My 2010 NHL Mock Draft
Tyler Seguin's hockey maturity gives him the edge over Taylor Hall as No. 1
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson is a Chris Pronger clone likely to go to the Isles
I see the Kings pulling one of their usual surprise moves with the 19th pick
After much deliberation and conversation with scouts and NHL personnel people, here's how I see the first round shaping up the draft on Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. You can watch it live on Versus in the U.S., and on TSN and RDS in Canada, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Click here for a photo gallery of the top 30 draft prospects.
Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Taylor Hall is the overwhelming favorite to go first overall after his MVP performance at the Memorial Cup, and there'd be no argument here if he did. That said, there was solid reasoning that led to Seguin being voted the top draft prospect in the OHL. "His hockey sense is off the charts," a Western Conference scout told SI.com. "He's the best in his class at creating something out of nothing."
Seguin's game is described as "incredibly mature," which is noteworthy considering that he's been in the OHL just two years compared to three for Hall.
"It's all about projection, about where you see a player down the road," said the scout. "He's not much younger than Hall, but he's less experienced. So when you see he scored 48 goals this year [eight more than Hall], you see the way he goes about his business...I believe [he'll be] the better player 10 years on."
Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The scouts are unanimous. Hall is considered the most NHL-ready player in his class and he has superstar written all over him. With the speed of Alexander Mogilny, the shot of Brett Hull, the fearless net drive of Cam Neely, he's going to be an impact player no matter where he lands. "He's a lot like Zach Parise, only he's more determined to get to the net," offered one scout.
Hall's reckless abandon has some people worried that he'll suffer a physical toll once he matches up with bigger, smarter pros. (Check out the hit that Travis Hamonic laid on him in the opening game of this year's Memorial Cup tournament.). But others aren't so concerned.
"He'll figure it out," says another scout. "He'll make some adjustments, but he won't lose what makes him special."
Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
I think there's a better-than-even chance that new GM Dale Tallon deals this pick as part of his effort to rebuild the Cats from scratch -- especially after picking up the 15th overall pick on Tuesday from the Bruins in the Nathan Horton/Greg Campbell trade for Dennis Wideman -- and if that happens, there's a better-than-even chance that someone has their eye on big, bad Erik Gudbranson in this slot. But if Tallon keeps it, look for the Panthers to tab Gormley.
There's a Duncan Keith-quality to his game that makes the 6-2, 180 defender seem like an obvious Tallon choice. His puck skills are his standout talent. "He makes a great breakout pass," said one scout. "He can read the play as well as anyone, and his positioning is textbook. You can rely on him in any situation."
Cam Fowler, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Perhaps if this Tomas Kaberle-starter kit had already been in the system, the Jackets might have been able to convince Guy Boucher to take their coaching job a couple weeks back. Fowler's taken a lot of heat during the last few months over his lack of physicality, but it's not like the guy's a kitten. It's clearly the least appealing part of his game, but it's also the sort of deficiency that can easily be covered by a more malevolently-inclined partner. Instead, the Jackets will be won over by his well-developed offensive tools. Fowler will key Columbus' transition game from the moment he steps on the ice. He makes excellent decisions with the puck and his passing is the most accurate of any player in the draft.
Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
You'll hear experienced NHL bird dogs comparing him to Chris Pronger or Dion Phaneuf and a few viewings will reveal the nasty, physical play and hard-rock build that have many scouts pegging him as the next great shutdown defender. But there also have been whispers over the last several weeks that what you see with Gudbranson is what you get.
"He's a mean S.O.B., that's for sure," said an Eastern Conference scout. "He hits hard and he'll drop [the gloves] to make a point." But, the scout continued, he was a disappointment at the Under-18 tournament in Minsk. "You have to love his character, his leadership, but that event reinforced my concerns about his decision making. He'll be a player, no doubt. But can he do as much for a team as, say, Gormley? He does some things better, but overall, I don't think so."
Alexander Burmistrov, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Steve Yzerman knows a thing or two about the value of highly-skilled Russians, so look for the new Bolts GM to call the name of a player who's been compared to both Igor Larionov and Pavel Datsyuk.
Burmistrov plays the classic Russian style, all speed and jaw-dropping dekes, but he's also great on the draw and a reliable enough defensive presence that he should mature into as much of an asset on the penalty kill as on the power play. The one knock on him: his size. He's about 5-11, but doesn't yet top 160, so he needs a year, probably two, to build up his weight and strength before he can contribute in Tampa. While all Russians come with an asterisk these days, there's a sense that Burmistrov is committed to playing in the NHL.
Nino Niederreiter Portland Winter Hawks (WHL)
The Canes are coming in with a Best Player Available approach, and that has to lead them to Niederreiter, who is possibly the best prospect ever to come out of Swiss hockey. One of the youngest players in the draft (if he'd been born a week later, he'd be a 2011 selection), he made a name for himself with a standout performance at the 2010 World Juniors. "What you saw there is what you get," said a scout. "Great hands, a plus shot, tons of grit and passion. And he's got a knack for coming through in the clutch. He's a special player."
Ryan Johansen, C, Portland Winterhawks
There's speculation that the Thrashers might stretch to take goaltender Jack Campbell here, but Johansen is a rarer commodity: a big, rangy center with solid two-way ability. What really captured the imagination of scouts was his improvement level over the season. "Another year and he might catch up to Hall and Seguin," said one. Another compared his game to that of Eric Staal. "I won't say he'll score like Staal, but that's the thing with this kid. Things are just now starting to come together for him. That touch might be the next step in his evolution. We really haven't seen the best of him yet."
Jeff Skinner, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
With a checkered draft record like theirs, the Wild simply can't afford to blow this pick. There'll be some sentiment to take local boy Nick Bjugstad, but Skinner's dazzling offensive game is a safer bet. He's often knocked for his skating -- odd, considering that he was once a nationally-ranked figure skater -- but there's no debate about his touch after he scored 70 goals in 84 regular and playoff games. "He's a game-breaker, pure and simple," said one scout. "He may not look good on the way, but he gets to where he needs to be to finish plays." The scout also noted that while Skinner isn't the strongest kid, his legs are surprisingly sturdy, making him tough to knock off the puck.
Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Some fans are hoping the Blueshirts take goalie Jack Campbell here, but New York's recent history with first-round picks spent on goaltenders (Al Montoya and Dan Blackburn) suggests the Rangers will replenish that position later in the draft. Instead, look for them to take a leap of faith with Connolly, a dazzling winger who might have challenged for Seguin and Hall if hip injuries hadn't limited him to just 16 games on the season.
Shades of Marian Gaborik? Maybe...no way of knowing for sure that the injuries aren't chronic, but Connolly is worth the risk. He scored 30 goals and won the CHL's rookie of the year in 2009, then scored 10 times in his 16 games this year. "He has great size [6-2, 181] and no one questions his touch," an Eastern Conference scout told SI.com. "He plays a mix of a finesse and a power game. He might have helped his case if he'd played better at the recent Under-18s, but it's hard to see him falling out of the top 10."