RotoRob 2007 NHL Draft Preview: Part One
Lars Eller could turn some heads with his speed and skill.
With RotoRob hockey expert Mike Chen currently indisposed with a heavier-than-usual workload and a wedding to plan (he mumbled something about needing to go for his dress fitting), I’ll be cobbling together our NHL Draft Preview this year. Part One runs today, and Part Two will appear Thursday.
With an assist to Rob Reath, who supplied the Philadelphia Flyers perspective, we’ve attempted to throw down our thoughts on what you can expect to see this weekend in Columbus.
While this year’s crop of prospects includes several difference makers at the very top of the heap, the overall talent pool available is not expected to be able to compare to the depth of next season’s draft.
Apparently, finding prospective draft choices who have listed anyone other than the Rangers, Canucks or Wild as their favourite team is harder than building a Stanley Cup winner in Toronto. Only a couple are enamoured with the idea of being selected by the last-place Flyers. It’s a real dark period in the team’s history.
So instead of offering up the traditional mock draft, we’re going to spew out observations. Let the spewing begin.
- Danish forward Lars Eller, ranked third among European skaters by Central Scouting, is expected to go in the first round, and will turn a few heads, Rob thinks. He put on a show at the World Juniors under 18 tourney this year, racking up 10 points in five games for the second straight season. Eller proved he can handle tougher competition when he also averaged better than a point per game at the under 20 tourney. Teams seeking skill and speed will be all over Eller.
- Centre Kyle Turris is considered the top North American player available. Playing for the Burnaby Express in the British Columbia Hockey League this season, Turris scored 66 goals and added 55 assists for 121 points. A member of Team Canada at the Under 18 championships, Turris is known for his work ethic, ice vision and ability to anticipate the play. The Canadian Junior A Player of the Year is expected to be the highest ever selection to come out of the BCHL. Rob likes Turris more than Patrick Kane or James Van Riemsdyk, and while the comparisons to Joe Sakic may be a bit overblown (Rob doesn’t believe Turris will have that kind of grit), he still thinks Turris is more of a sure thing than the other two prospects.
- The top goaltending prospect on this side of pond is Jeremy Smith of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. He lost just six times (in only 34 games) this season, recording four shutouts along the way with a 2.59 GAA. Smith, who employs the butterfly technique, was part of the U.S. silver medal winning squad at the 2006 Under 18 tourney, twice earning Player of the Game for the Americans. Some suggest he wasn’t thoroughly tested in the OHL and that his numbers were a product of the defensively sound Plymouth system. Still, in a draft that’s lacking in top goaltending, Smith could find himself on the podium in the late first round or early second round.
- Among European prospects, Alexei Cherepanov and Joel Gistedt are considered the top skater and goalie, respectively. Cherepanov, a Russian right winger, had 29 points for Avangard of the Russian Super League this season. The Siberian Express wound up with more points as a rookie than Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin or Ilya Kovalchuk. He also topped Pavel Bure’s record for goals by a rookie. Expect to see him scooped up in the top five.
- Swedish netminder Gistedt was part of a rebuilding program this season for the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League. He made an instant impact with a shutout in his first ever senior pro game. Gistedt, known for his agility, played 35 games for Frolunda this season, and is yet another butterfly goaltender.
- Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, the Lightning has had to kick and scratch to make the playoffs the past two years. And don’t look for an immediate infusion of talent this weekend. Tampa Bay has no first round pick and with Florida having the option of taking its second rounder this year or next, the Lightning could find itself shut out of the first two rounds.
- Patrick Kane, a right winger for the London Knights, enjoyed an all-star campaign in the AHL this year, scoring 145 points. The Buffalo-born Kane doesn’t seem to have a favourite NHL team (what? He doesn’t like the banana slugs?). At any rate, unless Buffalo makes a big move, Kane won’t be headed to his hometown team, who is without a first rounder this season. His big showing at the WJC this year helped Kane soar up the draft charts. Of course, proving he could get it done in the postseason (10-21-31 in 16 games) sure helped too. Originally a fifth round pick by London in 2004, Kane didn’t make his debut with the Knights until this season. As recently as three months ago, Kane was considered a possibility to go first overall thanks to his superb feel for the game. Many believe he remains the top forward and think Chicago will still take him with the first pick. He’s a wonderful playmaker who will fit right in with the new NHL where skill reigns supreme. At just 160 pounds, Kane is wheelbarrow full of cheeseburgers shy of being NHL size. That’s my main concern at this point. Rob also says he’s not as high on Kane as most seem to be (CSS ranked him as the second-best North American skater).
We’ll be back with Part Two of our Draft Preview Thursday.