2013 NHL mock draft – Final mock

 

Well this is it.  The final mock for the 2013 draft.  Enjoy this one folks.  It won’t be 2003, but 2008 was compared to 2003 and I believe this one is better than 08.  It seemed like in 08 the defensemen panned out but the forwards were a total crap shoot.  Usually it is the other way around.  Center’s all over the place in this draft so expect some great centers to not only go in the 1st round but to be found in rounds 2-7.  But this draft also has end d-men and some high end goaltending.  It probably won’t produce the all-stars that 03 did, but I don’t see too many misses happening in this 1st round.

Just a briefing, I’m not a scout and can’t see much of these kids and in some cases I haven’t seen them at all.  I just try to compile as many opinions as I can (especially Bob McKenzie’s rankings) and go from there.  While some fans scream to take the BPA (best player available) the truth is teams don’t always and can’t always do that.  It is getting tougher and tougher to trade in the NHL, so filling needs is becoming a must much like the NFL draft.  So I look at what the team has in the organization about 27 and under, and then take the best fit from a grouping of players.  This is a GREAT draft.  I’ve read and heard their are going to be about 15-20 players who normally would be 1st round picks in any other year dropping to the 2nd round this year.  So this draft is getting a lot of the same buzz that one got 10 years ago.

 

Colorado1. Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon  6’0.5  190  C  Halifax  QMJHL

I tap.  I have been told on pretty good authority that they are indeed going with Nathan MacKinnon.  I feel as though it is a toss up between he and Jones and because of that things like need and in the Avs case marketing should be deciding factors.  But many have pointed to it and I can’t believe it is true that Patrick Roy is essentially running the show there and all it points to is how much of a train wreck this organization is.  There is hardly any experience in that front office, and the one guy that does have a bit of experience is Greg Sherman who did a terrible job prior to Sakic and Roy essentially taking over and really doesn’t have that much experience himself.  MacKinnon is great though, I would easily be screaming for him to go number 1 if the Panthers, Predators, Flames, Oilers, Sabres or Stars had this pick.  He’s explosive, he is a bull on skates (will probably play around 205-210 once he fills out), we all saw in the Memorial Cup how clutch he can be (although I will point out the goaltender he was lighting up was terrible), he has a great shot, great one timer, is coachable, will play a 200 foot game (he will, doesn’t really at this time), the only knock I’ve really heard on MacKinnon is playmaking but that hasn’t really effective the Avs current 1st line center Matt Duchene.  I love this kid, I just hate it for the Avs.

 

Florida2. Florida Panthers – Seth Jones   6’4  208  D  Portland  WHL

On the off chance that the Avs are in fact bluffing like I really believed they were and to be honest I STILL am not sure (though I do trust my guy), then MacKinnon is the slam dunk choice here.  But with Jones it is a bit of a question mark.  The big need for the Panthers is at center and I’m a HUGE Sasha Barkov fan and if you need a franchise center then you have to really consider taking him.  Especially when you factor in that the Panthers have invested in their blueline quite a bit in the last 4 drafts taking 3 d-men with their top pick (Kulikov, Gudbranson and Matheson).  So I will say I won’t be shocked if the pick were Barkov.  But Jones is just such a unique talent I think Tallon will have a difficult time passing on the kid.  He is ready to step into their top 4 next season and still has ridiculous upside to be the best d-man in the game.  And I get sick of people who are critical of him saying he’s not physical enough.  Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, hell even Zdeno Chara isn’t that physical!  Everyone wants elite d-men to be as nasty as Chris Pronger was, well the fact is that very few guys are like Pronger or Shea Weber.  Great skater, move the puck well, can rush the puck, a cannon from the point, can QB a power play, can penalty kill, great stick (he has his fathers wingspan, best of all draft eligible kids at 81 inches) and my favorite…a high IQ.  He will play 25 minutes a night and while he’s not a crusher he does play with a bit of ego and won’t be afraid to do some dirty work when it is required.

 

Tampa-11-pres3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Aleksander Barkov   6’2.5  207  C  Tappara  FIN

As I just said, the Panthers could decide they just desperately need Barkov and end up taking him at 2.  In that case I have little doubt Jones would go here.  Pairing Jones with Hedman for the next 10-15 years probably wouldn’t be very fair to the rest of the league.  But I just can’t see Jones falling this far and so they take Barkov.  I have laid it down now more than enough times as to why it is the right move for Tampa to take Barkov over Drouin so I won’t do that again.  I had this before they bought out Lecavalier, and now with him gone I sure as heck am not changing it.  Barkov plays a great 200 foot game, is nearly 6’3, 210, great playmaker, great shot, great skater, he is another Anze Kopitar/Mikko Koivu type of guy.  You need these type of guys to win Cups, you don’t NEED guys like Drouin (see the 2012 LA Kings, 2011 Boston Bruins, 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins).  Love Drouin and not meaning to trash him in anyway.  But for the Lightning I love Barkov even more.

 

Nashville-11-pres4. Nashville Predators – Jonathan Drouin  5’11  187  LW  Halifax  QMJHL

Don’t discount Elias Lindholm being the Preds guy here.  We talk about franchise centers, well he isn’t far off MacKinnon and Barkov.  Different player, about 10 months older than those 2, but he has 1st line center potential too.  However, I just have a feeling the Preds wouldn’t pass on Drouin.  They’ve never had a forward with this elite level of talent who has stuck around.  Sure, they had Peter Forsberg for about a week in 2007.  They did have one guy like this for 2 years, Paul Karyia.  And that is the type of talent Drouin is.  People may forget just how good Karyia was in the late 90’s, and then again in 06 and 07 for the Preds.  Zach Parise, Pat Kane, Jordan Eberle, Drouin is that kind of talent.  I’ve said many times before and will again that his style probably resembles Eberle more than anyone, although Drouin has quicker feet at this age than Eberle did.  Amazing hands, amazing shot, great playmaker, will go to the tough area’s.  In most drafts he would be a sure fire top 3 pick.  Obviously he could be in this one, but I could also see him sliding as far as 5 just based on how deep this draft is and the needs of the teams.  I doubt that happens, but crazier things have happened.  Nobody thought Filip Forsberg (ironically now of the Predators) would fall past 5 last year and he ended up sliding all the way to 11.  Zach Parise back in 03 fell all the way to 17.  It happens every year and I don’t feel it is ironic that it mostly happens to wingers.

 

Carolina5. Carolina Hurricanes – Valeri Nichushkin  6’4  205  LW  Chelijabinsk 2  RUS

At the end of the day…or the end of all my mock drafts, while they get talked about as wanting to trade (I basically called a trade here on Sunday), trades just aren’t happening in the top 10 anymore.  Sure last year in a weak draft these same Hurricanes dealt the 8th pick in a package to the Pens for Jordan Staal.  But that was a lower pick, it was a weak draft, and it was a pretty elite piece to the puzzle they recieved.  They apparently want to trade down, not out, AND get a player.  The only team I could then see them dealing with is the Stars.  10 and Trevor Daly or Alex Goligoski for 5.  I think that will be more than Jim Nill and the Stars want to pay.  Another thing to consider is that they really are set down the middle, so while you COULD move Sean Monahan wing I just don’t think they would.  I would go with Elias Lindholm who played RW all season, but is a natural center because you never know when you may need to move a guy to the middle.  They could just take Darnell Nurse, but it doesn’t sound like they would take him here.  Jim Rutherford’s team is getting big and skilled and so they take the boom or bust guy, Valeri Nichushkin.  Amazing skill set on this kid.  Obviously the size, explosive skater, takes the puck to the net (doesn’t he Ryan Murphy…), great shot, great hands in tight, he probably is the 2nd highest skilled player in the draft next to Drouin and while being 6’4, 205.  It lists him as a LW but he is a LH shot so you better put a player like this on his off wing.  If they don’t trade down, I believe this is the pick.  If Nichushkin doesn’t go here, he could slide for a while.  Jersey would be possible, but if they passed….Winnipeg?  Columbus?  He’s a total wild card.

 

Calgary6. Calgary Flames – Bo Horvat  6’0.5  211  C  London  OHL

Last mock draft…”A similar kid to that is Bo Horvat so it is possible they simply would like Horvat better.”  Writing about him going to Buffalo I said at the end “maybe even as high as 6” speaking of Horvat.  Well, I got some pretty enticing information the other day that said the Calgary Flames want Bo Horvat at 6, so I’m going to roll with it and say they take Horvat.  Off the board?  Maybe, but I actually love it for their franchise.  I don’t love Jay Feaster, I don’t love John Weisbrod, but I love this pick.  The kid is a winner, a leader, he’s clutch, he has good size, he’s versatile, he is a GREAT kid to start a rebuild around.  The more things have been discussed and looked at, I don’t know if there is a big difference between Horvat and Sean Monahan.  Monahan has a little more skill, a little more height/length, but for the most part I see it as a wash between the 2 which is why last time I had Horvat going higher than expected (which was 8th to Buffalo).  And finally, Horvat is a big riser in this draft, and Monahan is a bit of a faller.  Horvat is Scheifele (7th in 2011) and Monahan is Couturier (an unimaginable 8th in 2011).  Again I’ll state, Horvat is really similar to Patrice Bergeron.  That guy didn’t suck in the playoffs in case you didn’t notice.  Horvat doesn’t project to be a 1st line center, but you win with a kid like this who can be used in any situation and more often then not comes up big.  Obviously possible that they trade up with 3 1st round picks, but it sounds more and more like the Canes are the only team willing to move out of the top 5 so not much point in moving 1 spot, and most of the Calgary media believes they will use all 3 picks.  I believe that’s the right course for the Flames.  Its a deep draft and they have a lot of needs so this is a great chance to fill them.

 

Edmonton_Oilers_1980s_svg7. Edmonton Oilers – Darnell Nurse  6’4  189  D  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

Well this would be a tough call.  The Oilers REALLY need that big 2 way center.  Monahan would be perfect.  Having said that….they aren’t exactly loaded on the blueline going forward.  They have depth, but I would say they only have 2 sure things in their top 4 on D moving forward.  I’m a HUGE Darnell Nurse fan, and it is my understanding that the Oilers feel the same way.  I have it on pretty good authority that they’re trying very hard to move up to get Sasha Barkov, but as you know I believe that would mean moving up to at least the 3rd pick if not the 2nd.  And while a lot of people expect them to move the pick, I just don’t see it happening.  So I say the pick in this scenario ends up being Nurse.  I see a kid who in 5-10 years could be the best d-man to come out of this 1st round.  Better than Jones and that isn’t a knock on Jones at all I just think Nurse has THAT much going for him.  High IQ, love that.  Effortless skater, he simply looks like he is gliding around the ice, obviously he has the size and will likely be 210-220 once he fills out, incredible work ethic as was shown on Sports Centre earlier this week, and while I just made the case for not needing the mean streak fans crave in d-men…Nurse has it.  Scouts worry about his offense, but with his skating and shot I don’t see how it doesn’t come.  Jeff Marek said in an interview with Dan Tencer on Wednesday night that Nurse’s offensive growth was stunted because he hardly saw any PP time this past season.  I really believe this kid has it all and will be a legit number 1, a guy you build your team around.  You can’t go wrong here with anyone of Nurse, Monahan, Lindholm or Horvat should he fall here.  The bigger need is center, but the best of this group I believe is Nurse.

 

Buffalo-10-pres8. Buffalo Sabres – Elias Lindholm  6’0.5  181  C  Brynas  SWE

Again, a trade up with Carolina is possible.  Lots of balls in the air (that’s what she said), but I have to go with what I know.  What I know is that the beat reporters around the Sabres have said they still want to upgrade further down the middle.  Well with Monahan and Lindholm still on the board they have a big decision to make.  I love both players, but I just think that Lindholm is simply the better player.  Plus, they do have a log jam in the middle moving forward with Hodgson, Grigorenko and Girgensons.  Lindholm played the wing this season so he does have a bit more versatility than Monahan (although centers don’t have much of a problem when moving to the wing).  A Swedish Mike Richards might be the best way to describe Lindholm.  I said Zetterberg all year, but it wasn’t until recently that I started reading about how physical he plays.  Fearless on the ice, and one of the most competitive kids in the draft.  One of those kids that is hungry to win every puck battle.  And while a lot of people talk about his size not being that great, he’s almost 6’1!  When he fills out he will likely be 190-200 pounds.  That’s a nice size.  I really like the kid, a top 5 pick in most drafts.

 

New Jersey9. New Jersey Devils – Sean Monahan  6’2.5  188  C  Ottawa  OHL

I haven’t been able to get a good read on what Lou Lamoriello is going to do the last 2 years.  Stefan Matteau was an odd pick last year, especially when they have to forefit one and 29 in a weak draft seemed pretty obvious to everyone.  Anyway, they have this one.  If its me, I know most of their top prospects are d-men, but they aren’t high end d-men.  I would build the blueline around Adam Larsson rather than nickle and dime it like they’ve done, but Lou knows a hell of a lot more than I do!  Not a great need down the middle moving forward with this team.  Zajac is locked down for 8 years and Adam Henrique is at worst a damn fine 2nd line center.  But the Devils in the late 90’s/early 2000’s didn’t have a true 1st line center, their strength up front was depth down the middle.  Monahan would give them a great 1/2/3 down the middle.  No true number 1, but 3 guys who when the pan out should be able to play in any situation.  When you’re talking about Monahan you’re talking about a kid who has all the intangibles, plays a 200 foot game, high end speed is good although not by any means an explosive skater, good not great playmaker, uses his size very well.  I really love to compare him to Jordan Staal.  That’s who I see with this kid which is a hell of a get at 9.  He has fallen this season, but because of others rising, nothing he did wrong.

 

Dallas-13-pres10. Dallas Stars – Alexander Wennberg  6’1.5  183  C  Djurgardens  SWE

As I said earlier, I could see them trying to trade up with Carolina to get the 5th pick and in that case I would have them taking Lindholm.  If they can’t and things shake down this way then I like Wennberg.  And believe it or not, I like Wennberg here because I believe he is the top center left, not because he’s a Swede that a Red Wings decipol like Nill would love.  This kid is really well rounded and is one of the top skater’s in the draft.  Not an explosive stride, but extremely smooth.  He also has a very high IQ, plays a complete game, and isn’t afraid to go to the tough area’s on the ice.  He isn’t getting a lot of hype because he does nothing that really jumps out at people, and of course playing in Sweden a lot of people haven’t seen him play.  But make no mistake Wennberg is right there with Bo Horvat and while he might not be a 1st line center, he can be an elite 2nd line center.  Don’t sleep on Max Domi here either.  And if you wonder about all these centers being picked in the top 10, this is a draft rich in centers.  Last year it was rich in defensemen and picks 2-10 were d-men.  Lindholm, Pouliot and Koekkoek all weren’t expected to go in the top 10.

 

Philadelphia11. Philadelphia Flyers – Samuel Morin  6’6  200  D  Rimouski  QMJHL

Last mock draft I said “watch out for Samuel Morin in this spot” or something to that effect.  Tuesday night Craig Button had this as the pick in his mock draft but even before that when Bob McKenzie was doing his rankings and I seen that Morin had jumped a lot on them it hit me then that this will be the Flyers pick.  Button suggesting it just cemented that opinion rather than being the reason for it believe it or not.  This team LOVES the Q.  And this team is DESPERATE for d-men.  And Morin is really raw.  I’ve talked about this before with him how some scouts actually love how he lacked strength at the combine because they think “if he is this good before he gains strength and fills out, imagine how good he will be when he does!”  I can totally understand that logic.  The reverse side of that is Darnell Nurse who is a gym rat already, maybe some scouts don’t have him ranked as high because he is already so fit.  Anyhow, this is a big hunch.  They would be passing on Zadorov and Ristolainen who are both huge talents.  But there is nothing wrong with going with what you know and the Flyers know the Q.  Morin is a great skater for such a big kid (probably more smooth than Zadorov), he plays with a bit of an edge, and his offensive game rapidly improved over the balance of the season.  Because of his size and skating ability he has number 1 type potential and when you factor everything in he just makes total sense for the Flyers at 11.

 

Phoenix12. Phoenix??? Coyotes – Curtis Lazar  6’0  191  C  Edmonton  WHL

“With their first pick….the Seattle Mets select….”  As I have said in the past few mock drafts, while they really need a highly skilled guy like Hunter Shinkaruk or Max Domi, it just isn’t the Yotes style.  They love guys that have some versatility and are multi dimensional…not to mention a great 200 foot game.  Can’t go wrong with Lazar, I believe at worst he is an elite 3rd line center and if he rounds out his game a little more he could be an elite 2nd line center.  Again the comparison for me is Mike Richards, although not as in your face.  He hits, he’s a leader, has a heavy shot, great skater, high IQ, and is maybe the best 200 foot center in this draft.  If he’s not the best, he’s right there with a kid like Barkov.  Below the hash marks this kid is light years ahead of most 18 year olds.  Some see him as a winger because he lacks the playmaking ability most love in a center, but it doesn’t hurt David Backes, or Stamkos, or Duchene, and it shouldn’t hurt Lazar’s ability to play the middle either.  But having said all of this, make no mistake that the argument can easily be made for them to finally grab that skilled guy like a Domi or Shinkaruk.

 

Winnipeg-11-pres13. Winnipeg Jets – Nikita Zadorov  6’6  230  D  London  OHL

They’re on the right track.  Trouba is coming (although I see him as a 3 or 4 as opposed to some people who see him as a top pairing guy), but as I said all last year I just don’t like the blueline they have.  Bogosian is getting a bit of a reputation as an injury prone kid, Stuart is solid but the Southleast isn’t the Central, and I’m just not a big fan of either Byfuglien or Enstrom.  So I believe they need to keep building that blueline and Zadorov at 13 I believe would be a pleasent surprise.  No doubt, he is still pretty raw but the upside makes some simply drool over what he could be.  He is a bit of a clumsy skater but so was Tyler Myers at the same age.  He might be a better skater right now then Myers was actually.  And he is more skilled than Myers was at the same age.  And he on top of everything else is a flat out crusher!  Myers has never been that, so if you’re a big Tyler Myers fan then you should love Nikita Zadorov.  Where he is still really raw is understanding the game both offensively and defensively.  I doubt he is ever a PP QB, and his defensive positioning needs work although it is improving.  At worst he will still be a useful bottom pairing guy, but again that upside….the sky is the limit for this kid.

 

Columbus0814. Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi  5’9.5  190  C  London  OHL

As I’ve said a lot already, I would watch for them to package 2 of their picks in an attempt to move up.  But if they don’t, then I like Domi for them at 14.  I would LOVE for Domi to fall to the Leafs at 21 but that no longer seems possible.  Obviously he lacks size (height), but he makes up for that with some of his old man’s intensity and toughness.  I’ve said it before and will say it again, he really reminds me of Mike Comrie when he first came into the league.  People may forget Comrie sniping 32 in his first full season in the league.  Similar high end speed although Domi might be more explosive, he was terrific with the puck like Domi, Domi probably has a better shot than Mike did, and Mike was tough for how big he was just like Max.  Comrie had at least 2 fights that season (vs Briere and Kovalchuk) and Domi is a willing to go….pretty sure growing up in that family it was a requirement!  If he can’t pan out in the middle he can easily play the wing and I believe that will suit the Blue Jackets just fine.  Improving the skill level up front I would think is a must in this draft for Jarmo Kekelainen.

 

New_York_Islanders15. NY Islanders – Zachary Fucale  6’1.5  177  G  Halifax  QMJHL

80th mock in a row…or so…I’ve had it this way, and I doubt I will change it for the last one.  I absolutely love this pick for the Islanders if this is how things shake down.  There is a chance that Fucale won’t be around by the 15th pick, its very tough to read what will happen with goaltenders in the draft these days.  But the Islanders to me could really use that potential stud number 1 goaltender in this spot.  They have guys like Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen in the system, but none of them rival the upside of Fucale.  Craig Button has recently said this is the best 17 year old goaltender he’s ever seen.  Peter Loubardias told me that this kid is one of the best PEOPLE he’s ever met, and Kirk Ludeke a scout for Redline Report said on twitter that he talked to a few scouts and they basically echoed those words.  That’s pretty high praise.  He is tremendous post to post, extremely sound positionally, and has the right mental makeup to be a number 1 guy.

 

Buffalo-10-pres16. Buffalo Sabres via Minnesota –  Rasmus Ristolainen  6’4  203  D  TPS Turku  FIN

With the 8th pick they took Lindholm, so I think a talented d-man makes a lot of sense at 16.  Ristolainen not going until now would be a gift for the Sabres.  This kid has huge talent, maybe more talent than a kid like Morin and he’s much more smooth than a kid like Zadorov.  One thing that may scare off some scouts with him is that Finland hasn’t really ever pumped out big time d-men.  Pitkanen (who I have compared Ristolainen to) is a top 4 d-man but really has never lived up to what some believed he would become.  Kimmo Timonen has been a top pairing guy most of his career, Teppo Numinum might be the best they’ve ever produced, Jyrki Lumme was another good one, but they’re really few and far between.  So that, coupled with a guy like Pitkanen who has disappointed and a kid like Aki Berg who was a total bust and it may give GM’s some hesitation.  And you have heard some questions arise about his work ethic and consistency.  When he is on though, he is a great skater, physical, great puck mover, is a PP QB, good positionally, great stick, the kid is a horse on the blueline.  Now McKenzie has him ranked 8th, so he easily could go well before this, but I don’t think he goes any lower than this.

 

Ottawa0817. Ottawa Senators – Mirco Mueller  6’4.5  184  D  Everett  WHL

I have had a forward going in this spot all year I believe.  Maybe the very first mock I did I gave them a d-man, can’t recall.  But the last 3 for sure I gave them a center.  But the more I look at what they have on the way, while they are the deepest organization maybe in the entire league they aren’t THAT deep on defense.  Although that’s just me looking at their depth chart, they’ve had a lot of guys come out of nowhere the last few years that they’ve developed.  I do think the pick should be either a center, d-man or goaltender with the way they’ve developed wingers.  Bob McKenzie has said they would like to move up to get Monahan.  Going to be pretty tough for them to move up THAT high, but they do have a ridiculous amount of assets to play with.  Should they stay here, I love Mueller for them.  Big, rangy, LH shot d-man who skates very well, has a lot of raw talent.  Some feel he has untapped offensively potential, but even if the offensive game doesn’t come he still looks as though he can be a very effective top 4 shutdown d-man.  Karlsson, Cowen, Ceci, and Mueller could have the makings of one of the best top 4’s in the league in 5 years.

 

Detroit18. Detroit Red Wings – Ryan Pulock  6’1  211  D  Brandon  WHL

They still have a lot up front to work with in this organization, but the blueline has taken a flat out beating in the last 24 months or so.  You know who has left, and the reason you don’t know what’s coming is because they don’t have much coming.  Xavier Ouellet got a lot of hype prior to the WJC, and while I wouldn’t say he was a disappointment, he didn’t live up to the hype either.  Ryan Sproul is a nice d-man with really good size and great offensive talent.  But he’s REALLY soft for a kid who is 6’4.  Danny DeKeyser has stepped in and done a nice job, but many believe the kid is limited.  So they need to start building up their blueline again and while he’s had a rough year I’m still really big on Ryan Pulock.  He has that Al MacInnis like bomb from the point, a great puck mover, really good mobility, and doesn’t get pushed around.  His biggest flaw at this point and time is that he is prone to some pretty bad turnovers in his own zone, but that is something many d-men have to work through on their way up to the pro’s.  Lots of D options at this point other than Pulock too.  Josh Morrissey is still on the board, as is Robert Hagg….we all know the Wings love them some Swedes on their blueline.

 

Columbus0819. Columbus Blue Jackets via NY Rangers – Hunter Shinkaruk  5’10.5  172  RW  Medicine Hat  WHL

The 2nd of 3 selections for new GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets.  We won’t know until draft day what a first time GM like Kekalainen will do because some GM’s rely heavily on their scouting staffs and some who have come from scouting (like Kekalainen) will get heavily involved in the process.  Add to that confusion is the fact that the Jackets have 2 directors of amateur scouting in Tyler Wright and Paul Castron.  This would be a fall for Shinkaruk, but it is a safe bet for it to be a winger who falls in a draft.  His size is a little troubling, he actually was smaller than his listed size prior to the combine.  Most of these kids were actually measured to be bigger than their listed size.  But what Shinkaruk lacks in size he makes up for with his incredible speed and lazer of a shot.  I don’t expect Shinkaruk to be a great all around player who has a great 200 foot game.  But what I do expect is 30 goals a season, with a few seasons of 40 mixed in there.  He is a classic sniper, he is willing to get his nose dirty and go to the tough area’s on the ice and apparently an extremely hard working kid.  The Blue Jackets really lacked a player with his talent last year and I believe both Domi and Shinkaruk would fit well with the lunch pail mentality the Blue Jackets have developed.

 

San Jose20. San Jose Sharks – Kerby Rychel  6’1  198  LW  Windsor  OHL

Haven’t changed this pick all spring and won’t now….although that likely means it won’t happen.  This organization needs everything basically.  The current roster is obviously good, but it’s aging and they have nothing coming other than last year’s 1st round pick Tomas Hertl.  Now this will look like I’m thinking that they need to replace Clowe but he actually has nothing to do with this pick.  More so, it’s looking at the Sharks and the way they’ve drafted.  They always stick to their board (which a lot of times is very different from others) and they have area’s they love.  One of the area’s they love is the OHL, and since the West is more about size now than skill I have Rychel selected with their pick.  Rychel plays the game with a little more skill than his old man did, but he still has a lot of what his dad brought to the table.  Always finishing his hits, willing to drop the gloves, and a beast in front of the net.  He doesn’t skate fluid, but he has pretty good speed nonetheless.  He plays with a lot of passion too which is usually a concern with power forwards, not Rychel.  Would look great next to Logan Couture in 3-4 seasons.

 

Toronto21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Frederik Gauthier  6’4.5  215  C  Rimouski  QMJHL

Apparently a lot of people have this same pick, I swear it is my own idea and not stolen!  I’m back to getting them the 200 foot player down the middle I believe they really need.  Some Leaf fans may believe Gauthier is just another Joe Colborne but I disagree.  No, he’s not physical at all.  But he isn’t a kid that plays small either.  He protects the puck well, he leans on defenders, he’s good along the wall, down low, and in front of the net.  He has good hands and is a pretty good playmaker too.  Some now have him as a 3rd line center but I think in time he will become a real good 2nd line center.  His scouting report kind of reminds me of Martin Hanzel.  About the same size, Hanzel was compared to Bobby Holik when he was drafted.  And while again, Gauthier isn’t as physical, point is that Hanzel has developed a better offensive game than perhaps was expected.  I really believe no matter who they like, the Leafs should take a center.  Moving forward they’re set on defense, and they look great on the wings as well.  They don’t have a legit number 1 center in the organization moving forward, so the next best thing is to make sure you’re deep down the middle.  Kadri is a good start to that, keep adding.

 

Calgary22. Calgary Flames via St. Louis – Nicolas Petan  5’8.5  163  C  Portland  WHL

This wouldn’t be my pick for them, but it is me playing a hunch.  I have heard a few rumors that suggest they really like Petan.  They might be able to get him at 28, but if you really like a kid and you have picks that close together, I don’t see why you wait.  Petan is majorly undersized, but the Flames have watched a kid just like that blossom for them this season in Johnny Gaudreau (although I still question that his game will translate).  One thing you can’t question though is Petan’s skill level.  When you lead the WHL in scoring (120 points) in your draft year, you probably are worth taking a look at as a potential 1st round pick.  Amazing hands, quick feet, slippery, and a really high IQ on the ice.  He needs to fill out to be around 180-185 in my mind but if he does the kid could really do some damage.  But I don’t like this for the Flames, especially if it means passing on kids like Ryan Hartman, Michael McCarron or even hometown kids like Josh Morrissey and Morgan Klimchuk.  The former 3 guys fill needs a lot more and are higher ranked by most.  The latter is similar but has more size and likely would have done the same thing had he been in Portland and not Regina.

 

Washington0823. Washington Capitals – Ryan Hartman  5’11.5  185  RW  Plymouth  OHL

If you have been reading these mock drafts, then you know I have had Hartman going to the Canucks a few times.  He’s a total pest, he dives, he’s cheap, he’s miserable to play against….something the Caps could really use.  I have tried to get a center to the Caps with their 1st, but there isn’t one that fits the bill for them at this point and their organization views Evgeny Kuznetsov as the teams future 2nd line center.  Also Hartman has played some center so that is a possibility though most see him as a winger.  Ironically another little bonus is he plays with Caps 1st rounder from 2012 Tom Wilson in Plymouth.  But the Caps really need a guy like this who is just such a headache to play against.  You can’t have a team full of them like the Canucks have put together, but you do need 1 or 2 of them.  And it’s not like he can’t play, he does have some pretty good skill and nice touch around the net.  I love this pick for the Caps.  They have a pretty loaded system so it’s tough to find their needs, but Hartman fills a big one in my mind.

 

Vancouver0824. Vancouver Canucks – Michael McCarron  6’5.5  234  RW  USNTDP  USHL

Well I no longer believe in the dream of the Carburners selecting one of their own in Ryan Hartman with the 24th pick.  Some things are too good to be true.  But reading between the lines, Mike Gillis is looking to get big and mean now.  He didn’t say that exactly in his press conference when he fired Alain Vigneault, but he loudly hinted at it.  So with that being said I have them taking McCarron who had a great U18’s for the U.S. and is one BIG kid!  As for McCarron’s skill set, he uses that amazing size as much as he can.  He’s a beast down low, on the wall, and has no problem crushing opponents.  And for such a big kid, he is a good skater, good agility and a great shot.  He might become a complimentary guy in a top 6 role much like Bryan Bickell did for the Hawks in the playoffs this year.

 

Montreal25. Montreal Canadiens – Anthony Mantha  6’4  190  LW  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Awesome size, awesome wheels, hands, playmaking, this kid seemingly has it all.  So why is he going 25th in the draft?  Soft.  No other way to say, this kid has all the tools to be a star, but simply refuses to get his nose dirty.  It’s not as if he has to be Milan Lucic, Bryan Bickell, Dustin Brown or Andrew Ladd.  He just has to go to tougher areas on the ice and use his size to his advantage.  He has to take the puck to the net, don’t stay on the perimeter so much.  And he’s doing this in the Q…not exactly the toughest of the 3 CHL leagues.  Again, Mantha needs to actually start using his size, but once he turns pro after next season he will learn that he will need to go to the tough area’s on the ice and grind out some of his goals.  The Habs are another team who are likely to trade up in this draft.  They have three 2nd rounders and two 3rd rounders, so simply by taking lets just say the 36th and 71st picks and packaging them with 25 I would guess they could entice a team like  the Red Wings perhaps who have never been shy to move back and pickup some extra assets.  Another one I would pitch, 34 and 36 to the Ducks for 26.  The Ducks 2nd rounder is owned by the Oilers.

 

Anaheim226. Anaheim Ducks – Josh Morrissey  5’11  182  D  Prince Albert  WHL

I believe this would be pretty sweet for the Ducks to see Morrissey still on the board with the 26th pick, but a LOT stranger things have happened than this.  To me, the Ducks despite having taken d-man with their top pick in 2 of the last 3 years with their 1st round picks still need more on defense.  Obviously this would not have been the case if Justin Schultz hadn’t of left miserable Anaheim for sunny and spectacular Edmonton….I’ve said this before and will say it yet again, there is a lot of P.K. Subban/Matthew Dumba in Morrissey’s game.  Yet he isn’t AS high risk/high reward as those 2 are.  Great skater, not very big but is fearless on the ice, can QB a PP, makes a great first pass, has a good stick and has good gap control.  A straight up steal for the Ducks should he fall this far in the draft.  If not Morrissey here, perhaps a kid like Jacob De La Rose or would fit the bill as I believe they could use some depth down the middle in the organization.

 

Columbus0827. Columbus Blue Jackets via Los Angeles – Robert Hagg  6’2  193  D  Modo  SWE

The 3rd of 3 picks for the Jackets.  Now that I have them loading up with skill with their top 2 picks they could stand to take a d-man.  Jarmo Kekalainen is known for being one of the best scouts in Europe when he was with the Blues.  So he knows European kids, he especially knew the SEL.  So even though he will not have had time to see a lot of Robert Hagg I would guess he knows him well through his connections.  He has consistency issues, but it is more so that at times he looks like a potential top pairing guy and sometimes he just looks solid.  A far cry from being a guy who is known for disappearing.  He blocks shots, will take the body, skates well, positionally sound, and has some offensive upside.  His low end is probably a number 4 guy, his upside is a top pairing guy.  This would book end a great 1st round for the Jackets.

 

Calgary28. Calgary Flames via Pittsburgh – Thomas Vannelli  6’2  165  D  Minnetonka  USHS

Here is my wild card pick for the Flames.  Good chance that Feaster and company make at least one pick like this.  It is ironic too because I was thinking about doing this the other day, and then I was reading some of Kirk Luedeke’s tweets the other day.  Someone asked him who this year’s Mark Jankowski could be?  Boom.  Tommy Vannelli.  This kid is REALLY raw, but he can fly on the ice, he loves jumping in the play, and even though he hasn’t played against great competition as of yet he is pretty good defensively.  They need to take a d-man with 1 of these 3 picks and they love their American kids larely because of assistant GM John Weisbrod.  It is a total home run swing to take, but at 28 and with 2 picks already in the bag it is a little safer to take that swing.  I wouldn’t do it, but the Flames have shown they don’t care about what other people think they should do.

 

Dallas-13-pres29. Dallas Stars via Boston – Valentin Zykov  6’0.5  206  RW  Baie Comeau  QMJHL

I have Jim Nill getting a center with his first pick so now I was going to suggest he go out and get a d-man, but Zykov has fallen to 29 and is too good to pass up.  While you see a Russian winger you may think of a kid who is soft but highly skilled, that’s really not his game.  He is a power forward.  He will hit, he goes into the corners, goes to the front of the net, he’ll get a lot of greasy goals in the NHL.  That’s not to say he doesn’t have skill either, but his game is really going to translate at the pro level.  And apparently he interviewed very well at the combine.  I was actually pretty surprised he wasn’t higher on Bob McKenzie’s list, I have trouble finding flaws in this kids game.  Now as I said, they could go with a d-man here.  Shea Theodore, Madison Bowey, Ian McCoshen, Chris Bigras, there are a lot of options for the Stars if they want to go that route.  If they want another kid who has fallen a bit, Andre Burakovsky but I don’t see him going in the 1st round until we decide on how his last name is spelt! (Burakowsky or Burakovsky?!)

 

Chicago30.Chicago Blackhawks – Madison Bowey  6’1  195  D  Kelowna  WHL

I really believe that defense is the play with this pick, and Bowey is their kind of guy.  He is a great skater and can really move the puck.  The Hawks won the Cup because of having a blueline that could really move the puck well.  Look at Johnny Oduya.  The guy is a turnover machine, but he skates well and moves the puck and you didn’t hear the Hawks complain about his game all playoff long.  Well Bowey has good size to go along with that skill set so as long as he’s available at 30 I can’t believe they would pass on him unless of course someone who they have highly ranked fell to them (maybe that would be Burakovsky).  They need to address goaltending in this draft at some point.  They did address it a little already by signing Finnish goalie  Antti Raanta this spring.  But Raanta will step in next season as Corey Crawford’s backup.  I think it is vital they find a kid in this draft, so maybe they take Eric Comrie or Tristan Jarry with this pick.  It wouldn’t be that much of a reach.

 

 

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The new dynasty

 

The time has come.  I’m sick to death of this debate every February and June on what is and isn’t a dynasty anymore.  The Patriots, the NY Giants, the San Francisco Giants, the Spurs, the Heat, the Wings, the Blackhawks.  So often I hear this question anymore: “is team X now a dynasty?”  Well the fact is that they are, its just not the way they used to be.

Think about it.  In the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s things in pro sports were so much different.  There were less teams, there were no salary caps, and very little free agency.  You could build these dominant teams, keep them together, and they had less competition then teams do today.  There is so much more now days for teams to overcome.  Every league now has at least 30 teams, 3 of the 4 league’s have a cap and while MLB doesn’t have a cap they do have a luxury tax that holds the big market teams somewhat at bay.  It is just simply different, so we need to adapt to them.

You can’t just look at the rings.  The Spurs for example have 4 rings in a 9 year span.  But they have been the most consistent team in the NBA for the last 15 seasons.  Their accomplishments in that time are incredible.  10 division titles and 5 appearances in the finals in that time.  They’re a dynasty.  I don’t care that it’s strung out over a 15 year period, they’re still a dynasty to me because in that time they’ve be amongst the NBA’s elite EVERY SINGLE SEASON.

I would put the Detroit Red Wings in that same class from 93/94 – 08/09.  In that time, the Red Wings won 4 Cups, finished 1st in the West 9 times, finished 3rd in the West only twice (they finished 4th in 2000 but only because of divison winners automatically getting higher seeds, they had the 2nd highest point total in the league) and in one of those seasons they won the Cup.  Again, I don’t care that ironically it as well was over a 15 year span, this was a dynasty.

In the NFL you have the Pats who again over a large time frame (01-present) are a dynasty.  3 rings, 5 Super Bowl appearances, 5 times they had the best record in the AFC, only missed the playoffs twice in that time.  One of those times they were without Tom Brady for the season….and they still finished 11-5!  Again, it is not the old school way of thinking of a dynasty, but times change and the way of thinking of what a dynasty is has to as well.

It doesn’t mean we can’t have them the way they were.  The Bruins nearly had their 2nd Cup in 3 years, and had they done it and then gone on to win again next season then of course that would be a dynasty.  But it just isn’t happening the way it used to.  A lot of things aren’t happening the way they used to in the world.  We don’t go to Blockbuster to get a movie anymore, we don’t go to HMV to get albums anymore, family shows like Full House have been replaced by high quality shows like Honey Boo Boo, you have to change with the times no matter how cute Michelle was compared to that….thing.

The Heat are getting close, they’ve now been to the finals 3 straight years, won twice, and if you want to go over the entire Dwayne Wade era they’ve won 3, been to the finals 4 times and been in the conference finals 5 times.  The Blackhawks are getting closer too.  3 conference finals, 2 Cups in 5 years.  Neither I would classify as a dynasty just yet, but I don’t think either team has to win another ring to earn that title.  4 in a row or 5 in 7 years just isn’t realistic anymore.  Adjust with the times and appreciate the greatness that exists in today’s sporting world.

 

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Tough out

 

Finally a stake was driven through the heart of that vampire (vampire’s are still “in” right?!)  The Bruins run finally came to an end last night, and I really believe after seeing some of them interviewed after the game they were in total shock.  Tukka Rask sounded like it was a regular season loss to the Sabres, not being closed out in the Stanley Cup final.  It won’t be an easy loss for the B’s to get over, but they’ll be back because they’re just simply a miserable matchup.

This isn’t the most talented team in the league.  They’re up there, but they don’t matchup with Chicago’s talent or Pittsburgh talent or even the Caps talent.  But what really hit me during this run is that they have pieces that you can’t match.  There isn’t a poor man’s Zdeno Chara out there.  With Chris Pronger done, there simply isn’t another d-man out there that is close to what Chara is.

Milan Lucic.  There is no poor man’s Milan Lucic in the NHL.  Every year since about 2009 teams in the draft aren’t looking for another Malkin or Stamkos, they’re looking for another Lucic.  Zach Kassian was picked 12th overall in hopes that he could be another Lucic.  Last year Tom Wilson went 16th overall in hopes that he could be another Milan Lucic.  He has a skill set that is just unmatched.  A heavyweight who is a 1st line player.  How do you matchup with that?

Brad Marchand is another guy like this.  Sure there are other pests out there.  I won’t go as far to say that you can’t find a poor man’s Brad Marchand, but pests that can play aren’t easy to find.  And Marchand isn’t the type of pest that hits and runs like a Matt Cooke or Alex Burrows.  Marchand will take a swing at a big guy and get in anyone’s face.  Yes he’s cheap, and dirty, and has his coming to him someday.  But the kid has heart.  Its a case of he will do ANYTHING to win.  There isn’t another pest in the league who comes close to his skill or his drive.

And beyond all those guys they’re great in the positions you need to be great.  Between the pipes, even though I rolled my eyes at how much some of the media was drooling over Tukka Rask during these playoffs when it was more a case of the Bruins team defense not allowing any decent scoring chances, he is still one of the best in the leauge.

Patrice Bergeron is one of the best 2 way centers in the game, David Krejci is a damn good 2 way center too and between them they really don’t have a number 1 guy.  Simply 2 great centers who can matchup against any other center in the league.  And beyond those 2 they have some good role guys down the middle in Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell.  But what I really like is that they dress about 6 guys a night that can play the middle.  Seguin is a natural center, and Rich Peverly can step in like he did once Campbell went down.  I always preach being great down the middle and this team definitely is that.

Then the blueline beyond Chara is deep, physical, and moves the puck well.  They were healthy scratching Wade Redden and Dougie Hamilton most of the playoffs.  I know Redden isn’t what he used to be but he is still capable of being a 5/6 guy on a team like the Bruins, and Dougie Hamilton was right up there with Jonas Brodin and Justin Schultz as a top rookie d-man this season.  That’s insane depth and in the playoffs you really need depth like that on the blueline.

So they’ll be back.  This teams system is still pretty full, and really other than Chara their core is still pretty young.  They do a great job developing guys, and they’ll live off the 06 draft for a long time (Rask, Seguin, Hamilton, Lucic and Marchand were essentially added that day….sorry Leaf fans).  This team is setup for a long time and is tough as hell to knock off when they’re on their game.  I say I don’t think the Hawks have won their last Cup with their core….well I don’t think the Bruins core will be statisfied with 2 finals appearances and only 1 Cup either.

 

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What a run!!!

 

Well to say that was fun would be a HUGE understatement!  It is a shame if you didn’t have a horse in that race like me that this one didn’t go the distance.  As much as I would get frustrated at times with the terrible officiating and the fact that the game keeps drifting closer and closer to the way things were in the “old NHL”, it still doesn’t mean that it wasn’t playoff hockey at its absolute best!

3 games went to OT, 2 more went down to the final minute of play, and in game 4 we witnessed one of the most exciting Stanley Cup final games of all time.  And the fact that there was a game in this series that overshadowed game 1 is pretty unreal, and the ending to last nights game will make it an all timer.  I will get to the Bruins in another blog, but this one is about the Hawks season.  Simply incredible.

Starting with their streak to start the season, the 3rd longest of all time with at least a point going 24 games, and the longest such streak to start a season (79-80 Flyers went 35, 77-78 Habs went 28).  They ended the regular season with a 36-7-5 record.  Could they have kept up that pace over 82 games?  Who knows, but incredible nonetheless.

Then after having an easy time with the Minnesota Wild (I LOVE Wild fans!!), they fell behind the Wings 3-1.  They weren’t getting bounces, Jimmy Howard was playing out of his skull, things didn’t look good for a team that hadn’t faced adversity all season.  After a win in game 5, they trailed game 6 in Detroit 2-1 heading into the 3rd.  That was the first time that this team really nutted up for lack of a better term and came up HUGE.  3 goals in the 3rd got the Hawks back home with a big 4-3 win and momentum all on their side.

Then the 3rd period of game 7 happened.  Up 1-0 going into the 3rd, Henrik Zetterberg tied it early, and the Wings controlled much of the play.  Then with just 1:47 left in the 3rd the Hawks believed they had scored the goal that would clinch the series, only to be waved off because of a horrific coincidental penalty call by referee Stephen Walkom.  I really believed that would be the dagger to the Hawks run.  To shake off getting such a horrible break like that takes incredible mental toughness.

The conference finals wasn’t what anyone really expected, as the Hawks were able to roll over the bruised and battered defending champs relatively easily (although 3 of the 4 wins were only by a goal).  But the Stanley Cup final was definitely a different story, and once again overcome a lot.

Game 1 you may already have forgot they trailed 2-0 early, and 3-1 8 minutes into the 3rd.  But they managed to tie it, and then on their 60th shot of the game beat Tukka Rask to win it in the 3rd OT.  A lot of people including your’s truely believed that would be a damn tough game for the Bruins to overcome, but they not only overcame that loss, they took control of the series in games 2 and 3 and seemingly had the Hawks on the ropes.

Game 4 was something special.  The Blackhawks carried the play and for the first time in the series really had the Bruins playing “their game”.  But they couldn’t shake them.  Corey Crawford had his worst game of the series, and the Bruins were getting the bounces while the Hawks were really having to work hard for their goals.  I really thought there was no way with how Crawford was playing that they were winning in OT.  But again, they sacked up, Crawford kept battling and shut the door in OT, and Brent Seabrook came up big to send the series back to Chicago tied at 2.

After hanging on in game 5, they went back to Boston and of course we all know what happened last night.  Again, it seemed done when Milan Lucic sniped with 7:49 left in the 3rd.  I believe on the CBC broadcast prior to that goal Healy and Simpson were talking about how it was basically already in OT, that’s how it felt.  But again, the Hawks came up huge, with Toews setting up Bickell to tie it and of course 17 seconds later with just 58.3 left in the 3rd David Bolland wins it.

Just remarkable what we just witnessed…unless you’re a fan of the Wild, Wings, Kings or Bruins.  Weather you love them or hate them, you have to tip your hat to the Chicago Blackhawks.  That was truely one of the most unbelievable runs in NHL history, and with the core of this hockey team still very young I have a feeling this isn’t the last one they will win.

 

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Gary will never “get it”

 

This is stating the obvious I know, but I wanted to rant about it and the man just makes it oh so easy….

It really isn’t something that can be explained, but it is very much real.  You see it and hear about it in all sports all the time.  The proverbial “it” factor.  Some guys just simply have “it”.  Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Jonathan Toews, Magic Johnson, some guys just have “it” and you can’t explain what “it” is, but you know it when you see it…no pun intended.  And while you have those guys, you also have “don’t get it” guys.  Gary Bettman is simply one of those guys.

Why is this man still handing out the Cup?  3 lockouts during his tenure have the players hating him, the fans hating him, and yet this man still feels like he should be the one parading out at the end of every season with 18-20,000 fans booing the hell out of him making every Stanley Cup presentation a circus and taking away from what should be one of the greatest moment in sports.

Look at how the NFL started doing it.  The man who presents the Lombardi trophy is a legend of the game, and it has turned that moment into the event it should be.  Who is going to boo a legend?  Would it really be that difficult to have Wayne Gretzky hand it out one year?  Or Bobby Orr?  Or Steve Yzerman?  Just get a different legend every year to hand it out.  You could even attempt to ensure that legend has some kind of connection with the team winning it.  Maybe it would cost a bit to have 2 different guys flown in to present the Cup if you don’t know what night it will happen or which team will win it like in a game 7 scenario, but is that really THAT difficult?

But why would the league get this right?  This league can’t even figure out how they want their officials to officiate their games.  If things open up, the dinosaurs cry about how there aren’t enough battles going on.  And when scoring goes down, they cry about that yet they don’t want to do anything to open things up.  Right now they want to take a whopping 10% off the height of goal pads.  That’s a start, but do they not see the size of gloves and blockers?  And why the hell do they think every single goaltender wears white equipment?!  It without a doubt is because visually white looks bigger.  This would be the easiest adjustment to make, simply put in a rule that says every goaltender needs to wear equipment that is dark colored.  Yet it isn’t even discussed when they talk about how to decrease the advantages goaltenders have.

You will see another example on Sunday.  Just about every team will walk up to the podium in Newark, and they’ll thank the state of New Jersey, and congratulate the Blackhawks on winning the Cup, and the Bruins for being in the final, and say hello to their teams shitty draft party at the local Chilli’s with 13 people in attendance (7 of whom are only there because they just got through playing 18 and it was the most nearby place to grab a beer), and it takes 5 minutes to simply select a player.  Tell them to shutup!  We get it!  Put a timer on them!  They don’t need a parade of scouts and upper management and coaches going up to make the selection.  3 people is more than enough to say “the Colorado Avalanche are proud to wrongly select….”

So if things like that they can’t get right, why would something like presenting the Stanley Cup be easy to figure out?  Bettman has always just come off as a guy who is extremely intelligent but has zero people skills.  I know people like this.  I have worked for a man who got by because of his knowledge for the business he ran being treamendous and when it came to dealing with people he simply kissed ass and to those he didn’t have to kiss ass to he would bully.  I never seen anything like it and was amazed a guy could be succesful in life being that way.  Well while I don’t know Gary Bettman personally, he definitely comes off as a guy like that and things that seem as simple as having a legend present the Cup are difficult.

You see the way Roger Goodell handles himself and while you can disagree with some of his decisions, you don’t question weather or not he has a handle on things.  He is a guy who “gets it”.  Gary is off in his own little world and just doesn’t seem to have a clue how to do the little things right.  He has got better as time has gone on, no longer is Whoppi Goldberg narrating their Stanley Cup video’s, nor is Dave Coulier their big celebrity pimping the league.  No no, they thankfully “cut. it. out.” (remember that?!  No wonder Uncle Joey couldn’t get girls).  But while things are better, they’ll never be anywhere near as right as they should be.  And I place the blame for that solely on Gary, much like I do for anything that goes wrong in my life.

 

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2013 NHL mock draft – June 23rd

 

We now know the order of the top 28 picks, so with that information I couldn’t help but put out my 5th mock draft of this season….and yes, if you’ve been reading these you may notice I basically just edited that first scentence.  Just 1 mock draft left after this one.  I like to do one prior to Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, and one after.  So I’m not certain when exactly I will do my final mock, but it won’t be any later than next Sunday morning.

Just a briefing, I’m not a scout and can’t see much of these kids and in some cases I haven’t seen them at all.  I just try to compile as many opinions as I can (especially Bob McKenzie’s rankings) and go from there.  While some fans scream to take the BPA (best player available) the truth is teams don’t always and can’t always do that.  It is getting tougher and tougher to trade in the NHL, so filling needs is becoming a must much like the NFL draft.  So I look at what the team has in the organization about 27 and under, and then take the best fit from a grouping of players.  This is a GREAT draft.  I’ve read and heard their are going to be about 15-20 players who normally would be 1st round picks in any other year dropping to the 2nd round this year.  So this draft is getting a lot of the same buzz that one got 10 years ago.

 

Colorado1. Colorado Avalanche – Seth Jones   6’4  208  D  Portland  WHL

I will be honest, I don’t know at this point.  I’ve gone back and forth on weather or not the Avs are just trying to create a huge smoke screen here, or if Sakic is just trying to give his fans a heads up so they aren’t shocked and disappointed on draft day when the selection isn’t Jones.  But man alive, the fact that he would even have to do that is proof that it’s the wrong pick if they DON’T take Jones.  I have written basically 2 blogs on why Jones has to be the pick for the Avs.  This process is really showing what a sh*t show this organization has seemingly become.  Who is in charge?  Sakic?  Roy?  Does Sherman have any say at this point?  What about the amateur scouts, don’t they get any say in this?  It is insanely difficult to trade in the NHL these days.  So if they take MacKinnon or Barkov or Drouin 1st, how in the hell are they going to address what is far and away the worst blueline in the league?  They can’t deal O’Reilly until the trade deadline, Stastny has little trade value anymore, and even if they dealt Duchene who in the heck is willing to give up a franchise or even potential franchise defenseman for him?  D-men are a total crapshoot in the draft which is why some people like Bob Stauffer advise against it.  I totally get that, and agree with it.  But there are always exceptions to the rule and this HAS to be one.  For starters, he’s the top prospect.  2nd, this team is loaded up front.  3rd, they’re horrific on the blueline.  And in sports, when something is so obvious and a team over thinks it those decisions just seem to have a way of biting those teams in the ass.  As for Jones, he’s the real deal.  He has it all.  And I know some don’t like that he isn’t too physical, well their aren’t many high end d-men that are physical anymore.  Hell, Chara isn’t even THAT physical.  He has a very high IQ, great skater, great stick, can QB a PP, can log big minutes, and has amazing upside on top of all this.  He has it all and the Avs would be flat out stupid to pass on him, and that doesn’t even include that he is the hometown kid.

 

Florida2. Florida Panthers – Nathan MacKinnon  6’0.5  190  C  Halifax  QMJHL

The Panthers should take MacKinnon because he’s incredible and would go 1st in just about any other draft.  What more do I need to say?  Again I’ll talk about the Panthers and how from a hockey stand point this season is a blessing in disguise.  It looks like they’ll have their franchise goaltender in Markstrom.  They have a potential top pairing in Kulikov and Gudbranson.  They have Nick Bjugstad as a potential elite 2nd line center.  They have Jonathan Huberdeau who may be able to play the middle but they would probably prefer him to play the wing, and likely will have it that way if they take MacKinnon.  Like I said, he goes 1st overall any other year.  Obviously he could go 1st this season but if he doesn’t it’s not because he’s not great.  Same thing happened to Malkin, Doughty, Eric Staal, Spezza, sometimes you just don’t go 1st.  Doesn’t mean you don’t have superstar potential and MacKinnon does.  Ridiculous upside and yet will step into the league next season.  Blazing speed and don’t let the listed size fool you, this kid is a bull on skates.  People question his playmaking but kids like Stamkos and Duchene aren’t the best playmakers in the league and I don’t think the Lightning or Avs are crying about that.  And obviously has proven how clutch he is.  It wasn’t just in the Memorial Cup, he was incredible throughout the QMJHL playoffs.  Slam dunk 1st line center.  Should the Avs take him, even though they have a need up the middle in Miami they should take Jones.  Huberdeau could make the move to the middle.  Sure like I said they would probably prefer him to stay on the wing but he doesn’t need to.  Jones, Kulikov, Gudbranson would be an incredible 1/2/3 to build around.

 

Tampa-11-pres3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Aleksander Barkov   6’2.5  207  C  Tappara  FIN

I’m back to this and as I have preached for the Lightning pick in the last 2 mock drafts, Barkov is the right pick….should he be there for them.  2 reasons this is back to Barkov.  1, Nichushkin had an awful combine apparently both in testing and the interviews.  Kirk Luedeke of Redline Report told me he believes its a smoke screen, but you can’t smoke screen the testing aspect.  I don’t put much stock into the testing, I don’t think anyone does, but if a kid quits on some of the testing like Nichushkin did then THAT is a pretty big red flag.  2, talk is now that the Lightning will buy out Lecavalier.  So this team already needed help down the middle in my mind, if Vinny is gone then they’re desperate for it.  I will say it again, while Stamkos is an elite sniper in this league, I don’t think he’s an elite player.  He doesn’t seem to care about playing a 200 foot game, improving his playmaking, and doing everything he can to take his team to the next level.  Not yet anyway.  I like Stamkos, but this bothers me about him.  So give him that big, 2 way center that he needs playing behind him.  Teams that are great up the middle usually have great success in the playoffs.  After goaltending I believe being great up the middle is more vital than having a great blueline, it is that important.  As for Barkov, I already touched on his size and 200 foot ability.  He also tore up the Finnish league this season playing against men.  He has good vision, a great shot, uses his size very effectively, and he doesn’t even turn 18 until September.  This kid is so polished, and yet has tremendous upside.  Again, for me he is Anze Kopitar 2.0.  As for Drouin, it isn’t as if the Lightning would be getting some bust, but it just isn’t the fit or need that people think it is.  And I’ve said it in every mock draft when breaking down Drouin vs Barkov….you simply don’t take the franchise winger over the franchise center.

 

Nashville-11-pres4. Nashville Predators – Jonathan Drouin  5’11  187  LW  Halifax  QMJHL

And since we are back to Barkov at 3, we’re back to Drouin at 4 just like the mock draft in May.  Although this one makes me wonder too.  Don’t discount Elias Lindholm being the Preds guy here.  We talk about franchise centers, well he isn’t far off MacKinnon and Barkov.  Different player, about 10 months older than those 2, but he has 1st line center potential too.  However, I just have a feeling the Preds wouldn’t pass on Drouin.  They’ve never had a forward with this elite level of talent who has stuck around.  Sure, they had Peter Forsberg for about a week in 2007.  They did have one guy like this for 2 years, Paul Karyia.  And that is the type of talent Drouin is.  People may forget just how good Karyia was in the late 90’s, and then again in 06 and 07 for the Preds.  Zach Parise, Pat Kane, Jordan Eberle, Drouin is that kind of talent.  I’ve said many times before and will again that his style probably resembles Eberle more than anyone, although Drouin has quicker feet at this age than Eberle did.  Amazing hands, amazing shot, great playmaker, will go to the tough area’s.  In most drafts he would be a sure fire top 3 pick.  Obviously he could be in this one, but I could also see him sliding as far as 8 just based on how deep this draft is and the needs of the teams.  I doubt that happens, but crazier things have happened.  Nobody thought Filip Forsberg (ironically now of the Predators) would fall past 5 last year and he ended up sliding all the way to 11.  Zach Parise back in 03 fell all the way to 17.  It happens every year and I don’t feel it is ironic that it mostly happens to wingers.

 

Carolina5. Carolina Hurricanes – Darnell Nurse  6’4  189  D  Sault Ste. Marie  OHL

I really believe Carolina will be looking to trade down.  I believe what could happen is the Oilers, Sabres, Blue Jackets and even the Flyers will be inquiring about this pick.  The Sabres could offer 8, 38, and 52.  The Jackets could offer 14 and 19 or 14, 27, and 44.  The Oilers could offer 7 but the other asset would have to be a player because after 3 picks in the first 2 rounds the Oilers don’t have another pick until 128 (5th round).  The Flyers maybe could offer Sean Couturier, but I don’t know why the Canes would be interested in another center.  11 and 41 is about the best they could do other than a massive overpayment.  What a story it would be if the Flyers could trade up to this spot and take Nurse being Donovan McNabb’s nephew.  But the Canes want a d-man.  Color commentator Tripp Tracy has said that, a lot of Hurricanes fans are saying that, and most insiders believe that is where Jim Rutherford and Ron Francis want to go.  This is my own personal opinion of Nurse: In 5-10 years, Nurse will be the best defenseman to come out of this draft.  I think he has just a little bit better upside than Jones.  Nurse hasn’t got his offensive game going yet, but I think he will.  He just has too much talent not to figure out that end of the game.  And he might be a sharper kid than Jones.  He was the OHL scolastic player of the year.  Watching him interviewed by Grapes on Monday night I thought he was a 10 year vet.  So smooth with the microphone.  That stuff matters.  You hear Jay Bouwmeester interviewed it doesn’t exactly scream intelligence.  And then you add in what he already does great on the ice.  Great size, great skater, moves the puck very well, he has that mean streak that so many of us want to see in high end d-men.  I just love this kids upside.

 

Calgary6. Calgary Flames – Sean Monahan  6’2.5  188  C  Ottawa  OHL

First of all thoughts and prayers with everyone in Calgary.  I have family down there, I have friends down there, so I hope everyone is safe and doing ok.  I think everyone agrees that the Flames need to take a center….desperately!  They might not do that, but if you do a mock draft and don’t have the Flames taking a center you’re an idiot.  But really, who the hell knows what the Flames will do!  Their GM believes he’s the smartest man in the room, their assistant GM drafted Dwight Howard….thank god he was the Orlando Magic GM when he did so….and the belief in Calgary is that they don’t allow their director of amateur scouting Tod Button have much of a say on draft day.  So nobody really knows what the Flames might do on draft day but the feeling is that they really like Sean Monahan.  As far as intangibles go, it’s tough to argue with that.  I have read and heard that Monahan has the same type of makeup as Trevor Linden and Jonathan Toews in terms of character and leadership.  That’s amazing praise!  Where scouts are split on him however is his skill level.  Some think he can be a 1st line center, most think he will be a great 2nd line center, and I’ve heard one scout suggest he will probably only be a great 3rd line center.  I’ve seen him play a bit and what I personally believe has happened is his skill has got ignored a bit with so many being so enamored with his character.  A great 2nd line center, much like a Jordan Staal is what I believe he will be.  That’s a great kid to start building around.  Obviously possible that they trade up with 3 1st round picks, but it sounds more and more like the Canes are the only team willing to move out of the top 5, and most of the Calgary media believes they will use all 3 picks.  I believe that’s the right course for the Flames.  Its a deep draft and they have a lot of needs so this is a great chance to fill them.

 

7. Edmonton Oilers – Elias Lindholm  6’0.5  181  C  Brynas  SWE

Well this broke down pretty bad for the Oilers….again.  In fact, this broke down worse for the Oilers this time than it did in my last mock.  Word is that the Oilers will trade the 7th pick.  The big question is if it is to move up?  Move back?  Or land a player?  If I had a guess….I think its moving back.  If they could get 14 and 19 from the Blue Jackets for 7 I think they have to do it.  Craig MacTavish has spoken about how much he loves so many of the kids in this draft, and he has a head amateur scout in Stu McGregor whom he can trust to make shrewd picks.  The Oilers despite having picked high not just the last 3 years, but in the top 10 in 5 of the last 6 drafts, they still have quite a few holes (2nd line center, top 4 D, number 1 netminder).  If you give McGregor two 1st round picks in a deep draft, I’m sure he could fill 2 of those 3 holes.  But again, I don’t do trades in my mock drafts so if they stand pat and this is how things shake down, he’s not ideal but they would have a gem in Elias Lindholm.  I keep comparing him to Henrik Zetterberg not just because of his nationality, but he plays almost identical to him.  The last write up I had about him though had some flaws.  I insinuated he was small.  As you can see he’s not that small.  If you have noticed, these heights and weights are new for most of the guys.  They’re the official heights and weights from the combine and as you can see Lindholm is nearly 2 inches bigger than what he was listed at.  So he has decent size, he is willing to get his nose dirty and go to tough area’s on the ice, very high IQ, he already plays a pretty good 200 foot game, he competes hard everywhere on the ice, great skater, has great vision and great hands.  I believe he has a better 200 foot game than Sam Gagner already (although that just speaks to Sam Gagner’s lack of a 2 way game).  They need a center, he’s not EXACTLY what they would like I’m sure (probably prefer Monahan), but a kid over 6 feet who plays like Zetterberg and is a RH shot….worse things have happened.

 

8. Buffalo Sabres – Nikita Zadorov  6’6  230  D  London  OHL

Last mock draft I said a lot could happen within the top 7, and really didn’t give the thought of the Sabres trading up much credit.  According to reports Darcy Regier is VERY interested in trading up seeing as how he owns two 1st rounders and two 2nd rounders.  Also reading what some of the people who cover that team say, Zadorov isn’t even a consideration and they believe they will look for a center with that pick.  But unless they can move up I don’t know of a center that makes sense to take ahead of Zadorov.  Sure you could take a Horvat or Gauthier, but Zadorov just has such amazing upside and is such a unique talent that it would be so difficult to say no to that in my opinion.  The Sabres went heavy on centers last year as I’ve now said in these mocks a ton.  Trade for Hodgson, drafted Grigorenko, traded up and drafted Girgensons.  So while I don’t know if those 3 are the answer to a teams needs at center, I believe they will look to take Nikita Zadorov.  Huge (not as tall as Tyler Myers, but much thicker), clumsy at this point but skates decent, a bomb of a shot, and pretty good skill to go along with the fact that he is a crusher in his own zone.  I know that some scouts are just simply drooling at this kids upside.  The Sabres could have Myers and Zadorov as their top pair for 8-10 years…that’s a combo I would want NOTHING to do with!  But obviously he is a high risk, high reward type which is why he only goes 8th (at least in this mock).  But again, watch for the Sabres to move up.  Carolina makes a lot of sense, although if the Canes want Nurse then trading 1 spot behind the Oilers might hurt because Craig MacTavish has raved about Nurse.

 

New Jersey9. New Jersey Devils – Valeri Nichushkin  6’4  205  LW  Chelijabinsk 2  RUS

Is this a need?  Not really, although huge talent and size is a combination a team can never have enough of.  Should they take a d-man or perhaps even Zach Fucale?  I probably would, although with Nurse and Zadorov now off the board that only leaves them Ristolainen to choose from.  I would guess Lou’s thinking here would be that he can get a kid who could step right in next season and has the perfect mentor for him in Ilya Kovalchuk.  At 9, if you think you can get the best out of Nichushkin then its going to be a total steal.  The kid has amazing upside.  Size, wheels, hands, shot, he has it all.  He is a flight risk though, so that will scare some teams off.  Also as I said earlier, the word is that he was unimpressive at the combine both in the testing and the interviews.  Now teams could be just sending out smoke screens in terms of how he interviewed as Mr. Luedeke said to me.  But it was Gare Joyce who said in an interview with Bob Stauffer that Nichushkin quit in the middle of his VO2 testing which is a major red flag.  You can have a poor showing during it, but you can’t quit.  This kid is your classic boom or bust pick.  Since Lou seems to be desperate to win now these last few years, I think this would be the pick.  But if a team were to trade down I could see them doing that as well.  Again, Columbus has three 1st rounders to play with.

 

Dallas-13-pres10. Dallas Stars – Bo Horvat  6’0.5  211  C  London  OHL

First, I love their new uni’s but I hate that symbol.  Why change from that old symbol?  And why no gold?  What was wrong with the gold on the uni’s?  Not a lot, just some gold outlining would have looked good.  Anyway, this isn’t Soups on Sports fashion correspondent Dustin Harvie’s piece.  New GM in Dallas as Jim Nill takes over for Joe Nieuwendyk who did not have a good track record drafting in his 4 seasons as GM of the Stars (although with drafting, most of the blame/praise should fall on the amateur scouting).  Nill comes from the Red Wings and so you can expect him to do something similar to what Ken Holland would do.  Peter Loubardias believes Horvat is the surest thing in this draft, says he can play in 11 of 12 spots in an NHL’s forward group.  He reminds me a TON of Patrice Bergeron.  He doesn’t have great size but nice size, plays 200 feet, physical, and very clutch.  So many times this kid has come up big with the game on the line, including the most clutch goal of the OHL season with virtually no time left on the clock in game 7 of the OHL final to send the London Knights to the Memorial Cup.  He’s not the most skilled kid, but he has some finesse in his game.  Long term, I think he becomes one of the league’s top 2nd line centers.  Gauthier and Wennberg are heavy considerations here too if it’s the route the Stars go.  I have it on pretty good authority that the Stars want a center with this pick and in fact I believe it is now on the record that Nill wants to get a center.  You can talk to 3 different scouts and all 3 would have Horvat, Gauthier and Wennberg ranked in different order, and I really shouldn’t discount Max Domi or Curtis Lazar here either.

 

11. Philadelphia Flyers – Rasmus Ristolainen  6’4  203  D  TPS Turku  FIN

Ahhh Philly, the soap opera that will never be taken off TV.  Will they trade up?  They don’t have many picks, and don’t have much in the system, but trading up is fun so why not?!  I don’t like this spot for Philly at all if 1 of Nurse, Ristolainen or Zadorov doesn’t fall to them.  This organization is horrendously desperate to get some blueliners in the pipeline.  Of course they don’t have to do that through the draft.  They could look to deal Sean Couturier this summer for a young stud on D.  They also could look to trade up from this spot to ensure they land 1 of those aforementioned d-men.  Luckily for the Flyers, I have Ristolainen falling right into their laps at 11 just like the last 2 mock drafts.  RH shot d-man, great skater, plays physical, can QB a PP, he really reads a lot like Joni Pitkanen and obviously part of that is the fact he’s a Fin, but he’s almost identical in stature and style.  Hopefully he’s a lot better in terms of attitude because Pitkanen has always left teams wanting more out of him, but the same fear is there for scouts with Ristolainen.  The gap has closed in terms of how wildly different scouts view him, but this question marks are still there.  For me this would be a no brainer, but Paul Holmgren, Chris Pryor and the Flyers LOVE the QMJHL so watchout for a kid like Samuel Morin to be their guy if they take a d-man.  Also Zach Fucale is a strong possibility.

 

Phoenix12. Phoenix Coyotes – Fredrick Gauthier  6’4.5  215  C  Rimouski  QMJHL

I was going to put Hunter Shinkaruk in this spot.  And then I gave it thought.  I looked back at what the Maloney/Treliving/Knickle/Tippett regime have been doing.  2009 it was Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 2010 it was Brandon Gormley, and 2011 it was Connor Murphy, then last year they took one of my 2012 favorites (you like how I spell like an American?) Henrik Samuelsson.  Sure, last season was a bit different because they took a forward, but that forward was a big guy that can play at both ends of the ice and has a lot of dimensions to his game.  Now lets take a look at what was there previous to their arrival.  2006 they took Peter Mueller who they dealt to Colorado.  2007 they took Kyle Turris who of course was dealt last season after a bitter contract dispute.  But of course if they really wanted to keep Turris I’m sure they would have done everything they could to smooth things over.  Instead they dealt him for a former 1st round pick in defenseman David Rundblad.  Knowing all this, I just can’t project them to take Shinkaurk despite how electric of a player he is.  I don’t see them passing on a kid like Gauthier or Horvat should he slip to them or if neither is available then Wennberg.  Gauthier has kind of flown under the radar of late after a great under 18’s where he and the rest of his teammates got overshadowed by 2015’s likely 1st overall pick Connor McDavid.  But I’m a big fan of Gauthier.  As you can see he has amazing size, skates very well for a kid so big, plays a 200 foot game, has good vision and good hands as well. He needs another year in the Q for sure, but his upside is awesome.  Craig Button has compared him to Keith Primeau.  Primeau got flack for not being physical enough, and Gauthier isn’t physical at all so don’t expect that out of him.  But look at big centers like Thornton, Kopitar, Hanzal, Berglund, they don’t need to be physical.  They just need to know how to use their size and Gauthier does that.

 

13. Winnipeg Jets – Alexander Wennberg  6’1.5  183  C  Djurgardens  SWE

I won’t lie, I love this team but they’re in big trouble next season in their new division.  The Hawks, Blues, Wild, Preds, Jim Nill now running the Stars and the Avs despite the mess in their front office, it is going to be a BIG change from the Southleast.  But they’re on the right track.  Trouba is coming on defense (although I see him as a 3 or 4 as opposed to some people who see him as a top pairing guy), Scheifele, Adam Lowry had a great season this year, so adding Wennberg with those 2 and the big skilled kids they already have on the roster and perhaps the Jets can compete with some of those teams soon.  Wennberg is a really well rounded player who is one of the top skater’s in the draft.  Not an explosive stride, but extremely smooth.  He also has a really well rounded game and a very high IQ.  He isn’t getting a lot of hype because he does nothing that really jumps out at people, and of course playing in Sweden a lot of people haven’t seen him play.  But make no mistake Wennberg is right there with Horvat, Gauthier, Domi and Lazar in that 2nd wave of centers grouping, all of whom have the upside to be an elite 2nd line center.

 

Columbus0814. Columbus Blue Jackets – Hunter Shinkaruk  5’10.5  172  RW  Medicine Hat  WHL

As I’ve said a lot already, I would watch for them to package 2 of their picks in an attempt to move up.  However if they pick in this spot I think Shinkaurk makes the most sense should it shake down this way (no shot of that happening).  This would be a bit of a fall for Shinkaruk, but again it is a safe bet for it to be a winger who falls in a draft.  His size is a little troubling, he actually was smaller than his listed size prior to the combine.  Most of these kids were actually measured to be bigger than their listed size.  But what Shinkaruk lacks in size he makes up for with his incredible speed and lazer of a shot.  I don’t expect Shinkaruk to be a great all around player who has a great 200 foot game.  But what I do expect is 30 goals a season, with a few seasons of 40 mixed in there.  He is a classic sniper, like a smaller version of Phil Kessel.  The Blue Jackets really lacked a player like this last season, which is why they did the deal for Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline.  They look pretty good down the middle moving forward, but of course they could also add in that position later in the draft if they are using all three 1st round picks.  But they really need to address the lack of talent up front in this draft, and Shinkaruk falling to them would be a great start.

 

NY Islanders15. NY Islanders – Zachary Fucale  6’1.5  177  G  Halifax  QMJHL

3rd mock in a row I’ve had it this way, and I doubt I will change it for the last one.  This humiliating franchise sure did prove me wrong this season.  I love to talk about how absolutely disgustingly revolting they are and boom….they make the playoffs.  They didn’t just make the playoffs, they gave the Pens a heck of a series!  I absolutely love this pick for the Islanders if this is how things shake down.  There is a chance that Fucale won’t be around by the 15th pick, its very tough to read what will happen with goaltenders in the draft these days.  But the Islanders to me could really use that potential stud number 1 goaltender in this spot.  They have guys like Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen in the system, but none of them rival the upside of Fucale.  Craig Button has recently said this is the best 17 year old goaltender he’s ever seen.  Peter Loubardias told me that this kid is one of the best PEOPLE he’s ever met, and Kirk Ludeke a scout for Redline Report said on twitter that he talked to a few scouts and they basically echoed those words.  That’s pretty high praise.  He is tremendous post to post, extremely sound positionally, and has the right mental makeup to be a number 1 guy.  He will be the best goaltender taken in the 1st round since 2005 when both Carey Price (5th) and Tuukka Rask (21st) were drafted.

 

Buffalo-10-pres16. Buffalo Sabres via Minnesota – Max Domi  5’9.5  190  C  London  OHL

For the 2nd straight season Darcy Regier has two 1st round selections.  How he got as much as he did for Jason Pomminville I will never know, but he had to be laughing once the deal was complete.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Pomminville, but he wasn’t worth a 1st in this draft and Matt Hackett let alone 2 more pieces going to Buffalo.  Anyhow, the Sabres have this pick and since I picked a d-man for them at 8, I think a talented center who could also play the wing makes a lot of sense at 16.  You already know that Max is a kid who might be small but he plays with bite and a boat load of skill.  I don’t know if many people will use this comparison, but he reminds me of Mike Comrie when Comrie first came into the league.  Almost the same size, Mike was highly skilled, fiesty, wasn’t afraid to go to tough area’s, throw hits, or even drop the gloves.  Is that not Domi?  Max I think is a more explosive skater than Comrie was though.  Of course as I hit on earlier, the Sabres are pretty loaded down the middle right now, but it’s never a bad play to take a center.  Much like d-men, centers are very tough to find and will command a lot in a trade.  And again, he can play the wing or the middle.

 

17. Ottawa Senators – Curtis Lazar  6’0  191  C  Edmonton  WHL

2 mock drafts ago I had Max Domi to the Leafs, then last one I had Lazar to the Leafs.  Last mock I had Domi to the Sens, and now I have Lazar taking his spot yet again.  So I guess Lazar ends up in Buffalo on the final one?  We will see….  This might be the deepest organization in hockey right now.  They don’t have a big flaw, its unreal.  I’m not a big Bryan Murray fan but the last few years he has done a terrific job getting them back on track and in very short order.  As for Lazar, he is a pretty shrewd pick for a team that is pretty loaded up.  Lazar is versatile and could play the wing if need be, I know he played on Nathan MacKinnon’s wing in the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer.  Some are turned off because he’s not that classic playmaking center, but for me that is secondary for a center.  I believe a 2 way game is more important and he might be the best defensive center in this draft.  This kid is ridiculous below the hash marks in his own zone for a draft eligible kid.  I have made this comparison a few times, but he really does remind me of Mike Richards, just not as in your face.  He also has a great shot.  By the time Lazar is ready to play in the league, Jason Spezza might be 32 or 33 years old so maybe he would have a spot down the middle by then on this team.

 

18. Detroit Red Wings – Ryan Pulock  6’1  211  D  Brandon  WHL

They still have a lot up front to work with in this organization, but the blueline has taken a flat out beating in the last 24 months or so.  You know who has left, and the reason you don’t know what’s coming is because they don’t have much coming.  Xavier Ouellet got a lot of hype prior to the WJC, and while I wouldn’t say he was a disappointment, he didn’t live up to the hype either.  Ryan Sproul is a nice d-man with really good size and great offensive talent.  But he’s REALLY soft for a kid who is 6’4.  Danny DeKeyser has stepped in and done a nice job, but many believe the kid is limited.  So they need to start building up their blueline again and while he’s had a rough year I’m still really big on Ryan Pulock.  He has that Al MacInnis like bomb from the point, a great puck mover, really good mobility, and doesn’t get pushed around.  His biggest flaw at this point and time is that he is prone to some pretty bad turnovers in his own zone, but that is something many d-men have to work through on their way up to the pro’s.  Lots of D options at this point other than Pulock too.  Josh Morrissey is still on the board, Samuel Morin is pretty intriguing being 6’6, and Robert Hagg….we all know the Wings love them some Swedes on their blueline.

 

Columbus0819. Columbus Blue Jackets via NY Rangers – Valentin Zykov  6’0.5  206  RW  Baie Comeau  QMJHL

The 2nd of 3 selections for new GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets.  We won’t know until draft day what a first time GM like Kekalainen will do because some GM’s rely heavily on their scouting staffs and some who have come from scouting (like Kekalainen) will get heavily involved in the process.  Add to that confusion is the fact that the Jackets have 2 directors of amateur scouting in Tyler Wright and Paul Castron.  I’m sure they would love to get their hands on a center with one of these 3 picks (should they keep them all), but Zykov falling to 19 would likely be too sweet to pass up with a lot of the bigger name centers off the board.  Not that I’m an expert, I just play one on the internet.  But IF they passed on Shinkaruk at 14 and took Domi or Lazar with that pick, I would bet they would still get one of Zykov or even Shinkaruk in this spot.  But Shinkaruk at 14 is a pretty awesome talent to pass up at that point.  They certainly aren’t the same guy.  As you can see, Zykov has really decent size and unlike fellow Russian Valeri Nichushkin, it was my understanding that Zykov really impressed at the draft combine.  Gare Joyce said that in one of his interviews when asked about ever going back home to play in the KHL he responded with something along the lines of “when I’m 40 and out of shape and can no longer play in the NHL, then I’ll go there”.  Pretty good stuff!  This kid is committed to playing in the NHL, and plays like a North American kid.  Willing to go to the tough area’s, great hands, great shot, and really tough to handle on the wall and down low.  With those 2 picks, the Jackets wouldn’t have to be worried about a lack of skill up front any longer.

 

20. San Jose Sharks – Kerby Rychel  6’1  198  LW  Windsor  OHL

This organization needs everything basically.  The current roster is obviously good, but it’s aging and they have nothing coming other than last year’s 1st round pick Tomas Hertl.  Now this will look like I’m thinking that they need to replace Clowe but he actually has nothing to do with this pick.  More so, it’s looking at the Sharks and the way they’ve drafted.  They always stick to their board (which a lot of times is very different from others) and they have area’s they love.  One of the area’s they love is the OHL, and since the West is more about size now than skill I have Rychel selected with their pick.  Rychel plays the game with a little more skill than his old man did, but he still has a lot of what his dad brought to the table.  Always finishing his hits, willing to drop the gloves, and a beast in front of the net.  He doesn’t skate fluid, but he has pretty good speed nonetheless.  He plays with a lot of passion too which is usually a concern with power forwards, not Rychel.  Would look great next to Logan Couture in 3-4 seasons.

 

Toronto21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Nicolas Petan  5’8.5  163  C  Portland  WHL

Well this will be a controversial selection by me with Leaf fans, and I might have as many Leaf fans reading this as I do Oiler fans (what’s up Reggie, Lowrie, JT, Robb, Harv, Haygs, and whoever the hell else I’m forgetting).  Basically what has happened is that everyone I think they would love is gone.  Domi, Lazar, Rychel are all gone at this point.  The one kid that I gave big thought to was Ryan Hartman.  But in the end I’m going with Petan.  I think the offensive ability would be just too intriguing to turn down.  This kid tore up the WHL this season with 120 points and was +68.  Those numbers in the WHL for an 18 year old are pretty hard to ignore.  Unbelievable hands, incredibly quick, slippery, great vision, its tough not to compare him with Tyler Ennis who is about the same size and a Western Canadian kid.  My theory is that it is easier for an Eastern conference team to pick a kid like this than a Western team.  Having said that, the Leafs might be looking at the Bruins model and try to beef up with a kid like Adam Erne, but his stock has dropped quite a bit this season.  I have little doubt however that they will go with a forward with their top pick.  They may lose Tyler Bozak to free agency this summer, if they don’t lose him then there is a chance they use one of their compliance buy outs on Mikhail Grabovski, they did a great job building up their blueline during Burke’s tenure, and now this morning they land Jonathan Bernier to sure up the goaltending.

 

Calgary22. Calgary Flames via St. Louis – J.T. Compher  5’11  177  C  USNTDP  USHL

Ok Flames fans I let Feaster off the hook with the first pick by expecting him to do the right thing, but now we are in USHL/NCAA/ridiculous pick territory.  Fortunately though, what I’m suggesting isn’t really far off the board at all.  The only thing I wonder about is that even the Flames would have to realize at this point they would really need a d-man and Josh Morrissey is a pretty good one and is a Calgary kid, he’s still on the board.  But I’m not trying to do this the way I would, I’m trying assess what the teams would want to do.  If Compher is there I can’t see them passing on him.  Assistant GM John Weisbrod loves him some American kids.  He is believed to be the big reason as to why the Flames have seemingly stockpiled USHL/NCAA kids through the draft and trades…most noteably the Jarome Iginla trade.  If Tod Button has some say in this pick, than a kid like Morrissey is possible.  Anyways….Compher wouldn’t be a bad pick.  He is potentially a 2nd line center.  A kid who does everything good but nothing great.  Plays a 200 foot game, good skater, good vision, good hands, good shot.  Now, if they go off the board like Calgary would do in a spot like this (like last year) keep an eye on Connor Hurley, either here or at 28.  He is the youngest player in the draft, and is very raw just like Mark Jankowski.

 

Washington0823. Washington Capitals – Ryan Hartman  5’11.5  185  RW  Plymouth  OHL

If you have been reading these mock drafts, then you know I have had Hartman going to the Canucks a few times.  He’s a total pest, he dives, he’s cheap, he’s miserable to play against….something the Caps could really use.  I have tried to get a center to the Caps with their 1st, but there isn’t one that fits the bill for them at this point and their organization views Evgeny Kuznetsov as the teams future 2nd line center.  Also Hartman has played some center so that is a possibility though most see him as a winger.  Ironically another little bonus is he plays with Caps 1st rounder from 2012 Tom Wilson in Plymouth.  But the Caps really need a guy like this who is just such a headache to play against.  You can’t have a team full of them like the Canucks have put together, but you do need 1 or 2 of them.  And it’s not like he can’t play, he does have some pretty good skill and nice touch around the net.  The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve really liked the idea of this being the Caps pick at 23.  They have a pretty loaded system so it’s tough to find their needs, but Hartman fills a big one in my mind.

 

24. Vancouver Canucks – Michael McCarron  6’5.5  234  RW  USNTDP  USHL

Torts to the Canucks, PERFECT!  A guy who looks to riot after every game joining a city that does the same, awesome!!!  Well I no longer believe in the dream of the Carburners selecting one of their own in Ryan Hartman with the 24th pick.  Some things are too good to be true.  But reading between the lines, Mike Gillis is looking to get big and mean now.  He didn’t say that exactly in his press conference when he fired Alain Vigneault, but he loudly hinted at it.  So with that being said I have them taking McCarron who had a great U18’s for the U.S. and is one BIG kid!  That’s where the league is heading unfortunately.  That is why so many people would love to see Chicago win the final because they are more about skill than size…although both those teams are pretty big.  As for McCarron’s skill set, he uses that amazing size as much as he can.  He’s a beast down low, on the wall, and has no problem crushing opponents.  And for such a big kid, he is a good skater, good agility and a great shot.  He might become a complimentary guy in a top 6 role much like Bryan Bickell is doing right now for the Hawks.

 

Montreal25. Montreal Canadiens – Anthony Mantha  6’4  190  LW  Val d’Or  QMJHL

Awesome size, awesome wheels, hands, playmaking, this kid seemingly has it all.  So why is he going 25th in the draft?  Soft.  No other way to say, this kid has all the tools to be a star, but simply refuses to get his nose dirty.  It’s not as if he has to be Milan Lucic, Bryan Bickell, Dustin Brown or Andrew Ladd.  He just has to go to tougher areas on the ice and use his size to his advantage.  He has to take the puck to the net, don’t stay on the perimeter so much.  And he’s doing this in the Q…not exactly the toughest of the 3 CHL leagues.  And speaking of the Q, of course it plays a factor in this pick.  Certain teams in this league love their own.  Minnesota, Toronto and Montreal are 3 that come to mind.  But at this point in the draft the best center’s are off the board and the Habs I believe would love to add more size up front.  Again, Mantha needs to actually start using his size, but once he turns pro after next season he will learn that he will need to go to the tough area’s on the ice and grind out some of his goals.  The Habs are another team who are likely to trade up in this draft.  They have three 2nd rounders and two 3rd rounders, so simply by taking lets just say the 36th and 71st picks and packaging them with 25 I would guess they could entice a team like  the Red Wings perhaps who have never been shy to move back and pickup some extra assets.  Another one I would pitch, 34 and 36 to the Ducks for 26.  The Ducks 2nd rounder is owned by the Oilers.

 

Anaheim226. Anaheim Ducks – Josh Morrissey  5’11  182  D  Prince Albert  WHL

I believe this would be pretty sweet for the Ducks to see Morrissey still on the board with the 26th pick, but a LOT stranger things have happened than this.  To me, the Ducks despite having taken d-man with their top pick in 2 of the last 3 years with their 1st round picks still need more on defense.  Obviously this would not have been the case if Justin Schultz hadn’t of left miserable Anaheim for sunny and spectacular Edmonton….I’ve said this before and will say it yet again, there is a lot of P.K. Subban/Matthew Dumba in Morrissey’s game.  Yet he isn’t AS high risk/high reward as those 2 are.  Great skater, not very big but is fearless on the ice, can QB a PP, makes a great first pass, has a good stick and has good gap control.  A straight up steal for the Ducks should he fall this far in the draft.  He could easily go in the 15-20 range.  If not Morrissey here, perhaps a kid like Morgan Klimchuk would fit the bill as I believe they could use some depth down the middle in the organization.

 

Columbus0827. Columbus Blue Jackets via Los Angeles – Samuel Morin  6’6  200  D  Rimouski  QMJHL

I couldn’t find a spot for him before this, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be reached for.  Calgary at 22 makes a lot of sense, as does Detroit at 18 if they don’t like Pulock, and Anaheim with the pick ahead of this one if they don’t like Morrissey.  I know Morin intrigues me, I would have no issue with him falling to the Oilers at 37.  He is very raw, and isn’t very strong (I believe he was the worst at the combine in the bench press).  But that’s not a red flag, in fact for a lot of scouts that is intriguing.  Its looked at as “look at what he’s done before he has any strength, just imagine how good he will be once he has some!”  There is definitely logic to that.  Morin skates really well for a kid his size too.  His offensive game is what has him going late in the 1st in my opinion.  Its not as if he can’t contribute, but 16 points in 46 games this season in the Q isn’t exactly tearing it up.  But Craig Button has him 13th on the Craig’s list.  His list is all about projecting players, and again it is very tough to ignore Morin’s upside.  As for the Jackets taking him, again I would say it is a coin flip weather they own this pick come 27 or not, but if they do make all 3 picks they will likely want another d-man with one of them.  Mirco Mueller would make sense being a teammate of Ryan Murray’s as I explained in my last mock draft.

 

Calgary28. Calgary Flames via Pittsburgh – Ian McCoshen  6’2  207  D  Waterloo  USHL

Not much left to say about the Flames, and not sure if they’ll use all three 1st’s.  But if they do select in this spot and they do use all 3 1st round picks they will need to take a defenseman at some point.  McCoshen fits the bill here but so does Shea Theodore, Mirco Mueller, Chris Bigras, and Madison Bowey.  But again with the Flames, they love their USHL/NCAA American kids so I can’t help but assume they’ll go that route.  McCoshen is your typical USHL d-man.  Good size, very good skater, not very physical, but he has more puck skill than some of the USHL d-men taken in last year’s draft.  He projects to be a PP QB down the road, and he is very smart in his own zone.  He might not be a crusher but he uses his size to his advantage and does a very good job clearing the front of the net.

 

Dallas-13-pres29. Dallas Stars via Boston – Andre Burakowsky  6’2  178  RW  Malmo  SWE

And with the Bruins going to the Eastern conference final, the Stars probably end up getting a better deal for Jagr than the Flames got for Iginla.  Wow.  Anyhow, I have Jim Nill getting a center with his 1st pick so now I was going to suggest he go out and get a d-man, but Burakowsky has fallen to 29 and is too good to pass up.  Also, he is a Swede, and coming from the Red Wings you know that Jim Nill will love his Swedes!  Burakowsky is raw but has awesome upside.  He is an explosive skater who is willing to drive the puck to the net.  Decent size but as you can see at 178 he still has some filling out to do.  His scouting report reads very similar to fellow Swede Magnus Paajarvi.  The Oilers are just starting to see Paajarvi’s game develop now so the lesson that needs to be learned with Burakowsky is don’t rush him.  Let him play in Malmo for another 2 seasons, and then bring him over for a year in the AHL.  No need to rush him and if a team doesn’t then they could have a star on their hands….no pun intended.

 

Chicago30.Chicago Blackhawks – Mirco Mueller  6’4.5  184  D  Everett  WHL

I really believe that defense is the play with this pick.  In their system they are pretty deep up front, even if they lose a kid like Bickell as a UFA this summer they have about 5 forwards who have the ability to step into his spot.  But while the strength is up front, they are weak on defense and really weak in net in the organization.  However, with no goaltender making much sense at 28 they could do one of three things.  Trade up, trade back, or take a d-man here and a goaltender like Tristan Jarry or Eric Comrie in the 2nd round.  Mueller is a great skater for a 6’3 kid, and is very sound defensively so right there the upside is pretty big.  At 184 he has a lot of filling out to do, but once he does get up to 200-210 pounds he could be a gem of a prospect.  And the Hawks would be a great spot for him to go, because much like the Red Wings the last thing the Hawks are going to do is rush their kids.  He will get his final 2 years in the WHL, at least 1 year in the AHL, and see where he’s at then.

 

 

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Still not sold

 

Ok, so I’ll admit while I was the guy all through April saying “calm down, it’s early”, I wasn’t the guy saying that through May….or even 8 games ago….or even 5 games ago!  This was a total disaster of a season for the Jays.  All these moves that every Jays fan loudly applauded from Alex Anthopoulos, and yet it was worse than last season was.  In fact, it was looking worse than most seasons have since 93 and that is saying something.  What a difference 8 in a row makes.

Not chump teams they’re beating up on either.  Sure the Rangers have been ice cold, but they’re still the Rangers.  Sweeping the best team in the AL over the last 3 seasons in their park is impressive.  Sweeping the Rockies at home wasn’t a walk in the park either, especially in the first game.  Josh Johnson pitches his best game of the year, yet the Rocks were still primed to steal it in the top of 8th.  The Jays got a big play from Adam Lind defensively, and really they were awesome defensively all game to keep it scoreless.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is they haven’t exactly just been beating up on the Marlins and Astros for 8 games.  And even bigger than 8 in a row, they’re now 22-12 since May 11th as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet tweeted out Wednesday night (of course, if you take away the last 8….).

But now comes the real test.  A weekend set against the wildcard leading Baltimore Orioles.  This is where the Jays have struggled this season….the division.  While they’ve closed the gap on a lot of teams during this run, I believe mentally this series is so huge.  And there is no reason they shouldn’t win with the way things are coming together.

The bullpen has NEVER been in question this season, just an awesome performance thus far.  The bats have been pretty consistent since the start of May, the defense hasn’t been humiliating of late unlike earlier in the year, and finally the big name pitchers that were brought in are FINALLY starting to look like themselves.

Although of late its been the 2 newest additions to the rotation who have been stealing the headlines.  Esmil Rogers has only given up 4 earned runs in 4 starts and 3 nights ago against the Rockies he took a no-no into the 6th.  And if that weren’t enough of a pleasant surprise, Chien-Ming Wang is pitching like its 2006.  Just 2 starts so far so its still far too early to get pumped about an amazing comeback story here, but he has gone 7 innings in both his starts.

He will throw on Saturday with the book ends to this series being Dickey tonight and Johnson in the finale.  They don’t need to sweep the O’s, I think that’s asking too much.  But 2 of 3 would be huge.  Then they get the Rays and Red Sox.  This is a make or break time for this ball team.  A month ago I thought getting back to .500 before the all-star break.  A 6-4 or 7-3 run in their next 10 would not only have them comfortably over .500, but very much so in the wildcard hunt.  Add to that, Reyes, Lawrie, Morrow and Happ all are still on the DL so they will be adding big pieces in the next few weeks.

Still a long way to go, but this team is starting to get their fans jacked up about things again, just hope this time they can see it through because Jays fans can take much more of this beating!

 

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7th Heaven

 

I didn’t have time to write about it yesterday, but as you all know now how freakin’ amazing was game 6?!  Magic Johnson said it was a top 3 game he has ever seen or been a part of.  It will go down as one of the all time great NBA finals games.  Game 5 in 1976 (even though I was -7 years old at the time), game 4 in 1985, game 4 in 1987, game 6 in 1988, game 3 in 1993, game 6 in 1998, on and on and on.  It was right there with those games.  Great action, great drama, great stars, great teams.  It had everything.

Having said that….don’t expect THAT tonight.  I fully believe we will get a great game, and this has been an amazing series (despite 4 of the 6 games being blowouts).  But Dan Patrick brought it up on his show yesterday, great game 6’s usually lead to let down’s in game 7.  Mets and Red Sox in 86 was like that.  The ball rolled through Buckner’s legs (of course about 8 things happened prior to that blowing the game for the Sox), and that series was over.  The same COULD have happened to the Spurs in game 6.

They choked in that game, and I NEVER thought I would see that out of this Spurs team.  They have always been like robots in big spots.  Why couldn’t they have done that against the Steve Nash led Suns?!  Well they did it in game 6 and now a lot of the sports world thinks they’re done.  But I just can’t see it.

Again, this team has always been like robots.  I can’t see them being effected by what happened at all.  Popovich will have made his adjustments, have them fired up and have them in control.  If I were Pop, I would simply remind them that they’ve won every 2nd game and been the best team in 4 of the 6 games thus far.  Danny Green won’t shoot that bad again, Manu Ginobli probably won’t turn back the clock like in game 5 but I doubt is as bad as he was in game 6, and this time Pop probably won’t pull his hall of famer/best rebounder in the final seconds of the game should they have the lead.

Meanwhile this could be the make it or break it game for Lebron.  If he comes through with a big performance and the Heat win, nobody can ever doubt him again (not that I believe they still should be).  But if he loses, you will hear the critics in full force.  The big thing I could see people saying is that he won his ring in a lockout season.  In fairness to the critics, he was pretty bad in the final minute of regulation Tuesday.  Ray Allen REALLY saved his ass with that 3 to tie the game.  2 turnovers and 2 BAD misses from 3.  He was trying to force things, which is understandable since they were in desperation mode, but he is under a microscope like no other player before him.

I’ll say this, EVERYONE is going with the Heat tonight.  The Spurs blew game 6, game 7 is in Miami (not since the Washington Bullets in 1978 has a team won game 7 of the finals on the road), and the Heat are the younger and fresher team.  When EVERYONE is going one way, its not a bad idea to go the other.  No, it probably won’t be a game 6 and it might not match the great game 4 the Stanley Cup final gave us last night.  But its game 7 between 2 great teams….enjoy.

 

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The Stanley Cup final

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Well I guess my dream of going 14 for 15 with my playoff predictions is gone, and I didn’t just barely miss.  No, that was the Ultimate Warrior and I was the Honky Tonk Man.  I was the champ and I was feeling pretty damn cocky heading into my match with whoever was in the back and willing to fight me.  Then the Warrior came out.  Jimmy Hart couldn’t save me, nobody could save me.  And before I knew it, I had not only lost my belt, I had been humiliated.  Pens in 7….WRONG!!!  Kings in 6….WRONG!!!  Hawks and Bruins for the Cup it is, and it only took them a total of 9 games to get through the conference finals.

It’s one heck of a sexy matchup.  2 originial 6 teams (first time since 79 when the Habs took down the Rangers in 5).  2 of the top 4 TV markets in the US which will make the NHL offices in New York VERY happy.  It has a marketable star too in Patrick Kane who is coming off a hatty and series winning OT goal (don’t confuse star with marketable star, Jonathan Toews is miles ahead of Kane but he isn’t as marketable).  If your team wasn’t going to get in the final, then you couldn’t have asked for a better matchup.  If you’re a Wings fan, or Habs fan, or Leafs fan then you have a team to pull for….the team that you don’t hate!

So lets get on with it, who will win.  Well since there is only the 1 series to talk about I guess I have to drag this out don’t I?  Lets talk about the tendy’s first.  Rask is better than Crawford.  Ok, now that we covered the tendy’s….maybe I’ll give it more respect than that.  Look, everyone is sky high on Rask right now.  He’s great, don’t get me wrong.  But the Pens generated NOTHING in that series.  Just about every shot was right at the B’s logo.  And usually nobody was near the net for the rebound.  Now, while I think the Bruins did a FANTASTIC job playing New Jersey Devils circa 2003 type hockey (if that’s not a backhanded compliment, I don’t know what is), the Pens still never made Rask make many great saves.  Don’t get wrapped up in shots on goal, it can be decieving.

Meanwhile, Crawford doesn’t face many shots but it seems to me that when he gets them, they’re high quality chances.  The Bruins have good offensive fire power, but Crawford is capable of shutting the door on them.  So while there is still no doubt that Rask is the better goaltender (better technically, better athletically), the Hawks will put up a much better offensive fight than the Pens did so if the Bruins are to win this series Rask is going to have to be even better than he has been so far.

Then we have the 2 bluelines.  The Bruins have the top dog in Chara, but give me the Hawks blueline as a 6 man unit over the Bruins.  They move the puck much better and they’re more mobile.  Brent Seabrook has been great in these playoffs, Duncan Keith is Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson is underrated, and Johnny Oduya is DISGUSTING….but he still moves the puck pretty good.  It’s the type of blueline that every NHL GM wishes to have these days.

Up front the Bruins have a bit of a size advantage but anywhere near as bad as its made out to be.  Lucic is huge, but so is Bryan Bickell.  Nathan Horton is a beast, but Marian Hossa is 6’1 210.  And these are top 6 guys.  As for the skill, its not like the Bruins lack skill but give me the Hawks skill up front over Boston’s, especially as a unit.  The chemistry Chicago has up front is ridiculous.  The misconception is that the Hawks are a finesse team.  The Hawks can play any style, so if the Bruins want to take this series into the ally I’m sure the Hawks won’t have any problem with that.

But if we are talking about up front then of course I’m going to hit on how they matchup down the middle which as you may know is vital in my mind.  This is where the Bruins have the Hawks beat.  Not by a lot, Jonathan Toews is still the 2nd best player in the league in my mind, but the Bruins still beat them.  Patrice Bergeron is as close to a Jonathan Toews clone as you’ll find in the league.  Then, while I LOVE Dave Bolland, David Krejci is just simply on another level.  Chris Kelly and Michal Handzus are pretty much a wash, and while Andrew Shaw is the best 4th line center in this series it’s pretty much like being the tallest midget.

I could break down the coaching battle, but in the end to me it’s a wash.  Julien and Quennville are both great.  So that’s how I feel about the matchups, I can honestly say either of these 2 could win the series.  The Bruins might be better in more area’s, but not by enough to make them a favorite in my mind (I believe they are favored by Vegas in the series).  So here it is…..

Hawks in 7

I’m going to get really stupid here and make a game by game prediction that in no way will be right.  In game 1 the Hawks will shock everyone and put 5 past Rask in a 5-1 blowout.  Game 2 the Bruins will bounce back with a gritty 3-2 OT win and for the first time since 2004 the Stanley Cup final will be 1-1.  Game 3 the Bruins on home ice will come out strong and walk away with a 3-1 win.  Game 4 I got the Hawks coming back with a big 4-3 OT win to tie the series.  They split home wins in 5 and 6, and then the Hawks on home ice skate away with a 3-2 win and their 2nd Stanley Cup in 4 years….I would be shocked if ANY of that happened.

 

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Had to do it

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Big Oiler news, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut about it.  I love talking about all things hockey, but especially the Oilers and the fact is they’ve been one of the biggest train wrecks in the league of late, so all the more reason to talk about them.  Anyhow, the Oilers have made their 4th coaching change in 5 years, but this one in my mind simply had to happen.

If you read some of my stuff on the Oilers then you know I jumped off the Ralph Krueger bandwagon pretty early on in the season.  His big thing was motivation….so then why was such a young and talented team so flat for the large majority of their games?  But that wouldn’t have bothered me as long as they were getting better and played more structured.  But that wasn’t the case, they were eroding as a team as the season went on.

The PP in particular was troubling to me.  On the surface you would say that they had a pretty good year on the PP finishing 8th.  But if you paid close attention to them all year, you know that all the opposition had to do was win the initial draw and clear the zone and the man advantage was done, because the Oilers didn’t have a PP entry.  Pee-wee teams have PP entries, and the Oilers didn’t.  That’s pretty troubling for an NHL team I would say.

And it went beyond the PP.  Their 5 on 5 play was horrific and THE reason they missed the playoffs.  They never supported the puck when attacking and they didn’t seem to have any structure defensively.  It wasn’t pretty, and people can talk about how it was “only 48 games”, but do you really want to risk another 82 when 48 looked THAT bad?

I’m not just saying this because Elliotte Friedman did Saturday night on HNIC, but I as well feel that with all that said about how sloppy the team was, this was more about Mac T finding a guy that he just simply liked a lot more from a coaching standpoint than Krueger.  Ralph Krueger seems like a GREAT guy.  It wasn’t the person I disliked in anyway.  Not that I know the man, but he sure came off as a genuinely nice man and it’s too bad that it didn’t work out for him in Edmonton.  Its the oldest cliche in pro sports but it is as true as any….this is a buisness.

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Can Dallas Eakins be the man to lead the Oilers back to the postseason?

Eakins isn’t just the guy who “will work well with the kids”.  That is an added bonus no doubt, but the guy is a detail freak.  Trust me when I say, Craig MacTavish wouldn’t hire a coach that wasn’t.  Mac was maybe the most detail oriented coach in hockey during his tenure as Oilers head coach, so no coach that works for him is going to be sloppy.  Eakins demands a 200 foot game out of his forwards, and he loves to pressure the puck which is a style the Oilers are perhaps best suited to play.

I’m sure a lot of media members in other markets are mocking the Oilers lack of stability.  I completely understand why anyone would see it that way.  But a new GM means changes.  Mac T didn’t fire and hire all those different coaches.  We can all crush Mac T if he doesn’t want to give Eakins 2 or 3 years to make his mark, but Krueger wasn’t his hire.  He wants his guy behind the bench and I applaud him for it.  He could have been the fair guy (as he pointed out in his press conference) and gave Ralph another season, especially this far into the offseason.  But this isn’t about fairness, this is about what is best for his hockey team.

Will this move workout?  Who knows.  But Mac T isn’t screwing around.  He has come out swinging so far this offseason in an attempt to make get the Edmonton Oilers over the hump of rebuilding and into a playoff team, and then from there a Stanley Cup contender.  From the sounds of it, this is still only the begining.  Of course we all know by now that Horcoff and Hemsky won’t be back, and Bob MacKenzie tweeted out Saturday night that he believes the Oilers are more likely to trade the 7th overall pick than use it.  Whether or not the moves are the right ones long term I don’t know, but I would bet big money that Mr. Eakins will have a MUCH improved roster over what Mr. Krueger had to work with.

 

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