The list of hockey prospects you see on the pages of The Hockey News’ Draft Preview has the hearts of NHL scouts all aflutter this spring.
Many of them are saying the 2008 draft - to be held June 20–21 in Ottawa - will eventually go down among the best ever – at least among the top handful since 1979, the best year and the last year 20-year-olds were selected.
It all starts with offensive dynamo Steven Stamkos, the consensus No. 1 pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning. At No. 2, the Los Angeles Kings will likely select defenseman Drew Doughty, but from there, anything could happen.
Impact defensemen make this draft deep at the top. Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn will ensure rearguards are among the top six or seven picks. After the Lightning and Kings, the next five picks are Atlanta, St. Louis, the Islanders, Columbus and Toronto.
Expect Russian left winger Nikita Filatov and Boston University center Colin Wilson to be the other two figures among the top seven. Filatov will go to the first team desperate for the skill element rather than a reliable defender. And Wilson was the star of this weekend’s NHL draft combine, displaying impressive strength and conditioning.
Beyond the top seven, there are some fabulous prospects who will surely go on to have outstanding NHL careers and make the 2008 draft something to behold.
The most recent impressive draft class was 2003, where no fewer than 24 of the 30 first-rounders (and nine second-rounders) are today playing regularly in the NHL at age 22 and 23.
My associate at The Hockey News, Ryan Kennedy, made the interesting point a few weeks ago that a unique way to analyze past drafts is to see how far down the first bust or flop or disappointment arrived. In most draft classes, it’s somewhere between three (Alexander Svitov for example) and seven (Ryan Sittler, Jamie Storr).
The first big disappointment from 2003 is Hugh Jessiman at No. 12 and the final verdict isn’t out on him yet.
Some drafts just don’t pan out, like the ballyhooed 1999 edition. Just nine of those 28 first-rounders are still in the NHL today and they’re all still under the age of 28. At least 15 of them performed greatly under expectations.
So as we expect big things from the 2008 class, it’s interesting to make note that above-average drafts have been seen in five-year increments. The 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998 editions join 2003 as years to remember.
Based on that, a technical analyst might make the case that hockey skill ebbs and flows in five-year increments and we’re just a few weeks away from the next great high.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.
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