HISTORY FAVOURS FORWARDS

Jason Gregor
April 15 2011 05:03PM

Last year the hot topic was Taylor or Tyler, and in the end it didn't become much of a debate amongst the Oiler brass, and after one NHL season it seems clear the Oilers made the right selection calling Hall instead of Seguin. Seguin will still likely turn out to be a very good player, I just don't see him being as dynamic as Hall. This year the debate isn't as much about individual players, but more about their position. Do you take a centre/forward like, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier or Jonathon Huberdeau or do you opt for a defenceman like Adam Larsson.

From where I sit, it seems clear they should take a forward.

If Larsson was a clear cut favourite, and he isn't, then you could make the argument that selecting him is the right decision, but history shows the Oilers would be much better off selecting a forward, and likely a centre, because of the current void of an elite one in the organization.

I've been pumping the likes of Nugent-Hopkins or Landeskog for months over Larsson based solely on their position. History shows that elite D-men get traded more often than elite centres, and even wingers, although we've seen more great wingers moved in the past twenty years than centres, so why not draft a forward and then trade for a D-men when his team inevitably gets impatient with his progress.

To help illustrate the point, here is part of an email I received from Tom when I brought up the subject earlier this week.
 

YEAR             PICK             NAME              When traded/signed      New Team

1991
3
Scott Niedermeyer
13th season
 Anaheim
 
4
Scott Lachance
7th season
Montreal
 
5
Aaron Ward
2nd season
Detroit
1992
1
Roman Hamrlik
6th season
Edmonton
 
3
Mike Rathje
10th season
 Philly
 
5
Darius Kasparaitis
4th season
Pittsburgh
1993
2
Chris Pronger
2nd season
St Louis
1994
1
Ed Jovanovski
5th season
Vancouver
 
2
Oleg Tverdovsky
3rd season
Winnipeg
1995
1
Bryan Berard
1st season
NYI
 
2
Wade Redden
1st season
Ottawa
 
3
Aki Berg
6th season
Toronto
1996
1
Chris Phillips
 N/A
 
 
2
Andrei Zyuzin
3rd season
Tampa
 
5
Ric Jackman
2nd season
Boston
1997
5
Eric Brewer
3rd season
Edmonton
1998
3
Brad Stuart
7th season
Boston
 
4
Bryan Allen
6th season
Florida
 
5
Vitali Vishnevski
6th season
Atlanta
2000
4
Rotislav Klesla
10th season
 Phoenix
2002
3
Jay Bouwmeester
7th season
Calgary
 
4
Joni Pitkannen
3rd season
Edmonton
 
5
Ryan Whitney
5th season
Anaheim
2004
3
Cam Barker
5th season
Minnesota
2005
3
Jack Johnson
1st season
Los Angeles
2006
1
Eric Johnson
4th season
Colorado
2007
4
Thomas Hickey
 yet to play
 
 
5
Karl Alzner
 2nd season
 
2008
2
Drew Doughty
 3rd season
 
 
3
Zach Bogosian
 3rd season
 
 
4
Alex Pietrangelo
 1st season
 
 
5
Luke Schenn
 3rd season
 
2009
2
Victor Hedman
 2nd season
 
2010
3
Eric Gudbransen
 yet to play
 

In the last 20 years, the only true elite D-man chosen in the top five who spent  significant time with the team that drafted him was Scott Niedermayer. Mike Rathje, Chris Phillips and Rotislav Klesla have spent at least ten years with the team that drafted them, but none of them are elite.   

In fairness, in the past four years we've seen the likes of Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, Schenn and Alzner emerge as solid to spectacular d-men, but Bogosian's name has already surfaced in trade rumours and only Doughty has had a true elite level season thus far.

If you look at the top 30-scoring D-men this from this season, only Pietrangelo (20th), Johnson (23rd) and Doughty (24th) were top-five draft picks.

Here are leading defenders from 2010-2011: 

Visnovsky... 4th rounder, 118th overall
Lidstrom..... 3rd rounder, 53rd overall
Yandle........  4th rounder, 105th overall
Byfuglien....  8th rounder, 245th overall
Wisniewski  5th rounder, 156th overall
Enstrom....   8th rounder, 239th overall
Ehrhoff......    4th rounder, 106th overall
Boyle.........    Not drafted
Letang......    3rd rounder, 62nd overall
S. Weber...   2nd rounder, 49th overall
Seabrook...  1st rounder, 14th overall
Rafalski.....    Not drafted
Kaberle.....    8th rounder, 204th overall
Burns........    1st rounder, 20th overall
Goligoski..    2nd rounder, 61st overall
Liles..........    5th rounder, 159th overall
Karlsson...   1st rounder, 15th overall
Keith..........    2nd rounder, 54th overall
Chara........    3rd rounder, 56th overall
Pietrangelo 1st rounder, 4th overall
Shattenkirk. 1st rounder, 14th overall
Giordano..... Not drafted
Johnson..... 1st rounder, 3rd overall
Doughty...... 1st rounder, 2nd overall
Corvo.......... 4th rounder, 83rd overall
Fowler........  1st rounder, 12th overall
Wideman...  8th rounder, 241st overall
Carle..........  2nd rounder, 47th overall
Suter..........  1st rounder, 7th overall
Subban.....  2nd rounder, 43rd overall

Only nine were 1st round picks, and only four of them were top-ten picks. It seems clear that you don't need to draft a D-man in the top-five to improve your chances of getting an elite level defender.

Compare that to the top 30-scoring forwards this season.

Fourteen of them were top-five picks. The Sedins, Stamkos, Ovechkin, Staal, Toews, Marleau, Vanek, Kane, Ryan, Thornton, Tavares, Duchene and Nash.

One was a top-ten pick; Selanne 10th overall.

Nine of them were first rounders beyond the top-ten. Kopitar (11th), Carter (11th),Tanguay (12th), Iginla (12th), Getzlaf (19th), Giroux (22nd), Kesler (23rd), Briere (24th) and Perry (29th).

Two were 2nd rounders, Eriksson (33rd) and Ribeiro (45th), two were 3rd rounders, B. Richards (64th) and Sharp (95th), while Zetterberg was a 7th rounder and St. Louis was never drafted.

STAY AWAY FROM D-MAN WITH FIRST PICK

Larsson might turn out to be the best player in this draft, but the likelihood of him doing it while being an Oiler is minimal. If the Oilers want to continue rebuilding properly they will take a forward, preferably a centre named Nugent-Hopkins, and then try to move up in the draft by dangling a healthy body and the King's pick. If they want to take a D-man, take him with that pick, just don't use the first overall pick on a defenceman. 

Almost half, 46.7%, of the top scorers in the NHL were taken in the first five picks, while only 10% of the top-scoring D-men came from being a top-five pick.

The Oilers clearly have a void at centre and on the blueline, and they can't fill both with one pick, so make the smart pick and take a centre.

FOLLOW THE BABY OILERS

Starting tomorrow at 2 p.m. MDT, you can follow the OKC Barons on the TEAM 1260 Edmonton Sports Radio. The TEAM will broadcast the remaining games of their first round series v. Hamilton. Game three to five go Tues, Wed and Friday at 6:05 p.m. on the TEAM 1260.

 

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Krusher Ken
April 15 2011, 05:06PM
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Let me be the FIST to say that this article NAILED IT. Perfect examples of how DMen can be picked up later, groomed, or traded for vs. a top end forward. Unless Larsson is guaranteed to be an elite DMan, you don't take him.

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#2 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 15 2011, 05:11PM
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Why are married women heavier than single women?

Single women come home, see what's in the fridge, and go to bed. Married women come home, see what's in bed, and go to the fridge.

Great article Jason, have to think Larsson falls to the Devils and they tell him to stay in the SEL for another year.

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#3 Racki
April 15 2011, 05:33PM
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Interesting thoughts. I personally am just on board with what is the Oil drafting mantra: pick the best player available. If it's RNH, pick him, even if he's built like a twig. If it's Larsson, pick him even if D-men aren't normally drafted first. If it's Landeskog, pick him, even though we don't need more wingers. Just grab the guy that the scouts feel has the highest potential in the long run.

I've been on the Larsson bandwagon for almost the whole year, and pretty much now just figure that they should go for whomever has the highest potential. Sounds like that is RNH, actually.

I am hoping that the Oilers take LA's pick and move up, and increase their chances of having a very nice day at the podium.

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#4 They're $hittie
April 15 2011, 05:39PM
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Landeskog - No, good addition at 4th or 5th overall, but lower numbers scare me and the ability to jump next to nhl next year does not make you the right pick. No team bases there chances on a rookie (even crosby or ovechkin) so who cares if he can play next year for you, unless your a good team who some how gets to draft early.

RNH - I get it he has vision and skill and everyone gets on him about his size. The oilers should go in a different direction because the oilers lack size, but not because this player inst going to be good based on his size

Larsson - See above reasons to avoid him at number 1. Though the oilers could really use him

Huberdraeu - He got better as the year went along also, however his stats are highly inflated by the team he plays on

Couterier - Size, skill and a defensive game. Why did he fall off. Because the others got better. Statistically they got better but still are not as good as him. Too bad this is the guy the oilers need.

Strome - A center with sick hands and same as RNH size. I suspect this is the skinner of this group, will unexpectically make the jump to the big team (NJ) and have a great rookie year.

Just my thoughts, but who am I. My ast name isnt Tambellini.

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#5 Bucknuck
April 15 2011, 05:42PM
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nice Article Mr. Gregor. I think you are 100% on the money with this. I think the void on the back end can be filled with trades or free agents. Centres are really hard to get that way, so lets be smart.

Go Stu Go. I hope he thinks the same way you do, Jason.

I personally hope Couturier falls enough that the Oil can trade up and get him. RNH or Landeskog with Number 1, and Couturier with number 8 pick or something like that. What a scoop that would be.

Draft day this year is going to be so interesting.

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#6 loilfan
April 15 2011, 05:42PM
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Interesting article, but an elite defender isn't defined just on offensive production.

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#7 fuck off
April 15 2011, 05:44PM
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Thanks for ruining my "Don't take R-N-H!" slogan Gregor!!

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#9 stevezie
April 15 2011, 05:51PM
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Good article, and I agree that while you can be a very good defenceman without scoring a lot, elite D-men get at least 40 points.

I would be interested in seeing the number of to ten D who bust compared to forwards. A top 5 drafted forward is more likely to have a good ceiling, but who is more likely to have an awful basement?

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#10 offthebandwagon
April 15 2011, 05:53PM
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I'm no mathematician, but these stats seem flawed. If 90% of the players taken in the first round were forwards then it stands to reason that fewer top-flight d-men were drafted in the first round.

That said, I can buy the argument that d-men are more easily aquired through free-agency and trade. Look how many we've seen come and go in edmonton in the last five years...well, two anyways.

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#11 They're $hittie
April 15 2011, 05:57PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Can you name an elite defender in the game who doesn't put up decent points?

dont know if you can call themhim elite, but very good and effective

Robyn Regher or maybe adam foote

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#14 They're $hittie
April 15 2011, 06:08PM
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oh, i thought you meant in General, yes it does support your point

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#15 kgo
April 15 2011, 06:16PM
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@Jason Gregor

Scott Stevens is the only one that comes to mind

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#16 kgo
April 15 2011, 06:18PM
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@kgo

oh elite and top 10 pick.....nm

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#17 They're $hittie
April 15 2011, 06:19PM
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@kgo

Scott stevens had good numbers

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#18 offthebandwagon
April 15 2011, 06:20PM
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@Jason Gregor

I'm not really suggesting the numbers are flawed, just that without comparing the drafted number to the elite number, you can't really apply it to the RNH vs Larson scenario.

If 2 % of first round d-men are elite and 5 % of forwards, then fine.

Like I said, I actually agree, especially that trade and free-agency seem to be more effective for d-men--in these parts at least.

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#19 Sorensenator
April 15 2011, 06:30PM
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Right on Gregor, I imagine this blog was sparked by the email you recieved earlier today on the radio.

The stats don't lie, those are some very revealing numbers.

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#20 buttermilk buscuits
April 15 2011, 06:45PM
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Wonder how Victor Hedman is doing these days..

By the way, I think Petry has a very good chance of being a real big contributor to the Oilers D..that comparison that Lowetide made in one of his articles where he compared Petry to Gilbert I think is a bit off..Gilbert is alright, but I think Petry has the potential to be a more complete package, and seems to play a bit more physical than Gilbert does.. After this years draft (in which Oilers will probably focus ALOT of D after the first round) I see the Oilers having a future D similar to what Pittsburgh has..no Franchise defenceman..just one or two Very Good Defenceman who will probably never win a Norris..and 3-4 very solid NHL Defenceman that can play in any situation..the rest of the spots being given to Plante..Teubert..or one or two grizzled, tough veteran stay at home defenceman..

How about something like..

Whitney-Petry D.Siemens or D. Hamilton or D. Musil and Peckham C.Teubert or A. Plante and K.Lowe 7th D..Possibly that Montgomery kid..or Veteran Dman similar to Jim Vandemeer

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#21 Pronger's Wife
April 15 2011, 06:47PM
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I absolutely agree with Gregor. Consider also the pressure of being a #1 pick defenceman in Edmonton. After two years, he will still be trying to find his stride in the NHL, and RNH et all will be scoring 30 goals a season and everybody will be saying that the Oilers made a mistake with their pick.

The Oilers end up shipping off their young "underachieving" D-man due to widespread fan discontent (see Tom Poti), only to watch him bloom somewhere's else.

Just pick the forward to begin with and hope that Larsen does a "Cam Fowler", and the Oil can pick him up a little later with a move up using the LA pick. It's a possible scenario.

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#22 Jimmer
April 15 2011, 07:00PM
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@ Gregor

After the draft do you think we have a better chance getting a top 4 d-man or a top 6 forward before the season starts (either through free agency or by trade)?

I ask this because I think that will determine who we draft.

If the planets were to align we would draft RNH then go after Shea Weber with an RFA sheet and sign him for no more than a 7.5 million cap hit over 8 years.

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#23 Wax Man Riley
April 15 2011, 07:00PM
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@They're $hittie

Just my thoughts, but who am I. My last name isnt Tambellini.

Is it Sutter?

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#24 Bucknuck
April 15 2011, 07:09PM
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The idea of doing and RFA sheet on Weber isn't going to fly. The money he needs would require five first round draft picks. That would be terrible. Better to make a trade with Nashville for his rights and go from there. Gagner OR Hemsky and next years first rounder would probably entice. Especially when you see our track record, Nashville might gamble in that they are going to get a lottery pick next year.

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#25 Harry
April 15 2011, 07:28PM
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Wasn't this the same sort of reasoning last year for taking Seguin? The idea that all else being equal, take the centre. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and it's short-sighted to completely wright off an entire position while assuming the players are equal.

To me, Larsson just looks like a better player than RNH (in the admittedly limited amount I've seen him) and I'd rather they take the best guy, regardless of position.

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#26 They're $hittie
April 15 2011, 07:36PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:
Just my thoughts, but who am I. My last name isnt Tambellini.

Is it Sutter?

I couldn't handle being that ugly

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#27 Archaeologuy
April 15 2011, 08:00PM
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This article echoes my thoughts on the subject completely. We have two other picks in the top 31, no reason why the Oil still couldn't draft some decent defensive prospects this June.

I'm also with Bucknuck, no offer sheets for Weber. The Oilers have been too bad for too long to have confidence that their 1st rounders won't be lotto picks, even with the addition of Weber to the club. I'd even take it further and say that all my 1st rounders for the next 2 years (after this year) are completely off limits.

I'm committed to rebuilding through the draft, and that means not wasting lotto choices on defensemen who aren't heads and tails better than the forwards and not moving early picks for immediate returns.

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#28 Captain Obvious
April 15 2011, 08:08PM
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What Gregor has said here cannot be denied. Moreover there is no tension between this and the notion of drafting the best player available.

Drafting Larsson would be a monumental mistake.

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#29 Ender
April 15 2011, 08:16PM
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I was already leaning this way when Gregor posted a similar article on this topic last year. If the new spin he's taken on it here doesn't cement the idea in your mind, then the problem is that you've got too many rocks in there already.

Nice follow-up, Gregor.

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#30 k
April 15 2011, 08:20PM
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please please please not RNH!!!

anyone else in the top 8 not him

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#31 Tyler
April 15 2011, 08:34PM
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Here, EFFing Here.

I've been saying it for awhile, great D men get traded and can come from nowhere. Elite level forwards rarely move and are more reliable in their returns. Great to see some solid numbers to back that up. Personally I think we've got some solid D if you look at a Whitney, Petry, Gilbert and TBA. No game breakers, but since when does the best D corp in the league win cups? Calgary probably had the deepest D in the league for years and didn't do a whole lot. Our bottom rounds out decently enough, but i've always said, you can win championships with D by committee. Think back to the Canes scab crew that beat us in 06. We need a tough, reliable number 4 D and for injuries not to EFF us in the face. The Sweedish D is not the answer. Our biggest need is the go to center. RNH or SC all the way.

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#32 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 15 2011, 08:43PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

The idea of doing and RFA sheet on Weber isn't going to fly. The money he needs would require five first round draft picks. That would be terrible. Better to make a trade with Nashville for his rights and go from there. Gagner OR Hemsky and next years first rounder would probably entice. Especially when you see our track record, Nashville might gamble in that they are going to get a lottery pick next year.

Rates have risen my friend, come this summer you'll be able to get a guy at close to an 8 million cap hit for 2x1st + 2nd + 3rd.

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#33 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 15 2011, 08:45PM
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Yes!

I hope Oiler managment is aware of this.

If MBS is certain that Larsson is by far and away the BPA then fine, otherwise I sure hope we go with a forward.

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#34 Oilcruzer
April 15 2011, 08:48PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Can you name an elite defender in the game who doesn't put up decent points?

Chris Phillips. Far from a number one.

But... I and many others totally agree. Stay away from the Victor Hedman hype.

Good job picking up OKC feed. I woulda paid $5 on a ppv if it were on.

Why is Kaberle on that list but not Whitney?

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#35 Crash
April 15 2011, 08:50PM
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Agree 1000%, Do not take a d-man with the 1st overall pick...go dynamic, go gritty, go whatever, just don't take a defenseman.

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#36 buttermilk buscuits
April 15 2011, 09:01PM
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Love the Connection Landeskog has with Paajarvi (off season training together), or the stuff Hall said about Landeskog.. I am completely favouring Landeskog, trade with the Avs, get a second 2nd rounder..Draft Landeskog..hes the type of player that can play all three forward positions..hes got passion, size, a good shot, two way, his numbers arent bad,, if he had played a full season he wouldve easily exceeded 90 points..

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#37 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 15 2011, 09:05PM
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Have to think Weber signs a 1yr extension with the Preds. Our best bet may be to sit tight and see if the Oilers get a shot at him July 1st 2012 and not have to give up anything. I don't think he's looking to go to the highest bidder, he's just looking for decent money on a decent team.

If the Oilers were a little more competitive they might have a shot at him with the cap space they have. I don't see him coming to what most likely is a lottery team again.

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#38 Dangerous Neil
April 15 2011, 10:15PM
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I did the same research as you Gregor about a week ago and came to the same conclusion. Defensemen take much longer to develop than forwards do. As such a player that seems top notch as an 18 year old, might not turn out to be such an impact player once he is in his prime. If you look at the best defensemen in the league (Lidstrom, Keith, Weber, Chara) none of them appeared to be Norris trophy material as 18 year olds. Although the 2008 draft almost blows this theory out of the water, it hold true most other years. Go back to 2002 when Bouwmeester was most peoples consensus number 1. Doug Maclean made the one smart move of his career and traded up to get Rick Nash. Bouwmeester is a fantastic player to this day, but not the Norris trophy candidate many thought him to be as an 18 year old. On the flip side I am sure it would be tough to find someone who wouldn't prefer to have Rick Nash and his 70 points a season on their team. My final take is pick forwards early, and let Stu magnificent bastard find some hidden defensive gems in the second and third round.

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#39 andrewmk20
April 15 2011, 10:58PM
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I wouldn't base my decision upon history so much as what scouts seem to be saying about both. Larsson is considered the best player in the 2011 draft today but many have him as a solid top pairing defender as his potential ceiling. So that's if everything goes right in his career whereas Nugent Hopkins has the ability to be a top line center and scouts feel he has the highest ceiling of all the 2011 prospects as many people have compared his skills to Sakic and his athletic ability to P.Kane. Let's face it the Oilers problems aren't going to be fixed overnight so they have the time to allow a player like Nugent Hopkins to develop. They have another first round pick to find a defender who could have the same ceiling as an Adam Larsson as there are some decent defenders who could fill roles such as Oleksiak who is supposed to move very well for a big man and David Musil who could fall to the second round.

On a side note I saw a lot of posts saying we should go after Boyd Gordon and I agree. I think Tambellini shouldn't stop there though and inquire about Dennis Wideman as the Capitals need to clear some cap space to sign some important pieces like Alzner, Laich, and based upon his performance Arnott. Wideman would help round out the defence and bring some mobility to a defence that is a little on the slow side with Foster and Peckham on the back end.

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#40 tom
April 15 2011, 11:13PM
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Did you seriously say Scott Neidermayer isn't an elite d-man?

Does Cris Pronger, an elite d-man, put up big points?

SMH

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#41 JaroslavPouzar
April 16 2011, 12:50AM
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RNH or Landeskog... BUT, if Landeskog is the man... Hall better turn intyo a dominant center. Anyone who is dead set against drfting RNH has never seen the kid play live more than once. Het over the size thing... weight can be added. The ability to make everyone around him better cannot.

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#42 Peterborough
April 16 2011, 01:19AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Rates have risen my friend, come this summer you'll be able to get a guy at close to an 8 million cap hit for 2x1st + 2nd + 3rd.

Still too much look at Toronto.

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#43 Peterborough
April 16 2011, 01:36AM
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I have a problem with trending back that far as the game has changed so much, so has how young players prepare, and also the way we scout and evaluate tallent is differnet.

Take the last 5 years:

2005 3 Jack Johnson 1st season Los Angeles 2006 1 Eric Johnson 4th season Colorado 2007 4 Thomas Hickey yet to play 5 Karl Alzner 2nd season 2008 2 Drew Doughty 3rd season 3 Zach Bogosian 3rd season 4 Alex Pietrangelo 1st season 5 Luke Schenn 3rd season 2009 2 Victor Hedman 2nd season 2010 3 Eric Gudbransen

Other than Hickey I wouldn'd call it a failure if we drafted any of these guys. Yes its way early to tell for sure but I'm close sold on most of these guys. Why people are down on Hedman is weird to me dude is 20 and lead a 100 point club in TOI. What him in the playoffs he looks pretty good. Jack and Drew are the best D-men on a deep LA team.

None of these guys are close to their prime.

Note to Stu: Do what you feel is best. I trust you.

Doesn't everybody else?

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#44 Coco Crisp
April 16 2011, 02:35AM
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How about this...

We sign Jussi Markkanen and the rest, as they say, is history

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#45 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 16 2011, 03:12AM
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Peterborough wrote:

Still too much look at Toronto.

Weak

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#46 a lg dubl dubl
April 16 2011, 05:37AM
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Just read that ST says the 1st pick could be moved for the right price....LET THE SPECULATING BEGIN!!! LOL

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#47 k
April 16 2011, 07:24AM
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@JaroslavPouzar

its not the size thing, its his EV PPG. 3 other centers in this draft had better seasons and better results at even strength. elite talents dont only score on the powerplay. this website always talks about the importance of even strength play. but with RNH everyone gets silly. why? seen him good? the results aren't there.

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#48 rickithebear
April 16 2011, 08:29AM
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@Sorensenator

Just like RNH points from goals ration is one of the worst in the last 20 years for 1st rounders. . The guys who have that ratio. Daigle, Bonsignore, Kelly, Stefan, Niinimaki. Worse mostly on PP.

Jason If you don't draft A Dman. I say go one step further. Don't draft a Daigle (RNH) draft a Hall Type (hubredeau)

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