The National Hockey League’s annual entry draft is, in a way, a lot like playing poker. Teams try to conflate their interest in some players and hide their interest in others, in a strategy designed to maximize the value of their selections.
The whole exercise is, at times, akin to institutionalized poker-facing because in all honesty, the majority of teams know the same amount about almost every player. They know who’s good and they know who’s risky, and there generally isn’t much nuance in comparing draft lists for teams until you get a fair ways down the drafting order.
But once you get down the draft order a bit, teams are strategic with their scarce drafting and scouting resources. What typically happens is teams rely on information from people they know and trust, which is often teams that produced players they drafted and developed in the past. The hockey world is a small world, and the Ottawa 67’s produced Sean Monahan, you gotta believe the Flames are occasionally calling them and asking who they have coming up in this year’s draft – for an example.
The Flames have Brandon Hickey at B.U. While Jack Eichel is a shoo-in to become the second overall pick in late June, the Terriers do have a couple players that could generate some late-round interest.
Left winger A.J. Greer (ranked 69th among North American skaters by Central Scouting) is an interesting player, boasting a 6’3″ and 205 lb frame. He put up just seven points in 37 games, but he worked his way up into second-line minutes for his club by the end of the season. His Terriers teammate defender Brien Diffley had 11 points in 40 games, primarily on the third pairing. He’s ranked 136th by Central Scouting, meaning he could be worth a late-round pick.
Brandon has two very good defensemen, neither of which will be in Calgary’s draft range. Ivan Provorov (7th) is like a Russian T.J. Brodie, and he’ll be gone very quickly. Ryan Pilon (24th) is a good defensive defender with some upside. He’ll be gone after Calgary’s first round pick but before their second round picks begin.
Center Tim McGauley (165th) had 105 points this season, but as a July 1995 birthday he’ll be available in his third consecutive draft. He was really good this season, but he played on a very good team with good linemates, and teams may think “If we don’t pick this guy, we can always grab him as a free agent afterwards…” and may not want to use a pick on someone of his age.
Brandon also boasts goaltender Jordan Papirny (28th among North American goalies), who should be available in the later rounds.
Here’s where I think Calgary takes a few looks, having spent the season following Mason McDonald’s exploits in PEI.
In the first round mix, the Islanders have Czech forward Filip Chlapik (18th by CSS) and the talented Daniel Sprong (20th by CSS). Later on, they have winger Kameron Kielly (83rd) and massive defender David Henley (95th), who stands 6’4″ and 205 lbs. Center Alexandre Goulet (166th) could be worth a late pick, as he was nearly a point-per-game player this season.
The Memorial Cup champions had Hunter Smith on their team, and performed quite well.
Defender Mitchell Vande Sompel (34th by CSS) is super-young as a February 1997 birthday, but he was huge for the Generals this season. He tripled his points production from last season and really could be a good second round consideration for the Flames…if he slips to 45th overall.
In later rounds, Anthony Cirelli (67th) could pack on some muscle as he weighs just 160 lbs, but he was insanely clutch for the Generals in the Memorial Cup-clinching game. He scored both goals in their win over Kelowna. And he was born in July 1997, meaning he won’t be 18 until just after the draft. It’s basically like getting an entire extra year of development based on how young he is. Blueliner Stephen Desrocher (145th) is huge at 6’4″ and 200 lbs, and he’s a holdover from last year’s draft class.
From the team that brought you Sean Monahan comes another decent draft class.
Travis Konecny (14th by CSS) is a tenacious player who plays a good 200-foot game. He’s not huge, which is the main concern considering his playing style; can he be an insane fore-checking machine in the land of the giants?
Beyond Konecny, you have Dante Salituro (109th) who is just 5’9″ but scored 37 goals and has steadily improved every season since joining the 67’s. And then there’s Jeremiah Addison (129th), who is bigger than Salituro but has considerably less impressive offensive numbers. He may slip to the late rounds if he gets picked at all. The 67’s also have young goaltender Liam Herbst, ranked 11th among North American goaltenders. He should be available in the middle rounds of the draft.
Morgan Klimchuk’s old team has a lot of contenders for mid-round picks.
Austin Wagner (35th by CSS) is another summer birthdays, turning 18 just days before the draft. The Calgary native is a solid two-way player with decent production for a player in a supporting role. Later on there’s Connor Hobbs (72nd), who split the season between Medicine Hat and Regina and put up 18 points in 45 games from the blueline. Jesse Gabrielle (73rd) came to Regina in the Morgan Klimchuk trade to Brandon, and the 6’0″, 205 lbs player had 44 points in 66 games between the two teams. But he does take a ton of penalties.
Later still, there’s Russian import defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy (103rd), who is right-handed, 6’4″ and nearly 200 lbs, and a Russian who has already come over and spent a full season in a high-end North American league. And Adam Brooks (176th) was a point-per-game player this season, but is in his second year of draft eligibility.
Home of former Flames pick Coda Gordon, the Broncos have two pretty good prospects in Jake DeBrusk (19th) and Glenn Gawdin (59th). An older prospect due to his October birthday, DeBrusk doubled his point production from last season and became a leader for Swift Current this season with his point-per-game pace. Gawdin was used more in a depth role, but the right-shooting forward also doubled his production. DeBrusk has the added benefit of having a father in Louie DeBrusk who played in the NHL.
The now-former home of Keegan Kanzig and Austin Carroll, the Royals have Tyler Soy (78th) and defender Chaz Reddekopp (82nd). Soy doesn’t do anything amazingly, but he has very few holes in his game. He is reliable in all three zones, and he was a point-per-game player this season. He’s got a good foundation. Speaking of foundations, Chaz Reddekopp has the best name ever and is 6’3″ and 215 lbs. He had 21 points this season and defensively was just fine, in terms of never being noticeable in games I saw him in.
Kingston has former Sam Bennett teammate Lawson Crouse, who will be gone before Calgary picks most likely. Tyler Wotherspoon’s brother Parker plays for Tri-City, who also have Brandon Carlo available. Carlo’s a right-handed D-man who was decent at the World Juniors, while Wotherspoon 2.0 is left-handed and plays similar to his brother, if a bit more likely to jump into the action a bit.