Our friend spOILer always has a unique look at the draft and once again this year shares his list with us. Last season’s list is here.
Ladies and gentlemen, Spoiler.
SPOILER’S TOP 30 GUESSES aka “DRAFT RANKINGS”:
2012 — THE YEAR OF THE INJURY:
The defining characteristic of this draft class, for me, has been how little we know about these kids compared to most years. Scarcely a single top prospect avoided battle with some injury or illness this season.
For those that played through it, or came back before fully healing, we have no way of knowing how much the injury impacted their play. For those missing a significant chunk of games, we have no way of knowing the impact on development or ability.
I think there are a wide variety of outcomes possible for all of these players, including Yakupov, to both the upside and the downside. Which does not make this an easy draft for these teams, including the Oilers at #1 overall.
The ranking’s emphasis is on generating scoring, and the skills needed for doing so. Talent is more important than position played (but all things equal, I go C > D > W). As this is an NHL draft, I am trying to evaluate based on what I think NHL teams value, so battle and size will be a consideration, as will be the Russian Factor. I centrifuge all the data through my alcohol-addled brain until it has been churned into a clear and cogent analysis…
And then I look at my Nostradamus Lepton 2600 Full Service HD Crystal Ball and go with whatever it says.
It says the first tier is a tier of one prospect:
1. Nail Yakupov: The valedictorian of this year’s graduating class has a report card that includes a stunning combination of elite skating and hands that nearly mark off the charts I think once he’s through university and earned the degree, he’ll come in at somewhere between Hall and Stamkos, but closer to Hall of the two. This kid has a fabulous release on his wrist shot, better than Eberle’s or Hall’s, and he sports a mighty fine one-timer too. Vision and distribution are plus skills. Goes to the tough areas, likes to hit. Like Hall, if he maintains the same heavy traffic game, he may become an injury risk. Other issues are size, and consistency–especially after a string of injuries. Yak had a lacklustre playoffs–reports had him out-played by the recently returned Galchenyuk. But you know, if we remove the injuries to both players, we may have seen an historical season. I don’t think it is difficult for anyone to envision Yak scoring more points per game in that parallel universe, which would give him an NHLE quite a bit better than Hall’s.
There’s just too much buzz about this movie to not give him the Oscar. I hate to be a spoiler but the Nostra 2600 HD says the Oilers take him.
2. Alex Galchenyuk: Doesn’t quite have the offensive skillset that The Yak and Grigorenko possess. However he does have a motor that never stops running, brings the most drive and consistency to the rink out of the top 3 prospects, and is by far the most defensively accomplished. He has pro-size, excellent mobility without quite the top end speed of Yak and can distribute the puck . Doesn’t have the killer shot, but it is still very accurate. Desire, hard work and dedication are important factors in developing and improving as a player, and this kid tests well for all three. Over the long run, he might do more to help a team win hockey games than the two more talented wizards. He has less bust potential than Grigorenko, so I have him 2nd.
3. Mikhail Grigorenko: Doesn’t play the same dynamic up tempo game as Yak, but can control the tempo of the game far better than the other two top prospects. He can hold the puck under pressure without panic, wait for opportunities to develop, and then exploit them – a rare ability. His shot is just a tick below Yak’s, although he has a better backhander. Great reach and size. An effortless skater for a bigger kid. The knocks on Grigs are well-known – his play away from the puck especially in his own end, and bringing consistent efforts shift-to-shift. While Grigorenko can pull opposing players to him, he also likes the puck to come to him as well, rather than working on getting it. But I do think the accusations of a lazy nature are over-blown; I can’t see Roy would putting up with that. And having played through injury and mono, Grigs might be tougher and more dedicated than we think. If he drops below the top 5, he should be the steal of the draft.
4. Ryan Murray Plays a mature game beyond his years — composure, decision-making, reads are all off the charts. The kind of calm leader that makes the players around him better. Passes well under pressure. Tough to beat to the outside, because he’s an excellent skater in any direction. Murray has a smart low slapper that is perfect for shooting through traffic. He is not very assertive offensively, although he will jump into the play when the situation dictates. I think it is this mindset that has most scouts concerned about his offense, however the tools are there if Murray decides he wants to use them. Good size, and reputedly quite strong, Murray doesn’t lay big hits but can clear the crease and pin forwards to the wall with ease. Mistake-free defense. I would normally rank this player higher – prodigies to me have limitless upside — but the offense the top forward prospects bring is just too much to ignore and his prodigy is nicked slightly for his birthdate. However, this kid is probably going to start earning his contract faster than any of the other top graduates. I had Brodin at 5 last year, a similarly cerebral and calm defenseman, except Murray looks like he will bring more O.
5. Morgan Rielly: The best offensive defenseman in the graduating class. Rielly is that rarest brand of defenseman, an elite puck-rusher. This kid is an absolute trap breaker as he busts and jukes his way through the neutral zone, and can he dangle like a forward in the offensive zone. Great creativity, vision, puck skills, and shot. Unfortunately due to injury, I have little idea of how well Rielly’s defensive game rates. In the few games he played in the playoffs, he looked at least replacement level, but it would have been nice to have seen more. Size is also a concern but apparently he added 10 lbs during his intensive rehab and his frame is starting to mature. Like Galchenyuk, he is reputedly a gym rat. I had Murphy in this spot last year. Rielly doesn’t quite have Murphy’s offensive talent, but he has better size and strength. BobbyMac’s report says Rielly’s hockey sense is as good in his own end and he’s tough to beat. The sky is the limit for this kid if he can play in his own end.
The next tier is composed of seven players who all have small warts in the game, but could all reach first line or pairing possibility:
6. Filip Forsberg: I might have this player at 2nd overall if he had shown a little more offense in the SEL and played a little better at the WJC. Forsberg has plus speed in a nice combination with plus size, and uses both speed and size effectively. He also has excellent balance and mobility for a larger body. He appears to be still maturing physically so could be a dominant physical player in a couple of years. Great shot and plenty of finish. Doesn’t distribute the puck as well as one would hope for a top line centre, so if he makes a team’s top 3 forwards, it could be as a winger. Forsberg has plenty of determination and drive to his game — the kind of battle that pro teams love to see, especially out of bigger men.
7. Griffin Reinhart: This is a physically smaller class of Dmen on the whole, but Reinhart is one prospect who already has pro size and strength. Skating has been Reinhart’s issue, but it has improved greatly throughout the season, and we now see Reinhart dangling through the neutral zone with the puck, something he would not have attempted a year ago. The improved skating has transformed this player and he took a great leap this year, so maybe has more upside than some of the D prospects around him. Would have been nice to see a little more offense but when you consider he had to share minutes with a stacked D, he posted some nice numbers, especially in the Goals category. Has a boomer of a slapshot from the point. Physical assertiveness was an issue earlier in the season, but Reinhart proved able to raise this aspect of the game in the playoffs. Has better hockey sense than he often gets credit for.
8. Teuvo Teravinen: Tough guy to evaluate as he’s playing where kids rarely play, the Finnish pro league. His skating was greatly improved this year, buying him plenty of time and space on the larger ice surface. Can make the seeing eye pass with feathery beauty. His release is as good as Yakupov’s, and he has the wheels to be a dynamic threat, but has been criticized for play away from the puck and in his own end. Needs to show more drive and consistency, but there’s no denying the talent. Could be a real prize if he slips out of the top 10, but I don’t think that’s likely. Is known as more of a perimeter player and size is of course an issue here, but Teravainen has that extra gear in his skating that most small forwards need to overcome their strength issues. Going to be a fun and exciting player to watch.
9. Radek Faksa: Another all-round power forward like Forsberg, possessing ize, shot, brains, vision, defense. Plays a game that translates well to the pros. Could be a little better at puck distribution. His biggest weakness is probably top end speed, but there are no technical issues with his stride and speed should improve with maturity. Very smart player with a calculating view of the ice at both ends of the rink. He generates turnovers and his first three steps are strong enough to take advantage of the transition. A lot to like here.
10. Jacob Trouba: All round defenseman with a pro combination of size and skating. Has good drive and plays with consistency. Smart player who can beat you with positioning or physicality. Sports a killer slap shot. Makes plays under pressure and shows great all round awareness. A lot has been made about his intangibles – leadership, battle, competitiveness, will to win etc – stuff NHL teams love. His game reminds me of Murray’s but without the same effortless level of ease.
11. Tomas Hertl: I’d rank him higher if it wouldn’t stick out as the only ranking in the top 10. I think he has more upside than Faksa. His NHLE for goal-scoring is the best of the past 3 drafts. Can score with deception or with a rocket shot. Great along and off the walls, with pro-size and strength. He ranks lower on all other rankings because of his skating. He skates like a baby moose. But his stride is effective and can be worked on. At the highest levels of his age group he has dominated, outplaying Faksa at the WJC, and has been scoring with success against men in the Czech majors all season. I don’t see how a team can wait to 20 to take a prospect that brings so much finish and a power game.
12. Maatta: I don’t know if any player has impressed more since the calendar flipped to the 2012s. He’s always been accomplished in his own end, playing a mistake-free defensive game with a combination of physicality and positioning that is a marvel for his birthdate. Maatta started the year ranked far lower due to a lack of offense, but he turned heads when he turned on the jets this spring. When we consider that he is a late August prospect, this late bloom makes sense. So we have a kid who plays nearly as well in his own end as Murray, has found his offensive stride and is nearly a full year younger (and yet has good size and strength). He might be the second best defenseman in this draft five years down the road.
We get another tier of seven players here who are largely interchangeable but only have second line or pairing upside.
13. Dumba: I enjoy Dumba’s game, but I don’t think there’s any possible way it translates to the NHL without some physical change to his body. Dmen his size cannot be looking for the big hits and expect to survive long. He’s a wonderful skater, second only to Rielly when carrying the puck and possesses probably the best slapshot from the D prospects in this class. He distributes the puck with aplomb, using the attention he generates to his advantage. Might have put up even more points on a better team. But I would draft him with the intention of converting him to centre or wing. He has NHL hockey player tools, but not so much NHL defenseman tools. Because I’m not sure he will change his style of play or convert to forward, I’m ranking Dumba lower than most.
14. Lindholm Well-rounded Dman with excellent skating abilites (seems like the entire crop of D prospects thus far can skate like Toller Cranston). Lindholm in fact skates backwards with the speed of an Adam Foote. Played Div 2 hockey against men and helped his team get promoted to the Elitserien. Didn’t see the minutes he would have seen playing Junior here, but learning to play D against men can’t hurt. Shows an aggressive nature in his own end and likes to look for the big hit. Still learning position and angles, but overall has very good hockey sense. Well-built kid who looks like he added an inch this year.
15. Girgensons Perhaps the first true power forward in the draft class. Girgensons plays the game with such an intense, aggressive, direct style that he seems more battle combatant than hockey player. He might be the closest thing to Dustin Brown in the draft. A real plus skater with a good motor for his size, and every scout mentions his excellent balance. He loves to drive the net and can beat you with speed to the outside or by powering through you. Shields the puck well, but can stickhandle too. Very good hands in tight and can fire a decent wrister. Another player whose season was cut short by injury. Girgenson’s knock is that he can be too emotional, leading to mistakes on the ice and trying to do too much himself. Maturity will come. This is a player that would look very good in Oiler silks.
16. Cody Ceci: Not the prettiest stride you will ever see, but it’s effective and he’s a big time minute muncher with the second best offense at his position in the OHL. Has a hammer of a slap shot and high velocity wrister too. Very good positioning in his own end with a well-used active stick. Has plenty of size and will finish his checks, but doesn’t seem to have much of a mean streak. It would be nice to see him bring a little more physical assertiveness. Getting a player like Ceci at 16 is indicative of the depth in this draft crop’s defensemen.
17. Aberg: Nominated for Rookie of the Year in the SEL, but lost out to an older player. Has blazing speed, one of the fastest skaters in the draft, and can cut like Eberle. He put on 10 lbs. this season and has a bit of a fire hydrant build. With this stockiness and his extra gear, he should have no problem finding employment in the NHL. Thinks shoot before pass, with a cannon for a slapper and a heavy wrister too. Can take a pass well, and make one too, but doesn’t distribute with great vision. Still raw and inexperienced in his own end.
18. Gaunce: The Mark McNeill of this draft. Gym rat with a mature body that he deploys with gusto. Has nice soft hands for his size and can feather sweet passes through traffic. Decent shot, although he could use a little more finish. Excellent in his own zone, from positioning, to blocking shots, to winning battles along the walls. Very dedicated player with leadership attributes. First three steps and acceleration are Gaunce’s biggest issues, but he has a good stride and his skating should improve with work. When it does, Gaunce will be a force to be reckoned with.
19. Koekkoek: I love this kid’s skating and footwork. He handles the puck very well with his head up through the neutral zone and along the blue line when quarterbacking. Has both plus mobility and agility. His skating also allows him to hound players on defense. He has great gap control and an ability to limit time and space. Likes to hit, plays strong in front of his net, always seems to be in the way. Has a nice low hard slapshot. A lot to like here except he’s another guy with major injury questions. Could easily out perform his class rank.
20. Sebastien Collberg: I think the entire hockey-watching world would like to have seen Sebastien Collberg get more ice time this past season. More of an opportunity to break that Elitserien Goose Egg. He showed well at the WJCs and it’s easy to see the talent in this kid. Sniper rifle wrist shot, good speed and skating, excellent hands and plenty of courage in his game. He’s a bit small and needs ore strength t make his game translate, but also could easily out-perform his class ranking.
The class falls off here again, leaving the longest shots to make second line or pairing (except for the two goalies):
21. Timothe Bozon: Came out of nowhere, but has blossomed into a PPG guy in The Dub this year. Has the size and skating needed to play at the pro-level, but still appears to be figuring out everything he can do. I think I have him higher than most, but the up-side is there.
22. Scott Laughton: Just too smart a player for me to rank any lower. Shows great patience with the puck and distributes with vision and timing. Works hard all over the ice.
23. Matt Finn: His offense has come a long way and he doesn’t just look like a shutdown guy anymore. Good two way defenseman who’s plus in his own end.
24. Brady Skjei I could be convinced to place Skjei and the following two defensemen in any order. Skjei offers pro-size with smooth skating and a good first pass. Could use a little more offense in his game.
25. Andrei Vasilevski: The top goalie in the class. Has the size scouts now look for and combines it with excellent speed and agility. Good rebound control, covers the posts well, and gets up and down with quickness and ease. Very composed although did get rattled a little during the WJCs. As close a thing to a can’t-miss goalie prospect as the draft ever sees. I’d probably have him ranked 5-6 spots higher, but the Russian Factor sadly comes into play as he is under great pressure to play over there.
26. Henrik Samuelsson: Skating and shot are his biggest issues, but the skating has come a long way (have Reinhart and Sammy both been coached by Serdachny this season?). He’s a tough player to play against, engages physically but has the talent to bring offense along with his hard ass play.
27. Ludvig Bystrom: Thick-bodied Swede with plus skating. Stickhandles well, passes well, and can play the point on the PP. Needs to work on some defensive issues.
28. Michael Matheson: Excellent skater who might be able to find more offense in his game as he matures. Beats the forecheck well and gets the puck up the ice. Good hard slap shot. Could use some more strength.
29. Thomas Wilson: The man, the myth, the legend. This year’s edition of the Exciting Big Body. Wilson has shown some flashes of talent, and has decent hockey sense. Skating needs work as do his hands. Will be drafter higher than I have him.
30. Malcolm Subban: Very athletic kid with the composure to handle the pressure of big games. Projects as a starter but his technique will need some refinement before he gets there. Still a bit raw and awkward.
Like last year we’ll take it to the Oiler second.
31. Derrick Pouliot: Has great vision and puck-moving skills, maybe the best in this class of defenseman, but lacks the strength and size right now to play his position at the NHL level. Played on a WHL powerhouse, so maybe there is some team effect in his numbers, but full credit to him for taking advantage of his skilled forwards. PP QB. He might be able to add some strength and bulk, but there is too high of a bust potential here to rank him as high as his offense suggests.
32. Daniil Zharkov Bit of a late bloomer whose skating has improved tremendously over the past year. I have him rated higher than most because of his pro size and shot. I place a lot of emphasis on finish and this kid has it. Mental aspect should improve with experience and I like this kid’s upside more than say someone like Lukas Sutter. Not the greatest playmaker and could show a little more battle along the boards. Still, he makes good moves off the walls.
Troy Bourke – Talk about team effect. If he had played on a better team, we might be talking about him in the 1st round. The Cougars produced zero offense this year and Bourke played with nobodies. Unfortunately doesn’t have the size to dictate the play on the ice without better teammates. Might be a late bloomer physically as his growth spurt came late.
Mark Jankowski — Hardest player in the draft to evaluate. I haven’t seen him play so can’t put him in the 1st round in good conscience, but if the talent level is really there, Oilers might be able to pick up an offensively gifted centre at 32. Has pro height but a bean pole frame. Dominated league opposition with both his playmaking and his finishing.
Gemel Smith – Appears to have every tool but size, the toughest of all tools to teach. But he didn’t shy away from the dirty areas at the Junior level and has shown good battle against bigger opponents. Tough to say if his effectiveness will translate to the pro level, but there is impressive talent here.
Andreas Athanasiou – The August birthday makes this kid an intriguing flyer pick, despite the consistency issues. If my scouts had a good read on his head, I would try to trade in to the 40s to pick him up, if he’s still available.
Well, that’s all I got. Thank you LT for the opportunity and to everyone else for tuning in. I hope you all enjoyed it.
Now let’s go trade that stupid effin pick!