Open Mike Night - 5/25/09
The Windsor Spitfires went from the tournamentâ€™s quickly-established basement to walking away as Memorial Cup champions. All teams and accomplishments aside, this is a follow-up to last weekâ€™s piece about how the Memorial Cup boosts draft position. Which players accelerated their journey to the professional game with a promising performance on junior hockeyâ€™s biggest stage.
Letâ€™s start with 2009 eligibles. Rimouskiâ€™s Jordan Caron showed that he has remarkable hands and offensive ability in his four games this tournament. However, it didnâ€™t necessarily show up on the scoresheet because of the largely out of place Rimouski team â€“ a team that was simply overmatched. Caron proved his worth though and proved to be a borderline first rounder. Expect the bigger-than-average Quebecois to be selected in the 25 to 40 range in this coming Entry Draft.
Flying way under the radar was the Oceanicâ€™s rookie center Patrick Delisle-Houde. While he posted just one goal in the tournament he made his presence felt on the ice. Itâ€™s unlikely that the raw utility center gets drafted in 2009 but a strong 2009-10 campaign with Rimouski could get him some looks late in 2010.
Drummondville forward Mike Hoffman was a 2008 eligible that got passed over after a 24-goal season split between Gatineau and his current club. His draft stock was helped much more by more than doubling his goal totals from last year (52 goals and 94 points in 62 games). He did put his excellent speed on display for the Voltigeurs during the Memorial Cup. In addition, he showed off his strong shot and decent two-way game. Hoffman was passed over in the OHL, passed over in the 2008 NHL draft, but I think this time heâ€™ll finally get the recognition he deserves. Expect someone to take a flyer on Hoffman in the 4th to 6th round.
Fellow Volts forward Gabriel Dumont could be something of a sleeper pick in the 2009 draft. While heâ€™s undersized, he has such a high work rate that it can be overlooked. He scored a clutch overtime goal to advance Drummondville to the semi-finals. Heâ€™s an above average skater that is willing to be a pesk on the ice. Look for Dumont to get a look in the 6th round or 7th round.
Vaunted Voltigeur Dmitry Kulikov did nothing to hurt his draft stock in 2009. He proved his worth during the tournament â€“ looking about as NHL ready as any player on the rink. He has all the tools to become a force in the NHL and his reputation certainly precedes him. Expect to see Kulikovâ€™s name on the big board in the 8th to 14th overall area.
Windsorâ€™s Eric Wellwood excelled throughout the Ontario League playoffs and wasnâ€™t disappointing during the Memorial Cup either. Wellwoodâ€™s greatest asset (unlike his brother Kyle) is his world-beating speed. While he may not have the hands or goal-scoring prowess that his brother has, he certainly can win every race to the puck. According to my watch, there wasnâ€™t a faster player in the tournament. Look for someone to take a chance on Wellwood very late in the draft to see if they can develop him a little more offensively â€“ 4 points in 6 games certainly helps.
Goal-scoring speed demon Evan Bloodoff went pointless in the tournament but he showed that heâ€™s got some wheels. He got off some pretty nice wristers while beating defenders to the outside in his games with Kelowna. Bloodoffâ€™s lack of points may have hurt him a little but in the â€œnewâ€ NHL speed is the name of the game. Bloodoff might get picked in the 6th or 7th round.
Kelowna Rockets puck-moving blueliner Tyson Barrie picked up four assists in four games during the Memorial Cup. His performance cemented his place in the middle rounds of the 2009 NHL draft. Barrie is a smooth puck-moving defenseman thatâ€™s no stranger to the offensive zone. Heâ€™s a bit undersized and a bit defensively challenged though. Heâ€™s a work in progress that could be selected in the 3rd or 4th round.
Meanwhile, 2010 eligible Taylor Hall was awesome in the tournament. He won the MVP (although that could be questioned) of the Memorial Cup. Hall displays such smarts on the ice and does the little things that helps his team win. Not to mention his borderline excessive offensive talent. Look for Taylor Hall to be taken first overall in 2010.