We’re three years into the post-lockout era and the formula for ultimate Stanley Cup success is still being developed.
Here’s what we know so far:
Year 1, 2006: The Carolina Hurricanes raced their way to glory without the assistance of a designated enforcer. Team speed and skill were their hallmarks and they seemed to figure out the new NHL more quickly than most opponents.
Year 2, 2007: The Anaheim Ducks blended old-time, smash-mouth hockey with considerable portions of skill and defensive acumen. They gained a reputation as an intimidating foe, which spurred some GMs to play copycat and infuse more nastiness to their rosters.
Year 3, 2008: The Cup will be won by a team whose foundation is supreme skill, augmented by sound defensive play and varying degrees of team toughness. Detroit ranked last overall (or first, depending on your viewpoint) in fighting majors this season. Pittsburgh was middle-of-the-pack.
So where do we go from here? The entry draft next month in Ottawa should provide a bellwether for the current team-building trend, if one indeed exists. If scouting staffs buy into the notion skill is paramount, expect to see some of the smaller, nifty forwards go higher than anticipated.
Here are some diminutive players to monitor, accompanied by their ranking in The Hockey News Draft Preview magazine (which, coincidentally, is on newsstands now and available via this website).
Zach Boychuk, C, Lethbridge (WHL), 5-foot-9, 175 pounds.
Draft Preview says: He has above average speed and skill, is supremely conditioned and reminds some of Martin Gelinas. DP Rank: 12th
Mattias Tedenby, LW, HV-71 (Swe), 5-foot-9, 165 pounds.
Draft Preview says: He’s a super-fast, dynamic player who has drawn comparisons to Saku Koivu, Martin St-Louis and Paul Kariya. DP Rank: 16th
Jordan Eberle, C, Regina (WHL), 5-foot-10, 174 pounds.
Draft Preview says: He’s a deft stickhandler with a wicked wrist shot and a natural goal-scorer’s sense. DP Rank: 22nd
Tyler Ennis, C, Medicine Hat (WHL), 5-foot-8, 153 pounds.
Draft Preview says: He has top-end skill and speed and isn’t intimidated by bigger opponents in the rugged Western League. DP Rank: 41st
Kruise Reddick, C, Tri-City (WHL), 5-foot-8, 165 pounds.
Draft Preview says: A tenacious two-way player, with strong play-making ability; emerged as a dandy penalty-killer this season. DP Rank: 56th
Jason Kay is the editor of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend.
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