As the final whistle sounded in Brandon, Manitoba the Memorial Cup came to an end. The Windsor Spitfires completed winning back to back championships, which is a CHL equivalent to a dynasty. With those games done, the 2010 NHL Draft season is completed. No more junior games in shinny rinks, no more big games or important tournaments, and no more player stocks rising or falling. Like always the Draft season has been an interesting one, with plenty of storylines to accompany it. Now with only the NHL Combine left as a significant event before the big days in late June, itís time to look back on the 2010 Draft season that was.
There are many bases to cover, so I will briefly touch on some key points. In my Draft rankings, there will be expanded reports on all players.
The year started and ended as the year of Taylor Hall, the overwhelming consensus #1 player coming into the Draft and for good reason. What youíre hearing now from many is that Hall was on a loaded team and it was the players around him which boosted his point totals. These people forget that Taylor Hall was the key cog to one of the greatest single season turnovers in CHL history. In 2006-07, the Hall-less Windsor Spitfires went 18-43-7 for a measly 43 points. After selecting the highly touted Taylor Hall in the OHL Draft, the next year they went 41-15-12 for a 94 point season where Hall scored 45 goals and 84 points as a 16 year old. After lighting up the OHL and taking Memorial Cup honors the following year, it was no surprise Hall was the consensus #1 in many peopleís eyes.
There were other names though to consider at the top. One being Kirill Kabanov, the Russian who was considered the best player to come out of Russia in years, better than even Filatov. The Moncton Wildcats had selected him in the CHL Import Draft, and the Russian was all set to come overseas, so that he could have a relatively peaceful season, which would allow him to get ready to be drafted high in June of 2010. He had some emotional issues at times and some minor character issues, but hey it was nothing that couldnít be worked out right?
Sudburyís John McFarland was also on the radar as a possible top pick. For years it had been him and Taylor Hall climbing up the ranks and the pre-Junior sensation was ready to take his game to the next level and take advantage of his amazing skill set. Brett Connolly was also another name high up there. After an amazing year in the WHL, where he took Rookie of the Year honors, he had scouts drooling over him with all of the things he could bring to the table. All he had to do was stay healthy. Cam Fowler was also the undisputed top defender in the Draft, coming over from the US National Program to join Taylor Hall with the Windsor Spitfires. Early talk was that this could be the first time that two teammates could go 1-2 in the Draft as Fowler was also highly regarded, though not as much as Hall.
Tyler Seguin Emerges
The 2009-10 OHL season opened and many expected Taylor Hall to take the OHL scoring lead and run with it easily with John Tavares now playing hockey on Long Island. However about a month into the year, it wasnít Hall but rather the 17 year old Tyler Seguin at the top of the OHL points board and by the end of October he had an outstanding 18 goals and 34 points in 12 games. Seguin didnít just come out of nowhere though. The year before the Whalers had high hopes for Tyler, but he struggled mightily and had to wait 16 games into his OHL career when on Nov 17th 2008 he got his first career goal. It was then around late January when he really caught fire and carried it to the Ivan Hlinka tournament this past summer where he led Team Canada to a Gold Medal and then excelled at the season.
Seguin has firmly put himself in the number one pick argument, to the point where Central Scouting ranked him ahead of Taylor Hall in their end of year rankings. Bob McKenzie surveyed ten NHL scouts, and three of them put Seguin at number one. For a 17 year old, he has certainly been more than impressive and has rightly earned a lot of the credit heís getting.
USA On The Rise
In recent years, the US National Team Development Program has been known for churning out some quality players and this year was an exclamation point on that. Never mind first round prospects like Cam Fowler or Emerson Etem who went to the CHL from the USNTDP last year. This yearís crop out of Ann Arbor is a formidable bunch. At the front of this group is goaltender Jack Campbell, who many will remember from this past World Junior Championship replacing Mike Lee in the gold medal games versus Canada to lead the US to victory. He is in most minds the top goaltending prospect in the draft. The States also have an extremely impressive group of defensemen. To name them, Derek Forbort, Jon Merrill, Justin Faulk, Stephen Johns and Jarred Tinordi all have a good chance to go within the top two rounds with Forbort and Merrill likely being first round picks. Jason Zucker and Luke Moffat round out the notable forwards on this yearís USNTDP draft crop.
Campbell, Fowler and Zucker got to display their talents in Saskatoon on route to a World Junior gold medal, but the entire U-18 team played very well at several international events such as the Under-18 Four and Five Nations tournaments capturing first place in both, as well as taking gold in the U-18 tournament in Minsk . Whatís scarier is the USNTDPís best players are only going to be eligible for the 2011 Draft! That being names like Brandon Saad and Rocco Grimaldi.
Stocks Go Up
As it goes every year, some players come into their Draft season and impress so much that scouts canít help but take notice and the late 2nd rounder quickly vaults himself into the first round discussion. Here are some players who made a bigger name for themselves as the year went on:
Jeff Skinner: If I was to ask you who scored the most goals in the OHL this season, some would almost certainly pick OHL player of the year Tyler Seguin, or super prospect Taylor Hall, and if not either of them it must surely be Leafs top prospect Nazem Kadri right? Wrong. It was actually Kitchener Rangers product Jeff Skinner. Skinner potted 50 goals in 64 regular season games and another 20 goals in 20 playoff games. Heís most likely gone from a late first/early second to a mid first rounder.
Jon Merrill: Merrill came into this year as a fringe first round pick and likely second rounder. He always had the physical tools and the good frame, but people wondered if he had any two-way upside. Merrill silenced those critics this year, showing an impressive puck-moving ability and displaying he could chip in offensively and for that reason climbed up peopleís Draft boards.
Nino Niederreiter: When Nino came over from Switzerland to play in the WHL, people knew this kid was one of the highest acclaimed Swiss players ever. However we didnít know exactly how good he was going to be. The word was Nino displayed such a unique package of power, speed and skill in guiding a fierce Portland attack and was also a standout at the World Juniors. His name is now frequently being discussed in the top 10 for this yearís Draft.
Ryan Johansen: Hey look, another Portland Winterhawk and a linemate of Nino Niederreiter! Johansen didnít just rely on Nino to propel him to success this season, though. Johansen has matured greatly since he was a Bantam player and itís helped him turn heads this season. Heís a big guy, a great playmaker and a smart player overall. Heís gone from a 2nd/3rd rounder to a bonafide first round player and he could possibly go near the top of the first round.
Alexander Burmistrov: Burmistrov was considered the 4th best Russian in the Draft at the beginning of the year behind Kabanov, Tarasenko and Kuznetsov. However, ever since he came over to North America and displayed his abilities in the OHL with the Barrie Colts thatís no longer the case. Burmistrov is a speed demon and his vast skill set has catapulted him into the first round.
There are other players whose stocks have risen, which include Gregg McKegg, Calvin Pickard, and Beau Bennett.
Stocks Go Down
Brett Connolly: Connolly produced a lot of offense last year for a rather dismal team in the Prince George Cougars of the WHL and was on many peopleís radars going into this year, regularly in the top five discussion. He plays a two-way game, is a great scorer, has soft hands, and good scoring ability. Everything was fine until he suffered a hip flexor injury, which created concerns going forward about whether it would hamper his development. He didnít help those concerns with a rather dismal performance at Minsk in the Under 18 tournament.
Teemu Pulkkinen: There was a point and time where Pulkkinen was amongst the top of the class for the 2010 Draft. The Finnish sensation was at times considered better than even Mikael Granlund, his Finnish counterpart in this yearís Draft. However an injury, in addition to an overall disappointing season last year, has lowered his stock significantly. Heís among the most talented scorers in the Draft this year, but has so much work to do on his all-around game that heís likely looking at a mid 2nd round draft spot at the earliest.
Kirill Kabanov: O Kirill, what happened? You were just such a good prospect. You were so talented and showed everyone you had every intention of becoming an NHL star. Most of that is still true though, with the only thing that changed being the huge amount of drama that has happened in between Point A and Point B. Indeed, Kabanov has some character issues that heíll have to work on at the next level if he wants to succeed in the NHL one day.
Other names come to mind also, such as John McFarland who has failed to come through on his upside and is in danger of not even being selected in the first round. Riley Sheahan had the drinking incident, which for an 18 year old college student, isnít exactly red flag news, but overall his season was disappointing. Kuznetsov couldíve shown more as well and his new two year KHL contract is sure to shy away some NHL teams.
The Year of the Russians?
This Draft class was widely hyped to be one of Russiaís finest in years, with many big names ready to be selected, including: Kirill Kabanov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alexander Burmistrov, Ivan Telegin, Maxim Kistyn, and Nikita Zaytsev. Kabanov was supposed to go at the top of the Draft, Tarasenkois was a top 10 talent, Kuznetsov a definite first rounder, and Burmistrov, Telegin and Kistyn were arguably top 40 picks. A lot has happened since we were at that consensus, with Burmistrovís stock on the rise and Tarasenkoís stock being a bit of a wild card. However, nearly every other Russian has seen their stock drop for one reason or another, be it poor performance (Kitsyn) or off-ice red flags (Kabanov, Telegin). While there still may be a good number of Russians taken this year, it may not exactly be the NHL Draft mother Russia was intending on. Of course we never know until the day of the Draft.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, this yearís Draft has a lot of uncertainty in it, especially at the top of the Draft. Besides the Taylor versus Tyler debate, thereís also the debate over the top defenseman. Some believe itís Kingston Frontenac product Erik Gudbranson, while others think Brandon Gormley out of Moncton in the QMJHL is the best. Thereís also sleeper Cam Fowler, who has seen his stock plummet slightly.
Some other debates that need to be resolved include:
- Derek Forbort has been the undisputed top defender from the US U-18 team, but now Jon Merrill is making a case. Which one is better?
- Calvin Pickard had a fantastic season and has given Jack Campbell a run for the number one goalie spot. Who is the better goalie?
- Tarasenkoís draft spot is in question, is he a top 5, top 10 or top 15 player with the Russian factor in place?
- Is Jordan Weal a first rounder, a product of Jordan Eberle or just too small?
- Who was making the Portland Winterhawksí first line so effective: Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Brad Ross or a combination of all three?
- Where should the extremely skilled Mikael Granlund go? Heís so talented, yet his size and skating are huge red flags.
The answer to all of these questions, plus where everyoneís stock is currently after this season and where I think the key players will be going is all upcoming in the next couple of weeks. Keep reading to find out!
Follow Corey on Twitter at @coreypronman.
Corey Pronman is a contributor to Puck Prospectus and runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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