The Bear Cave

June 26, 2009 8:59 AM

Playing Along with a Mock Draft

Over the next few days, 211 different people will get to live out a childhood dream. Although playing in the NHL may still be in the distant future for most of them, the players that get to hear their names on Friday and Saturday will be one step closer to their ultimate goal. The 2009 NHL Draft begins on Friday night in Montreal, when the first 30 players will learn about their training camp destinations for the fall. On Saturday, the remaining 181 picks will be made, giving teams a chance to see what they have planned for the future.

One of the most exciting parts about the draft is the suspense around each pick. Although some selections lean toward the obvious side, some will catch viewers completely off guard. Last season, I successfully picked five players correctly during the first round. I will try to do better this time around, as the following is my 2009 Mock NHL Draft.

1. New York Islanders- John Tavares. Unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, the Islanders have kept quiet about who they are going to take with the first pick. After a disastrous season, New York needs something to bring the fans back. With young forwards such as Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo already on the team, Tavares should be a no-brainer.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning- Victor Hedman. One of the weaker areas for the Lightning this past season was the blueline. Tampa Bay was missing quite a few players due to injuries, but the depth within the system is running thin. The future offense is all set with Steven Stamkos, so now it's time to focus on the defense with Hedman.

3. Colorado Avalanche- Matt Duchene. Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny, and TJ Hensick are a few bright spots in the future for the Avalanche, but those three are about it. Duchene cemented himself in as the third best prospect in the draft, so Colorado should take advantage by filling a need and selecting the best player remaining.

4. Atlanta Thrashers- Evander Kane. In February of 2008, the Thrashers acquired Angelo Esposito from Pittsburgh, hoping that he would be an offensive sparkplug in the future. He has yet to pan out, and with Zach Bogosian ready to lead the defense, Atlanta needs to take the offensive route. Assuming Duchene goes to Colorado, Kane would be the next best option.

5. Los Angeles Kings- Brayden Schenn. Defensively, the Kings have done a tremendous job in building for the future, drafting Drew Doughty and Thomas Hickey, while trading for Jack Johnson. That means it's time to work on the offense. If Los Angeles stays at number five and Duchene and Kane are already off of the board, Schenn would be the ideal selection.

6. Phoenix Coyotes- Jared Cowan. Although the team has failed to make the playoffs since 2002, Phoenix did a nice job of drafting forwards last summer, taking Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov to complement Kyle Turris up front. Cowan might not have the offensive abilities of the other blueliners, but at 6-foot-5, he would work well with veteran Ed Jovanovski to create an intimidating pair.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs- Zack Kassian. Number seven is an assumption pick, as the Maple Leafs might be tempted to trade up to secure Braydon Schenn. If they are unable to move up, Kassian seems like Brian Burke's type of player. At 6-foot-3, he can score and play physical - the exact motto of Burke's 2007 Anaheim Ducks.

8. Dallas Stars- Dmitry Kulikov. The Stars' organization is beginning to run thin on prospects, especially in the defensive end. An offensive defenseman would be the best route for Dallas to take, and although quite a few mock drafts have him going lower, Kulikov fits that mold perfectly. The Russian was the quarterback for Drummondville's lethal power play, and could easily do the same in Texas.

9. Ottawa Senators- David Rundblad. The Senators are in a similar position as Dallas. If the Stars pass on Kulikov, Ottawa would be wise to pounce on him right away. If he is gone, there are a couple of different ways that the Senators could go on the blueline. My choice for them would be Rundblad.

10. Edmonton Oilers- Nazem Kadri. Edmonton does have some offensively gifted prospects in the system. Unfortunately, the Oilers missed the boat on size, as Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, and Jordan Eberle are all under six feet tall. Kassian would have been the perfect fit, but if he is gone, Kadri will certainly bring some grit to the table.

11. Nashville Predators- Jordan Schroeder. The state of Minnesota loves its hockey, but it looks like the Predators will beat out the Wild for this prospect from the University of Minnesota. After losing Alexander Radulov, Nashville drastically needs offense. Schroeder has been compared to Daniel Briere, which could boost JP Dumont's offensive game, as he and Briere gelled in Buffalo.

12. Minnesota Wild- Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Minnesota's story is an easy one. Niklas Backstrom was in contention for the Vezina Trophy, yet the Wild missed the playoffs. The solution? Offense. If teams take the best player available, Paajarvi-Svensson will likely be gone by the time Minnesota picks. However, if they go with needs, the Wild should take him and be very thankful.

13. Buffalo Sabres- John Moore. With youngsters such as Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy, the Sabres are in good shape on the offensive side of the puck. However, these are two small guys that will need all the protection they can get. Defense is the primary need for Buffalo, and after taking 6-foot-7 Tyler Myers last summer, I think 6-foot-2 Moore would be a nice complement.

14. Florida Panthers- Scott Glennie. The teams in the middle of the pack all seem to have the same primary need - offense. That is the case for Florida, who is running thin on depth within the system. Glennie isn't a stranger when it comes to the area around the cage, so he could be a step in the right direction for the Panthers.

15. Anaheim Ducks- Jacob Josefson. Anaheim is an interesting team, as the prospect pool gets small after Bobby Ryan, Drew Miller, and Andrew Ebbett. The Ducks could go either way, and since Teemu Selanne is nearing the end of his career, I went with a Swedish forward as his replacement in Josefson.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets- Ryan Ellis. The Blue Jackets have done a wonderful job of turning things around with some intelligent draft choices. The one type of player they seem to be missing is a power play quarterback. Despite his lack of size, look no further than Ellis. His powerful shot will send chills down goalies' spines. Of course, this is assuming that Kulikov has already been taken.

17. St. Louis Blues- Simon Despres. Entering the season, Despres was supposed to be the top defensive prospect in the QMJHL. 2008-09 was a tough year for him and the Saint John Sea Dogs, slightly dropping his value. However, he still has the tools to be successful, and the Blues could use another blueliner to go along with Alex Pietrangelo.

18. Montreal Canadiens- Carter Ashton. In case people missed it during their playoff series with the Bruins, Montreal desperately lacks size and physical players. With ten unrestricted free agents, now is the time for the Canadiens to build toward the future with that need, which is where 6-foot-2 Ashton comes in. This could increase the rivalry, as Ashton and Milan Lucic both played in the WHL.

19. New York Rangers- Jeremy Morin. The theme of lacking offense continues in the Big Apple, where Henrik Lundqvist has been forced to carry the Rangers on his back since arriving on Broadway. Morin is very familiar with seeing his name on the scoresheet, so he is exactly what the doctor ordered for New York.

20. Calgary Flames- Peter Holland. The Calgary system is running short on young talent, and since you can't have enough offense, that is the direction I am going in for the Flames. Holland is a two-way player who can score and hit - a perfect fit for Western Canada.

21. Philadelphia Flyers- Olivier Roy. Goaltenders are extremely difficult to pick, because you know they will go, but you aren't really sure where. Roy (no relation to the former Canadien and Avalanche) is the best netminder out there, and the Flyers could use a reliable body in the crease as soon as possible.

22. Vancouver Canucks- Landon Ferraro. Based on what they need, the Canucks should have their pick in the teens, as they can use the offense. Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner will be a force in the future, and Ferraro would be a nice fit to complete the trio, as he is a frequent scorer.

23. New Jersey Devils- Kyle Palmieri. If there's a general manager who corners the market on American talent, it has to be Lou Lamoreillo. From Parise to Gionta to Martin, if there's a US-born player with the skills to play professionally, he likely ends up in a Devils' uniform. Palmieri is from New Jersey, so there doesn't have to be much work done there.

24. Washington Capitals- Olivier Ekman-Larsson. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Ekman-Larsson go earlier in the round. However, because my picks are mostly based on needs, he falls to Washington at 24. Because they struggled at the beginning of the decade, the Capitals are loaded with prospects (Hershey won the Calder Cup, South Carolina won the Kelly Cup). At this point, I would go with the best player available, which is Ekman-Larsson in my mock draft.

25. Boston Bruins- Stefan Elliott. As I mentioned in my reviews earlier in the week, the Bruins are in perfect shape in terms of forwards. The key now is grabbing a player who can add offense from the blueline. Elliott and deHann fit that category the best, and since Elliott tends to light the lamp more often, he would be my selection.

26. New York Islanders- Chris Kreider. Although Tavares will likely become a superstar in the near future, the Islanders are going through a youth movement to rebuild the franchise. Kreider is regarded as the best high school player in the draft, meaning he is still a few years away. That being said, if he develops well, New York could be scary with the puck in four or five years.

27. Carolina Hurricanes- Calvin deHaan. In terms of prospects, Jamie McBain is pretty much all Carolina has in terms of defensemen, so that is where the Hurricanes should look on draft day. Assuming the Bruins take Elliott, deHann is the next best name on the list.

28. Chicago Blackhawks- Tim Erixon. With Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Kris Versteeg in the mix, the Blackhawks should have the offense covered for quite some time. So, how about the defense? Cam Barker is the top youngster on the list, but he could use some help. Erixon doesn't have a strong offensive game, but he does have NHL roots thanks to his father, and that should help to create a seemless transition.

29. Detroit Red Wings- Drew Shore. The Red Wings might be getting older in some areas, but in the grand scheme of things, they are doing just fine. This team continues to find diamonds in the rough, developing said players in Grand Rapids, before bringing them aboard for a run at the Stanley Cup. With no real needs to fill, Detroit will likely take the best available player. In this case, I think that is Shore.

30. Pittsburgh Penguins- Jordan Caron. If you look at the Penguins' recent draft history, it is clear that they love the QMJHL. Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Maxime Talbot, Kris Letang, Angelo Esposito, Keven Veilleux, and Alex Grant were all selected out of the Q. So, let's add another name to Pittsburgh's list with an exciting forward in Jordan Caron.

Although I think I will at least be in the ballpark for most of these, I'm hoping to get between seven and ten right on the nose. The first round of the 2009 NHL Draft begins at 7:00 on Friday in Montreal. New York Islanders, you are on the clock!

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