There may be a modicum of drama surrounding who will be the top selection in Friday’s draft in Montreal, but for all intents and purposes, it’s likely John Tavares. Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene will follow, probably in that order. Evander Kane looks real good at No. 4.
After that, however, things get a little murky. Not because of any sort of deficiency of talent, but because the opposite is true. Currently, the Los Angeles Kings hold the fifth selection in the draft, but whether GM Dean Lombardi actually takes to the podium is up in the air. With the formidable trio of Brayden Schenn, Jared Cowen and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson available and several teams trying to move up in the order, the ultimate destination of No. 5 is a mystery.
The linchpin to picks five through seven is Schenn. Tough, skilled and responsible, Schenn is being lauded as all the best elements of a Canadian player rolled into one package. The best-case scenario for his future is another Mike Richards. If he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he can still be Rob Niedermayer (a pretty good consolation prize in the grand scheme of things).
On top of that, assuming Schenn stays in junior next season, he is guaranteed a place in the Memorial Cup tournament, as his Brandon Wheat Kings play host to the annual classic. So he’s got that going for him as well.
It’s no secret Toronto would love to reunite Brayden with older brother Luke, the team’s top selection last year. Based on earlier projections, Brayden would have fallen to the Maple Leafs at No. 7, anyway, but a great deal of media chatter lately suggests the young Wheat King will go earlier.
So here’s an intriguing question: Leafs GM Brian Burke has maintained a steadfast goal of moving up in the draft to nab John Tavares. But with the Isles not playing ball on J.T., will Burke make a deal to move up to ensure Schenn doesn’t get picked up by another suitor? The brothers are very close and Brayden has leaned on his older sibling for advice in the past, so it stands to reason playing together would be beneficial to all parties involved.
But the vibrations are certainly out there to indicate competition for the pick. Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini has gone on record as saying he would like to move up from his current spot picking 10th overall. Considering the Oilers are short on grit and in need of scoring, Schenn fits in perfectly. This draft isn’t ripe with power forwards (Zach Kassian and Jordan Caron would be the next two candidates), so Tambellini may want to take a run at Schenn.
The second part of the intrigue surrounding No. 5 is what becomes of Cowen and Paajarvi-Svensson. Cowen is a towering defenseman who was the consensus No. 3 in the draft until a knee injury ended his season in February. But his potential for greatness didn’t end just because of one setback. Teams skipping Cowen early in the round may kick themselves sooner than later.
On the other end of the spectrum, Paajarvi-Svensson offers boatloads of tantalizing skill. Whether his dazzling moves end in a goal often enough is the question. But surrounded by NHL linemates, it’s hard to see MPS failing. So again: what do you do if you are L.A., Phoenix or Toronto?
Right now, all prospects have the same amount of points and experience in the NHL; what they develop into – especially if they do so on another team – is what can give a GM nightmares if he chooses unwisely.
1-on-1 with Jared Cowen
I caught up with Cowen at the Hockey Hall of Fame when he was in town for the draft combine to discuss his preparations for the event, losing half a season to injury and winning the Memorial Cup. Click HERE to see my one-on-one with Victor Hedman. Producer: Ted Cooper.
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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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