Mock draft (cont.)
21. New Jersey Devils:
Jake Allen, goaltender, St. John's Fog (QMJHL)
Central Scouting says: "He came from nowhere. All of a sudden, he started to play more and got more confidence. Jake is big and strong, athletic and his net coverage was very good. He's probably the best puck-handler among North American goalies."
Our take: Martin Brodeur may have won the Vezina this season, but at 36, he's getting a little long in the tooth. The Devils need to start thinking about his potential replacement, and current prospects Jeff Frazee and Jordan Parise don't look to have the goods. There are a number of goalies ranked higher by other organizations, but the Devils have always trusted their own counsel, and Allen's MVP performance at the World Under-18 championship established him as a big-game player.
22. Edmonton Oilers (from Anaheim):
Joe Colborne, center, Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL)
Central Scouting says: "He dishes the puck well and has really good on-ice awareness. If he can get his skating a little more energetic, he'll be a big, strong player down the middle. When he's at his best, he is a strategic player. He is very smart and his positioning is very good. He knows where to go at the right time."
Our take: The draft's biggest wild card? Maybe. Colborne seems to have as many detractors as supporters, with his fans suggesting he could mature into a Joe Thornton-type, and the rest saying he's too soft and lacks the intensity to match his impressive 6-5, 190-pound frame. All sides agree he's a project, but the Oilers, who could use an infusion of size, can't pass him up if he slides to this spot.
23. Washington Capitals:
Tyler Cuma, defense, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Central Scouting says: "An offensive defenseman who is adept at knowing when to pass the puck out of the zone or when to put the wheels on and carry it [himself]. He's equally adept at the defensive game as well as the offensive game."
Our take: A goaltender wouldn't be a surprise at this spot, considering the disappointing development of 2006 first-rounder Semen Varlamov, but the value of Cuma likely will lead the Caps to add to an impressive stable of young defenders. He's a character player who can slip into the No. 3 role behind Mike Green and Karl Alzner and contribute to both special teams.
24. Minnesota Wild:
Greg Nemisz, center, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Central Scouting says: "Greg is a big player, a power forward, two-way guy. He is good on the power play, in the sense that he sets himself at the front of the net; he's hard to move and he bangs in a lot of rebounds from there."
Our take: He'll never be an elite scorer, but the big-bodied Nemisz looks like a safe bet here. Think Joel Otto with maybe a touch more offensive upside.
25. Montreal Canadiens:
Aaron Ness, defense, Roseau (USHS)
Central Scouting says: "Aaron is flamboyant and colorful. Everything about him is quick -- his hands, his feet. He'll step right in to you without fear. He's a little more polished than some of the other high-school defensemen with his passing and playmaking."
Our take: The Habs have shown an inclination for selecting smooth-skating, smart American defenders of late, and at this point, Ness makes for an interesting choice. He's a bit of a reach here, but Minnesota's Mr. Hockey looks like an ideal heir to Andrei Markov. He's earned comparisons to Brian Rafalski, another undersized defender who can be relied on to make insightful plays and provide character in the room. Ness will play for the Minnesota Gophers next season.
26. Buffalo Sabres (from San Jose):
Jake Gardiner, defense, Minnetonka (USHS)
Central Scouting says: "He might be one of the best skaters in the draft. [A converted forward], he is smart with the puck, unselfish and careful. He is dynamic when he grabs the puck and goes. He has a very quick dangerous wrist shot -- he gets it away like Joe Sakic does."
Our take: After taking the BPA with their first pick, the Sabres can address an organizational need with Gardiner: size. Though he's got a lot of filling out to do at just 170 pounds, his build suggests he'll pack another 30-40 on his 6-2 frame in time. His hockey sense has been questioned by some, but it may simply be a matter of experience and coaching before it catches up with the rest of his tools. Gardiner will attend the University of Wisconsin next season.
27. Philadelphia Flyers:
Jacob Markstrom, goaltender, Brynas (Sweden)
Central Scouting says: "Jacob covers the net well and plays with a lot of confidence. He plays the butterfly, but sometimes has a tendency to go down too quickly. He has an impressive, quick glove and he uses his size to his advantage."
Our take: The Flyers could also use mobility on the blue line, but the lack of a premium goaltending prospect in the system and the impending UFA status for both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki after next season makes Markstrom a smart choice. He's likely several years away, but his size (6-4, 180), calm demeanor and technical play set him up as a potential No. 1.
28. Los Angeles Kings (from Dallas):
Colby Robak, defense, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Central Scouting says: A smooth-skating defenseman with the keen ability to skate the puck out of danger. He goes into scrums, comes up with the puck and almost effortlessly skates it up ice. He projects as a number two or three defenseman -- somebody who will work your power play."
Our take: After going offense with their first pick, the Kings can grab a big, mobile defender with their bonus selection. Robak's a risky choice, considered by some scouts to be a little soft for his size, but if he gets a little fire in his belly, he has the other tools to become an impact, second pairing blueliner.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (from Pittsburgh):
Nicolas Deschamps, center, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Central Scouting says: "He came out of nowhere to be the top-ranked player in the QMJHL. He is a very good skater who thinks the game well and has soft hands. He works hard, and the up side to his skills makes us think he is going to be a pretty good all-round player."
Our take: With the pick gained from the Penguins in the Marian Hossa deal, the Thrashers grab a solid two-way player with considerable offensive upside. Even if he does little to address an organizational need for size up front, that shouldn't deter his selection. The name that keeps coming up as an NHL comparable is Boston's Patrice Bergeron, and that's a supreme compliment to the Q's rookie scoring leader. Like Bergeron, he plays bigger than his size, and is smart and fiercely competitive with top-six potential.
30. Detroit Red Wings:
Thomas McCollum, goaltender, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Central Scouting says: "[His] number one attribute is his net position -- it's second to none. There are rarely any holes and he has a great butterfly. When he is challenging and at the top of his game, he is very tough to beat. He has good net coverage and he is very competitive. He handles the puck well. He is definitely one of those franchise-type of goalies in the future."
Our take: There's a chance the Wings could go for a high upside European like Swedish center Anton Gustafsson or Tier 2 center Zac Dalpe, but a lack of netminding depth in the system makes McCollum a value choice. The top-rated netminder by Central Scouting, he's earned comparisons to Ed Belfour, thanks to his competitiveness and his dedication to his craft.