Saturday, June 04, 2011

Pre-Draft Roster Freeze Deadline Approaching

Just a reminder to all GMs that rosters will be frozen after this weekend in preparation for the UFHL draft.
Please make your roster adjustments so that the players exposed on your reserves are the ones that you want left exposed for the UFHL Draft.

Any trades made to facilitate this must be posted and confirmed by both GMs by midnight Sunday. Then - following the processing of any trades, GMs must have their rosters set in stone on Monday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mock Draft: Selections 1-10

With the UFHL draft precisely two weeks away, here is an early speculation of how the first ten picks might go down on draft day.

1 New Jersey Devils
Team Needs: The Devils need a franchise player at any position. Elias and Khabibulin are hanging onto their franchise tags by their fangs, but in their geriatric states they won't be able to hold on much longer. Drafting first overall is exactly what the Devils need to identify a new savior.

Draft History: Last year the Devils did right by selecting Nino Niederreiter (2010 10th overall). At the time he was the best fit for the Devils as well as the best player available. The Devils don't really draft for positions, but they do tend to look for offensive forwards.

Prediction: It would be shocking to see the Devils select Adam Larsson first overall because he is a number of years away from big production (see Hedman). If the Devils still believe that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best shot to be a franchise superstar come June 12th, he'll be the name they call.

Mock Selection: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (F)

2 St. Louis Blues
Team Needs: The Blues defense is the franchise's weak spot. There are talented prospects in net, promising young forwards like Oshie on the pro team and prospects like Scott Glennie (2009 7th overall) and WJC ace Richard Panik (2009 38th overall) on the farm, but there is very little on the blue line now and in the foreseeable future. Jonas Junland is the lone exception, but he cannot do it alone.

Draft History: Last year the club dealt their top 5 pick with Alex Goligoski for Nabakov and the pick they selected Nick Bjugstad with. At 21st overall, Bjugstad was a pretty solid pick, but Goligoski and Brett Connolly, Ryan Johansen or even Jeff Skinner and his 31 NHL goals would look pretty good on the Blues' roster right now. Notice the trend to select forwards…

Prediction: When selecting 2nd overall, a team should not draft by position. However, when there is a talent such as Adam Larsson available, drafting the guy that might be the best player in the draft while filling your team's biggest need is a pretty safe bet. The fuzzy-warm comfort of this logic might force the Blues to do some soul searching, but inevitably the allure of a high-scoring centre is going to be too much to resist. The Blues will take a few test drives on Larsson, maybe even make him some promises, but in the end will invest in a guy with a shorter ripening time.

Mock Selection: Sean Couturier (F)

3 Buffalo Sabres
Team Needs: Somehow the Sabres always seem to find the GMs who are anxious to unload future picks. As a result, while the team enjoys strong playoff drives in the spring, they also get to enjoy high drafting positions in June. Looking at the roster, the Sabres are surprisingly sparse on defense with only Maxim Goncharov and Yuri Alexandrov waiting in the wings.

Draft History: The Sabres are always very active at the draft. Markstrom, Eberle, Schroeder, Rundblad, Morin, Skinner, Granlund, and Kuznetsov are all the first rounders the team has made since 2008. Always active on the trade front, the team has multiple picks this year and should have numerous options come draft day.

Prediction: Jonathan Huberdeau's performance in the playoffs and Memorial Cup was outstanding. He is rising as much as any player in the draft. Buffalo's scouts will certainly have liked what they have seen. Huberdeau has a late birthday making him one of the youngest players in the draft. While the Sabres need a defenseman, they will take the best fantasy player available, and at 3, Buffalo will probably not believe that the best player available is a defenseman.

Mock Selection: Jonathan Huberdeau (F)

4 Toronto Maple Leafs
Team Needs: The Leafs' farm is a shadow of what it once was with few blue-chip players on the horizon, but key injuries and luck at the lottery table give the Leafs an opportunity to shorten their reloading phase. If there was a stud goaltender ranked highly in the first round the Leafs would have an easy decision to make. However, it is more likely the Leafs will focus on a forward as the defense is relatively secure with Keith and Weber leading the way.

Draft History: The Leafs typically draft the best forward available, though Luke Schenn and Luca Sbisa are evidence that sometimes the club selects defensemen. Interestingly, while the Leafs drafted Wilson, Schenn, Sbisa, and Etem in the last three first rounds (though they had no first round selection in 2009 as it was dealt in the Stamkos deal) all of the players selected with the exception of Luke Schenn have already been dealt (Wilson packaged to get Spezza, Sbisa went in the Stamkos package, and Etem went in the package to get Duncan Keith).

Prediction: The Leafs are impatient with prospects and often trade them to acquire active players. As a result, Adam Larsson is a player that probably will continue to drop in the UFHL draft. While the Leafs are still stinging over their failed attempt to acquire Hedman back in the fall of 2009, they realize that the turn around time on Scandinavian defense prospects who can develop in an excellent league at home is longer than North American counterparts. As a result, Dougie Hamilton is just as likely to rank highly on the Leafs' depth chart as Larsson. Still, Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog is one of the oldest players in this draft, and brings an attractive all-round game that should translate very well to UFHL production

Mock Selection: Gabriel Landeskog (F)

5 Dallas Stars
Team Needs: Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares. This team is set at forward. In net the club has Niemi, Varlamov and Markstrom, so goaltending is secure. With Cowen and Yemelin on the blueline the situation is not dire, but defense is the most significant team need.

Draft History: The Stars like to draft future superstars. This strategy seems to be going well for them. They are an incredibly patient club that is looking down the road a couple of years before their dynasty will begin.

Prediction: The team needs defense and there is little chance that players like Eberle, Hall, Seguin, or Tavares will ever be dealt to acquire defensemen. If the Stars are serious about building a championship team they need their Lidstrom, Pronger, or Niedermayer.

Mock Selection: Adam Larsson (D)

6 Anaheim Ducks
Team Needs: The Ducks have a fairly well-balanced organization. Defense is the strongest area with Hedman, Pietrangelo, Fowler, and Vlasic, and goaltending is promising with Desjardins, Montoya, and Pickard. While the Ducks have two of the best forwards in the world in Perry and Henrik Sedin, they do not have a lot of other offensive help. One would think they would be hoping one of RNH, Couturier, Huberdeau, and Landeskog would fall out of the top five.

Draft History: The Ducks have not drafted a forward in the first round since Maxim Mayorov (14th overall) in 2007. That year they also took Brett Maclean 27th overall. Since then they've added Pietrangelo (2008 5th overall), Dmitri Kulikov (2009 10th overall – traded in a package to acquire Henrik Sedin), Cam Fowler (2010 3rd overall), and Cal Pickard (2010 18th overall). With that track record for defense it might make sense to add another future star with Hamilton or Murphy, even if that is not a team priority.

Prediction: The Ducks would breathe a sigh of relief to see the Stars select Adam Larsson. Larsson dropping to 6th would be too difficult for Anaheim to pass up. However, with the big Swede off the table, the Ducks will make the right choice for the franchise and select the best forward available.

Mock Selection: Ryan Strome (F)

7 Philadelphia Flyers
Team Needs: With Bogosian, Kulikov, Blum, and Gudbranson on the roster, defense is not an area of priority for the Flyers. On the other hand, the team lacks star power at forward.

Draft History: The Flyers have not been very active at the draft in the past few years. When they have had a first rounder they selected Zach Bogosian and Erik Gudbranson. Both of these players were consensus best-players available at the time and they both filled team needs.

Prediction: The team should look for a forward, but with Hamilton and Murphy still on the board the best player might not be a forward. Few teams in the UFHL have a stranger assortment of surnames on the roster, so Murphy and Hamilton might seem too boring to join the club.

Mock Selection: Mika Zibanejad (F)

8 Carolina Hurricanes
Team Needs: Like the Leafs did, the Hurricanes will have triple checked for the presence of a stud goaltender in this draft. Failing to find one the team will look at holes everywhere else on the roster and go after the best player available.

Draft History: Colton Gillies (2007 18th overall), Josh Bailey (2008 14th overall), and Ryan Ellis (2009 7th overall) might make you think that the team values character, grit, and leadership, but the selection of Kirill Kabanov (2010 12th overall) proves that the team is desperate for scoring help.

Prediction: Imagine a powerplay with Ryan Ellis and Ryan Murphy…

Mock Selection: Ryan Murphy (D)

9 Colorado Avalanche
Team Needs: The Avs have some promising goaltending depth with Jack Campbell and Mark Dekanich. Beyond the pipes, the Avs would be happy to add quality at any position. The club needs help at forward, and the defense is fairly impotent.

Draft History: Last year the Avs grabbed Campbell (5th) and Brad Ross (26th). They made no selection in 2009 (traded for ), and in 2008 they grabbed Colby Robak too high at 20th (he went 46th in the NHL). In 2007 the team selected Angelo Esposito, who at this point is looking like a long shot.

Prediction: The Avalanche have no business trying to be clever or creative with stud dman Dougie Hamilton on the board.

Mock Selection: Dougie Hamilton (D)

10 Minnesota Wild
Team Needs: Even with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the team has a bit of a hole on defense. Backstrom, Heatley, Ryan, Berglund, and others can find the back of the net, but the team could use some more pieces to keep the puck out of their own cage. Dougie Hamilton would be an excellent choice if someone ahead of the Wild make the mistake of not selecting him.

Draft History: Kyle Turris (2007 2nd overall), Nikita Filatov (2008 2nd overall), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2009-9th overall), Zach Buddish (2009-25th overall), and no first round selection in 2010 have not delivered significant help to the Wild.

Prediction: Without the defensemen gone, Sven Barschi (ranked 8th) and Zack Phillips (ranked 9th) are the only players still available from The Hockey News top 10 at this point in the draft. Sven Bartschi is one of the oldest players in the draft. He scored many of his points when Johansen and Niedereiter were off at NHL camps. When they returned his production slowed, but he had a very good playoff. If he was a month older, Bartschi would have been eligible in last year's draft, so he could be a guy who arrives in the NHL before a lot of other players in this draft. Wild GM Ben has a track record for drafting Swedes, so one would think that if he cannot trade up to grab Mika Zibanejad, he might reach down to look at Oscar Klefbom, a guy who is rising like a rocket prior to the draft.

Mock Selection: Oscar Klefbom (D)