Another eventful first round of the NHL entry draft has now come and gone.
The Edmonton Oilers kicked Friday morning off by trying to secure the second overall pick thereby ending the debate about Taylor vs Tyler. The Oilers would get both and keep all camps happy in the great debate. Names thrown around included Ales Hemsky and even Jordan Eberle, but to no avail.
The Big Trade
Vancouver picks up defenceman Keith Ballard plus right-winger Victor Oreskovich from Florida in exchange for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and the 25th overall selection. Ballard will help shore up the Canucks blue-line as its not expected that Willie Mitchell would be back.
In Bernier, the Cats get a big body who at times has fought conditioning issues but has shown that he can score and be a force heading to the net. Grabner is a former first round draft pick of the Canucks who can score but his caveat is making plays at top speed.
Bernier and Grabner will also help replace Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell up front. Florida general manager Dale Tallon is still far from done his makeover. Expect more changes by training camp in September.
The small trade
Ottawa traded the 16th pick to St Louis for David Rundblad. Nice blue-line pick-up for the Senators. He's big and strong. Will be paired with Erik Karlsson down the road.
1. Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall, F Windsor Spitfires. Let the logjam on the wing begin in Edmonton. Big, strong, goes to the net hard with great hands to boot. Edmonton turned down a franchise-type centre in Tyler Seguin to select Hall. Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and now Hall, the Oilers are packed with elite-level prospects on the wall. He'll not return to junior. He's on the Oilers next season, which may mean that either Eberle or Paajarvi-Svensson will start the year in the minors in Oklahoma City.
2. Boston Bruins (from Toronto): Tyler Seguin, F. Plymouth Whalers. The gem of the draft. Can hurt you in so many ways. Excellent off the rush, highly skilled. Seguin terrifies defencemen due to his unpredictability. Ask blue-liners and they'll tell you "we don't know what he's going to do when he comes over the blue-line."
He can both dish and finish. If Seguin doesn't start the season back in Plymouth of the OHL, he may start not as a centre but as a winger in Boston. This pick probably means Marc Savard will be traded as this team is now capital 'D' deep in the middle.
3. Florida Panthers: Erik Gudbranson, D. Kingston Frontenacs. Excellent selection for GM Dale Tallon and the Panthers. Big and tough, don't expect Gudbranson to score but he'll be a rock on the back end in Florida alongside last year's first-round pick Dmitri Kulikov. Terrific leadership qualities, this guy could be a captain. A great player and smart person, Gudbranson was the OHL's scholastic player of the year. He'll probably go back to Kingston in the OHL.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen, F. Portland Winter Hawks.The search for a centre continues in Columbus. Nobody's stock grew over the year as much as Johanson's. Here's a guy who started the year in most scouting services third round and now ends up in the top five of the NHL draft. He'll go back to the Portland Winter Hawks and continue to grow and fill out his large frame. This guy will be a good one for the Jackets, just not next season. Interesting fact: Johansen is a Level 1 certified Hockey Canada official.
5. New York Islanders: Nino Niederreiter, F. Portland WinterHawks. This guy is a force and at times tries to be a one-man army. Big, can score and has been known to try to put a team on his back and lead it to victory. A little surprised that the Isles didn't go for one of the defencemen (Brandon Gormley or Cam Fowler) but they want to surround John Tavares with as much talent as possible. Niederreiter is a good start. Will join Swiss pal Mark Streit on the Island but probably not next year. Expect him to go back to Portland.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning: Brett Connolly, F. Prince George Cougars. Only 16 games played last season and there are some concerns about his hip but his skill-set is top 3. Many scouts feel if he were healthy all season, the Tyler/Taylor debate would have been Tyler/Taylor/Brett. He has that much high-end skill. If Connolly is healthy Tampa may have hit a tape-measure home run. Will probably go back to the Prince George Cougars of the WHL for another full season of junior hockey. Connolly and Stamkos on the same team? Yikes.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: Jeffrey Skinner, F. Kitchener Rangers. A figure skater growing up, Skinner was a minor hockey linemate of Tyler Seguin. Even though higher rated defencemen were available, Carolina seldom picks back-end guys in the first round. This guy just flat-out scores goals - 50 of them this year. Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and now Skinner, Carolina has a bright future at the forward position.
8. Atlanta Thrashers: Alexander Burmistrov, F. Barrie Colts. He'll join former Colt Bryan Little on the Thrashers. Eventually. This guy can flat-out skate. So fast, speedy and sudden. A great personality, infectious as a matter of fact, Burmistrov will be loved in Atlanta.
9. Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund, F. IFK Helsinki. Granlund has great hockey sense and exciting to watch. An excellent playmaker who can bring fans to their feet. This guy works hard. He'll play in Finland for at least another season. He had a terrific under-18 tournament.
10. New York Rangers: Dylan McIlrath, D. Moose Jaw Warriors. Huge shock. No, enormous shock. Passed over defencemen Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley to take the toughest player in the draft. He hurts guys. Compared to Derian Hatcher, McIlrath is still a couple of years away. He'll go back to Moose Jaw next season.
11. Dallas Stars: Jack Campbell, G. USA under-18 team. The top goalie in the draft, Campbell is a terrific young goalie. Very athletic and succeeds in high-pressure situations. Helped lead the U.S. team to a gold medal at the world juniors. He went back on a verbal promise to go to the University of Michigan, choosing instead to play with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL next season.
12. Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler, D. Windsor Spitfires. Unbelievable that he fell this far. He skates like Scott Niedermeyer and he'll step into the future Hall of Famers team, just not next year. Probably headed back to Windsor. The knock on Fowler is his compete level at times but he is still a steal at 12.
13. Phoenix Coyotes: Brandon Gormley, D. Moncton Wildcats. This is an outstanding pick for the Coyotes. Doesn't do anything flashy but place a safe, consistent and reliable game, Gormley will fit nicely into a young Phoenix defence core that includes Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He'll go back to Moncton to play another year of junior hockey.
14. St. Louis Blues: Jaden Schwartz, F. Tri City (USHL). Schwartz led the USHL in scoring this season with 83 points in 60 games. Smallish but highly skilled offensively, Schwartz has terrific hands. He'll go to Colorado College to play with his brother. A few years away but the Blues have enough prospects they'll be working into their lineup in the next few years that the team can afford to wait for him.
15. Los Angeles Kings (from Florida): Derek Forbort, D. USA under-18. A big, strong blue-liner who is not going to step in right away but within a couple of years is going to be on this Kings. Big and mobile, Forbort is considered a project. He'll be worth the wait. Going to North Dakota next season.
16. St. Louis (from Ottawa): Vladimir Tarasenko, F. Novosibirsk, KHL. A highly skilled forward who wants to play in the NHL right away. This guy has tremendous desire and works hard. Physically he's a rock. Strong goal scorer who loves to take the puck to the net. Some scouts had him rated as high as fourth overall.
17. Colorado Avalanche: Joey Hishon, F. Owen Sound Attack. Small but very creative with the puck, Hishon has excellent offensive upside. A smart player who had a challenging year physically with both knee and ankle injuries. Colorado goes not just off the board but also off the map with this pick. Hishon will be headed back to junior next year.
18. Nashville Predators: Austin Watson, F. Peterborough Petes. What a great two-way forward he is. Excellent skater, Watson isn't shy about playing a rough game. Can score in bunches. Waived his no-trade clause to go from power-packed Windsor Spitfires to join Peterborough, where he flourished. Broke his foot blocking a Brandon Gormley slapshot at the Top Prospects game, which hurt his numbers this year but next season in the OHL expect him to tear it up. Scored 20 points in his last 10 games with the Petes.
19. Florida Panthers: Nick Bjugstad, F. Minnesota's Mr. Hockey this year, Bjugstad has a strong offensive upside but then he demonstrated that in high school this year. He's off to the University of Minnesota where he'll get the chance to take his game to the next level. Former NHLer Scott Bjugstad is his uncle.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins: Beau Bennett, F. Penticton Vee's. Lit up the BCHL, scoring 41 goals and 120 points. Sees the ice really well, shoots the puck with some pepper on it. Still needs to get physically stronger. Compared to Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils by some scouts. Bennett is off to the University of Denver Pioneers next year.
21. Detroit Red Wings: Riley Sheahan, F. Notre Dame. Don't let the six goals fool you, this guy can score, he's just playing in a defence-first system under Jeff Jackson. Needs to work on his skating but not offensive instincts; those are already there. Back to NCAA for Sheahan as he'll be brought along slowly because Wings GM likes his players over-ripened when they arrive.
22. Montreal Canadiens (from Phoenix) Jarred Tinordi, D. A natural leader, Tinordi is a physical force and like his father, ex-NHLer Mark, can get nasty. Has great size and can shut down other teams' top lines. Tinordi is an excellent open-ice hitter. Can still pack on about 15 pounds before turning pro. He is off to Notre Dame but the London Knights of the OHL own his rights. Let's see where he ends up next year.
23. Buffalo Sabres: Mark Pysyk, D. Edmonton Oil Kings. A big, strong kid, Pysyk logs a lot of minutes and uses his size well. Don't expect big numbers from Pysyk but do expect a smart, steady blue-liner. Makes a very nice first pass. Had injuries this year (broken foot). Back with the Oil Kings of the WHL next season.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (from Atlanta): Kevin Hayes, F. Noble and Greenough High School. Strong going to the net, Hayes is described by those who have seen him play as a power forward who's just plain tough to play against. Can score both in tight and from longer range with a precision shot. His elite-level physical fitness always gives him an edge. Brother Jimmy is property of the Toronto Maple Leafs and cousin is former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald. Going to Boston College next year.
25. Florida Panthers (from Vancouver) Quinton Howden, F. Moose Jaw Warriors. A very strong two-way forward, Howden is tough to play against. He makes you earn every step when he's on against you. He'll head back to Moose Jaw of the WHL next season.
26. Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov, F. Chelyabinsk. As the Caps are trying to say goodbye to one Russian player (Alexander Semin) they welcome another one into the mix. An offensive juggernaut, Kuznetsov doesn't need a lot of ice or time to make something happen. Craves NHL competition but he won't be coming to the NHL for a couple of years as Traktor of the KHL holds his rights for two more seasons, but Washington doesn't need him right now anyway.
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Mark Visentin, G. Coyotes go off the board and select the netminder from the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. Shocked that the Coyotes didn't take Calvin Pickard if they wanted a goalie. He's back in the OHL next season.
28. San Jose Sharks: Charlie Coyle, F. South Shore. Big winger, Coyle is considered a project. Coyle's a good skater who protects the puck well. The cousin of Tony Amonte, Coyle will head to Boston University next year.
29. Anaheim Ducks: Emerson Etem, F. Medicine Hat Tigers. Strong, athletic player who started playing hockey on inline skates in and around Southern California. Put up good numbers in the WHL this season (37 goals) but tailed off towards the end of the season. He'll go back to junior next year.
30. New York Islanders (from Chicago Blackhawks): Brock Nelson. Warroad (U.S. high school). Tall and lanky, Nelson needs to fill out physically. Had good puck sense and is able to make the right play at the right time. Going to North Dakota next season.