(JUNE 29, '13)
Myles Bell's strange, twisted journey to the 2013 Draft; rumblings from Edmonton; and dangling Drouin the dangler. Go here for some Draft Buzz as the NHL Draft is only one sleep away …
It's been a strange, twisted journey to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft for Kelowna Rockets winger Myles Bell, who turns 20 in August and has already been passed over twice by all 30 National Hockey League clubs in the draft. Bell used to play defense but made the switch to left wing prior to the 2012-13 campaign. He promptly went on to produce 93 points in 69 games for the Rockets, earning him a spot on the 2013 WHL West Second All-Star Team. The story isn't all positive, though, as Bell was involved in a tragic, alcohol-related accident last year that killed a passenger in the car. The incident was probably the main reason he wasn't drafted in 2012 but his resurgence as a forward this season may have changed his fortunes. Down the road, he may eventually return to the blueline and his versatility should be a plus here. Somebody is likely to take a chance in the later rounds.
PLEADING THE FIFTH
It seems likely that if a pick is traded among the first 10 selections in this year's draft, it'll probably be either the fifth (Carolina) or seventh pick (Edmonton). The Oilers have already made it known that they are looking for immediate help. They want size. They want leadership. They want defensemen. They want centers. They also love OHL center Sean Monahan, so if Monahan is still available at No. 7, Edmonton will likely keep the pick. However, Monahan may wind up going fifth overall, ESPECIALLY if the Hurricanes trade the pick. Carolina needs defensemen, especially shutdown rearguards. However, they have been quite reluctant to take a defenseman in the first round in the past. If they buck the trend this year, they'll probably choose OHL aggressive defender Darnell Nurse. Otherwise, they just may move the pick for a more established NHL defenseman. In fact, Carolina has been linked to the Kris Letang trade rumors with Pittsburgh. Stay tuned.
While Seth Jones dominated the 2013 WJC, and Nathan MacKinnon was clearly the top player at the 2013 Memorial Cup, Jonathan Drouin was good in both tournaments. At one time, the slick playmaking Drouin was in the conversation for going first overall in this year's draft but it seems the highest he ever reached was No. 2. Earlier, there was talk that he might be ahead of MacKinnon (behind Jones), especially following his strong showing (and MacKinnon's struggles) for Team Canada at the WJC. Now, there is some talk that Drouin may be picked by Florida ahead of Jones--assuming Colorado takes MacKinnon first overall. The Panthers could use MacKinnon more than anyone but should also be much improved with either Jones or Drouin in the fold. If Florida takes Jones at No. 2, is Drouin a lock to go third overall to Tampa Bay? Not anymore. Both center Aleksander Barkov and winger Valeri Nichushkin are now in the conversation. The plot thickens!
(JUNE 28, '13)
Does the buyout of former Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier change the team's draft situation? Maybe. It's long been suspected that the Lightning would gladly take any of the top three projected picks in this year's draft: center Nathan MacKinnon, defenseman Seth Jones and left-winger Jonathan Drouin. With Lecavalier gone, and also with continued suggestions that Colorado will take MacKinnon first overall, would Tampa Bay now view Finnish center Aleksander Barkov as a possibility at No. 3 overall? Barkov, after all, is considered to be very close to the 'Big Three' in terms of overall talent and potential. Furthermore, he has already held his own against top competition in the Finnish SM-Liiga. Then again, Drouin has experience playing center as well, so they may be covered either way if the Bolts suddenly believe the center position would be their biggest long-term need at the moment. This figures to be among the most intriguing elements of the first round.
The Devils are hosting the draft proceedings this year and they are picking higher than usual with the No. 9 overall selection in Round 1. Usually, the teams that host the draft tend to make a bit of a splash either via trade or with their No. 1 pick. In 2009, host Montreal selected local talent Louis Leblanc in the first round and the crowd went crazy. Last year in Pittsburgh, the Penguins shocked the draft gazers prior to the selection of the first pick with the announcement of the Jordan Staal trade to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth overall pick in the draft (which they used to select Derrick Pouliot). So how will New Jersey cause a stir this year? At No. 9 overall, there is a good chance they'll be able to select a high-end, high-profile forward such as OHLer Max Domi or WHLer Hunter Shinkaruk. However, don't be surprised if they select QMJHL goaltender Zachary Fucale as Martin Brodeur's official heir apparent. Stay tuned.
When a player gets passed over twice in the NHL draft, there usually isn't much interest in him the third time around. However, Swedish winger Viktor Arvidsson may be the exception to the rule. The 20-year-old Swede upped his stock with a sterling performance at the 2013 WJC, and then cemented his rise up the draft rankings when he was named 2013 Swedish junior player of the year in the Elitserien. He produced four goals and five points in six games at the WJC, and seven goals (12 points) in 49 games with Skelleftea in the SHL (Elitserien). He's undersized and a bit of a work in progress defensively but Arvidsson makes up for his deficiencies with a tenacious desire to own the puck and great puck skills. He also skates very well. He may not be selected until the third round but Arvidsson is the type of player who may develop more quickly than others in this year's class.
(JUNE 27, '13)
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
All eyes will be focused squarely on the Colorado Avalanche until Sunday afternoon, since they hold the top pick in the draft. New President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic and Vice-President of Hockey Operations/Head Coach Patrick Roy have been vocal about their desire to select a forward with the top pick, and have even identified Nathan MacKinnon as their likely top choice. Are they bluffing? Are they trying to play mind games with the rest of the NHL? Are they looking to leverage the first pick in a trade for established NHL talent? Or maybe a deal with Florida to move down one spot? Perhaps. Or, maybe Colorado simply feels MacKinnon is the top player available (and not D Seth Jones). Rest assured, there will be intrigue right up until Sunday.
FUCALE THE FLAME?
Now that Calgary Flames veteran netminder Miikka Kiprusoff has apparently retired, are the Flames more likely to select top goaltending prospect Zach Fucale in Round 1 of Sunday's entry draft? Maybe. Calgary would be an obvious target for pinpointing where Fucale might land, since they currently own three first-round picks. However, Calgary has several young goaltending prospects in the system: Karri Ramo and Reto Berra, who will probably battle journeyman Joey MacDonald for starts in 2013-14, plus WHL grad Laurent Brossoit, NCAA prospect Jon Gillies and Finn Joni Ortio. Leland Irving's days may be numbered in the organization. Overall, the Flames have strength in numbers but may pick Fucale if he's deemed the best.
HART(MAN) OF A CHAMPION?
There is plenty of interest in Plymouth Whalers (OHL) forward Ryan Hartman, who played a key role for Team USA at the 2013 WJC. He played right wing on the checking line and helped them earn a gold medal. He also played center with the Whalers, a testament to his versatility. However, what sets Hartman apart is his agitating qualities, grit and power forward potential. He's not overly big but plays a power game. He is a hard player to go up against and seems like the type of forward teams need to win a Stanley Cup. His NHL future probably lies on the wing but his ability to play the pivot position enhances his prospects for the future. Look for Hartman to be picked somewhere in Round 1, possibly as high as No. 17 (Ottawa Senators).
Remember the name Steve Santini on draft day. The 18-year-old rearguard is slated to attend Boston College in the fall and was viewed as a likely second-round draft pick this year. However, he seems to be on the rise and could find his way into Round 1. Santini is a shutdown rearguard with the grit and passion teams want in their defensemen. A New York native, Santini might be the type of blueliner that interests the Islanders at pick No. 15. More highly touted defensemen will be available to the Isles but they just may be looking for someone of Santini's ilk. A member of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he may also be on Anaheim's radar.
If there is any player in this year's draft that might break up the consensus top four Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov--it's Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin. The strapping 6-4 winger has elite power forward upside but has always been viewed as a wild card because of his contractual situation in the KHL. However, Nichushkin recently stated to the Russian press his desire to play in the NHL next season (2013-14), and that he's notified his club team (Dynamo Moscow) of his intentions. Sometimes, there are complications when dealing with these situations, mainly because there is no official IIHF transfer agreement between the NHL and Russian hockey federation. That said, Nichushkin's draft stock is now on the rise. Could Tampa Bay prefer him to Drouin at No. 3? Could teams be looking to move up to No. 4 (Nashville) to select Nichushkin? Clearly, Nichushkin is this year's first-round 'X-Factor'.
BOOK IT, DANO!
There doesn't appear to be any consensus on Slovakian forward Marko Dano. Some scouts love his offensive swagger and positional versatility. Others question his ability to produce points in North America on a regular basis. However, if there's a team seeking a potential game-changing offensive type, Dano could be their man…even late in the first round. As an 18-year-old, he played in the KHL in 2012-13 for Slovan Bratislava and also looked very good at the '13 WJC, leading the Slovaks with nine points in six games. Despite the fact he is playing in the KHL, there shouldn't be much fear of him staying there over the long haul--especially if an NHL team makes an early commitment to him in the draft. Dano just might be a boom-or-bust selection this year.
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