Savvy draft picks
Magnus Hellberg was picked early in the second round by the Nashville Predators. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Savvy draft picks
All the picks have been made and all the draft tourists are back from Minnesota. Once again there were some surprises mixed in with the sure things, but the cream rose to the top and each franchise will tell you they can’t believe so-and-so was still there when they picked him. Here’s a look at the selections I found to be amongst the most savvy.
Magnus Hellberg, G - Almtuna (Swe.)
Nashville lost its first pick in the Mike Fisher trade, but made a statement in the second round, breaking the ice on goaltenders with the 6-foot-5 Hellberg. The big netminder for Almtuna of Sweden’s second division is following in the footsteps of current Preds goalie Anders Lindback, who also played for that squad before moving up the ladder to Timra. Hellberg will join the Elite League’s Frolunda Indians next season and is happy to be a Predator.
“They play the style I like to play,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. I didn’t think I would be the first goalie picked.”
Nashville has made a habit of developing tall European netminders and Hellberg had already met Lindback last summer. Preds GM David Poile liked the fact Hellberg has so much in common with Lindback and to hear the newest Predator tell it, he’s a Nashville guy through and through.
“I like to think I’m a big butterfly goalie who tries to take advantage of my size,” Hellberg said.
The youngster blew away the Allsvenskan competition this year with a 2.04 goals-against average in 31 appearances. And while Pekka Rinne is the starter and Lindback the spare, the 2011 pickup isn’t worried about where he fits into the picture.
“My focus is on Frolunda next season,” Hellberg said. Drafted 38th overall by Nashville in 2011.
Tyler Biggs, RW - U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Fearing he might miss out on the best truculent (his word) player in the draft, Leafs GM Brian Burke traded up to grab Biggs, who played midget hockey in Toronto. Otherwise from Cincinnati, Biggs is strong, mean and talented. His commitment to a great Miami University program will only further his power forward game. Drafted 22nd overall by Toronto in 2011.
Oscar Klefbom, D - Farjestad (Swe.)
Big, talented and mobile, the 6-foot-4 Klefbom helped round out Edmonton’s first round after the Oilers selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall. Klefbom’s leadership and character are both high and when he eventually joins the Oilers, he’ll have something many of his teammates will not - a pro league championship title, thanks to Farjestad’s victory this year. Drafted 19th overall by Edmonton in 2011.
Mario Lucia, LW - Wayzata Trojans (Minn. HS)
The Wild have not had much success with local products, so the pressure is on Lucia. Fortunately, the lanky left winger has a mature game and a lot of offensive skill. He’s probably avoiding a lot of grief by not committing to the University of Minnesota, where his father Don is coach and the spotlight would be glaring. Drafted 60th overall by Minnesota in 2011.
Scott Harrington, D - London Knights (OHL)
His stock dropped this year when he didn’t put up the kind of offense he did in midget, but Harrington has brought a different type of game to the next level. He’s now more of a minute-munching shutdown guy and that’s a pretty good resume for a kid who can also skate well. The Knights will be better next year, which will help his development. Drafted 54th overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.
Mika Zibanejad, C - Djurgarden (Swe.)
Not sure the Senators have ever had a player like ‘Z-Bad.’ The burgeoning power forward who loves Alex Ovechkin’s style can put up points and put players over the boards. With Sean Couturier still on the draft board, GM Bryan Murray instead went with a player whose stock has been soaring. Drafted sixth overall by Ottawa in 2011.
T.J. Tynan, C - Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)
Unspoken for last year, the undersized Tynan took matters into his own hands and blasted the college circuit for 23 goals and 54 points in 44 games, earning him national rookie of the year accolades and a score of awards from the Fighting Irish. The Blue Jackets grabbed him with a pick acquired for Nikita Filatov, hopefully taking some of the sting out of that flop. Drafted 66th overall by Columbus in 2011.
Jonathan Racine, D - Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
The Panthers have piled up a lot of skill in the past two drafts, but Racine will bring the pain. The tough defenseman will drop the gloves and throw the big hit when necessary, something he’ll do next year as a member of the Memorial Cup hosts. Drafted 87th overall by Florida in 2011.
Kale Kessy, LW - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Another tough customer, Kessy was part of the crew that rudely bounced Nugent-Hopkins and Red Deer from the Western League playoffs this year. Scouts would like to see the bruising left winger straighten his stride out, but once he does Kessy will become a dangerous physical threat on the ice. Drafted 111th overall by Phoenix in 2011.
Tony Cameranesi, C - Wayzata Trojans (Minn. HS)
How’s this for a draft day tale: Cameranesi was no sure thing to be picked, so he went jogging on the second day of action. When he got home his mom told him he was drafted, so he hopped in his car and drove down to the Xcel Energy Center. Speedy and skilled, Cameranesi will hone his game at Minnesota-Duluth next year. Drafted 130th overall by Toronto in 2011.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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