The best part of the NHL draft is the unpredictability. Think of both Sedin brothers going to Vancouver in 1999, or Rick DiPietro going first overall the next season. Even Phil Kessel dropping to No. 5 in 2006 was unscripted.
But it wouldn’t be draft time without some predictions, so instead of a usual top 30 that will be eviscerated as soon as the first trading of draft slots or a pending UFA comes, here instead is a list of predictions and unsolicited advice, based on a mixture of hunches and insider info.
• Taylor Hall goes first to Edmonton, Tyler Seguin goes second to Boston and everyone is happy.
• Florida drafts Erik Gudbranson with its first selection. Most likely it will be the third overall pick, but there’s always the chance they trade down a bit if they know someone is gung-ho on Cam Fowler.
• Jeff Skinner goes higher than initially predicted. While not all teams are big on the goal-scoring machine from Kitchener, those who like him love him. He won’t drop past the top 12.
• A California kid goes to a California team in the first round. Emerson Etem (Medicine Hat, Western League) is the obvious frontrunner and would likely be available at No. 12 to Anaheim, but if the host L.A. Kings really wanted to make a splash, they would move up from No. 19 to take the Long Beach native. Another option would be Beau Bennett, who will likely be around when the Ducks make their second pick of the first round (courtesy the Chris Pronger to Philly trade) at No. 29.
• Dallas needs defensemen in its system, but barring a big trade up in order to snag one of Gudbranson, Fowler or Brandon Gormley, the most obvious choices are U.S. national team development program product Derek Forbort and Edmonton Oil Kings steady hand Mark Pysyk. A dark horse would be the NTDP’s Jarred Tinordi, whose father, Mark, played for the organization back in the North Stars and early Dallas days. Jarred’s buzz has also been on the ascent lately and his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame certainly hasn’t hurt.
• If the Toronto Maple Leafs land a second round pick (or even a late first-rounder), they tab Kevin Hayes from the Massachusetts high school system. The fact his brother Jimmy Hayes is already Toronto property isn’t even much of a factor; I just think Kevin has the size and skill coveted by the Buds.
• Kirill Kabanov has turned off a lot of teams, but there is still a handful interested in his services. I would look at Atlanta, Washington and Boston as possible destinations. With three picks in the first two rounds, the Thrashers can gamble and having Nik Antropov on the squad would provide mentorship. Boston’s in the same boat pick-wise, while Washington has Alex Ovechkin. If Kabanov would listen to anyone, it’s Ovechkin, one of his heroes.
• Nino Niederreiter will become the highest Swiss-raised draft pick ever. Granted, there isn’t a lot of competition in that category, so I guess what I’m saying is he goes higher than countryman Michel Riesen, who was taken 14th overall in 1997. Don’t be surprised if you see ‘El Nino’ in a New York Islanders jersey Friday.
• If I’m the Atlanta Thrashers, I take goaltender Jack Campbell in the first round. Consider it a shot across the bow of current goaltender of the present/future Ondrej Pavelec, who didn’t exactly reinvent the position once Kari Lehtonen was traded to Dallas.
• If history is any indicator, San Jose will take Ottawa 67s center Tyler Toffoli with one of its early selections. Recent Sharks picks from the 67s include Logan Couture, Julien Demers and Jamie McGinn
It’s going to be a trade-happy, intrigue-filled night, so enjoy the ruckus, hockey fans.
Ryan Kennedy 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 – The Straight Edge – every Friday.
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