Sunday, June 24, 2012

Those Post Draft blues

Cristoval Nieves (
Day two of the 2012 NHL entry draft wound up being a mixed bag of emotions after watching both the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders make all of their selections. The Rangers stuck to what has become their prototype; players who can skate, who will play physical and will work hard.

The New York Islanders on the other hand, I hate to say had me scratching my head with two of their choices in day 2. Devoting an entire draft to nothing but defenseman is not going to show their fans that this franchise is on stable and steady footing.

I have to admit I slept through the picks of the second day and when I woke up I thought somebody had played a couple of mean practical jokes on me. The first thought of seeing the Islanders picking nothing but defensemen woke me up in a hurry.

But I will hand it to the Rangers for the cruelest of moves as they traded their third-round pick to the Nashville Predators who then proceeded to select Brendan Leispic of the Portland Winterhawks.

I'm happy for Leispic because here is a young man who at 16, looked more like a lost little kid, but worked his butt off to become in my book a future NHL player. Glen Sather and Gordie Clark are very much off my Christmas card list.

Back to the Islanders because I can't really get into the Rangers until I address these Islander picks. They went from a very good pick at number four for Griffin Reinhart to two picks that had me going "huh?"

Going to go backwards here, starting with the seventh round pick Jake Bischoff as this is a decent pick because his size in my eyes is what dropped him down to the seventh round. He's a good skater who knows what to do with the puck, has a good decision-making process and yeah him him him him him him him him him himhe's not the biggest dog in the park.

Still, he's a Minnesota kid heading to Minnesota and on this case, give the Islanders some slack because this was not a seventh round pick. Bischoff in my book was punished for his size not his skill.

Jesse Graham of the Niagara IceDogs is another one who size was what hurt his draft status. Go click on the link highlighting Graham's name as it's written by Neate Sager of Buzzing The Net and is a pretty accurate description of Graham.

Going to give the Islanders "you got lucky here" on this one because this is a very underrated player who fell under the radar because of Niagara having so many big names playing for them.

Good skater, smart with the puck needs to work on his decision-making speed but held his own against some of the better offensive forwards in the OHL. Islanders did well here getting Graham with just a sixth round pick as Graham will see much more ice time next season for the IceDogs.

Round five saw the Islanders take Doyle Somerby; Somerby is a 6'4 very raw, very green defensive prospect. Committed to Boston University, Somerby has a lot of size but is not very physical and suffers from big man footwork problems.

I don't think he's ready to play NCAA hockey and I hope that he either joins the USHL or plays Junior "A" hockey in the Ontario Leagues. Maybe it's because I am just 5'8.5 and I am partial to the smaller guys, but I think Bischoff and Graham have better pro potential than Somerby.

Way too many "needs to work on" to take him as a serious NHL prospect at the moment. Heck, I would be shocked if he was third pair for Boston University right now.

Loic Leduc who the Islanders drafted in the fourth round made no sense at all. Leduc was ranked 209th which is really seventh round material, but here's where people's addiction to how big a player is sadly gives the wrong idea they are a better player.

Leduc plays for Cape Breton in the QMJHL and I have to be honest when exchanging information with my friends there; not once did anybody even have Leduc as a possible project/seventh round pick.

Tall, really thin, doesn't really do either the physical game or the offensive side of game well. At best he will have a future at the ECHL or lower levels of hockey and it won't be because he is highly skilled.

Adam Pelech was the third-round pick of the Islanders and this one has some promise as what hurt him was playing on a bad Erie Otter team as well as a surgically repaired wrist. Very underrated but good enough to earn an invite to Canada's Under-20 summer evaluation camp.

Good size at 6'2 with a nice skill set, no questions about either character or heart as he played with a screw surgically inserted in his wrist. Despite being on a very bad team always showed up with a positive attitude and a willingness to bust his tail every night.

Ville Pokka Of Finland is one of those guys you really like because he makes a lasting impression on you. When you can get Canadian bloggers talking about you in a positive way then you're doing something right.

In Pokka's case it was how the previously unknown defenseman stepped up at the World Under-20 for an injured teammate and was one of Finland's best players. Good strong two-way player with a very good hockey sense who honestly would be better helped if he came to North America and played Canadian Junior hockey.

He has talent, He has skill but his conditioning is a question mark. Playing in North America would go a long way towards molding this young man into a good quality NHL top four defenseman.

Overall for the Islanders, call their draft roller coaster as it got off to a great start with its first three picks then struggled badly with their middle two but finished strong with the bottom picks. At least they made it interesting.


On the other side, the Rangers for the most part one could say played it cautiously safe with their picks. Calling Ranger picks "safe" is a kind of a strange way to look at things but when you step back and look at all the picks, that is the best way to describe them as a group.

Again, going backwards starting with Thomas Spelling of Denmark who the Rangers used a fifth-round pick that they traded with Nashville for. Spelling is an interesting selection as here is a very talented offensive minded player who was the best goal scorer on his team last season.

He was playing at the top level in Denmark and had a 31-26-57 season with the Herning Blue Fox of the Danish Al-Bank League. Spelling has a 2 year deal with Rogle Angelholm of the Swedish Elitserien.

Both Spelling and his new team will be moving up in class and skill level. What little I have been able to discover is he has an excellent sense for the game. Strengths are quick decision making, fast release of his shot and good passer.

I watched a couple of videos that did not really show how good he was on the defensive side. He is 19 and tied to a contract so we will see how well he holds up against the best Sweden has to offer.

In the 4th round, the Rangers selected Calle Andersson, a 6'2 defenseman plays for Farjestad JR. The best way to describe him would be Michael Del Zotto lite as he has a world of offensive talent, but at times can be a liability on the defensive end.

Super skinny who quite honestly would find himself in John Tortorella's doghouse due to his preference of using a pokecheck over using his body. That being said, at the same time Andersson was one of the players who I had listed as a possible Ranger pick because of his offensive skill set.

Very quick on his feet, can skate and stop on a dime, outstanding passing skills and a very good setup man at the point. At least 3-4 years away because of immature body and weak defensive play.

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves is another who I had on my watch list and he was taken exactly where I expected them to be in the second round. 6'3 and still growing as he's headed to the University of Michigan.

Nieves is another offensive minded project that is a good pick because he's going to improve his defense at Michigan or he won't play. Good size good skating bad or immature body, but he can grow out of that.

One thing is for sure and that is playing for Michigan means he's going to play in a lot of big-time games, high-pressure games and in front of large noisy crowds.

Has to work on the defense, has to become more willing to play a physical game to use his size to his advantage. Somebody send him directions to the weight room as he is also 3-4 years away.

Overall as a whole, this draft was more of a "excuse me, sorry to bother you" as most of the NHL attention was on trade situations and the new collective bargaining agreement not this year's draft.

There was a sad trend where was size was more important than skill as many a team bypassed talented players because of their size. That's not a good sign for the health and welfare of the NHL as a league because it's a sign that clutching and grabbing will start returning to the game.

It seems that every time the NHL talks about opening the game up for more offense that the coaches and general managers shut that talk down by becoming more defensive minded.

It's almost a mirror of the days when "the trap" was ruling the NHL, everybody complained about how too much defense was bad for the game. Yet every team adapted their game plan to play more defense.

It's going to be a never-ending cycle until somebody in the commissioner's office is an actual honest to goodness person who has a hockey background, not an NBA one.

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