NHL Draft Preview

It’s all drafts all the time right now. Just one day after Blake Griffin was made the number one overall pick in the NBA the NHL is set to stage their draft. It’s a two day affair – the stuff everyone cares about on Friday night, and the rest on Saturday. If you haven’t been following things as they have developed, here’s a look at the top five players in the draft:

John Tavares, Center, London Knights (OHL) – There is some debate whether Tavares will be the top pick or not, but I have few doubts. He has been in the spotlight since he was 13 years old or so, and he has lived up to the hype. He’s not the smoothest skater in the world, and he needs to work on his defensive responsibility a bit, but the guy is frighteningly good with the puck. He can score pretty much on whim, and he is one of those guys who has the ability to make magic happen right before your eyes. He was impressively dominant at the World Junior Championships for Canada, and I have no doubt that he will be an impressive pro. He’s a special player. The Islanders have the first pick, and their fans will riot if they don’t pick Tavares.

Victor Hedman, Defense, Modo (Sweden) – Hedman is already playing pro in Sweden, so he’s proven to be able to play against men. He’s the kind of defenseman who will play 25 minutes a game and will be reliable and effective. There is some talk that he could be the number one pick, but I’m not buying it. Tavares and Hedman squared off at the World Junior’s, and the Canadian definitely came out on top. Still, Hedman is a low risk pick who will be a good pro. The biggest drama will be to see if a team can convince hi to come to the NHL next year – he seems to be leaning towards playing in Sweden one more season.

Matt Duchene, Center, Brampton Battalion (OHL) – He’s another Canadian sniper. He is responsible on both ends of the ice, and he has emerged into an impressive play maker. It’s his stick-handling that really sticks out – he’s a creative magician comparable to Ovechkin. My biggest concern about Duchene is that he has really only emerged as a top prospect this year, so we can’t be certain that it is sustainable. Still, there seems to be a good possibility that he’ll emerge as the class of this draft in the long run, and he certainly won’t last past third.

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Left Wing, Timra (Sweden) – It was hard enough to type his name, never mind say it. Thankfully, he’s much easier to watch. Like Hedman, he is already playing pro in Sweden. He’s an incredibly fast skater, and he isn’t afraid to throw his body around as he invades the center of the ice off a charge from his wing. There is some talk that he’ll drop down the board a bit, but regardless of where he goes I have high expectations. He was very good at the World Juniors, and I expect him to be a top line player in the NHL.

Brayden Schenn, Center, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – A third Canadian center on this list. He has a good pedigree – his brother Luke is a budding star in Toronto. Schenn is a relentless grinder. He can score himself or set up goals, and he can also set the tone on the ice and get the other team off of their game. He got better and better as the season progressed this year, and seems like another reasonably safe pick. Toronto is trying hard to move up from their current seventh spot in the draft to reunite him with his brother. That would be a fun combo to watch.

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