Deal-filled first round expected at 2003 NHL Draft
Posted: Saturday June 14, 2003 12:51 AM
By Jon A. Dolezar, SI.com
Someone might want to warn BellSouth to install industrial strength telephone lines at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, because teams are likely to burn them up with trade talks on Draft Day.
So don't bother memorizing the draft order, because it's certain to look vastly different on the morning of Saturday, June 21 by the time the actual selections are made. The 2003 NHL Entry Draft is just more than a week away, but there has been significant movement since our first Mock Draft just 10 days ago.
Thomas Vanek, Andrei Kastsitsyn, Robert Nilsson, Mark Stuart, Ryan Getzlaf and Steve Bernier have leapt up a few spots, while Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Brown, Anthony Stewart, Hugh Jessiman, Jeff Tambellini and Ryan Kesler have tumbled down a bit. Richard Stehlik, Jim Howard and Shawn Belle are now out of our first round, replaced by Patrick Eaves, Kevin Klein and Mike Richards.
So how will the actual draft turn out? Probably not at all like this current incarnation, since there are always some out-of-nowhere surprises.
In fact, there is a better chance of me getting drafted in the first round (anyone need a slow, 28-year-old, out of shape blueliner?) as there is of even one-third of these picks being right on. A .333 batting average makes you an All-Star in major league baseball and in mock drafting.
But that's the fun of doing a mock draft, since NHL draftniks love to pore over picks and break them down ad nauseum. Someone could probably post a copy of the actual draft done in secret and draft fans would find flaws all over it. It's about fun and getting some discussion going regarding the draft, so feel free to send your comments our way ... but please keep the responses clean.
The draft order is updated to reflect the Devils winning the Stanley Cup and exercising their right to switch first-round picks with the Blues as part of the Scott Stevens tampering decision on Jan. 4, 1999.
The Mock Draft will be updated one final time on Thursday, June 19.
SI.com's 2003 Mock Draft
The Panthers know there is a huge market for Marc-Andre Fleury, so it would be surprising to see them remain in the top spot. Odds are good that general manager Rick Dudley could drop down a spot or two in a deal with the Hurricanes or Penguins and still get Staal.
Cape Breton (QMJHL)
6' 1 ½"
The 'Canes would love nothing more than to call the Panthers' bluff and get Fleury at No. 2. But that might be too big of a risk for general manager Jim Rutherford to take. If Carolina is serious about grabbing the lone franchise goaltender in this draft, it will likely have to send a player or two off its roster and/or some picks to Florida to move up to the top spot to grab Fleury.
Central Army (Russia)
The Penguins are another candidate to move up for Fleury, but with All-Rookie Team goaltender Sebastien Caron on the roster, Pittsburgh isn't as desperate as Carolina to nab a netminder for the future. Zherdev would be a great consolation prize for the Pens, who are likely to have some openings on their top few lines, especially if they trade Martin Straka.
The Blue Jackets could have the pick among the three best blueliners in the draft, but odds are they will opt for another power forward to pair with Calder Trophy finalist and 2002 No. 1 overall pick Rick Nash. Horton and Nash would give Columbus bookend bashers who don't mind doing the dirty work to score goals.
The Sabres are on record as saying they would like to trade this pick for immediate help, but in a deep draft it's hard to find a dance partner to do a deal unless a team is in love with a particular player who is still available when that slot rolls around. If Buffalo keeps the pick, the best two-way forward available would look nice as its second-line center for the next decade.
The Sharks are loaded with talented, young rearguards (Kyle McLaren, Brad Stuart and Jim Fahey) and centers (Patrick Marleau, Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes). Pairing Thomas Vanek with Marleau and Marco Sturm would give San Jose one of the most exciting young trios in the league. Vanek's size would also be appealing to the Sharks, who have one of the smallest forwards corps after dealing away Owen Nolan.
U.S. U-18 team
The Predators could use a first-line forward, but the chance to nab the top blueliner in the draft will be too tempting to pass up. Nashville needs to decide whether it wants size (Braydon Coburn), hitting (Dion Phaneuf) or offense (Ryan Suter), but Suter offers the best combination of the three and would be a nice addition to 2001 first-round pick Dan Hamhuis.
The Thrashers are also desperate to add a blue-chip defenseman, but general manager Don Waddell is interested in making the playoffs in 2003-04, so this pick could be dealt for a current NHL player. Atlanta could be tempted by the thought of adding another gifted offensive player to its already potent duo of Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk, but if the Thrashers keep the pick, a rearguard is more of a necessity.
North Dakota (WCHA)
The Flames went with the son of a former NHL player with the No. 10 pick last year (Eric Nystrom) so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them take a similar tact with the No. 9 pick this year. Parise is a future top-line center, a vacancy Calgary could have fairly soon if captain Craig Conroy is traded. But Parise is likely headed back to Grand Forks for at least one more season of college hockey, especially with how 2001 first-round pick Chuck Kobasew has stagnated in his development since leaving Boston College after his freshman season.
Central Army (Russia)
The Canadiens have enough depth in their organization that they could afford to take a bit of a risk drafting Kastsitsyn this high. Kastsitsyn, an epileptic, is this year's high-risk, high-reward selection. If his medical concerns check out, he may emerge as one of the top forwards from this draft class. Or he could wash out without much of a whimper. But the Habs are set on defense for the future with Ron Hainsey and Mike Komisarek, so taking a gamble on a potential superstar like Kastsitsyn would be a bold stroke by new general manager Bob Gainey.
Now that the truth has been revealed, it's hard to come down on O'Sullivan for his "off-ice woes." In an excellent article in its current issue, ESPN the Magazine reveals that O'Sullivan is the victim of an abusive, overeager father. While some scouts are apparently still worried that a tough family situation could follow O'Sullivan into the NHL, perhaps noted tough guy and former Broad Street Bully Bobby Clarke is just the type of general manager who would be willing to select the incredibly talented O'Sullivan.
Red Deer (WHL)
With Brian Leetch and Boris Mironov both unrestricted free agents, the Rangers need to start planning for the future, since only Tom Poti is younger than 30 among their current top blueliners. Phaneuf would bring a much-needed physical presence to Broadway, and would complement offensive-minded top prospect Fedor Tyutin nicely.
The Kings have enough ammunition to attempt to move into the top five, but it makes more sense for them to stay put and grab three players. Nilsson, the son of former Flames great Kent Nilsson, scored 21 points in 41 games in the Swedish Elite League this season playing mostly as a 17-year-old, breaking Markus Naslund's mark of 19 set in 1990-91. His offensive ability would be showcased in Hollywood, especially if the Kings can also add unrestricted free agent center Sergei Fedorov, whom Nilsson plays like.
The Blackhawks have shown a tendency to draft speedy foreign forwards, but general manager Mike Smith needs to add some grit to that skill. Brown projects to be a second-line player -- or a third-liner on a deep team -- but he has the talent to be a superb character forward, which the 'Hawks will need to play alongside foreign prospects Tuomo Ruutu, Mikhail Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev. That offensively gifted trio would benefit from playing with a heart-and-soul winger like Brown.
Colorado College (WCHA)
The Islanders have a great top-four blueline corps for the moment, but age and contract attrition could thin it out significantly in the next two seasons. General manager Mike Milbury has traded away his top defensive prospects for Alexei Yashin, Jason Wiemer and Roman Hamrlik in recent years, so the Isles need to grab a defenseman with their top pick either this year or next. Stuart doesn't have as high of a ceiling as Suter, Coburn or Phaneuf, but his commitment to fitness and his steady style will result in a long, but unnoteworthy career.
6' 2 ½"
The Bruins are getting a bit gray around the temples in the middle, so adding a two-way pivot like Getzlaf would be a smart move. Character guys help define an organization, and the Beantown Six hasn't had enough of them in their early playoff exits the past two years. Getzlaf would be a fine addition to Boston's penalty-killing unit and checking lines, though he has the potential to become a first-line player if he improves his skating. The Bruins would be a good organization for Getlaf, since he could learn from balanced forwards Brian Rolston, P.J. Axelsson and Mike Knuble.
Pouliot is atypical of most players who come out of the Q. Regarded as a league for smallish players who can skate and create, Pouliot proved he can also mix it up in what is regarded as a soft league. Pouliot would do well in a deep organization like the Oilers', where he wouldn't have to be the focus but rather could be a bit player. Pouliot would add size to the Oilers' top two lines, where presently only Brad Isbister and Ryan Smyth like to get physical.
Yaroslavl Jr. (Russia)
The Capitals are going to have some significant roster turnover in the next several seasons, so acquiring top offensive talent in the draft will be a must. With Sergei Berezin an unrestricted free agent, Jaromir Jagr available to any team who will take his salary, and Peter Bondra on the decline, Glazachev could have a quick path to the NHL with a team like Washington.
The Ducks are loaded with future scoring stars Stanislav Chistov and Joffrey Lupul in the organization, so a bruiser like Stewart could be a nice piece to play alongside them. Stewart bulked up late in his junior career and his skating suffered as a result, but in a team-based defensive system like the Ducks run, his average skating wouldn't be as big of a deal.
Jessiman scored 47 points in 34 games in his surprising freshman season at Dartmouth, where his skating ability, impressive hands and hearty size allowed him to dominate. The Wild were undersized up front during their remarkable run to the West finals, but with Kyle Wanvig (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), Matt Foy (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and Rickard Wallin (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) on the way, that shouldn't be a problem anymore. Adding Jessiman to that bunch would give Minnesota a nice batch of power forwards in the organization.
Tambellini had an impressive second half of the season, helping to lead Michigan to its third straight Frozen Four appearance. The son of Canucks VP of player personnel Steve Tambellini, Jeff's game already features NHL savvy and is reminiscent of another undersized, but speedy former Michigan Wolverine, John Madden. The Sharks value fleet wingers and could use a player like Tambellini who is willing to skate hard at both ends of the ice.
6' 2 ½"
For all of the things the Devils have going for them, size isn't one of them. Undersized forwards Jiri Bicek, Sergei Brylin, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and John Madden could use a big body up front, which the hulking Bernier would provide. But Bernier's above-average size doesn't mean below-average skills at all. He has great offensive instincts and handles the puck well, making him look like an ideal power forward. Bernier tallied 101 points in 71 games, so an infusion of size and offensive talent may be tough for the Stanley Cup champs to pass up.
Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The one complaint about the Canucks' roster this season was they lacked depth at center after Brendan Morrison and Henrik Sedin. Carter has drawn comparisons to former Greyhound Joe Thornton, but he is skinnier and not nearly as physical as Thornton. Carter is nimble on his feet and impressive handling the puck, but he needs to add a bit of toughness to his overall games.
The Flyers have incredible depth at center, but Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau are aging, so their replacements need to be selected soon. Fritsche would make a nice addition to Philadelphia's second line some day, thanks to his good puck-carrying skills and natural instincts. He also likes to fly around the offensive zone in search of the puck on the forecheck, which would endear him to defense-first Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock.
6' 2 ½"
The Lightning have spent most of their early picks recently on Russian forwards, so it's time to head in another direction. Tampa Bay's defense was a mess down the stretch, so much so that Marc Bergevin and Janne Laukkanen were traded for to add depth on the blueline. But neither will be back with the Lightning, so in addition to looking to free agents for immediate help, Tampa Bay needs to look for some young defensemen in the draft. The Lightning could be tempted into going for yet another forward since contract talks with Dave Andreychuk and Vaclav Prospal aren't going well.
Ohio State (CCHA)
6' 1 ½"
With three picks in the first round, the Kings would like to take some players they view as safe bets to make the NHL roster inside of four years. That probably means they will focus on foreign players and U.S. college players. Kesler only had an average season with the Buckeyes, but he was a pleasant surprise playing for the U.S. at the World Juniors. Los Angeles head coach Andy Murray loves responsible two-way players, so Kesler could quickly find himself a favorite of Murray's if he continues to work hard.
Boston College (Hockey East)
5' 10 ½"
Boston College forwards have been staples in the past few drafts, and Eaves could go anywhere from the late first round to the middle of the second. Since Los Angeles has three picks, it could afford to reach a bit on a talent like Eaves, whose father Mike had 226 points in 334 NHL games before his career was cut short by concussions. Older brother Ben was a fourth-round pick of the Penguins in 2001, but Patrick appears to have a higher upside than his sibling if he can overcome injury concerns.
The Stars are loaded with right wingers, but most of their top forward prospects play on the left side. Fehr is a gritty, but skinny winger who could be an excellent defensive asset once his frame fills out. He may not ever be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, but he could have a long, steady career on the third line of a good team like Dallas.
Toronto St. Michael's (OHL)
Klein doesn't yet have ideal size for a defenseman, but if he's drafted by a team with big boppers like Ottawa, he won't ever need to be a top-pair blueliner. Klein is a good passer, but he focuses on his own end first and doesn't project to score anywhere near the 44 points he scored for St. Mike's this season. Most scouts expect him to be a solid No. 3 or 4 defenseman, so playing in an organization like the Sens' where there are already established top guys might give Klein the needed time to mature.
Richards led the Memorial Cup champions in regular-season scoring, but only because team captain and first-line center Derek Roy missed 19 games while playing for the Sabres in the preseason and for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Richards was a valuable No. 2 center on a good team, and could someday serve as a second- or third-line center for the Blues. St. Louis also has Jay McClement and John Pohl as pivot prospects in the organization, but a center is a more likely pick than a winger, since the Blues have former college stars Peter Sejna and Colin Hemingway on the horizon, too.