A, St. Louis Blues – Unlike some teams, the Blues did the majority of their great work at the start of the draft with the selections of Alex Pietrangelo, Phil McRae and Jake Allen. In Pietrangelo, they got a future stud who will play 20 minutes a night for the next 15 years. While the McRae selection raised some eyebrows, I loved it. This kid has always been one of the best players born in 1990 and despite a rough two years in London, he has a chance to be a great player. Lastly, the selection of Jake Allen, the goaltender from St. John’s may have given the Blues the best goaltending prospect from this year’s draft. Later on, they got another underrated kid in James Livingston from the Soo Greyhounds and Ian Schultz from Calgary. A few flyers at the end also have a shot as the Blues continue to build the framework for a future powerhouse for the passionate fans in St. Louis.
B+, Chicago Blackhawks – I loved the fact the Hawks took Kyle Beach despite negative rumors surrounding him; he could turn out to be the biggest home run of the draft. The Hawks did their homework and felt confident they were getting the best player available at that pick. They followed it up with the smallish, but lightning quick Shawn Lalonde, who will quarterback their power play one day. In the later rounds, they went for a kid with a history of winning in Ben Smith from the national champion Boston College Eagles and finally, the Blackhawks went off the board with a personal favorite of mine in Braden Birch, who was the star of the Royal Bank Cup for the Oakville Blades. Once again, GM Dale Tallon and his staff seemed to favor character over hype and that is why the Hawks will be at the top of the league very soon.
B, Nashville Predators – The Predators had three picks in the top 38 and did well with them by getting the sure thing Colin Wilson, the potential goaltending stud Chet Pickard and the very skilled Roman Josi. Those three all have bright futures so from then on, the Preds were playing with house money. Their middle round picks were OK, but their final two picks were used on a pair of intriguing Scandinavian prospects. Finnish center Jani Lajunen has a chance to be a player in the NHL and they also got the late developing monster goaltender Anders Lindback from Sweden, who may end up being the best seventh-rounder from this year’s festivities. All in all, a good couple of days for a team that needs to be moved out of Music City and into southern Ontario.
B, Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets have never got all they could out of Nikolai Zherdev, but that didn’t scare them away from selecting Nikita Filatov from Russia and it was a wise choice. The dynamic youngster has a chance to be a superstar and at NCAS we feel had he played in the CHL this year, he may have battled Steven Stamkos a lot closer. The Jackets’ need was defense, but when Toronto jumped ahead of them to take Luke Schenn, GM Scott Howson did the right thing and selected Filatov because he was clearly the best player available. They then went and addressed the lack of defensive prospects by getting Cody Goloubef and Steven Delisle, the giant defender from Gatineau. Much like Nashville, Columbus’ first three picks were so good they could take some flyers later on. With the exception of Tomas Kubalik, the rest have significant deficiencies in their game that need a lot of work if they are to become good prospects, but the big three will all have a chance to contribute down the road in the Buckeye state.
B-, Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings once again drafted ahead of the curve with half of their selections having already gone through the draft at least once, going against the common philosophy of taking kids in their first year of eligibility. They got Thomas McCollum, who some considered the best goaltender in the draft at the No. 30 spot and followed that up with some mid-round picks of kids who played in sub-par leagues such as New York high school and the USHL. The Wings did select a very capable, highly underrated player in Stephen Johnston, who has a lot of traits his Belleville teammate Shawn Matthias had in his draft year. Overall, Detroit didn’t wow me with their picks, but the Red Wings are one of the few teams who “get it” so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt because invariably, a couple of their picks will become hidden gems down the road.
A+, Los Angeles Kings – When you begin the proceedings with the best defenseman in the draft, Drew Doughty, things are looking up. But the Kings consistently made tremendous picks that will help the franchise rebound from some tough times. Along with Doughty, the Kings got stud defensemen Colten Teubert and Vyateslav Voinov who will combine to give the Kings the best back end in four years; we all know how valuable stud defenders are. Not being satisfied with these picks, they also added the skilled Robert Czarnik and Andrei Loktionov along with the biggest winner in this draft, Justin Azevedo. All in all, the Kings did the best job at this year’s gathering and the future looks very bright in Tinsel town.
A, Phoenix Coyotes – With the exception of their first pick, Mikkel Boedker, the Yotes definitely went for size and strength with their selections. The Boedker pick was good and as long as he scores like he projects to he’ll be fine, but he does need to develop the rest of his game. Viktor Tikhonov and Jared Staal not only come from famous hockey families, they also represent tremendous potential down the road. I commend the Coyotes for taking both kids because there was a lot of criticism of both, but the Desert Dogs looked past that and felt both kids had the burden of their name and their respective families’ work ethic rub off on them. In the later rounds, they took good character kids including Michael Stone, Colin Long and Ron Hextall’s boy Brett, who is a long shot, but you know the kid won’t be afraid of hard work. The interesting pick is Tim Billingsley in the seventh round, as he reminds me a little of Shane O’Brien, the St. Mike’s defender Anaheim picked late in 2003 who has developed into a solid NHLer.
B+, Anaheim Ducks –The Ducks had 10 picks in the draft and although most were wisely used, there were a couple that confused me. Their first pick – Jake Gardiner at No. 17 – however made plenty of sense and although I’ve been critical of kids playing high school or in inferior leagues, this kid is very much a sure thing. He has outstanding skills with a strong skating ability and was great value at No. 17. After that, they got Nicolas Deschamps and Eric O’Dell in the second round, two players I projected would be gone in the first. So again, that is tremendous value. O’Dell in particular was underexposed this year and with a young, exciting team in Sudbury, he should have a fantastic breakout year. Like so many other teams, when your first three picks are great, you can gamble a bit and the Ducks did just that, the exceptions being the Josh Brittain and Stefan Warg selections. I felt they were excellent picks and both have legitimate futures as players in the NHL if they continue to develop.
C+, Dallas Stars – The Stars were behind the eight ball because their first pick didn’t come until No. 59, but I feel they got the best young goaltender in Tyler Beskorowany and if he becomes the starter that I envision he will, it’ll be the steal of the 2008 draft. After Beskorowany, the Stars only had four other picks, but the selections of Philip Larsen and Mike Bergin both impressed me. While the other two picks were a little questionable, Tim Bernhardt and his staff obviously felt positive about them.
D, San Jose Sharks – The high school experiment for scout Tim Burke and the Sharks proved to be a mistake, but they continue to beat that dead horse. The selection of the Daniels brothers from the Kent School was surprising to say the least. Although they were hampered by not having a first- or second-round pick, the only selections I liked were Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri and speed burner Tommy Wingels from Miami. Other than that, a lot of their picks will struggle to make the NHL, or even the American League.
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting and appears as a host on Leafs Lunch on AM 640 radio in Toronto.