Winners, sleepers and more closing thoughts from the NHL draft
The Bruins did well by drafting Tyler Seguin after trading for Nathan Horton
The Panthers made the most of having a league-leading 13 draft choices
Caps GM George McPhee may have added to his rep by taking Evgeny Kuznetsov
Closing thoughts from Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft ... (Complete round-by-round picks by team)
Best Performance: Peter Chiarelli, Boston Bruins.
Fans are buzzing over the steals/smart calls/good fortune of the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers, but no team did more to impact both its short and long-term prospects than the B's. With the chance to finally exercise the second overall pick acquired last summer in the Phil Kessel deal, Chiarelli and his staff scooped up Tyler Seguin, arguably the best prospect available in Los Angeles. "He could have a Steve Yzerman-like influence in Boston," said one scout. A few days earlier, the B's GM dealt the 15th overall pick as part of a package that landed first-line winger Nathan Horton from the Panthers. That's just solid asset management. Now if only new team president Cam Neely can light a fire under Horton's slow-boil competitive instincts
Most Necessary Upgrade to the process: a five-minute timer.
It wasn't the conclusion of the Taylor/Tyler drama or the absence of blockbuster trades that sucked the life from the smallish crowds on hand for the draft in L.A. It was the half-time length stop downs between every stinking pick that did the trick. At one point early in the first round, I looked down at my watch and realized that over the course of 75 minutes NHL teams had combined to select just seven players. That's absolutely inexcusable. Obviously there needs to be some cushion built into the process for the kiss-and-hug, the jersey handover and a couple photos but adding a five-minute limit as the NBA does would make it a more palatable broadcast for TV and a more compelling live event.
Most Promising Crop: Florida Panthers
Dale Tallon promised an overhaul in Florida and then accelerated the timetable by selecting six players in the top 50 through some deft maneuvering with his own picks and talent. Among the team's league-leading 13 choices overall were a pair of hard-hitting blueliners, a trio of jumbo-checking forwards with some offensive upside and a promising young netminder in Sam Brittain (92nd). "He added a lot of talent," a scout said. "When there's that kind of quantity, you know he'll hit big on at least a couple of them." The common denominators binding most of their picks are size and competitiveness ... traits that helped define the success of Tallon's last rebuild, the Chicago Blackhawks. The Cats are hoping for big things from third-overall pick Erik Gudbranson and might have another back-end pillar in Alex Petrovic, a 6-foot-4, 193-pound bruiser taken 36th overall. Florida also added heavily hyped high schooler Nick Bjugstag (19th), two-way center Quinton Howden (25th) and enigmatic winger John McFarland at 33. Considered a possible top-five pick earlier in the season, McFarland plummeted for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his questionable intensity. If that's simply a matter of maturity, something that will sort itself out as he grows up, then McFarland may end up as the steal of the draft.
Crop We May Be Talking About Most In Five Years: Washington Capitals
If George McPhee's rep for mining gems from the deep substrata of the first isn't already set, it could be soon. The Caps' GM, who already hit it big with Mike Green (29th overall, 2004) and John Carlson (27th, 2008), looks like he could have added another jewel to his system with Evgeny Kuznetsov at 26. The 18-year-old winger isn't big (6-0, 172), but he possesses an offensive explosiveness similar to current Cap Alexander Semin. If not for the Russian passport, his skill level likely would have led someone to call his name sooner. "That could be a real value pick," a Western Conference scout told SI.com. "They've got the people in place there [Alex Ovechkin, Semin and others] that should help with [his] transition and a system that he should be comfortable with. [McPhee's scouting staff] have done a good job loading up that system." The Caps also may have found value in third-rounder Stanislav Galiev (86th), a skilled right winger from the Saint John Sea Dogs who some experts predicted could go in the first round, and Phil Grubauer (112th), the German-born goaltender who led the Windsor Spitfires to the Memorial Cup last month. A scout noted that neither player projects as a sure thing, but both have elements that make you think "there might be something special there." "These are both talented kids," he said. "There's no rush on either of them. They've got time and that may be all they need."
Remember the name I: Teemu Pulkinnen, Detroit Red Wings
The Finnish sniper was ranked among the top 50 prospects available, so the fact that Detroit was able to snap him up at 112 seems like a tremendous value. Certainly has the chance to turn out that way as Pulkkinen is recognized as one of the premier goal scorers in this draft. "He can really hum it," a scout told me prior to the draft. So why did he slip into deep discount territory? Skating is one reason. "He's really average on his feet, not a lot of zip" the scout said. But the bigger issue is a lack of involvement. He over-relies on his shot and avoids traffic, preferring to stick to the periphery rather than battle for a higher percentage position down low. If the Wings can instill a little net hunger into this game, they might have stolen another top-six forward for their rebuilding effort.
Remember the name II: Maxim Kitsyn, Los Angeles Kings
Earlier in the year, some scouts talked about the 6-2, 194-pound Russian as a solid second-round talent, possibly even a borderline first rounder. Central Scouting ranked him as high as sixth among European prospects. And even as his stock slipped during a rough season, no one really saw him languishing until the sixth ... which is where the Kings finally pounced on him, trading a pair of picks to Atlanta to secure a higher slot in the round. "He wasn't very good this year," said a scout, "but he's got that size and skill level that makes him a low risk at [that] point [in the draft]. Kitsyn is expected to remain in Russia, where he'll try to get his game in order next year, but a renewed focus and proven drive could see him in the NHL before long.
Fine, We'll Take Him: Kirill Kabanov, New York Islanders
A top-three favorite coming into the season. Rated 15th at the mid-term. Thirty-first at season's end. Then, finally, taken with the 65th pick by the Isles. A locker room cancer, potential superstar or both? The one certainty is that no player will be more carefully scrutinized between now and his eventual debut than the talented but troubled Russian sniper.