The color and depth of this year’s entry draft is becoming clear. Any number of us could jot down the top 10 and be reasonably close to correct on draft day, with only the Memorial Cup and the combine (plus interviews) as a major event on the draft calendar. How far can we reasonably project this year’s draft?
I think we’re at a point where most of the top 30 selections (certainly the Bob McKenzie list) is known to us. I think one of the strongest arguments in favor of RNH is that he received 6 of 10 first place votes in the McKenzie survey. That’s a strong indicator that NHL scouts see something special in the skinny kid who plays for the Rebels.
One way I think we can help suss out this draft is to place these players into categories. Player-types at the top of the draft are varied, even as the actual distance between these kids is very small. I’m not suggesting a draft for need list, but rather a draft for value list.
How valuable is a true blue #1 C with size, determination and skill? Pretty freaking valuable. What about a shutdown defender with some offense? Worthy talent, they sure don’t grow on trees. What about an absolute piss-cutter offensive forward? Please. Any fool can see they’re extremely valuable.
Let’s place these kids in a cluster.
THIS IS WAR
- Complete skill set (including offense and some defensive ability): Defined as players who possess a wide range of skills, along with at least one or two tools that are elite or very close to elite along with an idea about how to play away from the puck. Sean Couturier (size, hands, two-way ability including faceoffs), Gabriel Landeskog (PF with skills and discipline) and Adam Larsson (smooth skater, excellent head-man pass, impressive defensively even as a teenager).
- One dimension players with elite skills: Defined as a player without the wide-range of abilities above, but possessing one or more tools in the toolbox that makes them a worthy candidate for the lottery. I count Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (passing, hands, quickness), Ryan Strome (excellent skater, outstanding skills, motor that won’t quit), Ryan Murphy (stunning offensive talent from the back end), Jonathan Huberdeau (ridiculous skills, size could eventually be a strength) and Sven Bartschi (great skater and shot, undersized and raw).
- Wide range of skills, no elite skill. There are players in every draft who show well across the board but don’t have anything in their arsenal that makes them head and shoulders better than their draft group. Dougie Hamilton (size, good speed and skill) would fit into that range just outside the top level players in this draft year. Hamilton (along with Landeskog) may be a plug and play type in that he’ll go to training camp and win a job outright. There doesn’t seem to be a lot holding him back.
A quick note: When I say "one dimensional" that doesn’t mean the players in that group should be excluded from consideration for number one overall. WAYNE GRETZKY could have been described as one-dimensional as an OHA kid but that dimension was so incredible it would have been folly to pass over him in his draft year (Wayne Gretkzy was never drafted).
I posted my top 10 picks recently (here) and will update it this afternoon on Nation Radio.
We’re back at noon today on Team 1260 for Nation Radio. The feedback we’re getting has been very positive and I’m hopeful we can make the show a year-round item. Your support is vital, you can offer your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise to read as many emails as possible. Scheduled guests:
- James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail. We’ll talk NHL playoffs, the draft, Craig MacTavish as a television personality and possibly coach and anything you’d like to ask him.
- Derek Zona from the Copper and Blue is doing strong work on scoring chances and the draft. I’ll talk to him about that and a few other things.
- Norm Lacombe is a former Edmonton Oiler and a first round draft pick in 1983. We’ll delve into the past a little and then find out what he’s up to these days.
- Cam Moon has had a chance to see Ryan-Nugent Hopkins plenty during his WHL career, we’ll ask him about the top rated junior and ask him some questions about all of those WHL kids the Oilers have drafted in recent years.
- Jim Byers from the OKC Barons will drop by and we’ll do a year in review on the first year in Oklahoma for the Oilers’ farm team.
Noon to 2, hope you can tune in.