The Islanders took Josh Bailey 9th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
C+, Calgary Flames – Greg Nemisz is a lot like Joe Colborne in that he has the potential to become a big-time player, but the clock is ticking and he hasn’t shown enough consistency yet. Along with Nemisz, the Flames selected the dynamic Mitch Wahl who can create offense, but at his size (6-foot, 175 pounds) it will be difficult. The other selection I am OK with is T.J. Brodie from Saginaw, but other than that Calgary seemed to favor kids who have underachieved, which is a strange group to offer to the mercurial Mike Keenan.
C, Minnesota Wild – Having had the tremendous honor and pleasure of working for the Wild and Doug Risebrough, and with one of the best scouting staffs in the whole league, this report is going to be very painful for me. But THN tells me I have to be honest, so here it goes. With the exception of the Cuma pick, who’s complete game and big hitting style I loved, the remaining three picks left me underwhelmed. I understand Eero Elo could eventually become an NHLer and Marco Scandella could, too, but I felt with the depth of this draft there were better selections to be made. The Wild seemed to like guys who have a small chance to become a home run and something could be said for that game plan when you only have two picks in the first 114 selections, but the two they took after are long shots to ever play a game in the NHL.
B+, Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche were another team that didn’t have a first rounder, but that didn’t stop them from adding to their prospect pool. Cameron Gaunce was selected higher than most had him pegged to be, but he has tremendous upside even though it may take a few years for him to become an NHL defenseman. After Gaunce, the Avs took Peter Delmas, the goaltender from Lewiston who some people loved (though not particularly NACS) and Kelsey Tessier who fell because of concerns about his size. In the fifth round, they took a flyer on Mark Olver, another smallish kid who is playing at Northern Michigan. He has shown tremendous offensive instincts at times and I applaud the pick because I think he has a chance to become an NHLer. Colorado finished off the proceedings with a few guys with flaws, but they could because of their other picks. On the whole, it was a solid performance by the Avalanche staff.
C, Edmonton Oilers – Anybody who has followed the NACS’ work knows how much we love the Oilers’ drafting philosophy, but that ended this year. With the exception of Jordan Eberle in the first round, we felt they took too many guys who will never play in the NHL. As an example, there was a time when we liked Johan Motin from Sweden, but the more we viewed him, the more we realized he may become the next in a long line of Swedes who will never leave Sweden. He has to pick up his intensity and passion and reminds us of numerous Swedish kids who would like to play in the NHL, but are content to stay home and earn a comfortable living. The late selection we liked was the re-entry pick of Jordan Bendfeld because he brings an element of toughness that was lacking in this year’s crop. He has a chance to become a No. 6 defenseman for the Oil one day.
B+, Vancouver Canucks – With the hiring of Mike Gillis as the new Canucks GM, expect different ideas to come out of the Left Coast. After reviewing their draft, I am pretty happy with how things went for them. In Cody Hodgson, the Canucks likely took their future captain, a player who plays a similar game to the recently retired Trevor Linden. Hodgson possesses tremendous character, skill and smarts, just like their former captain. After Hodgson, they were fortunate Yann Sauve slipped to No. 41. It was only 18 months ago that Sauve was considered a top-10 talent. Though his stock fell, the parts are there for him to eventually become a stud. Another kid we really liked was Mats Froshaug, a Norwegian taking advantage of the Swedish Junior League. He has a chance to one day become an NHLer when he comes to North America.
A+, Islanders – The Isles started strong with the selection of Windsor Spitfires center Josh Bailey in the first round, but slowed a bit with their next two picks, Corey Trivino and Aaron Ness. Trivino and Ness are both highly skilled, but played at sub-par levels this year, coming out of Jr. A and U.S. high school hockey, respectively. Also, the smallish Ness – at 5-foot-10, 157 pounds – may have trouble battling against big NHL forwards. Later in the draft, the Islanders did well with the additions of David Toews (the younger brother of Blackhawks star Jonathan ¬Toews) at No. 66, puck-moving Finnish defenseman Jyri Niemi at No. 72 and top 10 talent Kirill Petrov at No. 73. Petrov may not come to North America for a few years, but his competitive drive will kick in and when that happens, they will have a top six forward. The Isles finished off the draft by getting underrated goaltender Kevin Poulin of the Victoriaville Tigres and Jared Spurgeon, another skilled defender from the Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs.
B+, New Jersey Devils – The Devils started by selecting Swedish flash Mattias Tedenby, who is as quick and offensively gifted as any player in the draft. They then got Brandon Burlon, the future power play quarterback for Red Berenson at the University of Michigan. In the middle rounds, the Devils got the underrated duo of Patrice Cormier and Adam Henrique, who should both have huge years in major junior. New Jersey finished by selecting the monstrous Harry Young, who is big and tough, as well as the dynamic David Wohlberg, who will also play in Ann Arbor next season. Once again, David Conte and his staff showed why they are among the best in the league, year in and year out.
B, Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins only had four selections this year and didn’t have their first until the fourth round. Although they had to wait a while, their first pick, center Nathan Moon of the Kingston Frontenacs, was worth the wait. Moon is extremely talented and has a lot of the same tendencies as a young Brett Hull. Moon can be lazy at times, but he can also find seams in the offensive zone and finish when given the chance. Furthermore, he has a great personality and if he becomes more serious about his game, Moon could turn out to be a good scorer in the NHL. After Moon, the Penguins took two goaltenders, Alexander Pechurski and Patrick Killeen, who both underachieved this year, however they have a ton of upside. Finally, the Pens took a flyer on Jr. A defenseman Nicholas D’Agostino from St. Michael’s. He’s extremely bright and committed to Cornell, but like a lot of young NCAA-bound kids, he may end up in major junior instead.
A, New York Rangers – The Rangers picked a total of seven players and at NACS, there were a few we loved. The selection of Michael Del Zotto was another first round pick the Rangers made that, in a few years, will have people wondering why the kid fell in the draft. At No. 20, the Rangers got a defenseman who has as much offensive skill as any in the draft at his position, including Drew Doughty. Although Del Zotto’s defensive game needs work, it’s not something he can’t learn and improve on. The second round selection of Derek Stepan was interesting because there were a lot of safer picks and in our opinion, more skilled players available. Later, the Rangers took Evgeny Grachev, Tomas Kundratek and Chris Doyle much lower than they should have gone, which bodes well for down the road. New York finished by taking the oft-injured, but a personal favorite, Mitch Gaulton from the Erie Otters. Although Gaulton hasn’t played enough for scouts to get a good evaluation on him, trust me when I say there is a reason he was a top five pick in the OHL. Assuming he can stay healthy, Gaulton may be a pleasant surprise for Gotham City.
C, Philadelphia Flyers – Flyers scout Denis Patterson is one of my favorite guys in the business, but some of their picks left me scratching my head. The exception was Philadelphia’s first pick, Luca Sbisa, who was one of the most improved players in the draft. Along with Sbisa, the Flyers took Marc-Andre Bourdon, who created as much variance in opinion as any player in the draft. Some teams, had him slotted at the top of the second round, while others had him in the sixth or even seventh round. The Quebec League defenseman had nights where he was awesome, but there were also nights when he was downright awful and because of that, his stock dropped. With that said, Bourdon certainly has the skills to become a solid player, but he needs more consistency in his game. After those two defenders, the Flyers took two goalies – both of whom I feel will never make it past the American League – and the smallish, but quick, Zac Rinaldo from St. Mike’s of the Ontario League, who fits the new NHL, but still needs to get stronger to make it.