LOS ANGELES – This will not be a critical look at the first round of the 2010 Entry Draft for one important reason – never has the order of selection so closely followed my personal list. Either great minds think alike or fools seldom differ. I will let you choose.
The first two selections could become Hall of Fame players; every team in the NHL would covet both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Edmonton has a number of young, smaller finesse forwards, but Hall provides speed and power. He is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Oilers. He and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (10th overall in 2009) give the Oilers two of the best skaters in hockey.
Two players selected in the first half of the opening round went significantly later than most pundits forecasted: Defensemen Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley. Both players are smart and talented and could become NHL stars. However, neither player at this point demonstrates a real passion in his play. The players selected ahead of them all provided more of this ingredient. I believe this was a determining factor in their place of selection.
The Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens moved up four spots and five spots to make their selections. In both cases, the teams clearly coveted the players whom they took and were fearful they would not be available if they did not move up. Both selections were big, strong defensemen: Derek Forbort by Los Angeles and Jarred Tinordi by Montreal. They addressed particular needs on the part of the selecting clubs.
Let’s look for a minute at the teams that traded down. Florida had three first round selections and believed they could gamble by moving back four spots in order to acquire an additional pick later on. After moving back, they selected Nick Bjugstad, a Minnesota high school player. Minnesota high-schoolers sometimes go later than projected because of the level of competition.
The Phoenix Coyotes also had an additional first round selection and gambled they could move back five spots and still get their goalie, Mark Visentin. Goalies are often selected later than skaters.
Chicago also had an additional first round pick and clearly believed two second round selections were worth the price of moving back five spots in a trade.
Two very interesting selections took place early in the draft. Some people were surprised Ryan Johansen was selected fourth overall, but I was not. In my opinion, he improved more than any of the top prospects during the course of the season and could be a major component on a championship team. Columbus got a good one.
Tampa Bay selected Brett Connolly sixth overall. Like many hockey people, I considered Brett to be the third-best talent in the draft. A lingering hip/groin injury severely curtailed his season and there were reports he was not co-operative in medical testing. With this level of uncertainty, only a real talent would still be selected sixth. Tampa Bay gambled, but it may pay dividends.
To the delight of the crowd, two Californians were selected in the second half of Round 1. Beau Bennett went 20th to Pittsburgh and Emerson Etem went 29th to Anaheim. Both players are quick and skilled and became prolific scorers in junior hockey. However, they were also inconsistent and there were games where they became invisible. Both players must work to bring more consistency to their play.
I found two other selections to be intriguing. St. Louis made a trade in order to select Vladimir Tarasenko 16th and Washington selected Evgeny Kuznetsov 26th. Both Russians are skilled offensive players. However, there are reports they have contracts with the Kontinental League in Russia. St. Louis and Washington must have satisfied themselves on the players’ availability.
The first round often involves high profile prospects, but every round of the draft produces regular NHL players. That will be the challenge for scouting staffs in rounds two through seven.
THN Puck Panel: Round 1 post-mortem
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
Tom Thompson worked as head scout for the Minnesota Wild from 1999-2001 and was promoted to assistant GM in 2002, a post he held until 2010. He has also worked as a scout for the Calgary Flames, where he earned a Stanley Cup ring in 1989. He will be blogging for THN at the NHL Entry Draft.