With little to no suspense at the top of the draft, we go backwards in this month's edition of the Bugg Bytes 2009 NHL Entry Draft mock.
30. Boston Bruins- D Calvin de Haan
The shotgun/dartboard approach to filling needs is a novel way of doing business at the Draft. However, for the Boston Bruins, it hasn't exactly yielded any results. Of the four defensemen taken in a row during the latter stages of the 2007 Entry Draft, zero of them are closer to the NHL than they were on draft day. Tommy Cross has seen two major knee/leg operations since being selected; Dennis Ruel has not become anything more than a #4 in the Q; Radim Ostricil is probably gone to Europe next after being a #5 for an OHL team. Only sixth rounder Alain Goulet has turned into a note-worthy player, and that only happened after leaving the NCAA mid-season to head to the Q.
While Matt Hunwick and Mark Stuart can hold the fort for now in Beantown, eventually, there needs to be at least one body on the way. Calvin de Haan has all the tools to be that player. A silky skater and heady player, it was thought to be a death sentence for de Haan when star John Tavares left town. Instead, the rearguard has kept on ticking, providing Oshawa's only source of offense many nights.
29. New York Islanders (from SJ)- D Taylor Doherty
At the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders used a third round selection on a never-before seen player: a 6'9 defenseman. 13 years later, such a player has a chance to go in the top thirty. As complete a player as you'll find for a still-maturing behemoth, Kingston rearguard Taylor Doherty has just sixteen points and a -13 rating on the year. While that may not look like the statline of a future Chara, it's worth noting that Chara potted only 22 points his 19/20 year-old season in the WHL.
28. Detroit Red Wings- C Tomas Tatar
Usually the NHL's equivilant of Fort Knox when it comes to their draft playbook, the Detroit Red Wings have practically screamed to the world that they're more than interested in WJC breakout star Tomas Tatar. While his size (5'10) may scare off some teams, just the fact that Wings scouts can be seen on any given night at an HKM Zvolen game may be enough to make a team snatch Tatar up much earlier.
27. New Jersey Devils- RW Carter Ashton
If there's one advantage to having a father who played for 14 different NHL teams, it's that you can stick the pedigree storyline to half the league. While the Devils certainly wouldn't select the son of Brent Ashton based on the fact he played one year in Jersey, there are a plethora of other good excuses. A sub-lime skater for a 6'3, 200 lbs forward, Ashton Jr. recently eclipsed the 30-goal mark in the WHL. He'd be a perfect book-end on New Jersey's future top line of Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.
26. Washington Capitals- D Tim Erixon
Like last month, the son of a former Cap is the best bet for the team on draft day. Hey, you can't blame us; after all, Washington did use last year's first on the son of former NHLer Bengt Gustafsson. However, while Tim Erixon did not become a forward like his dad, he's found his father's tutelage useful just the same. A smooth, steady two-way defender, Erixon would be the perfect foil for Mike Green's high-stakes offensive game.
25. Calgary Flames- LW Chris Kreider
Big: check. Beautiful skater: check. Great hands: check. While New England prep star Chris Kreider is a new addition to our top thirty, he perfectly fulfills the Mike Keenan Checklist. While Krieder is probably a good three to four years away, the Flames would do well to gamble on the under-scouted power winger. Even factoring in the lower level of competition that is New England high school hockey, Kredier's 2 PPG+ average has secured him several accolades and awards- including a full ride to BU.
24. Chicago Blackhawks- LW Ethan Werek
When you've got good thing going, why mess with it? The Chicago Black Hawks have used two consecutive first-round selections on power forwards, and it's landed them Akim Aliu and Kyle Beach. While neither are in the NHL, and Aliu has seen a resurgence of character issues that killed his stock in the first place, both look more like NHL-quality prospects than not. Enter Ethan Werek. A big, strong left wing starring for the Kingston Frontenacs, Werek's 26 goals and 52 points are both good enough for second on the squad.
23. Philadelphia Flyers- G Olivier Roy
Don't ever let it be said I'm a bandwagoner. While Olivier Roy's stock keeps dropping- into the second round, according to some- there's simply no goalie in the draft with a better pedigree or penchant for taking over games. However, no matter which goalie is selected in the first round, bet on the Flyers being the team to take them. Names to watch include OHL products Edward Pasquale and Scott Stajcer, and USHL star Mike Lee.
22. Montreal Canadians- C Louis Leblanc
For all the magic the Habs have worked at the draft table, finding an elite center has been a difficult task. Louis Leblanc maybe isn't an elite playmaker or scorer, but the sum of the parts add up to an impressive player. Montreal's strength is drafting American league products, and while Leblanc spent almost all of his formative years in Quebec, he's calling Omaha and the USHL home for at least this year. Leblanc fell off when it came to regular season scoring, but a strong playoffs would help to keep him safely in the first round.
21. Vancouver Canucks- D David Rundblad
One Swede out, one Swede in. With Mattias Ohlund nearing the end of his Canucks career, Vancouver will be seeking a silky two-way rearguard. Enter David Rundblad. A far better skater than Ohlund at any point during his career, Rundblad needs work on his defensive aptitude and awareness, but his speed and fine breakout pass would be a choice addition to the Canucks attack.
20. Florida Panthers- C Scott Glennie
A knee injury may ultimately cost Scott Glennie eight draft spots, if not more. But why isn't this the case for Jared Cowen? Now, hear me out. While Cowen doesn't have a lot of speed to begin with, his game relies on defensive positioning. For Scott Glennie, while his ability to read the play cannot be understated, it's his speed that allows him to cover every zone as effectively as he does. Any complications could rob him of his biggest weapon.
19. New York Rangers- D John Moore
Two drafts, two first rounders on rushing defensemen. Couldn't hurt to add a third, especially when the Rangers have Wade Redden and Michel Rozsival locked up for big money long-term. As it is, Moore is an entirely different breed of animal: while just as skilled and swift-footed as either Michael Del Zotto or Bob Sanguinetti, Moore brings the extra dimension of relentless physical play.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins- LW Jeremy Morin
It's easy drafting if you're the Pittsburgh Penguins: just take the guy with the most skill left. Jeremy Morin looks to be that player this year. A plodding skater with little muscle to speak of, the budding power forward has seen his torrid scoring pace drop off in the last three months. No longer the USNTDP points leader, Morin still leads the team in goals with 21 in 42. While it's a bit worrisome that Morin went from a GPG pace to a virtually 0 GPG pace, he's the best natural finisher left on the board and could be the wing man the Pens have long-sought for Sid the Kid.
17. Buffalo Sabres- C Peter Holland
While many tales of prospect development involve seemingly overnight explosions of size, talent or desire, Guelph Storm centre Peter Holland has instead been a model of consistency. Dipping below only a PPG on month out of the season, the 6'2 Holland has continued to supplant himself as a intriguing talent thanks to his size, long reach and computer-like ability to break down the play. The Sabres are no longer in dire straits down the middle thanks to the re-signing of Tim Connolly, but Holland would be just one more weapon.
16. Carolina Hurricanes- D Simon Despres
Dropping a little bit through no fault of his own- finally- premier shutdown rearguard Simon Despres is currently tied for the defense scoring lead on his Saint John Sea Dogs. If his 31 points in 61 games wasn't impressive enough, just compare his +/- rating to his co-leader. While Pittsburgh Penguins bluechipper Alex Grant had 31 points in 37 games, he also owned a -7 rating, as compared to Despres' +15- tops on the squad, and almost triple as high as the next-nearest defender. A cross betwen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, the Canes have improved their pipeline on the forward front, and it's time to add a stud in Despres.
15. Nashville Predators- D Ryan Ellis
Time and time again, the Nashville Predators have eschewed taking flyers on forwards to draft the best-available defender. Using that philosophy, there's simply no way the Preds pass on Ryan Ellis. With just five games left on the sked for Windsor, both 100 points and the league scoring title look out of reach. However, Ellis has made up for it in other ways. Currently in the midst of an incredible 14-game point streak that has seen him rack up 28 points- exactly 2 PPG- the Team Canada WJC star is taking it to another level as the OHL season winds down. Critics like to crack on Ellis' size and defensive ability, but the Preds will take that gamble. If he does pan out, he and Shea Weber will form a pairing unseen in the NHL in a long, long time. If he doesn't, a conversion to forward could still make him into a star.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets- C Jacob Josefson
Making a re-apperance in the top 14 is Swedish youngster Jacob Josefson. Known for possessing a blend of both skill and defensive acumen, the two-way pivot struggled for a good majority of the Elitserien season to put up points. However, down the stretch, the light came on. In the last six games of the year, Josefson potted 2-3-5 to finish the year with an extremely strong 16 points in 50 games. His willingness to take care of his end first before using his tremendous offensive sense to hem opponents in their zone may endear him to Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock.
13. Dallas Stars- D Dmitri Kulikov
While the Dallas Stars have gotten along quite well without #1 defender Sergei Zubov, giving them a preview perhaps of the future, it's clear that a puck-moving defender would help them that much more. Dmitry Kulikov is finishing off one of the most spectacular rookie campaigns ever for an QMJHL defender. In 54 games, the Russian-born rearguard has 11 goals ad 46 assists for 57 points. He's also a +30. Kulikov is as close to a Zubov as the Stars will find. A heady player who always seemingly knows where the puck is and the best thing to do with it, Kulikov also boasts an impressive breakout pass and a wicked shot.
12. Edmonton Oilers- C Landon Ferraro
In a strange turn, the Edmonton Oilers have gone from being the fastest team on the fastest ice to slower than their southern neighbors on rapidly declining ice. Landon Ferraro would go a long way towards fixing that. While many speedy skaters have trouble finishing, that's been no problem for Ferraro, from his minor hockey days to the WHL. Ferraro's 36 goals are 20 more than his next-nearest teammate for the Red Deer Rebels, and his 54 points 15 more than second-best and fellow draft-eligible prospect Cass Mappin.
11. Anaheim Ducks- C Nazem Kadri
Bob Murray may have replaced Brian Burke months ago, but it was the trade deadline that really defined the regime change in Anaheim. Out went Travis Moen, Kent Huskins and Sam Pahlsson, all Burke favorites due to their North American style of play. In came two Euros and a soft, enigmatic goal scorer. Nazem Kadri is everything Brian Burke dislikes in a hockey player. A flashy, high-octane playmaker, while Kadri has not meshed perfectly with newly-acquired John Tavares in London, he has continued to contribute on a regular basis. Kadri has of late taken too many shifts off, but he's the right pick for the Ducks, who lack offensive punch in the system.
10. Minnesota Wild- RW Zack Kassian
An Eastern junior league power forward? Sign the Wild up right now. Benoit Pouliot and James Sheppard have not exactly turned out the way Minnesota probably would have liked, but it's a good bet they'll keep on trying. To that end, Zack Kassian has shown both more grit and determination than either 'the other Pouliot' or 'Big Foot'. It's the other things- skating, talent- that worry scouts. Still, Kassian is a great fit for Jacques Lemaire's system and stands a better chance of reaching his full potential in a Wild uniform than anywhere else.
9. St. Louis Blues- D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Look out, Detroit. The St. Louis Blues are rapidly beginning to amass an arsenal of young Euro talent capable of one day bringing the city at least one championship. Missing, though, is a bluechip blueliner hailing from somewhere overseas. Enter Ekman-Larsson, or OEL if you please. Larsson's feats in Sweden's second-tier league are well-reported, and it's known the Blues have been watching Allsvenskan, both now and in the past. Patrik Berglund came from the same league, and draft pick Simon Hjalmarsson was one of its best players this season. The big, fluid rushing rearguard the Blues don't yet have, Larsson is a natural selection.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs- RW Brayden Schenn
Here we go. For the first time in a while in a mock of mine, Brayden Schenn is re-united with brother Luke. Various fantasies exist as to the outcome, but it's a good bet most contain multiple Cups and/or accolades. While the younger Schenn certainly score some pretty goals, he's more of a playmaker who compliments a shoot-first forward. The Leafs don't quite have one of those yet, but I hear Rick Nash is UFA next summer...
7. Los Angeles Kings- C Evander Kane
It's really a no-lose situation when it comes to Schenn vs. Kane. Now up to 44 goals with the Vancouver Giants, Evander Kane has a shot at both 50 goals and 100 points. A natural C capable of playing pretty much anywhere and in any role, Kane is the perfect pivot to back up Anze Kopitar.
6. Phoenix Coyotes- RW Jordan Schroeder
As with Paajarvi, Jordan Schroeder is again the best fit for the Yotes, both now and in the future. While Shane Doan and Peter Mueller are quality wingers right now, Schroeder would either compliment a line of Boedker-Turris-Schroeder quite well, or bring his dynamic, explosive attack to the team's future second line. Either way, he's the type of talent Coach Gretzky has every right to ask the team to get.
5. Ottawa Senators- LW Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi
MSP remains Ottawa's most likely pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. A slick skater and playmaker with good finishing instincts- regardless of what some say- Paajarvi is the forward who could make fans forget about the frustrating Martin Havlat very quickly, and replace captain Daniel Alfredsson when the time comes.
4. Colorado Avalanche- D Jared Cowen
While reports indicate that the knee injury to 2009 top prospect Jared Cowen is worse than initially thought, there's simply no way the big guy falls out of the top eight. All it will take is for one team, just one, to put a premium on a 6'6 Memorial Cup champion rearguard who was arguably the MVP of said run as a 16 year-old. The Colorado Avalanche may very well be that team. With no star defender either on the roster or in the system, Cowen is as good a lottery ticket as any, knee be damned.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning- C Matt Duchene
Speed, speed, speed. That's what the Tampa Bay Lightning would have in a combination of Steve Stamkos and Matt Duchene. While both are centers, Duchene has had no problem adapting to playing with an elite talent this season with the Brampton Battalion. Shifted around in order to accomodate OHL superstar Cody Hodgson, Duchene hasn't seen his play affected in the slighest.
2. Atlanta Thrashers- D Victor Hedman
1. New York Islanders- C John Tavares