HF Mailbag – 2006 draft edition

By HF Staff

I would like to know what happened to Phil Kessel. Last year he was compared to Sidney Crosby and his name is already common to a lot of hockey fans. The last central scouting service ranking put him fifth. Like Derick Brassard, his results at the entry draft combine were not really impressive. Other than that, why isn’t he rated in the top 3?

Thank you!
Jean-Philippe Macoul
Terrebonne, Quebec

Nothing necessarily has happened to Kessel. He is still performing at the same high level as he has in the past. However, like many other prospects, he is suffering from having to compete with his own legend.

Kessel made an enormous name for himself playing in the World Juniors Championships at a young age. This tends to place very lofty expectations on a prospect as he is envisioned to exceed his past performances with development. Often, these expectations are too high and unfair for most prospects. Any comparisons to Sidney Crosby were unrealistic and a product of the legend that developed.

As Kessel was looked at more extensively and with an objective eye, the legend began to fade. He performed well, but not at the level that was accustomed of him and people began to focus more on what he was not doing instead of what he was doing. People, particularly scouts, were expecting to see much more from Kessel than they did and consequently dropped him in their performance evaluations. His falling out of the top three is a direct result.

However, Kessel had an impressive freshman season with the University of Minnesota, particularly in the second half of the season. His 51 points in 39 games was tops in the nation for freshman. He is still a top draft eligible prospect, with or without the legend.

I was wondering, of the players eligible for this year’s entry draft, which player(s) are the most NHL-ready in terms of their development? Is there a good chance that some of the players drafted in this year’s draft will be able to make a team’s roster out of training camp?

I visit the site every day and can’t express how much I value its content. Keep up the good work.

Adam Bokshowan
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Thank you for the question, Adam, and thank you for the kind words.

It is no surprise that the player expected to make the biggest impact, possibly as early as next season is also the player expected to go first overall in the 2006 entry draft – Erik Johnson. In addition to the awesome raw skills, Johnson is advanced in his development for his age and could likely step right in on most NHL rosters. If St. Louis does in fact draft Johnson first overall, and with the lack of depth on their blue line, it is conceivable that Johnson could step in immediately. Whether he does or not, we will see in a couple of months.

Another player that has been identified as advanced in his development is the Swedish phenom Nicklas Backstrom. Often compared to Peter Forsberg, Backstrom is NHL-ready as evidenced by the convincing play displayed in the SEL last season. While he is contractually bound to return to the SEL next season, it is believed that he could make the jump immediately had the opportunity been available.

Hello HF!

I wanted to know a little more about Derick Brassard from Drummondville of the QMJHL. I heard he was a hard working kid and that he has great chemistry with Guillaume Latendresse (Mon). Do you guys think he will still be available when the Canadiens pick their player? I would love to see him as a Hab.

Thank you.
Yves Prud’homme

It is almost a certainty that Brassard will not be around at 16. If Montreal wishes to harness the Latendresse/Brassard chemistry as has been shown over the past two seasons in Drummondville, they will have to trade up to do so. Expect to see him come off the board somewhere between picks six and ten.

Sure, there may be a glut of talented centermen near the top of this year’s draft class, but Brassard is the complete package: a good skater, a decent forechecker, a solid two-way game, and has great vision and playmaking ability, though he could use some work on his face-off ability. He and Latendresse did gel when Latendresse was returned to the Voltiguers. However, during the times when Latendresse was not with the team, Brassard did not miss a beat offensively with 14 points in the eight games prior to Latendresse being re-assigned to the Q and 13 points in the eight games Latendresse missed playing in the World Juniors. During those two extended stretches, Drummondville also had a record of 12-4, thanks in large part to Brassard taking on an even greater role in light of Latendresse’s absence. Brassard is a bona fide first-liner in the making given his skill-set and all-around play, and should have his name called early on draft day.

The potential for a Latendresse/Brassard combination in the Montreal future is definitely tempting, and the fact that they will not have very far to move up to get him is an intriguing possibility come draft day.

Hi,

I’m wondering what happened to Parker Van Buskirk’s ranking? I’m originally from Sarnia and I caught about 8-10 games this season for Sarnia, and he played great. He’s shown quick reflexes and also has shown that he can steal games.

Also, any word on why Ryan McInerney was not seen on the rankings? After his trade to Sarnia he played up to the hype that was built around him when he was taken 4th Overall in the OHL Priority Selection in 2004.

Thanks for your time!
Ryan
Cambridge, Ontario

You are correct that the OHL Sarnia Sting players, Parker VanBuskirk and Ryan McInerney, are first-time NHL draft-eligible players this year, and that neither player is ranked either by NHL Central Scouting or by International Scouting Services. The reason for this appears to be that neither player had the kind of full season that, in the opinion of those agencies, was impressive enough to warrant a ranking.

VanBuskirk (6’0, 190), a first-year goaltender, was acquired by the Sting through a trade with the Mississauga Ice Dogs prior to the 2005-06 season. In 30 regular season games, the rookie netminder had a record of 6-16-1-1, with a GAA of 3.70 and a save percentage of .879. Center Ryan McInerney (5’10, 190) just completed his second season in the OHL. Drafted 4th overall by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 2004 OHL Priority Draft, McInerney was traded to Sarnia early in the 2005-06 season. McInerney played in 56 games with both clubs this past season and tallied 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists), a plus/minus of –23, while accumulating 48 PIM.

While it is impossible to predict exactly whom any of the NHL teams might pick in any particular draft position, it is reasonable for the scouting agencies to consider that with the now shortened seven-round draft, a smaller number of players are ranked than in the past. When the two players you have asked about are compared to their rated peers, both do not appear to measure up. VanBuskirk’s record and GAA are below that of Jason Guy, another OHL rookie goaltender who is ranked twenty-fourth (the last OHLer) by Central Scouting. Guy, who was a member of the Guelph Storm, had a 5-9 record in 17 games of play. Additionally, he had a 3.12 GAA and a save percentage of .875. McInerney had a good season offensively, but his –23 plus/minus on the heels of a –20 last season would raise the eyebrows of any NHL scout. Taking care of one’s own end is a prerequisite for higher-level play, and without some improvement in this area, McInerney cannot move on to the professional ranks.

Numbers aren’t everything and either of the two players may just be surprise picks. However, even if both VanBuskirk and McInerney go undrafted on Saturday, all hope is not lost. Should either or both players improve their numbers next season, both will be eligible for the 2007 draft in Columbus.

Hey,

My question for you is what should the Maple Leafs do in the first round with the 13th pick? I’ve heard a lot of people talk about trading up.

I’d like to see them pick Bryan Little, but I also wouldn’t mind them trading down if they received another high pick as well.

Thanks
Karl
Victoria, British Columbia

The quick and obvious answer for the Maple Leafs is to draft a forward. They are decent on the blue line and set in goal for prospects. We do not really see them trading down because we cannot see too many teams itching to be drafting at 13th where the talent drops off after about the tenth selection, unless someone falls and they want to move up to snatch that particular player.

Bryan Little a good possibility if he is still there when Toronto picks. James Sheppard is another prospect to keep your eye on as a Maple Leafs fan. As you pointed out, Toronto is also in a good spot to entertain trading down if another player stands out to an organization and is willing to trade up to take him.

Hey,

I’m an Australian who has grown to love hockey through computer games. I have quickly become a Penguins fan and I think they could eventually become an A grade team. With the entry-draft quickly approaching, and seeing as though the Penguins have two super-talented prospects at center, who do you think they will choose 2nd overall, considering Erik Johnson topped the CSS rankings and may be taken 1st overall?

Thanks a lot
Scott
Victoria, Australia

We would direct you to our Staff Mock Draft for any questions about where we see some of these prospects going. Over half of the picks have been revealed in the individual team previews.

Erik Johnson is the consensus first overall pick and, more likely than not, will be selected first overall. But by whom? As it stands now, St. Louis possesses the first overall selection and is poised to snatch up the talented defenseman. However, there are rumblings that your Penguins might try to swap picks with St. Louis to take Johnson themselves. With the elite prospects of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at forward with top youngster MA Fleury in net, the best overall defenseman in the 2006 draft class would be a welcome addition to round out the blueline. This is made even more pressing as the next four or five players expected to be selected after Johnson are all centermen and Pittsburgh is already beyond well stocked in that department. It conceivably would not take much to swap picks with St. Louis and Pittsburgh has a wealth of prospects they could dangle in front of the Blues to do so.

If no trade can be consummated, one of Jonathan Toews, Jordan Staal, Nicklas Backstrom or Phil Kessel could be chosen by the Penguins.

Please send your questions to hfmailbag@hockeysfuture.com.


Dave Rainer, Leslie Treff, Jeff Dahlia, DJ Powers, Kevin Forbes, Phil Laugher, and Matt MacInnis contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.