Monday, June 29, 2009

Edmonton Oilers Free Agency Preview

I don't see Edmonton as a team particularly well positioned for a busy, big spending UFA season, but I suppose it depends which players are movable for a quality return, a decent return, or prove movable at all.

There isn't a ton of money available until players are traded, claimed through waivers, or stashed in the minors.

As currently constructed, the Oilers roster looks something like:

Penner(4.25)-Horcoff(5.5)-Hemsky(4.1) = 13.85
O'Sullivan(2.93)-Gagner(1.63)-Cogliano(1.13) = 5.69
Moreau(2.0)-Pouliot(0.83)-Pisani(2.5) = 5.33
Nilsson(2.0)-Stortini(0.7)-Jacques(0.53) = 3.77

Visnovsky(5.6)-Souray(5.4) = 11
Gilbert(4.0)-Grebeshkov(3.3*) = 7.3
Smid(1.3*)-Staios(2.7) = 4.6

Roloson^(3.0) = 3.63

For a total cap hit of ~ 55.2 mil, which leaves EDM roughly 1.6 mil in cap room.

My guess would be that EDM uses that cap space plus Jacques or MacIntyre's salary (after waiving one of them) to find a 3rd line C at ~ 2mil cap hit, taking them right to the cap. Beyond that, how can one guess?

If they are to make more moves, it will have to involve trades, waivers, or demotion of one way contracts to the minors which will be difficult/impossible for me to guess given my lack of information regarding the options available to Tambellini. Is there a market for Penner, Moreau, Nilsson, and/or Staios? What other trade options are available? How many, if any, dollars will ownership allow to be buried in the minors?

That said, there are a number of players I think might be nice additions/replacements for many teams, depending on their cost (EDM being one of them if they have room to manoeuvre via trade etc), including but probably not limited to:

Gaborik, Tanguay, Havlat, Montador, Seidenberg, Connolly, Tjarnqvist, Hossa, Kotalik, Dvorak, Leopold, Bergeron, Bonk, Sullivan, Nichol, Fiddler, Betts, Mara, Morris, Knuble, Scuderi, and Moen.

I tried not to list 3rd line C candidates since I think EDM will probably get one of them anyways, the above are players I'd be interested in the Oilers signing as value buys, if they can move the player being replaced from the current roster.

* - estimates
^ - assuming the rumors EDM has made Roloson a one year offer around 3 mil are true. I would imagine he'd take that, but perhaps he'll look at the market first.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Edmonton Oilers 2009 Draft Review

It was an interesting couple of draft days for the Oilers. I can't say I completely agree with all of Edmonton's selections, but like every draft, the picks begin to make more sense once you hear the rationale behind the decisions.

#10 - F Magnus Paajarvi Svensson:

I'm quite pleased with the choice of Paajarvi Svensson. There are some concerns, I suppose, with regards to the prospect's ability to finish, but it's hard to know what to make of that. His offensive numbers are fairly modest, but historically Swedish prospects don't generally have overwhelming totals as 18 year olds playing in the SEL, even the ones selected in the 1st round. Regularly playing in the SEL at 18 is pretty uncommon on its own. One promising sign was his production at tournaments within his age group.

I would have selected F Schroeder based on my list [and I kind of wonder about that having read Gare Joyce's comments in a thread on HF (comment #711)], but Paajarvi was 2nd on my list at that point so I'm not particularly disappointed with his selection. If one was picking using the THN draft preview top 100, the selection at 10 would also have been F Paajarvi, with Schroeder the 2nd highest prospect remaining on their list.

#40 - F Anton Lander:

At the time of the pick I was ambivalent, but I like the pick more as I hear and read more about Lander, which reminds me of the 2005 draft and Taylor Chorney. I am a fan of Lander, and in retrospect think I had him a bit low on my final list (he was #30 and #35 in two earlier versions). There were 2 players I consistently liked a little bit more, Werek and Morin. To be honest though I didn't really like anyone in this range significantly more than Lander, it was just one of those drafts where the guys in that range seemed, to me, like roughly equivalent prospects.

I'd have selected F Werek, and using the THN guide would have resulted in Edmonton drafting F Morin.

#71 - D Troy Hesketh:

I hadn't heard anything about this player before he was drafted. And to be honest, when he was drafted I mistakenly thought, for a minute or so, it was Seth Helgeson (THN #58) Edmonton had picked. My memory said, "Oh, a Matt Greene type", so I just figured they were looking for another Matt Greene-type prospect. It was only after I went to re-read his THN profile that I realized they had drafted a different player.

I actually like what I've read about Hesketh. It seems to have been a little bit early to select him, but they were worried other teams were interested and maybe they were. That said, I don't really like his projected timeline, which currently sits at one more year at Minnetonka, one year in the USHL, finally followed by starting college in 2011/12.

I'd have selected F Rajala in this spot, and the THN guide had G Roy as the BPA at this point. Interesting that both players were later selected by the Oilers anyways.

#82 - F Cameron Abney:

I really don't know what to make of this pick; the adage "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" comes to mind. On the surface it looks like a poor, at best, third round selection, given the other players available. They must see something in him to take him in the 3rd round, as it's hard to believe they'd take him this early if they project his upside as a 4th line fighter. Having read Guy Flaming's excellent Oilers draft review, it sounds like he's grown a bunch in the last couple of years, so they must anticipate huge improvement over the next 2 WHL seasons.

I would have selected F Alex Hutchings at 82, while following the THN draft guide would have seen Edmonton select a second goalie in Edward Pasquale. It may be pushing it to have a team pick a second goalie, but I'll do so for the purposes of this post. If the BPA were to be a goalie for any of THN's remaining picks, I'll skip him and take the next best available skater.

Abney's stat line: 48GP 1G 3A 4pts -17 (the team wasn't great, but this was still the seventh worst minus on the team)
Hutchings' stats: 63GP 34G 34A 68pts +27 (team leading, next highest player was +17)

Admittedly the two players are projected to have very different roles as pros, but it looks to me like Abney's got some serious ground to make up.

#99 - D Kyle Bigos:

I don't have a lot to say about Bigos, as I don't know much about him. I don't like his age or his projected timeline (similar to Hesketh, but Bigos has already played his 18 and 19 year old seasons), but he looks like a reasonable pick at this point due to his apparent late development. One advantage to selecting Bigos is the ability to stash him in the NCAA for a while and see what happens. Doesn't cost you any money to develop for the next couple of years or take up an AHL spot. His age at 20 is worrisome in the sense that if he pans out you're probably only going to get something like 4 years out of him before he's a UFA. Hopefully he'll turn out as well as the only other Oiler to be drafted in the 99 slot.

At this point the highest player left on my list was F Anton Burdasov, but I can't say with certainty I would have picked him. It depends if there was any indication he would prove to be signable going forward. That said, I'll say Burdasov (who actually went undrafted, which would seem to indicate there are signability concerns) would have been my pick at this point, while THN would have picked F Erik Haula.

#101 - F Toni Rajala:

Very happy with this pick, I think he was CLEARLY the BPA at this point in the draft. In fact, I think he was the BPA for at least a round by this point. I understand the size issues, and the concern over his willingness to go into traffic, but the reward is so much greater than most/all players at this point that I think the pick is a no-brainer. Very similar to the feel I got about Trukhno at the 2005 draft, in that I don't think Rajala necessarily fit what they were trying to do this draft but the potential upside was simply too great to pass on him at 101.

I would have already selected Rajala, so my pick at this point would have been D Tommi Kivisto. THN's pick would have been F David Gilbert.

#133 - G Olivier Roy:

I really like this pick, but I'm not sure I understand Tambellini when he said that part of the rationale for the Brodziak trade was their desire to draft Roy. I don't think that makes a lot of sense given that they could have selected Roy with the 4th round pick they acquired from MIN (Bigos) or their own 4th (Rajala). They liked him so much they took those two guys first and then waited a round to hope he was still there? I guess that's possible, but I think it's more likely that they liked a bunch of goalies fairly similarly, and wanted to take whichever one of them was highest on their list once they got to a certain point in the draft. And that turned out to be Olivier Roy.

I think the remaining goalies were pretty reasonable value at this point, Roy would have been my pick here as well. THN's next highest on their list was G Conz, who went undrafted, but already having two goalies using their list I'll skip him and move to the next available skater, which was F Burdasov.

EDM's picks:

F Paajarvi Svensson
F Lander
D Hesketh
F Abney
D Bigos
F Rajala
G Roy

speeds' picks:

F Schroeder
F Werek
F Rajala
F Hutchings
F Burdasov
D Kivisto
G Roy

THN's picks:

F Paajarvi
F Morin
G Roy
G Pascuale
F Haula
F Gilbert
F Burdasov

Having read Gare Joyce's comment, I am tempering my enthusiasm for Schroeder just a little bit. That said, of the two I still prefer Schroeder at this time, but perhaps the margin is a bit smaller than before I saw that quote. I did see another article about Schroeder that suggests a lack of confidence won't be a problem for him, and while his "confidence" shines through it doesn't read quite the same way Joyce's comments do. I do wonder a little bit how much editorializing has gone on in each instance, not with Joyce necessarily but maybe how the information was passed along to Joyce, if he wasn't in the room for the interview.

Overall I'm quite pleased EDM was able to land Paajarvi, Lander, Rajala, and Roy. The others weren't players I would really have considered at the point they were drafted, but I am hoping they work out nonetheless. I think the two defenseman are more likely to pan out than the F, but I'll hope I'm wrong and all three become NHL contributors.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Final 2009 top 40

1. Victor Hedman
2. John Tavares
3. Matt Duchene
4. Evander Kane
5. Jordan Schroeder
6. Brayden Schenn
7. Magnus Paajarvi Svensson
8. Scott Glennie
9. Jared Cowen
10. Dmitri Kulikov
11. Ryan Ellis
12. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
13. John Moore
14. David Rundblad
15. Peter Holland
16. Jacob Josefson
17. Nazem Kadri
18. Chris Kreider
19. Calvin De Haan
20. Louis Leblanc
21. Tim Erixon
22. Ethan Werek
23. Zach Kassian
24. Jeremy Morin
25. Landon Ferraro
26. Zach Budish
27. Toni Rajala
28. Stefan Elliot
29. Carl Klingberg
30. Simon Despres
31. Kyle Palmieri
32. Nick Leddy
33. Richard Panik
34. Charles-Olivier Roussel
35. Dmitri Orlov
36. Jordan Caron
37. Alex Hutchings
38. Tomas Tatar
39. Carter Ashton
40. Ryan O’Reilly

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

General 2009 Draft Thoughts

The Oilers are in a good/bad spot in this draft. They miss out on the top two tiers of players, which IMO include Hedman and Tavares, followed by 3-8 from my top 40 list. After 8, I see a big grouping of players from 9 to 17-21, and I'm not sure just how different one player is from another. There is a not bad chance that at least one of top eight players will be available at 10 based on the various differing rankings and mock drafts that seem to be going around. Even if all of those players are gone, it still leaves EDM well positioned to take whichever of the next grouping they like best, if someone in particular stands out. The two players I'm most hoping for at #10, which are somewhat likely to be available, are:

Jordan Schroeder

-player who has everything except height. Good skater, great vision, can shoot but is known more for playmaking, has some awareness of his own zone. Very strong on his skates, tested highly at the combine.
-Great scoring numbers in his history, 2nd in both team scoring for MIN (to 22 year old 2005 34th overall pick teammate Ryan Stoa) and WCHA scoring. T-1st in team +/- at +17 (with Stoa). Next highest forward was +5. Led Team USA in WJHC scoring this past season, was 2nd the year previous when very few other 2009 draft eligible players had even cracked their team's U-20 roster.

Scott Glennie

-another player with great hockey sense, great speed and skating.
-also has very good scoring stats, he is said to not be as physical as Schenn, not nearly as strong either. That said, he supposedly played more physically last year, so it could be that playing with Schenn he simply didn't think he needed to play as physical as year's previous. Very good +/- as well, in fact he rates ahead of Schenn here but without having seen him play it's hard to exactly know why that might be. Schenn is said to be the better two way player, but Glennie did kill penalties this season so he's not completely without defensive talent.

A player I'm not hoping for at #10:

Zach Kassian:

I actually like the player OK, I just don't see quite enough upside to take him at #10 relative to the two forwards above.

This is an interesting draft in that there are a lot of players I like about the same where EDM is picking (maybe down to about 15), so there aren't actually many guys I've heard rumored to EDM that I wouldn't like to see picked at 10. Obviously the Oilers could go off the board which I might not be a big fan of (depending who it is), but I wouldn't be displeased with any of the 5 or 7 guys I've seen rumored at that spot, outside of Kassian. For that reason I wouldn't necessarily be against or surprised by the Oilers trading down if they can pick up a 2nd rounder, depending on their list and how far down they'd have to move.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Updated 2009 Top 40

First of all, tip of the cap to Guy Flaming for his show and blog, both are outstanding resources for any prospect junkie. If you have yet to do so, check it out! Additionally, YKOil has a terrific post up regarding this year's draft.

As for the updated top 40, if anyone has questions about why I have a certain player where, feel free to ask and I'll answer away.

1. Victor Hedman
2. John Tavares
3. Matt Duchene
4. Evander Kane
5. Jordan Schroeder
6. Brayden Schenn
7. Magnus Paajarvi Svensson
8. Jared Cowen
9. Scott Glennie
10. Dmitri Kulikov
11. Ryan Ellis
12. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
13. David Rundblad
14. Peter Holland
15. John Moore
16. Jacob Josefson
17. Nazem Kadri
18. Chris Kreider
19. Calvin De Haan
20. Louis Leblanc
21. Tim Erixon
22. Ethan Werek
23. Zach Kassian
24. Kyle Palmieri
25. Jeremy Morin
26. Landon Ferraro
27. Zach Budish
28. Toni Rajala
29. Stefan Elliot
30. Carl Klingberg
31. Simon Despres
32. Richard Panik
33. Dmitri Orlov
34. Jordan Caron
35. Anton Lander
36. Tomas Tatar
37. Nick Leddy
38. Drew Shore
39. Carter Ashton
40. Ryan O’Reilly

I will be writing a little bit more in depth about a couple of guys I'd like to see Edmonton draft, a couple of guys I'm not as anxious to see drafted by the Oilers at 10 OV, and where I guess the talent tiers to be, in the next couple of days. After that, it's on to free agency!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Expectations for Bouwmeester's Contract

Jay Bouwmeester is a 25 year old #1 D that has led the league in minutes for 2 years straight, and hasn't missed a game since the lockout. A player like this has never been available as a UFA, and there's probably not that great a chance another one will be any time soon. The confluence of events that see a player end up in Bouwmeester's position would seem to be exceedingly rare. Very few players have, or will, become a UFA at 25. To have established yourself as a, without question, #1D by age 25 is also uncommon. There are few players with the durability and ability/talent to lead the league in minutes two seasons in a row. For such a player to have not already locked up an extension with his team would also seem to be rare as teams generally find a way to sign such players.

Because of Bouwmeester's age, a 10 year deal would not necessarily extend late into his decline years. While Bouwmeester maybe be regressing by 35, he probably will not be completely falling off a cliff either. Lidstrom's 39. Niedermayer's 35. Pronger's 34. Bouwmeester would be 7 years into a hypothetical 10 year deal before he would even be Chara's current age. For Bouwmeester to sign a long term deal taking him to the same age Zetterberg will be after his 12 year deal, Bouwmeester would need to sign a 15 year contract.

I will not be shocked if a team signs Bouwmeester to a 10 year 80 mil deal, or a 15 year 100 mil deal to cut the cap cost a bit.

Bouwmeester could be such a long term signing that conventional roster analysis for a team like the Oilers might not make sense. They would have to move some salary to make it work, but if they are willing to stash a player or two in the minors and move one of the 3 D making big money (preferably one of the two older ones IMO) it is workable for next season.

How far should EDM be willing to go? I'll cheat and say it depends what the market is like for their players in trades. If they can't move Souray or Visnovsky then they'd probably need to move Gilbert, Moreau and Staios (or equivalently paid players) to make it work. Not that they need to get a ton in return while clearing cap space for Bouwmeester, but they probably need to be able to move a player or two even if the return is only futures, or minimal, or both. Burying a bit of money in the minors is one thing, but burying 10 is probably more than Katz would like to spend, and also, depending on the timing in signing players, perhaps impossible since they'd be carrying over 110% of the salary cap in the summer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ideal Roster Number for a Team Spending to the Cap

I'm sure most people have their own opinion, I'm kind of curious to hear which number of players most think to be optimal? 20, 21, 22, or the max of 23?

I think 21 is a decent number, with a mix of 12F, 7D, and 2G. It leaves you protection in case of an injury in the pregame skate, and it saves 1.0 mil in cap room (NHL minimum salary is $0.500 mil for the 09/10 season), relative to the same roster with 2 additional, league minimum salaried players. It's the cap room argument that most intrigues me, as I'm not sure how important it is to have extra players on your roster if you can simply replace them via LTIR when injuries hit. The problems come when players are injured, but not so seriously injured that they need to go on LTIR. In that case though you can just call a player up,provided you have cap room, and I wonder how that trades off with having 1 mil extra to spend elsewhere in your roste?.

Additionally, one's decision regarding the roster number depends on the team's player mix and waiver situation. Do you want to have 3 extra players to give match-up flexibility vs different teams? Are there players that you value enough to not risk waiving, even if they aren't line-up regulars?

I guess it goes to the larger question "How closely should a team willing to spend to the cap actually get before they are cutting too fine a line?" And what is too fine a line?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Heatley's Production Over The Next Five Years

Unquestionably, Dany Heatley has been an outstanding goal scorer since the NHL's lockout. Only two players, Alex Ovechkin (219) and Ilya Kovalchuk (189) have scored more than Heatley's 180 goals. The fourth highest goal scorer, Jarome Iginla, is 21 behind Heatley over that 4 season time frame.

Having said that, an acquiring team would be wise to consider that the Dany Heatley playing for them is not the age 25-28 Heatley; it will be the age 29-34 Dany Heatley. What age do you goal scorers generally start losing their scoring? I would guess somewhere between 28 and 30, but decided to look at some past players as examples. I arbitrarily decided to go back 10 years and look at the top 10 players in goal scoring from 95/96 to 98/99, for no reason other than thinking this might, and I stress might, give examples of players somewhat similar to Heatley in terms of goal scoring over a 4 year period. I decided to look at when in their careers these 10 players had their 7 best goal scoring seasons:

(1) John Leclair - His 7 best goal scoring seasons occurred at ages 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32.
(2) Teemu Selanne - 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 35, 36
(3) Jaromir Jagr - 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 33
(4) Petr Bondra - 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33
(5) Keith Tkachuk - 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29
(6) Zigmund Palffy - 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30
(7) Paul Kariya - 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31
(8) Brendan Shanahan - 24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 37
(9) Eric Lindros - 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28
(10)Tony Amonte - 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 (had 31 goal seasons at 25 and 27, only counted the age 27 season)

Now, two of these "comparables" may not be particularly reasonable as comparables for Heatley, due to injuries (Lindros and Palffy).

That said, I do find it interesting that, of the 70 goal scoring seasons considered, only 10 occurred after a player was older than 30 years old. There is, on average, only one season in a player's top 7 seasons after age 30.

I’m sure there are more examples of players that peak later, but my point is that it doesn't seem to be particularly common, as illustrated by Dan Tolensky in this article. One of the arguments I've heard people make, in terms of the Oilers acquiring Heatley, is that you don't often get the opportunity to get a top goal scorer in the prime of his career. I contend it's unlikely that the Oilers, or any team trading for Heatley, would be getting a player in the middle of his prime; it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Heatley’s best goal scoring days are behind him. That is not to say that Heatley will certainly have his goal scoring fall off the map any time soon, but it is likely that he's not as prolific over the next 5 years as he has been over the previous four.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Oiler Prospects and their waiver situations

In the last couple of summers we have seen the Oilers offer one way contracts, at somewhat reduced rates, to some of their about-to-be waiver eligible players. Marc Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak, JF Jacques, Mathieu Roy and Jeff Deslauriers have all been given one way contracts in some form or another prior to becoming waiver eligible.

It remains to be seen whether EDM will do the same with any of their notable players/prospects this summer, but here are the notable players who will have to clear waivers to go to the AHL for the 2009/10 season (last season's NHL salaries in brackets):

Liam Reddox (515K)

Rob Schremp (650K)

Ryan Stone (550K)

Ryan Potulny (645K)

Gilbert Brule (765K)

Note: I bumped this post after re-reading the CBA section in question, having found I made a mistake. Brule clearly DOES have to clear waivers to go to the minors for the 2009/10 season. As soon as you play 11 or more NHL games as an 18 or 19 year old, your ELC starts to tick and you only have 3 seasons of waiver ineligiblity, even if you don't play in the NHL in seasons 2 and 3 of your ELC. Brule played 78 NHL games in 06/7, meaning that he has played all 3 seasons of his ELC and he now has to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL. Sorry for any confusion.

Heatley on the market?

TSN is reporting that Dany Heatley has asked for a trade. Sportsnet suggests Heatley may want to move to the Western conference.

I definitely expect the Oilers to make a push for Heatley, and I expect that push to be more aggressive than I would like to see. I like Heatley fine as a hockey player, but I'm not sure I hold as high an opinion of his play as do others. Like Lecavalier, I think it's highly possible that whoever acquires him will pay too much. Unlike Lecavalier, I do think trading for Heatley is a move worth investigating; I just think I personally wouldn't be willing to pay what I imagine it will cost to acquire him. For instance, I would rather have Gaborik and he would cost nothing but money, probably quite similar money (Heatley has a 7.5 mil cap hit) with term being unknown for Gaborik. That said, there's no guarantee you are successful in acquiring Gaborik, and Heatley seems to be less of an injury risk going forward.

To use a baseball analogy, I think it makes more sense for the Oilers to play small ball this summer, as opposed too swinging for a home run. That said, if someone's grooving fastballs down the middle of the plate I'm not opposed to swinging away.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Selection vs. Development

As much as some, myself included, love to criticize draft selections, I sometimes wonder if too little emphasis is placed on the development of the prospect after the draft. To what extent should teams factor the expected post-draft developmental environment into their draft selections? How do you weigh the importance of their league, their team, and potentially their age-19 AHL eligibility?

If I'm given a choice between four prospects, considered more or less equal in quality at the time of selection, is it wrong to choose between them based on which one appears to be in the best situation to develop over the next year or two? Here are 4 players that illustrate some of the different environments post-draft. I selected all forwards to help simplify matters, all of whom I've seen as possible selections for the Edmonton Oilers at 10 overall.

(1) Scott Glennie
(2) Jordan Schroeder
(3) Zach Kassian
(4) Jacob Josefson*

Glennie and Kassian are both Canadian CHL players, and at this point I don't think it would be unreasonable to suggest that both will be back in the CHL for the season after the draft. Ideally, you'd be looking for full seasons, making the WJHC (probably less likely for Kassian given his player type), improvements in production and +/- while rounding out the weaker parts of their games.

I'm not particularly well versed in the quality of each player's team, but my understanding is that Glennie's Brandon Wheat Kings are expected to be a much better team than Kassian's Peterborough Petes. Brandon is the Memorial Cup host next season and one generally sees the hosting team try to be competitive for their league title in the season they are hosting the event. Most importantly, it appears that both have a chance to be on their team's top line, presumably competing against the best the other team's have to offer.

The downside to playing in the CHL, post draft, is that instead of being the young player improving quickly by playing against older, bigger, stronger players, you are now the older, bigger, stronger player. It's probably true that as you get older you tend to be matched against lines with older, bigger players, but it is situational, coach dependent, and wouldn't be true for each and every shift.

With a college player like Schroeder you have the benefit of being the younger player, and getting to improve your skills against older more mature players than you would in the CHL. This is taken even a step further, perhaps too far, for a European like Josefson, who is playing in the Swedish Elite League against professional hockey players. If the prospect is good enough, and trusted enough by his coach, it might be preferable to have the player playing professionally in Europe instead of against 18-24 year olds in college. However, if the player is not good enough, something fairly common for Europeans drafted 10-20 overall, it has the potential of stunting the European player's growth since they may receive very little ice time in their elite league.

The player's progress will also depend on the team. If you're playing on a bad SEL team, maybe you get more ice time. If you're playing on a good team, maybe you learn a lot in practice but don't get as much game action as you would on a worse team. For college players, their conference is another consideration. You might be quite happy to have your player committed to Michigan or North Dakota, but not as happy with an Ivy League school since they don't play as many games in the Ivies, and when they do the competition isn't necessarily as strong as in other conferences.

For the age of 18, in my opinion, it is probably best for the prospect to play in the CHL or NCAA. They would likely have a better combination of ice time and quality of opposition than would the average European; more ice time than a European, and lesser quality opposition than the pro European would seem to allow the prospect more time to handle the puck and improve their game skills. The differences between the CHL and college seem more difficult to compare. The player would probably get more ice time in the CHL, but may not be challenged in the same way as a college player. Maybe there are no easy, sweeping generalities to be made with respect to college vs. CHL at age 18; perhaps the best we can say is that it depends on the player?

So now the post-draft season has passed, and the player is 19. We have a new potential problem with a CHL draftee which, oddly enough, occurs when things go as planned. If the prospect develops quickly, but not quickly enough to be completely ready for the NHL, a CHL player can be "stuck" in a non-ideal league. With the European or college player we have an easy answer: sign the player and play him in the AHL. To the European this is a chance to familiarize themselves with North America, the NA style and size of rinks, all while holding the calibre of hockey roughly equivalent to that which they are leaving back home. For the college player the AHL is a chance to play against professionals and experience the more intense schedule. With both college players and Europeans the year in the AHL at 19 does not count as one of the three years on their entry level contract provided they don't play more than 9 NHL games.

CHL players are stuck in the CHL at 19 if they can't crack the NHL due to an NHL/AHL/CHL agreement which doesn't allow CHL eligible players to play in the AHL unless they are 20 years old (with a few, rare exceptions). I don't know if it's fair to say this causes a player to stagnate, but I don't think it's unfair to suggest it has the potential to not challenge a player as much as the team would prefer if he were AHL eligible.

If the player isn't ready for the AHL at 19 there is no harm in staying in his respective league, but I think it's a significant developmental advantage to drafting a collegian or European in the middle stages of the first round, since those are the quality of players that would most probably benefit from playing in the AHL at 19, if they develop as hoped post-draft.

This is a long way to go to talk about this year's draft as it pertains to the Edmonton Oilers selection at #10. It's tough to say who Edmonton will pick, but there's some chance that all 4 of these players might be available to the Oilers at 10 overall. Given that choice, my guess would be that they end up choosing between Glennie and Schroeder. At this time I prefer Schroeder, Lowetide prefers Glennie, but I think both of us, and probably most draft observers, don't feel that either one would be a terrible pick at 10. One of the reasons I prefer Schroeder over Glennie is their respective developmental situations and the drafting team's control thereof. I think both will gain quality experience from their next season, Glennie in the CHL and Schroeder in the NCAA. The year after it is possible that neither,either, or both will be NHL ready, but failing that I would rather have Schroeder in the AHL (Springfield last year aside) than have Glennie playing a 4th year in the CHL. There is the additional advantage of being able to send Schroeder to the AHL until he's adjusted to the pro game. The decision must be made with Glennie before the season starts. If you send him back and he's getting his points, but not learning much, there's nothing you can do to improve the quality of his competition. With Schroeder you can start him in the AHL at age 19, play him there all year (again, without burning an ELC year as long as he plays 9 NHL games or less) or call him up whenever you want. If Schroeder plays between 10 and 39 NHL games, you burn an ELC year but it does NOT count as a year towards UFA status. Meaning that you could have him play over half the year in the AHL, check on his progress, and get him into some games down the playoff stretch drive without the cost of bringing him a year closer to unrestricted free agency.

Lacking a crystal ball, I can't definitively say that post-draft development will be better for Schroeder. That said, I do think it's reasonable to suggest there are advantages Schroeder will have in that regard over Glennie, Kassian, or Josefson. I also can't say those advantages in and of themselves are a reason to draft Schroeder, but I do think it's a factor that the Oilers should seriously consider as part of the decision at 10 overall.

* - You could accuse me, probably fairly, of cheating to include Josefson, in that I haven't specifically seen him slotted to the Oilers. I do think he could be, roughly, "in the range" at #10. Additionally, I needed him to include a prospect type.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Early 2009 Top 40

1. Victor Hedman
2. John Tavares
3. Matt Duchene
4. Evander Kane
5. Jordan Schroeder
6. Brayden Schenn
7. Magnus Paajarvi Svensson
8. Jared Cowen
9. Scott Glennie
10. Dmitri Kulikov
11. Ryan Ellis
12. Nazem Kadri
13. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
14. David Rundblad
15. Jacob Josefson
16. Peter Holland
17. John Moore
18. Chris Kreider
19. Louis Leblanc
20. Calvin De Haan
21. Landon Ferraro
22. Kyle Palmieri
23. Tim Erixon
24. Stefan Elliot
25. Ethan Werek
26. Jeremy Morin
27. Zach Kassian
28. Toni Rajala
29. Carl Klingberg
30. Anton Lander
31. Simon Despres
32. Richard Panik
33. Dmitri Orlov
34. Jordan Caron
35. Tomas Tatar
36. Zach Budish
37. Nick Leddy
38. Drew Shore
39. Carter Ashton
40. Ryan O’Reilly