Mock Draft Complete First Round
Just posting the complete 30 choices for any who missed it or who just want to see it in a larger scope. I've already finished most of round two and will be bringing that on in the coming days. I'm kind of annoyed that I've yet to get to put Anton Slepyshev in the draft, he's a real gamer who will fall because of the terrible crime of being born in the wrong place. Hampus Lindholm is a guy that after hearing his interview I think a lot of teams will raise him in their rankings. The kid was extremely confident, came off as very intelligent and knew his weaknesses and strengths and wasn't afraid to admit them.
1. Edmonton Oilers select Right Winger Nail Yakupov Sarnia Sting (OHL) 93-10-06 (18 years old) – 42GP – 31G – 38A – 69P
Yakupov is the most dynamic forward in the group this season. He has elite speed and plays a hard working game. He never takes a shift off and is always hunting for goals. He has a great one-timer, great wrister and pretty much think of an offensive aspect to the game and add “great” next to it. He’s a small tank and can really surprise players when taking the body; he has some explosiveness to his hits. The biggest issue is of course his injuries. He has had one on the record concussion and one nasty bashing in of his skull, to go along with a wrist injury so far. His reckless style is his strength and weakness, he’s willing to do anything at anytime to get the goal, Mike Halmo taught him that dangling into center with your head down shouldn’t be done on a regular basis. At number one I can’t see how the Oilers don’t take him. Despite having a large number of talented young forwards why is there a limit? What if one is injured or if one just becomes a bust? When is adding another elite offensive force ever a bad idea, hell it gives them options for trades.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets select Center Alex Galchenyuk Sarnia Sting (OHL) 94-02-12 (18 years old) – 2GP – 0P
Galchenyuk quite possibly has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft or so scouts and those who’ve seen him say. He might be the hardest working fitness nut in the draft and adding that to his immense talent is a great combination. He has amazing stamina and is a great skater; at the combine he showed that despite his long injury to his ACL he has the most explosiveness. One of the reasons I think he will go so high is that he is the best center in the draft period. He doesn’t have the same question marks as Grigorenko and he is actually a center unlike some (cough Forsberg). Though his 6’1 height measurement is very generous considering he looks more like 5’11, he is still considered a center with size and is great at protecting the puck. He’s also a center that is versatile; he plays a two-way game and is adept at both playmaking and scoring. Columbus has always searched for “that” center and Brassard isn’t it and I doubt Johansen is, Galchenyuk is their man.
3. Montreal Canadiens select Right Winger Filip Forsberg Leksand (Allsvenskan) 94-08-13 (17 years old) – 43GP – 8G – 9A – 17P
I’m really not a big fan of Forsberg; I see a lot of hype but a lack of him really showing anything other than a guy with a good package (har har) that doesn’t have any elite abilities. Regardless I do think the Canadiens will pick him. Trevor Timmins has never shied away from picking the guy he wants and he has spent several days talking with Forsberg’s family. While Montreal could use a center with size, they will settle with a strong winger. While he isn’t a power forward in the usual sense of the word, he is extremely capable around the boards and shows a willingness to fight for the puck and control possession. He has good hands and a great release, with good breakaway speed. The biggest issue is the league he is coming from, the only other top pick was Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6th) another product of Leksand, the only issue here is that he was dynamically better even offensively at the same age in comparison and at the international level. When all is said and done however, Forsberg is one of the younger players in the draft with a lot of raw skill; he has a lot of room for growth in his game but has already shown signs of being a great two-way forward.
4. New York Islanders select Defenseman Ryan Murray Everett Silvertips (WHL) 93-09-27 (18 years old) – 46GP – 9G – 22A – 31P
I was tempted to put Matt Dumba here in accordance with Garth Snow’s risk taking style, but I can’t see Murray passing this point. He’s the most steady and reliable player in the draft and has by far the least question marks of any player in the draft (including Nail). He’s a great two-way defenseman that gets it down at both ends of the rink; he brings some offensive pop and frustrates opponents with his effective style in his own end. He isn’t a bruiser but he doesn’t shy away from physicality. He has a good slap shot and gets it away quickly. He brings incredible maturity and leadership to the table and was a force for a ragtag Silvertips team in the playoffs. While people will remember the unfortunate bounces in the WJC against Russia, up until that game he was very solid and didn’t look out of place with the older Canadian defense. He was even invited to the WC squad, though he played very small minutes, but as an undrafted 18 year old it is still a rarity. He’s NHL ready and has few weaknesses, watch for him to be a Ryan Suter type guy.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs select Defenseman Matt Dumba Red Deer Rebels (WHL) 94-07-25 (17 years old) – 69GP – 20G – 37A – 57P
Now before you crucify me hear me out. Brian Burke has never, I repeat never, drafted a Russian with his first round pick. Since coming to the Leafs he has picked zero, so while I wish they would pick Grigorenko I doubt they would (Most likely trade down in this scenario). Dumba is a beast, for all intents and purposes. He has the best slapshot in the draft and oozes offensive skill. Though he’s relatively small (Combine listed him at 6’0) he has explosive speed and hits like a freight train. Even with his currently skinny frame, he has made himself known in the WHL as a massive open ice hitter, he likes to track players and catch them with their head down. He’s extremely hardworking and fights for every inch of ice. His main weakness is his decision making, even with all his speed and skill he’s prone to some head scratchers and he lives and dies by the sword. He’s young and has a lot of room to grow, but you can’t teach defensemen to score like him (second in the WHL). At the U18’s Dumba was a beast leading the tournament in scoring with 12 points, second in goals with 5 and won defenseman of the tournament along with his captaincy. He could be the best defender in the draft, plus you have to factor in Burkes hard-on for WHL defensemen.
6. Anaheim Ducks select Defenseman Jacob Trouba USNTDP Juniors (USHL) 94/02/26 (18 years old) – 22GP – 4G – 14A – 18P
With the uncertainty around their top blueline prospect Justin Schultz, the trading of Jake Gardiner and the large amount of forward prospects you know they will want a defenseman. With Cam Fowler as their top young puck moving defenseman I think they’ll try for a Pronger to their Neidermayer. Trouba has all the tools to be a top pairing defenseman. He has a great shot, very good closing speed and hits everything he can...usually to hurt. Like Murray he competed in the WJC and showed he belonged with the older guys, he played well in a shutdown role that he isn’t used to. His two-way skills are sublime and his size and play-style are something teams will really want to look at. Mobility is becoming a prime factor for the new NHL and size + mobility is coveted. One of the detractions on Trouba is that he can get overwhelmed when he isn’t physically dominant. He has a tendency to make poor choices when getting outmuscled off the puck like chasing the guy down and forgetting the play. While these plays are few and far between, it is a factor.
7. Minnesota Wild select Center Mikhail Grigorenko Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL) 94-05-16 (18 years old) – 59GP – 40G – 45A – 85P
After an amazing year in the MHL the 27 year old Grigorenko was convinced to move to the QMJHL to help his chances of becoming an NHLer leaving behind everybody but his Mom. Despite winning many awards and having an all around great year, scouts still have problems with the big center. There are questions about his fitness and compete levels. Grigorenko suffered from two injuries this year, one during the WJC where he kept on playing despite a dislocated ankle and when he suffered mononucleosis to end the year (which he is still suffering currently). This along with being a rookie in a new country adapting to a new game style has me wondering if the hate is just that. Here’s what we know, he’s big, can control the play, has amazing hands, one of the best shots in the draft but can be inconsistent. I think the Wild under the more risky Fletcher will go for BPA and draft Grigorenko. The Wild need offensive stars and adding a big scoring center to the mix would go a long way especially considering Granlund might be shifted to wing.
8. Carolina Hurricanes select “Center” Radek Faksa Kitchener Rangers (OHL) 94/01/09 (18 years old) – 62GP – 29G – 38A – 67P
I wanted to select a defenseman here because in my opinion the Canes could use one, but they also need some more depth at forward. A lot of their flashy picks have fallen by the wayside, yet the Kitchener connection has continued to prove its worth. Faksa is an interesting player, he’s a big guy at 6’3 207 and unlike many Czech’s is a fairly physical player. He brings one of the better two-way games in the draft and is great at coverage and creating turnovers. While he boasts modest offensive skills, he goes to the dirty areas with authority and can plow through players to get where he wants to go. Much like a Brandon Sutter or Martin Hanzal he lacks a wow factor, but hits, gives his all every game and can be used in any situation, versatility is the name of the game for Faksa. One issue is his face-off skills, he struggled all year in the dot and needs to improve that or see himself moved to the wing where he isn’t as effective.
9. Winnipeg Jets select Left Winger Teuvo Teräväinen Jokerit (SM-liiga) 94/09/11 (17 years old) – 40GP – 11G – 7A – 18P
With the strong young defense the Jets are compiling and developing I think they could use another high skilled forward to go along with their bigger top-6 players. Teräväinen is the fastest rising player in this year’s draft going from relatively unknown second rounder to legitimate contender for the top-5. A combination of a very solid year in the SM-liiga, a ridiculous stint in the U20 Finnish league and a great U18 WJC have boosted his rating. He posses one of the beast packages of skill in the draft and some scouts say he rivals Yakupov in that department. While I disagree on the last statement it should be known that he is one month away from being a complete year younger than him and is the youngest player in the draft, if he had been born a few days later he would be in next year’s draft. He has dynamic speed and shiftiness along with a fantastic one-timer and great hands. On the PP he sets up much like Stamkos and is known to let it rip from the often and accurately. The biggest issue with him is that he is tiny, 5’11 and 168 lbs. At the combine they made notice about his lack of strength and the need to really build himself up or he would get punished around an NHL rink. He can be a perimeter player when being pressured physically and will often try to go down the wing and play a wide game instead of going to the middle. He could well be the steal of the draft if he develops properly (aka get this kid a sandwich and a ticket to the CHL).
10. Tampa Bay Lightning select Defenseman Griffin Reinhart Oil Kings (WHL) 94/01/24 (18 years old) – 58GP – 12G – 24A – 36P
At the beginning of the year Reinhart fell down many people’s charts after a slow start. The 6’4 defender had huge expectations and it wasn’t until the halfway point that he really met them. He’s an excellent two-way defenseman with mobility and size. He has some offensive skills but they aren’t his main focus, his strong shot and good puck moving abilities are only an addition, this is a player who won’t force a play and won’t cost you a turnover. He’s great in his own zone and use’s his speed and stick to disrupt most plays. He isn’t a physical defenseman by any means, he isn’t Dumba who will go for the kill, and he delivers hits when he needs to but only if it won’t endanger the team. He plays a relatively safe game that saw him become one of the best defensemen in the WHL playoffs where he played a major role in shutting down the Portland All-Star Team. The scary thing was this strong play was all during a time where he was injured. Some wish that at his size he could be meaner, but that is one of the few complaints.
11. Washington Capitals select Defenseman Morgan Rielly Moosejaw Warriors (WHL) 94/03/09 (18 years old) – 18GP – 3G – 15A -18P
To begin the year Rielly rocketed up the charts with his surprising PPG pace he set and truly came out of left field. He tore his ACL which would keep him out of the lineup all the way until the playoffs. He picked right back where he left off posting 3 goals and 6 points in 5 games. He has cemented himself as the top offensive defenseman in the draft. Like most of that kind he is slight of build with incredible speed, vision and poise. He runs the PP to perfection and has a good shot but is a better passer. The biggest issue as ever with high octane defensemen is his play in his own end. Rielly has a very active stick and his great speed enables him to cover players, but to be brutally honest he gets muscled off the puck way too easily and he struggles against physical opponents where his smarts won’t save him. He needs to add some more strength but has easily the biggest potential for points from the blueline. Some have him much earlier and site his skill, but last season Ryan Murphy was by far the best offensive defender and of a similar build and fell down, as did Cam Fowler. Washington needs forwards it’s true, yet at 11 Rielly is by far the best player available.
12. Buffalo Sabres select Center Zemgus Girgensons Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) 94/01/05 (18 years old) – 49GP – 24G – 31A – 55P
The big Latvian in my opinion is the guy for Buffalo. We’ve seen a trend in their drafting with bigger forwards that have aspects of a power game, probably to offset their rather soft core. Girgensons is the complete package. He’s a leader and captained his squad, he’s considered one of the most intelligent players in terms of scholastic achievement, and he brings a fantastic two-way game, great face-off skills and enough skill to consider him a potential top-6 center. Girgensons would skate through a brick wall if it meant winning. He led his team in scoring despite three separate small injuries that cost him some time and played a power game in a league not known for it. If Sabres fans like the look of Luke Adam and Marcus Foligno, they’ll love Girgensons. He’ll be playing at the University of Vermont next season, though there are rumours that Kelowna is lobbying him really hard.
13. Dallas Stars select Defenseman Olli Määttä London Knights (OHL) 94/08/22 (17 years old) – 58GP – 5G – 27A – 32P
If you were wondering where the defensive defensemen were going to show up, here he is. Määttä is one of the youngest defensemen in the draft and certainly had a lot of hype when he made the jump to the OHL. He came with the expectation of being a two-way contributor and didn’t disappoint. He has excellent mobility and hockey smarts. His positioning is near perfect. He is a conservative player usually and won’t force plays or go for the big hit if it would put him in jeopardy. Though he struggled on the new ice surface to start, post concussion that took him out of the WJC he has taken his game to the next level. London began playing him in more situations including on the PP which explains his ridiculous numbers in the playoffs with 6 goals and 23 points in 19 games. The Stars have needs up and down the lineup, but a steady defenseman that has some hidden offensive talent to go with a near flawless defensive game is something they haven’t had since Zubov.
14. Calgary Flames select Defenseman Cody Ceci Ottawa 67’s (OHL) 93/12/21 (18 years old) – 64GP – 17G – 43A – 60P
A lot of places seem to have Ceci falling from earlier where he was a consensus top-10 pick. I’m really not sure why as a player with his mixture of size and skill is rare. He is a very smart hockey player and one of the puck rushers. He’s an above average skater with a really long stride which is very noticeable once he gets going. He has a huge booming shot and great vision. He rarely makes a dumb forced play. The biggest knock on him is his utter lack of mean streak. For a 6’1 209lb guy he should throw his weight around more than once every 8 games or so. Yet despite that weakness his game is sound and mature in most areas. He’s a player that will thrive on the PP but prove to be stable in his own zone, just not a star in it. He’s got a lot of Keith Yandle to him. With Calgary so desperate for talented young players of any sort, they can find a fantastic defender that wouldn’t be around at 14 in most drafts.
15. Ottawa Senators select Defenseman Slater Koekkoek Peterborough Petes (OHL) 94/02/18 (18 years old) – 26GP – 5G – 13A – 18P
The Sens are stacked in terms of prospects and boast one of the best pools. Last draft they went all out in acquiring forward depth and traded David Rundblad away paving the way for another defenseman. Koekkoek suffered the injury plague like most players in the draft. His start to the year showed vast improves to his all around game. He is one of the most “raw” prospects in the draft with high end potential. He has great size, skating ability, offensive instincts and a physical edge to his game. His stamina is second to none in the draft and he’s quite capable of playing 30+ minutes a night. He can move the puck with ease as he’s a borderline elite skater, he can run a PP very well, he can launch players through a wall, but he can get lost in the defensive zone. Koekkoek is a player that does too much when he has to do only a little. He loses coverage and follows players when he shouldn’t. He needs to improve what most do, his strength and simplify his game in his own end, but some scouts say he has as much top-end potential as those talked about to go in the top-8.
16. Washington Capitals select Right/Left Winger Sebastian Collberg Frölunda (Elitserien) 94/02/23 (18 years old) 41GP – 0G – 0A – 0P
Don’t let those numbers scare you away, Collberg found himself stapled to the bench for 90% of the game in a league he just wasn’t ready to play a big part in. His play internationally has opened more eyes as has his impressive play in the SuperElit. On the world stage he is a superstar and the 5’11 speedster barged his way onto the scene with a monster WJC. With all the hype and attention on Forsberg it was Collberg who was a leader and tallied 4 goals and 7 points in 6 games despite little PP time. Collberg’s game is very simple, he beats you to the outside with his elite speed and lasers one home (Much like Phil Kessel). He needs to add on a lot of strength and will be at least two or three years from really contributing, yet the raw talent is there and in a draft filled with “grinders and third liners” in the top-15 forwards Collberg offers an enticing package. At the U18 Collberg was at it again and led Sweden in points with 9 and second in goals with 4. International play is never the be all end all for players, but it shows what he is capable of doing with teammates of similar talent. NHL shot, amazing hands, elite speed and a shifty player, Washington needs top-6 forwards.
17. San Jose Sharks select Defenseman Matt Finn Guelph Storm (OHL) 94/02/24 (18 years old) – 61GP – 10G – 37A – 47P
It’s the Sharks chance to finally get another strong pick and they have to make it count. They have so many forwards it’s scary so I think they’ll go for a defenseman. Finn is severely underrated due to the team he plays for and his role. He’s their all purpose player and plays over 30 minutes a night. He’s a jack of all trades player who can run a PP well, is great in his own zone and provides stability all over the ice. He made big leaps in his skating which has helped his transition game. Finn has no real glaring weakness to his game and is a guy who competes 100% of the time and never gives up. His off-ice work ethic is also considered to be among the best in the draft as seen in the strides he took this year. I think it’s a great fit for a Sharks team that could use more skilled hard working players on defense especially with Boyle aging.
18. Chicago BlackHawks select Defenseman Hampus Lindholm Rögle (Allsvenskan) 94/01/20 – 20GP - 1G - 4A – 5P
Lindholm is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft and I’ve seen him as high as nine and as low as in the thirties much like Jonas Brodin last year. He’s an excellent puck moving defenseman with great passing instincts. His vision is great and he is great at puck possession. I think he is a very “Bowman” pick, Lindholm fits in with their team philosophy and offers another option for a defense that desperately needs a puck mover behind Keith and Seabrook. His play in the Kvalserien ES (essentially their playoffs) was particularly strong and has really helped his ranking. He even provides a little grit, though the 6’2 185 kid can hardly be called a bruiser. He’s prone to some mental lapses like all offensive defensemen and sometimes can be too aggressive in trying to make something from nothing, yet these are small problems. Chicago went crazy last year on forwards, so I expect them to take a defender.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning select Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski Tolpar Ufa (MHL) 94/07/25 (17 years old) – 27GP – 2.23GAA - .931sv%
The first goalie in the draft and the first Russian outside of the CHL. Vasilevski is the best goalie in this draft, you can try to convince me otherwise, but having seen him dominate two years in a row now as the best goalie in the MHL and bring his game to the next level not only on every international stage but in the playoffs...count me a believer. He has that mixture of size and athleticism the NHL craves these days and plays the “Russian Butterfly” which is sort of a bastard version where you play deep in your net but don’t go down on your knees instantaneously. At 6’3 he covers the net well and scouts say he has the best glove hand in the draft. He was a game away from being one of the only 17 year olds to win a Gold Medal as the starting goalie in the WJC’s and despite being pulled near the end of the game in the Canada-Russia classic, the game would have been over if not for him in the first two periods. Yzerman wasn’t afraid to draft Russian born players last year and early, he believes in skill (Namestnikov and Kucherov). His main weaknesses are his puck handling skills, he’s the kind of goalie you just want to stay in his net and do his job because he’s had some flubs that have led to scoring chances. Don't get me wrong I like Dustin Tokarski and I'm pulling for Jaroslav Janus, but Tampa has been a revolving door of piss poor goaltending since their Cup win and could use a real blue chipper.
20. Philadelphia Flyers select Defenseman Ville Pokka Kärpät (SM-liiga) 94/06/03 (18 years old) – 35GP – 0G – 3A – 3P
The Flyers are stacked on offense, it’s absurd. They do however need more fresh blood of the top-4 variety on defense with some aging vets. Though I think they are more likely to draft a Canadian or American defenseman this year, I think Pokka is the best available. Pokka is an extremely smart player who demonstrates excellent positioning and some of the best puck stealing abilities. Much like a certain other Finnish Flyer, he anticipates plays and breaks them up with ease. He has some good offensive instincts as well and is a strong playmaker. The concerns about him stem from his skating, he’s an average skater and lacks any dynamic aspect to it, it’s one of the things that has separated him in many people’s minds from the other elite defenders. He shined internationally at both the U18 and U20 tournaments leading Finland in points by a defenseman both times. He has the ability to run the PP and eat minutes on the PK; he’s just a solid all around player. Working on his shot and skating will be key to his development.
21. Buffalo Sabres select Goaltender Malcolm Subban Bellville Bulls (OHL) 93/12/21 (18 years old) – 39GP – 2.50GAA - .923sv%
One of the more anticipated players going into the year after his brother PK had such an amazing first season, Subban had a strong year. Most believed he would be the easy consensus top goalie but an injury and questions in his style have crept up. At 6’0 he isn’t overly large, but he’s easily the most athletic goalie of the bunch. He has amazing reaction skills and is extremely quick with lateral movement. At the combine he tested the strongest in most physical aspects of all the goalies. He doesn’t play the butterfly which might hurt him in this new age of teams looking for the next Hulk, but his style is a lot like Jonathan Quick. Buffalo has a good mix of young talent at both forward and defense, but outside of Enroth who is still a big question mark they don’t have any real number one potential goalies in the system. Subban would give them that...though I’ll admit at 21 it is a bit early unless they really wanted him.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins select Right Winger Tom Wilson Plymouth Whalers (OHL) 94/03/29 (18 years old) – 49GP – 9G – 18A – 27P (141PIM)
I added penalty minutes just to show you what you’re getting. Wilson is a big bugger at 6’4 and 205lbs with a ton of room to grow. He has the definition of a mean streak and when he hits (Which is every time he’s on the ice) he does so to hurt. He’s a project player if ever there was one, but any team looking for a “Lucic” will probably be all over Wilson. Unlike many of the pretenders, Wilson is a power forward. He protects the puck very well, outmuscles most when on the forecheck and lays massive hits. The big concern is his potential. Some aren’t sure whether he will max out as a third line grinder or as a guy you can plug anywhere in the lineup to get a spark. In the playoffs Wilson really took his game to another level and showed some good offensive play. Even with some of the big names on the Whalers, he took the spotlight potting 7 goals and 39 penalty minutes while being a team high +10. The Penguins need more wingers and he might not be the sexiest pick, yet he has shown he can be the perfect complimentary player for high skill guys and isn’t a liability. One thing he’ll need to work on is his skating, it improved exponentially from last season but he’s still slow on the first step. Imagine him at 6’4/6’5 240...
23. Florida Panthers select Defenseman Derrick Pouliot Portland Winterhawks (WHL) 94/01/16 (18 years old) – 72GP – 11G – 48A – 59P
What does a team with prospects up the wazoo want? The best player available. The Panthers are stacked at forward, have their “goalie of the future” and have a decent defensive pool as well. Pouliot reminds one of the Panthers All-Star Brian Campbell. He is probably the second best pure offensive defender in the draft after Rielly. He is an elite skater that moves the puck like a pro and can control the flow of the game. He’s a PP wizard and quarterbacked one of the most explosive junior squads. He’s a pass first kind of guy and has an extremely accurate but weak shot. His defensive game isn’t where it needs to be, but that can always be taught. Natural skills like his are rare and he could be a great fit down the road. At 5’11 he’s a bit undersized and not very physical which are the key weaknesses to his game, watch for his active stick and willingness to hustle back though.
24. Boston Bruins select Defenseman Brady Skjei USNTDP Juniors (USHL) 94/03/26 (18 years old) – 24GP – 3G – 9A – 12P
Boston is another squad with a lot of young talent, their forward ranks are quite solid, but they are forever looking to improve their defense. Skjei is an intriguing player due to his combination of size 6’3 200lbs and elite skating ability. He plays are pretty solid game and rushes the puck like nobody’s business. There are concerns about what his potential is as his rushing skills are excellent, his passing is solid but he doesn’t possess a great shot. In his own zone he is solid but unspectacular, he doesn’t play a physical game and uses his speed to make up for that. Most scouts like him for the fact that with his size and speed he could develop into a big threat. The Bruins are a team that can afford to give him the time he needs to accelerate his game in the NCAA.
25. St. Louis Blues select Left Winger Nicolas Kerdiles USNTDP Juniors (USHL) 94/01/11 (18 years old) – 18GP – 4G – 9A – 13P
Much like JT Miller of the Rangers, Kerdiles has an excellent package of skills, but hasn’t really produced to the level he probably could. He suffered an injury just like everybody in this year’s draft seems to have, but recovered from it well. He’s an extremely aggressive forchecking player who never stops skating hard. His two-way game is very mature and he’s been known to frustrate the hell out of players by picking their pocket. He plays a slightly physical game and loves to go to the net and play a strong cycle game with his puck protection skills. He needs to improve his skating to increase his first step speed, the willingness to rush back is there but at times he can’t catch them until it’s too late. He is more of a playmaker than goal scorer and most of his goals are from hard work around the net. He’s a guy who would fit in really well with the team mantra of the Blues and his play at the U18’s has given some hope to his potential upside.
26. Vancouver Canucks select Right Winger Pontus Åberg Djurgården (Elitserien) 93/09/23 (18 years old) – 47GP – 8G – 7A – 15P
Åberg is one of the more interesting players in the draft. An injury kept him from the WJC and I think that has hurt his draft stock. He’s one of the oldest players in the draft that isn’t an overager. His year in the Elitserien was very solid, showing an ability to chip in with mostly 3rd line minutes. Åberg has elite speed much like fellow Swede Collberg and has a solid release. The biggest knock on him is that he is a dreadful playmaker; he can make dumb passes and misses them a lot. He’s a finisher pure and simple but can play a bit of a gritty game in the sense that he does drive the net and is willing to fight along the boards. Vancouver’s core isn’t getting any younger and I think adding another forward with top-6 upside would be prudent.
27. Phoenix Coyotes select Center Brendan Gaunce Belleville Bulls (OHL) 94/03/25 (18 years old) – 68GP – 28G – 40A – 68P
Usually I would be predicting another two-way defenseman as that has been Maloney’s mandate, but with the massive glut of young defenseman I think he will finally try a forward. Unlike past years though they won’t try for the homerun, they’ll go with a safe guy. Gaunce is a gritty two-way center that can play in any situation. He’s a good decision maker and likes to play the game hard and safe. Though he has a hard shot, he’s not a natural goal scorer and really thrives the more physical the game gets. Two major weaknesses will hold him back. Gaunce is an average skater and really needs to improve in that area, and his overall potential is highly questionable. Most scouts think he’s a guy who will safely be a 3rd line two-way guy, who has a chance to get into the top-6...sound familiar? Marty Hanzal and Antoine Vermette say hi. He fits the Tippett bill and would be a good move for a franchise starved for offensive prospects.
28. New York Rangers select Left Winger Stefan Matteau USNTDP Juniors (USHL) 94/02/23 (18 years old) – 18GP – 6G – 4A – 10P
He’s big and mean and will run through you if you keep your head down. Son of the Rangers hero Stephane Matteau, his son is considered one of the best out of the US this year. He plays a hardcore game of tenacious forechecking and is an immovable object in front of the net on the PP. In and around the net there are very few players better than him in the draft and combined with his strong defensive game you have a very versatile player. One of his weaknesses are his skating which isn’t great and his tendency to go over the line, he’s an emotional player and that can get him in trouble (spear to the nuts). With the Rangers having such a strong young defensive core you have to think they either go for a goalie or a forward. Matteau is very much in the model of a lot of Rangers like Callahan and Boyle. He’ll be playing in the QMJHL next season so expect him to work on his speed and get even more physical.
29. New Jersey Devils select Center Tomas Hertl HC Slavia Praha (Czech) 93/11/12 (18 years old) – 38GP – 12G – 13A – 25P
They’ll probably forfeit this pick but at such time it’s theirs so whatever. Hertl is 6’2 or 6’0 depending on who you ask, yet either way he has decent size. He had an extremely impressive season in the Czech league finishing fourth on his team in points and finding himself on the first line most nights. He protects the puck well and has extremely crafty hands which allow him to find scoring opportunities out of nowhere. He’s a strong forechecker and he never quits on plays. A strong WJC has helped his cause and showed how physically mature he seemed. With all the good you need the bad and that is his defensive game. He gets one minded and side tracked in his pursuit of the puck way too often to be a center, he really needs to improve on that or find himself on the wing at the next level. Slow acceleration and mediocre speed will also harm what could have been a top-15 pick, yet these are areas that can be improved. Overall he’s an easy choice at this stage.
30. Los Angeles Kings select Right Winger Henrik Samuelsson Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) 94/02/07 (18 years old) – 28GP – 7G – 16A – 23P
A sleeper that could end up being one of the more coveted guys in the draft, Samuelsson has seen more leagues in the past two seasons than I’ve ever seen. From the USHL, USDP, J18 Elit, SuperElit, Elitserien and finally the WHL is just baffling. At every level however one thing has been constant, his work ethic and gritty never say die attitude. Samuelsson is a player that never stops, and has excellent playmaking ability to go with a strong shot. He searches for the big hit and can cross the line, but is usually just effective at taking the puck away. With so many different leagues bouncing him around I think it will be important to see how he plays once he finds a stable environment in the WHL to acclimatize. Working on his skating and cutting back the cheap shots will go a long way in his development. With the Kings showing what big power forwards can mean in the playoffs and having such a wide variety of prospects, pick a guy who is safe but has untapped potential.
Congrats to the LA Kings and their fans on winning the Cup. Well deserved and well played. Congrats to Dry Island for proving once and for all that sober people have no fun.
Thanks for reading.
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