Your Guide to the 2012 World Junior Championships

If you’re a fan of the World Junior Championships, you know that they never disappoint. Year after year, they bring us some of the most exciting hockey you’ll ever see – particularly for Canadian hockey fans, who have been absolutely spoiled with gold medals and great memories.

Cue the goosebumps:

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2011 NHL Mock Draft


***WILL BE LIVE AT THE DRAFT IN MINNESOTA ON FRIDAY***

After several weeks of anticipation, it’s finally time.

Some may wonder what the process is. One way to start is by looking at a team’s draft history – some teams have a clear preference for players out of Canadian junior hockey, others for US college hockey, and still others for European leagues. You can look at team needs – team ‘A’ badly needs a centre; team ‘B’ a defenceman. Or you can assume that teams will just take the ‘BPA’, or best player available – a strategy which becomes more arbitrary as you get further down the list. Continue reading

2011 NHL Draft – Scouting Reports

Highly skilled forward Jonathan Huberdeau is a lock to be a top-5 selection

***MOCK DRAFT COMING TOMORROW***

While it’s difficult to say exactly who the top-10 players will be in this year’s NHL draft, most scouts have no problem telling you who the top 9 available prospects are. They include 6 forwards – Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Landeskog, Couturier, Strome, and Zibanejad; and 3 defencemen – Larsson, Hamilton, and Murphy. With an eye to the top-10, here is a small scouting report on all the potential top-10 selections (grouped by position) in this year’s draft.

Forwards

Sure-fire top-10 selection

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The most skilled player in the draft. He’s a classic playmaker who makes all those around him better. His vision and hockey IQ are off the charts, drawing some comparisons to #99. The only knock on him is his size, as he’s around 6’, 170 lbs. However, he’s extremely quick and shifty, with an unbelievable ability to avoid ever being hit. He has the rare ability to do incredible things with the puck at high speed. He looks a bit like Blackhawks star Patrick Kane when handling the puck; and while he prefers to set up teammates, he has no problem scoring either. His offensive game could be compared to Avs great Peter Forsberg, minus the power-forward type of approach. Overall, Nugent-Hopkins is a near-sure bet to be a first line centre, if not a franchise centre. Continue reading

FAQ’s for Jets Fans

Q: When will the NHL schedule be released?

A: Nothing certain, but last year’s schedule was released on June 22 – the same day as the NHL awards. Look for similar timing, given the NHL Board of Governor’s meeting on the 21st and the NHL Awards on the 22nd.

Q: What will the team be called?

A: Speculation is Jets, Falcons, and Bears/Polar Bears. Prefix Manitoba before most or all of those. Interesting tidbit here: http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/vwTrdmrk.do;jsessionid=0001XMOgF9Jh4WKIgnGf0qsLxe7:2IILP9AC4K?lang=eng&status=&fileNumber=0656184&extension=0&startingDocumentIndexOnPage=1 – Let speculation (continue to) run wild…

Q: Who will be the Head Coach?

A: The candidates include Moose Head Coach Claude Noel, Blackhawks Assistant Coach Mike Haviland, former Oilers’ coach Craig MacTavish, Montreal Assistant Coach Kirk Muller, and Thrashers Head Coach Craig Ramsay. New Jersey is the only other team still looking for a coach; speculation is that they’re very interested in Ramsay should he become available.

Recently hired coaches include Glen Gulutzan (Dallas), Mike Yeo (Minnesota), Paul MacLean (Ottawa), and Kevin Dineen (Florida). Gulutzan, Yeo, and Dineen have all risen from head coaching positions in the AHL, (in fact Dallas and Minnesota have promoted coaches from their own AHL affiliate). Former NHL bench bosses looking for work include Ken Hitchcock, Mike Keenan, and Marc Crawford.

Q: What kind of player can we expect to get with the 7th pick at the NHL Entry Draft?

A: Assuming we don’t trade our selection, look for the team to pick up a talented forward who should play in the top-6 in 3-5 years – if not the top-line. (Assuming that player is developed properly and not rushed to the NHL). Likely targets are Ryan Strome and Mika Zibanejad. Whoever it is, don’t expect them to play in the NHL this coming year.

Q: How good is this team? Will the what-have-you’s make the playoffs this season?

A: No. Though there’s plenty of reason for optimism in the longer-term, right now they’re at best 3rd in their division behind Washington and Tampa. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston, and Buffalo also slot ahead of us in the playoff picture, leaving us 7th place in a best-case scenario. The Habs and Rangers both made it to the post-season this past year, and while neither are powerhouses, they both have elite goaltenders which make them tough to leapfrog. One might also expect a bounce-back year from the Devils as they went on an absolute tear in the second half. My best guess is they finish 10th, but I could see them finishing anywhere from 8th to 13th.

Q: Surely we can improve the team through through free agency and be a stronger playoff contender?

A: Mark Chipman has already made it clear that this team will be built properly – which means they will draft and develop players rather than looking for quick fixes. The defence and goaltending already look pretty good, but there is a definite need at forward, especially at centre. However, beyond Brad Richards (who has long been rumoured to be signing with New York due to his connection with Rangers coach, and former Tampa Bay mentor John Tortorella), there aren’t any high-end centres available. While the UFA market does boast several good complementary players, like Brooks Laich, Ville Leino, and Simon Gagne, none of them could be considered impact players who can significantly alter a team’s fortunes. Instead, look for Cheveldayoff and his team of professional scouts to target strong two-way players like Jeff Halpern, Chad Larose, Marcel Goc, and Boyd Gordon, who can contribute some offence from the third line, but would mainly be relied on to kill penalties, win draws, and bring a consistent effort every night.

Top Draft Prospects

(#1 ranked prospect Ryan-Nugent Hopkins)

This list should cover most of the first round picks. It includes 27F and 11D. It also specifies the players that are likely to make up the top-10. (Though Beaulieu could sneak in ahead of Bartschi). After the top-10, the remaining prospects are only somewhat in order, with ‘rank’ becoming more arbitrary as you go down the list.

I’ll take an in-depth look at the top-10ish players later this week. Continue reading

Path to Glory: The NHL Draft

(Top Prospect Ryan Strome of the OHL’s Niagra Ice Dogs)

I’ll be at the NHL draft in Minneapolis on June 24th, so feel free to follow me on twitter for live draft-day tweets. (HouseOfPuck)

If there’s any question as to the importance of June 24, look no further than the Chicago Blackhawks. Or the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Detroit Red Wings. Of course, these are the last 3 cup winners, all of which have been built primarily through the draft. The first two were fortunate to get a string of very high picks, while the Red Wings have simply drafted well for years without the fortune of a lottery pick.

In terms of hockey operations, Friday June 24th is without a doubt the most important day for the Winnipeg (Blanks). It gives the team the opportunity to add a key piece of their future at virtually no cost – apart from the cost of well-paid scouts and the youngster’s inevitable entry-level contract, which will range from about $1.75-$2.5 million including bonuses. Here are the teams that are ahead of Winnipeg in the draft queue: Continue reading

Atlanta Thrashers: State of the Union

Thrashers’ Organizational Audit

 

Here’s the Thrashers’ depth chart (as of May 20, 2011):

C: Antropov, Burmistrov, Slater, Cormier

LW: Ladd, Kane, Thorburn, Maxwell

RW: Little, Wheeler, Stewart, Schremp

D: Byfuglien, Enstrom, Bogosian, Hainsey, Oduya, Stuart

G: Pavelec, Mason

Salary commitments: $37.5M

Cap space: $21M Continue reading