Even though the Flames don’t (yet!) own first round selection, day one of the entry draft is typically the most interesting and action packed for those interested. As such, it makes to profile the teams and player who will mostly likely be involved.
1.) Edmonton Oilers – Taylor Hall
Even though David Staples is convinced there’s a major push inside the Oilers organization to pick Seguin, I’m going to stick to the consensus for this preview and go with Hall to EDM as the first pick. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Oilers and Bruins broker a deal that would see BOS pick Hall first overall instead.
2.) Boston Bruins – Tyler Seguin
The natural result should EDM decide to go the simple route. If the Bruins pick-up Seguin, it may lead to an increased need to deal one of their high-priced, quality centermen. Word is, Marc Savard is the guy on the market right now. A Seguin pick may just punch his ticket out of town.
3.) Florida Panthers – Erik Gudbranson
Things get a bit uncertain after the top 2 in this draft. Gudbranson is a consensus top 5 talent and Bob McKenzie has the big, complete defender going third to the Florida Panthers. Described as a mature, natural born leader, Gudbranson can do just about everything from the blueline and thinks the game well to boot.
4.) Columbus Blue Jackets – Cam Fowler
Word is the Blue Jackets have a lot of interest in Brett Connolly, but I think the offensively charged Cam Fowler will be too hard to pass up for Columbus at #4. The organization has lacked a top-end PP option from the back-end since forever and already have youngsters like Nikita Filatov and Jakub Voracek up front.
5.) New York Islanders – Brandon Gormley
The third of the "big three" defenders is Brandon Gormley. Not as big as Gudbranson nor as offensive as Cam Fowler, Gormley is just generally capable in all areas. Projects more as a solid, top-4 option at the NHL level. Like Columbus, the Islanders need some defensive depth in the pipeline, so I can see them going this route.
6.) Tampa Bay Lightning – Ryan Johansen
After picking stud defender Victor Hedman last year and sniper Steven Stamkos the year before, it would make sense for the Lightning to target one of the best playmakers in Ryan Johansen. Tall with a big reach, good skating and sublime vision, Johanesen is drawing comparisons to Joe Thornton.
7.) Carolina Hurricanes – Jeff Skinner
A fifty goal scorer in the OHL, Jeff Skinner could be the next big sniper for the Hurricanes after Eric Staal. Not overly big or fast, Skinner is nonetheless a natural at putting pucks in the net. His weaknesses may keep him outside of the top 10, but I can see him going as high as 7 for the purposes of this exercise.
8.) Atlanta Thrashers – Nino Neiderreiter
Yesterday I noted that new Atlanta GM Rick Dudley values players who are consummate "hockey guys": hard-working, tough, willing to mix things up, etc. Enter Nino Neiderreiter, a gritty, hard-nosed Swiss player who put up 36 goals in the WHL. At 6’2" and 200 pounds, Neiderreiter already has an NHL ready frame and as many witnessed at the World Junior Championships this past Christmas, he’s not afraid to use it. As such, I’d be surprised to see the Thrashers pass on Nino if he’s still available.
9.) Minnesota Wild – Mikael Granlund
An organization that needs just about everything (including scoring), Mikael Granlund may be a natural choice for a club led by the ever impressive Mikko Koivu. Like Koivu, Grandlund is said to have a high hockey IQ and can play on both sides of the puck. Not overly big or fast, Granlund isn’t a consensus top-10 pick.
10.) New York Rangers – Alex Burmistrov
With Marian Gaborik locked up for the next four seasons, the Rangers may have their sites set on a natural set-up man. Burmistrov is only 160 pounds, but has great all around offensive tools, including an uncanny ability to distribute the puck. The Rangers aren’t terribly shy about drafting Russians either, with the late Cherapanov and Artem Aninismov being recent examples.
11.) Dallas Stars – Derek Forbort
An all-around defender like Gormley, Forbot isn’t the very best at any one thing, but is said to have a high ceiling due to his overall versatility. At 11, he may be the guy with the least amount of question marks left.
12.) Anaheim Ducks – Brett Connolly
A consensus top-5 offensive talent at the start of the year, Connolly suffered major injuries to both hips and only appeared in 16 games. The lack of game action, a lost year of development and the question of his injured hips will likely push him outside the top-10, but not too far. This is a player I assume the Flames would have targeted had they kept the 13th overall pick.
13.) Phoenix Coyotes – Austin Watson
Big, aggresive with a will to compete at both ends, Watson put up big numbers after he was traded from the Windsor Spitefires to the Peterborough Petes. Buried beneath the deapth in Windsor, there’s some question as to how good Watson’s offensive game truly is however. That said, his combination of will and physical tools means he projects as a useful player in at least a checking role at the NHL level.
14.) St. Louis Blues – Emerson Etem
The Blues may look to "re-coup" the offensive prospect they lost in the Halak trade by taking Emerson Etem. Described as the drafts fastest skater, Etem also has a big shot that helped him score 37 goals for the Medicine Hat Tigers.
15.) Florida Panthers (via Boston) – Vladamir Tarasenko
Having already chosen inside the top 5, Florida can swing for the fences with the 15th overall pick. Tarasenko is often said to be an elite offensive prospect, perhaps inside the top 10 of the draft. The "Russian factor" will no doubt depress his value somewhat.
16.) Ottawa Senators – Jack Campbell
With goaltending woes being a perenial concern, it would make sense to see the Sens spend 16th overall on Jack Campbell, who is roundly considered far and away 2010’s best goaltending prospect. I’m not a fan of taking goalies in the first round myself, but that never stops at least one team from doing it every draft day.
17.) Colorado Avalanche – Dylan McIlrath
With the bulk of the Avs young prospect depth up front (and with Adam Foote rapidly aging), the Avs may take a shot at picking Dylan McIlrath if he’s still available. Huge, mean and able to scrap with the best of them, McIlrath isn’t going to win any races or scoring titles – he’s just going to make opposing players wish they were never born.
18.) Nashville Predators – Quinton Howden
Relatively tall but blazingly fast, Howden is effective at both ends of the ice. His 28 goals and 65 points weren’t mind-blowing this year, but his package of smarts, speed and overall utlity may propel him inside the top 20. I can’t see the defensively stacked Predators taking another defender inside the first round either.
19.) Los Angeles Kings – Nick Bjugstad
An imposing physical speciman at 6’5", 190 pounds, Bjugstad tore up Minnesota HS hockey and is rumored to be one the best conditioned athletes in the draft. Los Angeles is stacked at both ends of the ice when it comes to prospects, so it’ll just come down to who they think is the very best player available when they pick at 19. It may be Bjugstad.
20.) Pittsburgh Penguins – Kirill Kabanov
Originally tabbed to go inside the top 5, an indifferent end to the season in North America plus rumors of an attitude problem and subsequent dumping by his agent has caused Kabanov’s stock to plummet in the last few months. Add in the KHL "Russian risk" and many expect Kabanov to fall to the second round or even further. That said, I can see the Penguins taking a chance on the enigmatic youngster, especially given their need for a legit scoring winger to play with either Crosby or Malkin.
21.) Detroit Red Wings – Mark Pysyk
A defender that isn’t overly physical but can play a safe, smart, two-way game. Sound familiar? Sure, Lidstrom has the much higher offensive ceiling, but the 40 year old only has so many seasons left in him. Pysyk is the 7th ranked NA skater by NHL central scouting and was considered the very best player on the Edmonton Oil Kings by the end of the season (despite playing just 48 games). Considered a "safe" pick by many.
22.) Phoenix Coyotes – Jon Merril
A big, offensively capable rearguard out of the US, Merril might be higher on the list had an off-ice incident not raised questions about his character. No major flaws to his game outside of the "immature" label. Should the Coyotes go with a forward at 13, I can see them targeting a guy like Merril in the 20’s.
23.) Buffalo Sabres – Tyler Toffoli
With Calder trophy winner Tyler Myers emerging on the back-end in Buffalo, the Sabres may target another sniper in Toffoli in the first round. A 37 goal scorer for the Ottawa 67’s, Toffoli has a sound all-around game aside from questions about his skating.
24.) Chicago Blackhawks (via Atlanta) – Tyler Pitlick
The Hawks want for nothing, so trying to guess their first pick in 2010 is tough. Pitlick is a 6’2" center from Minnesota who is said to be offensively capable but also defensively responsible. College bound, the Blackhawks can afford to let him develop for the next 4 years or so.
25.) Vancouver Canucks – Jarred Tinordi
The Canucks have picked a forwards in the first round for several years in a row (Grabner, White, Hodgson, Schroeder) and may be motivated to add a high-end defender to the mix. Tinordi is huge at 6’6", is naturally aggresive and is said to have top notch character.
26.) Washington Capitals – Evgeny Kuznetsov
If there’s a high-end Russian talent still around when the Caps pick at 26, expect them to give him heavy consideration. A high-end talent with consistency issues and the Russian risk, Kuznetsov is the last of the "top 3" first end Russian talents.
27.) Montreal Canadiens – Riley Sheahan
One of the youngest college players in the world last year, Sheahan’s output was slight owing to the low number of games and high quality of the competition he faced in the CCHA. A big center at 6’2", 195 pounds, many expect his results to improve dramatically as he gets older.
28.) San Jose Sharks – John McFarland
Aside from Kabanov, no other players stock has fallen quite as rapidly as John McFarland’s. Inside the top 10 to start the year, his completely lackluster results (50 pts in 64 games) plus his apparent lack of ability to read the play at the junior level has McFarland as an outside shot to fall to the second round. That said, his physical tools are impressive and the Sharks may be willing to take the gamble at 28 in the hopes he gets things together.
29.) Anaheim Ducks (via Philadelphia) – Justin Falk
Another American defender, Falk is mostly an offensive defenseman. Bob McKenzie recently noted that Falk is considered to have the hardest slapahot in entire draft and is a good skater besides.
30.) Chicago Blackhawks – Beau Bennett
A wildcard thanks to playing in the second tier BCHL last season, Bennett was ranked 32nd overall in NA by central scouting, but may actually go in the teens, depending on how the draft shakes down. He managed a Zajac-like 120 points for Penticton in just 56 games played, despite being described as "physically immature" by most scouts.