Before we get into our prognostications of who goes where in this year’s draft, we must express our gratitude to McKeen’s Hockey and Sportsnet.ca Junior Hockey expert Patrick King. Their insight and wealth of knowledge on the topic has been a great help to this scribe over the years and is there once again as the much anticipated 2010 NHL Entry Draft approaches.
As always, the big question is who will be picked first overall, and this year is especially puzzling. The top two prospects — Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin and Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall — are practically even in the minds of NHL teams and draft experts. Seguin was rated No. 1 in the final Central Scouting Bureau rankings, but is No. 2 in McKeen’s Draft Guide. This is pretty much the case wherever you look. They are literally neck-and-neck, and as of May 28, one Oilers scout told NESN.com that "it is literally split dead even on who we will pick."
1. Edmonton Oilers
2009-10 record: 27-47-8, 62 points
The pick: Tyler Seguin, Center, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Analysis: Many compare Seguin to Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman for his solid two-way game and leadership. With a keen instinct for the game, this 6-foot-1, 185-pound pivot could be the foundation center for the Oilers or any team. Seguin, 18, had 48 goals and 58 assists for 106 points with the Whalers this past season and was named the OHL Player of the Year. Seguin has blazing speed and can play the wing as well. His versatility also allows him to play both the power play and penalty kill. He won’t shy away from physical play and is very difficult to knock off the puck. With loads of talent on the wing, Edmonton desperately needs that top center for the future, and Seguin gives the Oilers that.
2. Boston Bruins (from Toronto)
2009-10 record: 39-30-13, 91 points
The pick: Taylor Hall, Left Wing, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Analysis: The reigning two-time Memorial Cup MVP just led the Spitfires to their second straight OHL and Memorial Cup championships. Hall, 18, is an explosive player with a cannon for a shot from the wing. Not afraid to go into the dirty areas, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound winger is viewed by many as a “reckless” player, but that's a compliment. According to those within the Windsor organization, he’s a “gamer” and a “leader.” The Bruins went from one of the highest scoring teams in 2008-09 to the lowest in 2009-10. Hall is just what they need to jump-start the offense: a sniper for their talented centers to feed.
3. Florida Panthers
2009-10 record: 32-37-13, 77 points
The pick: Brandon Gormley, Defenseman, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Analysis: This 6-foot-2, 185-pound rearguard was the main reason that the Wildcats made it to the Memorial Cup and won the President’s Trophy in the QMJHL. Gormley, 18, has a seamless first outlet pass that will strengthen any team’s transition game, and with the Panthers trading away Jay Bouwmeester at last year’s draft, he could become the new foundation of Florida’s blue line. Gormley had 43 points this past season and was the recipient of the Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s best pro prospect. According to numerous QMJHL sources, Bruins' scouts were frequently seen at Moncton games this past season.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
2009-10 record: 32-35-15, 79 points
The pick: Cam Fowler, Defenseman, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Analysis: Cam Fowler, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound blueliner from Farmington Hills, Mich., was a force on the blue line for the Windsor Spitfires with 47 assists and 55 points. Fowler, 18, also played on the gold-medal winning USA World Junior squad and is looked at as one of the best passers available in this draft. He has tremendous vision and patience. Fowler’s only downside is that he lacks some grit and physical play, but has made it clear he knows that and is willing to improve that aspect of his game. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is reportedly very high on Fowler.
5. New York Islanders
2009-10 record: 34-37-11, 79 points
The pick: Erik Gudbranson, Defenseman, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Analysis: Don’t let the fact that this 6-foot-4, 200-pound mammoth of a blueliner only registered 21 assists and 23 points this past season scare you. Gudbranson battled numerous injury and health setbacks this season, missing 27 games with a sprained MCL and suffering from mono. But when he played, Gudbranson was a force to be reckoned with. He can chip in on offense and is a physical player that punishes opposing forwards in the corners — if they’re lucky enough to somehow get behind him.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
2009-10 record: 34-36-12, 80 points
The pick: Ryan Johansen, Center, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Analysis: Johansen is already 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and won’t turn 18 until July 31 of this year. By the time he is a pro, this talented pivot will be even bigger. Needless to say, scouts are drooling over his physical and skill potential. Johansen had 44 helpers and 69 points playing on the Winterhawks’ first line, and is already being compared to Hurricanes star center Eric Staal. He also has good hockey sense and uses his size both offensively and defensively. A big, smart center from new Lightning GM Steve Yzerman’s native British Columbia could be very intriguing to the first-year general manager.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
2009-10 record: 35-37-10, 80 points
The pick: Brett Connolly, Left Wing, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Analysis: After an amazing rookie season in which he scored 30 goals and set up 30 as well, Connolly came into the 2009-10 season as one of the most hyped prospects in North America. But thanks to two hip injuries, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound winger played in just 16 games. The injury also kept Connolly, 18, out of the top prospects game. Still, his 60-point rookie season and natural skills are hard to ignore. His slight frame could definitely use some meat on the bones, but that shouldn’t drop him too far in the draft.
8. Atlanta Thrashers
2009-10 record: 35-34-13, 83 points
The pick: Jack Campbell, Goaltender, USA U-18 (USHL)
Analysis: Scouts already had their eyes on this 18-year-old netminder for the last two seasons as he strutted his stuff playing in the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP), but with his amazing performance in the 2010 World Junior Championships coming in to relieve Mike Lee in the gold-medal game and helping USA to a 6-5 overtime win over Canada, Campbell cemented his status as a future No.1 goalie in the NHL. If taken in the first round, Campbell will become the first goaltender drafted from the USNTDP. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Campbell has the size scouts love for a butterfly goalie. And what has proven to be his best asset is what every team wants in a goalie: a calm, collected and controlled confidence that’s perfect for pressure games. Campbell is scheduled to play for the Windsor Spitfires next season.
9. Minnesota Wild
2009-10 record: 38-36-8, 84 points
The pick: Mikael Granlund, Center, HIFK Finland
Analysis: The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Granlund could very well be one of the top three, if not two, playmakers in this draft. He has exceptional vision and patience combined with crafty stick-handling and shifty skating. Granlund, 18, was able to total 40 points in 43 games and is looked at as one of the best prospects to come out of Finland since Saku Koivu. He has already played in two World Junior Championships and shows no signs of fear when facing bigger players. He is an electric player that will excel with a pure goal scorer on his wing.
10. New York Rangers
2009-10 record: 38-33-11, 87 points
The pick: Nino Niederreiter, Right Wing, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Analysis: Niederreiter, an 18-year-old Switzerland native, had a sensational first year in North America, scoring 36 goals to go with 24 helpers for the Winterhawks. When his native Switzerland came over for the World Junior Championships, Niederreiter led the way with 10 points including a two-goal effort — one the overtime winner — in the quarterfinals to help the Swiss upset the Russians. He uses his 6-foot-1, 200-pound body well and has proven to be a natural leader and character player.
11. Dallas Stars
2009-10 record: 37-31-14, 88 points
The pick: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Center, Chelyabinsk, Russia
Analysis: Kuznetsov is a very skilled pivot that made the KHL at the young age of 17. While he didn’t see much playing time and had only nine points in 35 games, the 18-year-old excelled when playing against players his age, specifically at the under-18 tournament where he finished second in tournament scoring. He is still somewhat raw, but there is natural and dangerous talent there, especially with his quick shot.
12. Anaheim Ducks
2009-10 record: 39-32-11, 89 points
The pick: Jeffrey Skinner, Center, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Analysis: Skinner, 18, may be the best finisher in the draft. This season, he became the youngest player in Rangers franchise history to score 50 goals and the first since Ron Goodall of the 1986-87 season. He added 40 helpers to finish the regular season with 90 points, and also lit the lamp 20 more times in the playoffs. One negative may be that he knows how good he is and likes to showboat at times. His confidence, however, also helps him because despite his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame, he plays a gritty and physical game.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (from Calgary)
2009-10 record: 50-25-7, 107 points
The pick: Emerson Etem, Right Wing, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Analysis: After playing at Shattuck St. Mary’s and then the USNTDP, Etem, who will turn 18 on June 16, burst onto the scene in the WHL scoring 31 goals in his first 50 games with Medicine Hat. While he struggled with only six more goals in his final 22 games, he showed his ability to finish and has blazing speed on the wing. His one detriment is that he doesn’t combine that speed with his 6-foot, 190-pound frame to drive to the net.
14. St. Louis Blues
2009-10 record: 40-32-10, 90 points
The pick: Alexander Burmistrov, Center, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Analysis: This Russian pivot greatly improved his draft stock by making the jump to North American hockey instead of the KHL and playing for Barrie. Burmistrov, 18, may be the fastest skater in the draft, and combined with his amazing playmaking skills, his stock may rise as the draft gets closer. The 6-foot, 160-pound center has proven to be OK with the physical play in North America, too, as he goes right to the dirty areas and doesn’t back down from bigger defenseman.
15. Boston Bruins
2009-10 record: 39-30-13, 91 points
The pick: Dylan McIlrath, Defenseman, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Analysis: This 6-foot-4, 210-pound rear guard has “Big Bad Bruin” written all over him. The 18-year-old blueliner is a physical monster on defense, intimidating opponents with his menacing style. He isn’t afraid to drop the gloves either as he took part in 15 fights this season. His puck-moving skills needs improvement, but he does have a blistering slapshot and his physical style and size may be too difficult for a team that prides itself on such attributes to pass up if he is still available.
16. Ottawa Senators
2009-10 record: 44-32-6, 94 points
The pick: Derek Forbot, Defenseman, USA U-18, (USHL)
Analysis: At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Forbot, 18, uses his size, competes hard and is difficult to beat one-on-one. He is a solid skater, as well, but at times gets caught flat-footed coming back into his own zone. He needs to develop more, but the raw skill is there, and he eventually will be a top-four defenseman.
17. Colorado Avalanche
2009-10 record: 43-30-9, 95 points
The pick: Beau Bennett, Right Wing, Penticton (BCHL)
Analysis: Bennett, 18, just finished an amazing season in the BCHL, a Tier 2 junior league. He is headed for the University of Denver next season. Bennett was tied for the league lead in scoring with 120 points and second in power-play goals with 25. Bennett also helped Team USA capture a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge with four points in five games. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound winger has a quick release and is a very intelligent player. More years of development at a solid program like Denver will make him even better, and if the Avalanche take him with this pick, he won’t have to move.
18. Nashville Predators
2009-10 record: 47-29-6, 100 points
The pick: Mark Pysk, Defenseman, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Analysis: Pysk, 18, had a tough year battling injuries, amassing only 24 points in 48 games. But he has the tools to make it in the NHL. At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, he needs to add weight to his frame as his game is based around his size and ability to close the gap. He has raw talent, but is a work in progress.
19. Los Angeles Kings
2009-10 record: 46-27-9, 101 points
The pick: Austin Watson, Left Wing, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Analysis: Watson, 18, may be one of the best two-way players in this draft. A gifted player who has never struggled offensively, as evidenced by his 54 points in 52 games this season, Watson has rounded out his game and can be used in numerous situations (including the penalty kill), allowing him to adapt to any line. Scouts are impressed by his willingness to do what’s best for the team and ability to succeed in doing so. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound winger can match up with the opponents’ best players and takes pride when he is given such assignments. This is the type of player Kings GM Dean Lombardi loves and has tried to institute into his young and skilled lineup recently.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins
2009-10 record: 47-28-7, 101 points
The pick: Jonathon Merrill, Defenseman, USA U-18 (USHL)
Analysis: At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Merrill has the ability to be a solid NHL defenseman. He has plenty of skill, but his dedication and character are in question after some off-ice incidents this season. Many have him being chosen before this pick, but these off-ice problems have hurt his stock. Still, if he drops to the Penguins here, they should take a chance on his raw skill and hope legendary Michigan head coach Red Berenson straightens him out when he plays for the Wolverines next season.
21. Detroit Red Wings
2009-10 record: 44-24-14, 102 points
The pick: Vladimir Tarasenko, Right Wing, Novisibirsk, Russia
Analysis: Tarasenko’s stock has been rising after a terrific performance at the under-18 tournament where the 5-foot-11, 200-pound winger had 15 points in seven games. He also had 24 points in 48 games playing in the KHL against players twice his age and his size. He has amazing stick-handling skills and playmaking vision. He just needs to grow and add some muscle to survive in the NHL.
22. Phoenix Coyotes
2009-10 record: 50-25-7, 107 points
The pick: Teemu Pulkkinen, Left Wing, Jokerit, Finland
Analysis: Despite battling foot and wrist injuries and being limited to 17 games with Jokerit this past season, this 5-foot-11, 185-pound winger was still able to get 41 points off 20 goals and 21 assists. He is a lethal weapon on the power play with his passing and hand skills, but this 18-year-old Finn needs to improve his skating and defensive game. Still, his skill is too good to pass up if he is available here.
23. Buffalo Sabres
2009-10 record: 45-27-10, 100 points
The pick: Jaden Schwartz, Center, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Analysis: Schwartz, an 18-year-old pivot from Saskatchewan, stormed (pun very much intended) onto the USHL scene this past season with 50 assists and 83 points as a rookie. He could be one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the draft with great puck sense, hand speed and vision to go with an amazing shot. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound center is great on the half-boards and is great on the power play with a league-leading 16 power-play goals and 38 power-play points this season.
24. Atlanta Thrashers (from New Jersey)
2009-10 record: 35-34-13, 83 points
The pick: Tyler Toffoli, Right Wing, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Analysis: Toffoli, 18, struggles with consistency and work ethic at times, but when he’s on, he’s on! The 6-foot, 180-pound winger had 79 points in 65 games, and with electric hands and a blazing shot, he can change a game with one flick of his wrist. He struggled at first when he switched from center to wing but quickly came around. With some fine-tuning, Toffoli could be a lethal scorer.
25. Vancouver Canucks
2009-10 record: 49-28-5, 103 points
The pick: Jarred Tinordi, Defenseman, USA U-18 (USHL)
Analysis: Just like his father, former Minnesota North Stars defenseman Mark Tinordi, this 6-foot-6, 205-pound rearguard is a punishing force on the blue line. He has a visible passion for the game, and he can move the puck rather well for a player his size. At 18, scouts have tabbed him the most physically-ready for the NHL, and the Canucks could use his physicality and good sense of the game on their blue line.
26. Washington Capitals
2009-10 record: 54-15-13, 121 points
The pick: John McFarland, Left Wing, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Analysis: This 6-foot, 190-pound winger has posted consecutive 50-point plus seasons for the Wolves, but his stock is down because he followed up a solid rookie season with two fewer points. There is plenty of natural skill there, but his hockey sense and work ethic are giant question marks.
27. Montreal Canadiens
2009-10 record: 39-33-10, 88 points
The pick: Riley Sheahan, Center, Notre Dame (CCHA)
Analysis: Sheahan, 18, had an average rookie season for the Fighting Irish with only 17 points in 37 games, but the 6-foot-2, 200-pound pivot has great hockey sense and playmaking skills that cannot be ignored. The Habs love to draft NCAA players, and this Canadian-born center could help them at a position where they need some size and depth. He could use some conditioning, but that can be solved with another year at a solid program like Notre Dame.
28. San Jose Sharks
2009-10 record: 51-20-11, 113 points
The pick: Charlie Coyle, Center, South Shore Kings (EJHL)
Analysis: This 6-foot-2, 200-pound pivot from Weymouth, Mass., had 42 helpers and 63 points this season and is committed to play for Boston University in 2010-11 — following in the footsteps of his elder cousin, former NHL great Tony Amonte. He is a gifted player who uses his size in front and in the corners to go with precise vision. He also has plenty of heart and character, which is making scouts like him even more.
29. Anaheim Ducks (from Philadelphia)
2009-10 record: 39-32-11, 89 points
The pick: Alexandre Petrovic, Defenseman, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Analysis: This 6-foot-4, 195-pound blueliner from Edmonton had 27 points and, more noticeably, 87 penalty minutes for the Rebels this year. He is not afraid to drop the gloves and is a steady presence in his own zone. He could use some more offensive flair, but he is dependable and a good team player.
30. Chicago Blackhawks
2009 record: 52-22-8, 112 points
The pick: Kirill Kabonov, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Analysis: Kabonov, 18, is probably the biggest high-risk, high-reward player in the draft. He has unquestioned, God-given talent and can be a game-changer with his dynamic skill. But his attitude and work ethic are questionable and he recently left his team to return to Russia after he was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Despite missing more than four months with a wrist injury, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound winger had 23 points in 22 games and may be worth the risk for a Blackhawks team that is loaded with young talent and coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.