Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My thoughts on the Draft

People have been asking me for my thoughts on what will happen on Draft Day. I don't see any point in predicting how the draft will go. About 95% of the hockey media are going to trot out their own slightly tweaked versions of a mock draft - and the first round is usually pretty stable as far as selections go. A few players slide, a few jump up to replace them, but knowing what any team, let alone 30 teams, is/are thinking heading up to draft day requires more psychic powers than I’ve got.

I also don’t think it’s very logical to attempt to predict trades, and considering how many draft day moves are made these days in the NHL, that kind of screws everything up from a mock draft perspective. Sure we know Brian Burke has been making a lot of noise about trading and more recently even trading down. Obviously he has certain players targeted and unless a higher rated player is still available when he selects he may move down rather than take a guy early. But then Burke likes to talk a lot and the 24/7 Toronto hockey media always need a story.

These days most NHL GM’s will pick the best talent available at the time they are selecting, rather than picking based on “needs” in certain positions. Outside of the first few "can't miss" picks it is really a gamble. How else do you explain Henrik Zetterberg at 210th in 1999, Dominik Hasek at 199th in 1986, Tomas Kaberle at 204th in 1996, and Pavel Datsyuk at 171st in 1998.

Popular misconception is that GMs decide who to pick; they leave that up to the scouting staff. An NHL GM doesn't see enough junior games to second guess his staff. If the GM and scouts are out of sinc it leads to trouble. In 2004, the Phoenix scouting staff told GM Mike Barnett to draft Blake Wheeler with the 5th overall pick. Barnett wasn't very high on Wheeler but went with his staff's recommendation. But Wheeler was never signed by Barnett and eventually became a free agent in 2008 after finishing college. The Bruins signed him and he scored 21 goals as a rookie this past season.