In the upcoming weeks, you’re going to hear a lot about real contenders for the Stanley Cup, playoff dark horses and teams that barely squeak in.
But what about the squads looking to the draft lottery?
This is a great year to be weak, as the prospect pile is a deep one. But that’s the thing about bad teams – they make bad decisions. So as a draft primer, here’s some advice for a couple of franchises poised to get high picks this summer.
Now, because the standings aren’t settled and the lottery has yet to commence, I’m going to ballpark where a team will choose; basically this is a realistic best-case scenario.
Los Angeles Kings – Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia Sting – The reason I say ‘realistic best-case scenario’ is that everyone’s actual best-case scenario is landing Stamkos, a do-it-all pivot with speed and skill.
So this would be a very short blog if I did that. There have been rumblings GM Dean Lombardi may pass on Stamkos in favor of one of the top defensemen in the mix, such as Guelph’s Drew Doughty or Niagara’s Alex Pietrangelo. Here’s some advice, Dean: Take off your Michal Handzus/Ladislav Nagy-signing hat and go find your trade-for-Jack Johnson hat.
Yeah, you’ve got a wealth of talent under the age of 25, but in case you didn’t notice, center Michael Cammalleri wasn’t exactly enthused about his arbitration result this past summer. He’s an unrestricted free agent after next season and you may not be his first choice. Go with the best player available.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara IceDogs – Now here’s a team that can use a big, bad defenseman. The Bolts blueline isn’t exactly small, but right now they’re not very good at keeping the puck out of the net, either.
Part of that is goaltending of course, but Pietrangelo is a plus-minus ace who can score. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he’s tough to play against, too.
St. Louis Blues – Drew Doughty, D, Guelph Storm – The consensus No. 2 pick at this point, Doughty is a dazzler with the puck. Imagine the Blues trotting him and Erik Johnson out on the blueline together in a few years?
Never has a team swooned at such an opportune time.
Chicago Blackhawks – Nikita Filatov, LW, CSKA 2 (Rus.) – Toews. Kane. Filatov. Sheer terror for the rest of the Central Division.
Those transfer agreements are tricky, but if the Hawks could get the Russian wizard over here, devastation for enemy bluelines would result.
Atlanta Thrashers – Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough Petes – Yeah, the Dirty Birds have Tobias Enstrom, but the buzz on Bogosian is growing as the season winds down.
Leadership and skill are a fun mix and, although Phoenix or Florida could use Bogosian’s talents more, he probably won’t be on the board when they pick, barring a lottery windfall.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Kyle Beach, LW, Everett Silvertips – Like the Cats and Desert Dawgs, the Buds have played themselves out of contention for any local Ontario boys (Stamkos, Doughty, Pietrangelo), but Beach is a tantalizing prospect.
Not only would he be the next Darcy Tucker, but he could beat the crap out of No. 16 right now. Beach’s temper has been an issue for scouts, but he scores and he scraps, which T.O. fans tend to be fond of.
The Leafs don’t have an exemplary draft record, so taking a chance on a kid who could be their Milan Lucic might be worth it.
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 Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.