NYI GM Garth Snow cracked up No. 1 pick John Tavares when he told him the Isles are now Cup contenders.
By Steven Ovadia and RotoRob
With the 2009 NHL Draft going down this weekend, we present our take on all the players taken in the first round.
1. John Tavares, C, London Knights, New York Islanders: The buzz started when Tavares was given an “exceptional player” exemption that allowed him to play in the OHL at the tender age of 14. I went to see him play with the Generals shortly after he had turned 15, and filed the following report back in November, 2005:
“Now that Sidney Crosby is in the NHL, who’s the next big thing? Yesterday afternoon, I got a chance to see him and his name is John Tavares. He created waves when earlier this year he fought for and ultimately gained a special exemption to be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 14. The Oshawa Generals were only too happy to snap him up with the first overall pick and are definitely reaping the benefits. Tavares, who turned 15 three days before his junior debut, is more than just holding his own (better than a point per game) playing against competitors as many as five years older than him. He’s clearly the most creative and talented, if somewhat raw, player on the ice. He has tremendous ice presence and surprising size, but is knocked off the puck fairly easily (of course, given the attention his plight to gain entry into the league caused, he may as well have a bulls eye on his back). That will change as Tavares fills out. He showed his range of skills on a variety of plays; one particular give-and-go was just stunning and a move he made behind the net that turned an opposing defenceman inside out left the crowd gasping in awe. Tavares seemed to generate a scoring opportunity every time he was on the ice. He’s very good on his feet in traffic, reacting to the play quicker than anyone on the ice, can move very well and has a very strong skating stride. As Tavares gets stronger and gains more experience, he will continue to improve. He looks like a shoo-in for OHL Rookie of the Year, and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s the best player in the league within a year and a half. At this point, Tavares would have to be the favorite to be the first pick in the NHL draft in 2009. Yes, he’s four years from being drafted, but owners in keeper leagues that can hoard juniors would be well-advised to tuck this kid away.”
Anyone who saw Tavares, 18, dominate the 2009 WJC knows that this kid is capable of one day bringing the Islanders back to their glory days in a similar manner that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have done for the Penguins. – R.R.
2. Victor Hedman, D, Modo (Sweden), Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa was so shorthanded on defense last season, it had to bring Marek Malik back to the NHL. The buzz on Hedman is that he’s NHL ready, and for that reason alone, Tampa was psyched to get him. But Hedman should blossom into a high-quality defenseman. And hopefully he’ll work out better than Steve Stamkos, not that Stamkos sucked, but he did take some time to find his groove before turning in a pretty darned good rookie season. — S.O.
3. Matt Duchene, C, Brampton Battalion, Colorado Avalanche: It’s ironic that in a season when this franchise had this high a pick for the first time since 1995, it picked a kid that many compare to Joe Sakic, the greatest player in the history of the team and the team leader who is expected to retire this summer. Duchene, 18, used his great hands to score 31 goals and 79 points last season, adding 14 goals and 26 points in just 21 playoff games. – R.R.
4. Evander Kane, C, Vancouver Giants, Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers have had their share of high-flying offensive geniuses like Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, and for whatever reason, it’s never worked out for the team. So lately, they’ve become attracted to more rugged, two-way players. Kane is a player in that mold, and will be even more rugged once he has some AHL seasoning. – S.O.
5. Brayden Schenn, C, Brandon Wheat Kings, Los Angeles Kings: Schenn will trade in his Wheat Kings uni for an LA Kings one. This 18-year-old is a great playmaker, having logged 56 assists in 70 games in the WHL last season. LA is really stockpiling some great young talent, and it got a great one in Schenn, a player the Leafs coveted and had hoped to draft to team up with his older brother, current Leaf Luke Schenn. – R.R.
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Leksand, Phoenix Coyotes: Phoenix is trying to transition into more of a finesse offense game and Ekman-Larsson, an offensive defenseman, seems to be the kind of player who can thrive in that kind of system. While the Nicklas Lidstrom comparisons might be a little premature, he should be a solid offensive presence on the blue line. – S.O.
7. Nazem Kadri, C, London Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs: Shut out in their bid to trade up and draft either Tavares or Schenn, the Buds settled for Kadri, an 18-year-old who potted 25 goals in just 56 games in the OHL last season. He’s a tremendously gifted offensive player who should soon take his place among the top two lines in Toronto. He’s an intense player, and the fact that he’s of Lebanese decent could generate interest in the Leafs among the city’s Muslim community – not that Leaf Nation isn’t already busting at the seams. – R.R.
8. Scott Glennie, C, Brandon Wheat Kings, Dallas Stars: A solid goal-scorer, Glennie should eventually give Dallas the offensive punch it’s lacked for the past few seasons. – S.O.
9. Jared Cowen, D, Spokane Chiefs, Ottawa Senators: He’s immense (6’5”, 218) yet mobile, but unfortunately, Cowen’s 2008-09 season ended early thanks to an ACL injury. A true defensive defenseman, Cowen required reconstructive surgery and won’t be able to begin skating until late August. But the Senators don’t believe this will affect his ability to have a long NHL career. Still, picking a one-dimensional defenseman this early in the draft raised some eyebrows — especially considering this class was littered with defense prospects. – R.R.
10. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, Timra (Sweden), Edmonton Oilers: Paajarvi-Svensson is all about the speed. His lack of defensive responsibility could cause fits for defense-minded assistant coach Tom Renney, should Paajarvi-Svensson wind up playing with the Oilers next season. Odds are, he’ll need to flesh out his game a bit more. – S.O.
11. Ryan Ellis, D, Windsor Spitfires, Nashville Predators: Ellis is a gifted offensive defenseman who proved at the WJC that he can be a dominant force on the power play. The fifth OHL product among the top 11 picks, this 18-year-old scored 89 points this season, adding an eye-popping 31 in just 20 playoff games. Ellis is small, but should soon be part of a phenomenal young collection of Predator defensemen that already includes Shea Weber and Ryan Suter at the NHL level, with Cody Fransom and Jon Blum not far behind. – R.R.
12. Calvin de Haan, D, Oshawa Generals, New York Islanders (this pick was acquired by the Islanders from Minnesota for picks 16, 77 and 182): de Haan is a solid, if unspectacular defenseman. The big hook for him is that he’s played with top pick Taveras, and therefore had his game elevated by the top pick. Using the two of them together on a five-man unit could be a huge offensive boost for the Islanders. – S.O.
13. Zack Kassian, RW, Peterborough Petes, Buffalo Sabres: The OHL’s domination of this draft continues with the selection of Kassian, a player with a great blend of size and skill. This power forward is not afraid to use his size to his advantage and that helped him dramatically increase his output last season. The Sabres need a player that is capable of being a presence in front of the opposition’s net, and Kassian fits this bill perfectly. – R.R.
14. Dmitry Kulikov, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs, Florida Panthers: Kulikov is a solid defenseman who could be ready for the NHL as soon as next season. He won’t replace Jay Bouwmeester, but he might learn a lot from Jordan Leopold. – S.O.
15. Peter Holland, C, Guelph Storm, Anaheim Ducks: At one point Holland was ranked near the ISS’s top 10 prospects, so Anaheim was undoubtedly quite pleased to land him at No. 15. The 6’2”, 190-pounder is coming off a season in which he logged 39 assists and then ripped four goals in just four playoff games. Holland — one of five Storm players taken in this draft – is part of an impressive project by the Ducks of retooling while remaining competitive, highlighted by the immense booty they received when they dealt away Chris Pronger. – R.R.
16. Nick Leddy, D, Eden Prairie, Minnesota Wild (pick acquired by Islanders from Columbus, along with the 77th pick, for No. 26, No. 37, No. 62 and No. 92; the Isles then dealt this pick to Minny as discussed in No 12 above): The Minnesota native was drafted by his hometown team. He’s got a reputation as an offensive defenseman who knows how to do the right thing in his own end. A player like that will fit in anywhere, but the pride of playing for his local NHL team might give his play an emotional edge. – S.O.
17. David Rundblad, D, Skelleftea AIK (Sweden), St. Louis Blues: This kid can skate, and he’s got coast-to-coast ability thanks to some superb puck-handling skills. Don’t expect him to have a legitimate chance to win a job in St. Louis until at least next season, but add him to the growing pile of prospects the Blues are stockpiling – they now have 17 players who were picked in the first three rounds between 2006 and 2009 either already with the team or who still have a chance to play in the NHL. – R.R.
18. Louis Leblanc, C, Omaha Lancers, Montreal Canadiens: Leblanc is a physical forward who’ll be playing for Harvard next year, but you have to wonder if the college game will impede his development. While some Harvard players, like the Moore brothers, have succeeded in the NHL, it’s not the best breeding ground for two-way talent. – S.O.
19. Chris Kreider, C, Andover, Ma., New York Rangers: The highest-ranked high school player, Kreider finished 14th overall in the rankings, but slipped a few spots to the Rangers. A gifted skater, Kreider is headed to Boston College next season after piling up 56 points in just 26 games in his final season of high school. His selection continues a trend towards top talent heading to US colleges; all told seven current or future college players were taken in the opening round. – R.R.
20. Jacob Josefson, C, Djurgarden (Sweden) , New Jersey Devils (picks acquired from Calgary for picks No. 23 and 84): You know Josefson has upside if the Devils are drafting him and he’s not an American. Hell, they even traded up to get him. He’s supposedly skilled, but not much of a finisher. But if the Devils see something in him, you can bet the finishing touch will emerge soon. – S.O.
21. John Moore, D, Chicago (USHL), Columbus Blue Jackets (pick acquired from Anaheim for picks No. 26 and 37; this is the pick that Anaheim originally acquired as part of the Pronger trade): Moore has committed for 2009 to Colorado College, a school that’s known for its hockey program. Yet another offensive defenseman in this draft, Moore could be the best skater available this season. Even though the Jackets traded up to get this pick, they were still picking later than they ever have in their history. Given the plethora of young talent they’re hoarding – and you can now add Moore to this mix – the Blue Jackets won’t be getting any high draft picks again for quite some time. – R.R.
22. Jordan Schroeder, C, University of Minnesota, Vancouver Canucks: Schroeder is aa talented forward with a very complete game for someone so young, but the big knock on him is that he’s undersized (5’8”, 165). But as more and more players in the new NHL will tell you, size isn’t everything. – S.O.
23. Tim Erixson, D, Skelleftea AIK (Sweden), Calgary Flames: The son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, Tim was actually born in New York, but he played professionally in Sweden. Another offensive defenseman, Erixson went right about where expected in this draft. His selection by the Flames signals a change in their drafting philosophy – picking a skill player as opposed to a grinder. — R.R.
24. Marcus Johansson, C, Farjestad (Sweden), Washington Capitals: Johansson is fast and a bit of a playmaker. The Capitals are probably imagining an older Johansson playing next to Alexander Ovechkin, dishing the puck and, hopefully, burying the puck when Ovechkin creates time and space. But is Johansson big enough for the NHL at 5’11”, 180? — S.O.
25. Jordan Caron, C, Rimouski Oceanic, Boston Bruins: Caron developed into a much bigger offensive force in his third QMJHL season, potting 36 goals and 31 assists in 56 games, but the fact that he snuck into the first round was a bit of a surprise, as most experts had him projected as an early second round selection. The native Quebecer is likely headed back to Rimouski next season, and with the Bruins already overflowing with young talent, there’s no reason to rush him. — R.R.
26. Kyle Palmieri, RW/C, USA-18, Anaheim Ducks: This pick was also a bit of a surprise, given that Palmieri’s reputation is more checker than scorer. Obviously, the Ducks see some kind of potential, but it’s hard to know what it is. No one projected Palmieri as a first-round pick. — S.O.
27. Philippe Paradis, C, Shawinigan Cataractes, Carolina Hurricanes: Paradis showed more offensive touch in his second season in the QMJHL last year, potting 19 goals with 31 assists for 50 points in 66 games. The 18-year-old Quebec native also contributed six goals and six assists in 21 playoff games. No, those numbers aren’t really that impressive, and this was another pick that raised some eyebrows as most projected Paradis as a second or even third rounder. But he’ll bring the size (6’2”, 197) and grit that the Canes need. — R.R.
28. Dylan Olsen, D, Camrose Kodiaks, Chicago Blackhawks: A big defenseman (6’2”, 195), Olsen might develop more of an offensive game with some time in the minor leagues. This is seemingly a good long-term investment for Chicago. — S.O.
29. Carter Ashton, LW, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning (pick acquired from Detroit for picks No. 32 and 75): The son of Brent Ashton, a journeyman who played almost 1,000 NHL games, Carter had a bigger role for the Hurricanes this past season, scoring 30 goals with 20 assists for 50 points in 70 games. The 6’2” winger is just one of many kids who went in this draft that have some kind of NHL bloodlines. — R.R.
30. Simon Despres, D, Saint John Sea Dogs, Pittsburgh Penguins: Like Olsen, Despres is a big defenseman (6’4”, 215) with a hint of offensive potential. We might not see Despres in the NHL for a while, but when we do, he could make an impact. — S.O.