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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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         Draft Recap
By Paul Noonan

     The last event of the new CBA came and went this weekend, and that was the NHL draft.  With the new financial landscape, many to- be free agents were on the move, or rumored to be on the move.  On top of that a solid crop of draft picks, especially the top five, gave their new teams a ray of hope for the future.  Here’s a look at some of the big happenings at the NHL Draft.

     The Top Five:  Erik Johnson, the consensus top pick, did go as expected.  Despite trade offers, the St. Louis Blues decided they wanted to try to return to the days when Pronger and MacInnis ruled the blueline.  They took a step in the right direction by drafting a kid many say is a “can’t miss prospect.”  With the second pick Pittsburgh added yet another young gun with the third member of the now prolific Staal family, Jordan.  Some say he should turn out as good, possibly better, than now Cup champion older brother Eric.  Either way, playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things easier.  With the third pick, Chicago chose North Dakota forward Jonathan Toews (pronounced Taves).  After an adjustment period Toews started to be a strong contributor in the competitive WCHA conference in college hockey.  Toews may be farthest from NHL ready amongst the top five, but obviously Chicago is willing to wait and feels the payoff will be better than the remaining two.  At the number four slot Washington chose the player the B’s seemed most interested in, Swede Nicklas Backstrom.  Backstrom was the top- ranked European, and many project he will be the best Swede to come along in the last few years.  Finally, with the fifth choice the Bruins chose Phil Kessel.  At the same point last year, Kessel was slated to go first overall, but in many eyes his stock dropped and he was still around for the B’s.  There are a few knocks on Kessel, but the truth is he probably is the best forward available.  Kessel already possesses NHL speed and an NHL shot, and his other skills are not too shabby either.  He is a strong playmaker and stick- handler.  He has the tools to be a top five/top ten scorer in the NHL and the same cannot be as confidently said about the other three forwards.  The Bruins may have gotten a steal in Kessel.

     Flames Stoke Offensive Fire:  The Calgary Flames can stop even the best offenses the NHL can offer.  With Vezina winner (league’s best goalie) Miikka Kiprusoff between the pipes, and a strong, punishing defense, it is quite a task to light the lamp against the Flames.  The problem for Calgary, however, is they’re not too good at lighting the lamp either.  They took a step in the right direction trading D Jordan Leopold to Colorado for F Alex Tanguay.  Tanguay is a 25-30 goal scorer and 70-80 point player, not top tier scoring, but a big help to one of the league’s weakest offenses.  He will provide the offensive help Calgary needs to stop losing those 2-1 games, and also help take the pressure off Jarome Iginla who most nights is the only threat on offense.  The move makes Calgary an even bigger Cup threat.

     Goalie Switch:  With Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen signed, it was only a matter of time before Andrew Raycroft saw the door.  And he did.  The Bruins traded the former rookie- of- the- year to Toronto for goalie prospect Tuukka Rask.  Rask was the world junior tournament’s goaltending MVP and is one of the best goalie prospects out there.  The Bruins maybe could have gotten a little more for the proven Raycroft, but if Rask continues to develop he could become a great #1 goalie in the future.

     Minnesota Gets Wild:  In a stunning turn of events, the Minnesota Wild actually made a trade, and not for draft picks or prospects, but for a proven NHLer.  However, it was a move that could be great or regretted.  The Wild sent their best prospect to the L.A. Kings for all- star forward Pavol Demitra.  The move unites Demitra with fellow Slovakian Marian Gaborik, who desperately needs some help up front.  The move should ease Gaborik’s worries about having little help as Demitra is a proven NHLer who, if healthy, could challenge 90 points.  The downside is that the Wild parted with Patrick O’Sullivan AHL rookie of the year and Minnesota’s brightest prospect who could be a top line NHLer.  If Demitra, and Gaborik, stay healthy, the move will turn out to be a pretty good one as the two country- mates will finally give the Wild a dangerous offense.  But if Demitra is plagued by injuries again the deal could backfire on the Wild, especially if O’Sullivan succeeds in the NHL as he did in the AHL.

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