The 2008 NHL Entry Draft takes place on June 21 at ScotiaBank Place in Ottawa, Ontario and will be broadcast live on The Sports Network (TSN). This year’s draft may not be as loaded with uber-prospects as in previous years (2003, 2005) but it will still be worth the price of admission. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the draft lottery and hold the 1st overall pick. The Bolts will probably take slick-skating Steven Stamkos of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting but after that it remains an open notebook.
Many hockey experts across North America have dubbed this draft as the year of the defenseman as a plethora of blueliners have been ranked in the Top 30 by Central Scouting Services. The top ranked d-man in the draft is Drew Doughty of the OHL’s Guelph Storm, who excelled in both the Canada/Russia Super Series and the CHL’s Prospects game and will most likely not drop out of the Top Three and go to either Los Angeles or Atlanta. Other young guns like Zach Bogosian (Peterborough Petes), Alex Pieterangelo (Niagara), Luke Schenn (Kelowna Rockets), Tyler Myers (Kelowna Rockets), Colton Teubert (Regina Pats) and Michael Del Zotto (Oshawa Generals) may easily go within the first 15 picks of the draft. It is believed that this draft is so stacked with solid, mobile defenseman that teams may pick a balanced combination of size/skill over a player with just one desired attribute.
The 2008 entry draft is also set to be dominated by North American skaters as few as four Russian players are slated to be drafted in the first two rounds (this includes Belarussian Mikhail Stefanovich who played for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL this season). The lack of an agreement between the NHL, the NHLPA and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation continues to scare clubs away from drafting players who may have difficulty circumventing the recently changed Russian Labour laws (please see Evgeni Malkin).
Goalies are not expected to go very high in this draft. The top two rated goalies are Jacob Markstrom (Brynas, Sweden) and Chet Pickard (Tri-City, WHL). Although Markstrom has impressed many European hockey scouts with his poised play in International tournaments, some hockey pundits believe Pickard may actually be drafted earlier in the first round. Pickard, a native Winnipegger, had a sensational season with the Tri-City Americans this season (46-12-4, 2.32 GAA, .918 GAA) and happens to come from the same goalie factory that produced Montreal Canadiens rookie phenom Carey Price (5th overall, 2005). The knock on Pickard appears to be his lack of international experience with Team Canada but that appears to be a small issue. Pickard is big (6’2”, 195), athletic and flexible and loves to play a lot of hockey. Pickard may very well attract the attention of teams light on goaltending depth (Edmonton, Washington, New Jersey).
Bloodlines also appear to be a captivating element of this year’s draft as brothers, sons, cousins and nephews seem to be all over this year’s top prospects list with Sudbury Wolves forward Jared Staal (Thunder Bay, Ontarion) taking centre stage. Jared will become the 4th Staal brother drafted when a team makes their pick on June 21 and will join brothers Eric (Carolina Hurricanes), Marc (New York Rangers) and Jordan (Pittsburgh Penguins) as drafted by National Hockey League clubs. The Staal brothers are undeniably the closest link the NHL has seen since the Sutter Brothers produced six NHL pros. Other players with bloodline connections to the NHL include: Alex Pietrangelo (uncle Frank was goaltender for many teams, including Hartford Whalers), Colin Wilson (born in the USA, dad Carey Wilson was born in Manitoba), David Toews (brother Jonathan drafted third overall in 2006 by Chicago Blackhawks), Jamie Arniel ( uncle Scott Arniel, who is current coach of Manitoba Moose, was veteran forward of Boston, Buffalo and Winnipeg).
Enjoy the draft.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Ezra Ginsburg