Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming. Just walking through the door is a courageous first step. There’s coffee and donuts on the table in the corner. When you’re ready, sit with me in the circle.
Everyone join hands. It’s time to discuss the real possibility the Edmonton Oilers win the draft lottery this Saturday and pick first overall for the fifth time in seven years.
Their chances: 13.5 percent. It doesn’t make the Copper and Blue the favorite – that would be the Toronto Maple Leafs at 20 percent – but Edmonton has the second-best odds. The Oil sat third-best a year ago at 11.5 percent and still managed to win the Connor McDavid Ping-Pong Sweepstakes, so we know they have a chance, technically a better one this time around.
Finland is golden again thanks to the under-18s in North Dakota and all the international usual suspects came through at the tourney. Jesse Puljujarvi was huge, Clayton Keller took home MVP honors and Tyson Jost led the tourney in scoring. European scouts are basically done watching games now and the CHL playoffs are getting to the big stages, so you can feel the draft combine coming on the horizon. With the AHL starting Calder Cup proceedings, there is still a lot of good hockey left, though. So let’s take a trip around the prospect world again, shall we?
Finland has won gold again – get used to it.
Led by superstar 2016 draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finns dusted off archrival Sweden in the final of the World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota on Sunday. Puljujarvi scored a hat trick in the 6-1 demolition, while the home-side Americans earned bronze with a 10-3 walloping of a disorganized Canadian squad.
If it sounds like the Finns have been on the podium a lot lately, it’s because they have. This is the third junior-level gold in three years for Suomi, when the 2016 and 2014 world junior titles are added in. So how are they doing it?
Florida Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce has scouted virtually every draft-eligible teenager playing in North America this season. He’s done numerous reports on each player, meticulously breaking down his strengths and weaknesses and assessing whether or not he’ll be a future NHL player. After all, that’s what he does.
But there is one player both he and the Panthers have ignored completely. Not one report has been done, not one projection made. That player would be Luce’s 18 year-old son Griffin, a defenseman for the U.S. national development team. And it has put the elder Luce in a rather awkward position as he scouts the World Under-18 Championships in Grand Forks, N.D. At times, Luce is a dispassionate scout watching future NHLers, at others he’s just another nervous dad in the stands watching his son.
The world under-18s are going full-bore in North Dakota right now and there is some fantastic talent assembled. Sure, Russia’s under-18s were pulled out because of a drug scandal, but youngsters such as Klim Kostin and Andrei Svechnikov just get to make their impressions a year earlier. And with Jesse Puljujarvi joining Finland, the Americans will have several rivals to fend off if they want to defend their gold medal from last year. We’ve also got CHL playoffs getting serious and a special guest star from the coaching ranks in this week’s prospect round-up.
Welcome to the third installment of my 2016 draft rankings. I will do one more ranking before the actual festivities throw down in Buffalo, but with the CHL playoffs getting serious and the influential world under-18s about to start, this seemed like a good time for a snapshot. Here are a few notes to frame things:
My rankings are based off numerous conversations with NHL team scouts/executives. They’re the only ones with skin in the game, so I value them the most. From those conversations, I’ve been told that this year’s crop is pretty good for about 20-23 picks and then the field is wide open. This is a sneaky way of me telling you the latter half of my first round may turn out to be off when all is said and done.
For now, my rankings are based off “best player available.” This is pertinent because we would assume that Edmonton – guaranteed a top-five pick – will take a defenseman, based on organizational need. But anything can happen on draft day, so let’s just go with BPA for now.
With that being said, here’s my updated top 30:
The three top prospects for this year’s NHL draft all played in Europe this season and they’re all projected to become enormous stars in North American and make millions of dollars over the course of their careers. And if things go as planned, they’ll be a cash cow for their NHL employers, as well.
But what about the teams they’re leaving? In the case of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, the Tappara and Karpat teams in the Finnish League will not only be losing their best players, they’ll also be parting with two young men in whom they’ve invested an huge amount of resources. And once they sign deals with the NHL teams that select them, they’re receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. That’s it. Nothing more. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any more money. And in the case of the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League, they won’t receive a cent.