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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    Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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    For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

    Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

    But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

    Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

    When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

    Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

    The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

    Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

    Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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    Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

    This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

    In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

    Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

    Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

    Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

    Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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    Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

    Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

    Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

    Official update on the really important story of the evening:

    Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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    The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

    Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

    As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

    The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

    Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

    Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

    Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.