Number one pick aside, plenty of intrigue at the draft

Dan Pollard
6/17/2008 12:16:40 PM
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There's no drama surrounding the number one overall draft pick (Steven Stamkos to Tampa) but that doesn't mean there isn't the potential for some interesting wheeling and dealing at this years NHL Entry Draft.

Five teams each have two picks in the first round while others have a mitt full of selections over the first three rounds. Teams like Columbus looking for immediate help could look at trading down or swapping picks to strengthen their roster heading into 08/09.

Columbus picks 6th and 19th in the first round. Nashville has a strong position as well with picks at 9 and 15.

Los Angeles has 15 picks overall. The Islanders, Phoenix and Toronto have 10.

It's not all about the numbers though ... here are some of the interesting stories I'll be watching...

Record year for the Defence?: The 1996 draft saw a record 13 defencemen chosen in the first round. Will this years' crop surpass that total? 12 rearguards were first round picks in 2005. There are enough prime candidates in this years' crop to possibly hit 15.

Which of the talented defencemen go first? Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm? Zack Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes? Tyler Myers of the Kelowna Rockets? His teammate Luke Schenn? or Alex Pietrangelo of the Niagara Ice Dogs? Bogosian swapped rankings with Doughty and moved into second in Central Scoutings final rankings for North American skaters. He was overlooked by Team USA in a lot of team selections but he won't be overlooked draft day. Doughty and Bogosian could be NHL ready. 

More Chara or Hal Gill?: You can't teach size but the question is whether or not scouts feel 6'7'' defenceman Tyler Myers of the Kelowna Rockets has enough nasty in his bones to play up to his size. His stock could drop but the skill set is ahead of Chara at the same age.      

Will teams be Russian to Filatov?: There's no question Nikita Filatov has first round talent but with the lack of a transfer agreement in place how far does his stock drop? Or does it? Filatov told me he will play in North America next year whether it is in junior or wherever a team wants him to play on this side of the ocean. His mother teaches English and he's learning fast to ease that worry. The question is what do the Russians want?

California Dreamers: Mitch Wahl of the Spokane Chiefs is hoping to become the second California native to be selected in the first round of the draft. A year after Jonathan Blum won the Memorial Cup with the WHL's Vancouver Giants and went 23rd to the Nashville Predators Wahl is hoping to slip on a jersey in the first round. He's also coming off a winner after the Chiefs won the Memorial Cup. Credit the Gretzky factor for the increase in numbers of the sunshine kids taking aim at an NHL career. Last year 18 of the 33 American born players suiting up in the WHL came from the sunny south including Southern California, Arizona and Texas.  

Danish Delight: Lars Eller's reign as the highest drafted Danish born player could end this year. Eller went 13th last year to St Louis. This year playmaking Mikkel Boedker will likely dent the top 10 after a stellar season with the Memorial Cup finalist Kitchener Rangers.  

Get Bengt: Swedish junior star Anton Gustafsson, son of former NHL'er Bengt, is one of the draft choices with a famous last name. Hockey East Rookie of the Year Colin Wilson (most impressive player at the Draft Combine) is the son of former NHL'er Carey. Phillip McRae doesn't throw the knuckles as much as dad, former NHL'er Basil, but he is expected to go in the second or 3rd round after a strong year with the London Knights. Frank Pietrangelo, the former NHL goaltender with Hartford and Pittsburgh, is the second cousin of the father of defensive prospect Alex Pietrangelo. J.F. Sauve just missed playing against the goaltending Pietrangelo in his NHL career. He's the dad of prospect Maxime Sauve whose uncle is former NHL goaltender Bob Sauve. Maxime's cousin is goaltender Philippe Sauve. And wouldn't you know it. Out of the ashes of the former Soviet Union comes a new generation of Tikonov. Viktor is named after his famous grandfather who is the Soviet coaching legend. How times have changed. This generation of Tikhonov actually has an American and Russian passport.   

Finally, Al Coates will be at the draft table for the Toronto Maple Leafs this weekend but don't look for him to spill any great insights into Amateur players from his time in Anaheim last year. The new player-personnel director spent last year on the pro scouting side of the agenda and will be there to help with any potential trades etc and to get integrated into the Leafs new management team...


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