Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Draft weekend festivities

I'm heading East for the next few days, taking a bit of a mini-road trip through Ottawa and Montreal with my old man out here.

What that means is that I'll miss the news, notes and dealings out of the 2007 entry draft in Columbus this weekend, but with Eric McErlain and Greg Wyshynski both headed to Ohio for the festivities, the AOL Fanhouse will have the ordeal well covered.

Here's a quick look at the Top 10 as per McKeen's Hockey, where Iain Morrell and company are hard a work in preparation for Friday night:

1 - Patrick KaneRW
2 - Kyle TurrisC-R
3 - Jakub VoracekRW
4 - Karl AlznerD
5 - James van RiemsdykL-C
6 - Alexei CherepanovRW
7 - Kevin ShattenkirkD
8 - Ryan McDonaghD
9 - Sam GagnerC
10 - Logan CoutureC

I think the Blackhawks are likely after Kane, given that organization is dying for an American superstar to be the next 'face of the franchise' and the word that he's dying for a shot at the NHL as soon as possible. The consensus is that there's little separating the top six or so skaters this year, although I've also seen great things about Gagner, son of former NHLer Dave.

Kyle Turris is a terrific story, too, especially given he's playing in the BCJHL and not major junior. Should he go No. 1, or even at the two or three spots, it really helps to raise the profile of Junior A hockey back in my home province, and the WHL may soon find it has more of a rival league to contend with for top young players.

The benefits of the BCJHL mainly relate to the fact that players can keep their NCAA eligibility in Junior A, something they forfeit when playing major junior, and the league has produced a few first-round picks recently in Travis Zajac and Kris Chucko. Even 10 years ago, the BCJHL wasn't on NHL scouts' radar, save for the likes of uber-stars Brett Hull and Paul Kariya who both had stints in Penticton.

Turris has stated he will be going to the NCAA next season with Wisconsin regardless of where he's drafted, a good thing in my books and a route more players should pursue on their way to the NHL.

Major junior is not the only way to go, and the CHL is really going to have to step up their scholarship programs if they want to compete long term for kids like Turris who are aiming for more than a pro career out of hockey.

Anyway, there's my piece on the kids in the draft, who will likely be overshadowed by a few big deals as the league's GMs meet for the year's biggest off-season tea party. It promises to be interesting, that's for sure.

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At 10:34 a.m., June 20, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

The Habs drafted a kid out of the BCHL a couple years back named Ryan O'Byrne, and he seems poised to make the NHL soon especially after his run in Hamilton this spring.

Growing up in a small town, Junior A was really highly regarded. I went to many SJHL games, mainly to see the Yorkton Terriers, Melville Millionaires, Estevan Bruins, Humboldt Broncos, and Melfort Mustangs. I went to a game in Melfort during the lockout, first one in ages. They have a prominent display of Willie Mitchell memorabilia from his time there. Not as much stuff for Ruslan Fedotenko, though. It's really too bad they banned Euros from playing in the league a few years back... it was a great program, and really ridiculously closed minded of the league to end it in such a Don Cherry fashion.

At 10:38 a.m., June 20, 2007, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

Logan Couture will be an outstanding NHL player. He had a tough year in 06-07, suffering through both injuries and a bout of mono, and it didn't help that he was having to carry an uncharacteristally poor team in Ottawa. This kid can play at both ends of the ice, though, and is a terrific playmaker. If in fact he slides down to #10 or so, someone will have an absolute steal of a pick.

At 2:39 p.m., June 20, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

Sshhh...Dennis, My leafs need him at #13.

At 8:06 p.m., June 20, 2007, Anonymous Numbers Guy said...

Turris won't turn Tier II into a feeder league for the NHL. The top line talent that plays there stays there to remain qualified for NCAA. Dany Heatley (2nd overall in '00) is probably the best example of this - he played Tier II in Calgary the year before his draft, and went on to uWisconsin. And that, my friends, is Turris' plan.

At 11:03 p.m., June 20, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Call me a Don Cherry "throwback" but I have always had a gut feeling that the best North American talent comes out of major junior hockey leagues and not the US colleges (NCAA). Therefore, if I was a GM I would probably be biased to drafting major junior players.

So I did a little research to see if there was evidence to support my bias. Looking at the top 20 North American point leaders during the 2006/07 NHL season - (I didn't have time to look at defencemen or goalies) - produces the following results:

13 from major junior,and
7 from the NCAA.

Therefore if I was a GM I'd still pick the major junior prospect over the NCAA prospect, all other things being equal, especially since the draft is such a "crap shoot" anyway.

I also think that players coming from the major juniors are better equiped to transition to the physical play and long season of the NHL.

Here is the detail:

Four from the QMJHL: Crosby, Lecavalier, Briere, Tanguay.

Four from the OHL: Thornton, Savard, Spezza, Brunette

Five from the WHL: Sakic, Iginla, Whitney, Marleau, Langkow

Six from Canadian Tier II junior to the NCAA: Heatley, St. Louis, BrindAmour, Cammalleri, McDonald, Karyia

One from US under 18 system to the NCAA: Stastny.

At 12:22 a.m., June 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody's bound to pick 7 of those players. It's foolish to be so biased against the NCAA. A great player is still a great player. Turris will be a great pick in the top-5 (maybe even second)

At 4:42 a.m., June 21, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

For starters, if you want to examine top scorers out of the NCAA, you need to put Thomas Vanek on the list; two years at Minnesota.

Beyond that, though, looking at how many of the top scorers came from which system is entirely the wrong question. The right question is what the success rate with picks from each system are, controlled for the position of the draft pick. The reason for this is because no one should ever go into the draft with the strategy of picking the best player from the NCAA, or the best player from Juniors, or the best player from Europe. They should go in with the idea of drafting the best player that they can, regardless of where that player plays.*

With that in mind, what's more important is how successfully you can judge the value of a given player. That's where there might be a difference that's dependent upon the system; it is possible that the ability to eventually play in the NHL is more predictable for a player in Juniors than it is in the NCAA. If that is the case, it makes sense to rate Juniors more highly as a place to draft from. How many great players have come from one or the other is not, in itself, terribly useful knowledge with regards to any particular player.

Do more top scorers come from juniors? It certainly looks that way. However, the top draft picks are, at first glance, even more heavily tilted towards those players, so it is possible that, even so, teams are inefficiently using too many draft picks on those players.**

*There are two caveats to this. The first is that, if you think other teams are drafting inefficiently by valuing one particular system too highly, then it makes sense to specifically target some other talent pool. The other is that an organization can't scout everywhere; everyone operates under a budget, and their are only so many employees to go around. After those picks that everyone knows are at the top of the draft, you have to rely upon scarce resources. Given that, many teams will focus their scouting efforts in some particular area. The Red Wings, for instance, beat the weeds in Russia and Sweden, turning up some remarkable late round finds. The Devils seem to scout the NCAA pretty heavily. There isn't really a correct answer on this, but it helps to use an approach that no one else does.

**I speak a bit vaguely here because things look like they have changed dramatically over the past few years. NCAA players, or NCAA bound players, have been drafted early much more frequently. At the same time, unsurprisingly, there have a been a lot more NCAA players leaving school early. As someone who has more connection to the academic side of the university system than I do to the athletic side (though both are important to me), I'm deeply ambivalent about this. I wish that going to school were more about going to school. As usual, though, no one asked for my input.

At 2:29 p.m., June 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Draft day activities: Leafs acquire Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell for 2007 first round pick and 2009 4th round pick.

At 3:09 p.m., June 22, 2007, Anonymous Matt Gunn said...

I think Philidelphia will trade down, but if not, that they'll select Van Riemsdyk or Turris.

I don't think Shattenkirk will go in the top 10. (I posted my top 10 predictions on my blog,, if anyone's interested).


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