The Kessel bashing begins
My thumb is down to 2006 NHL draft prospect Phil Kessel. A year ago, people were wondering if you had Crosby and Kessel at the same draft, who would you take? Phil the thrill has become Phil the Overkill with the suspicion he'll be the next Alexandre Daigle than Alexander Ovechkin. He has been demoted to fifth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
- Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
I get it, I do. TV appearances are only successful if you can make wild, attention-grabbing statements, and comparing formerly projected No. 1-overall pick Kessel to Daigle is one of those. It's actually more than that: It's ridiculous.
It's also a good thing it comes from Sports Illustrated, that reputable bastion of hockey knowledge, or else a respected hockey publication would be left looking mighty silly about the time Kessel wins the Calder Trophy. Maybe even sooner than that.
Say all you want about Kessel's 'disappointing' turn at the 2006 world junior tournament — you know, the one he led in scoring with 11 points in seven games — this kid's going to be a star. It's a heck of a lot easier to light up the QMJHL like Daigle did than to be a dominant presence as a rookie in NCAA play. Kessel had 51 points in 39 games with the University of Minnesota this year, putting him just outside of the top 10 scorers in college hockey. (They're also comparable numbers to those Dany Heatley put up at Wisconsin in both his freshman and sophomore year.)
Central Scouting has been wrong before, and I believe they'll be wrong here again. There's no way a player with that kind of explosive speed and on-ice vision isn't going to have a successful NHL career. The thing is, with all of the anti-hype now being thrown his way, one of the teams with a pick further down the list is really going to benefit.
My guess is ultra-cautious St. Louis Blues' GM Larry Pleau steers clear of 'The Next Big Bust', which leaves Kessel available for Pittsburgh, Chicago or Washington. Heck, Boston, Columbus and the New York Islanders may even have a shot, too.
But let's all remember that Sports Illustrated's hockey world is one where Florida would finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh squeaked into the playoffs. Perhaps, in light of that, being called 'The Next Daigle' isn't so bad.
It's when they're calling you Gretzky you should be worried.