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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    Blackhawks F Katchouk will be sidelined by ankle sprain

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    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

    Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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    TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

    The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

    “This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

    Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.