2007 NHL entry draft
Thoughts on the draft weekend
Gee, where to begin?
You miss four days, you miss a lot, at least when we’re headed into the NHL’s free agency period. There weren’t as many big deals as I expected the past couple of days, but there were two of note, as any time a starting netminder makes a move, it shifts the landscape in the league (and especially so given they both moved from the Western Conference to the east).
I didn’t see much of the televised draft coverage outside of the first three or four picks from my hotel room in Montreal Friday night, but the slew of posts (soon to be added) below will offer up a few thoughts on what transpired on the trade/signings front.
As for the draft itself, well, I had the chance to chat with Tyler Dellow about it earlier this afternoon and here are a few of the things we touched on:
I was shocked to see Alexei Cherepanov fall that far. I mean, the kid led the world junior tournament in scoring and was named its top forward at 17 years old. He broke Pavel Bure’s rookie record in the Russian elite league this season with 18 goals. Russian transfer deal or not, he’s going to be an NHL star, and the Rangers got another mid-first round steal at 17th.
The lack of Russians
Speaking of the Russian transfer deal, hockey pundits are going to all be pointing to it as the reason so few players from the country were taken (nine overall, the lowest number since 1988), but talent coming out of Russia has been dwindling for years. As I said to Tyler, their development system is in tatters, and they just aren’t producing great players like they used to. Alex Ovechkin is an anomaly now.
Russia doesn’t produce many depth players any more, just the occasional sniper once a year or so. Who was the last great young Russian defenceman? Anton Volchenkov’s the only player that comes to mind.
There were only four Russian blueliners under the age of 27 who played in the NHL last season: Dmitri Kalinin, Alexei Semenov, Volchenkov and Fedor Tyutin.
Who wanted Turris
It wasn’t a surprise to see Patrick Kane go first overall, but Kyle Turris continues to strike me as the draft’s most intriguing player. Both the Canucks and Oilers wanted to trade up in the draft to get their hands on him, something that I think made the Coyotes think twice about trading that pick.
An American invasion
What amazed me about the draft was also the number of Americans picked. When I put together the list of NHLers by nationality a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even set out to measure the amont of U.S. born players in the league, but with that number at about 18 to 20 per cent, it’s up significantly from where it was a decade ago, when I seem to remember that figure being about 12 to 14 per cent. That observation set Tyler and I off a little discussion about how places like California are producing players now (Jon Blum was taken in the first round, for instance) due to what they call the Gretzky influence.
What it comes down to, I believe, is that more U.S. markets are getting grassroots hockey programs, more kids are playing and more are doing so at younger ages. Canadian major junior hockey heavily recruits into the U.S. now, especially in the WHL where there’s an entire U.S. division.
The results saw a record percentage of Americans taken in the 2007 draft, 63 of the 211 players selected and 11 of the players taken in the first round. It makes me wonder if the U.S. is going to be a hockey superpower again in five or six years, once the Kanes, Johnsons and Schneiders are ready to go.
At the very least, I can envision a scenario where the U.S. is the bonafide No. 2 hockey nation, and the European countries will be battling the two North American entries at every international tournament.
It’s just a thought.
Some small portion of it, too, is due to what I call the Brett Hull Syndrome, whereby (mainly Canadian) hockey players like Bobby Hull have their children in U.S. markets where they play, and voila, an American hockey star is born. Think Paul Stastny, or John Grahame, or Ryan Malone, or Zach Parise, or Sam Gagner (who plays for Canada), or Tyler Arnason, or Taylor Chorney, or Eric Nystrom, or Phillippe Sauve.
Makes you wonder just what Sidney Crosby’s son will look like in the stars and stripes.
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Labels: 2007 entry draft