The coronation of John Tavares as hockey’s next big thing is set for June 26, 2009 in Montreal as the Canadiens 100th anniversary hits its zenith with the NHL’s 2009 Entry Draft. Now it is up to the New York Islanders to decide where Tavares begins his professional hockey career.
Often pegged as the odds-on favorite to be the first overall selection for the past few years, the draft landscape has shifted a bit as Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman finished the year as the number one prospect according to McKeen’s (McK) and Red Line Report (RLR). Tavares topped the rankings according to International Scouting Service (ISS), The Hockey News (THN) and the NHL’s Central Scouting (CS). In each service, either Hedman or Tavares finish first or second except for RLR where Tavares is ranked third with Matt Duchene rated second.
GM Garth Snow has a difficult decision to make. The Islanders’ selection comes down to more than just talent alone. With the franchise struggling to get a new building as part of the Lighthouse Project, there is pressure to select Tavares in order to help further that cause because of his “star potential”. Tavares would give the Islanders its version of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Alexander Ovechkin.
Conversely, it might be in the Islanders best interest to draft Hedman as the shutdown defenseman Eastern Conference teams will need to battle the likes of Crosby et al.
Past Islanders history lends itself to the Islanders drafting Hedman. The Islanders have had the first overall selection three times in their history. The turning point in the Islanders franchise was in 1973 when they drafted future captain Denis Potvin – who far outpaced their previous first overall selections – Billy Harris (1972) and Rick DiPietro (2000).
With five picks over the first 56 selections (1st, 26th, 31st, 37th and 56th), the Islanders will go a long way in shaping the outcome of the 2009 Draft. Depending on who their selection is they could set into motion a multitude of trade proposals.
It is no secret that Toronto GM Brian Burke covets Tavares. Burke sees the youngster as the cornerstone piece in rebuilding the Maple Leafs. If the Islanders are leaning towards drafting Hedman, Snow needs to speak with Burke and Brian Lawton of Tampa Bay. If the Islanders play their cards right, they could use their excess of draft picks to highlight a three-way deal that could bring back a future round draft pick or two and prospects or veteran players.
The Islanders would move down to the second pick, Toronto would jump up to the first spot and Tampa Bay would move down to the seventh overall selection. Depending on the other pieces, the Islanders could give up their second first round pick this year in exchange for a 2010 first round draft pick in an attempt to position themselves to draft Taylor Hall.
Even if the Islanders don’t upset the apple cart and pull off a deal, you can expect Burke will still try hard to make a deal – even if Tavares is the first player off the board. You have to believe the Maple Leafs GM will look to move up in the draft to pair Brayden Schenn with his brother Luke in TO because odds are the younger Schenn will not be around for Toronto with the seventh overall pick.
While the 2009 Draft is deep, we might see a lot of movement as teams try to move up/down while securing additional draft picks or players. Prospect Insider Shane Malloy explained how deep the Draft is.
“This year’s crop is stronger than in the past, as there is a group of potential elite prospects in the Top 15,” Malloy wrote on TSN.ca. “The remaining 15 draft picks in the first round have array of good skills and teams may find first round-worthy talent in the early second round.”
Ryan Kennedy of THN has an interesting take on a new way to look at the Draft.
“[The] draft is the new trade deadline; names such as Vesa Toskala, Tomas Vokoun and Olli Jokinen have all been dealt during the event in recent years and there’s no reason to think that trend will end soon. Simply put, the draft allows a GM to get a jump-start on his summer several days before free agency opens July 1. Plus, all 30 teams are in the house at the same time, which makes for maximum wheeling and dealing.”
Each player has ratings for the following scouting services: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), McKeen’s (McK), International Scouting Service (ISS), Red Line Report (RLR), and Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca (TSN). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. ISS, RLR, and TSN all list a prospects’ comparable NHL player. The draft positions used are as of June 23, 2009 and presume that no trades will be made – even though we know better .
1. New York Islanders – John Tavares – C
CS: # 1NA —– THN: # 1—– McK: # 2
ISS: # 1 (Mike Bossy) —– RLR: # 3 (Brett Hull)
TSN: # 1 (Dale Hawerchuk)
If Garth Snow keeps the first pick, he will draft Tavares who gives the rebuilding team a face for the franchise – as well as an electric offensive star who will be counted upon to raise the level of play of the young Islanders.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning – Victor Hedman – D
CS: # 1E —– THN: # 2—– McK: # 1
ISS: # 3 (Jay Bouwmeester) —– RLR: # 1 (Chris Pronger)
TSN: # 2 (Jay Bouwmeester)
With Tavares going first overall, that leaves the Lightning with a great consolation prize. Franchise defensemen are and far between and Hedman gives Tampa Bay a great one-two punch of young stars along with Steven Stamkos.
3. Colorado Avalanche – Matt Duchene – C
CS: # 2NA —– THN: # 3—– McK: # 3
ISS: # 2 (Joe Sakic) —– RLR: # 2 (Joe Sakic)
TSN: # 3 (Steve Yzerman)
The Joe Sakic comparison makes Duchene a natural for the Avalanche. In any other year, Duchene would have been talked up even more as the first overall pick. In addition to playing the same style of play as Sakic, Duchene shares his leadership ability – as seen by his captaining of Canada’s Under-18 team.
4. Atlanta Thrashers – Evander Kane – C
CS: # 3NA —– THN: # 5—– McK: # 5
ISS: # 5 (Devin Setoguchi) —– RLR: # 5 (Tomas Vanek)
TSN: # 4 (Jarome Iginla)
The Thrashers must find a way to keep Ilya Kovalchuk, who is set to be an UFA after next season. Drafting Kane provides the star winger with a potential potent linemate. In addition to having the skills of a finesse player, Kane does the dirty work needed to produce offense.
5. Los Angeles Kings – Brayden Schenn – C
CS: # 4NA —– THN: # 6—– McK: # 6
ISS: # 6 (Doug Gilmour) —– RLR: # 4 (M. Richards/R. Brind’Amour)
TSN: # 5 (Bryan Trottier)
The Kings put an end to Brian Burke’s hope of uniting the Schenn brothers in the NHL. Schenn provides the Kings with a gifted two-way center that will give LA a potent one-two punch at center with Anze Kopitar.
6. Phoenix Coyotes – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
CS: # 4E —– THN: # 13—– McK: # 4
ISS: # 9 (Tomas Kaberle —– RLR: # 7 (Nicklas Lidstrom)
TSN: # 6 (Scott Niedermayer)
The Coyotes are still a team in flux until their ownership problems are settled. Don Maloney could long and hard at Jared Cowen, but Ekman-Larsson’s offensive game will win the day.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs – Jared Cowen – D
CS: # 9NA —– THN: # 4—– McK: # 8
ISS: # 7 (Chris Pronger) —– RLR: # 8 (Braydon Coburn)
TSN: # 7 (Brayden Coburn)
With Tavares and Schenn out of the picture, the Leafs can draft Cowen to build up their blue line. Cowen might have gone even higher, but there are some concerns over a knee injury that limited him to just 48 games. If Toronto goes with a defenseman, look for Burke to bring in the Sedin twins.
8. Dallas Stars – Magnus Svensson-Paarjarvi – LW
CS: # 2E —– THN: # 7—– McK: # 10
ISS: # 4 (Alexander Mogilny) —– RLR: # 6 (Marian Gaborik)
TSN: # 10 (Mike Gartner)
The Stars could use an offensive d-man to eventually replace Sergei Zubov. However, the speedy scoring LW is too much to pass up. Magnus has shown that he can play up to his competition with his fine play in the past two WJC tournaments and his play in the Swedish Elite League.
9. Ottawa Senators – Dmitri Kulikov – D
CS: # 11NA—– THN: # 11—– McK: # 7
ISS: # 10 (Niklas Kronwall) —– RLR: # 9 (Andrei Markov)
TSN: # 9 (Sergei Gonchar)
The Senators are in an unsettled position given Dany Heatley’s request for a trade. Depending on how that situation plays out, Ottawa could trade this pick in a deal or look to replace Heatley through the Draft. If Ekman-Larsson falls to this spot, the Sens will snap him up. If not, Kulikov is a good choice as the Russian blueliner has a year in the QMJHL under his belt.
10. Edmonton Oilers – Nazem Kadri – C
CS: # 15NA—– THN: # 8—– McK: # 9
ISS: # 8 (Kyle Turris) —– RLR: # 17 (Maxim Afinogenov)
TSN: 8 (Andy McDonald)
It is not out of the realm of possibility that the new GM Steve Tambellini drafts a d-man. However, the Oilers have been linked as a possible landing place for Heatley. Faced with the possibility of having to move some of their young forward talent, the Oilers draft Kadri who projects out as a top-six forward who has speed and plays with a chip on his shoulder.
11. Nashville Predators – Jordan Schroeder -RW
CS: # 5NA —– THN: # 9—– McK: # 13
ISS: # 14 (Paul Kariya) —– RLR: # 11 (Daniel Briere)
TSN: # 15 (Steve Yzerman)
If the 5-9 Schroeder were a little bigger, he would have had a great chance at breaking into the top three of the Draft. However, he is a pure goal scorer who will team up with fellow USA WJC teammate Colin Wilson and some bite to the Predators offense.
12. Minnesota Wild – Scott Glennie – RW
CS: # 7NA —– THN: # 14—– McK: # 14
ISS: # 19 (Peter Mueller) —– RLR: # 18 (Patrick Sharp)
TSN: # 11 (Jeff Carter)
The Wild just miss out on selecting the homegrown Schroeder, but Glennie is a fine consolation prize. Glennie’s offense is keyed by his outstanding speed and his goal scoring ability is supplemented by solid ice vision and hockey sense.
13. Buffalo Sabres – Zack Kassian – RW
CS: # 10NA—– THN: # 16—– McK: # 18
ISS: # 20 (Milan Lucic) —– RLR: # 16 (Poor Man’s T. Bertuzzi/B. Shanahan)
TSN: # 14 (Todd Bertuzzi)
The Sabres might be tempted for the goal scoring ability of local boy Jeremy Morin, but the offense and physical package of the 6-3/210 Kassian is too much to pass up. Kassian plays in all situations and is a powerful skater. ISS believes he is “the most physically ready player in this draft to play at higher levels.”
14. Florida Panthers – John Moore – D
CS: # 6NA —– THN: # 18—– McK: # 12
ISS: # 16 (Joe Corvo) —– RLR: # 21 (Ryan Suter)
TSN: # 13 (Ryan Suter)
With Jay Bouwmeester having one skate out the door, the Panthers need to address the hole he leaves. Enter John Moore. The USHL Defenseman of the year combines the size (6-2/189 and growing), skating and speed that a team wants in a top-notch d-man. His physical game is sure to improve as he matures mentally and physically.
15. Anaheim Ducks – Ryan Ellis – D
CS: # 16NA —– THN: # 17—– McK: # 11
ISS: # 13 (Brian Rafalski) —– RLR: # 13 (Sergei Zubov)
TSN: # 12 (Reijo Ruotsalainen)
With Scott Niedermayer’s future uncertain, the Ducks might want to address his possible loss with one of, if not the best, offensive blueliners in the draft. While his size (5-9/173) is a concern, he is a premier PP quarterback thanks to passing ability and big-time shot from the point that he unleashes with a quick release.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets – David Rundblad – D
CS: # 6E —– THN: # 10—– McK: # 23
ISS: # 22 (Mike Green) —– RLR: # 12 (Mike Green or Lars Jonsson)
TSN: # 21 (Mike Green)
Rundblad is a high-risk/high-reward type of player. His offensive game can’t be questioned, but he is still a work in progress as for as the defensive end game goes. However, he was able to compete in the Swedish Elite League at the age of 18 and is worth the risk for a team that needs an offensive leader on defense.
17. St. Louis Blues – Jacob Josefson – C
CS: # 3E —– THN: # 15—– McK: # 16
ISS: # 11 (Daymond Langkow) —– RLR: # 32 (Patrice Bergeron)
TSN: #: 16 (Henrik Zetterberg)
The Blue have done a fine job during the last couple of years in the Draft. Josefson brings a solid two-way game that is powered by his excellent hockey sense. Jacob is more playmaker than scorer, and is another 18-year-old who played in the Swedish Elite League and has the tools to thrive in the NHL.
18. Montreal Canadiens – Chris Kreider C/LW
CS: # 14NA—– THN: # 24—– McK: # 31
ISS: # 24 (Eric Staal) —– RLR: # 27 (Poor Man’s Jeff Carter)
TSN: # 19 (Alexander Mogilny)
The hometown team in the 2009 Draft will be under a lot of pressure to draft a Quebec province native (Louis LeBlanc). However, the Flying Frenchmen have a history of drafting American-born players. While Kreider is not Quebecois, he very well may be the best skater in the Draft. While he is still a work in progress, Kreider is a great blend of skating, size and skill.
19. New York Rangers – Carter Ashton – LW
CS: # 12NA —– THN: # 20 —– McK: # 22
ISS: # 33 (Bill Guerin) —– RLR: # 22 (Dustin Penner)
TSN: # 20 (Bill Guerin)
The tragic death of Alexei Cherepanov left the Rangers short on scoring among the forward prospects. As a result, they need to concentrate on offense – especially in the first couple of rounds. The Rangers should look long and hard at Landon Ferraro lest they repeat their mistake of passing on Zach Parise for Hugh Jessiman. However, Ashton size (6-4/212), skating and scoring ability make him the pick over Ferraro. He also has the ability to drop the gloves when need be. Carter’s father, Brent, is a former NHL player.
20. Calgary Flames – Louis Leblanc – C
CS: # 13NA —– THN: # 29 —– McK: # 15
ISS: # 12 (Mike Richards) —– RLR: # 10 (Derek Roy)
TSN: # 17 (Mike Richards)
Calgary is another team that appears to be in the mix for Dany Heatley. If they keep the pick, LeBlanc is a fiery, two-way player who was voted the USHL’s Rookie of the Year and will play next year at Harvard. At 6-0/178, he still has to mature physically, but he still plays with an edge and competes hard every night.
LeBlanc got better as the season progressed, which is always a positive sign – especially for a rookie.
21. Philadelphia Flyers – Simon Despres – D
CS: # 8NA —– THN: # 12—– McK: # 19
ISS: # 30 (Nigel Williams) —– RLR: # 33 (Brent Seabrook)
TSN: # 18 (Jay Bouwmeester)
Often teams like to draft players who “do more with less”. Unfortunately for Despres, he is a player who “does less with more”. Simon is a talented two-way d-man who was stuck playing for a poor Saint John (QMJHL) team. He has all of the skill sets to succeed and showed them off at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament this summer. McK scout Rick Springhetti said, “I feel that if a team really wants, but can’t get Hedman, they would do well taking Despres….”
22. Vancouver Canucks – Landon Ferraro – RW
CS: # 18NA —– THN: # 28 —– McK: # 32
ISS: # 17 (Patrick Sharp) —– RLR: # 38 (Devin Setoguchi)
TSN: # 26 (Patrick Sharp)
Facing a possible future without the Sedin twins, the Canucks will look to replenish their stock in offensive forwards. That is where the son of former NHLer Ray Ferraro skates in. Ferraro is a natural goal scorer who uses his speed well and projects out to be a top six forward. Landon nearly tripled his goal output (13 to 37) last season. If the Rangers do draft Ferraro, then Vancouver would scoop up Ashton – if the Flyers don’t.
23. New Jersey Devils – Joonas Nattinen – C
CS: # 10E —– THN: # 36 —– McK: # 59
ISS: # 28 (Jordan Staal) —– RLR: # 31 (Bobby Holik/Jordan Staal)
TSN: # 36 (Jordan Staal)
Given the high powered centers playing in the Atlantic Division, Nattinen is a natural selection for Lou Lamoriello and David Conte. Joonas is a hard-nosed two-way center with an excellent sense for the game. Nattinen is very comfortable playing a physical game and does not mind driving to the net. He was most impressive at the WJC, winning 63% of his faceoffs.
24. Washington Capitals – Peter Holland – C/LW
CS: # 19NA —– THN: # 19 —– McK: # 25
ISS: # 15 (Chris Gratton) —– RLR: # 24 (Kristian Huselius)
TSN: # 24 (Patrick Marleau)
The Capitals could go offense or defense with their first round pick. Holland represents the opportunity to surround Alexander Ovechkin with another weapon up front. He plays in all situations for Guelph (OHL) and has been used at the point on the PP at times. He can play center or the wing, but he needs to use his size (6-2/185) more than he does.
25. Boston Bruins – Dylan Olsen – D
CS: # 27NA —– THN: # 41—– McK: # 17
ISS: # 39 (Brent Seabrook) —– RLR: # 28 (Mark Stuart)
TSN: # 32 (Cam Barker)
The Bruins have some free agent decisions to make and face some salary cap implications in regards to Phil Kessel, so they might be tempted to draft a forward. However, Olsen presents a package that is too tempting to pass up. He has size (6-2/205) and strength to be a top four blueliner. While he will not remind anyone of Bobby Orr when it comes to moving the puck, he has a good shot and sees the ice well and contributes on the PP. He was the only Junior A player on Canada’s WJC team and was a first pair d-man with Calvin de Haan.
26. New York Islanders – Nick Leddy – D
CS: # 24NA —– THN: # 25 —– McK: # 24
ISS: # 21 (Alex Goligoski) —– RLR: # 19(Phil Housely/Kris Letang)
TSN: # 29 (Paul Martin)
The Islanders would be very happy to see Olen fall to them at 26. If he doesn’t, they will still draft a d-man, but will go more for the offensive than defensive. Leddy has game changing ability thanks to his outstanding skating, puck handling and ice vision. Voted “Mr. Hockey” as the top senior player in Minnesota, Leddy would have gone higher in the draft if not for his size (5-11/179) and strength – two things that will improve with time.
27. Carolina Hurricanes – Drew Shore – C
CS: # 28NA —– THN: # 23 —– McK: # 20
ISS: # 18 (Rod Brind’Amour) —– RLR: # 65(R.J. Umberger)
TSN: # 30 (Ryan Kesler)
With Rod Brind’Amour playing such a big part for Carolina in the past eight plus seasons, the Hurricanes would love to add a younger model to their organization. Shore is another one of those solid two-way pivots. He bases his game on strong skating ability, smart use of his size (6-2/190) and solid playmaking ability. Shore, who will play Denver University, next year, is a potential top six forward who will play in all situations.
28. Chicago Blackhawks – Jeremy Morin – LW
CS: # 33NA —– THN: # 21 —– McK: # 37
ISS: # 27 (Zach Parise) —– RLR: # 15(Dany Heatley)
TSN: # 31 (Ray Sheppard)
Chicago is another team who has been connected to Dany Heatley. Whether they get involved or not, the offensive ability Morin brings to the table is too hard for Chicago to pass on. His performance in helping the USA win the U-18 championship (6 goals and 4 assists in 7 games) is indicative of what kind of talent Jeremy has. Other players may be better skaters, but few have the shot and offensive ability that Morin unleashes.
29. Detroit Red Wings – Carl Klingberg – LW
CS: # 7E —– THN: # 37 —– McK: # 27
ISS: # 32 (Ryan Getzlaf) —– RLR: # 44 (Mike Fisher)
TSN: 34 (Kirk Maltby)
Ken Holland Jim Nill have become quite adept at retooling the Red wings despite having the best draft positions. Klingberg is the type of player the Red Wings have brought in over the years. He has imposing size (6-3/205), strong skating ability and an ability to play an NHL-style of game prior to coming to North America. Carl played on the same lines as Magnus Svensson-Paarjavi and Jacob Josefson at the U-18 tournament and did more than just hold his own.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins – Jordan Caron – RW/C
CS: # 21NA —– THN: # 33 —– McK: # 21
ISS: # 25 (Jason Arnott) —– RLR: # 30(Wojtech Wolski)
TSN: # 22 (Steve Bernier)
The Penguins have some cap issues to face during the summer – as do most teams. With some age and salary questions among their forwards, Ray Shero should look to add some complimentary players for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Caron brings a solid mix of size (6-2/202) and offensive ability and projects out as a power forward in the NHL. He was one Rimouski’s best players during the playoffs this season.