By Angus Dunk, WSOE Sports
A very impressive draft altogether, the teams with the top picks stuck to the right players. There was talk and speculation according to hockeybuzz.com that the Islanders were considering center, Matt Duchene, as their #1 pick. As good as Duchene has been, the Islanders were clearly more impressed with the exploits of John Tavares at the World Junior Championships.
Top 30 Picks at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal
1.) John Tavares, Center (picked 1st overall by the New York Islanders) – Owner Charles Wang might have finally landed a winner for the New York Islanders, who have been defunct since the 80’s. Tavares had already been a standout star in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) well before this year’s World Junior Championships. During his 6 year run in the OHL he managed to compile 433 career points, which included back to back 100 point performances with the Oshawa Generals in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. Tavares finished his scoring with 104 points this season, playing the latter half with the London Knights. Tavares gets to the front of the net with his quick stick movement and clearly has a tick-tack-toe style of play which leaves goalies in question to where the puck is. Debate over the next Wayne Gretzky has been speculated since “The Great One” retired in 1999. Is he the one? Number one picks like Sidney Crosby (2005 by the Penguins) and Steve Stamkos (2008 by the Lightning) have proven big for their respective teams, but Tavares will play the definitive role of “Hero” for the struggling New York Islanders. His skating ability has been the only thing questioned by scouts, keeping in mind that the National Hockey League and American Hockey League feature quick paces like no other. But this shouldn’t be a worry, Tavares can clearly deliver. Even though he went to the Islanders, as opposed to my Rangers, I welcome the healthy competition in the Atlantic Division.
2.) Victor Hedman, Defense (picked 2nd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning) – Hedman originally comes from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden; home to famed NHLer’s Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins from the Vancouver Canucks, and Anders Hedberg (retired). The 6’6, 220 pound defenseman plays for Team Modo of the Swedish Elite League and has been a stand out star like so many of his teammates. While his numbers haven’t been huge, Hedman has been on the rise. The NHL Central Scouting Service compares him to defensemen such as Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara. Clearly, Hedman had his best year playing in the Elite League with Modo and recorded 21 points, a +21, and 52 penalty minutes. On offense, Hedman’s biggest attributes include his ability to score quick one-timers and wrist shots. His shot in turn has made him a threat to opposing teams in overtime and special team situations. On defense, Hedman’s size will provide his team in their own end with good checking and hits. Overall, my analysis is that Hedman is a great player. My only concern is his ability to strive with a struggling team such as Tampa Bay. However, Tampa has typically drafted forwards in previous drafts such as Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Stamkos. Hedman may be the missing piece of the puzzle to this team. If things go awry for this young star, he has a back-up option revealing that he would be a pilot if he wasn’t a hockey player.
3.) Matt Duchene, Center (picked 3rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche) – This playmaker from the Brampton Battalion of the OHL well could have been picked 2nd this year in my opinion. Duchene sneaked his way up from being in the top 10 draftees to the top 5. In the May issue of “The Hockey News” he was ranked at #6. Duchene comes from the same OHL team, the Brampton Battalion, as Vancouver Canucks prospect, Cody Hodgson, who was ranked #2 by “The Hockey News” amongst current NHL prospects. Duchene is a great player because of his speed. This is seen consistently in his skating and with his stick handling. In just two seasons with Brampton, he recorded back-to-back 30 goal seasons (2007-2008 and 2008-2009) and compiled 129 points. So why wasn’t he #1 in the draft? He doesn’t have as much experience as Tavares and could use more time to develop his game. Overall, he’s very good, but not quite matching Tavares in scoring caliber. However, his skating does outmatch that of Tavares. Duchene will put up big numbers for the Avalanche and shouldn’t have trouble making the roster this season. His only flaw might be that he favors the right wing a little too much, but every player has their tendencies.
4.) Evander Kane, Center (picked 4th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers) – The forward is named after boxer Evander Holyfield. Kane is coming off an explosive season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in which he recorded 48 goals and 48 assists for a total of 96 points. Partial owners of the Giants include former NHL players, Gordie Howe and Pat Quinn. Kane also played alongside John Tavares on Team Canada in the World Junior Championships averaging a point per game. Kane also possesses an aggressive style of competition which could prove useful to his team in both the offensive and defensive zones. With a 6’1, 176 pound frame, Kane holds his own and is unafraid to dish out hit after hit or get involved in a scrap. On offense, Kane’s “rush to the net” style of play has drawn scouts to compare him to Eric Staal. Additionally, Kane is superb on breakaways and in shootouts. He lists a variation of shootout moves as his favorite including the backhand, forehand, and backhand to forehand. In these types of scenarios, more than likely he scores.
5.) Nazem Kadri, Center (picked 7th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs) – Here’s a fun fact. He’s the first player of Lebanese-Muslim descent to be drafted in the NHL. He played with teammate, John Tavares, on the London Knights of the OHL this past season. This season, Kadri finished 2nd in scoring on the Knights, with a career high 78 points (25 goals and 53 assists), only trailing Tavares. This year he also led the OHL in shorthanded points with 10. In 2007-2008, he played on the Kitchener Rangers who the John Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. Kadri is a big asset in my mind for two reasons. First, according to “The Hockey News” he is a player that comfortably plays all three forward positions which will prove critical on special plays as well for 5 on 5 hockey. Secondly, Kadri is a goal scorer, but his bigger attribute is going to being a playmaker. He finished ninth last year in assists (53) in the OHL.
6.) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Left Wing (drafted 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers) – I was very surprised to see Paarjarvi-Svensson drafted so late, seeing how he was one of the top ranked skaters. His final ranking before the start of the draft was #2 amongst European skaters. This also begs to question why the Phoenix Coyotes didn’t draft him, given they have for the past two drafts selected Europeans (Mikkel Boedker in 2008 and Oliver Ekman Larsson (#4 amongst European skaters) in 2009). This was a real steal for the Edmonton Oilers. He has made a difference for his country playing on Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships and World Junior Championships U-18 (Under-18). In 2009 in the World Junior Championships, he recorded 7 points in six games and earned a silver medal with Sweden as he did in the tournament the previous season. This year at the World Junior Championships Under 18 tournament he recorded 12 points. He currently plays in the Swedish Elite League with the Timra IK Red Eagles. This season he recorded 17 points in 50 games in his second year with the Red Eagles. Paajarvi-Svensson may not be tallying record breaking numbers, but has played amazingly for a player who just recently turned 18. Paajarvi-Svensson has also been credited with being a forward that can stop defensemen in their tracks. NHL Central Scouting Director, E.J. McGuire, confirms this fact and says the left-winger is an encouraging player in this regard. With more time, development, and maturation added to his game, Paajarvi-Svensson should prove to be a standout player in the NHL. He was the first left- winger to be drafted this year.
7.) Ryan Ellis, Defense (drafted 11th overall by the Nashville Predators) – Based on his career and record, I believe Ellis to be as good if not better than his higher ranked counterpart, Jared Cowen (9th overall by the Ottawa Senators). The only reason for him not being drafted in the top 10 would be based on his size. Ellis stands at 5’9 and 173 pounds. However, hockey is a game of spirit and determination in many aspects. Furthermore, defense isn’t all about how well one can check and hit the other skaters. Cowen’s ability as a scoring defenseman seems like a natural reflex. The 18 year-old has come off a productive two year stint with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He increased his single season scoring to 89 points this season after establishing a solid 63 in his rookie season last year. His play on the ice this year earned him the OHL’s “Most Outstanding Defenseman” Award for the 2008-2009 season. But wait he’s done more? That’s right. Ellis was another key component in helping Team Canada win this year’s World Junior Championships, registering a total of 7 points in 6 games. The young defenseman is quick and fast and he could easily prove to be a nuisance to his bigger, slower opponents. On a side note, Ellis demonstrates a good deal of maturity and articulation for such a young player. Ellis says he styles his game after New Jersey’s Brian Rafalski and Columbus’s Kris Russell, both talented, “lightweight” defensemen in the NHL.
8.) Calvin De Haan, Defense (drafted 12 overall by the New York Islanders) – He’s young and only just finished his rookie season in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, but shows great promise if he continues to play the way he has. He notched a total of 55 assists and 63 points for the Generals this season. Additionally, he also played for Canada’s team at the 2009 World Under 18 Championships tallying six points. He has a reasonable frame standing at 6’0 and 170 pounds. He’s another quick skater, who is particularly good at staying with his man on the ice. Overall, forwards will have trouble trying to out skate him. Before he was acquired by Oshawa, De Haan played with the Kemptville 73’s of the Central Junior Hockey League (CJHL). The Islanders made good use of their extra pick in round 1 by choosing De Haan.
9.) John Moore, Defense (picked 21st overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets) – Picks 20 through 30 in the draft are always tricky and there isn’t a clear cut answer of who to go with. Still the Blue Jackets have thought outside the box a little by going with a player from the United States Hockey League (USHL). Moore, a native of Chicago, decided to play for one of his many hometown teams and joined the Chicago Steel this season. In his second year with the Steel, he totaled 39 points during the 2008-2009 season and was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year. Moore was also tagged as the highest ranked USHL player entering this year’s draft. Moore plans on attending Colorado College in the fall, but is unsure if he will keep that commitment pending the demands of the Blue Jackets. Overall, I think he shows promise and is a safe investment for the Jackets, but all investments need time to grow. If he wants to develop his game further he should go to Colorado College. He has been compared to defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Jay Bouwmeester by NHL scouting director, E.J. McGuire.
10.) Jordan Schroeder, Center (picked 22nd overall by the Vancouver Canucks) – Schroeder had the honor of being drafted as the first collegiate player in this year’s draft. And where better than from the alma mater of Herb Brooks? That’s right, the University of Minnesota. As a freshman with the Golden Gophers, Schroeder recorded 45 points in 35 games for a season average of 1.3 points per game. Additionally, Schroeder was the only freshman to rank in the top 50 scorers in NCAA I Men’s Ice Hockey. For his achievements this season alone, he earned Rookie of the Year awards from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the College Hockey News, and from the Gophers as well. Schroeder has also been of value for USA hockey, playing on the U-18 team and competing also with Team USA in the World Junior Championships in 2009. Schroeder led the team in scoring this year with 11 points. Overall, he will only continue to become better in the next 3 years at Minnesota and will be a definite playmaker for the Vancouver Canucks. The scouting report in the May Issue of the Hockey News describes him best: “His strengths are his hockey sense and puck skills. He’s intelligent, poised and creative, with a very good focus around the net.” At 5’8 and 175 pounds, his size was a concern for many teams and explains him being picked so late in round 1 of the draft. In May, The Hockey News pegged him as the #10 pick.