After much deliberation and conversation with scouts and NHL personnel people, here's how I see the first round shaping up the draft on Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. You can watch it live on Versus in the U.S., and on TSN and RDS in Canada, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Seguin's game is described as "incredibly mature," which is noteworthy considering that he's been in the OHL just two years compared to three for Hall.
"It's all about projection, about where you see a player down the road," said the scout. "He's not much younger than Hall, but he's less experienced. So when you see he scored 48 goals this year [eight more than Hall], you see the way he goes about his business...I believe [he'll be] the better player 10 years on."
The scouts are unanimous. Hall is considered the most NHL-ready player in his class and he has
Hall's reckless abandon has some people worried that he'll suffer a physical toll once he matches up with bigger, smarter pros. (
"He'll figure it out," says another scout. "He'll make some adjustments, but he won't lose what makes him special."
I think there's a better-than-even chance that new GM
Perhaps if this
You'll hear experienced NHL bird dogs comparing him to
"He's a mean S.O.B., that's for sure," said an Eastern Conference scout. "He hits hard and he'll drop [the gloves] to make a point." But, the scout continued, he was a disappointment at the Under-18 tournament in Minsk. "You have to love his character, his leadership, but that event reinforced my concerns about his decision making. He'll be a player, no doubt. But can he do as much for a team as, say, Gormley? He does some things better, but overall, I don't think so."
Burmistrov plays the classic Russian style, all speed and jaw-dropping dekes, but he's also great on the draw and a reliable enough defensive presence that he should mature into as much of an asset on the penalty kill as on the power play. The one knock on him: his size. He's about 5-11, but doesn't yet top 160, so he needs a year, probably two, to build up his weight and strength before he can contribute in Tampa. While all Russians come with an asterisk these days, there's a sense that Burmistrov is committed to playing in the NHL.
The Canes are coming in with a Best Player Available approach, and that has to lead them to Niederreiter, who is possibly the best prospect ever to come out of Swiss hockey. One of the youngest players in the draft (if he'd been born a week later, he'd be a 2011 selection), he made a name for himself with a standout performance at the 2010 World Juniors. "What you saw there is what you get," said a scout. "Great hands, a plus shot, tons of grit and passion. And he's got a knack for coming through in the clutch. He's a special player."
There's speculation that the Thrashers might stretch to take goaltender
With a checkered draft record like theirs, the Wild simply can't afford to blow this pick. There'll be some sentiment to take local boy
Some fans are hoping the Blueshirts take goalie
One scout told me that Forbort could be this year's
At just 5-10, 180 pounds, Granlund never would have passed muster under the
Goalies have proven to be a high-risk proposition in the first round in recent years, but Campbell's performance in big games over the past season has scouts raving about his potential to emerge as a franchise goalie...and possibly one of the best players in this draft. Looking for an eventual replacement for
"I could see someone using a top-five pick to snag him," said one scout. "He really is that good. He's got the size, the athleticism and his compete level is off the charts. He's as intense at practice as at game time. A great leader and a great teammate. He's the real deal."
It wouldn't be a surprise if Etem went earlier (possibly to the Ducks at 12), but it says here he'll fall to mid-round where GM Tallon will be thrilled to pounce. The SoCal native is one of the fastest players in the draft and also has some of the best hands. Etem's 37 goals led all CHL rookies and he could be a
"He's got a bit of
Etem also impressed scouts by adding to his arsenal of moves this season. "He has that desire to improve his game. He's a very coachable kid," said another.
A bit of a stretch here? Maybe. Two scouts suggested Bennett could slide to the second round, but others say he's a mid-first lock, with one scout comparing his dynamic finishing touch to that of
If the Avs are looking for a high-value pick, this one just fell into their laps. It wouldn't be a surprise to hear his name called in the top 10, but the Russian factor seems likely to prolong his stay on the draft board. As one scout for a club drafting in the bottom third of the round told me, if his team were picking in the 5-7 range, he'd push hard for Tarasenko. "A top-five talent, no doubt," the scout said. "Has a tremendous shot and has a knack for finding the dead areas down low."
He's no banger, but at 5-11, 202, the son of former Russian Olympian
Having just dealt
The Kings have earned a reputation for going off the board, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them reach here for the top-rated Swedish prospect in what's considered a down year for that country's talent. Rensfeldt's got good size (6-2, 192), an excellent shot (21 goals in 39 games) and can be a force along the boards. But one scout damned him with faint praise.
"He's a softer version of Niederreiter. I don't question his strength or his skill, but he lacks the consistent intensity to be a top scorer. [He'll be a] a streaky, secondary-type." Another scout agreed with the basis of that assessment, but said it was just a matter of focus. "In the right situation, he could really find his niche. He really showed me something in Minsk. Someone could stretch for him."
A team that's desperate for a nasty physical presence on the back end simply can't ask for more than McIlrath. "He doesn't have the puck skills to project as a top pairing guy," said a scout. "But he is easily the most intimidating player in the draft. He'll keep the opposition honest."
McIlrath had 19 fighting majors on the season. He'll need another year or two to work on his skating and filling out his 6-4, 215-pound frame.
Watson is considered a lock to become an NHL player solely on the basis of his defensive skill set. "He battles as hard as anyone," said a scout. "He plays with a lot of desire. He'll pay the price at both ends...blocking shots, battling for position. Whatever it takes." The question is: can Watson develop the offensive game to become a top-six forward? Word is that several NHL teams see it in him, and that could lead to his name being called sooner. I'm not sold. I see him as more of a
The broken foot that cost him the last 24 games of the season hurt Pysyk more than the minus-19 rating he picked up playing for the woeful Oil Kings. "He lacks the high-end quality that everyone wants in a first rounder, but he's the sort of kid you can throw out there every other shift and feel confident that he'll make the right play." Pysyk makes a good first pass, and has the skating ability to lead the rush and the smarts to know when to take the chance. He comes up a little short in the physical game, however, and that likely will push him towards the end of the round.
The Sabres would love to add some more size and skill to their front lines, especially down the middle. Sheahan has the build (6-2, 195), but there are questions about his offensive upside after he scored just six goals as a freshman at Notre Dame. Still, scouts see him finding a way to contribute once he hits the pros. "He's a high energy player," said one, who compared him to a poor man's
The nephew of 1980 Olympic Miracle on Ice star
Nelson is expected to spend at least two years honing his craft at the University of North Dakota. No hurry, say the Hawks.
Call him a chunk off the old block. Already 6-6 and 205 pounds, the son of long-time NHL banger
With Tinordi gone, the Caps can add some size and strength on the wings with the 6-2, 183-pound Howden.
"I see a bit of
If it wasn't for the
While his detractors point to a non-descript performance at the WJC and question his desire to play in North America, Kuznetsov has an apparent skill level that has to appeal to a team lacking high-end offensive talent in its system, like the Habs. It's a risky pick, but the potential payoff of a top-six forward will have Montreal swinging for the fences.
Coyle is "a bit of a project" according to one scout, but he should be worth the wait. The Boston University-bound winger has all the physical attributes -- he's 6-2, 207 and ranked in the top-five in the key fitness tests at the combine -- but his game is still a work in progress.
"He's strong and he skates and is terrific at protecting the puck," said the scout. "But you want to see if he can score against high-end competition." If Coyle takes after cousin
Like Howden, Pitlick is a big body (6-2, 204) who lacks an elite offensive touch but plays such a responsible two-way game that he projects as no worse than a solid third-line center.
"No one's going to buy a ticket to see him play, but he's the sort of guy who'll hang around [the league] a long time." said a scout. Pitlick plays an honest, physical game that reminds some of Washington's
A Canadian version of