When NHL teams defy draft day conventions

Thumbnail image for fowlercam.jpgPicking players in a typical NHL Entry Draft is akin to choosing your child’s future college by throwing a dart at a globe blindfolded. Rarely are such important decisions made with such little genuine, quantifiable information.

I stumbled across some interesting reads on the subject of players falling in the draft this morning. As you may remember, a few seemingly “blue chip” defensemen fell considerably in the draft; Cam Fowler (pictured to the right) was thought to be a No. 3-quality player who dipped to No. 12 with Anaheim while Brandon Gormley fell to No. 13 with Phoenix. Elliotte Friedman wrote an interesting tidbit about players plummeting compared to their perceived statuses by Central Scouting this weekend. One big factor that doesn’t go into Central Scouting rankings is personal character, Friedman reports.

“(We) stop a bit short of investigating … the personality of the players that are before us,” says Central Scouting Director EJ McGuire. “Rather we err on the performance side. We are more of a talent identifier. I can sketch a depth chart of the Oilers and say that Edmonton should take a right-handed centreman in Tyler Seguin. It’s easy for me to say.”

“But I’m not privy to behind the scenes discussions. Maybe the Oilers have decided that two years down the road they are not going to re-sign someone, or they’re going to make a deal so that someone else is a better fit.”

“Maybe (a team is) looking at a player who is high on talent, short on maturity but it has a mature dressing room,” he added. “The team is thinking, ‘We can put him between this player and this player.’ Conversely, if the dressing room is in disarray the team could be looking for a more mature player.”

Tyler Dellow of the well-respected stats blog MC79 Hockey had an interesting take on the discussion.

I’ve read Gare Joyce’s book in which he talks about scouting at great length and a lot of it just seems like modern day phrenology to me. I sort of think that any reasonably competent scouting operation is able to generally sort guys into roughly where they should be but that it’s really a crap shoot beyond that. All of these things that they look for to differentiate players from one another – Brian Burke apparently liked Ryan Kesler because he put his arm around someone who was having a bad game – just strike me as so much skull reading.

If the NHL as a whole barred scouting, doubled the budget of Central Scouting and forced teams to pick from the CSB list, I’m not convinced that the league would be appreciably worse at identifying players. I don’t think you’d suddenly see Ales Hemsky’s getting drafted at 200 or something like that.

That’s certainly an interesting point and perhaps mostly true, but it would obviously also affect the competitive advantages certain “strong” drafting teams enjoy. What would become of the Detroit Red Wings’ vaunted late picks such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg? Would they simply have been drafted sooner … or not at all? Would a bigger budget have allowed Central Scouting to identify such non-drafted gems as Martin St. Louis?

With very little access to how NHL front offices make their draft day decisions, it’s certainly interesting fodder for a mid-July day dry on hockey news.

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    Goalie nods: Lack to make ‘Canes debut

    Eddie Lack, Stanislav Galiev
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    Carolina fans will get their first regular-season look at Eddie Lack tonight when the ‘Canes host the Panthers at PNC.

    “[Lack’s] excited, and the guys are excited to play in front of him,” head coach Bill Peters said on Tuesday, per the club website. “He’s a good teammate, and they want to play hard in front of him.

    “I think Eddie will be more than solid. He was good in the preseason, and I’m glad we’re able to get him in as soon as we have.”

    The ‘Canes went with Cam Ward in their first two games of the season — both losses — and the results were a mixed bag. Ward was steady in the opener, stopping 23 of 25 shots, but wasn’t great against Detroit on Saturday, allowing four goals on just 19 shots.

    Should he play well tonight, Lack could be in line for more starts in the near future. Carolina will embark on a seven-games-in-13-nights road swing later this week, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and San Jose on Oct. 23 and 24.

    For the Panthers, Al Montoya will get the start in goal tonight, giving No. 1 Roberto Luongo the evening off.


    — New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid will face Nashville for his first start of the year tonight, as Cory Schneider is away from the team following the birth of his son. Yann Danis has been called up from AHL Albany to back up. Pekka Rinne goes for the Preds.

    Michael Hutchinson starts for the Jets in New York tonight. The Rangers will again roll with Henrik Lundqvist, who’ll play for the fourth time in six nights.

    Carey Price is back in net for Montreal against Pittsburgh. Price watched Mike Condon get his first career NHL victory on Sunday against the Sens; for the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury looks to get his first win of the year after opening with losses in Dallas and Arizona.

    Martin Jones makes his third straight start for the Sharks, while Braden Holtby makes his second straight for the Caps.

    Ben Bishop goes for the Lightning tonight in an opening-round playoff rematch against the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard goes for Detroit, after posting a shutout in the season opener.

    Anders Nilsson will make his Oilers debut this evening in Dallas, taking over for Cam Talbot. For the Stars, Kari Lehtonen will get his first start of the year, and is looking to rebound from a shaky preseason.

    Brian Elliott, who started the season opener, is back in goal for the Blues tonight for Calgary. The Flames will counter with Jonas Hiller, making his second straight start after Karri Ramo got the season-opener (a 5-1 home loss to Vancouver).

    — No confirmations yet from either Vancouver or L.A. for tonight’s game at Staples. It’s likely that Ryan Miller will go — the Canucks have third-stringer Richard Bachman backing up with Jacob Markstrom (hamstring) injured — and it’s a good bet the Kings go with Jonathan Quick, given they’re 0-2 to start the year and need a win.

    Related: Quick on save percentage: ‘Those numbers don’t mean nothing’

    Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

    Jaromir Jagr
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    This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

    Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

    Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


    Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

    Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

    Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


    For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

    Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?