NHL DRAFT TALK WITH KYLE WOODLIEF

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Kyle Woodlief is the chief scout and publisher of the Red Line Report. He is a former NHL scout and has been involved in the draft for years. The Red Line Report has been a very good source for the draft in the past, and I caught up with Woodlief to get his thoughts on the Memorial Cup, the Edmonton Oil Kings and the top centres in this year’s draft class; Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl.

My thoughts are in italics.

Gregor: Does the Memorial Cup impact the rankings very much?

Woodlief: Slightly, not that much. Guys like Robbie Fabbri, Dysin Mayo and Aaron Irving, there were a few prospects like every year, but I don’t think Fabbri moves more than a spot from where he had been on our list, Mayo may move up a couple of spots and Irving might move down a few spots.

Gregor: Looking at Mayo and Irving, who do you have ranked higher and why?

Woodlief: We have Irving higher. After the first half of the season he had, right into January, was in our first round. The typical scenario for first year players in the WHL is they take a few months to get comfortable. He was the opposite. He came in and played well offensively in the first four months, but then it seemed like the coaching staff started sheltering his offensive minutes down the stretch, and he didn’t produce much offensively, where as Mayo came on down the stretch. Irving was a ways ahead of him at the top of the stretch in February and March, and Mayo did close the gap, but long-term I think Irving still has more upside to his game.

Gregor: What do you like about Irving’s game more than Mayo?

Woodlief: Irving is more physically active in his own end and he’s a really good two-way defender. He can be part of a shut down pairing. Mayo, at this point, is more of a puck moving, finesse defender.

***Mayo was a top-four D-man for the Oil Kings throughout the playoffs, while Irving was in the 3rd pairing and didn’t play nearly as much. Steve Hamilton didn’t shelter Irving offensively as much as it was a case of Mayo playing better in the second half. They are different types of players, and while Irving is heavier and more aggressive, Mayo is a good skater and he thinks the game very well. It will be interesting to see which one becomes a better NHLer. I’m not as sure as Woodlief that it will be Irving.**

Gregor: Edgars Kulda was passed over last year but is ranked this year. When you are ranking players, how much does that extra year impact them?

Woodlief: Every year it seems we have more and more second and third year draft eligible players. In this particular draft year, because it is a weak year, I’m seeing on our list about 15-20% higher second and third year eligibles than there normally would be. We rank about 350 players during the course of the season and generally speaking you have about 30-35 players who are older, but this year there is about 50 of those types of players because it is a weaker draft year. You are looking for talent anywhere you can find it and guys like Kulda pop up.

The same thing happened to Kulda last year. He had a strong playoff for Edmonton, and we put him on our rankings late. I don’t think we had him on our rankings all year, and then finally in April we put him on. He had a good regular season, but he came up really big in the playoffs. I’d be very surprised if he goes undrafted this year.

***He was ranked as a 4th or 5th rounder before the Memorial Cup. He might sneak into the 3rd round, but usually there isn’t much of a difference between a 3rd rounder and a 4th or 5th. A lot of it will depend on how the player matures and what opportunity he is given within his NHL organization.***

Gregor: A player could have a great month or six weeks in the playoffs. Does that impact the rankings because many people value the playoffs more than the regular season?

Woodlief: You try not to get sucked in. The bottom line is it is a long grind in an NHL season, it is 80 games plus playoffs, so you want guys who can do it consistently over the course of a long season. Players in junior who aren’t getting in done in the regular season,but rev it up for a couple of weeks at playoff time…It is good, it will get them on the list, and in some cases move players value up the board, but, again, you are still looking for that player who has done it over the long haul.

TOP END CENTRES…

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Gregor: Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl and Nylander are the best centres in the draft in most people’s rankings. Where do you rank them from first to fourth and is there a significant drop at any point?

Woodlief: The top four grouping is Bennett, Ekblad, Reinhart and Draisaitl. Those are the top four on the board and it wouldn’t surprise us if they went in any order. I tend to think that the top two players off the board will be Bennett and Ekblad, in which ever order you care to mention. I think just because of the fact that Edmonton has drafted a lot of really good players, but similar style players, who are all kind of like  Reinhart in some respect, I think if Edmonton sat still at number three and were looking for a player to take they’d be a little bit better off taking a big centre who could give you some size and strength down the middle in Draisaitl.

**Interesting that he didn’t mention Nylander. I’ve read some reports that Florida really likes him, but I’d be shocked if they took him 1st overall. Maybe they trade down knowing they could get him later, but part of me feels the Nylander talk is a bit of a smokescreen.**

Gregor: If the rankings were out of 100, how close are Bennett, Reinhart and Draisaitl?

Woodlief: There is not a big gap at all. We have Bennett at #1 at Redline Report, because we’ve been really impressed with his heart and desire and that’s put him over the top in our mind, but there is not a lot of a drop off from him to Reinhart and Draisaitl.

Gregor: I asked about the gap because you don’t take size if the smaller player is clearly better. Are you suggesting the gap between the players is so small that in this case size would be the better option for Edmonton?

Woodlief: That would be take on the situation. They could use a big, strong centre down the middle more than they can use another player similar to what they have. I honestly think Reinhart projects better on the wing in the pros. I think he is more of a goal scorer than a play maker. He does both, don’t get me wrong, but I think you can put him on the wing in the NHL with a good centre who can get him the puck he will fill up the net.

***As you know I completely agree with Woodlief. The Oilers don’t need more of the same. They have an abundance of small, skilled players, so if it comes down to Reinhart and Draisaitl I take Draisaitl all day. The interesting decision would be if Ekblad and Draisaitl are both available at #3. If Ekblad becomes this year’s Seth Jones and drops a few spots, I’d lean towards taking him over Draisaitl, but it would still be a tough decision. You need skilled size down the middle to win, especially in the western conference, but it would be hard to pass on Ekblad.**

Gregor: Which player do you think will go higher at the draft than people expect?

Woodlief: The one guy we really like at Redline Report over the course of the second half of the year is down in Calgary, big defenceman named Travis Sanheim. In the first half of the season in October to December you wouldn’t have even noticed him, but all of a sudden in January he started taking off and he has just gotten better and better.

**Sanheim is 6′ 3″ and 195 pounds. He has been ranked as a late first rounder thus far, but with very few elite D-men in this year’s class, a team between 15-25 might grab him if they need defensive depth.**

WRAP UP

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The good news for Oilers fans is that the Oilers biggest organizational needs are available with the 3rd pick. This team needs a right shot D-man and help at centre. In 2012, I wrote that I would have taken Alex Galchenyuk, because this team needed a big centre, and two years later I feel the same way. I’d pick Draisaitl, because I don’t see Ekblad dropping to #3, but if he does then the Oilers could get a franchise right-shot D-man.

The Oilers should walk out of Philadelphia with either a big, skilled centre or an elite defender.

LAST CHANCE…

For the fourth consecutive year we are doing our Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity. On June 7th I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.

How it works is you make a $100 donation and you get 1 entry. If you make a $200 donation you get two entries.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $10,000 for MS.  The draw is Tuesday, June 3rd, and we only have 20 entries left.

This year’s winner will get the following: The final package will be value at over $5,000.00

  1. A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
  3. A signed, game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
  4. 20 tickets to the Oil Kings opening night game and banner raising night. Also, you will get an Oil King of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. ( Between November 1st and December 15th.)
  5. A pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets.
  6. Two VIP floor seats to MFC 41 on October 3rd. That includes dinner before the fights, and you will also get to watch the prelims at ringside with the MFC broadcast team.
  7. The Nation’s own Jason Strudwick and one of his former NHL friends will play a game with your Men’s League team next season. Struds will bring the beer, a few good stories and some shootout moves.
  8. Four infield passes to the Canadian Derby on Saturday August 16th.
  9. Pizza for a year (1 pizza a week) from Papa Johns Pizza. When you want to watch the big games Papa Johns will ensure you have great pizza.

**Edit…THANK YOU. We sold out yesterday, it took less than a week. Awesome.***

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Arius Mumin

    I’m not opposed to drafting Draisaitl in the slightest, having size is obviously very important especially with the Division that we’re in. However, if Sam Bennett were available it would be extremely tough to pass up on that guy with the style of play he brings.

    End of the day I think the Oilers can’t make a wrong choice Ekblad, Draisaitl, Bennett are all good picks and I’d be happy to have any of them in Oilers silks.

    • Jason Gregor

      You don’t draft a player just so another team can’t have him. You draft a player that you like the best. The Oilers shouldn’t care about the Flames.

      Draisaitl is 18, his defensive game isn’t great, but he, like most skilled players, will improve as he goes. Is Reinhart’s defensive game that much better? Nope.

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        For what it’s worth Reinhart took virtually every important d-zone faceoff, and killed penalties…..hardly what I’d consider a weak defensive player. I find it amusing that everyone wants to hope that the big guys can turn into Eric Lindros……they almost never do. Why not take the best HOCKEY player?! Perhaps the WHL Player of the Year…….

        • Jason Gregor

          I watched Reinhart all season. His defensive game is not his strong suit. Which is fine, but he is also less intense than Nugent-Hopkins.

          Yesterday David Burstyn from McKeen’s Hockey said,

          “The one knock on Reinhart is that he losses his intensity in one-on-one battles. Draisaitl has better defensive structure.”

          I never said Reinhart wasn’t good, but he too has weaknesses in his game, and he also is never going to bring skilled size to the NHL. The Oilers won’t win with all the same types of players. They have tried for the past few years and have had little success.

    • Sorensenator

      Calgary is going to get one of the top four no matter how you splice it. Frankly I don’t care, the more 18 year olds they have on their team the better…Taylor Hall will be 23.

      • Tikkanese

        I, possibly strangely, want the Flames to get better as well. Don’t get me wrong, I hate them with all my being. I have a hard time cheering for Flames and ex-Flames even on Team Canada.

        I just miss the actual Battle of Alberta. The BoA since the mid-90’s has been a BoA in name only.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    If Draisaiti and Ekblad are gone I would be looking to trade the pick,let the other teams know the best offer for a centre or d-man can have the pick.

  • Arius Mumin

    Man would it ever be nice to somehow snag the 1st pick without giving up the 3rd overall. Free agency isn’t going to help because elite players wont come here on reasonable contracts. Take Ekblad and Draisaitl.

    I would totally run with D pairings of Petry-Marincin, Nurse-Ekblad, Schultz-Ference/Klefbom

    Not other options seem to make much sense. If signing more Belov’s and Grebekshov’s is really the only options just run with the young kids. They may surprise you.

  • The man also states the top 4 could go in almost any order. So if both Eckbald and Draisaitl are both alvailable, who’s the guy? The Oil D has been a mess for a hockey generation but they seem now seem to have 3 promising LHS defencemen (Marincin, Klefblom, Nurse).

    • Jason Gregor

      It would be tough, but I’d still lean towards Draisaitl. I love his high end skill and size. Bennett is competitve and better two-way than Draisaitl, but he has narrow shoulders so it is unlikely he will get to 200 pounds. I think in the West you need one of your top-two centres to be skilled and at least 205-210 pounds.

        • Jason Gregor

          Kings have Kopitar (224) Carter (212), Hawks have Toews (208) Handzus (215), Ducks have Getzlaf (221), Sharks have Thornton (220), Minnesota has Koivu (222), Blues have Backes (221) and Colorado has Stastny (205).

          That is 7 out 8 west playoff teams, which if you add up is more than half of the West. Dallas was only team without one and they finished 8th and didn’t win a round.

          It is okay to accept the truth that the Oilers aren’t big enough up the middle. In the West you need skilled size to compete.

          • oilabroad

            I have to disagree with this, Edmonton needs to become more difficult to play against, not just add bigger pylons… Big soft Euro who doesn’t play a 2 way game doesn’t solve a lot of this teams problems

          • Zarny

            What an absolutely ridiculous comment.

            There is nothing pylon-ish about Kopitar, Carter, Toews, Handzus, Getzlaf, Thornton, Backes, Stastny etc.

            Absolutely nothing.

            Mr. Gregor is talking about adding a big, skilled C that is the NHL equivalent of Shaquille O’Neal and you drivel about Bill Wellington.

          • Jason Gregor

            Is Anze Kopitar hard to play against? Is Marian Hossa? Malkin?

            The suggestion that Draisaitl is soft is *&*(&+_ ridiculous. Show me one credible source who has said that? Show me an article where a scout or “draft analysis” has said or written those words.

            The only people who suggest that are rednecks who assume all Canadians are tough, and all Euros are soft.

            Draisaitl protects the puck very well. It is hard to play against skilled players, who have size and can protect that puck. If you think the Oilers need more guys to crash and bang, then you aren’t watching. They need players who can score.

            The Oilers had the 5th fewest goals in the NHL. They aren’t nearly as skilled as they are many fans suggest.

          • Jason Gregor

            Lars Eller, who is 215 pounds and plays centre, isn’t on Montreal’s top two lines and leading their forwards in playoff scoring?

            And FYI…Montreal is in the east. West plays different style, and is much bigger. Which is why my original point said in THE WEST.

          • Jason Gregor

            Detroit has two potential Hall of Fame centres. You think the Oilers will automatically have that with two smaller centres. Wishful thinking.

            Oilers play in the west. Doesn’t matter what wins in the East. The Oilers have to get out of the Pacific division to have any hope of going anywhere. Big difference.

          • Zarny

            And both NYR and Mtl will likely get pulverized against LA or Chi.

            It’s been 5 years since Detroit really competed in the West; and when they did they had guys like Franzen doing work. Zetterberg was also a horse on the puck, Datsyuk a perennial Selke nominee and they had a 7 time Norris winner on the blueline with Lidstrom.

          • Gregor set out some very specific criteria that must be met to contend. You don’t get to defend it by saying “Detroit was good for other reasons”, because that is exactly my point.

            I agree that the winner of the west likely wins the cup because they are better teams. I don’t claim size isn’t a factor. I’m claiming that having at least one top 2 center weighing a minimum amount is not a requirement.

          • The proper question is, “how is having a terrible team working out for the Oilers?”

            Unless you honestly believe giving Sam Gagner 2 inches and 10 pounds would have saved the season.

            how has 2 small centers worked out for Detroit for the last decade?

          • Jason Gregor

            They are terrible because they have no skilled size. Every good team has big, strong forwards who can score and are hard to defend. Most have it down the middle. If Gagner was bigger and stronger he’d be harder to knock off the puck, and he likely could defend better.

          • Jason Gregor

            Detroit also had big wingers beside those centres…Shanahan, Franzen, Holmstrom….they also had some guy name Lidstrom on the blueline.

            The entire west has big centres now, and Detroit hasn’t got out of the 2nd round since 2009. They haven’t been winning with smaller centres the past few years since teams got bigger down the middle.

            You need some size in your top six. There is absolutely no debating this. Every team has it. The Oilers have no wingers with size, yet you still think skilled size isn’t necessary. It’s like you are on their management team or something. Keep believing they can win with small, skilled forwards who also aren’t aggressive. Never gonna happen.

          • Detroit also had big wingers beside those centres…Shanahan, Franzen, Holmstrom….they also had some guy name Lidstrom on the blueline.

            Short version – they had a good team. You can’t say something as specific as “one of your top 2 centers must weight minimum of 205” and then explainan exception with “they had other things going for them” because that is an admission that your original statement is fallacious.

            The entire west has big centres now, and Detroit hasn’t got out of the 2nd round since 2009. They haven’t been winning with smaller centres the past few years since teams got bigger down the middle.

            Are you claiming that Detroit hasn’t been as good because Datsyuk and Zetterberg are too small?

            Keep believing they can win with small, skilled forwards who also aren’t aggressive. Never gonna happen.

            Who has ever EVER claimed the bolded line above? Why do you insist on adding nonsense while restating my position? It’s juvenile at best.

            NOBODY has ever said lets get a bunch of small guys. The issue is one of focus. I want to focus on good, you want to focus on big.

            It is easier for a big player to be good than a small one, so focusing on good will lead to having size on your team organically. Focusing on big leads to JF Jacques on your first line.

            I’m not objecting to size, I’m objecting to adding inferior players because of their weight, and I’m objecting to strangely specific team building requirements like an insistence that one of your top 2 centers weigh a minimum of 205 when YOU YOURSELF ADMIT THAT IT ISN’T NECESSARY OF THE REST OF THE TEAM IS GOOD.

            Everyone points to Getzlaf and Kopitar as if those are players that grow on trees. If Bennett is a better player he should be selected (I have no idea who is better) because takingsomeone else who is not as good and does not skate as well because he is heavier is bad bad bad management.

          • Jason Gregor

            “NOBODY has ever said lets get a bunch of small guys. The issue is one of focus. I want to focus on good, you want to focus on big.”

            Go re-read the article. Read it very slow. Woodlief and other scouts say their is virtually NO DIFFERENCE in skill between the centres. The one difference Draisaitl has is size.

            “Size is important. If things are equal or close you would lean to size.” Stu MacGregor.

            Draisaitl is not a bad player. He is rated as a top-four draft pick. You are the only one suggesting he is not good.

          • What a whiner. I’m amazed Gregor even responds to your drivel. All you do is whine and complain, and now you accuse someone of being condescending. Shut up please.

            I noticed the Nation got rid of DSF…I nominate getting rid of you next. Waste of reader space.

          • What comes closer to meeting the definition of whining, arguing about hockey or complaining about the guy arguing about hockey? You’ll notice you were also the first to resort to a personal attack in a hockey discussion.

            I suspect that I’ve been around here a lot longer than you have, and I think even Gregor, whom I have hounded a bit today on here, would tell you there is a big difference between DSF and myself. Gregor’s a big boy who can hold his own.

          • You do this every time we disagree. You are never willing to argue the point. Show me where I said Draisaitl is not good.

            You just quoted me and then made some random argument that has nothing to do with the line you quoted. Context matters. Great points, too bad it’s obvious to anyone who read my comments that I don’t disagree with them.

            I have NEVER said he shouldn’t be picked. Multiple times on this very thread I have stated specifically that I have no idea who is the best or who should be drafted.

            I disagree with your statement that a team cannot win unless one of their top 2 centers weighs at least 205 and I disagree that a player should be taken because he weighs more. That is all.

            Knock down all the straw men you want, just let me know when you decide to address something actually said so I can join back in.

          • Jason Gregor

            Show me where I said I want big that isn’t skilled?

            You won’t, so you try to create an argument. Draisaitl is very skilled, and when scouts say the difference in skill is virtually nothing, then Oilers should look at getting a skilled guy with size. Simple.

            He is big and skilled, so he is what they need more than another small, skilled centre. Simple. Teams that win have skill with size. Every team has some of it. Oilers have none at this point.

          • Zarny

            I never accused you of saying that, nor of anything close.

            I disagreed with one thing. You said a team has to have a top 2 center over a certain weight and said that isn’t necessarily true.

            You have now gone so far from that as to say I’m arguing against Draisaitl in a thread where I have repeatedly said I have no issue with picking him.

            I didn’t think my position was that controversial but there are people here who lose their minds anytime someone disagrees with you.

          • Altho I don’t necessarily agree with Gregor on this, I think his point was the Oilers have to beat the west just to make it to the playoffs. And then have to win 3 rounds against the west before they ever play the east. So you don’t build your team to match up against the east.

          • When in Rome huh? You don’t build teams to match up with certain styles, you build teams to be the best hockey team you can build. Gregor has a size fixation. If it was the other way around he’d be praising the virtue of Eastern conference teams that really know how to build a roster.

      • pkam

        I believe the top 2 centers of the Boston Bruins are both under 200 lbs, and the top 2 centers of the Carolina Hurricanes are both over 200 lbs.

        I am fine if Bennett can turn into a Patrice Bergeron style player even if he is less than 200 lb.

        • oilerjed

          And both are are in the Eastern conference where you are not goingup against guys 1/3 your size. Boston has dominated the East for 3-5 years now because outside of those centers they have massive quanties of skilled meat.

        • Sorensenator

          I think your missing the point, because all the other Oiler forwards are under 200 pounds, except Hall..barely.

          Boston has big boys on the wings. I guarantee you that if Boston had wingers in similar stature to their top two centres, they would not be nearly as effective.

  • Before people hate on the Oilers taking Draisaitl over Bennet (if that’s the case). Please read Ryan Kennedy’s top 30 ranking done on May 8th, 2014. It is done via interviews with scouts from different NHL teams.

    http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/ryan-kennedys-top-30-prospects-for-the-2014-draft/

    I agree with Jason Gregor, take Draisaitl.

    Size and skill is needed in this top 6 and it’s near impossible to trade for.

  • I found it interesting that he projects Sam Reinhart as a winger because he shoots well.

    Not a conventional view considering Sam is often applauded for his sonar vision and on ice awareness in regards to distributing the puck…. i.e.. Centerman instincts.

    In the end though… it shows that Woodlief thinks with his own brain rather than redistribute the conventional take as many.. or MOST of the draft rags do.