They call it a Draft, but plenty of hot stuff took place over the weekend as 30 NHL teams attempted to better themselves via the Kiddie Korps.
Not surprisingly, keen activity involved the Sabres, Islanders, Devils and Rangers on various levels. Each of the quartet – depending on plucking location and individual club needs – did OK for itself.
Then again, when you make a double take, Buffalo and the Nassaumen could very well have struck gold in the opening round.
The Sabres snagged center Sam Reinhart second overall. And, in case you haven’t heard, Sam is the son of ex-NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart and brother of excellent prospects, forward Max and backliner Griffin.
“I have been prepared for it for a long time,” explained Sam about his lofty position. “I have certainly visualized myself in this uniform and I’m just thrilled and ecstatic to make an impact there and go to Buffalo for the first time.”
As for Reinhart’s talent, a scout puts it this way: “He’s so smart that it makes up for his weaknesses. He takes away space and uses his angles. He’s a good enough skater, deadly on the power play and his linemates get five or six chances a game because of him.”
Meanwhile, Islanders GM Garth Snow – picking fifth overall — followed the gospel of The Games’ bible, The Hockey News, which recommended left winger Michael Dal Colle for that slot.
If you’re wondering what the bird dogs think of the Isles’ pick, check this comment: “I don’t want to say he flies under the radar, but sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” says one scout. “He played for a team [Oshawa Generals] I didn’t think highly of, and he put tons of points on the board.”
What’s Dal Colle’s scouting report on himself?
“My favorite player is [Evgeni] Malkin. But I think a similar style to me would be Jeff Carter.”
Out of the fallout of the Ilya Kovalchuk fiasco, the Devils were given the 30th and final pick in the opening round. The consensus about center John Quenneville – Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville's second cousin – is that Lou Lamoriello did well with one of the Brandon Wheat Kings top scorers.
“He has come a long way,” says one scout. “A big, strong player who skates well, sees the ice well and distributes well.”
Quenneville says he patterns his game after Dallas captain Jamie Benn. According to Quenneville, Benn’s skill set and playing style will be a perfect fit for Devils hockey.
“I like to play a simple game,” Quenneville explains. “When I watch the Devils play, I see that. I’m a two-way player and I like to chip in offensively as well. I like Adam Henrique and players like that.”
As for the Blueshirts, who didn’t get a pick until their second round, 59th overall selection, future goaltending needs were addressed. But before we get to that, let’s not forget that the Ranger Nation cannot complain about the club’s march to the Stanley Cup Final.
However, if there is one area that needs stocking -- at least short-term -- it is offense. In that regard, the Rangers will rely on trades and free agent signings from here to opening night.
When it comes to the long-term, eventually there will be a need to replace Henrik Lundqvist. And while the club has a winner in Cam Talbot, as the Montreal Canadiens discovered, it’s good to have a backup for the backup.
Two long-range possibilities, both plucked in Philly, are goalies Brandon Halverson (Sault Ste Marie), Sather’s first pick during the second round, 59th overall, and Igor Shesterkin (Spartak Moscow), taken in the fourth round, 118th overall.
Slats knows from experience that there's always gold to be found in the late round picks. Exhibit A is King Henrik and exhibit B is Carl Hagelin, who is on his way to becoming a regular 20-goal scorer.
Like Sather, Lamoriello must reinforce his scoring arsenal -- with special emphasis on shootout specialists -- but that could come from the Draft. Quenneville, their first selection, should bring plenty of skill and creativity once he makes the line-up.
Long-term, a goalie to eventually back-up Cory Schneider is a must, although Keith Kinkaid looms as Schneider's reliever, unless training camp proves different.
Looking into the distance, the Devils have Marty's son, Anthony Brodeur, who already has one year of junior hockey under his belt.
Lamoriello is unfazed by late picks as proven by the success of Henrique, one of New Jersey's best forwards.
In terms of sheer drama, the Islanders took center stage. One of the most compelling moments leading up to the Draft was whether or not Snow would keep his fifth overall pick at the expense of losing a better prospect next year.
That would be when they'd have to hand over their first-rounder to Buffalo as a result of the Thomas Vanek deal. At the end of the day, however, he ended up keeping the pick and using it on Dal Colle.
“Mike is another building block in what is an important off-season for our organization,” Snow asserts. “We’re excited to see Mike develop into another key piece on our team.”
“He has top-end offensive skill paired with two-way instincts and hockey sense. All in all, Dal Colle is an asset we’re thrilled to add to our roster.”
There were no complaints about Snow’s choice on his first pick, but there were questions raised after he traded up for another first rounder (28th overall) and called the name of Joshua Ho-Sang. The Windsor Spitfires right wing has become somewhat controversial to some critics because he is confident in himself and speaks his mind.
However, The Hockey News enthuses over this product of Thornhill, Ontario.
“If you’re looking at pure talent,” the Bible of hockey reports, “few in this draft have more than Ho-Sang.”
Snow was meticulous in having his scouting staff do its homework on Ho-Sang. The group interviewed him twice prior to the Draft, and remains confident that the lad’s attitude concerns have been overblown by some media types.
“I care that we win,” Snow insists. “We get the players who we feel can help us win a championship, and we don’t care what anyone else thinks.”
Meanwhile, looking north, the Sabres are filled with vitality under GM Tim Murray, who made some arresting choices, starting with his No. 1 pick. He knew that he needed help in forward and in goal. Cody Hodgson and Zemgus Girgensons comprise a nice duo of centers to build around.
The Sabres must also replace long-time stopper Ryan Miller. While Matt Hackett shows promise, getting more cover for him would be a plus. Jonas Johansson, a Swedish goalie taken in the third round, should be the remedy.
Murray came back in the second round with a trio of forwards, including a name familiar to all hockey fans – Lemieux.
Buffalo’s GM, remembering defeats from multiple Cup-winner Claude Lemieux, selected his son Brendan Lemieux, a left winger who played for the Barrie Colts. Brendan was considered a potential first-rounder, but he was more than happy to be the first player taken on the second day of the Draft.
“Things have a way of working out. I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out,” he said. “I am proud to be picked with the first pick in the second round. I am just going to use it as fuel now.”
Augmenting high-end forward talent is the No. 1 priority, and the team got an emphatic start on that front by drafting both Eric Cornel and Vaclav Karabacek in the second round, in addition to Lemieux.
The Sabres have a strong history of hits after the first two rounds, including the likes of Andrej Sekera and Nathan Gerbe.
So, who can be called the winner? Obviously, there won’t be an answer – at the earliest – for another two years. But this much is certain; we have just had a very closely-competed run for the Top-10.
“This was close competition for head of the class honors,” concludes The Hockey News Senior Editor Brian Costello. “It was nothing like the Sidney Crosby or John Tavares loser sweepstakes of past years.”
No matter; it sure was fun!