2010 NHL Entry Draft: Eastern Conference Preview (Part two Of three)

June 18th, 2010 No Comments

Last time we checked the draft options for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Today we will look at another five Eastern Conference teams, featuring the Atlanta Thrashers, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

Atlanta Thrashers:

The exit of super-star Ilya Kovalchuk has left a huge offensive void that the Thrashers will need to fill, either through free agency or the draft.

Drafting eighth overall the Thrashers will likely have a few high quality offensive players available to them including, Nino Niederreiter, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Johansen and perhaps even Alexander Burmistrov.

Truth be told, it all really depends on what the teams ahead of them do. That said, I think it’s a safe bet to assume the Thrashers are looking for a forward, preferably a centre that can play and grow alongside 18 year-old left winger, Evander Kane.

The Thrashers have a lot of faith in 19 year-old defenseman Zach Bogosian and feel he will emerge as the teams’ number one guy. If they should lose veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina to free agency the Thrashers will likely turn their attention to drafting a defenseman with their 24th overall pick.

Some of the defensemen that may be out there in the 24th slot include, Mark Pysyk, Jarred Tinordi and Jonathan Merrill.

Another couple of options for the Thrashers at the 24th slot include taking a chance on highly-touted Russian forward Kirill Kabanov or looking to upgrade their goaltending with the likes of Jack Campbell (who will almost certainly be gone) or Calvin Pickard.

Keep in mind, as much as the Thrashers need to make the playoffs, this is a team that is now in rebuild mold and, as such, can chose to take players that may need time developing (i.e.: Pickard). Either way, with two picks in the first round, Atlanta looks poised to draft two impressive players.

New York Rangers:

Drafting tenth overall, and with a good stable of young talent on the blueline that includes Marc Staal (23), Matt Gilroy (25) and Michael Del Zotto (19), the Rangers will look to add some much needed offense at the draft.

The Rangers already boast a decent stable of offensive minded prospects, including centre’s Derek Stepan, Evgeny Grachev and Ryan Bourque and left winger Chris Kreider. That said; I still feel the Rangers biggest need prospect-wise is a right winger.

With Brett Connolly and Nino Niederreiter all but a sure-thing to be gone by the time the Rangers select at number ten, look for the Rangers to consider the likes of Emerson Etem and John McFarland.

Both Etem, who was named Medicine Hat’s rookie of the year and McFarland, who was the number one overall pick in the 2008 OHL draft, are highly touted offensive minded forwards, with McFarland emerging as more of a two-way player.

If the Rangers do opt to go with a centre look for them to take a close look at Finnish prospect Mikael Granlund, Russian Alexander Burmistrov or American Nick Bjugstad. If Jeff Skinner (a player that scored 50 goals last year as a member of the Kitchener Rangers) is available the Rangers will be all over him.

The Rangers may also look to package this pick along with a high-salary player in return for a forward that can help them now, although, with teams being very careful how they allocate their cap space, this type of move should prove difficult for the Rangers to pull off.

Montreal Canadiens:

As good as the Canadiens were in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is plenty of room for improvement. Trouble is, with the Canadiens set to select in the 27th spot, there isn’t likely to be a can’t-miss player left in the draft, more likely, they will draft a project player.

Josh Gorges, Ryan O’Byrne and PK Subban look to be the future of the Canadiens backend, while either Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price will give the Canadiens good goaltending for the foreseeable future.

Like many NHL teams, Montreal could use more scoring. As far as prospects go, Louis Leblanc, Danny Kristo and Ben Maxwell all look to be a year or two away from becoming a major force with the Canadiens and none of them are regarded as go-to guys.

For this reason, it would be wise of the Canadiens to consider drafting another forward, one with speed and size that can put the puck in the net, which is no easy task, I know!

Some of the forwards that may be around come the 27th pick include, Russian sniper Stanislav Galiev, USHL standout Jaden Schwartz, Canadian Riley Sheahan and American Brock Nelson.

All three of these kids will need another 2-3 years to develop, which gives the Canadiens some leeway to trade the pick if they can get something that can help their offense out now.

Philadelphia Flyers:

As mentioned earlier, as a result of the compensation going to the Anaheim Ducks in return for the Flyers acquisition of Chris Pronger, the Flyers do not have a first round draft choice this year.

In fact, the Flyers will not draft their first player until the 89th selection (having traded their number 59 pick to the Los Angeles Kings).

At number 89, the Flyers will draft the best player available, regardless of position.

The Flyers recently signed AHL affiliate goaltender Johan Backlund to a contract extension and, while it appears as if Flyers goaltending prospect Joacim Eriksson is coming along, I still feel the Flyers could benefit by strengthening their goaltending by drafting a goaltender.

That said, the Flyers list of prospects is weak at best, so they could use a punch in the arm in all positions.

Boston Bruins:

While there has been plenty of speculation that the Bruins will look to package the second overall pick for a goal-scoring forward that can help right away, I say it all amounts to hogwash!

The Bruins will draft one of Tyler Hall (widely thought to be going first overall to the Edmonton Oilers) or Tyler Seguin.

Truth be told, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is on record as saying there is no consensus amongst his scouts as to which player they would rather have; Seguin or Hall.

The Bruins will be happy to take either one of these kids and they also have the option of dealing their 15th overall pick for some immediate help, if need be.

That said; there will be plenty of talent available at the 15th slot. With the Bruins very deep at centre, look for the club to pick a winger or defenseman.

As far as wingers go, the likes of Kirill Kabanov (who, admittedly has some issues), Vladamir Tarasenko, Teemu Pulkkinen, Austin Watson and maybe even a Jeff Skinner may be options for the Bruins.

As for defensemen, look for the Bruins to consider Dylan McIlrath, Derek Forbert, Mark Pysyk and Jonathan Merrill.

With the Bruins also selecting 32nd overall, it is very likely they will be active in terms of trades at the draft, so don’t be shocked if Boston brings in some new talent on the wings to help out their centres.

***Don’t forget to check back with me for part three of my look at the Eastern Conference draft preview

AND

As always, for more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,

Peace!

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