Friends, we are looking at a different draft in 2016. I cannot tell you why it is happening, but we are seeing a significant change in the weather.
Auston Matthews, No. 1 for 2016
A year ago, end of March, we had the top five selections surrounded. Here is my list from March 28:
- (1)C Connor McDavid, Erie Otters (OHL) 47GP, 44-76-120 (2.55)
- (2)C Jack Eichel, Boston U (NCAA) 37GP, 24-43-67 (1.81)
- (3)R Mitch Marner, London Knights (OHL) 63GP, 44-82-126 (2.00)
- (4)C Dylan Strome, Erie Otters (OHL) 68GP, 45-84-129 (1.90)
- (5)D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (NCAA) 36GP, 5-18-23 (.639)
The final draft order had Strome going in front of Marner, but that is pretty close. My list isn’t about trying to project the draft, it is about finding best value. That said, the top five overall should be pretty close (defensemen are tough to project).
This year, we are seeing some unusual movement at this late date. I believe there are two things driving the fluidity of the draft: No one can agree on the defensemen (I spoke to Steve Kournianos this week, he is still strong on Jacob Chyrchun, while Craig Button has moved him down from No. 7 in January to No. 9 now), and there are some guys who appear to be spiking late. Here they are:
- C-L Pierre Luc-Dubois is having some kind of run. Button now has him N0. 4 overall, Kournianos No. 5 overall. There is little doubt in my mind he will be the first Canadian drafted this year. His NHLE is 34 points, and he is 6.03, 202. I cannot imagine he goes before the gang of four I have at the top of this draft (Matthews, Laine, Puljujarvi and Tkachuk) but you never know.
- D Olli Juolevi is moving up, no idea if he is ahead of Chychrun but the Finn, Chychrun and Russian blue Mikhail Sergachev seem to be in a cluster.
- D Charlie McAvoy is coming on now, he is one of those college late-breakers we see sometimes. No idea why the rumbles didn’t hit earlier, he does appear to be a substantial prospect. Another college man, Luke Kunin, may also surprise.
- D Lucas Johansen (Ryan’s brother) is making some noise out of Kelowna, a nice story on him here. I will have a new top 30 on Sunday, some of these characters will move up (still not sure of Dubois’ speed and that blue cluster may be impossible to figure out).
Adding Matthews to the insane group of forwards currently in Edmonton (I do not share the negativity about the Oilers F crew) would signal either three scoring lines are a lock, or an incumbent is going to be dealt.
- Elliotte Friedman: Coach Todd McLellan’s exasperation with his forwards grows on a game-by-game basis. At this point, I assume the only untouchables up-front are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
I have seen this discussed all over the Al Gore this afternoon, and don’t quite see this as others do in regard to the rest of the group. I see McDavid and Draisaitl as being players under control, with term on their entry-level deals. The rest of the group are on contracts that have a due date, and for me that is what Mr. Friedman is saying. I have read (in places) that this quote means McLellan is happy with only McDavid and Draisaitl, it doesn’t read like that for me. I could be wrong, but the author appears to have crafted that last sentences carefully. The first sentence is revealing though, and I do wonder that (if in the quiet moments) McLellan misses the fierce back-checking he received from his soldiers—even the rich guys—in San Jose. Awareness when playing without the puck is an area of frustration, I am willing to bet good money (not mine, but other people’s) on it.
Ethan Bear named to the WHL Western Conference's first all star team. Camp invite Tyler Soy named to 2nd team. https://t.co/KcWzEtWiRT
— Jason Adams (@AdamsOnHockey) March 23, 2016
Really great to see Ethan Bear doing so well. I'm sure it warms @Lowetide's heart as one of his biggest fans.
— MacGruboooooo (spooooooky) (@loxyisme) March 23, 2016
Erin is correct, this is terrific news. Bear had a good year leading into his draft and has followed it up with a strong D+1 season. The trick now will be to finish strong and arrive in camp this fall ready to roll. One final season of junior and then into pro. Long, long road but good for him (and the other kids from a pretty nice 2015 Oilers draft) and I’m cheering for him. Based on this season in the majors, Edmonton should be drafting six-packs of defensemen (14 used in 2015-16 with a mile or more to go).