The Opening Faceoff: 2007 Mock Draft
No. 1, Chicago -- The Blackhawks have made it abundantly clear that they want to obtain a proven offensive forward in this draft. As a result, the ranking of Kyle Turris as the No. 1 North American skater by Central Scouting has to be a godsend. It will make the selection of the little-known Turris more palatable to the team’s casual fans. Even before the Central Scouting final rankings came out, CTN believed Turris to be the best player for Chicago. Turris, who scored 66 goals this season in the British Columbia Hockey League, will play at Wisconsin next season. But it might only be a one-year stopover before he is ready for the NHL. If that is true, Chicago could open the 2008-09 season with the two best young centers in the game – Jonathan Toews and Turris – as building blocks for a rapid maturation process.
No. 2, Philadelphia -- The Flyers may have had a change at the top of the front office with Paul Holmgren now calling the shots, but the organization still values big-bodied players who can play a high-tempo, body-banging game. James vanRiemsdyk is the forward that most closely matches Philadelphia’s organizational philosophy. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he is the biggest of the top-ranked forwards and he possesses speed that few big men in the NHL can rival. As an added bonus, vanRiemsdyk hails from the Jersey Shore area, just an hour-long cruise up the New Jersey Turnpike from Philadelphia.
No. 3, Phoenix -- It will be hard to pass up Russian stud Alexei Cherepanov here, but Phoenix has more pressing needs on the blue line to address. As a result, the new Phoenix GM, to be named later, will find it hard to pass up on Kamloops’ Keaton Ellerby, a rugged stay-at-home defender with some offensive upside. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Ellerby will be an intimidating presence when he fills out, giving Phoenix some much-needed snarl around its own net. CTN believes this is the pick for the Coyotes even before blood lines are brought into the equation. Ellerby is a cousin of Coyote captain Shane Doan.
No. 4, Los Angeles -- The Kings will be thrilled to see Cherepanov fall to No. 4 and will pounce on the high-skilled Russian winger, who has already proven to be an elite scorer in his first year of play in the Russian elite league. His 18 goals this year is the best-ever performance by a rookie in the Russian elite league, breaking the mark of 17 set by Pavel Bure. Cherepanov’s 29 points as a 17-year-old are more than the totals accomplished by Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin is their first years in Russia. If the Kings select Cherpanov, questions about who will finish for super rookie center Anze Kopitar will quickly become a moot point.
No. 5, Washington -- The Capitals’ love of offensive players in recent drafts is well-documented. This team had 10 picks in last year’s draft and took seven forwards. It also grabbed two goalies among its first three selections. So, the backline is an area that has been ignored recently. No longer. This team gave up 51 more goals than it scored this past year, so the time to address defensive deficiencies is now. And Calgary’s Karl Alzner is as good a place as any to start. Already 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he has the frame to handle NHL duty and he also has the smarts to not get overwhelmed in any situation. He is not as physical as some would like, but that is an area of his game he can develop. He also has the offensive foundation to complement Washington’s raft of skilled forwards.
No. 6, Edmonton -- If this scenario were ever to play out exactly as forecast, the video of Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe hopping and skipping with glee toward the podium to announce his team’s selection of Patrick Kane would be almost priceless. Kane, who led the OHL in scoring as a rookie, is just the type of fast, skilled winger that would fit unbelievably well with Craig MacTavish’s attacking philosophy.
No. 7, Columbus -- The Blue Jackets have had a spotty draft history, hitting a few homers and making a few blunders along the way. But there will be nothing but confidence when the host club announces Jakub Voracek as its first-round selection. Voracek, a Czech winger, has been one of the biggest climbers in the draft and has earned his accolades with a dominating second half of the season. He was absolutely electric in the QMJHL playoffs, averaging two points per game. The Blue Jackets are happy with last year’s first-rounder from the QMJHL, Derick Brassard, so there will be no hesitation to mine the Quebec league yet again.
No. 8, Boston -- The Bruins’ developmental system is almost barren when it comes to left wingers. So, it will prove exceedingly difficult for Boston to pass on Brett MacLean, a left wing with the Oshawa Generals. There, the 6-foot, 200-pound winger scored 100 points in 68 games this year. Some have dismissed that total as the product of playing with stud center John Tavares, but that is a disservice to MacLean. He has the skills to keep up with Tavares and convert on the chances his pivot has created. Boston, with strength down the middle as the current foundation of the club, can see several different line combinations into which MacLean can step right into in a few years’ time -- perhaps, even, riding shotgun for Phil Kessel.
No. 9, St. Louis -- The Blues were a far better team under coach Andy Murray in the second half of this season because he forced the club to play fundamental hockey and be defensively responsible. Well that describes the game of Lewiston forward David Perron to a tee. The late-blooming left winger has been a revelation for the Maineiacs this season, delivering great production from a lower-line role. He has shown the ability to both finish and create and, just as importantly, has been defensively responsible. Despite being a rookie on a veteran-laden team, Perron has played a huge part in Lewiston’s deep run into the QMJHL playoffs.
No. 10, Florida -- This deep in the first round, Florida will choose to roll the dice here. There may be a few safer picks still on the board, but the Panthers will be unable to ignore the lure of Angelo Esposito’s unbelievable upside. Yes, Esposito struggled mightily in the second half of the season, but the entire Quebec team was unable to find its top gear this year. When he has been good, Esposito has been spell-binding. Remember, he was the top-rated prospect in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. Esposito is the type of player, if he regains his form, who can have an immediate impact on this franchise.
Will talented Sam Gagner be heading to Carolina?
No. 11, Carolina -- Most of the Hurricanes’ top prospects are on the blue line or in goal. Sam Gagner, son of former NHLer Dave Gagner, will be a blessing to the Hurricanes if he is still around at this point. And, with concerns in the scouting community about Gagner’s lack of size and ability to dominate at even strength, the London Knight forward may well slip out of the Top 10. Even with the questions being raised, though, there is little doubt that Gagner is a special player. His skills on the puck are amazing and his creativity and vision are at an elite level. Plus, he is absolutely dominant on the power play, compiling more than half his points this season in man-advantage situations. Gagner’s offensive upside will force Carolina’s hand.
No. 12, Montreal -- Keven Veilleux’s stock fell dramatically in the second half of the season, but he was still considered good enough to represent Canada at the U-18 World Championships this month. That tour of duty ended after two games because of a shoulder injury, but that is unlikely to scare the Canadiens off. They see a big (6-foot-4) center that has the ability, if not the constant inclination, to dominate play. He will be a project for sure, but, perhaps a worthwhile one. Obviously, it also helps Veilleux’s case that he is a native of the province of Quebec and can point to the success enjoyed by Guillaume Latendresse -- a similar player in build and style -- with the Habs this year.
No. 13, Toronto -- If anyone should know what Stefan Legein brings to the table, it is the Toronto Maple Leafs. After all, Legein plays his hockey with the Mississauga Ice Dogs right outside the city center. So, Toronto brass has had plenty of opportunity to see what the lightning-fast Legein can do to opponents when he turns on the turbo jets. In a coaches’ poll, Legein was named the most improved player in the OHL, as well as the best skater. That skill set would certainly fit in nicely as the Leafs start to think about accelerating the turnover process with its corps of forwards.
No. 14, Colorado -- Colorado hit the big time recently with Paul Stastny, a former USHL player that went to college before tearing up the NHL this past season in his rookie campaign. So, why not try for the same magic two years in a row? Stastny played for River City in the USHL before going to the University of Denver for two seasons. Max Pacioretty, a left wing, finished his rookie season with the USHL’s Sioux City franchise this season by scoring 63 points. He is slated to attend Michigan next year, a place where his skills will be honed by legendary coach Red Berenson. As such, Pacioretty might well prove to be a tidy investment for the Avs at this juncture of the draft.