It's February, and time for another mock draft. In the month of love, what teams will find their perfect match?
1. New York Islanders- John Tavares (C)
While the Isles are in the bottom spot again, they're actually closing in on their lottery rivals. Just four points back of Atlanta and five behind Ottawa, the Isles could potentially pass either very soon. The 'good' news? With the trade deadline looming, New York could shed #1 and #2 centers Mike Comrie and Doug Weight, and top-line forward Bill Guerin- a fool-proof formula to land Tavares. Since joining London in an OHL deadline deal, Johhny T has amassed an incredible 15 goals in 11 games. His 41 goals and 78 points leads the league. Even a potentially major shoulder injury against Windsor two days ago won't knock him from the top spot, although it's worrisome considering Zach Kassian got him in the same spot during the TPG.
2. Atlanta Thrashers- Victor Hedman (D)
With two games in hand on NYI, it might not be long until Atlanta is the one taking Tavares. However, despite an underwhelming WJC, Victor Hedman is still proving he's a worthy consolation prize. Since returning from Ottawa, the mammoth Swede has amassed seven points. With 18 points, he is tied with Blues bluechipper Lars Eller for the U20 scoring lead. Named to the LG Hockey Games for his efforts, Hedman is anchoring the second pairing for Team Sweden along with former NHLer Mattias Timander.
3. Ottawa Senators- Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi (LW)
Since firing rookie head coach Craig Hartsburg, the Senators have lost two straight and scored just three goals, while giving up 56 shots against. That's probably not the turn-around they had in mind. While some will have Ontario native and OHL star Matt Duchene in this spot, the Sens have always loved high-octane European products. That they embraced their Swedish heritage by having Daniel Alfredsson 'select' Erik Karlsson at last year's draft reinforces this pick. While Paajarvi has slowed down considerably in offensive output, he showed flashes of superstardom with his game-breaking speed and size during the WJC.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning- Ryan Ellis (D)
Hanging steadily in the bottom five, the Tampa Bay Lightning don't look at any risk to tear up the standings any time soon. Like Ottawa, a one-line attack and inconsistent defensive play has doomed a team that looked dangerous on paper in pre-season. One of the biggest problems for Tampa has been offensive support from the backend; with Dan Boyle gone, there are no powerplay QBs in the system. Ellis is a slight reach here (a major reach if you're CSB) but 66 points in 44 games is tough to argue.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs- Matt Duchene (C)
While Brian Burke and Ron Wilson have been good for some choice soundbites when it comes to their team's suckiness, there's no denying the pair's pedigree. The 2009 Draft will be their first chance to make a major impact, and the player they pick needs to fit solidly into their system and vision. It would be awfully tough for the Leafs to pass up on Brayden Schenn, but Duchene is simply the better player. As proficient a goal-scorer as he is a sniper, Duchene may not have Schenn's rough-and-tumble game, but he has as good a two-way game.
6. St. Louis Blues- Brayden Schenn (C)
The season hadn't even started for the Blues when things began going bad, thanks to a charity golf game mishap that injured Erik Johnson. Still, the team wasn't looking all that bad until top line center Andy McDonald broke his leg in November. These injuries may be the best thing to happen to the Blues. Always fans of character, WHL star Brayden Schenn would be a perfect fit in a dressing room that already has Johnson and T.J. Oshie. Schenn will have a chance to further prove is wares down the stretch drive, as linemate and co-team scoring leader Scott Glennie is out for perhaps the rest of the season.
7. Colorado Avalanche- Jared Cowen (D)
While the Avs may have been known for their high-flying offense, it was the strength of their D corps that really helped the team to two Cups. Although the team has done a good job of procuring talent like Kevin Shattenkirk and Cameron Gaunce, Colorado has no bluechip potential #1 defender. They'd get one in Cowen. Out for the rest of the year with a knee injury, two years of faultless defensive play will still keep him safely in the top eight.
8. Los Angeles Kings- Evander Kane (C)
Despite a high-flying offense and the necessary supporting grit, the LA Kings have been doomed yet again by poor goaltending. Did they not know that it was a bad idea to just expect Jonathan Bernier would be a starter off the bat? As it is, due to their struggles, it's back to the top ten for Los Angeles. While they have a drool-worthy collection of wingers and defenders, the Kings still lack a bona fide #2 center. Enter Kane. A gritty, take-no-prisoners forward in the mold of Erik Cole, Kane and Dustin Brown would give the Pacific divsion nightmares with their combination of scoring prowess and nastiness.
9. Phoenix Coyotes- Jordan Schroeder (RW)
The Yotes really do need a D here, but as the've shown in the past four drafts, it's BPA all the way. The 5'9 Schroeder sits two points back of 21 year-old Ryan Stoa for the University of Minnesota team scoring lead. A dynamic winger with NHL-calibre speed, Schroeder would look awfully good next to fellow NCAA product Kyle Turris.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets- Simon Despres (D)
Although they possess one of the best collections of young forward talent in the league, the Blue Jackets are fighting for a playoff spot without #1 C Derick Brassard thanks to a strictly defense-oriented system. Adding players who can compliment that system has been and will be a priority for GM Scott Howson. Mobile 6'3 defender Simon Despres can play both ways... when he wants. While we criticized him in prior months for a tepid willingness to get involved in the play despite his gifts, Despres has responded and is now second on the Saint John Sea Dogs in assists among defensemen. However, it's his team-leading +16 that will draw Hitchcock and Howson to him.
11. Nashville Predators- Jeremy Morin (C)
It's been a surprise to exactly no one that the Nashville Predators have had a tough time scoring goals. With Alex Radulov and Scott Sullivan absent from the offense, it's a wonder the Preds have even managed 127 goals. While USNTDP product Jeremy Morin is probably further along than the Preds would like, he's one of the best pure finishers in the Draft. Like 2008 first rounder Colin Wilson, Morin will need to improve his footspeed, but 20 goals and 86 PIM in just 34 games is tough to argue with.
12. Vancouver Canucks- Zack Kassian (RW)
It was expected Vancouver would falter without MVP Roberto Luongo for most of the fall, but with his return and the signing of Mats Sundin, a quick reversal of fortune seemed to be in the cards. Not so. Vancouver has continued to slide, only recently snapping a 9-game losing streak at home. One big reason? Toughness. After missing out on Milan Lucic right in their own backyard, the Nucks may not pass up an opportunity to grab a power winger. The D could use some help, but Kassian's 48 points and 109 (!) PIM in 47 games is just what the doctor ordered. While Kassian doesn't have the skill level to be the perfect match for the Sedins, they may not be around much longer anyway.
13. Edmonton Oilers- Landon Ferraro (C)
It hasn't been a good season for the Edmonton Oilers, and it's about to get worse. The team couldn't even post consistent performances (see: 10-2, 9-2 losses) with a healthy roster. Losing Lubomir Visnovsky for the year was bad enough, and now with #1 C Shawn Horcoff and top-four defender Tom Gilbert expected to miss at least a handful of games, the playoffs are in danger of rapidly falling out of reach. One big reason for this has been a lack of run support; while Ales Hemsky has turned the corner and become a PPG+ player, no one else has stepped up. An elite skater and finisher with a thin but tall frame, the son of former colorman Ray Ferraro would be a picture-perfect addition to a roster lacking goal-scorers.
14. Minnesota Wild- Louis Leblanc (C)
A hot start had everybody convinced that Mikko Koivu and the Minnesota Wild were an elite team. But the season isn't twenty games long, and teams have quickly come to exploit Minnesota's inconsistent offense and defense. While Leblanc is no Marian Gaborik, he is the type of cerebral player the Wild love. As deft a playmaker as he is a scorer, Leblanc has the potential to be the best forward Minnesota has drafted since Gabby.
15. Anaheim Ducks- John Moore (D)
With all the well-deserved credit the Anaheim Ducks get for savvy drafting of both forwards and goalies, it's simply stunning how bad the team is when choosing defensemen. Never in the team's history has a top sixty pick on D become a star blueliner for the club. Oleg Tverdovsky is the closest they've come. With a renewed commitment over the last couple drafts to selecting D-men, it's clear Anaheim knows this is a weakness. John Moore would be another drop in the bucket. At 6'3, Moore combines the best gifts of current Ducks Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. A smooth, speedy skater, Moore also owns a terrific wrist shot and a devestating physical game.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins- Nazem Kadri (C)
Despite being among the league's leading scorers, and despite having the league's best finisher on his line, Nazem Kadri has actually seen his stock take a slight hit. After a hot start, the Lebanese-Canadian has returned to his bad habits- toe drags in every situation, lazy defensive play, little physical contact. 16 is probably too low, but it's not out of the question in a draft that boasts so much talent. Like Angelo Esposito, Kadri could be the faller that Pittsburgh takes advantage of.
17. Carolina Hurricanes- Dmitry Kulikov (D)
While the Canes have arguably one of the deepest forward groups in the league, few of that veteran talent has stepped up in 2008-09. From Eric Staal to Rod Brind'Amour to Sergei Samsonov, Carolina has seen their once-formidable offense crumble with age and lack of effort. It hasn't helped that Cam Ward has only recently begun playing like a Conn Smythe winner. One of the team's few bright spots has been on defense, and while the Canes have a number of good young players both on the roster and in the system, they still don't have a bluechip prospect on the backend. However, history points against this pick; Carolina has not used anything higher than fifth rounder on a Q product since 1997, and have not chosen a Euro with a first rounder since 2001. Kulikov is worth bucking this trend for; a silky skater, the Russian star has been one of the QMJHL's biggest surprises this season.
18. Dallas Stars- Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D)
From the cellar to fifth in the West in a little over a month, the Dallas Stars are in the midst of one of the most amazing regular season turn-arounds in history- all without Sergei Zubov. The Stars may not be picking in the top twenty before long, but if they do, there's no way they pass up on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Allsvenskan leader in plus/minus with an incredible +43 rating, 'OEL' was not named to Tre Kronor for the WJCs, which has hurt his scoutability.
19. Florida Panthers- Jacob Josefson (C)
Did anyone have the Panthers as a top-twelve team in the league? After trading their #1 C for an unproven young defenseman, the season looked all but lost for Stephen Weiss and the Panthers. However, terrific goaltending from Craig Anderson and a nightly offensive contribution from the D has helped propel the Panthers. Josefson is probably too low here. He had a decent World Juniors, playing his trademark all-around game with some skill thrown in. However, with so many gangbusters performances from North American products, Josefson just can't compete in terms of visibility. Some have called him potentially the best Swedish forward in the Draft; while I don't subscribe to that notion, it's tough to have him outside the top fifteen.
20. Buffalo Sabres- Peter Holland (C)
After losing Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell, all hope seemed lost for a smallish, inconsistent team with no elite players on defense. However, Buffalo's offense has come on as strong has ever, even without a PPG center. Peter Holland would go a long way towards rectifying the Sabres' lack of size up front; a man-beast at 6'3, 200, the Guelph Storm star has shown flashes of game-breaking offense. He could this draft's Ryan Getzlaf.
21. Philadelphia Flyers- Olivier Roy (G)
The Flyers have continued their march back to the top of the league with a potent offense and a strong defense. However, they still lack that elite goalie. While Martin Biron is a fine stop-gap, Philly has no one like Olivier Roy in their system. Forget what Central Scouting said about Roy- he's the best goalie in the class. At 6'0, 167 lbs, Roy is undersized, but plays the position as well any goalie prospect from the Q in the past decade.
22. New York Rangers- Ethan Werek (LW)
Big contracts, big expectations, big losses. It's just another season in New York. Although Glen Sather has gotten the Rags into quite the predicament thanks to dud deals given to Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden and Michel Rozsival, the future has never been brighter on Broadway. Fans of the Ontario Hockey League, look for the Rangers scouting staff to key in on a forward after spending several picks on D. 6'2 power winger Ethan Werek fills both a need positionally and is BPA.
23. Montreal Canadiens- Scott Glennie (C)
It's their hundredth anniversary, and the Habs have not let their fans down. Despite Carey Price's struggles in net, Montreal is again among the league's elite. Their fine touch at the draft table is a big reason for it, and with several hungry young men ready to challenge impending UFAs Alex Tanguay and Alex Kovalev, the Canadiens will only get better. After stockpiling D the past few drafts, the Habs could take full advantage of a potential faller in Glennie. While Brandon's co-leader in points at age 18, a broken elbow (?) has sidelined the young sniper for probably the rest of the year. An NHL-calibre skater and tireless shooter, Glennie would be a steal for Montreal here.
24. Calgary Flames- Taylor Doherty (D)
Mike Keenan's magic touch seems to have returned, and it's had a startling effect on the Flames. Once derided for their lack of offense, the opposite is now true. A high-octane team with plenty of forwards having career years, Calgary has suffered defensively. From Miikka Kiprusoff's sparkling 2.82 GAA and 0.904 Sv% to Dion Phaneuf's stellar -9, the Flames have struggled at keeping pucks out. While they could probably use another forward, 6'8 rearguard Taylor Doherty is a tough player to pass up. Not particularly outstanding in either his mobility or offense, Doherty just plays a simple, smart game that can easily transition to the NHL.
25. Chicago Blackhawks- Stefan Elliott (D)
The Hawks may not have a first round pick for very long. On the cusp of being a serious contender, Chicago may decide to trade the pick for veteran help come the deadline. If they keep it, though, look for them to invest in another mobile defenseman. A sparkling skater that can transition from forward to D in a flash, Elliott is as close a Paul Coffey clone as major junior has seen in some time. Although the Hawks already have Brian Campbell locked up long-term and will be looking to do the same with Cam Barker, Elliott is easily BPA.
26. New Jersey Devils- Jordan Caron (RW)
No Brodeur, no problem. That's been the story in New Jersey, unbelievable as it may seem. Even more incredible is how much a potent offense has factored into their success, a stark change from the defensive-minded approach of seasons past. The Devils will undoubtedly look to '09 as a source for a potential bluechip defender, but a number of high-end forwards look to be available late in the round. After selecting 5'9 LW Mattias Tedenby last year, 6'2 RW Jordan Caron would be the perfect compliment. Despite battling injuries for his entire career, there are few better finishers in the Q. The Devils have not been afraid to take such players in the past.
27. Washington Capitals- Tim Erixon (D)
Rebuilds work. That's the message the Washington Capitals are sending after watching their team go from an annual lottery team to a potential contender. However, there are still some holes to fill, particularly on defense. A no-nonsense defensive defender like Erixon would be a great compliment to star PP QB Mike Green.
28. Detroit Red Wings- Tomas Tatar (C)
It must be tough to be a Wings fan- apparently an underwhelming season is being in the top three of the league. The driving force behind Detroit has, as it has been for the past two decades, smart drafting. Tatar might be a slight reach here, but the Slovak showed NHL-quality skills and heart during the WJC. A dazzling scorer who plays bigger than his 5'10 frame, Tatar is the type of player Detroit loves.
29. San Jose Sharks- Calvin de Haan (D)
It's all coming together for San Jose, and it's in large part thanks to their defense. Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and Christian Ehrhoff have contributed in various degrees to the Sharks' success. Adding another capable offensive defenseman is the smart thing to do, and Calvin de Haan has continued driving the offense in Oshawa despite the loss of Tavares. A great skater with good size, de Haan needs to play with more authority physically, but he could be the player the Sharks thought they had in Matt Carle.
30. Boston Bruins- David Rundblad (D)
In an upside-down NHL season, it's the Boston Bruins that are the class of the league thanks to the mass emergence of their young talent. However, although Dennis Wideman has been one of the league's biggest surprises on D, the Bs have little in the pipeline on the backend. Rundblad would fix that in a hurry. A beautiful skater with fine skill, Rundblad is a world-class powerplay QB.