The draft is always the most interesting and most important time of year for scouts. My experience is slightly different than that of a team scout, but the draft still ranks as the biggest eight or so hours of the year.
While teams debate their picks, I do my best to analyze, consult and dissect each selection for a variety of different sources (teams, media, etc). Every year there are good picks and bad picks and while it's often more newsworthy to speak up about the bad picks, that's just not my style.
I have decided this would be a good forum to point out the positive and give out props for the picks in each round I thought were really good fits.
Oscar Klefbom - It would be too easy to say the top guys, or jump on a high-ranked player who fell a bit. My favorite pick of the first round was the 19th overall selection by Edmonton.
There was lots of talk about the Oilers needing to trade up to get another high pick to land one of the elite defenders in the draft, but patience paid off. After taking the best playmaker and overall player with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, getting the pure character and raw skill of Klefbom clinched a draft day win for the Oil in my mind. Klefbom can play in all situations and is a steadying influence on his teammates even if he is an aggressive and bold two-way defender. Klefbom is already a solid player, but he oozes potential and will be an excellent piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle in the NHL's northern-most city. Edmonton fans won't have to wait long to see just how appealing Klefbom is as he will likely be running Sweden's power play when the WJC comes to Alberta this December.
Miikka Salomaki -The second round had a lot intriguing picks. Rocco Grimaldi falling to the Panthers was one and the Blues taking a chance on the mysterious, but talented Dmitri Jaskin was another, but the best pick of the second round was when Nashville took Salomaki 52nd overall. Salomaki is a player who just screams Barry Trotz. He can do a bit of everything and is extremely difficult to play against. His physicality and two-way competitiveness allow him to create chances that aren't always pretty, but get results. Great pick by the Preds.
Daniel Catenacci - Edmonton was at it again grabbing the goaltender I feel has the most potential in Samu Perhonen and perhaps the draft's best pure defensive role-playing forward in Travis Ewanyk, but the pick of this round belongs to the Buffalo Sabres, who took Catenacci 77th overall. Catenacci has the ability and skill level to dictate the pace of a game and is beyond pesky when the puck is on his radar. He had an up-and-down season and as a result his stock fell, but the Sabres are a team that continues to find steals in every draft. With some of the bigger, more powerful players they have selected over the past couple of years, Catenacci's speed will be an excellent complement.
Gregory Hofmann - The Sabres scored again with the 107th pick in Colin Jacobs and the Isles got a great player in Robbie Russo at 95, but the best pick of the fourth round was when the Hurricanes selected Hofmann at 103.
The Swiss product is an offensive force who has continued to develop into a solid pro and his ability to adapt and produce at various levels has been exciting to watch. He was arguably the Swiss team's best forward during this year's WJC and WJA tournaments, outscoring big-name Swiss stars in the process. The kid can put the puck in the net and is not far away from doing so on NHL goalies.
Honorable mention here also goes to Washington's pick of Norwegian goaltender Steffen Soberg. They have a tremendous stable of good young goalies as it is, but Soberg has potential to leapfrog up the depth chart. He was robbed of the under-18 MVP award in my mind. Keep an eye on him.
Shane McColgan -Seth Ambroz's fall to the fifth round is certainly worth mentioning, but it really overshadowed another gifted American's slide. McColgan has deceptively good offensive skills and that is saying a lot for those who have watched him dazzle with the puck.
McColgan's stock seemed to drop when he wasn't able to put up jaw-dropping numbers in the Western League. Still, he can produce and proved it during the playoffs with 19 points in 10 games. Adding a player of this skill level does not happen often in the fifth round and the New York Rangers will certainly enjoy the offensive depth it will create for them. Other honorable mentions here have to include Garrett Meurs (Colorado) and Patrick Koudys (Washington).
David Broll - Round 6 saw some older players go who I have been high on for a while, with Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo) and Pathrik Westerholm (Vancouver), but the best pick of the round was the very first when Toronto selected Broll.
After selecting Tyler Biggs in the first round, the Leafs set themselves up with what will quite possibly be the most terrifying combo in the league if the two steamrollers end up on the same line. Broll can be considered Biggs-light and when he gets going he is a near impossible force to stop. Broll is a great pick that Leafs Nation should be able to get behind quite easily.
Zac Larraza - The biggest surprise of Round 7 for me was who wasn't selected so I will take this time to draw attention to some 2012 sleepers with Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall, Konstantin Komarek, Colin Smith and Sebastian Uvira (who, for Leafs fans, would be a nice fit on that Biggs-Broll line). With that said there were some solid seventh-rounders, my favorite being the 196th overall pick of Larraza by the Phoenix Coyotes.
An Arizona kid taken by the Coyotes is a great story on its own, but Larraza is an underrated player who projects as a role player and will play his heart out for his team. Just before Larraza, Dallas got a steal with Jyrki Jokipakka as well. Not just a great name, Jokipakka is a late-bloomer who has emerged as a steady two-way guy and has really turned heads in Finland and in Buffalo at this year's WJC.
With all of the great young players who were selected there was one selection that truly took the cake on draft weekend: the NHL's pick to have the family of the late E.J. Maguire open the draft. The standing ovation and misty eyes of some of the game’s manliest men was a classy touch to honor a classy man. This draft was only part of his legacy - one that will forever live on in the smiles, hopes and dreams of the prospects who aspire to great things in this game, as well as those of us who aspire to follow in his giant footsteps.
Ross MacLean is the head scout for International Scouting Services and is considered one of the rising stars of the business. A young, diverse and versatile hockey mind, MacLean leads ISS' network of scouts and puts his domestic and international hockey experience and knowledge towards ranking and providing industry-leading profiles and information on draft eligible players around the world.