Monday, June 29, 2009

Who Won The NHL Draft?

Now that all's said and done, who won the affair the other night?

I have looked around for a verdict from someone else, and only found this so far. An article full of obvious choices that could have been entitled: "Who won the Draft Lottery?".

Given that the team who wins the draft is a bit subjective and very hard to ascertain until about 5 years on, it's difficult to say. For me, the winners are the ones who punch above their weight, who get good players without having to put in a dire season, who uncover players others didn't.

As we all know the first round was a bit of a formulaic affair, with most picks coming in the order that has been anticipated for near 2 months. So coming out of the first round, there wasn't really a clear out-and-out winner for me.

Some would be tempted to go with the Anaheim Ducks who made Philly overpay for Pronger to an almost criminal level. That may be, but they also have two picks that I don't rate at all – 2 two-way forwards in the first round is not good play. Paradoxically, some also rate Philly in the same sentence for nabbing Pronger. It certainly is a big pick-up, but they've dug themselves a mighty hole and anyone who do basic arithmetic can see that getting out will undo any good that it seems they've done right now.

Others might say the Islanders. And while they did the right thing by picking the prodigious Tavares, they traded up repeatedly only to get a player that should have been available later. That, and they took De Haan ahead of Kulikov, which I consider a massive slip.

The Canadiens are a winner in that they managed to get a Quebecer who may one day be a star (and thus unlikely to want to sign with us). They struck a PR coup and should have silenced all but the most possessed RDS commentators for the next while. A small victory.

I have this round in an almost dead-heat.

The second round and beyond really started to separate the men from the boys of NHL scouting departments.

In fact, the first two picks were very solid. The Islanders took the pro-ready Koskinen at #31, which for them is gold dust at this point. Detroit followed with a first rounder in the second thanks to some iffy picks from Calgary, Boston, Anaheim and Carolina.

By the end of the second, I like Atlanta, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, Islanders, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Each had produced a minor steal. Each had largely avoided drafting players that could be signed on August 8th of any given year and each had risked a bit.

It didn't look good for Montreal really, but they'd only had one at bat. The third and beyond saw the Habs and Timmins come out with some massive swats, trying to hit home runs while others tried to bunt a single.

You all know my biases from the previews, and so you know I think that Montreal did get contact with Leblanc but that also they hit a few potential homers on the weekend. Nattinen, given his size and talent should not have been available at 65th, and I'm not surprised that Timmins was as shocked as I was. We can thank a myopic view of Europe (with vastly overvalued Swedes) and teams settling into present-day hole filling mode far too early.

I think Timmins also cleared the monster with Avtsyn, though he played a dangerous game by taking a Connecticut high schooler before him. I suppose he put a man on base for Avtsyn to knock in. Russia has tough leagues that are only stocked full of more talent at the moment given the lack of flow to North America. For a 6'2", 200 lb winger to put up 56 goals in as few games as he did could not be passed up. From that point, Timmins hit a double to the wall to meet an important organizational need in Gabriel Dumont and took 3 more whopper swings on unknowns, including a goalie that could be a very good gamble.

Montreal wasn't the only team swinging away, though, and they were hardly the winners of this draft at all. They do in my opinion fit somewhere in the second echelon of teams, though we'll have to see whether their home runs clear the fence or even result in a hit before the final verdict. At least they swung!

My top 5

The best 5 teams, in no particular order, over the two days were:

Tampa Bay Lightning
Kept their pick and took Hedman, a number one caliber player at number two. But then they traded for another first and rounded out by taking two players I rate: Panik and Hutchings. I think they have at least 4 NHLers from this weekend here.

Ottawa Senators
Despite missing Kadri (Burke's never heard of reverse psychology) they got the better player in Jared Cowen. They then made up for missing Kadri by picking Jakob Silfverberg and stealing top goalie Robin Lehner. To add to their haul they nabbed 52-goal man Mike Hoffman from Drummondville (9 picks ahead of teammate Dumont).

Atlanta Thrashers
Evander Kane had an amazing year and is a top caliber player. But their kudos really come from picking Klingberg and my favourite Jeremy Morin – 2 very good players that shouldn't have probably fallen as far as they did. Add goalie Pasquale, who many thought could be the first goalie taken and they had a good draft indeed.

Edmonton Oilers
Award for being most on my wavelength. They also got the first mini steal in Paajarvi-Svensson, only to go on and nab Olivier Roy and Toni Rajala very late. Add to that Anton Lander – one of those Swedes Timmins surely coveted. Edmonton is stocking well and will start to make noise very soon, surely.

Nashville Predators

Solid right the way through, they never really batted safely. Their first pick Ryan Ellis will be very good, but fell past more conservative GMs. Ditto Zach Budish and Charles-Olivier Roussel (who I really thought would be a nice Hab). Their late picks were taken in the same spirit.

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