By Allan Muir
• I'm going to venture a guess that fans in Montreal will be split down the middle about the Canadiens' Zach Fucale pick (36th). One side will suggest that goaltending is hardly a priority with Carey Price signed for the next five years, and that more immediate needs could have been addressed by taking sniper Valentin Zykov or big winger Justin Bailey. The other side won't believe that the Memorial Cup-winning stopper, who many scouts had projected as a first rounder, was actually still there for the taking in the second.
Count me with those guys, and not because I had Fucale going earlier.
Bottom line, it takes several years for most goalies to mature from junior studs into NHL-ready stoppers. By the time Price is ready to move on (or re-sign), Fucale's apprenticeship should be over. So he either takes over or moves on as an asset. And ultimately that's what this comes down to: at pick 36, Fucale appears to stand a better chance of maturing into a viable asset than either of those scoring wingers. That makes this look like a big win for the Habs.
• If one pick is good, then five picks are even better. At least, that's how the Oilers played their cards. They were set to pounce on Fucale until the Habs broke their hearts at 36. As soon as he was off the board, GM Craig MacTavish swapped the 37th pick to Los Angeles for three choices (57, 88, 96)
Minutes later, MacTavish flipped the No. 57 for a third and two fourths.
Tough to say at this point whether that quantity will turn out to be more valuable than a single second rounder, especially considering who was still up for grabs. The Kings used the original pick to scoop up Zykov, the QMJHL's top rookie, and by the time Edmonton was up again, a run on goalies had cleared the table of all the prime options other than Eric Comrie. They did make an intriguing choice with #113 when they tabbed power winger Aidan Muir, the first midget player taken from any program other than Shattuck St. Mary's since 2005.
• Not that he fell far below the cut-off line at 32, but the Avs added a player many considered a first-round talent in second-rounder Chris Bigras. There's not a lot of flash to his game, but he reads the play so well that he rarely makes mistakes. He'll be the sort of defender Patrick Roy can trust to log heavy minutes and minimize the stress in the Colorado zone.
• I'm surprised by how high a price the Leafs were willing to pay Chicago for Dave Bolland -- the 51st and 117th picks this year and a fourth-rounder next -- is pretty steep for a player the Hawks were desperate to clear off their payroll. More surprising are their expectations of what he can bring to the Toronto lineup.
"He'll be given a pretty significant role with us," GM Dave Nonis said after the deal was announced.
Hard to imagine how significant a role Bolland can be expected to play. To be fair, he was hampered this season by back and knee injuries that ate into his effectiveness, so maybe he's not yet just a fourth liner who can chip in with the occasional Stanley Cup-winning goal. But the Hawks were looking for an upgrade at second-line center for more than a year, which suggests that Nonis might be aiming a little high if he expects Bolland to assume that role with the Leafs.
That said, Bolland does provide protection if the Leafs can't/won't re-sign UFA Tyler Bozak. And he can provide some defensive face-off relief and bring some Cup-winning credibility into the room.
It's not a bad deal for the Leafs ... just one they might want to lower their expectations for just a smidge.
• It was a great deal for the Hawks. Moving Bolland to Toronto and Michael Frolik to the Jets cleared enough cap space for Stan Bowman to re-sign pending UFA Bryan Bickell. Doesn't matter what else happens now. This offseason is already a win for Chicago.
• Sure feels like Buffalo won the deal that got them Jamie McBain and the 35th overall pick (JT Compher) in exchange for Andrej Sekera. The Hurricanes were looking for a veteran capable of playing a dependable, top-four role. Not sure Sekera is up to that task on a consistent basis -- he's always been one of those players who's fine, but leaves you wanting more.
McBain's development had stalled in Carolina, so the chance to play under his former USNTDP coach, Ron Rolston, could be what he needs to kick start the process. He's thought to have a higher ceiling than Sekera, so this will be a real test for Rolston to get the best out of the 25-year-old.
Add in Compher, "a leader who makes his team go" according to NACS, and this could turn out to be a seriously lopsided swap.
• The Flyers may have stolen one when they snagged Robert Hagg at 42. Central Scouting's second-ranked European defenseman has a projectable frame (6-2, 204) and, according to North American Central Scouting, is "smooth, makes great decisions and has lots of upside." So why did a player who many expected to go in the first slip to the middle of the second? "No one reason," said a Western Conference scout. "Just one of those things where other teams just happened to like another guy a little more. Couple years down the road, maybe we all look like idiots and they look like geniuses."
• Really like Washington's pick of Madison Bowey at 53. His stock dipped when he didn't live up to offensive expectations this season, but he did a nice job rounding out the defensive aspect of his game in Kelowna as the season progressed. Look for him to start showing off some flair next season as he continues to develop. A few years down the road, he could be one of those guys people won't believe slipped into the second round.
• Buffalo grabbing local boy Justin Bailey has a nice ring to it. The kid is big (6-4, 185), has sweet hands in tight and shows bright flashes of intensity. Unfortunately, those assets are surrounded by episodes of "where did he go?" No doubt he's a project (probably four-five years), but Bailey could be a big part of the Sabres' future.
• The Blues might have nabbed a good one in William Carrier. The fleet-footed forward finished second in scoring with Cape Breton in 2011-12 (27-43-70), then led the Screaming Eagles this year with 42 points despite playing just 34 games due to injury. NACS doesn't see those numbers translating at the NHL level, but at 6-2, 198, he the size that makes him hard to handle. He might develop into a valuable bottom-six forward.