Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Canadiens Draft Review

Just a look at how I thought the two days went, picks, trades and all.

Trading up

The Canadiens first move of the day was to trade up in the draft order. In order to climb 5 places in the first round, the Canadiens dealt the 57th pick for the 113th pick (a 56 player drop).

The Canadiens presumably make this trade because they got itchy about the Tinordi pick – they had, after all, printed a shirt for the kid. Obviously Phoenix was not in play for Tinordi, else no trade. But were the other four teams? Buffalo’s next pick was Mark Pysyk, a biggish defender. Chicago took a forward, but took several biggish US defenders later on. Florida took Petrovic, a big Dman at #36. Washington took Kuznetzov, then Galiev.

I think it’s fair to say the Canadiens inkling about Tinordi (if other scouts rated him at all) was right. Had they waited 5 picks, they’d have risked missing out on him and wasting money on a shirt.

So from that point of view, it was the right move.

But think of it another way. Had the Canadiens not traded, had the Canadiens missed Tinordi, would the situation have been so awful?

Remember that in addition to being able to take a decent players at #27, they’d also have had a second rounder. In my dream world, that would mean they’d select a couple of scoring prospects (maybe Etem and Pulkkinen, maybe Nelson and McKegg, who knows), and it that dream world, I think we net out ever so slightly better.

Given they took quite a swing for the fences on pick #113, I can forgive the trade, though.

I’m neutral on it.

Trades they didn’t make

Hindsight is 20:20, and it’s a favourite tool of armchair commentators like myself. Hindsight at this draft tells us that several players dropped quite a bit further than expected, that quite a lot of players were available at unexpected times.

Pulkkinen, who I rate, went a mere 2 picks ahead of the Canadiens first 4th round selection. Not shifting picks around at that stage is a missed opportunity for me. Then again, I don’t have a scouting staff.

Similarly, a low volume of picks in an unclear draft only makes the gambling more intense. That 27th pick for a couple of picks might have been welcome. Or seeing who they picked anyway, trying to turn some 4th rounders into a few more 6th rounders.

Seeing as all GMs seemed to want to get to the beach, I won’t fault Montreal here too much either. Trades not made aren’t damaging.

I’m ambivalent on this.

Jarred Tinordi (Stats)

I think we all agree that you can’t teach big. But we might also agree there’s a big difference between Zdeno Chara and Andy Sutton. Big isn’t everything. But teach a big man to play with his size, well then you have a cornerstone piece.

As picks go, I don’t mind this one at all. It’s not the optimal pick, yet there are so many worse scenarios, so many worse picks. If uber-talented scorers are the rarest commodity in the league, then massive, qualified defencemen must be among the next rarest. In addition, the Canadiens took the biggest, and from what I read the best of the big defencemen available.

A good start.

Mark MacMillan (Stats)

An interesting prospect from the BCHL. Allegedly 6 feet tall and a mere 150 lbs. I’d love to see this guy in person, he must be a beanpole.

But he wasn’t picked for his stature. He was picked because as a rookie in the BCHL with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, MacMillan racked up 26 goals and 54 assists in 59 games – good enough for 9th in league scoring. In doing so, Mark also won the BCHL rookie of the year honours and a place on the very interesting North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team.

Like all drafted players, his coach thinks he’s a special player. That doesn’t tell me much. But consider this: he turned his brother (Mitch MacMillan) from a third year BCHL 45 point scoring vet into a 61 goalscorer and league MVP. I can’t say it was all Mark, but he probably had something to do with it.

In more good news, his brother is also 6 feet tall, and at the age of 20 showed that MacMillans were able to put weight on their frame.

I like the return to the board for the Habs. Aggressive and unafraid of the critics. The pick’s a good, though not great, one.

Morgan Ellis (Stats)

Not as exciting is the 6’1” stay-at-home defenceman from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. He describes his own first pass and checking as good, but we’ve had plenty of defenders with low self-awareness, enough to make me question his assessment.

His stature is fine, as are his points totals. Even the fact he’s from the Q is good for business. It’s just this is not a pick to get up about. He may be an NHLer, but thousands have come before like him who never made it, just as some who did made it. We’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, I think this pick was wasteful. I think a goaltender like Louis Dominique, even if he is a risk at this point, would have been better use of the resources.

Brendan Gallagher (Stats)

Another BC boy with a small frame. And once again, another BC boy with plenty of skill to like. In fact, if you want to get down to it, Gallagher is the best pick the Habs made after Tinordi. While MacMillan put on a show in the BCHL as a rookie, Gallagher did the trick in the WHL regular season, and then again in the playoffs. 41 goals in 72 games in the season says goalscorer, for certain. 11 goals and 21 points in 16 playoff tilts speaks to some clutch ability.

Obviously the downside here is size. But the Canadiens play the odds well, as Gallagher dropped because of size, not skill. Pick a big guy at 147th overall, and it means 30 scouting teams were either very wrong about him, or that he is a total late bloomer, so who’s to know.

The risk here is worthy, though it may be interesting to see which of the Bruins (Craig Cunningham) and the Habs got the better of the Vancouver “Giants” duo.

Considering all that came after, this pick was a move in the right direction for me. A winner.

John Westin (Stats)

As if to assuage those of us who call for Swedes mad for skill, Timmins and his team dug deep and picked John Westin from the MoDo system.

At three picks from the end of the draft, I have to say you can’t do much better than picking a 6’O”, 183 lbs Swede with a touch around the net.

Though his numbers are only from Sweden’s Jr ranks, they are still impressive. For MoDo J20 he managed 16 goals in 31 games, which seems like a decent total compared to his peers. But it’s his scoring at the U18 championships (3 G in 6 games) and for the Swedish U18 team overall (6 G and 10 Pts in 10 games) that truly tantalize.

This is a home run swing, make no mistake. But at this point of the draft it’s almost nonsense to think you can do anything else. What’s more, picking from the best development system in Sweden, maybe the hockey world, isn’t a bad bet in my books.

Great pick.

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