Admission of truth: This column started out as the definitive I’ll-tell-you-who-is-the-best-now.
Bottom line: It is not.
It was a coin toss in 2010 and it remains a coin toss in 2016.
Taylor or Tyler?
Who would you rather have playing for your team, Taylor Hall, who was chosen first in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, or Tyler Seguin, chosen No. 2 by the Boston Bruins?
The CHL Top Prospects Game and AHL All-Star weekend are both in the rearview mirror for the season, while the Beanpot tournament in Boston is now half-over. Boston College and Boston U. will duel for the city’s trophy, with Northeastern and Harvard in the consolation game. In other development news, the Los Angeles Kings have partnered with the United States League to put on a Pacific Region Showcase at the NHL team’s practice facility in El Segundo. It takes place in late March and will feature players from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 age groups. These are exciting times for the growth of the game. Let’s get caught up in the world of prospects.
The CHL Top Prospects Game runs this Thursday in Vancouver and it will be a strange year for the showdown. To begin with, three of the top four prospects in the NHL draft aren’t even eligible to participate – Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi all play in Europe. On top of that, hometown hero Tyler Benson of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants will miss the contest due to a lingering injury, so his captaincy of Team Cherry has been ceded to top defenseman Jakob Chychrun instead. The other bad news out west is that Red Deer center Conner Bleackley (Colorado) will miss six weeks with a fractured kneecap. The Rebels host the Memorial Cup, so at least his season’s not finished. Let’s get to the rest of the prospect world:
It’s home stretch time in the CHL as trade deadlines have passed and all the newbies are settling in to their new uniforms. In 2016 draft news, the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau released its mid-term rankings and not surprisingly, Auston Matthews topped the European skaters list (because he’s playing in Switzerland). Team USA linemate Matthew Tkachuk of OHL London was tops amongst North American skaters, while Filip Gustavsson (Lulea) and Carter Hart (Everett) lead the goalies. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise right now:
Apparently the hockey gods take notice when you start doing things the right way.
They have certainly been smiling down on the Maple Leafs since Toronto did an about face and started heading in a completely different direction. The right direction.
When Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan fired coaches Randy Carlyle and his interim replacement Peter Horachek and replaced them with Mike Babcock, widely regarded by many to be the best coach in hockey, it was obvious Shanny was serious about shutting down the country club in Toronto and making it a place of hockey business.
To emphasize that point, Shanahan gave Babcock an ironclad eight-year, $50 million contract with more clout than any NHL coach has ever had.
The world juniors in Finland were almost unprecedented in terms of draft influence. Four of the six tournament all-stars (as chosen by the media) were 2016 prospects: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Olli Juolevi and overall MVP Jesse Puljujarvi. The kids aren’t supposed to dominate like that, but here we are. With Alexander Nylander and Matthew Tkachuk also having strong tournaments, the big question around the campfire right now is where to slot defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
The OHL Sarnia star did not make Team Canada, but he’s the only defenseman in the top echelon right now – though Juolevi is seriously threatening that. One exec I spoke with believes Chychrun is in a positional class by himself, while another team scout told me Juolevi is pushing his way into the conversation.
So what happens on draft day? Top D-men are hard to find, but those elite forwards are awfully tempting. Since we’re nowhere near knowing which teams will be selecting early, I’m keeping things conservative, as I generally do. Here’s a look at my current top-30:
I’m back from Finland and things are not slowing down. The home team took gold at the world juniors in one of the best games I’ve ever seen live and the talent overall was incredible in Helsinki. But a whole slew of trades have gone down in the CHL since we last gathered, while the USHL Top Prospects Game runs tonight in Omaha. Names to watch in Nebraska include Cam Morrison (Notre Dame commit), William Knierim (Miami) and Matt Filipe (Northeastern). As for everything else prospect, let’s get to the list.
With Jarome Iginla scoring his 600th goal last night and Shane Doan on something of an offensive tear of late, we thought it would be interesting to reconfigure the 1995 draft, the one in which Iginla was taken 11th overall and Doan seventh.
Here’s how we’d do it all over again knowing what we know today. Hint: The top two picks would have been teammates with the Kamloops Blazers.