Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fresh Start in Miami

Since the debacle that was his time in Montreal, Scott Gomez has been nothing short of a punching bag for most casual fans, and if you're a Montreal Canadiens fan, that who shall remain nameless, alongside the likes of Pierre Gauthier and Mario Tremblay.  However, after being bought out and signing with San Jose prior to last season, he managed  two goals and 13 assists in a third-line role.  Now, he will head to the Florida Panthers on a one year, $900,000 deal to possibly fill a depth role with a team that is still needing its young players to develop.  It's good work if you can get it, and Gomez will be looked upon for leadership on a team that is banking on the likes of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Jacob Markstrom to be major contributors in the coming years.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Still a Long Ways Away...


2012-13 record: 35-35-2-0 (Lost to Edmonton in Conference quarters)

One of the youngest teams in the WHL last year, the Kootenay Ice made the playoffs, and gave Edmonton all they could handle before succumbing in five games.  This year, the Ice return their top two scorers in Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau.  They lose Brock Montgomery (their third leading scorer), Drew Czerwonka, and Joey Leach to graduation, and will bring in two new players via the Import Draft (Rinat Valiev and Artturi Lehkonen).  Despite putting up below average numbers on offense (203 goals scored), their defense was quite respectable (only 221 goals given up), and much of the team's best players will return, with Reinhart, Descheneau, and goalie Mackenzie Skapski all being key players.  Of course, it also helps that reigning Dunc McCallum winner Ryan McGill will still be behind the bench for the Ice.

Prediction: 5th in the East

Despite being in a division that boasts a still-defeinsively strong Edmonton team, an up and coming Calgary team, and a Red Deer team that will still have a strong defensive presence, Kootenay has the potential to surprise people and while they're still a year away from being Central Division contenders, it is not out of the question that they could make a deep playoff run, perhaps even getting home ice in the first round, with the East Division only having Prince Albert and Swift Current as potential threats next season.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Still Contending


2012-13 record: 52-16-3-1 (Lost to Kamloops in Conference semi-finals)

The Rockets made their way to the B.C. Division title last year on the strength of a 24-game home winning streak.  However, injuries took their toll, as they needed all of their strength to beat Seattle in the opening round after being down 3-0 in the series and were unable to do the same to Kamloops in the Conference semis.  The Rockets were the second best team on offense, behind only Portland, and were only behind Edmonton and Portland in goals allowed.  However, they lose their third leading scorer in Dylen McKinlay, as well as JT Barnett and Cody Fowlie.  Ryan Olsen and Tyson Baillie are definitely returning, which should soften any potential losses of Colton Sissons, Zach Franko, and Myles Bell.  Defensively, they should be well off, as Madison Bowey, Mitchell Wheaton, and Damon Severson are expected to return.  Goaltending is less certain if Jordon Cooke doesn't return as one of three overagers on the team, but Jackson Whistle did play well when called upon, and with most of the blue line returning, that bodes well for whoever starts in goal.

Prediction: 2nd in the West

With Kamloops rebuilding and Vancouver still at least a year away from contending, Kelowna is a favorite to repeat as B.C. Division champions.  However, they do play in a division where Victoria also plays, and that means three potential challengers with good cases to be B.C. Division champions this year, and Kelowna will be needing to replace some offense from last year.  If they do find some replacements, they're the odds-on favorite to repeat, as they have the defensive pieces in place.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rebuilding a Fire


2012-13 record: 47-20-2-3 (Lost to Portland in Conference Finals)

The Kamloops Blazers started off hot, gaining at least a point in every game for the first five weeks.  A mid-season lull, combined with provincial rival Kelowna's home winning streak saw them lose their grip on the B.C. Division title at the end.  However, the Blazers would rediscover their momentum in time for the playoffs, beating Victoria and Kelowna before falling to Portland in five games.  For all of the talk about their offensive talent, their defense was actually ranked fourth in the league, behind only Edmonton, Portland, and Kelowna.  Dylan Willick, Brendan Ranford, and Kale Kessy are leaving, since they were the three overagers at the end of the season, and Cole Cheveldae was traded to Prince Albert in the offseason, leaving a major hole to fill in goal, something that now falls onto the shoulders of Taran Kozun.  Tim Bozon is expected back, which should ease the pain of rebuilding, but it is likely that either Colin Smith or JC Lipon will not be coming back as an overager this year, since two spots are spoken for at the moment.  Even then, offensive consistency was an issue last season, and it came back to haunt them in the Portland series.  Coaching is also an unknown, as Guy Charron stepped down and Dave Hunchak takes over, but without a proven track record.

Prediction: 7th in the West

Kamloops will be where Vancouver was last year, as they will be going younger this season and likely without many of their proven players from last season.  It is possible that they could miss the playoffs, with an improving Everett team and a Seattle team that can score quite a bit.

I Got Moorcock to Review

The vivid imagery of a universe not seen to the human eye is one of the trademarks of author Michael Moorcock, and he proves it once again with the first in a series surrounding the character Corum.  The first book in that series The Knight of the Swords follows the beginnings of Corum, who would be the last of the Vadaghs to survive, thanks to a slaughter of his folk at the hands of the Mabden, the Moorcock equivalent of what everyone refers to as the humans.  Taking an eye and a hand from the Gods, two things that Corum was robbed of in his torture by the Mabden, he seeks out the heart of Arioch in a quest for vengeance.  The story isn't the star of the book, though it does provide some compelling moments, as the imagery that Moorcock provides in each of the worlds presented is larger than life and often stirs the imagination, something that a good book should do every time out.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back to their Roots


2012-13 record: 25-40-3-4 (Lost to Portland in Conference quarterfinals)

The Everett Silvertips sloughed their way through yet another season in which a head coach was replaced mid-season, their top player was lost to injury in November, and yet, they somehow took the eventual Ed Chynoweth champion Portland Winterhawks to six games in the opening round of the playoffs.  So, to that end, the Silvertips went back to their roots and hired the team's first head coach in their existence in Kevin Constantine.  His presence won't help a dreadful offense, which was ranked last in the league with 172, but it should help cut the goal differential by a few goals, as they were tied for second worst in the league in that category (-96 goal differential).  A consistent Austin Lotz will go a long way in helping that number, and one certainly thinks Constantine's system will benefit Lotz more than any other player.  After all, Everett's success against Portland in the playoffs would not have been possible without Lotz, who was clearly the team's best player in the playoffs.  Without Ryan Murray for much of the season, Mirco Mueller stepped up and became the best player on the team for much of the season.  Murray would have made the jump to the NHL after the lockout was over if not for the injury, so having Mueller emerge as a top blue liner will only help come next season.  Ryan Harrison, Connor Cox, and Landon Oslanski graduated after last season, with Oslanski being the team's second leading scorer last season.  Waltteri Hopponen and Ivan Nikolishin were taken in the Import Draft, yet it remains unclear if the Silvertips will be able to keep both, as Mueller is likely to return to the team this coming season.

Prediction: 9th in the West

Everett has made the playoffs every year in their existence, but even with Constantine returning, the offense remains as much of a black hole as it has for much of their existence.  That means the Silvertips will most likely be struggling for the eighth spot in the Western Conference once again, and with Vancouver a year older, it will be fight for the Silvertips to make it eleven in a row.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Unfinished Business


2012-13 record: 51-15-2-4 (Lost to Portland in Finals)

The Oil Kings fell two wins short of making a return trip to the Memorial Cup tournament last year, and it was at the hands of the team they beat they year before in Portland.  Offensively, they were behind only Saskatoon in the Eastern Conference in goals scored, but it was their strong defensive effort that got them to the finals, as they only gave up 155 goals in the regular season, good to lead all teams in the WHL.  However, they will lose Dylan Wruck, T.J. Foster, and Trevor Cheek to graduation, and are most likely losing key players such as Laurent Brossoit, Keegan Lowe, and David Musil to the pros.  Tristan Jarry will assume the starting goaltender role this coming season, a transition that shouldn't be too difficult, since Jarry posted great numbers when he did get time in net for the Oil Kings.  Defensively, Dysin Mayo and Ashton Sautner are both returning, and Griffin Reinhart has a year left of junior eligibility, so if he doesn't make the Islanders out of training camp, expect him to lead the way on the blue line.  Offensively, Henrik Samuelsson would be the highest scorer from last season that returns if he doesn't break camp with the Phoenix Coyotes, with recent Ottawa Senators pick Curtis Lazar not far behind.

Prediction: 2nd in the East

The Oil Kings' road to the Central Division title for the third straight year is going to be tougher, since Calgary returns some critical players of their own, and with Prince Albert improving over the Summer, it's no sure thing the Oil Kings will get home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference this year.  However, the Oil Kings still have some players, and until they get eliminated before reaching the WHL Finals, it's not wise to count them out.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Taking That Next Step


2012-13 Record: 46-21-1-4 (Lost to Edmonton in Conference Finals)

The Hitmen were one game away from the WHL Finals last year, and though offense was at a premium (particularly in the playoffs), there is still much promise to this year's Hitmen squad.  Cody Sylvester, Brooks Macek, and Spencer Humphries will not return, as all three graduate.  Assuming Brady Brassart returns, he will be the leading scorer that returns from last year's squad.  Victor Rask is also not returning, as he is likely heading to the pros and the Carolina Hurricanes' system, and taking his place as one of two imports is Radel Fazleyev, who will be joining Pavlo Padakin as the imports on the team.  The biggest hope for offense this year is Jake Virtanen, who will be ready to assume a larger role on the team that had a fair share of veterans.  Chris Driedger will return, and that means the Hitmen's goaltending situation is in good hands, with Mack Shields ready to fill in when needed.  The Hitmen ranked third in the Conference in goals scored (266) and were tied for third in goals against (204, with Red Deer).

Prediction: 3rd in the Eastern Conference

The Hitmen have a chance to win the Central Division this year, but Edmonton isn't ready to give that up without a fight, and the Hitmen may not have enough to overtake them in the division.  Don't be surprised if the Hitmen do take the division, though, as they gave Edmonton a heck of a fight in the Conference Finals last year, and with a slightly weaker Oil Kings team from last year, it could be Calgary's for the taking.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wanted: Everything


2012-13 Record: 24-40-4-4 (missed the playoffs)

The Wheat Kings got off to a good start for the first couple of weeks or so, but thanks to shoddy goaltending, that did not last.  Of course, when their offense failed, things turned south for the lone team in Manitoba.  Neither Corbin Boes nor Curtis Honey were the answer in net, and it didn't help that there wasn't much of a defense in front of either guy.  Jordan Papirny will likely replace Boes at one spot.  Tim McGauley and Ryan Pulock were the team's leading scorers at 45 points each, but none of the Wheat Kings scored 20 goals in a season.  At 189 goals, they trailed only Moose Jaw for most futile offense in the Eastern Conference and were the worst defense in the Conference, giving up 284 goals.  Nick Buonassisi, Tyler Yaworski, and Ryley Miller move on, as they were last year's overagers, as will Marek Kalus, who was cut to make room for Rihards Bukharts, who was picked in the CHL Import Draft recently.  Richard Nejezchleb is the team's other Imported player, which effectively fills the two-Imported player rule in the CHL.  Pulock is expected to return to the team, as the New York Islanders draft pick isn't expected to make the team right away, given the team's blue line depth, which means he is also likely to be the captain, a role he held last year.  Eric Roy, Jayce Hawryluk, and McGauley are also expected to return, giving the Wheat Kings all of their top four leading scorers back from last year.

Prediction: 7th in the Eastern Conference

Too many holes on the blue line and in goal will not be offset by an improving offense that should be better, albeit marginally.  A return to health, however, will go a long way in helping reverse the team's fortunes from last year.

Friday, July 19, 2013

WHL Season on the Horizon

With the WHL season 62 days away, it's never too early to think about the upcoming season that will see the Regina Pats open the season with the Swift Current Broncos or the Portland Winterhawks host Prince George seven weeks from now in their banner raising night.  Beginning Monday, the first of the WHL previews will be posted, so keep any eye out for the (super) early WHL 2013-14 season preview.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 Color

The movie Gate of Hell was one of the first samurai movies to be made in color, and thanks to Criterion Collection, it is now available for release.  The plot:

A winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, Gate of Hell is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa. In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in twelfth-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa’s film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan.
The visuals, as in color, is glorious, and while the plot leaves a little to be desired (read: doesn't stand out from the other samurai movies released in the same time period), the last fifteen minutes or so is what really ties it all together and in dramatic fashion.  There aren't any special features to speak of, but here, it isn't such a bad idea, as the movie speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Movin' on the AHL

This man in the picture is Travis Green, and he has had plenty of reasons to smile lately.  From the time he took over on an interim basis as head coach of the Portland Winterhawks while Mike Johnston was serving a suspension for violations relating to recruiting in November 2012, he posted a record of 37-8-0-2 and would go on to lead the Winterhawks to an Ed Chynoweth Trophy and within one game of a Memorial Cup.  Due to that run of success, the Utica Comets (the former Peoria Rivermen) came calling and Green is now heading to Utica to accept the head coaching job there.  A former NHL player, Green was on the Winterhawks' staff as an assistant coach beginning in November 2008.  He was on the coaching staff that has seen the Winterhawks win back-to-back-to-back Western Conference Championships (he was head coach on the most recent team) and was a calming presence on a team that could have folded after Johnston was lost for the season.  With Johnston returning to the team as head coach, he will now have to fill a coaching vacancy that won't be easily replaced, but with success, opportunities will open at higher levels, and for Green, he's now one step closer to the NHL coaching ranks.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Balance of Power Shift?

Photo by Jon Howe
In a move that is likely to cause a shift in power in the Eastern Conference, the Prince Albert Raiders have traded their first round pick from this year's Bantam Draft Jake Kryski and a seventh round pick in next year's Bantam Draft to the Kamloops Blazers and will get goaltender Cole Cheveldae in return.

Cheveldae will take his 70-27-3-4 record and 2.50 GAA to a Raiders team that faded badly down the stretch, ultimately getting swept in the first round by Red Deer.  This off-season, the Raiders hired Cory Clouston as head coach, a move that was widely lauded in Prince Albert.  Along with Josh Morrissey (first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets this year) and Leon Draisaitl, who is a top prospect in next year's draft, the Raiders have a foundation in which to work with.  Now, with Cheveldae in the fold, that effectively solves the team's goaltending issues that caused their downslide.

As for the Blazers, they are a team that is likely in rebuilding mode, and having moved Cheveldae, that means the Blazers now have four players vying for three over-aged spots on the roster.  Kryski is expected to be a major player in that rebuild, and it will keep him closer to his home in Vancouver, something that played a role in the trade, as Kryski had concerns about playing so far from home.  In his last season, Kryski averaged a hair more than a goal and an assist a game, with 59 of each in 58 games.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Answering the Call (of the Hall)

The class of 2013 has been announced, and there will be four players and one coach going into the Hockey Hall of Fame this fall.  Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Geraldine Heaney, and Fred Shero will be entering the Hall of Fame, with Niedermayer and Chelios both being first ballot entries while Shanahan gets in on the second try.

Niedermayer was taken in the first round of the 1991 NHL Draft by the Devils after a successful junior league year in Kamloops, where he won a Memorial Cup in 1992.  He would make his NHL debut in the 1992-93 season, and would go on to win four Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003, and 2007), two gold medals in the Olympics (2002 and 2010), a World Championship and World Cup of Hockey (both in 2004) and a World Junior Championship (1991).  He also took home a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2007 and a Norris Trophy in 2004.  His numbers don't tell the whole story, but his ability to lead players (he was captain of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup run, as well as the 2010 Olympic team that won gold) was one reason why he won a lot during his career.

Chelios made the Hall of Fame at 51 years old, meaning that from the time he was drafted in 1981 by Montreal until his retirement at age 48 (as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers), he played a lot of hockey, and at a high level for much of that time (his peak years were in Chicago and Detroit).  He took home the Norris Trophy in 1986, 1993, and 1996, and was a Stanley Cup Trophy winner in 1986, 2002, and 2008.  He also represented the United States in international play, taking home a silver medal in 2002.

Shanahan was drafted in the first round by the Devils in 1987, and he would go on to play with the Devils, Blues, Whalers, Red Wings, and Rangers and amass 656 goals for his career.  He was never the leading man (the year in Hartford, notwithstanding), but was an integral part of the Red Wings teams that won it all in 1997, 1998, and 2002.  A World Championship in 1994 and Olympic gold in 2002 were some of his highlights when he represented Canada in international play.

Heaney will be the third woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, after Cammie Granato and Angela James.  Heaney represented Canada in tournaments, winning gold in the 2002 Olympics and silver in the 1998 Olympics.  She was also on the Canada team that won seven World Women's Championships between 1990 and 2001.

Fred Shero was the head coach when the Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975, but his greatest contributions to the game were before the games, as he started the morning skate routine that teams use today, as well as incorporating elements of hockey philosophies from the (then) Soviet Union and was the first to hire a full-time assistant coach.  He was also the first Jack Adams award winner in 1974.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Christmas in July

Yesterday was the beginning of the NHL Free-Agency period, and there were some notable names that will be changing addresses for next season.  Jarome Iginla is moving to Boston, which is ironic, considering that he shot down a trade to Boston at the trade deadline last season, Stephen Weiss is coming back to the Detroit area for five years (he played in Plymouth of the OHL prior to being drafted by Florida in 2001), Nathan Horton is going to Columbus for seven years, where he will improve a team that is on the rise, and David Clarkson is going to Toronto.

The central point of activity happened in Ottawa, as longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson is leaving for Detroit for one year.  Replacing him is Clarke MacArthur, coming over from Toronto, but the biggest deal of the day was a trade.  Bobby Ryan, forever a name in trade rumors in recent years, was finally traded to Ottawa and in return, the Anaheim Ducks will get Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen, and a 2014 first round pick.

The Sens lose a good amount of leadership in Alfredsson, but leadership should still be strong, with Chris Phillips, Jason Spezza, and Chris Neil, all Senator lifers, still around, and Erik Karlsson emerging as a new face of the franchise.  MacArthur was an alternate captain for the Maple Leafs last season.  The trade brings a perennial 30-goal scorer in Ryan, who had expressed dissatisfaction over not getting a long-term deal in Anaheim, and given that both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were given long term deals, that meant Ryan's time wasn't for long.  Silfverberg had a decent rookie year last year, and has the potential to be a great two-way player.  Noesen is a similar player who spent last season rounding his game in Plymouth.  Both figure to help the Ducks in secondary scoring, with Silfverberg helping right away, as Noesen figures to start in the AHL.

Friday, July 5, 2013

21...and Starting Over

In a move that was somewhat surprising (but not, when you start hearing the things that helped precipitate this trade), the Boston Bruins have sent 2010 first round pick Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and prospect Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser.

The trade ends a rather interesting time in Boston for Seguin, who was expected to be a cornerstone for the franchise who had at that point, sent Phil Kessel to Toronto the previous year in exchange for the pick that would be Seguin, as well as the pick that would be Dougie Hamilton in 2011.  Seguin put up decent numbers in the regular season, but was not the same player in the playoffs, and word of his off-ice exploits didn't sit very well with the upper brass of the Bruins. Along with Peverley, Seguin is expected to fortify a weak center position for the Stars.  Meanwhile for the Bruins, Eriksson brings an attitude that will play far better for the Bruins than the one Seguin did (if you believe the stories about him that have come out recently), and it also means that Joe Morrow, a one-time Portland Winterhawk, will be approaching Keith Ballard territory, having already been traded twice before making his NHL debut (whenever that happens for Morrow).

Seguin is still young enough to make a significant contribution both on and off the ice, but the trade is an indication that he needs to figure it out...and fast.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Importing Players

The title of today's piece is somewhat misleading, as this is about more than just the Winterhawks.  Before I get to the happenings of the CHL Import Draft, however, let's get to the news of the Winterhawks.

First, the trade: the Winterhawks have acquired Shane McColgan from Saskatoon in exchange for a couple of draft picks.  With 66 points in 69 games last season, McColgan will be one overager on next year's squad, as Joey Baker will pursue educational opportunities next season and Ty Rattie and Tyler Wotherspoon are expected to turn pro (teams are allowed three overaged players).  As for the other roster move, that happened in the Import Draft, as the Winterhawks picked 60th and took defenseman Anton Cederholm.  Since teams are only allowed two import players, that meant Kiril Vorobev was cut loose, as Oliver Bjorkstrand is expected to return.

Speaking of the Import Draft, there were a few NHL players that were taken in the Import Draft, which will allow teams to see what they're getting.  Andre Burakovsky headlines this group, as he will be watched by the Washington Capitals as he tries to add to an Erie Otters team that doesn't have much beyond Connor McDavid and Oscar Dansk.  Other players drafted by NHL teams to be taken in the Import Draft were Matej Paulovic (Dallas prospect by Peterborough), Jacob de la Rose (Montreal prospect by Windsor), Dmitry Sinitsyn (Dallas/Regina), Viktor Crus Rydberg (NY Islanders/Plymouth), Fabrice Herzog (Toronto/Quebec), Cederholm (Vancouver/Portland), and Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal/Kootenay).  This year's Import Draft also marks the last year a European goaltender can be taken, as the Draft will be limited to skaters starting next season.  Daniel Gibl will be the last European goaltender selected, as he was taken 47th overall by Barrie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Post-Draft Ramblings.

So, the NHL Draft has come and gone, and there were a few surprises, the least of which was Cory Schneider going to New Jersey in a trade that indicates that Roberto Luongo is going to be the starter in Vancouver once again.  As for the Draft itself, there were some surprises, as you will see below.  Analysis of each pick, as well as who I had going (for comparison purposes) will be mentioned.  So, here goes:

1. Colorado-Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads

So, Joe Sakic wasn't sending any smoke signals when he said he was going to take a forward.  MacKinnon was the best of the bunch, and though the Avs need lots of help on the wing, MacKinnon did play a little on the wing, which will greatly help the Avs this year.

My pick: MacKinnon

2. Florida-Aleksander Barkov, Tappara (Fin.)

The Panthers took who they thought was the best player available in Barkov.  While Seth Jones was available, the Panthers felt comfortable enough with Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson being their top defensemen to pick a likely second center behind Jonathan Huberdeau.  A shoulder injury is a concern, but his talent level is high, and will fortify the Panthers down the middle.

My pick: Seth Jones, Portland Winterhawks

3. Tampa Bay-Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads

In light of the fact that Seth Jones was still on the board, the Lightning went with Drouin, who was the more dynamic player on the Mooseheads last year.  Some fans were calling for Steve Yzerman's head, but this was the right pick, as the Lightning had almost non-existent secondary scoring.  Drouin is expected to team with Steven Stamkos to provide a formidable one-two offensive punch, but in the immediate future, Drouin will have a chance to learn from Martin St. Louis on what it takes to stay in the NHL.

My pick: Drouin

4. Nashville-Seth Jones, Portland Winterhawks

Nashville needs scoring, but how do you pass up on a potential franchise defenseman here?  The Preds know a thing or two about franchise defensemen, and Jones will be learning from one of the premier players on the blue line in Shea Weber.  An already strong defensive team just got better, and Jones won't have the pressure to succeed right away, with both Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne at the top of their respective games.

My pick: Aleksander Barkov, Tappara (Fin.)

5. Carolina-Elias Lindholm, Brynas (Swe.)

The Hurricanes were dreadful on defense, but they also didn't have much in the way of secondary scoring.  Lindholm will address the latter, and at the very least, start out as a third line center behind the Staals (that is, if they aren't on the same line).

My pick: Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

6. Calgary-Sean Monahan, Ottawa 67's

The Flames desperately needed a center and a new face of the franchise.  Monahan was very good on a bad 67's team and with his willingness to play through injury, it is possible the Flames have not only gotten their center of the future, but also the newest face of the franchise for years to come.

My pick: Monahan

7. Edmonton-Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

The Oilers desperately needed a top talent defenseman, and Nurse fits the description to a tee.  I had the Oilers taking a defenseman, but thought Nurse would be off the board to Carolina, as they too, have had problems on the blue line.  The Oilers were happy that the top-ranked defenseman not named Seth Jones fell to them here, as Nurse provides physicality and some offense.

My pick: Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS Turku (Fin.)

8. Buffalo-Rasmus Ristolainen, TPS Turku (Fin.)

Ristolainen wouldn't fall very far from where I had him.  Ristolainen provides the Sabres yet another physical defenseman who has the size and is great in his own end.  Obviously, this is a message being sent to Tyler Myers to pick up his game or else move.  But, that's not the only message being sent to Myers...

My pick: Valeri Nichushkin, Traktor Chelyabinsk

9. Vancouver (from New Jersey)-Bo Horvat, London Knights

Vancouver got this pick in a deal that sent Cory Schneider to New Jersey.  For a guy that played pretty well the last two years, the Canucks didn't get more out of the Devils here.  However, the Canucks would turn that pick into Bo Horvat, who played well with the London Knights and was clutch in the OHL playoffs.  Should be able to slide into the third center role with the Canucks this season if needed.

My pick: Max Domi, London Knights

10. Dallas-Valeri Nichushkin, Traktor Chelyabinsk

Dallas needed offense from their blue line, but Nichushkin falling to this spot was too good for them to pass up.  The best winger not named Jonathan Drouin will likely have the same questions that are asked of anyone from the KHL (see: Kuznetsov, Evgeny), but the Stars get another player that can score and take some of the pressure off of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson in due time.

My pick: Ryan Pulock, Brandon Wheat Kings

11. Philadelphia-Samuel Morin, Rimouski Oceanic

The Flyers need defensemen.  No one in their pipeline is top of the line, and the ones that are in the NHL are not quite young anymore, and with Chris Pronger likely to retire, and both Kimmo Timonen and newly acquired Mark Streit on the wrong side of 35, the Flyers need young, top-end talent here.  Morin is seen as more ready to contribute now than the player I had here in Nikita Zadorov.  Morin can also fight when needed, and given that the Flyers are more offensively oriented on the blue line, this is a welcome addition.

My pick: Nikita Zadorov, London Knights

12. Phoenix-Max Domi, London Knights

The Coyotes needed scoring, and get it with Domi.  He scores more than his father Tie, but he also has the same work ethic.  He's not big, but his hockey sense will help him out in the long run.

My pick: Anthony Mantha, Val D'Or Foreurs

13. Winnipeg-Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert Raiders

A bit of a surprise here, as Morrissey was expected to be picked at the end of the first round.  Morrisey does provide offense and is unafraid to mix it up, despite being small by NHL standards.  Likely to replace either Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, or both in the future.

My pick: Elias Lindholm, Brynas (Swe.)

14. Columbus-Alexander Wennberg, Djurgarden (Swe.)

The Blue Jackets needed forwards, and Wennberg was the first picked by the team.  General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen's European connections helped in the selection of Wennberg, as he saw a lot of him while running a team in Europe, and given his track record (he was responsible for TJ Oshie being picked in the first round in 2005), it's hard to doubt his abilities as a GM here.

My pick: Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers

15. NY Islanders-Ryan Pulock, Brandon Wheat Kings

Another defenseman drafted by the Islanders, Pulock does not have the upside that last year's first round pick Griffin Reinhart does, but Pulock does have a hard shot that will work well to jump start an offense that is already pretty good.

My pick: Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski Oceanic

16. Buffalo (from Minnesota)-Nikita Zadorov, London Knights

Part two of the message being sent to Tyler Myers, Zadorov is considered more of a long term project.  He has the size, but is also quite raw, but the potential is high and he may very well surpass fellow first rounder Rasmus Ristolainen.

My pick: Robert Hagg, Modo (Swe.)

17. Ottawa-Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings

The Sens needed scoring, and with Lazar, they get that and more, as he is future captain material.  He is unafraid to stand up for teammates and has an upside of second line center, which isn't so bad with a team that has Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris there.

My pick: Alexander Wennberg, Djurgarden (Swe.)

18. San Jose (from Detroit)-Mirco Mueller, Everett Silvertips

The Sharks aren't getting any younger on the blue line, and the dearth of prospects there meant the Sharks needed someone new.  They traded up to pick up Mueller, who shined on a Silvertips team that didn't have Ryan Murray for much of the season due to injury.

My pick: Mueller

19. Columbus (from NY Rangers)-Kerby Rychel, Windsor Spitfires

The Blue Jackets needed someone that can bring toughness and scoring, and Rychel fills both needs.  While he won't likely score 40 goals like he has in the last two years at Windsor, he will at worst, be a tough player that opposing teams hate to face and 30 goals a year is realistic for his NHL prospects.

My pick: Rychel

20. Detroit (from San Jose)-Anthony Mantha, Val D'Or Foreurs

The Red Wings have been pushed around a lot lately, and with their best offensive stars on the wrong side of 30, the need for a power forward was inevitable.  Enter Mantha, who was one of only three players in the Canadian Hockey League to score 50 goals this season.  He will need to get to the rough areas more often to succeed as a scorer in the NHL, and given his size, it should be no problem if he wants it.

My pick: Shea Theodore, Seattle Thunderbirds

21. Toronto-Frederik Gauthier, Rimouski Oceanic

Center has been a sore spot for the Maple Leafs, and while Nazem Kadri has been good, the pipeline there is still woefully thin.  Gauthier doesn't figure to help right away, as the Leafs would later acquire Dave Bolland from Chicago, but when Gauthier does arrive, he will bring size and some offense.

My pick: Bo Horvat, London Knights

22. Calgary (from St. Louis)-Emile Poirier, Gatineau Olympiques

While Poirier put up great numbers on a decent Gatineau team, most did not project him to be a first round pick.  Given that the Flames needed defensemen and goaltenders, Poirier's selection makes even less sense, but like Mark Jankowski last year, Poirier is a gamble that could pay off in the long run.

My pick: Zachary Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads

23. Washington-Andre Burakovsky, Malmo (Swe.)

Surprise pick, as Burakovsky didn't put up good numbers, but he also didn't play much, either.  His upside is undeniable, and the Caps are willing to gamble on what may ultimately be a top end talent, something the Caps desperately need in their pipeline.

My pick: Valentin Zykov, Baie-Comeau Drakkar

24. Vancouver-Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers

The free-faller of the prospects this year, Shinkaruk can play both center and wing, and is a prolific goal scorer.  Injuries this past season cost him a little bit of time, but still, he managed to score 37 goals this season.  The Canucks needed top-end talent, and Shinkaruk is exactly what they asked for here.

My pick: Adam Erne, Quebec Remparts

25. Montreal-Michael McCarron, US U-18 Team

The Canadiens needed size, and that's what they get with McCarron.  They won't rush him to the big show, as he is likely headed to college (Western Michigan) or the OHL (London).  An obvious project, the Canadiens will welcome his size up front when he's ready to join.

My pick: Samuel Morin, Rimouski Oceanic

26. Anaheim-Shea Theodore, Seattle Thunderbirds

The Ducks needed secondary scoring up front, but believe that the likes of Peter Holland and Emerson Etem will fulfill expectations in time.  For this pick, the Ducks add youth to the blue line and Theodore was a pretty good player on a Thunderbirds team that was simply horrible on defense.  His own play does bear watching, but the upside is similar to Cam Fowler, who the Ducks took in 2010.

My pick: Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings

27. Columbus (from Los Angeles)-Marko Dano, Bratislava (Slovakia)

The Blue Jackets had three first round picks to play with, and the third pick was made on a project with huge potential in Dano.  He isn't expected to come to the NHL in a few years, and with picks such as Rychel and possibly Wennberg having a chance to conrtibute sooner, the Blue Jackets can afford to wait on Dano's scoring talents to arrive.

My pick: Ian McCoshen, Waterloo Black Hawks

28. Calgary (from Pittsburgh)-Morgan Klimchuk, Regina Pats

Good player on an bad Pats team, Klimchuk got to show the world what he could do in international competition.  Similar in size to Sven Baertschi, Klimchuk is also tough, and that will work well for a Flames team that needs it.

My pick: Klimchuk

29. Dallas (from Boston)-Jason Dickinson, Guelph Storm

Dickinson had an up and down year offensively, yet the Stars saw enough of him in the post-OHL playoffs to draft him here.  Consistency is a must for Dickinson to make it with the Stars.

My pick: Ryan Hartman, Plymouth Whalers

30. Chicago-Ryan Hartman, Plymouth Whalers

With Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik both being sent out soon after this pick, Hartman will fill a void left by both players in due time.  The Blackhawks pick well when it comes to depth players (see: Saad, Brandon), and Hartman will be a fan favorite once he joins the Blackhawks.

My pick: Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert Raiders