The 2008 NHL draft will deal out some studs.
While it’s guaranteed the Tampa Bay Lightning will take Steven Stamkos first overall, four of the next five GMs who select are expected to call the name of a young blueliner they hope can forge the backbone of their team’s defense for years to come.
One big American, Zach Bogosian, and three young Canucks – Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn – all have the potential to be stud NHL defensemen who hurt with hits and help with points.
At 6-foot and 219 pounds, Doughty is actually the smallest of the group. He, along with the nasty Bogosian and the slick Pietrangelo, played in the Ontario League this year. Schenn comes from the Western League, which has a long, proud history of producing beefy boys on the blueline.
One of these young men – likely Bogosian – will go second overall. The only thing that might prevent that is the fact the L.A. Kings, who enter the draft with the No. 2 pick, already have what they believe to be a cornerstone defense prospect in 21-year-old Jack Johnson. The St. Louis Blues, who hold the No. 4 pick, might also be tempted to go in another direction because they’ve got high hopes for the big defenseman they drafted No. 1 overall in 2006, Erik Johnson.
Part of the management teams in L.A. and St. Louis must be screaming, “Two studs are better than one,” but given how much GMs covet all-purpose, mean rearguards, there’s a good chance teams slated to pick lower in the draft might lay some tantalizing deals on the table.
The reason NHL teams fall over themselves to lock into one of these blueliners is two-fold. First of all, they don’t come along often and the laws of supply and demand dictate teams might get a little silly in their attempts to land one. The second is, winning the Stanley Cup without a defenseman of this cut is very, very difficult to do.
With far more than four teams hoping to get their hooks into one of a quartet of top-flight blueline prospects, the 2008 draft could get intriguing in a hurry.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.
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