General observations about the 2009 Entry Draft:
- Upwards of seven Americans could go in round one. Last year’s draft saw a bit of a dropoff in the number of Yanks nabbed in the opening round (5), after 10 went in both the ’06 and ’07 drafts. Between 2004 and 2008 39 Americans were selected in the first round. It’s no wonder there’s buzz about the American prospects for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
- Maybe this is a bit of a jaded view through my Red, White and Blue lenses, but my recollection during these years was that the majority of draft forecasters, leading up to the drafts, undervalued American prospects, and when actual selection time arrived the Yanks tended to litter the Big Board. This would especially be the case with Americans who spent their draft year playing in the USHL, and even moreso with Americans playing scholastic puck. Interesting to note, then, that two Americans playing high school hockey this past season are certain to go in round one Friday night.
- It’s a great draft for great skaters, and wouldn’t you know, the two very best are Americans: John Moore (Chicago, USHL) and Chris Kreider. “It’s frightening,” one scout told THN of Moore, “It’s exciting just to watch him skate.” Kreider, a Massachusetts schoolboy product, possesses wheels that are “off-the-charts good,” THN observes. “He’s not just the best skater in the draft,” a scout told THN, “I’m not sure there are many guys in the NHL now who skate better than this guy.” I can’t wait to watch this year’s American entry at the World Juniors . . . which perhaps might include John Carlson this time around — unless he’s busy playing for the Caps.
- This will be a fantastic draft for Swedish prospects — five skaters certainly selected in round one, and five more prospects perhaps in round two. Bluechip defensemen are their calling card this draft.
- What has happened to the development system in the Czech Republic? There were no Czechs selected in round one last year, and there may not be again this. In fact, THN’s draft preview has just one Czech (Richard Panik) listed in its top 50 2009 prospects. The nation that gave us many of the great names in our game the past 25 years, from Nedved to Jagr to Hasek, just doesn’t seem to be producing prime talent all of a sudden.
- It would be a pretty big surprise if a goalie went in round one this
year. The elite netminding talent like Carey Price or Marc Andre Fleury
doesn’t appear to be available this year. Or, are NHL teams
reconsidering using picks in the first half of the first round on
goalies in general, absent there being clearly dynamic talent
available? Fleury went no. 1 overall in 2003, Price at no. 5 two years
later. But since then, NHL teams have been rather reluctant to go with
a goalie real high. The Caps’ selections of Simeon Varlamov and Michal
Neuvirth comparatively late in the same draft (’06) would seem to offer
evidence of this trend. We haven’t seen teams feast on goalies in the first half of the first round since 2004, and perhaps that class is the prime reason for the present pause: Al Montoya to the Rangers at no. 6; Devan Dubnyk to the Oil at no. 14; Marek Shwarz to St. Louis at no. 17.
- Who are some prospects the Caps could be looking closely at for pick no. 24? It wasn’t hard for the mocks to forecast the Caps’ lottery selections from 2004-2007, but when George McPhee is picking in the back half of the first round I’ve found that even the most reputable of forecasters doesn’t come close to calling the picks made by Washington (Eric Fehr, Joe Finley, Sasha Pokulok, Simeon Varlamov, Anton Gustafsson, John Carlson). In terms of organizational depth, it’s clear that the Caps need elite playmaking talent at center and one or two high-end right wings, but George McPhee doesn’t draft by positional need. Still, if you’re perusing mocks and prospect profiles the next couple of days, I’d suggest taking a closer look at someone like Peter Holland of Guelph (good size, production in the pivot for the Storm), Jeremy Morin (points-producer in the middle for the U.S. U18ers), Kyle Palmeri (another right-shooting American center), and Landon Ferraro (goal scorer on the right side for Red Deer), son of Chicken Parm Dad Ray.
- Will the Caps be active outside of their draft pick selections in Montreal? The wager here is yes. Out in Las Vegas last week George McPhee went on TV with Comcast and told Ivan Carter that Mission One this offseason was to retain the positive momentum the organization had worked so hard to achieve in recent years. You don’t do that by standing perfectly pat, and most especially with a relatively clogged blueline corps that did a lot of standing around in the postseason while Sidney Crosby scored at will down low.