Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 18-40

18) Etem
19) Pysyk
20) Howden
21) Schwartz
22) Sheahan
23) Pitlick
24) Merrill
25) Weal
26) McIlrath
27) Tinordi
28) Nelson
29) Coyle
30) Toffoli
31) McFarland
32) Faulk
33) Bennett
34) McKegg
35) Galiev
36) Pickard
37) Petrovic
38) Kabanov
39) Spooner
40) Marincin

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 11- 17

I never mentioned why I put an * beside both Johansen and Niederreiter in the 3-10 list, so I'll mention here that the * refers to a player with a "late birthday" (in this year's draft, those born between July 1st, 1992 and Sept 15th, 1992), who in my opinion can carry a bit of extra value over a roughly equivalent prospect that doesn't have a late birthday, since the team can theoretically have that player play his 20 year old season in the AHL while controlling his rights for 7 years before he hits UFA status, while a player with an "early birthday" (a first year eligible player born before July 1, 1992) would be down to 6 years of controlled rights before hitting UFA. This doesn't matter too much earlier in the draft, when you might project a player to be ready for the NHL less than 3 years after the draft, but for the longer term prospects, the extra year down the line can't hurt.

2010 rankings: 11-17

11) Jeff Skinner - There's a lot there, hard to believe THN has him at 25 OV while RLR has him as the 5th best F and ISS at 9 OV; that's a lot of variation for a guy that early that plays in the OHL, you'd expect that more from a Russian, for example. Skating would appear to be a concern, but that's an awful lot of production to ignore once you get past pick 10 or so, IMO.

12) Jack Campbell - I agree with YKOil, this goalie appears to be a better prospect than the top goalies the past couple seasons. I hesitate a bit having him even this high, but I think most of the "sure things" are gone by this point already; he's probably worth the risk and time invested in a goalie at this point.

13) Derek Forbort - He kind of reminds me of Oliver Ekman-Larsson when I read about him, not sure how accurate that is having never seen either player pre-draft. Maybe OEL's ceiling was seen to be higher in his draft, although, I have read Redline suggesting that Forbort might have the highest potential of any D in the draft.

14) Evgeny Kuznetsov - really like the sound of this player, I don't actually expect him to go this high.

15) Alex Burmistrov - It's one thing to expect a player to put on 10-15 lbs post draft. 30 lbs is a different story.

16) Nick Bjugstad* - This is a projection pick, but there's a lot of potential to project. Bjugstad is a late birthday, July 17, 1992, meaning he won't be a UFA until the summer of 2020 instead of 2019 like the majority of his draft class, so a team can be patient with him, leave him in college for 3 years, and see what develops.

17) Austin Watson - This is another projection pick, it really depends how much you take from his time in Peterborough after the move from Windsor. I like the sounds of the player, but am a bit hesitant because, while 20 pts in 10 games is great (22 pts. in 14 games including playoffs), it's a pretty small sample size.

The rest of the top 40 will come in one grouping, I think it's a bit muddy beyond this point. That makes it sound like I think there's a notable difference between 17 and 18, which I guess isn't really the case, but I do think there's a better case for Watson to go nearer the front of this group than the players who will follow him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 3-10

It seems like a strange second tier, roughly 9 players deep, this season, in that each guy has a question mark or two, but in this group I think you could make some kind of argument for any of these guys to be picked as high as 3. Having said that, certain guys appear likely to be selected higher (Gudbranson, Gormley, Fowler) than others (Granlund, Tarasenko, Connolly).

Fair warning: every year I underrate D and G relative to F, in terms of where they are actually drafted, because I’m of the opinion that forwards are generally better value from the draft than defence or goaltending.

2010 rankings: 3-10

3) Mikael Granlund – I'm a total sucker for hockey sense, and I probably overrate small players, but what a player!

4) Vladimir Tarasenko – Doesn't seem like an awful lot to dislike about this player. I don't necessarily think any of the three forwards grouped here will go top 5, but wouldn't be shocked if any did; I think they represent good value if they are still kicking around at 10.

5) Brett Connolly – I think this ranking is too high, but I'm largely ignoring the "injury factor" here, with the caveat that if there are injury concerns he drops. He's only rated five-ish with a clean bill of health, and I'm not sure if that outlook is grounded in reality.

6) Brandon Gormley – As mentioned earlier, I generally rate D and G lower than most, but even given that I'm of the opinion that the D are a little bit overrated this season. That said, the consensus group (if Gormley, Fowler, and Gudbranson are the consensus top 3 D) do seem to have less "bust potential" from what I've read than the 3 forwards I've rated ahead of them, but I'm not sure their upside is high enough to justify passing on potential star forwards.

7) Cam Fowler – love the sound of this player, but do get a bit worried about the reported lack of willingness to battle physically. I'm fine with that if it's because he's positionally sound and doesn't really need to, but if he "plays scared", maybe it's a reasonable concern?

8) Nino Niederreiter*
9) Ryan Johansen* - I grouped these two together because I'm not really sure how to break them apart. I gave the tiebreaker to Niederreiter, I think largely because he came less out of nowhere than Johansen.

10) Eric Gudbranson – Everything I read about him makes it sound like he's a pretty good bet to be a solid NHL D, but IF that's his upside, I don't know that I like passing on potential top 2 line F's to select him. I kind of don't like having him even this high, but I think he's too consistently highly thought of in the various rankings for me to feel comfortable dropping him much past this, especially when coupled with the mono he suffered from this season, which could be a mitigating factor in his play this year vs. pre-season expectations.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 Draft Top 40: 1-2

This has been talked to death around the various Oilers blogs, so I'm not gonna continue with an overly long post here. But to start my top 40, I might as well post a couple Hall/Seguin thoughts, as these two players seem to constitute the first tier of talent in the 2010 draft.

Taylor Hall was the favorite to go #1 overall at the start of this season, and is still the player favoured by most scouting agencies. He has a fierce determination to win puck battles. He is a fantastic skater, fun to watch, and often described as "dynamic" and "explosive". I don't know how much weight I put into a player being "clutch", but Hall is the kind of guy who might convert skeptics. He certainly hasn't had any trouble producing in "big games" so far in his career. Taylor has the reputation of being a better goal scorer, though in fact Seguin scored more goals this past season. I suppose there might be some concerns that the player has stagnated, but I'm not sure how well founded they are given the increase in his offensive production, season over season. His goalscoring certainly hasn't increased, it has been more or less flat over his 3 OHL seasons, but his assist totals have steadily risen. Hall is sometimes knocked in terms of hockey sense, relative to Seguin, but then again I would guess that pretty good hockey sense would be a needed for a player to be able to lead a league like the OHL in assists. Some observers suggest that there is a nagging question regarding Hall's projected long-term health, given his (reckless?) style of play. I'm not sure exactly how much one should worry about that, but I do agree it's something to consider.

Seguin was slated to be a first rounder in 2010 draft, at this time last year, but he has climbed the charts considerably since. Most accounts suggest a cerebral player with great hockey IQ, capable of making the players around him better. He differs from Hall in that Seguin is seen to be more calculating and methodical in assessing a given play than Hall. That is, Seguin prefers to wait for an opening while Hall tries to create the opening. I have some reservations about Seguin's huge offensive spike this season. I certainly wouldn't suggest that Seguin's season is simply the product of an unsustainable shooting percentage spike, but he did increase from 21 to 47 goals, and as I have no shot data I don't think it unreasonable to at least wonder what's going on. Seguin is supposed to be the better playmaker, though in fact Hall had more assists. However, that may not be too surprising given that Windsor scored 86 more goals than Plymouth this past season.

Choosing between these two players is probably more difficult than the decision at #1 most years, and is interesting because there are so many different ways to compare these players. Center vs. Wing (although both have played a bit of both)? Upside vs. Established level of Talent? 3 years junior vs. 2 years junior?

Personally, all else equal, I generally prefer a center over a wing, and the player with better hockey sense, which would appear to be Seguin. But with Hall, I think there's simply too much proven to ignore. Seguin may end up the better player, but he may not, and the general consensus seems to be that Hall's downside is higher than Seguin's.

1) Taylor Hall
2) Tyler Seguin

That said, if the Oilers go with Seguin, I think the pick is defensible. If the Oilers pass on Hall, they must see one heck of a player in Seguin. I don't know that either one is well clear of the other, so given the right offer, moving down could be reasonable even if you don't get the guy at the top of your list, or if you aren't really sure which guy heads your list. I do however think there's probably a slight separation here, if not a major one. Of course, since BOS probably also has them rated fairly evenly, it wouldn't surprise me if they aren't terribly willing to pay much to secure whichever player they prefer. Additionally, Hall is the easier pick to sell, and while that's not necessarily a good reason to pick him, if all else is equal, you have to use something to break the tie.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why the Oilers should trade up for a late first round pick

In my mind, there could be a couple of motivations for the Oilers management in moving up from #31 at this year's draft.

First of all, the most obvious motivation would be selecting a player they are concerned might get snapped up in the late first round picks, before they start day 2 of the draft on Saturday. They do have a bunch of picks beyond the 2nd round if they want to move up to secure such a player. This is just a guess, but it wouldn't surprise me if the teams that trade up in any given draft are the teams that have extra picks, which the Oilers do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trading for Spezza?

Last summer, I was somewhat opposed to the rumored Heatley deal, though not as strenuously as some. This season, all considered, I think I would tend to be more in favour of a similar deal involving Spezza.

If the trade package rumoured in the Heatley deal summer were enough to land Spezza this summer, the Oilers would be giving up a little bit less value now than they would have been then. Yes, Penner had a very good season last year, but he's only got 2 years left instead of 3. Cogliano's ELC is over(and he didn't appear to take any huge steps forward in development), leaving him an RFA under team control for 4 years instead of 5. Smid is signed for one more year, after which he'll be a UFA in the summer of 2013. In exchange, the Oilers would get a 27 year old C at a 7.0 mil cap hit vs. a 28 year old LW at a 7.5 mil cap hit, both signed for 5 years at the time of the deal. Pretty similar players that way, but I like watching Spezza more. Very informed and educational, I know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is It Too Late In The Rebuild Cycle To Draft For Defence?

It has become apparent to many Oilers fans that there is a glaring need for defencemen within the Oilers organization. Some have suggested that EDM might want to use their two 2nd round picks (31 and 48 OV) to shore up that area of need, or even trade up into another first round slot, maybe 10-15 OV. Myself, I'm opposed to that strategy for the Oilers, even though I agree that defence (and goal, I suppose) is the area most lacking depth in Edmonton's prospect pool. I don't think the Oilers should necessarily be targeting defenders with their 2nd round picks, or 1st round pick next year - in fact, I think they should continue to select forwards because I think drafting forwards, at this point, fits better with the "cluster" of upcoming talent in Edmonton's organization.

It's extremely likely that, by the time any D drafted in 2010 and 2011 are ready to be positive contributors to the top 4 of the Oilers, all EDM's top F prospects will be finished their ELC. I'm not necessarily one to jump on the bandwagon of "assemble your team in the mold of the current Stanley Cup winner/finalist", but given EDM's current organizational strengths and weaknesses, if they are planning to follow one of PHI or CHI's defence building strategies, I think it would make more sense to go the PHI route. Of the Flyers top 4 D, none were drafted by PHI. Coburn, Carle, and Pronger came via trade, as did Timonen (though he was a trade-and-sign just before July 1st as a pending UFA).

There is no real way for EDM to follow the CHI strategy, because Chicago's most significant drafted defencemen, Keith and Seabrook, were drafted 3 or 4 years before they drafted two of the key components in their top 6 forwards (Keith 02, Seabrook 03 vs. Toews 06, Kane 07), which allowed the forwards and the defence to mature at the same time. The Oilers aren't as likely to have that luxury, since players like McIlrath and Pysyk might not be positive contributors to the top 4 D for 4 or 5 years, by which time (hopefully) players like Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle will cost much more than their combined cap hits for the next 3 seasons.

The advantage of continuing to draft forwards is that they, generally, arrive quicker than do defencemen, and I think that is somewhat important if Edmonton is going to try to compete at some point in the near future. They already have two of the top four defencemen they'll need to compete relatively soon, in Gilbert and Whitney. I think it would be easier to trade for the other defencemen they need, and continue to draft forwards, hoping that the forwards you draft now can fill F lineup spots earlier as necessary going forward. If the Oilers really want to use a 2nd round draft pick on a defenceman, it might make more sense to sign a guy like Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet at ~3.1 mil, and fill one of their D slots that way.