Every year, the fanfare seems to grow with Bob McKenzie's list, but he works his contacts relentlessly to come up with what is usually a pretty good indicator of where the picks will fall on draft day.
Here's the link.
Not a surprise that he has Taylor Hall first, is it? Again, this is what I was hearing back when the NHL Draft Lottery was held in April, and Hallsie's unreal playoffs/Memorial Cup only cemented his top selection in my view. And, this is no affront to Tyler Seguin, who is a terrific prospect in his own right, but the fact is-- he stopped playing hockey a full month before Hall did. I don't want to hear the stuff about better teams and all, either-- it is what it is.
But, just to prove that I can play devil's advocate effectively-- stay tuned to hockeyjournal.com this week, because I will be publishing two articles in a series called "The Case For..." in which I will put my best debating skills to work in favor of both Hall and Seguin.
Realistically, the next big B's prospect is Seguin, and everyone should be ecstatic with that. You won't catch me saying he's a better fit, though. Nobody knows the truth, and I think it's a bit disingenuous to argue that Seguin is a better player right now.
As far as McKenzie's list goes, there are some other interesting names. Erik Gudbranson and Brandon Gormley are both ranked ahead of Cam Fowler, who is fifth. I believe that Gudbranson at three is a reflection of the fact that when Randy Sexton was running the show in Florida, the Panthers' scouts were enamored with Gudbranson and he was apparently a done deal to go third. Now that Dale Tallon is on board, will he go against the advice of his boys? Or, might Tampa Bay swap picks with their cross-state rival to grab Fowler third and then see Gudbranson likely drop to the Panthers at six (or maybe Tallon takes someone else?). This is why the draft is going to be so much fun...I think some interesting things are going to happen in L.A.
Ryan Johansen edges teammate Nino Niederreiter at 6 and 7 respectively. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Johansen go top-10. Red Line's Mike Remmerde has been clamoring about that possibility since January.
Nice to see that Bob and I are in agreement about Jeffrey Skinner being the best pure goal scorer in the draft. At 10, he's a good pick there. I (as well as my pal Dom) would certainly take him earlier, but unless Boston moves up, he's not making it to 15.
No real surprises from 11-17, unless you consider Dylan McIlrath at 15 a surprise, and I don't. Here's one for all the guys out there harping on Big Mac's alleged lack of upside: Yes, guys, more than a few NHL people do believe he has it. So, before you knock the guy, if McKenzie's connections count for anything, his having him at 15 speaks loudly for where McIlrath's stock is with the people who matter: the NHL teams heading into L.A.
Now, having Beau Bennett at 18 is curious. While doing the spotlight series, I brought him up for the first time around there...makes sense, because the guy is just a high-end offensive talent, and like Skinner, those players don't grow on trees. You take 'em where you can get 'em. Early off the board pick perhaps? Wouldn't surprise in the least.
Other interesting guys in the top-30: John McFarland, Tyler Toffoli and Justin Faulk. They barely made my 1st-round mock cut, but were close. McFarland is an uber-talent, so I'm sure there will be one team out there picking late who's willing to roll the dice on him getting his act together and becoming the player that saw Sudbury grab him with the OHL's 1st overall pick a few years ago. A word of caution, however-- 1st overall junior picks don't always pan out. Anybody remember Kyle Chipchura? Didn't think so.
Faulk is a guy one NHL scout I respect has told me repeatedly is highly underrated by most. That he's in the top-30 speaks volumes and shows that perhaps the NHL guys think a lot more of him than a lot of those public lists you see floating around out there. "A pitbull on skates" is what I heard Faulk described as...very interesting.
Two guys not in the top-30: Kevin Hayes and Charlie Coyle. Will be interesting to see where they go. Again, I've heard that there's at least one or more teams out there who like Hayes in the late 1st (and be sure to read Pie Mac's comments on my Mock Draft post- very interesting) and Coyle has been my No. 1 guy coming out of New England since March, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him sneak in as well, but McKenzie has Coyle 32nd and Hayes a little further down at 49.
Guys in my top-30 who are not in McKenzie's: Calvin Pickard, Brock Nelson, Stanlislav Galiev.
Guys in his not in mine: Tyler Pitlick, McFarland, Toffoli.
All of those guys were close, and I even had Pitlick at 30 before swapping him out for Brock Nelson. Go figure.
The publication of this list is always the final glidepath to the draft...when it comes out, it's a reminder to all of us that we're just days from the big event.
TSN will broadcast analysis of his list tonight at 7pm EST for those of you in Canada. In the USA, we get bupkus.