in terms of intensity), and though I don’t say this very often…he needs to shoot more.  So those are the cons.  But he’s still a 2nd rounder for sure with a very high IQ and good size.  Wouldn’t stun me if he’s this years Raphael Lavoie, and what I mean by that is at the draft last year, Lavoie looked a little out of shape.  But when Lavoie got to the World Junior showcase just a month later, he looked like a completely different guy basically by just cleaning up his diet.  It’s possible that’s all Neighbours needs to go to another level is just a diet to follow because there are some who believe his weight might have held him back a bit this season.

 

42. Tristen Robins

Team: Saskatoon  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: J.T. Compher

I probably like Robins as much as others who have him ranked much higher than this (13th for HP) and see the same things they do.  A) again I’ll say it that from 14-60 in this draft, I view it as airtight (which in some years might be a compliment, this year it’s more of an insult as I view these players as late 1st or 2nd rounders in most years).  B) while I’m high on the idea of Robins making it into the league, his ceiling, in my opinion, is a 2nd line winger.  Even if he hits that ceiling, it’s not a difficult piece to find.  A player who you love, but replaceable.  Add to that, statistically I found a troubling trend.  38 of his 73 points this season came against the six teams in the WHL which didn’t make the playoffs.  If you add two more teams to that mix (Calgary and Medicine Hat), it accounted for 50 of his 73 points.  I feel as though some got too excited about the fact he had 24 points in his final 13 games, but 21 of those 24 points came in eight games against Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Regina (who were bottom feeders in the dub this season, and obviously following the trade deadline they were even worse).  Now, not his fault three of the six worst teams in the league were in his division, but if you look at a kid like Wiesblatt who had the same deal, his numbers were much more balanced and Wiesblatt drove his own line where Robins was aided by fellow draft-eligible Kyle Crnkovic.  As if I haven’t shit on Robins enough here…his skating is good, it’s not great.  I feel the need to explain my stance on the Western kids since I covered them this season, which is why I’m going long with this write-up.  But don’t get it twisted, I really like Robins and believe he’s a kid who will play.  I just personally wouldn’t take him until the 2nd round.

 

Tier 13 (I could argue for the rest of these guys in any order)

43. Theodor Niederbach

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

This draft is SO devoid of centres.  There are a few guys who might translate as centres, but very few sure things.  That’s part of the reason why I have Niederbach up here, but also, I believe Niederbach is a very safe pick.  Skates well, is committed to playing a 200-foot game, good vision, and has a very high IQ.  It’s funny, these types of centres always get overlooked due to the lack of flash in their game, and they seemingly always overachieve.  Ryan O’Reilly, Shawn Horcoff, Tyler Bozak, William Karlsson, the aforementioned Nielsen (obviously I’m meaning Nielsen in his prime when I use that comp)  I’ll gladly bet on that guy mid 2nd round.

 

44. Jean-Luc Foudy

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Andreas Athanisiou

A little bit of a twist here with the comp of Athanisiou.  He’s essentially the evil Athanisiou (Foudy is a pure playmaker rather than a shoot-first guy), but I use AA for a few reasons.  1) the speed both players possess.  2) how difficult both players can be to play with given how they both need to be the drivers of the lines they play on.  3) the poor draft years both players had statistically.  I’m not a big fan of Foudy at this point, but I have a tough time watching him fall too far thanks to possessing raw tools that you just can’t teach.  Terrific speed and a pure playmaker, two tremendous assets to thrive in today’s NHL.  But he has to learn to play in traffic, not just stay on the perimeter.  If the right team gets a hold of Foudy then it could be a little scary for the rest of the league.  He definitely has the ability to at least play in the league.  It’s a bit like Philip Broberg last year where so many people (myself included) got caught up in disagreeing with what his ceiling is and completely missed the fact that he’s still basically a lock to be a top-four D-man.  Foudy might be unlikely to hit his enormous ceiling, but I’d still say he’s likely to be a top-nine winger.

 

45. Daniel Torgersson

Team: Frölunda HC J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Joel Armia

A lot of tools to work with here.  Great skater for someone so big, and he combines that with a terrific motor and good IQ.  It remains to be seen if his game will translate that much offensively, but given that he checks the IQ, speed, and size boxes, he could end up doing a lot of damage as a complimentary guy for a good duo (think MacKinnon/Rantanen, or maybe Matthews/Marner).  Even if that situation never presents itself though, he has all the tools to be an effective bottom-six winger and terrific penalty killer.

 

46. Emil Heineman

Team: Leksands IF J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Michael Frolik

Maybe I just think all Swedes look the same?  Because I have Grans and Wallinder back to back and can’t make up my mind on which one I like better long term, and it’s the same story with Torgersson and Heineman!  I went with the younger and bigger prospect, but only slightly.  They don’t play an overly similar game, but like Grans and Wallinder I see them possibly having a similar impact on a roster.  The difference with these two however is the floor, as both players look like safe bets, just lack big ceilings.  Heineman is a great skater, has a tremendous motor, and is always finishing his checks.

 

47. Will Cuylle

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Brett Connolly

Loved him last summer, and flat out had a shitty season.  Still, he’s big, skilled and can skate.  It’s funny, if he had a big offensive season, I’d likely be much more down on him because scouts would love that shot.  But he didn’t, so I’m likely ranking him higher than most because he’s got very developable tools.  That’s difficult to watch fall too far in the draft.  Probably not a coincidence that both he and Foudy faltered this season both playing for Windsor.  Makes me wonder if there were other issues.

 

48. Sam Colangelo

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: R

Comparison: Jimmy Vesey

I’d like to see him learn to play much more of a give and go game.  So many kids have trouble making the show simply because they can’t learn to defer.  And it’s completely understandable.  You’ve been the man your entire life playing hockey, it’d be tough.  So that’s my main concern, but the tools are without a doubt there for Colangelo to be an effective winger at some point.  He’s off to Northeastern to begin his NCAA career this fall.

 

49. Eemil Viro

Team: TPS  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I really love his skating.  Technically, he’s one of the best skaters in this draft.  But the offensive upside is questionable, and he doesn’t move the puck overly well for someone who will need to.  A bit of a project in my eyes, but he definitely has some tools to become something pretty good in time.

 

50. Jérémie Poirier

Team: Saint John  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Marek Zidlicky

You can’t let him fall forever.  I’m not a fan of his game at all to be really honest about it, but the skill that Poirier has makes him much more worthy of being taken by a certain point than those who are safer bets because you’ll be able to find those guys in trades, free agency or even on waivers.  If Poirier figures it out, he’s a stud.  Sounds great, but I also don’t like the odds of him figuring it out.  Probably will go higher than this because you’ll have teams who’ll be able to swing for the fences.  Some have suggested converting him to a forward.  It wouldn’t be much of a conversion, as he was initially a forward converted to a D-man.

 

51. Ryan O’Rourke

Team: Sault Ste. Marie  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Olli Maatta

I like O’Rourke, but I view him as the opposite of Poirier in that I believe he’s a safe pick without much of an upside.  Bottom pair I think is likely, wouldn’t rule out him becoming a top-four guy, but don’t love the upside.

 

52. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

High IQ, a lot of skill, one of the best shots in this draft.  So why is he ranked all the way down here?  Two reasons.  1) skating.  It’s bad.  While I no longer believe skating can’t be improved (as an Oilers fan, I watched Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl massively improve their skating) Foerster has a long ways to go with his.  2) his PP production.  Half his goals and nearly half his points were with the man advantage.  I think back to 2017 when I first started paying closer attention to numbers and two guys who were dominant with the man advantage were Casey Mittlestadt and Michael Rasmussen.  We have a LONG ways to go in both careers, but neither kid looks all that intriguing at the moment.  As much as I like Foerster and am pulling for him, I can’t put him any higher than this.

 

53. Thomas Bordeleau

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Gusev

I probably like Bordeleau a lot more than ranking him 53rd would suggest.  But while I like his game, I’m concerned that he doesn’t have a whole lot of upside from what he currently is.  Skilled playmaker though, I’ll draft those guys all day in rounds 2-7.

 

54. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 157  Shot: R

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

McClennon was on a 91 point pace in his final 29 games.  If he had hit 91 points this season, even with the concern that he lived off Peyton Krebs, guaranteed scouts would have him in their top 30.  The skating is the concern as it’s only average for a kid who is 5’8.  But he works his ass off, is highly skilled, and fearless.  A lot of rankings don’t have him even listed…that’s a mistake.  He’s well worth taking a flier on.  Maybe mid-late 2nd would be too early for that flier, but I know this player well and would be willing to roll the dice in this range.

 

55. Cross Hanas

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Ondrej Kase

This is me projecting.  Hanas made the highlight reels this season, but didn’t exactly tear apart the WHL.  Couple reasons for that though.  1) didn’t see a ton of ice time.  2nd lowest for the forwards (15) that made my last Western prospects list.  2) very little of his production was with the man advantage.  40 of his 49 points came at ES.  His skating isn’t great at the moment, but when you watch him play you can see that it’s purely a case of having no lower body strength.  Zero power in his stride.  Once he fills out (likely has 30lbs still to put on, if not 40) that will come.  And then…what will he be?  Bit of a project, but I love the potential here.

 

56. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Sam Reinhart

Three straight dub kids on my list, but if you’ve followed my stuff this season then you know that I really believe in the depth out West this season.  Sourdif isn’t one of my favourites, but he checks in here thanks to his ES production.  Vancouver had an awful PP last season, and because of that Sourdif ended up with only 7 of his 54 points coming on the PP this season.  That’s damn good ES production.  Good skater, good IQ, good skill.  But what I worry about is that he’s a tweener.  I don’t know if he has enough skill to play in a top-six someday, and while I wouldn’t say he plays a perimeter game, he doesn’t get involved at all physically.  Teams aren’t looking for outright grinders and plugs like they used to in their bottom six, but you still want guys who can bring something extra to the table.  Still, he has some great assets that make him very developable if the right organization gets their hands on him.

 

57. Martin Chromiak

Team: Kingston  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Victor Olofsson

Another “terrific shot” guy, but more so than that with Chromiak is that I worry he’s lived off 2022 1st overall pick Shane Wright (for those of you wanting a sneak preview for my 2022 list), and I’m also concerned with how soft he plays.  His skating and hands are going to give him a chance to succeed though.  We’ll see how the rest comes along.

 

58. Tyler Kleven

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Jack Johnson

Another project, Kleven has size, mobility and edge that is going to give him a great shot at being an NHL defenceman.  He’s got the same upside as Braden Schneider, but he’s much further off than Schneider.  Even with him going the collegiate route, there is a chance a team is going to use all three years of his ELC developing him.

 

59. Eamon Powell

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Thomas Hickey

Skates well, can really move it, and pretty solid in his own zone.  There is next to no flash with Powell, but I believe he can be a solid bottom pairing guy.

 

60. Joni Jurmo

Team: Jokerit U20  League: U20 SM-sarja

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Noah Hanifin

There is one reason I love Jurmo and it’s his skating.  Jurmo is one of the best skaters in the draft.  He needs a lot of time to develop though.  The skating and size are going to give him a terrific chance to become something really nice, but he needs to go to the right organization, he needs a ton of time, and he needs to be coachable.

 

61. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

People who are down on him will tell you he’s lazy and can’t skate.  People who are higher on him (as I am) will tell you his role on his line all season was to be the trigger man, and when he was challenged or needed to step up, he did exactly that.  I think he was bored this season.  He has the talent and I believe once he’s challenged again as he will be at DU, his stats won’t be great, but people will see a much more well rounded and hard-working player.

 

62. Dylan Peterson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Colin Wilson

There are too many tools with Peterson for me not to want to take him at some point.  It would completely depend on how many picks I have.  If I don’t have many and I don’t have a great system, too risky.  Think of a team like the Sens though who have a boatload of picks and a great system.  Then all of a sudden a kid like Peterson is well worth a gamble at some point with one of those four 2nd rounders they own.  Great size, great skater for that size, he doesn’t have the hockey sense to play the middle as some have him listed as, but given the right amount of development time, he has a chance to be molded into a very effective player.  I feel as though he’s getting written off by people because they don’t think he can become a top-six player, all the while they’re missing that he has all the tools to become a bottom-six player.

 

63. Roby Jarventie

Team: KOOVEE  League: Mestis

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Stalberg

A project.  Good size, good skater, good skill.  But he needs time to develop.  The skillset is far too intriguing to let fall past the early 3rd round.

 

64. Ty Smilanic

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Dzingel

I really love his skating which is why I still have him in my top 64, but he was a big disappointment not only for me, but seemingly for everyone this season.  When that happens, much more often than not those players tend to not come close to making it.  But we’ll see.  He needs time.

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2020 NHL Draft: Mock Top 15

So now we know!  The New York Rangers won the Lafrenière lottery, and not only that but now we have the order of the top 15 as well.  So with that being the case, why not do a mock draft?!  I hope you weren’t expecting a longer opening than this, because I spent four hours working on this, it’s now 12:30, and I want to go to bed so I’ll do a 500 word opening some other time!

I don’t go off it for my mock drafts, but if you’re interested, my final rankings for the 2020 draft (a top 64 list) is also out now, and you can check that out here.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

So NOW we know!  First of all…what a win for the league.  What a win for the league to the point of…and I’m so not a conspiracy theorist…but this is a little TOO perfect.  But I digress because I’d rather something good for the game than good for my team, and the Rangers being an elite team as it appears they’re set to become, is really good for the game.

Now…while I believe this is good for the game, I actually believe this is one of the few teams who could look at a couple of different trade opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect either to happen.  Maybe a 5% chance.  But IF Jack Eichel asks or has already asked out of Buffalo, there is definitely a blockbuster to be made between the Sabres and Rangers based around the top pick for Jack Eichel.  I believe a big contract would have to go to Buffalo (perhaps Jacob Trouba), I believe the Sabres would have to make sure they land Alexandar Georgiev as part of the deal given how bad they need to upgrade their goaltending, and then I’m not sure what else maybe needs to be added to make it work.  Maybe the 8th pick goes back to the Rangers, but if that’s too rich for the Sabres, then maybe the Canes 1st goes in the deal as well?  There is a deal here IF Eichel wants to leave Buffalo.  And before you say the Rangers won’t deal the pick, remember that they don’t just not have a 1st line centre moving forward, they’re really thin down the middle.  Also remember who Jack Eichel’s coach was at BU…that would be Rangers head coach David Quinn.

The other trade option that COULD be there for the Rangers and COULD make sense…the Senators possibly offering the 3rd and 5th picks.  I’m sceptical that Pierre Dorian would do this though.  Given the talent that will be available at 3, it’s A LOT to get someone who might only be a slight upgrade.  Dorian does have a crazy owner though who likes crazy things.  If the Rangers did get offered this, and had the chance to take one of Byfield or Stützle (both natural centres, and potential franchise centres) along with adding the 5th pick, I think they’d have to do it.

But the FAR more likely scenario is that the Rangers simply take Lafrenière.  As you see, and as you may be well aware of because I’ve been saying it for a long time now, I prefer Lafrenière to play the middle.  I think a talent like this needs to be maxed out, and playing the wing I believe limits the impact he can have on a game.  Given the Rangers needs, I believe there is a great chance that this comes to fruition.  If he or the team is stubborn though and he remains on the wing, then as much as the Rangers have done a terrific job rebuilding, I’m not sure they’re built to be anything more than just a perennial playoff team.  I could be very wrong about that, and no doubt that some of the “rebuild rules” so to speak won’t apply to the Rangers as they have no problem attracting UFA’s or players with NTC’s and NMC’s, but it could be a big issue for them moving forward if they don’t address it in some form soon.  Wow, I’ve never wrote this much on one pick, let alone the top pick!  But I didn’t feel like doing a full-on blog about it, so you got this instead.

Other Option: Trade – just laid it out for you, don’t think I need to go any further with it.

Possible Reach: Quinton Byfield – you can make the argument for him, especially for the Rangers.  He’s a legitimate centre, he’s got the size advantage, he’s got the skating advantage, he’s 10 months younger, and he was producing at a better pace this season than Lafrenière was last season, in a better league.  But it has about a 0.000000000000000000004% chance of happening.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

SOH Rank: 2nd

It is a toss-up between Byfield and Stützle.  I’m saying Byfield for a few reasons.  1) the Kings LOVE the OHL.  Now, that might be a Mike Futa thing, who is no longer with the organization.  But the way they’ve drafted in recent years, they might love the OHL more than any other team in the league.  2) the Kings won with size, especially down the middle.  While the regime that won is mostly gone, the people still in the organization were also with the King at that time.  3) I can’t imagine the league wouldn’t be pushing hard for the Kings to take a potential star of African descent.  Byfield in Ottawa wouldn’t have the impact that Byfield in a major U.S. market like L.A. would have.  It would be massive for the league.  Right or wrong, I believe it’ll play a factor in this decision.

Other Option: Tim Stützle – again, it’s 50/50.  I know what I just wrote, but we’re splitting hairs.  Stützle would likely be the pick for most teams as he’s the riser, just think Byfield ends up being the Kings guy.

Possible Reach: Jamie Drysdale – as I just said with Byfield, they love the OHL, but was that a Mike Futa thing or is it an organizational thing?  They really need to start the rebuild on the backend.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 3rd

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Highly likely that what happens here is that the Sens simply take the guy the Kings don’t.  So, in this case, it’s Stützle.  Some debate whether or not he can play the middle.  I believe he can, and I believe he has 1st line centre ability which the Sens really need.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – I say Drysdale, but essentially it’s Drysdale or Sanderson because if they happen to love one of them more than the other and want to ensure they land him, then with the 5th pick in their possession they could afford to take that guy here and then maybe Rossi at five.

Possible Reach: Marco Rossi – same idea as Drysdale.  Perhaps they’ll love the kid playing in their backyard so much that they ensure they get him.  By the stats, you can justify it.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

SOH Rank: 7th

Risers always go higher than expected.  I can’t put Sanderson above this spot, but he’s going top five in my opinion and it’s just a matter of whether or not the Wings pull the trigger at four, or the Sens do it at five.  Honestly, I don’t get it, I prefer Drysdale, but it seems to be what always happens.  I’d love this for the Wings though.  Sure, last year they took Moritz Seider with their top pick, but that blueline still has a ton of work to be done.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I’m not ready to go here yet, but man alive is Sam Cosentino ever confident that they’re going to make this selection and if they do it is for ALL the wrong reasons!  This team needs to find pieces that can get them back to contender status, not complimentary wingers who have ties to the front office.  But Sammy Coz seems extremely confident that they’re going to take Perfetti.  I wonder if a trade back with Jersey to the 7th pick maybe makes sense if this is what they want to do?  I’ll explain later.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – Give this some real thought for a minute.  The Wings are still a LONG ways off.  They won’t be ready to win for another three years in my opinion.  He is going to be three or four years before he’s even ready for NHL action.  Goaltending prospects like this rarely come around.  And finally, Yzerman had amazing success taking Andrei Vasilevskiy in the 1st round in 2012.  I can actually make a strong case for it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 4th

To walk out of this draft with Stützle and Drysdale would be massive for this organization as you’d legitimately getting a potential franchise centre and a potential franchise defenceman.  They have stocked the shelves somewhat on D, but I don’t think teams ever feel as though they have enough.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – would make a ton of sense here, and while I prefer that they take a D-man with this pick, and believe they will, shoring up centre is never a bad thing.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – 2nd in a row for Askarov.  I should clarify that he wouldn’t be a reach for me as I have him 6th, and in the same tier as Drysdale and Rossi.  But for most, he’d be considered a reach at four or five.  Again though, pretty damn rare for goaltending prospects like this to come along.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 8th

The Ducks could really use some franchise pillars.  They actually have some really nice young talent, not to mention guys like Lindholm and Gibson who are still young enough to rebuild around.  But those are the only pillar type pieces I believe they have.  Trevor Zegras MIGHT get there, Sam Steel MIGHT get there, Isaac Lundestrom MIGHT get there, but no sure things.  I’m not sure Raymond is that guy either, but he’s close.  And this organization has hit some home runs drafting out of Sweden so it makes a lot of sense.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I don’t like him over Raymond, and I don’t like him for the Ducks, but it sure seems like he is the apple of most NHL scouts eye.

Possible Reach: Kaiden Guhle – for the same reason that Sam Cosentino loves Perfetti to go to Detroit, keep your head up about this one for the Ducks.  All the ties between the Ducks and the P.A. Raiders organization, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, and the Ducks have a need for defencemen in their system right now.

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7. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SOH Rank: 10th

It’s actually just ironic that I brought up the whole Perfetti thing with Detroit.  Truth be told I didn’t think of that being a possibility until after.  But the Devils could package this pick with one of their other 1st rounders (now that we know they own three) to move up to the 4th pick and take the defenceman they pretty badly need, then the Wings could take Perfetti here if that’s in fact who they want.  But I don’t do trades, and they so rarely happen within the draft anymore (hardly ever within the top 10), so the Devils stand pat and take the player with perhaps the highest hockey IQ in the draft.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – this organization is going HEAVY analytics.  A kid like Rossi is going to have the attention of the analytics community when it comes to the draft, as he produced at the same pace this season as Lafrenière while playing in a tougher league (keep in mind too, both are late 01’s).  Also, if the Devils organization see Hughes as a winger long term, then they have a hole behind Hischier which Rossi could fill.

Possible Reach: Braden Schneider – I strongly believe they’ll look to address their blueline in this draft.  They have pieces, but not nearly enough.  If they love Schneider, it’s possible that they can’t get him with those later picks.  Keep in mind though, this is “possible reach”.  I highly doubt this is considered here.

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8. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I just don’t think he’s getting past this point.  In no way does Askarov solve their goaltending issues today, and I know they have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the system.  But I just have a feeling that new GM Kevyn Adams will want to do everything he can this off-season to ensure they no longer have any goaltending issues.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – makes a ton of sense for the Sabres, because while he’s small, he could be that perfect fit of a 2C playing behind Eichel who can do a ton of heavy lifting eating up a lot of tough minutes.  And he’s ready to make the jump now.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – for the exact same reasons I just laid out as to why they might go with Rossi.  Get ready to see him mentioned a lot, because if he has a clean bill of health, teams will have a ton of interest.

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9. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 5th

The last mock I did, I had Kaiden Guhle as their pick.  And they badly need D-men in their system.  But now, not only are they picking higher, but in this scenario, I believe it’s a bonus that Rossi has fallen to 9th.  They aren’t terrific down the middle moving forward either, so take the centre here, they can look to load up on D later (even though it is a thin draft for D), and next years draft it appears they’ll own two 1st round picks (assuming the Penguins choose to give that one to the Wild) in a draft that is rich with quality defencemen.

Other OptionKaiden Guhle – having said what I just said…that blueline is THIN.  Not the current group they have, it’s actually pretty solid.  But they have next to nothing on the way.

Possible Reach: William Wallinder – yep…he would be a reach alright!  They’ve taken six Swedish D-men in the last nine drafts, so they’ve trusted their Swedish scout (though one of those kids was taken out of the USHL).  Having said this, Bill Guerin is now the GM, so who knows who Guerin will be willing to listen to from the previous regime.

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10. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

SOH Rank: 9th

NO.  FREAKING.  CHANCE.  He gets past the Jets pick.  Easily could go higher than this (perhaps as high as 6th to Anaheim).  But if he’s still on the board when his hometown team steps to the…webcam…Kevin Cheveldayoff is thanking the NHL for the event, saying thanks to the great city of Edmonton for doing a great job hosting the bubble, congratulating the Stanley Cup champions, and then announcing…that his director of amateur scouting Mark Hillier will make their selection.  And then Hillier will step up to the webcam and announce they’re taking Seth Jarvis.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – I had a really tough time going with just one other option here.  Lundell though really would fit the Jets well.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – The Wheat Kings are no longer the closest junior team to the Jets anymore, but I’d still consider them to be in their backyard.  Add to that, centre is a need, the GM knows the Wheat Kings VERY well, I’m sure he knows Ridly’s dad pretty damn well given they were in the same draft (1990) and would have played against each other a ton.  They also aren’t afraid to take the guy they love.  Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey were both off the board picks.  I only have one reach possibility for each team, but I can’t help myself here and suggest that Jack Finley having his dad on the scouting staff and this teams desire for players with size who play a pro game…he makes a ton of sense too if they were to reach on a kid.

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11. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

SOH Rank: 12th

Can’t see the Preds going anywhere else with this pick, as long as this is how it plays out.  David Poile has always made sure that the shelves are stocked on the blueline with his teams.  And while the Preds have one of the top blueline’s in the league, they are starting to get older (dumb line, everyone is getting older, I apologize), and nothing is on the way for them to get too excited about.  Guhle in my opinion is going to need time to develop, but could be well worth that wait.  And given the fact that the Preds blueline is so solid at the moment, the timelines on when they’d need him and he’d be ready would match up very well.

Other OptionBraden Schneider – it’s the same idea as Guhle obviously, and scouts have been torn on who they prefer of the two kids all season.  It could come down to preference of what they need more, a LHD or a RHD.

Possible Reach: Helge Grans – he would be a pretty big reach with this pick, no doubt.  RHD with a TON of upside, but any team that takes this kid will need to be patient.  William Wallinder would also qualify here, but I just used him for this two picks ago!

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12. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

SOH Rank: 24th

This is a big need for the Panthers.  In the system, they have some kids I like, but nobody who is a sure thing.  On the big club, Yandle and Stralman are in their mid 30’s, and the Mike Matheson contract has been an absolute disaster.  So they could really use someone.  I liked this pick better when Dale Tallon was the GM, as Schneider is his kind of player.  The new GM…we don’t even know who that is yet, so no idea what that guy might want to do.  I wouldn’t put it past this organization though to package this pick with a big contract as they were already shedding money BEFORE Covid hit.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – it doesn’t look good on D for this club moving forward, but they also have a pretty big hole in the system past Barkov.  The next best centre (long term) they have might be Henrik Borgstrom, and Borgstrom has had trouble adjusting to pro hockey.  So Lundell makes a lot of sense.

Possible Reach: Connor Zary – I’m not nearly as high on him as some are after tracking the WHL prospects this season as closely as I did.  But a lot of scouts really like him, and so if they happen to go the centre route, Zary might be pretty appealing to them.

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13. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

SOH Rank: 13th

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  I know two guys that you think they’ll take over Reichel, but I not only think Reichel will be taken ahead of those two, I actually believe he could be one of those stunner top 10 picks that normally happen.  I’ve gone pretty conservative with what I have mocked here, but there is always one, and usually two picks in the top 10 that leave everyone with their jaw on the floor.  Last year it was Seider and to a lesser extent Broberg.  2018 it was Hayton and to a lesser extent Kravtsov.  2017 it was Andersson and to a lesser extent Rasmussen.  It always happens, and I think Reichel could be that guy.  However, if he’s here for the Canes, I think he’s a kid they’ll love.  They have a lot of this type of player which is high-end skill that plays a sneaky good all-around game.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – this makes a lot of sense.  The Canes are ok in the middle, but not at all stacked.  And they have the type of roster and system where they can afford to take a home run swing like Lapierre would be.

Possible Reach: Rodion Amirov – reach for me (30th on my board), but he’s not that big of a reach for some.  Same idea as Reichel.  The Canes love their skill, and Amirov has a ton of it.

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14. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

SOH Rank: 15th

As you can likely tell by the comp I use, and the ranking I have on him, I’m not nearly as high on Holtz as most are.  Having said this, much like Cole Caufield a year ago, I believe that this is a spot that makes a ton of sense for the pure sniper.  The Oilers lack one, and they have the type of centres who would get the most out of a guy like Holtz.  I have concerns about his skating, his play away from the puck, his puck management, and his shot selection.  So he has plenty more red flags than most admit.  Still, when I compare him to Yak, keep in mind that Yak would be an NHL player if he had simply worked on his flaws.  He wouldn’t have been a superstar, but could have become a 20-30 goal scorer.  So as long as Holtz checks out in the interview process and he’s known to have a great work ethic, he should be ok and a great fit for the Oilers.  I’m not a fan of snipers in the draft, but you should see his shot.  It’s hypnotizing.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – wouldn’t stun me if they were the team that steps up and takes Lapierre.  They BADLY need centres in the system, and as long as his medical’s check out, he’s going to be terrific.  Ironically, while my comp on him is Brayden Point, another guy who comes to mind is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – for me, he’s not that big of a reach here.  But he is for most.  He fits a TON of needs though for this team.  Conservatively, he could be the 3C they’ll need moving forward.  He has top-six potential and might be better on the wing long term given how physical he loves to play.

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15. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Point

SOH Rank: 11th

Someone is taking him much higher than anyone expects.  I’m actually not sure that this is that big of a reach as Bob McKenzie has him in this range.  But why do the Pens make sense?  Because folks…it’s time they start looking at life after Sid and Geno.  It’s not coming soon, but it is coming.  Lapierre would be a terrific fit for them because they could break him in either as the 3C, or on the wing.  So he could still be a huge help to the Pens lineup while Sid and Geno are around, and then long term he is there to help soften the blow when those two are gone (or fading).

Other Option: Anton Lundell – as much as he has concerns about his skating, Lundell is going to be intriguing for some teams due to his ability to possibly step in next season.  So a team like the Pens who could use a centre who can take on some tough minutes (Lundell is a rare kid who could), he does make some sense.  Though players with skating concerns are pretty damn rare on the Pens roster.

Possible Reach: Dylan Holloway – he’d be a reach for my liking (I have him 22nd), but not for most.  As I just talked about with Lundell, the Pens love their speed, and Holloway can really fly.

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The Oilers Shouldn’t “Settle” With Philip Broberg, And They Have No Reason To

In 10 days, we resume.  In 10 days, we as Canadians get to hear the great Chris Cuthbert call games for Hockey Night in Canada once again.  In 10 days, while things aren’t going to be back to normal, it’s another sign that we’re getting closer.  In 10 days, I will be on my sectional with the AC cranked, watching non-stop hockey, probably with a big mess of food by my side (I’ve been dieting pretty hard since about the end of April, down 25lbs, but you better believe the gloves are off that weekend.  Nuggs, pizza, wings, Old Dutch chips with some herb and spice dip…or maybe jalapeno…or dill pickle (I like my chips with the dip just like Drake), any kind of food that is bad for you will be in consideration.  It will all be on the table (well, coffee table, next to my sectional), and it won’t be pretty.  No better way to celebrate weight loss like putting it all back on.  And it’s just 10 days away…

But let’s get serious for a minute, and isn’t it nice just to have some form of sports back?!  Even if it’s not all the way back just yet.  Watched the Jays game last night, just did the rookie draft for our fantasy football league the last few days, the NBA is starting up the same weekend as the NHL, while I’m worried about the worst-case scenario’s, it’s nothing but optimism right now!  SPEAKING OF OPTIMISM…that brings me to today’s blog!  But before we get going on that, please help a slightly less fat guy out:

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The Broberg hype

So the big topic in Oiler-land during camp has become Philip Broberg.  It started with Bob Stauffer (as it normally does with anything Oilers) raving about how good the kid looked.  Stauff said he appears to have filled out and doesn’t look out of place in the camp.  And then Mark Spector followed it up with a piece the other day stating how Broberg has moved ahead of Evan Bouchard on the Oilers depth chart.  That’s exciting!  On Tuesday’s edition of Oilers Now, Spec was on with Bob and they broke down exactly why they’re so excited with what they’ve seen so far.

Now, they’re watching camp, I’m not.  They’re talking to people in the organization, I’m not.  So I’m on the outside looking in here.  I want to make that clear.  And I’m not looking to rip on two guys I once interned for, both of whom treated me very well.  But what has me nervous about what I’m hearing is that it is what we already knew were strengths of Broberg and nothing about him having improved on his weaknesses.  He can fly, but we already knew this.  He’s got great size, but we already knew this.  What became really troublesome for me in the talk, was that Stauff compared him to Noah Hanifin, while Spec at one point said (speaking of the future of the blueline in general) “I don’t see a defence with one BIG horse, like Pietrangelo is in St. Louis, or Doughty is in LA, or Duncan Keith is in Chicago.”  So, why wouldn’t you want to take the kid with the highest ceiling and take your time developing him?  If you look to rush him in, that’s “settling” so to speak (hence, the title of my blog, so weird how that works…).

How I Felt Last Year vs Now

Let’s go back to June 21st, 2019 for a minute here.  I should apologize to any Oilers fans who have been following me on Twitter since that night.  I went insane with my dislike of the pick.  I was not very high on Broberg at any point during the 2019 draft process.  Initially, he shot up most rankings after his performance in Edmonton at the 2018 Hlinka/Gretzky tournament.  I felt in watching him that his performance was simply due to the fact that he was bigger than most, and faster than maybe everyone in that tournament.  At least everyone not wearing a Canadian jersey.  So I felt he was overhyped at that time, and I never really shook that feeling.

When doing my final rankings for that draft, while I make it very clear that I’m not a scout, you better damn well understand that I don’t put those rankings out throwing shit at the wall.  I do as much homework as you can on those kids.  I don’t ever want to put work out that is sloppy.  I don’t know if my work is that great, but I work hard on it, I’m a perfectionist and full disclosure…I have an inferiority complex when it comes to content I put out, so I’m pretty terrified of putting out things people can poke holes in.  The puck-moving ability scared me (he’s never had to learn to move the puck well), and the puck skills, in particular, scared me.  So I had my concerns, and I put him 18th in my final rankings.  Combine that with the fact the Oilers had a desperate need for forwards in general in this organization, and I was beside myself.

But in doing that, I slept on the fact that Broberg had an insanely high floor (I still thought he was essentially a lock to be a top-four defenceman), and an insanely high ceiling (because of that size, that skating, and given he’s an intelligent and hard-working kid, he has a shot to become a legitimate number one defenceman in the league).  So the fact I had him behind some guys like Cam York and Victor Soderstrom isn’t something I’m pumped that I did.

Now, HAVING SAID ALL THAT…

I still think the Oilers should have taken Trevor Zegras.  I personally would have taken Peyton Krebs, but they apparently had no interest in Krebs.

But they took Broberg, and as time has gone on I’ve understood more not only what they saw in the player, but why they felt they perhaps needed another defenceman in the system despite it being pretty loaded already.

Again though, what I’m hearing isn’t anything I didn’t know the kid could be.  Maybe I’m missing something, but what I want to hear is how he’s moving the puck incredibly well, and his puck skills are vastly improved.  We also have to keep some things in mind here.  1) he was skating during the break.  Most weren’t.  2) the clips I’ve seen from the scrimmages at camp, the play is pretty unorganized (as it is in every training camp scrimmage I’ve ever seen) and most of the guys there aren’t exactly battling for a spot, while Broberg is one of the few who is.

I completely understand the excitement of the fan base.  Anytime a prospect emerges in any form, the thoughts immediately go towards the upside of the prospect not just in terms of what the player could be, but how the organization could take advantage of the added depth.

We as fans also have to remember that it’s not just Oilers fans who have been guilty of wanting kids rushed, the Edmonton media has been just as guilty of it.  Again, not meaning to shit on what guys like Stauff and Spec have to say on this at all.  But it’s just a fact of the matter.  2017-18 training camp, the cry was for Yamamoto to make the club out of camp.  In 18-19 guys were pushing pretty hard for Bouchard to make it (and in fairness, I was too given the situation at the time).  Back in the day, they were pushing for Sam Gagner.  Magnus Paajarvi.  Leon Draisaitl (it didn’t hurt him, but they did rush him that first season).  It has happened so much over the years and needs to stop.

A Succession Plan

Thankfully, Ken Holland isn’t the type of guy who’ll look to rush a prospect.  They have a very good succession plan in place here on defence.  I’m not sure if it is going to be followed the way that I believe they’ll do it, but it probably won’t be far off.

On the left side of the D is where that succession plan should be rock solid.  Klefbom, Nurse, Jones, Russell, Samorukov, and Broberg all in place.  So you might be asking “how are they going to make room for a kid like Broberg?”  Wait, you didn’t ask?  Oh, well, too bad, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Kris Russell should be the first to go.  When that will be, I’m not sure.  I THINK there is an excellent opportunity for Russell to move this off-season.  His cap hit isn’t pretty, but what is are the real dollars left owing on his deal for next season of 1.5 million.  He also now has to green light 15 teams he can be dealt to, up from 10 last season.  There are going to be a lot of teams around the league looking to save some money.  So while I don’t expect Holland to be able to outright dump the contract, I do believe there will be an opportunity out there to get a pretty good forward at a similar cap hit in return for Russell.  An example I came across, and I have no idea if this is a possibility, but perhaps a deal with Flordia for Brett Connolly makes sense.  It saves the Panthers two million dollars for next season, and Russell only has one more year on his deal, where Connolly has three.

Should Russell be shed, that frees up the spot on the bottom pair for Jones to play full-time next season.  And the blueline looks set heading into 20-21.  But what about the expansion draft?  Do you go 4-4-1?  At this point, I think that’s a no brainer for the Oilers.  We know that McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins (assuming he’s re-signed) and Yamamoto would be the forwards protected.  But what if they land someone worth keeping for Russell?  What if there is someone else they have plans on keeping up front?  What if someone pops?  Maybe Benson?  Maybe Athanisiou starts clicking with someone?  Then what?  Not to mention, the way the Oilers are set up, if you assume the kids on the blueline keep progressing the way they have been, you’re going to have a hell of a trade chip to play that off-season, if you haven’t played it already.  I believe they’ll end up going 7-3-1 with who they protect, and while everyone thinks it’ll be Nurse who is eventually dealt, I believe it’s going to be Oscar Klefbom who is.

Klefbom v Nurse (moving forward)

Now, I’m not as set on this as I once was, and I’ll get to all the possibilities.  But I still believe this is what the organization will end up doing, and there are several reasons why (apparently nine, at least that I thought of).

  1. Klefbom is two years older.
  2. Nurse has a far better track record of staying healthy.
  3. Nurse is bigger and a better skater.
  4. With Bear, Bouchard, and Jones, not to mention prospects like the aforementioned Broberg and Samorukov coming, the Oilers won’t lack what Klefbom brings to the table, where Nurse brings a different dimension.
  5. Nurse is TIGHT from all accounts with the two big dogs on this team.  That matters in this scenario.
  6. Things have never seemed quite right with Klefbom and the organization.  Trade rumours in the 2018 off-season, he’s never been given a letter, I’m not suggesting there is some big issue, but I just get the sense that he’s not viewed as one of their core players.  Maybe that was the old regime and not the new one, but we’ll see.
  7. This is more my belief than having any knowledge that the organization is thinking this way, but I believe Nurse is the exception to the rule when it comes to his growth.  Most players by age 25 are what they are.  But most players aren’t 6’5 guys who are tremendous skaters with a work ethic matched by few.  The two players I look at when thinking of Nurse are Rob Blake and Brent Burns.  Both players when they were young had similar talent to Nurse, and neither guy reached their potential until around age 28.  I also should point out that I don’t believe Nurse will become the offensive force that Blake was and Burns is.  Where I believe the growth will come with Nurse is in the defensive zone.  As frustrating as he can be at times in his own zone now, I really believe he can become an elite defensive defenceman.
  8. There seems to be a bit of a misconception on their contracts.  Most see Nurse as the guy to go given he is a UFA in two more years.  Well, that sweetheart Klefbom deal now only has three more years on it.  If Ken Holland is to give one of these two a 7 or 8-year contract, one would start at 27, the other would start at 30.
  9. Klefbom MIGHT have the higher trade value given that 4.1 million dollar cap hit, with still two seasons remaining on it after next season.  With a tight cap, two years of a top pairing D-man at 4.1 million is pretty damn attractive.

That’s a lot of reasons.  But it’s not to suggest that I don’t see the other side of it, I absolutely do.  The big one for me though is the long term ramifications with each guy.  If you’re going to commit to one of them long term, I’m choosing Nurse even though I believe Klefbom is currently the better defenceman.  Nurse definitely closed the gap this season, and while it is completely fair to say Ethan Bear played a large role in that, the fact of the matter is that Nurse (by most analytic measures that I saw this season, but I fully admit that as much as I try with analytics, I’m not wise) was their top defenceman.

Lot’s to Consider

Could they simply let Jones be plucked by Seattle?  I guess, but that feels like extremely poor asset management.

It is possible with how well they’re currently set up that they trade Nurse in the next 12 months, and simply allow Klefbom’s deal to run out in three years.  I wouldn’t bet on this happening, but we’ll see.  They’re moving into contender mode, and this is something contenders do.  If you told me that in three years they’ll have Jones, Broberg, and Samorukov on the left side of their blueline, I could see it.

And we also don’t know what contract negotiations will look like with Nurse.  When he signed the two-year extension, my theory attempting to read the tea leaves from what was said by both sides and the media was that it was essentially an 8-10 year deal.  It’s pretty rare for a guy looking for big term and years to simply cave after little negotiating.  It’s also pretty rare for a team to be fine walking a 25 year old, top-four defenceman to free agency.  Something must have been done under the table.  But now…so much has changed.  So we’ll see.  Maybe Nurse will now want to go to free agency simply to recover as much money as he may have lost by not doing a long term deal?  Entirely possible.

Finally, of course it is entirely possible that they protect four D.  Given the depth on the blueline, and the amount of high-end D that they have coming, I can’t see it, but you never know.  If someone wants to make the case for it, perhaps they’d say the need to protect one of Klefbom or Nurse for another organization severely hurts their trade value, where if you protect all four guys you can make a move following the expansion draft.  That’s fair.

What I really don’t foresee is a way that both Klefbom and Nurse stay long term.  With how tight this cap is going to be, and given how well they’re set up moving forward on the blueline, I just can’t see them committing big dollars to both guys.

Post Expansion Draft

No matter which one of Klefbom or Nurse might be dealt, it is probably safe to assume that the organization will keep one of them long term.  You’ll have one of them, and very likely Caleb Jones occupying the left side.

So what about the bottom pair?  It’s true, that could be a good spot for Broberg to step in.  But they also have Lagesson.  I have my doubts on Lagesson having seen him make the jump for 8 games this season, but it is very possible he’s not done growing yet.

Don’t sleep on Markus Niemelainen.  He’s huge, he skates very well, can move the puck well, and is a good sheer defender.  He’s always left people wanting more out of his game, but a number five defenceman who leaves you wanting more is still a number five defenceman.

Finally, you might forget or might not know that they have a damn good kid coming in Dmitri Samorukov.  I really believe that Sammy is going to be a player, it’s just a matter of how good can he be?  He showed steady progression in Bakersfield this season, now he’s playing a year in the KHL (and before anyone perhaps gets nervous about that, it sounds like it was encouraged by the organization given the uncertainty of the AHL season).  Samorukov could be ready for bottom pair minutes in the 21-22 season.

What About the Right Side?

It’s safe to say that the top four on the right side will be set with Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard.  Obviously we don’t KNOW with Bouchard, and we’ve only seen one year of Bear to this point.  But at this point it sure looks set.

What will be interesting to see in the off-season is which one of Larsson or Benning goes?  Since Bear emerged, I have believed it would be Larsson.  It would be riskier given that they would then be gifting Bouchard a top-four role, which you never want to do.  Having said that, if any kid has looked ready for that kind of promotion, it’s Bouchard.  But with how tight teams are going to be to the cap, I’m not sure Larsson is movable.  It’s possible you could do a similar deal to what I propose with Russell (money out/money in), but it actually might be tougher to move Larsson because of the real dollars.

If Larsson isn’t or can’t be moved, I can’t see them qualifying Matt Benning.  It’s possible that Benning agrees to do a cheaper deal than what his QO would be given he is unlikely to get that on the open market, but history tells us he would walk in that scenario.

On the flip side, if Larsson can be moved, I don’t see why Benning wouldn’t be a mainstay on their bottom pair.  He’s only a number five guy, but he’s one hell of a number five guy!

Back to Broberg

I also could have said “in conclusion”, but this was supposed to be about Broberg…

There is ZERO need to rush this kid.  Absolutely ZERO.  And while I get the excitement, and I get that he is possibly capable of stepping in next season, I really hope they don’t settle when it comes to Broberg.  You used the 8th pick on him over forwards who not only filled the Oilers needs better, but most saw as better prospects.  He has number one potential.  They don’t need a Noah Hanifin.  They don’t need another top four/2nd pairing defenceman.  They need a number one guy, and Broberg can become that in time.  He might not ever get there, but he has a much better chance of becoming that guy if they take their time with him.

I’ve said from the start, I would keep him two more years in Sweden (he’s had one, supposed to be back for another this upcoming season), then I’d give him one full season in the AHL after that, and then we’ll see.  Give him time to develop his skill, develop his puck-moving, develop his angling, develop his positioning, work on his shot, work on walking the line, work on anything he needs to work on.  He is going to get big minutes at the WJC (should it happen), bigger minutes with Skelleftea, and then of course he’d get big minutes in Bakersfield the following season (not to mention get comfortable living in North America).  I would also be adamant he works with a skills coach each summer.  Most do, so it likely doesn’t need to be said, but with Broberg especially I believe it could be massive for his game.

For anyone disagreeing with this approach, I’ll leave you with this: the two players Broberg plays most similarly to are Jay Bouwmeester and the aforementioned Noah Hanifin.  Both were rushed into the league thanks to their elite skating and size.  Both looked great early on.  J-Bo’s offensive game never progressed, and Hanifin’s has yet to.  I hope Holland and company see this the same way I do.  If they do, they may have another star on their hands…down the line.

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2021 NHL Draft: Preliminary Top 32

Welcome to the draft of the defenceman!  Good Gord, you can’t promise much for a draft a year out.  A good draft can go bad, a bad draft can actually turn out pretty solid, it’s rare you can find something that is a lock.  But I’m calling it right now, that it is a LOCK that this draft is a terrific draft to grab a D-man in.  14 of my top 25 are D-men.  FOURTEEN.

Actually, in regards to how good this draft could be…nobody knows.  People don’t seem too hyped about it, but doing my list, I can make a case for a lot of these guys to go 1st.  I get down around my 12th ranked guy and I’m going “I could make the case for him going 1st right now”.  So no tiering this time around.  The fact that I rank them is frankly flat out wrong, but it makes for a more entertaining read.  2003 is the best draft of all-time, and there was never that one stud at the top.  The top four picks, each of those teams had the guy they got ranked 1st.  By no means am I suggesting this draft is like 03, I’m just saying don’t sleep on it just because there might not be that clear cut guy at the top.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this class though.  It’s my kind of draft.  I could see the internet/Twitter scouts HATING this, because you have a ton of D-men, a lot of cerebral centres with pro games, there won’t be anywhere near the flash of 2020’s class.  2020’s class was easy for them.  “Look at the points!  The highlight goals!  Look how dynamic these kids are!”  This is one reason I believe we’re seeing all the drama and childish bull shit going on amongst them.  I’m not a big fan of the 2020 draft beyond my top 10 because I believe you win with complete players who can be put in any situation which the 2020 class really lacks.  2021 is loaded with them though.

A couple things before I get going.  1) you’ll notice I just list wingers as wingers (W).  I’m done with saying a winger is lining up on the left or right side as we’re finding out it really doesn’t matter for wingers which side they play.  Defencemen, it matters a lot.  Wingers, it just doesn’t.  In fact, we’re seeing more and more wingers playing their off wings these days.  2) even though this one is more like the write-ups I’ve done in the past, this season I’m going to try hard to simply leave the write-ups to 1-3 sentences.  It just takes way too damn long, and most of what I have to say is going off what the pros have to say.  That’s a fine line for me because the last thing I want to do is steal anyone’s work.  If anything, I want to promote it.  So I’ll attempt to just say why I rank a player where I do, maybe what I love or don’t love about his game, and move on.

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1. Owen Power

Team: Michigan  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Victor Hedman

The complete package.  Incredibly smooth skater and when you factor in his size it’s even better, the IQ is off the charts, and the composure he plays with can make him look lethargic.  He’s just effortless.  Craig Button recently compared him to Chris Pronger.  I don’t use that for my comp because he doesn’t have the nasty edge Pronger had, but everything else is spot on.  He missed the 2020 draft by about 10 weeks (not close, but he’s a late 02).  If he had been draft-eligible for 2020, I’d have a tough time figuring out the order of Power, Byfield, and Stützle for my 2/3/4 spots.  Off to Michigan this season and all eyes will be on the Wolverines.  In fact, it’s possible we see teammates going head to head with each other to see who’ll go 1st overall.

 

2. Carson Lambos

Team: Winnipeg  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Suter

First and foremost, this Winnipeg Ice team is going to be DAMN GOOD very soon.  I’d guess they’re competing for a Memorial Cup in the 21-22 season should Lambos be back for it, but that is questionable with how good this kid is.  Probably the most complete defenceman to come along since Aaron Ekblad.  He just does absolutely everything exceptionally well.  IQ, skating, puck-moving, shot, physicality, positioning, it is insane for a 16 year old.

 

3. Kent Johnson

Team: Michigan  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: John Tavares

Owen Power’s teammate on what’ll be a pretty damn entertaining Wolverines team in 20-21 if the season is a go.  He was 5’6, 120lbs when he was taken in the 10th round of the WHL draft.  And while he’s likely topping out at 6’1, he still has another 20-30lbs to put on that frame.  Which really makes me wonder about the skating, because that’s the thing you can point to for a flaw in Johnson’s game, but it is highly likely that growing that much in such a short time has hindered it.  Anyway, even if it is what it is, it’s passable, which is where the John Tavares comp comes from.  Incredible vision and IQ.

 

4. Aatu Räty

Team: Kärpät U20  League: U20 SM-sarja

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Aleksander Barkov

I hate the stereotypical comps, but I found this one tough to avoid.  So he is getting the most hype at this point as the top prospect in this draft, but I believe a lot of that is based off people not knowing exactly who should be the top prospect for it.  I really like Raty’s game, but I’m not sure the offensive upside is elite.  Still, the comp I use is Barkov, and if he can be that, then he’s in the discussion.  He’s definitely not head and shoulders above the class though as some have made him out to be.

 

5. Matthew Beniers

Team: Harvard  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Logan Couture

I love this kids game.  Big fan of the comp to Couture also, I feel it’s spot on.  The one I believe you’ll see a lot of is Jonathan Toews (which is one I and others use a ton, tough to avoid though when he has been the favourite of so many for this generation).  For you Oilers fans, another one that crossed my mind was Shawn Horcoff, but Horc’s prime wasn’t really that long so it doesn’t do Beniers justice.  Anyway, just a complete centre who does it all, and just like Johnson, at 168lbs has 20-30lbs to still put on his frame.

***UPDATE***

 

6. Dylan Guenther

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Markus Naslund

I don’t like one-dimensional snipers anywhere near as much as most do, but Guenther is a shoot first kid who can create, and that’s rare.  Most will have him in their top five, but a lot will have him in their top three, and I’m sure there will be a few who have him as the top guy on their board if not to start the season, not far into it.  I have him 6th simply because I value the D and centres more, but the combination of shot, skill, speed and size is going to have people drooling and it’s understandable.

 

7. Simon Edvinsson

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: P.K. Subban

Ignore the size here, because while it’s an asset, he would still be getting big notice if he were 5’10, 175lbs thanks to his offensive abilities.  The intrigue is if he can begin to utilize that size.  Being 6’4 and still being so thin, it could be just a case of him being easier to push around at this point.  Once he fills out, there could be no stopping him.

 

8. Corson Ceulemans

Team: Brooks  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Pietrangelo

This kid is big and can move.  Got to watch him live back in January, and he was perhaps the best player on the ice as a 16 year old.  I know some people will roll their eyes at that and say “it’s just the AJHL”, but the AJHL is still a TOUGH league for a 16 year old kid to be a number one defenceman as he was.  By my count (because the AJHL doesn’t keep the stats for PPA’s) only 10 of his 35 points (a goal and 9 assists) were with the man advantage.  In a game late in the season vs Camrose (very good AJHL franchise), the Bandits won 10-3, Ceulemans had 5 assists in the game, 4 of which were primary at ES.  He didn’t often play on their top PP unit, as Bandits head coach Ryan Papinou mostly fed him the toughest minutes.  The guy who’ll always be brought up (especially with Ceulemans) from now on will be Cale Makar, but Jacob Bernard-Docker is a much more fair defenceman to look at when talking about Ceulemans.  JBD was on a great Okotoks team in his 16 and 17 year old seasons, known as a mobile defensive defenceman.  26th pick in a pretty deep draft, especially for D-men!  JBD wasn’t anywhere close to Ceulemans when comparing their 16 year old seasons.  In fact, Ceulemans might have been better this season than JBD was in his 17 year old season.

 

9. Luke Hughes

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 161  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Yandle

The youngest of the Hughes brothers, and the youngest in his draft year as well as Luke will be one of the youngest kids selected in the 2021 draft (Sep. 9th, 03).  Luke got the size in the family from the looks of it!  It’ll be easy for people to look at Luke and compare him to Quinn.  He actually has a chance to be better than Quinn in my opinion though because of that extra size, he’ll be able to handle tougher minutes, though might not be the stand out offensively that Quinn is.  And before you say it…yes, he is an amazing skater too.  Did you think a Hughes kid wouldn’t be?

 

10. Sean Behrens

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Quinn Hughes

Ironic that Luke will get the comp to his oldest brother, yet it’s his teammate Behrens who plays the most like him.  I have him higher than others I’ve seen, but can only imagine how much the Twitter scouts are going to completely lose their skull over this kid.  He’s a 5’8 D-man, so there is little doubt in my mind that he’ll be getting ranked 1st by mid-season and anyone who has him 2nd or lower will have him there because they hate undersized players.  My favourite thing these days is for guys to still play that card.  Overrating an undersized player is the internet scout version of being woke.  Cole Caufield has skating issues, zero playmaking ability, isn’t good away from the puck, but it was because he’s 5’7 that he fell to 15th in the draft…sure…anyway (man I bring him up a ton, it really does bother me).  For me, the size is no issue with Behrens because he is a terrific skater, terrific puck-mover, and has terrific skill.  Two years ago, I was down on Quinn Hughes more than most, and not really because of his size but because I just prefer D-men who can do it at both ends of the ice.  Give me Alex Pietrangelo or Ryan Suter all day over Erik Karlsson is my logic.  But having said that, it’s tough to not get excited over someone who drives offence and is going to make everyone on the ice better like Quinn Hughes can and Behrens projects to be.

 

11. Daniil Lazutin

Team: MHK Dynamo Moskva  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Couturier

So I’m usually the first one to tell you how it’s “buyer beware” with Russian forwards.  It’s “buy now!!!” when it comes to Russian netminders, and even though there hasn’t been one since Sergachev in 2016, Russian defenceman in the 1st round the last decade or so have a great track record too.  The forwards though…it’s a pretty high bust rate.  Lazutin is tough for me not to love though because this kid has the type of game I adore, as do coaches.  A very complete game, good skater, good vision, good skill, and as you can read the size is going to be a very nice bonus as well which he uses tremendously well.  It’s a little like Jack Finley for me.  Huge forwards like Finley have an extremely high bust rate, but if you just look at his game you see how he can thrive, and that’s Lazutin.  He doesn’t play like the stereotypical Russian forward.  Lots of filling out still to do too which I’m sure by now you’ve noticed, that is basically a bonus for me as I’m concerned kids who are already filled out have limited upside because of that.  Not in all cases, but the majority.

 

12. Cole Sillinger

Team: Medicine Hat  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Monahan

It’s crazy how similar Johnson, Raty and Sillinger are as prospects.  None of them currently have the skating ability we’d prefer, but all three have incredibly high IQ’s.  So Sillinger doesn’t have the skating I’d like to see at the moment, the other knock I have is that nearly half his production came on the PP, and it was the 3rd best PP in the league.  But still, to put up over a PPG in the WHL in your 16 year old season is pretty special.

 

13. William Eklund

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Travis Konecny

E5: This kid is good.  Hope some of you get that joke…I love Eklund’s game.  He’s got an awesome motor and specifically when he was promoted to the SHL this season, he showed he is willing to play in any role and play it any way he has to in order to best help his team win.  Captain material, but that’s not at all to suggest he’s not talented, as he showcased tremendous skill playing in the SuperElit league this season.  It seems like I’m suggesting this more and more lately, but I might like him better as a centre (which he has played) given his motor, vision, and willingness to play such a complete game.  Safely you take him and love him on the wing, but it’s possible you get that bonus with him.

 

14. Zachary L’Heureux

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Morrow

Very similar to Eklund.  Traded in a blockbuster deal from Moncton to Halifax, I really wonder if the Moosheads will try him at centre?  I have his comp as Morrow, but someone else that actually comes to mind is Mike Richards.  Everything in his game suggests to me that he would thrive in the middle, but should he stay on the wing that’s quite alright too.  First thing that caught my attention with L’Hereux was the numbers.  46 ES points in 55 games last season for the Wildcats, that’s pretty absurd ES production for a 16 year old in the CHL!  But his motor, aggressiveness, and IQ are what really has me intrigued.

 

15. Daniil Chayka

Team: Guelph  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Shea Theodore

All the tools are here to be in that group I have in the top 10.  Hell, Chayka ending up as the top pick in this draft wouldn’t surprise me.  All the tools are here.  But two things concern me: 1) he can be prone to some bad decisions.  Better this year than his 16 year old season, but he still has them.  2) while I’m not “all about stats”, I still prefer to see them.  I’m a tough grader on kids with late birthdates in their draft years, so I’m putting his 34 points in 56 games this past season up against other D-men from the OHL who are draft eligible this season like Ryan O’Rourke in which the numbers are very similar and O’Rourke is POSSIBLY a late 1st rounder, more likely a 2nd round pick in this draft.  Different players, but it’s a concern for me.   If you want to go glass half full on that, Chayka had similar numbers to Evan Bouchard in his 17 year old season, and then Bouchard exploded in his 18 year old season.  And again, the talent is enormous with Chayka, so it might be only a matter of time before he puts it all together.

 

16. Brandt Clarke

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Green

I might be on a bit of an island here as several people are talking about Clarke being in the running for the top pick in this draft.  The numbers are very much so here, but his skating ability and defensive game scare me.  If you look at the top scoring D-men in the NHL the last several seasons, you can’t find a guy who doesn’t at least skate well, and I’m not sure I’d say that Clarke skates well at this point.  Having said that, he has a year to clean that all up, and if he does, he should be in the mix with the top guys.

 

17. Logan Mailloux

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 214  Shot: R

Comparison: Colton Parayko

Spent last season with London, but only four games with the Knights as the rest was with the Nationals of the GOJHL, but he will be full time with the Knights this coming season.  All the tools, but extremely raw at this point.  My favourite comps are the ones that I don’t need to explain, and this is one of them.  Think Parayko when he entered the league and that’s pretty much Mailloux.

 

18. Dylan Duke

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyler Bertuzzi

I am a BIG fan of Duke’s game.  This is not your typical 5’9 winger, this kid is COMPLETE!  Solid in all three zones at this point.  The skating is solid, maybe the one concern I have at this point.  But like all kids sub 170lbs, I wonder how much of that is a lack of lower body strength?  But this kid is at worse a top-nine winger who might end up being a first-line guy just thanks to his willingness to do anything he has to do.

 

19. Chaz Lucius

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Max Pacioretty

Interesting player.  He’s actually playing centre, I like him better as a winger given his tremendous shot and his high shot volume, so basically I’m saying I believe he translates to be a sniper in the NHL.  But his play away from the puck is very solid too and is committed to play a complete game, so maybe he will translate as a centre?  I should add, I’m not a big fan of my comp here, but that was the best I could come up with.  Hopefully I can come up with a better one in the months ahead.

 

20. Mason McTavish

Team: Peterborough  League: OHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Tanner Pearson

24 goals and 38 points at ES as a 16 year old this season is damn impressive!  I’m really worried about the skating though and that he is possibly a kid who has just developed much sooner than the rest of his peer group.  Most have him much higher than I do at this point.  Frankly, I thought about having him much lower than this, but THAT kind of production is pretty rare for a 16 year old.

 

21. Aidan Hreschuk

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Morrissey

He’s overshadowed right now by Hughes and Behrans, but I’m going out on a bit of a limb here thinking that he will slowly get notice as next season goes on.  He is going to get all the tough minutes for the DP and he is more than capable of handling those duties.  Very mobile as you’d expect, great in his own end, brings some physicality to the table, and while he isn’t likely to get much of an offensive role next season there is some pretty good offensive ability here.

 

22. Anton Olsson

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

The offensive talent appears to be there with Olsson as he put up impressive numbers for a 16 year old D-man in the SuperElit this season (highest scoring 16 year old D-man in the league), but he plays a much safer game than that would suggest and is terrific at this point in his development in his own zone.  This is the type of D-man that has been a late riser for most in the 2020 rankings (Jake Sanderson) because they don’t entice the twitter/internet scouts like they do the professionals.

 

23. Evan Nause

Team: Québec  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Damon Severson

Got to broadcast his brother Ryan’s home games all last season with the Lloydminster Bobcats in the AJHL.  Evan is going to play for the Remparts next season in the Q, after initially balking at going the CHL route (originally drafted by Val-d’Or in 2019, taken by the Remparts in the 2020 draft) and spending last season in Sioux Falls of the USHL.  He is a tremendous skater and also rock-solid in his own zone.  The offensive potential is there, the question is whether or not he’ll be able to tap into it.  Ironically, I felt that way about his brother all season long in that I felt Ryan perhaps didn’t know just how good he could be.

 

24. Oscar Plandowski

Team: Charlottetown  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Anton Stralman

As is the case in this group of defencemen (the three above and the one following Plandowski), high-end mobility, great puck mover, and we’ll see if the offensive numbers start to come for him.  If they don’t, Plandowski is advanced at his age with his play in the defensive zone.  Good stick, good gap control, angling, positioning, he’s a very intelligent defender.

 

25. Jack Peart

Team: Fargo  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Goligoski

I am probably just going to repeat myself as I’m really not sure how to separate this group of terrific skating D-men, but the difference here is that Peart was playing high school hockey this past season, only had a few games in the USHL.  So he’s much more of a mystery at this point, but he sure looks like he has the skating and skill to shoot up draft boards.

 

26. Sebastian Cossa

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 212  Glove: L

Comparison: Robin Lehner

Maybe being a homer here for someone who grew up in Alberta (Fort Mac) and plays for the Oil Kings, but I love the size and athleticism with Cossa.  Maybe putting him in the 1st round is a reach.  I said all season with Askarov, I’m not the guy who believes in taking a goaltender in the 1st round, but there are always exceptions to the rule.  But I can see the enormous upside with Cossa’s game.  For a goaltender, you can learn better positioning, angles, rebound control, playing a more relaxed game, etc.  You can’t learn size and athleticism and Cossa has that, not to mention some terrific 17 year old numbers this season.

 

27. Justin Robidas

Team: Val-d’Or  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: J.G. Pageau

Nice to see he didn’t end up stuck on that island with his dad…Am I ACTUALLY doing this?!  So, go back and read pretty much anything I’ve written on the draft in the last eight years.  I guarantee you that you won’t find me once suggesting that someone this undersized should be listed as a centre, let alone suggesting that he can make it as a centre in the NHL.  Yet…here we are.  And it’s not because I’ve changed my tune on it in any way, but Robidas just plays such a complete and determined game combined with some really high-end skill that I can’t help but love him and believe he might have a chance to work there.  It’s not unheard of.  It was pretty common in the 80’s for really undersized guys like this to play the middle and thrive (Steve Kasper, Theo Fleury came up playing the middle, Rick Meagher), and more recently David Desharnais etched out a nice career as a 5’7 centre and he wasn’t nearly as well rounded as Robidas projects to be.  Let’s say Robidas can’t work in the middle though, he still has the tools to thrive on the wing.  Skating is very good, but at 5’7 he needs to max out with his speed and quickness to thrive.

 

28. Simon Robertsson

Team: Skellefteå AIK J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Clayton Keller

An electrifying winger with terrific speed and terrific hands.  He’s an equally good playmaker and finisher.  Great vision and a great release with his shot.  There is a lot to like here, but scouts are going to want to see his play away from the puck improve.

 

29. Kyle Kukkonen

Team: Maple Grove High  League: USHS

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

I can’t find anything anywhere as of writing this, but I’m guessing that Kukkonen will play in the USHL this season as he’s a late 02 so I assume he’s done high school (never know, maybe not).  He’s the type of goal scorer I like.  Most kids that are snipers, all you hear about is their shot.  Kukkonen can rip it, but he also has great hands and is willing to pay the price either going to the net, or staying in front.  But the big question is how he’ll do at higher level’s of hockey.  Not overly difficult to play that game in high school hockey.  Different story in the USHL, NCAA, and eventually the pros.

 

30. Jesper Wallstedt

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 214  Glove: L

Comparison: Cam Talbot

Most, if not all, have Wallstedt ahead of Cossa.  Perhaps it’s a Western bias on my part, but Wallstedt is a puck blocker, where Cossa seems much more athletic of the two.  Combine that with a tiny bit more size, and to me, Cossa feels like a much better prospect.  Wallstedt sneaks into my top 32 mostly due to his accomplishments to this point more than me being too excited about him as a prospect.  Having said this, I remind you yet again that we’re a year out and I have a lot to learn on all these kids.  It’s just how I feel a year out.

 

31. Oskar Olausson

Team: HV71 J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jacob Silfverberg

Terrific skater and has a very complete game.  He’s actually very similar at this point to 2020 draft eligibles from Sweden Daniel Torgersson and Emil Heineman, but at this point looks as though he has more offensive upside.  I believe Olausson is going to be a very safe pick though like those two are.

 

32. Wyatt Johnston

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Laughton

Another kid who I believe will be viewed at worse as a very safe pick come June 2021.  The skill isn’t off the charts, but the skating, motor, and willingness to drive the net and go to the dirty areas are going to make him a point producer in the OHL this coming season.

 

Honourable Mention

Tim Delay

Team: St. Sebastian’s   League: USHS

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 152  Shot: L

Awesome wheels and plays a power game, but obviously needs to fill out his frame…A LOT.

 

Fabian Lysell

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Highly skilled winger, taken in the CHL import draft by Vancouver.  Still listed as playing for Frölunda next season at this point, but really hoping he comes over and we get to see him up close.

 

Brennan Othmann

Team: Flint  League: OHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Intangibles kid.  Impossible not to love, but the skating isn’t great so is he maxing out his talent already?

 

Alexei Prokopenko

Team: Gatineau  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Recently picked in the CHL import draft.  Very solid two-way centre, intrigued to see what he can do in the Q.

 

Sasha Pastujov

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Pretty good across the board with his skating, size, and skill.  He’s a playmaker and you know that’s a big plus in my books.

 

James Malatesta

Team: Québec  League: QMJHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 172  Shot: L

This draft seems to have a lot of wingers who aren’t your typical undersized/skilled wingers.  They play a complete game.  Malatesta is another one of those kids.

 

Logan Stankoven

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: W  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Skilled winger who plays a hard game, the big question is how his skating will develop.  If it can improve, he’ll be getting 1st round hype.

 

Cameron Whynot

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

The tools are top 10.  The decision making is very suspect at this point though.

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2021 NHL Draft: Western Canadian Preliminary Top 10

The 2020 draft has now come and gone and what a weekend it was in Montreal!  It’s crazy how that draft went, isn’t it?!  Can you believe what some of the teams did?!!  Or what’s even crazier is what some of the teams didn’t do!!  And how bout those players who fell?!  Can you believe how high some of those other players went?!  Just a crazy weekend!!

That’s about what I would have written had the draft happened, wouldn’t it?

Well, this might be it for this piece!  SPR is going with new and better-looking people for his site this year, and I really just started doing these for him.  So, I’m not sure if I’ll still keep covering the WHL/tier-II kids this upcoming season.  But having said this, I had a blast doing it, and given that I love the talent that is coming out from the West for the 2021 draft, it is pretty likely I keep going with it.

How good is the talent in the West for the 2021 draft?  To put it into context, Hockey Prospects Black Book has their top 32 prospects for the 2021 draft.  If you include the guy I talk about off the top (who won’t count for these lists beyond this one), five of their top seven show up from this list.  That’s for the entire draft.  It’s funny, 2018 was a dreadful year for the West.  Since then, 2019 was their big resurgence, 2020 has ended up being a sneaky good season for the West, and now 2021 has the potential to be the best of the bunch.

Now, while it’s top-heavy, I’m not seeing the ’21 class to be anywhere near as deep as ’20’s class has been for the West.  We’ll see how kids develop, but I could make a case for nearly 20 kids from the West going in the top 62 of this year’s draft, and right from the get-go last year I was seeing it having that type of potential.  This year, it’s extremely top-heavy, I like my top 10, but when I got to the HM’s I wasn’t a big fan of what I was finding.  But again, I stress, at this point.

If you want to have a better idea of how I look at things and do my rankings, give this piece a read and it explains things much better.

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Special Mention

Kent Johnson

Team: Trail Smoke Eaters

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 41  A: 60  P: 101

Born: 10/18/02, North Vancouver, BC

This is a “special mention” because this is the last time I’ll get to put him on a Western Canadian list as he’s off to Michigan in the fall (assuming there is school) and if not, I’m sure he’ll be off to the USHL for the 20-21 season.  Johnson put up nearly identical numbers this season to Alex Newhook’s 18-19 numbers if you need a barometer.   In the case of Johnson, however, he won’t have any of the size concerns some may have had with Newhook.  It looked like that would be the case when Johnson was taken in the bantam draft and stood just 5’6 and weighed 120lbs.  He’s had a BIT of a growth spurt you might say…And while I will go much more off someone’s birth year than draft year when comparing statistics, it is noteworthy that Johnson was nearly 10 months younger this season than Newhook was last season.  It’s a strong pre-draft year showing, but the fact is that we’ll get a MUCH better look at what Johnson can do next season should he be suiting up for the Wolverines.  I’m not planning on going too in-depth on players in this write-up, but since this is the last time Johnson will be on this list…he reminds me a lot of John Tavares.  The skating needs work.  Not a bad skater, but he doesn’t skate overly well.  Maybe a 6/10, so above average.  How much of that is because of the growth spurt though?  And seeing he’s still pretty thin, how good will the skating be once he gains strength?  But what I love about this kid is the IQ appears to be off the charts and combines that with tremendous vision and patience with the puck.  He’s willing to wait that extra little bit for a seam to open up, and then can find his man.

 

Peter Reynolds

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 14  A: 33  P: 47

Born: 01/20/03, Fredericton, NB

Like Johnson, Reynolds is done in the BCHL as he de-committed to Boston College and instead will play for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Q.  I won’t pretend to be anything of an expert on Reynolds.  With Johnson, he was on my radar by about November given he was obliterating the BCHL.  I mostly got aware of Reynolds back in late March as I went through the league looking for kids for the 2020 draft.  Speedy and skilled though, it’ll be much easier to get a read on what he’ll be playing in Saint John.

 

Now onto the kids who’ll be playing out West this coming season…

 

1. Carson Lambos

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: L

I believe there are going to be four kids vying for this spot, so it isn’t to suggest that Lambos is a slam dunk to stick here.  But the way it sits at the moment, Lambos isn’t just my top prospect from the West, but at this point (which I can’t stress enough a year out) he is a legit threat to challenge for 1st overall in the draft as the 2021 draft class currently does not have anyone who stands out.  Lambos brings a very complete game to the table and logged a lot of tough minutes for the Ice this season as a 16 year old.  The amount of complete defenceman in this 2021 draft class (overall, not just the West) is absurd.  Two guys in my top four here, another in the top ten, Owen Power, Luke Hughes, Simon Edvinsson, Sean Behrens, Brandt Clarke, Daniil Chayka, it’s RIDICULOUS.  A year out, looking extremely similar to the 2008 draft.

 

2. Dylan Guenther

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Nobody is more pumped about Guenther than Bob Stauffer.  If you regularly listened to Oilers Now this season, Stauffer is geeked up for what is still to come from the Edmonton native.  And it is understandable.  Guenther has a terrific shot, great hands, and skates very well.  He isn’t a one-dimensional sniper, though he is a shoot-first guy.  He can create his own shot, which is rare.  I’d like to see him away from Jake Neighbours this season to see how much damage he can do driving his own line, but I can’t see that happening.  The Oil Kings are going to be one of the favourites to take home the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the 20-21 WHL season.

 

3. Corson Ceulemans

Team: Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Got to see him in person back in January and…WOW!  You see his numbers on a team like Brooks, and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just a result of the team he plays with.  It is not.  He was the Bandits number one D-man at just 16 years old.  He’s an effortless skater, a terrific puck mover, physical down low and in front, he looks like the complete package as a D-man.  He’s a legitimate contender for 1st on this list, and perhaps would be in a normal season.  Not doing comps here obviously, but Alex Pietrangelo immediately came to mind watching Ceulemans, and I’m much higher on Pietrangelo than most as I see him as that all world legitimate number one defenceman.  Committed to Wisconsin, but obviously has a year left in Brooks.

 

4. Cole Sillinger

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Son of the most traded player in NHL history, I doubt many…if any…teams will be trading the opportunity to take this kid at the 2021 draft.  Over a PPG player in his 16 year old season.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t do that and he was the last WHL player to go 1st overall.  The skating isn’t the greatest, and nearly half the production was on the 3rd best PP in the league, but I wouldn’t put it past him to improve his skating which would likely take his five on five production to another level.

 

5. Sebastian Cossa

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 212  Glove: L

As it currently stands, Cossa is the best netminding prospect we’ve seen in the WHL since Carey Price (I’m talking pre-draft here, save your “CARTER HART!!!” screams…)  Big, can really move, stays square to the shooter, and what I’ve seen he tracks it pretty well too.  Obviously we don’t know what will happen with IIHF tournaments next season, but with a camp invite from Canada, Cossa is obviously very much on their radar.  I think he’s a mid-late 1st round pick, but we have 12 months to go here.

 

6. Fabian Lysell

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: R

First things first, we’ll see if he comes.  As of writing this, just a day after the CHL import draft and though these players have been drafted, they still have to come.  You’ll see I have a few other players who were picked in the import draft in the honourable mentions.  Anyway, the Lysell pick perhaps got overshadowed by the Blades taking 2022 potential top-five pick Brad Lambert, but Lysell is a very exciting player who has a lot of skill and a terrific shot.

 

7. Logan Stankoven

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: W  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 170  Shot: R

He is the ’21 classes Connor McClennon, who started my list last season as the number two guy.  Stankhoven is similar in stature, has similar concerns about the skating for that stature, and plays a very similar fearless/in your face game.  I would guess at this point that he’ll replace Zane Franklin on the Blazers top line this season with Orrin Centazzo and potential 2020 1st rounder Connor Zary.  If so, the numbers will definitely be there to support his case.

 

8. Ryder Korczak

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 159  Shot: R

The numbers are great, but something troubling with Korczak was that once Brayden Tracey left, Korczak’s numbers really dropped too.  Still, someone to keep an eye on.  I doubt he’s a centre in pro hockey, and his skating needs work, but that kind of production in his 17 year old season (on a terrible team) is going to get a lot of notice.

 

9. Graham Sward

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Only 9th right now, but I’m telling you I am really excited about what Sward might be next season.  His ability to move the puck is off the charts.  Add to this, there is so much weight that he still has to put on, and he’s one of the youngest in this draft class.  The one thing I’m not a big fan of at this point is the skating is ok, not great.  But I wonder how much of that is a result of a 6’2 16 year old lacking strength?  Ty Smith is now gone, so it’ll essentially be Sward’s blueline next season and with the extra opportunity, I believe he actually has a chance (a small chance, but a chance) to jump into the Lambos/Ceulemans discussion.  It’s a long shot at this point, but a LOT changes in a year.

 

10. Zack Stringer

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Stringer is maybe the forward version of Sward, except that Stringer’s skating is worse at this point.  But again, how much of that is a 16 year old who stands 6’1 not having the strength to carry that frame?  I really love Stringer’s game and I’m sure anyone who has coached him feels the same way as he’s a kid who plays hard every night and goes to all the tough areas on the ice.  He’ll get drafted thanks to that alone, but if that skating improves he’s pretty damn intriguing!

 

Honourable Mention

* = taken in the CHL import draft, I don’t believe as of writing this that we know whether any of these kids will come to the WHL teams which selected them

Nolan Allan

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

 

Jake Chiasson

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: R

 

*Nikita Chibrikov

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Colton Dach

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

Jayden Grubbe

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: W  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 190  Shot: R

 

Vincent Iorio

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: R

 

Gabe Klassen

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Tyson Kozak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Dru Krebs

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: L

 

Kyle Masters

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: R

 

Jack O’Brien

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 154  Shot: L

 

Conner Roulette

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: LW

 

*Martin Rysavy

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

*Stanislav Svozil

Team: Regina Pats

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

 

Sean Tschigerl

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

AJHL

Other than of course Ceulemans, keep your eye on Sherwood Park Crusaders forward Ty Mueller this season.  Showed flashes last season (specifically in October), and I really wonder how much of his production was limited by playing on such a stacked team?  Looked great in the three live viewings I had of him last season and will be a kid the Cru lean on heavily this season.  Committed to Nebraska-Omaha, was taken by Prince George in the 2018 bantam draft.

BCHL

I will not pretend that I know the BCHL well.  I can track guys once I’m aware of them, but I basically manufacture my own list of guys based on points, scholarships, etc.  One kid who has my eye is Finlay Williams who plays in Prince George.  Right shot centre, good size and put up good PPG numbers in his 16 year old season.  Committed to Michigan, was taken by Swift Current in the 2018 bantam draft.

 

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