Grabbing Patrick Kane first overall was just the start of a superb draft by Chicago.
By Rob Reath
Securing Patrick Kane with the first pick took no special talent, but picking three of my own recommended sleepers did.
Any team that can walk away with Kane, Bill Sweatt, Akim Aliu and Maxime Tanguay, can also give itself a big pat on the back for a job well done and try not to snicker at how some of the other squads faired. Kane may well become a superstar and Sweatt has speed to burn and a great sense of the game. Aliu has size and skill, and while there may be questions about his attitude and fading during the playoffs, he has persevered through lots of other obstacles and usually when a player gets a rep for disappearing in the playoffs at a young age they make it their life’s work to erase that image. He seems to have the tenacity required to that and, if he does, look out.
Tanguay seems to have dropped deeper into the draft than expected, and Chicago was wise enough to grab him before he fell any further.
Reath’s Grade: A++’
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis did extremely well in its drafting this year. Not only did the Blues select the superb Lars Eller with their first pick but they also grabbed the other half of the dynamic duo he formed with teammate Simon Hjalmarsson. These two are going to make goalies and scouts sorry for years to come. That was enough to impress me, but the fact that St. Louis also landed promising rearguard Ian Cole and LW David Perron from the QMJHL sealed the deal. The Blues even scooped up one of the best fighters in the entire draft in Anthony Peluso with the 160th pick, a player who may make the NHL on his pugilistic prowess alone, a rarity in today’s ‘kinder, gentler’ NHL.
Reath’s Grade: A++
Colorado’s three top picks include two very good defensemen: Kevin Shattenkirk with his leadership abilities and strong overall game, and Colby Cohen, with his explosive offense. The Avalanche also grabbed netminder Trevor Cann, whom many feel was the best goalie available in’the draft.
Reath’s Grade: A
Honourable mention to the New York Rangers for bagging Alexei Cherepanov with the 17th pick, one of the top steals of the draft as the top-rated European skater slipped to the middle of the first round.
While it’s impossible to say whether someone’s picks will emerge from the most unlikely corner of the universe and overcome every imaginable obstacle stacked against them, one can surely put themselves in the best position to succeed. On these criteria, I will question a few moves by the experts in place.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dale Mitchell certainly makes for a good pick if you start at 74th overall’and while it is understood the Leafs generally used their picks for players’who are more NHL ready, eschewing higher upside, but longer term prospects, they still left themselves’pretty far out of the running as far as the quality of their draft goes.
Reath’s Grade: D-
Defenseman T.J. Brennan is a good player, yet given all Sabres’ concerns about retaining their free agents, one would expect them to try and replenish their forward stock down the road in a draft heavy with up front talent. There was a host of promising forwards available and the Sabres opted to avoid them for reasons known only to them.
Reath’s Grade: D-
Los Angeles Kings
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi shocked a number of experts with his choice of Thomas Hickey with the fourth overall pick. It should be noted that Hickey has a lot to offer, and is by no means a slouch as a player; in fact, he’s a lot better than most King fans are probably guessing right now. The troubling fact is that with so many bigger names available, it begs the question, why didn’t he trade down several picks, get compensated for dropping and then grab Hickey with a lower selection?’There was some speculation another team wanted Hickey as well but surely Lombardi could have swung some kind of deal to improve his odds. To his credit, Lombardi rebounded nicely by choosing Oscar Moller with his next pick, but failing to capitalize on their first round pick hurt the Kings.
Reath’s Grade: C