Sunday, June 24, 2007

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:

Cherepanov's slide
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.

That’s it.

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.

The goalie deals: Panthers pickup Vokoun
The goalie deals: Leafs turn to Toskala
Giguere, Horton hit $24-million jackpot
Flames take chance on Aucoin
Rivet stays a Shark
.

Labels:

14 Comments:

At 8:10 PM, June 24, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

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.

One of the things that's fascinating about that list is it looks like the American-born kids of NHL players predominantly go the NCAA route, rather than juniors.

 
At 11:37 PM, June 24, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Just wanted to add that I'm loving the blog overall, keep up the good work!

 
At 12:06 AM, June 25, 2007, Blogger Don Johnson said...

FWIW, Sam Gagner was born in Canada, in London, ON. There was an article on either TSN or Sportsnet last night where they made a big point of it.

Your general point about the Brett Hull syndrome still stands, of course...

Regards
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

 
At 12:49 AM, June 25, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Let us not forget Austin Lemieux will be wearing the Red, White, and Blue years down the road!

 
At 9:44 AM, June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario, which although is two and a quarter hours from the GTA is still part of Canada.
Paul Statsny was born in Quebec City just like Robert Nillson was born in Calgary and Alex Steen in Winnipeg

 
At 12:02 PM, June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it needs to be mentioned...and I know this is going to sound sacreligious...but maybe it's about time to equate the increase in American born players this past generation with the expansion of the NHL in non-traditional hockey markets.

Yeah, I said it. Now what!?!?!?

 
At 12:37 PM, June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bigger part of why the NHL isn't drafting as many Russians is that the Superliga is flush with cash and can now afford to retain their players.

With the draft being reduced to 7 rounds you can't afford to take a flyer on a guy who can make twice as much in his own country than skating in the A.

I think overall this is also changing drafting of all ex-soviet bloc nations. Likely n a couple of years you'll see teams drafting 23 year old with expiring contracts in Russia who can step into a NHL lineup straight away.

 
At 12:43 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Russia is suffering a bit from the "Swiss" factor. Switzerland has a very strong national program, and a very strong national league that pays their players very well. The ambition to put in the time to make the NHL is being taken away.

A 19-22 year old kid gets two contract offers. One is from a NHL team, the other a RSL team. The NHL one is for a maximum of $850,000 per year if he makes the team, and a maximum of $90,000 per year if they are expected to go to the minors. That's before taxes. He makes at least that amount, and possibly more when he uses that NHL offer as leverage in a bidding war with RSL clubs. He gets $1.2m to $1.7m per year, virtually tax free, to stay with his Russian club.

It's an inferior league to the NHL, therefore he never becomes the player he could be in the future. The whole national program suffers as a result.

There's a reason the Russian U-20 squad does very well internationally, while the Russian national team has had a hard time winning the men's world championships, Olympics, or World Cup.

 
At 12:49 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario, which although is two and a quarter hours from the GTA is still part of Canada. Paul Statsny was born in Quebec City just like Robert Nillson was born in Calgary and Alex Steen in Winnipeg

I was in Belleville last week, stopping through. Nice little place.

Hull played for Team USA, which is the point of my list. So did Stastny.

The other two you mention are irrelevant.

 
At 1:21 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

And by the way, James, who are these "first round steals" the New York Rangers apparently continue to get? I'm confused by that comment for sure.

 
At 3:17 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Wasn't Brandon Sutter born on Long Island while his dad played there?

Interesting points about the Russian development system. Now that I think on it, it does seem that most of the great Russian players in the NHL were born in the 1970s, when they were trained by the Soviet system, but free to go to the NHL in their late teens/early twenties. The older ones generally came to the League too late to have an impact (or at least, to do so for more than a handful of years), while a lot of the younger ones...well, for every Ovechkin, there's a Kaigorodov or five. Whether this makes Russia significantly different from other countries or not, I'm not so sure, but it is something to consider.

 
At 3:43 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

And by the way, James, who are these "first round steals" the New York Rangers apparently continue to get?

Hugh Jessiman and Jamie Lundmark.

 
At 4:55 PM, June 25, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm thinking Marc Staal, guys.

 
At 5:37 PM, June 25, 2007, Anonymous grace said...

Sid's kid will look a little bit like me and a little bit like Sid. :)

 

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