The section303.com Mock NHL Draft…

We have taken the time to compile the wealth of information at our fingertips and couple that with the needs of the teams picking in the top 20. (We would’ve done all 30 teams but, let’s be honest: we’ll probably be so wrong by pick #10 there’s no use furthering the humiliation by trying to pick all 30).

So, after combing through six different publications, talking with numerous draft gurus, logging onto several scouting websites and following hundreds of tweets from the experts, we are finally ready to present to you the section303.com Mock NHL Draft.

Enjoy.

NUMBER 1 :: EDMONTON OILERS
Tyler Seguin – C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

Everyone and their mom is picking future superstar Taylor Hall to go first overall but let’s think about that for a moment. What does Edmonton need to start building their team around? A highly talented, selfless, playmaking, elite scoring centerman. That’s exactly what Seguin gives them. Why would the Oilers pass on a guy who makes his teammates better? Why would they pass on a guy who’s unselfish yet has a scoring touch? Why would they pass on a guy who has played on a weak team yet excelled in the scoring department? Seguin is custom-made for Edmonton and their current state of affairs. He’s a player they can build their franchise around and, while they’re struggling the next two or three years, can bring fans out of their seats with his creative genius. He’s the team captain in Plymouth right now so he has natural leadership abilities, which will prove important in a lackluster Edmonton club. Here’s the thing though: Hall is the consensus #1 pick so, it you’re the Oilers, why not trade down one spot, and get an additional draft pick from the Boston Bruins who would kill to draft Hall? That way, Edmonton gets Seguin, an additional pick (maybe a 2nd or 3rd rounder) and the Bruins get Hall.

NUMBER 2 :: BOSTON BRUINS
Taylor Hall - C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Hall is perfect for a Boston Bruins team who already has several pieces in place. It’s not like Edmonton where they have a high draft pick because they’re terrible. They have a high draft pick because the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted Phil Kessel by any means necessary. So the Bruins are a playoff-caliber team with the second overall pick in a draft where either Hall or Seguin are considered a “can’t miss.” Not a bad place to be, eh? Hall works best for the B’s because he can learn how to keep his temper under control from the veterans already in the locker room. He can learn as he goes and the pressure to produce immediately won’t be as intense. In addition, Hall is a champion. He’s won two Memorial Cup MVP Awards en route to winning two straight Memorial Cups with Windsor. If he goes to a team like Edmonton, who’s a couple years (at best) away from the playoffs, he may put too much pressure on himself and collapse under the intense media scrutiny as the supposed savior in Alberta. Either way, the Bruins can’t go wrong with Hall or Seguin but, in a perfect world, Hall to Boston is the best possible scenario for both parties.

NUMBER 3 :: FLORIDA PANTHERS
Cam Fowler - D – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

The Florida Panthers could pick about three different guys here at number three overall but one thing is pretty much guaranteed: one of those three will be a defenseman. Three writers in particular, NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, mynhldraft.com, and hockeyprospect.com, all have Erik Gudbranson going to Miami. NHL.com’s Shawn P. Roarke, The Hockey News and nhl.fanhouse.com all have Fowler being selected by the Cats. We agree with the latter. Fowler, like Hall, is a two-time Memorial Cup Champion and success like that is very rare. If you’re a struggling franchise like Florida, you want to instill some championship blood into your club and Fowler does just that. Also, Fowler is an elite skater and a great puck-moving defenseman. The Panthers need both of those things. Now we realize that the typical temptation for a fledgling non-traditional franchise is to draft a flashy winger but, for any long term viability, you have to start somewhere. With a young nucleus with guys like Michael Frolik and the still-has-yet-to-be-traded Stephen Weiss, Florida has what they need as far as scorers. They need to work on the blueline and give those guys someone to distribute the puck on the rush. Fowler is the perfect guy for the job.

NUMBER 4 :: COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Brett Connolly - W – Prince George Cougars (WHL)

There is no prospect projected as a first rounder who had more health concerns than Brett Connolly. He’s had two hip injuries and some wonder just how much he can contribute at the next level. But, if he can stay healthy, Connolly is a star in the making. He became the first player to score 30 goals in his rookie campaign in the WHL since Patrick Marleau tallied 32 for the Seattle Thunderbirds back in 1995-96. Then, amidst an injury riddled sophomore season, he bagged 19 points in 16 games. Connolly is a pure sniper and, if you pair him with Columbus captain Rick Nash, it could produce the next Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr or Teemu Selanne-Paul Kariya. Now obviously that’s a lot to ask for in an unhealthy Connolly but, if he realizes the full potential of his upside, the Blue Jackets will have hit a home run. But, let’s be honest, Columbus could draft a defenseman here. They could also draft one of the top goalies. They could even draft a different forward and nobody would think any different. They are one of the few teams in the draft that need help in every area of the ice. So, what we’re saying is, don’t be surprised if we’re WAY off on this one.

NUMBER 5 :: NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Brandon Gormley - D – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

Speaking of teams who need help in every area of the ice, we present to you the New York Islanders. Usually, when a team needs everything, we tend to think they’ll start with the blueline. After all, “defense wins championships,” no? So, based on that very thin tie-breaker, we see Brandon Gormley going here. In the 2010 NHL Draft Guide by hockeyprospect.com says “he could easily be a top pairing defenseman… and should at least be a top three player.” When you have a guy who’s projected to be “at least” a top three blueliner, you absolutely must take him. Especially since the Islanders drafted John Tavares last season, Josh Bailey the season before and Kyle Okposo three years ago. They have the pieces in place up front, now they need to shore up the back end. That being said, despite drafting five goaltenders since 2006, hockeysfuture.com doesn’t have a single netminder in the top 10 Islanders prospects. Not good. Especially considering Rick Dipietro’s laundry list of injuries and Dwayne Roloson’s age. So don’t be surprised if they reach a little bit and grab the number one rated goalie in this years draft, Jack Campbell.

NUMBER 6 :: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Erik Gudbranson - D - Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

One thing is safe to say: the Lightning do not need help at forward. With future hall of famers in Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, young phenom Steven Stamkos, 20-25 goal scorer Ryan Malone and jack-of-all-trades Steve Downie, Tampa looks great offensively. So, it’s time to address the defense. And, quite honestly, the Lightning front office and scouting team will fall all over themselves when they look up and see Erik Gudbranson still on the board when they pick at number six. The 6’4″ blueliner is projected by some ahead of Fowler and by most ahead of Gormley. Needless to say, Steve Yzerman’s first major splash with an organization not named the Detroit Red Wings will be to select Gudbranson and take the last of the “big three” defensemen available in the draft. More than Fowler and Gormley, Gudbranson is a little bit of a project. He plays with a nasty edge and is also a good puck mover, both of which the Lightning need in their own zone. He just needs to learn to control his passion as the chip on his shoulder can get out of hand at times. He’ll be a great addition to the Tampa defensive corps in a couple years and very well may end up being the best of the “big three.”

NUMBER 7 :: CAROLINA HURRICANES
Nino Niederreiter - W - Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Ever heard of a guy named Michel Riesen? Or maybe Luca Cereda? No? We didn’t think so. Believe it or not, both of those guys were first round picks but, as with most Swiss forwards, never stuck in the NHL. Well, Niederreiter is about to reverse that trend. The 17-year old left winger out of Chur, Switzerland looks poised for a solid NHL career. Every draft publication we’ve seen references his amazing performance against the Russians in the World Juniors this past December, putting his underdog Swiss club on his back and knocking the Russians out of the tournament with his two goals (the equalizer in the waning moments of regulation and then the winner in overtime). Hockeyprospect.com’s 2010 NHL Draft Guide even goes so far as saying Niederreiter “has first line potential in the NHL.” Redlinereport.com said he’s “one of the most exciting and dynamic prospects in this draft.” Basically what we’re saying is, get ready Eric Staal. Some help is on the way.

NUMBER 8 :: ATLANTA THRASHERS
Vladimir Tarasenko - W - Novosibirsk (KHL)

Since we’re always skeptical of Atlanta’s decision making, we’ll throw a curve ball their way because, c’mon, why would we expect anything less? What better way to convince a Russian kid to come over to the NHL than to surround him with other Russians? And, what better way to convince Maxim Afinogenov to stay in Hotlanta post-Ilya Kovalchuk than to bring in a promising young Russian sniper? The Thrashers already have almost-Predator Nik Antropov and should-have-been-Predator Afinogenov (sorry, couldn’t resist) in the club house so they’re one of the few teams that can have some confidence in drafting a player out of the KHL. Despite being rated the fourth best player by International Scouting Service, a scout told The Hockey News “he might drop and the team that takes him might end up getting the best player in the draft.” That’s some high praise considering the likes of Hall, Seguin, Fowler and Connolly. Bottom line here is, when it comes to Russians, a team has to be very careful and there are really only a handful of clubs who can persuade a Russian kid to come over to North America through the players already on their roster. Atlanta is one of them. If Tarasenko doesn’t go here, he might be waiting around until the Penguins pick at number 20.

 

NUMBER 9 :: MINNESOTA WILD
Nick Bjugstad - C - Blaine Bengals (USHS)

What better way to hit a home run in the State of Hockey than to draft the State of Hockey’s Mr. Hockey 2010? Enter Blaine High School center Nick Bjugstad. The 6’4″ monster is projected all over the board. The Hockey News rates him ninth overall while McKeen’s Hockey rates him as low as 33rd. Central Scouting, ISS, Red Line Report and TSN all have him somewhere in between. Usually, you throw out the highest and lowest ranking to better judge where a prospect will go but, in this case, it might be too much temptation for the Wild to take the hometown kid. And, other than the gamble of taking a high school player (high schoolers are hard to project given the level of competition is so weak), Bjugstad has tons of upside. He can shoot, he’s a playmaker and he’s a natural leader. Once he fills out, he’ll be even bigger than he is now and that’s scary for the opposition. If Bjugstad learns how to (and embraces the art of) stand in front of the net, a la Tomas Holmstrom in Detroit, he’ll be nearly impossible to move. Like most high schoolers drafted in the first round, he could turn out to be a bust but we really think he’ll buck that trend and Minnesota will have gotten a gem. And a home grown gem at that.

NUMBER 10 :: NEW YORK RANGERS
Derek Forbort - D - U.S. National Development Program

The Broadway Blueshirts are in serious need of defense. True, they’re on the hook for veteran Wade Redden until 2014 and they have rookie sensation Michael Del Zotto but, after that, the cupboard is pretty dry. The Rangers need the big 6’5″ Forbort to be the intimidating presence while Del Zotto generates the offense. With some development and time for growth with North Dakota next year, Forbort could join Del Zotto and become the first really good New York Ranger 1-2 punch on the blueline since Brian Leetch and Sergei Zubov 15 years ago. Obviously that’s a lot to ask of a draft pick, let alone a draft pick not even considered one of the “big three” defenseman of the draft. But, again, with some patience, the sky’s the limit with this kid.

NUMBER 11 :: DALLAS STARS
Jack Campbell - G - U.S. National Development Program

Nobody in the draft needs a goaltender more than Dallas. Veteran Marty Turco won’t be back, Kari Lehtonen is serviceable for the next few years but the Stars need a goalie in waiting. Campbell, if he falls past Atlanta at number eight, should be Dallas’ pick at 11. Not only is he a solid goaltender in everyday situations but he’s a proven clutch netminder as well. He came off the bench in the biggest stage for young hockey players at the World Junior Championships to lead the United States past mighty Team Canada to win the Gold Medal in overtime. Let me repeat: off the bench. He came into the championship game cold and still pulled out a victory. The Stars, who are in desperate need of a goaltender, absolutely cannot pass up Campbell if he’s available. The second highest rated goalie Calvin Pickard would be a reach at this spot but Campbell is a must-draft at number 11. Obviously he won’t be ready for NHL action immediately but that’s okay as Dallas has Lehtonen signed for three more years. Those three years should be exactly what Campbell needs to prepare for his NHL career to start.

NUMBER 12 :: ANAHEIM DUCKS
Mikael Granlund - C - HIFK Helsinki (SM-liiga)

Center Mikael Granlund has been compared to fellow-Finn Saku Koivu. Thanks to that comparison, we have Granlund going to Anaheim in the first of their two first round picks. Well, okay, that’s not the only reason but it is a big one. The Oulu, Finland native is the top ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting. And his seven points in the 2010 World Juniors was good enough for the team lead. And he led all Finnish Elite League rookies in scoring. And… (you get the picture). So, in short, the guy’s a stud and could be a real steal at 12th overall in retrospect. But, back to the comparison for a moment, the 35-year old Koivu is near the end of his career and, if re-signed, could be a mentor to the young Granlund over the next few years. While Granlund probably won’t play in North America this season, his contract in Finland is up so it is possible. After all, he did play against men last year in Finland’s top league. Oh, and he scored at just under a point-per-game clip so, on second thought, maybe he is ready.

NUMBER 13 :: PHOENIX COYOTES
Ryan Johansen - C - Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Nino Niederreiter isn’t the only Portland Winterhawk that will go in the top 15. His linemate Ryan Johansen is a raw talent. He’s someone who will need a lot of work but, with good coaching and some patience to mature, could become a solid third or even second line center in the NHL. The 6’3″ center knows how to put the puck in the net and likes to set up teammates. His 69 points in 71 games from Portland last season is impressive considering it was his first year at the junior hockey level but it also raises the question would he be as good without Niederreiter? He’s ranked eighth by International Scouting, 12th by The Hockey News and 10th among North American skaters by Central Scouting so, as you can see, Johansen could go higher but we think, based on the needs of teams ahead of Phoenix, he’ll fall to the Coyotes at 13.

NUMBER 14 :: ST. LOUIS BLUES
Austin Watson - W - Peterborough Petes (OHL)

Austin Watson isn’t just an American kid playing Canadian major junior hockey in Peterborough, Ontario. Oh, he’s much more than that. He’s an American kid tearing up Canadian major junior in Peterborough. After scoring 34 points in 42 games with the Windsor Spitfires, he waived his no-trade clause and was shipped to the Petes where he scored 20 points in the 10 games with his new club. He may have missed out on being called a back-to-back Memorial Cup Champion but he did gain some respect in the draft rankings and that, career-wise, is more important. In their 2010 NHL Draft Guide, hockeyprospect.com said “what Watson brings to the ice is a mature, three-zone game.” Forget the two-points-per-game pace he was on at the end of last year, if he can score at a point-per-game clip and be responsible in all three zones, Watson has a big time NHL future ahead of him. And the Blues could certainly use his services in the years to come. The scouting site hockeysfuture.com doesn’t have a single winger in the Blues’ top 12 prospects. Instead, the top 12 consists of three centers, three goalies and five defenseman. It’s time for St. Louis to remedy that issue and Watson is the perfect man to do it.

NUMBER 15 :: BOSTON BRUINS
Alex Burmistrov - C - Barrie Colts (OHL)

When we had NHL.com’s Deputy Managing Editor Adam Kimelman on The 303:30 podcast, he mentioned that, for a team that holds two first round picks, one train of thought is that one of those picks has to be a homerun and the second can be more of a gamble. But, the gamble with Alex Burmistrov has nothing to do with the fact that he’s Russian. The gamble is with his size. The 18-year old pivot has tons of talent and tons of speed but he’s 6’0″ and listed – note the key word “listed” – at 159 lbs. Not exactly built for longevity at the pro level. One scout went as far as telling The Hockey News “he’s built like Gilligan.” Well, if Gilligan doesn’t put on some weight, he’ll either never make the NHL, or play one game and get killed out there. Burmistrov is committed to play in North America as he left Russia to play with Barrie of the OHL so that’s not the scary part if you’re an NHL team looking for a dynamic talent at this point in the draft. It’s whether you’ve burned a first round pick on a kid that’ll be broken in half by a thundering hit from a big Saskatchewan farm boy twice his size. The Bruins, even more than the Ducks or Coyotes, are Stanley Cup contenders now and, with either Hall or Seguin already on their team at this point, gambling on Burmistrov might be worth the gamble.

NUMBER 16 :: OTTAWA SENATORS
Riley Sheahan - C - Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)

When projecting Riley Sheahan, all bets are off. Freshman skaters don’t typically put up lots of points in the college hockey and, if that wasn’t enough, the Irish don’t exactly play a wide open game. The 6’2″, 200 lb Sheahan is projected by The Hockey News as a “defensive forward” but one has to wonder if he’s just projected that way because of the Notre Dame style. I mean, the guy put up 134 points in 49 career games while playing Junior B hockey in his native St. Catharines, Ontario. Almost a three-points-per-game pace doesn’t exactly scream “defensive forward” to me. Either way, Sheahan would be a great pick for Ottawa here as they need to shore up their offense. After all, Daniel Alfredsson won’t be around forever and Jason Spezza is rumored to be headed out of town.

NUMBER 17 :: COLORADO AVALANCHE
John McFarland - C - Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

John McFarland scored 96 goals one season in Bantam. He then went to the OHL and scored at a point-per-game pace in his rookie season. But Sudbury failed to build a team around the uber-talented McFarland and his game suffered. One of the knocks on the 6’0″, 200 lbs centerman is that he tries to do too much of it himself. Well, if you were 17 years old and knew you didn’t have a supporting cast around you, you’d probably try to do it all yourself too. Another knock on him is his commitment level. One scout told The Hockey News “When I saw him play, he had really bad body language, like he didn’t want to be there.” That can happen when you know you’re pretty much the only player who can make your team successful. Of course, that’s not what coaches want to hear but that’s the truth inside the head of a teenage phenom with all the talent in the world on a team without any other talent. We couldn’t agree more that hockeyprospect.com’s assessment of “whether or not he becomes an NHL player could lie in his own hands.” When we interviewed him on The 303:30, he said all the right things. We just hope that, once he’s surrounded with a supporting cast, those right things are the truth.

NUMBER 18 :: NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Emerson Etem - C - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

Emerson Etem is one of the most promising players in this draft class. So why do we have him falling to Nashville at 18 overall? Because we’re biased. Now, to our defense, we have seen some mock drafts putting Etem in Nashville as well, which gives us hope that it could actually happen. We’ve also seen mock drafts where he’s picked one spot ahead of the Preds. So, really, if the Long Beach, California native gets past Anaheim at 12, he should be around for Colorado and Nashville to duke it out for his services at 17 and 18, respectively. We do know Etem will go between 12 and 19 as every mock draft we’ve seen has him going in that range. Furthermore, McKeen’s Hockey has him 14th overall, Red Line Report has him 16th overall and International Scouting has him at 18th overall. The farthest we’ve seen him fall is in NHL.com’s Brad Holland’s mock draft where he has the Los Angeles Kings picking him at 19. Let’s get one thing straight, Nashville will not let him get by them at 18. Etem has explosive speed, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin skating ability and a work ethic that rivals the best of them. He’s a natural leader and loves to learn. He’s responsible in his own zone and can score. Make no mistake, Etem is the perfect Nashville Predator mold.

NUMBER 19 :: LOS ANGELES KINGS
Mark Pysyk - D - Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Now that Drew Doughty is a Norris Trophy candidate, we think it’s about time the Kings get him a long-term partner. And what better match than a guy who’s been compared to former Los Angeles draft pick, two-time Stanley Cup Champion and 18-year veteran Darryl Sydor? Mark Pysyk would be the perfect Sundance Kid to Doughty’s Butch Cassidy. Doughty and Pysyk could even find themselves as the next Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Two young d-men who can both play a strong two-way game, quarterback a powerplay and make that all-important first pass. Pysyk has played on a mediocre (at best) Edmonton team but has still excelled. His offensive game has improved every season in junior thus far and he has no problem blocking shots. He plays a lot of minutes in the WHL and will need that same kind of conditioning if he wants to become Doughty’s partner on the Los Angeles blueline. Hockeyprospect.com says “overall, his foot speed could use some improvement” but, with patience and good coaching, he should learn how to work around that obstacle by the time he cracks an NHL roster. Pysyk is projected by most to be a top 15 pick in this years draft and, by some, even a top 10. If he falls to the Kings at 19, they’ll be thrilled to find a blueliner of his caliber at that spot.

NUMBER 20 :: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Jeffrey Skinner - C - Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

It may sound weird, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are in desperate need of some offensive help. On July 1, the only forwards the Penguins will have locked up longer than one season are Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. That’s it. So come the 2011-12 campaign, they’re going to need a guy with some skill to keep up with those other guys. Enter the Kitchener Rangers’ Jeffrey Skinner. His draft stock has leaped tall buildings since mid-season. He was one of only two – count ‘em TWO – 50-goal scorers in the OHL this year and is projected as a “goal-scoring forward” by The Hockey News. That’s the kind of category for top 10 talent, not late first round picks. While it’s true that some teams reportedly have Skinner in their top 10, based on other teams’ needs and drafting tendencies, we see Skinner falling at least to 15. Quite frankly, the Penguins could use a player with his skill level. Scouting site hockeysfuture.com has the Penguins rated 24th in their NHL Organization Rankings which suggests they’ve drafted poorly over the last few years. They can’t continue that trend any longer or they’re going to be a one-line hockey club with zero depth. Skinner will give them that depth and, with one more year of junior, could fill out just enough to crack the the Penguins roster just in time.

One Comment

  1. Charlie J

    June 25, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Dallas has 2 goaltenders drafted since 2006 (Bachman) and Beskorowany (2008) Why go for a 3rd two years later?