Thursday, June 19, 2008

Draft thoughts

That's Steven Stamkos, 15 years ago.

Tomorrow night, a few months removed from his 18th birthday, he becomes the face of an NHL franchise desperately in need of a facelift, a teenager saddled with expectations and fame and a one-way ticket from little Sarnia to Tampa, Florida.

And he'll be fine.

Stamkos isn't a bust. He's been the best hockey player in the world at his age level for years, at least since scoring 105 goals as a 15-year-old midget player and being drafted first-overall into the OHL. Two prolific junior seasons later, one turn for Canada's world junior team, and he's a pro.

When that picture above was taken, the Montreal Canadiens had just won the Cup and a 31-year-old Blackhawks defenceman named Chris Chelios took home the Norris Trophy.

It's a lot to ask Stamkos to be a star right away, but the Lightning are getting a good one.

More thoughts on the draft:
  • We've been hearing forever now that this will be a deep draft, and the pundits aren't kidding. When there are junior players who scored 30-40 goals and have size available near the end of the first round, that's depth

  • A lot of the high end talent comes on the blueline, which is a bit of a twist. Normally 18-year-old defencemen are more difficult to project, and sometimes slide out of the "can't miss" slots, but four of the top six picks in 2008 will be blueliners. And that doesn't include 6-foot-7 Tyler Myers, who could be a gem (one that grew up in Texas, no less)

  •'s predraft coverage is incredible so far. I wonder if Bob McKenzie gets a summer vacation

  • One defender I really like the sound of is Zach Bogosian, who most are projecting to go third to the Thrashers. The noise out of Peterborough has some comparing him to another former Pete in Chris Pronger

  • Everyone is talking about Kyle Beach, which leads me to believe he goes higher than the 10-spot everyone has him slotted in. He's big, mean and can score goals. A scout's dream

  • This is going to be a very North American draft, especially early on, something that is due to the talent out there and the confusion over the fact there's no longer a transfer agreement with European leagues. The undersized Russian kid, Nikita Filatov, probably still goes in the top five, but after that? The next two Europeans taken are likely to be playing in the Canadian junior system.
Here's McKenzie on the transfer agreement business:
In the absence of an NHL transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, it is possible all European players (excluding those who played in North America) drafted will get defected status, which means there is no forced timetable on when they must be signed. In the last few drafts, when the transfer agreement with the IIHF was in force, NHL teams had two years to sign their European draft picks or risk losing them.
The difference between an indefinite hold on these players and a two-year signing window is immense, so keep an eye on what happens there.

I'll be hosting a live chat on draft day afternoon (1 p.m. EST) at FanHouse, and will be taking questions on the prospects and the expected trade activity. We had 22,000 turn out for the awards chat, but can always use a few more.

And if you're a blogger covering the draft, let me know, as I'll have a roundup of links before things get going tomorrow.

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At 1:34 p.m., June 19, 2008, Blogger The Big K said...

Am I the only one who thinks Filatov is good enough to be a top 3 pick? He reminds me of AO from what I've seen highlights-wise.

At 1:58 p.m., June 19, 2008, Blogger Down Goes Brown said...

Stamkos looks exactly the same. You sure that picture isn't from last week?

At 2:02 p.m., June 19, 2008, Blogger DMG said...

I don't think anyone question's Beech's talent or grit, but doesn't he have a reputation or being difficult to coach and hard-headed? Because that's the kind of thing that could make teams pass a guy over on an individual basis, leading to a huge slide.

At 3:37 p.m., June 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stamkos looks exactly the same. You sure that picture isn't from last week?

I think he's definitely taller now ... but seriously, he does look close to identical - especially the hair. Weird.

At 3:56 p.m., June 19, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

My thoughts on this draft...

These kids were all born in the 1990's?

Excuse me while I go cry now.

At 6:59 p.m., June 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No IIHF-NHL agreement doesn't really mean anything to NHL. Russians didn't sign the previous one, either, and as for Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks and Finns all this does is shorter deals in those countries.

Any agent worth his 3% comission will tell their young NHL prospects not to sign with their European teams if they have a chance to get NHL contract. Or have a NHL clause in it.

10 or 11 Swedes and six Finns have already signed NHL contract for next season. In both countries teams are now crying that they miss that 200,000 USD compensation.

IIHF boss Rene Fasel wrote in his blog that 200,000 USD per player is better than zero dollars per player but that's what European teams wanted. His message was basically "I told you so".

Anyway, right now Russia and Sweden are the only European countries that produce top notch talent.

Czech and Slovak developemental program basically died when all of their top players started to come to CHL. Individully some of these kids made the NHL but their own Junior A league became a joke.

Finland has only produced goalies in the last few years. Year ago they had total of four players drafted - first one somewhere 100th overall. Disaster compared to 2002 when Finland had five players selected in the first round (Lehtonen, Pitkanen, Niinmaki, Bergenheim and Toivonen).

This weekend will be another lousy one for Finns. Goalie Sateri will go 2nd round and Saskatoon Blade Niemi will get his name called bt after that it's a joke.

Sweden has good players for this year and great players for next year leading the way with Hedman and Paajarvi.

Russia will always produce some great players and they will end up in NHL league like Ovechkin and Malkin. Deal or no deal with IIHF.


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