Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Mock Draft Done Right

Despite his numerous hair band references to go along with his propensity for devoting large portions of his mailbag to naming other people's babies, John Buccigross is about as solid a hockey columnist as has to offer.

So it hurts to me to say that his latest offering, an article prognosticating the results of a draft held as the result of every player in the NHL becoming a free agent concurrently, is somewhat trash. The idea itself is great, but many of his selections are downright atrocious and their justification is even more inane. Dany Heatley picked before Alex Ovechkin? Mike Richards over Roberto Luongo? And why is Mike Ribeiro even a first-round pick? So I decided to re-do his draft in accordance with Bucci's stipulations regarding draft order (current standings in reverse) and the fact that all players sign five-year contracts, therefore inherently favoring younger talent.

1. Los Angeles - Sidney Crosby. Hard to disagree on this one. However, Crosby's stock has somewhat fallen now that the Pens are 6-3-2 without him in the lineup, but that's not nearly enough evidence to warrant passing on not only a generational talent but, as Buccigross mentions, a marketing boon especially in a market in need of hockey revitilization like LA.

2. Tampa Bay - Alex Ovechkin. For a franchise that has learned the value of goaltending the hard way the past two seasons, it's tempting to pick Roberto Luongo. But then again, the Bolts have always been about offense and with arguably the most explosive front line force in the NHL still on the board, AO is the way to go.

3. Chicago - Evgeni Malkin. Given the chance to shine with Crosby injured, Malkin has thoroughly seized the opportunity, accumulating 15 points in five games for the Penguins before tonight's loss to Boston. The Hawks remain a franchise in transition, attempting to win back an alienated fanbase. What better way to do that than with a 21-year-old scoring machine.

4. Toronto - Roberto Luongo. Defense wins championships, so for a team that has been starved of a Cup for forty years, the Leafs are glad to take the best goaltender available in Luongo.

5. Edmonton - Joe Thornton. The Oilers haven't had a playmaker of Thornton's caliber since Wayne Gretzky. While he needs a sniper to truly flourish, Big Joe's combination of size and skill is exactly what's severely lacking in this year's woeful edition of the Oilers.

6. NY Islanders - Nicklas Lidstrom. Norris Nick dropped to 24th in Bucci's draft due to age concerns, but the Isles have always been a gambling team and they're willing to bet Lidstrom will play at an elite level to the age of 43. At 38, Lidstrom is hands down the best defenseman in the NHL and is a serious candidate for this season's Hart Trophy.

7. St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier. It's surprsing that the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner and a player who was leading the NHL in points for a good part of the season falls to seventh, but the Blues certainly don't mind. Discounting Gretzky's brief tenure in Missouri, Lecavalier might be the best offensive player in Blues history behind Brett Hull.

8. Florida - Jarome Iginla. Captain Calgary is precisely the player Florida was banking on Nathan Horton developing into and has the skill, shot and leadership to put fans in the seats in Sunrise.

9. Atlanta - Henrik Zetterberg. For a team that has never had anything close to a franchise center in its history, Zetterberg is an absolute dream. "Z" has blossomed into one of the finest two-way players in the game with the Red Wings this season and might be a steal at No. 9.

10. Carolina - Ilya Kovalchuk. Like their Southeast brethren in Tampa, the Canes have always been about offense, so going with the best forward on the board in Kovalchuk is a no-brainer.

11. Washington - Dany Heatley. Lose one power winger in Ovechkin, pick up another one in Heatley. He might not have the finesse and jaw-dropping ability of OV8, but the Heater is nearly as prolific a goal-scorer and brings the same physical dimension that Ovechkin does.

12. Phoenix - Dion Phaneuf. Another pick where I'll agree with Buccigross. While he doesn't deserve the $7 million a year stipulated in his recent contract extension, Phaneuf has developed into a big ticket defenseman for the Flames and the Coyotes will bank on similar play from the two-time All-Star donning the Phoenix red.

13. Buffalo - Pavel Datsyuk. Another team that has learned lessons the hard way, the Sabres have discovered rather painfully this season how critical it is to possess a No. 1 center after letting Daniel Briere and Chris Drury walk as free agents. Datsyuk is that No. 1 center and so much more. Perhaps the most complete pivot in the game, Datsyuk excels at both ends of the ice and will be a treat to watch for the Buffalo faithful.

14. Columbus - Mike Richards. Rick Nash, Bucci's selection for the BJs at 14, is still available but the Jackets are another team that knows the value of a No. 1 center. Richards is another two-way force at center ice capable of doing it all and is the kind of heart-and-soul player capable of leading Columbus to the promised land.

15. Boston - Jason Spezza. Although Marc Savard is nothing short of a deft playmaker, the Bruins would love to have a truly game-breaking passer in their lineup for the first time since the Thornton trade. Spezza is that player, and after watching him tear it up against the B's as a member of the division rival Senators, Boston would love to see him don the Bruins' blue and gold.

16. NY Rangers - Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf has franchise center written all over him and the Rangers would love to get him to wear the blue and white. A disgusting stickhandler with a terrific shot and tremendous puckhandling ability, Getzlaf is the kind of offensive powerhouse at center the Rangers have lacked since the time of Mark Messier.

17. Vancouver - Marian Gaborik. While the last two seasons under coach Alain Vigneault have been decidedly defense-oriented, the Canucks teams of the past have always shown offense to be their forte, from Pavel Bure to the West Coast Express. Who better to pick up than the second coming of Bure, Marian Gaborik? Injury questions caused him to fall this low in the draft, but it looks as though the Slovakian Rocket has finally overcome his nagging groin issues. Just ask the New York Rangers.

18. Nashville - Chris Pronger. The Predators love their D-men and Pronger, while 34, is a revalation at No. 18. With his defensive acumen, physical nature, offensive contributions and leadership skills, Pronger is capable of being a franchise cornerstone for the Preds.

19. Calgary - Henrik Lundqvist. The Flames know what young goaltenders can do after Kiprusoff led them to the Finals the season before the lockout, so with Henrik Lundqvist still available it looks like the King is headed to Alberta.

20. Colorado - Jonathan Toews. Toews might be the most similar player to Joe Sakic among young forwards in the League, so you know the Avs would love to pick him up. The Blackhawks were in the playoff discussion this season before Toews' injury.

21. Philadelphia - Marian Hossa. Flyers will take the best forward available. Yes, Hossa hasn't had the greatest season this year, but there's no doubt he'll bounce back and return to being the Hoss of old -- an elite, two-way force.

22. New Jersey - Paul Stastny. The Devils love their two-way centers, and Paul Stastny has firmly planted himself in the upper echelon of that category in just his second NHL season.

23. Montreal - Martin Brodeur. Yes, he's 35, but the Habs have always valued goaltending (well, except for that dark December day), and have always valued players hailing from Quebec. There's also the fact that Brodeur is a lock for the Hall-of-Fame, is the reigning Vezina Trophy champion, recently set the NHL record for wins in a season and is chasing down virtually every netminding distinction in the NHL record books, including the all-time wins record held by ex-Hab Patrick Roy.

24. Minnesota - Anze Kopitar. The Wild have never really had a big-time center, but Kopitar is likely to develop into just that. While I don't think he has 120-point potential like Buccigross seems to, the Slovenian pivot nonetheless is not only an explosive offensive playmaker but can play the defensively responsible game Minnesota expects their forwards to.

25. Anaheim - Evgeni Nabokov. The Ducks have seen where defense and goaltending can take a team and while the better defensemen are taken, Nabokov, currently enjoying a breakout season for the Sharks, is still available.

26. Pittsburgh - Patrick Kane. Crosby and Malkin are sadly gone, but there's still effervescent young talent available in Patrick Kane. He might not be Crosby- or Malkin-caliber, but Kane is likely to develop into a 90-point player for the Pens.

27. San Jose - Pascal Leclaire. The Sharks have always been proud of their insanely deep goaltending pipeline, so picking up the best young goaltender available is the obvious choice. Leclaire has benefited from Hitchcock's defensive system in Columbus, but is undoubtedly an all-world talent and should make Team Canada as a third-stringer in 2010.

28. Ottawa - Rick Nash. Yes, Daniel Alfredsson is still available, but his age doesn't make him an optimal candidate to return to the Senators. Instead, Ottawa will gladly gobble up the Ontario-born Nash.

29. Dallas - Zach Parise. Modano is too old, so the Stars will pick up an up-and-coming American star in Zach Parise. He has the heart, skill and speed of Modano and can also be relied upon to pick up the slack defensively.

30. Detroit - Eric Staal. Well, the big three are all gone, so the Wings will be content to pick up the best young player still available. Staal is the kind of power center that a team can be built around and Detroit would jump at that chance.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Brodeur and Nabby before JS Giguere? No way!