- Gare Joyce
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Most scouts consider this weekend's draft to be good, but not great, with a cluster of defensemen to pick from.
Here's where we think these prospects will land during Friday's first round in Ottawa:
Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia (OHL)
Automatic. The only question: Will the Lightning's yet-to-be-named new coach get in the teenager's grill as John Tortorella did with Vincent Lecavalier way back when?
Drew Doughty, D, Guelph (OHL)
Interesting call here. Even before the combine, the Kings were interviewing players well outside the No. 2 slot. The pick might be in play for a trade, or the team might move assets in a trade.
Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough (OHL)
Coin flip between Doughty and Bogosian. Whoever isn't taken at No. 2 seems likely to go next -- unless Nikita Filatov pushes up. Atlanta seems an unlikely destination for Filatov, though.
Nikita Filatov, LW, CSKA (Russia)
Possibly the second-best talent in this draft. The message is he's ready and willing to come to North America. "Able," though, is the issue in question in the absence of an agreement between the NHL and Russian hockey officials. The Blues did bring Alex Pietrangelo to St. Louis for a physical and a check of his spleen after a bout with mono last season. Might be a fallback if Filatov is gone or if the Blues are unsure about their ability to sign him.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara (OHL)
The Islanders might have an interest in a forward here. Colin Wilson is a candidate, but Pietrangelo is too good to pass up. He'd be the first defenseman to go in other draft years. The Isles also brought Luke Schenn to New York last week for interviews and testing.
Luke Schenn, D, Kelowna (WHL)
Safest bet on draft day is that Columbus will take the best available defenseman with its first pick. The team likely will look hard at doing the same with its second first-rounder (from Colorado in the Adam Foote trade). Tyler Myers would be an interesting (i.e., daring) pick here, but Schenn should be ready for the NHL sooner. The Blue Jackets brought in Schenn for independent testing after the combine.
Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton (OHL)
A bit of a tipping point here. If Filatov is still in play at the seventh slot, the Maple Leafs will look long and hard at the Russian. Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher's relationship with Filatov's agent, Don Meehan, might get the deal closed. If Filatov is off the board or if there's no guarantee Filatov will be over tout de suite, Hodgson is the safest play. Strong showing at the world under-18s put his stock on the upswing.
Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna (WHL)
Scouts think Myers, listed at 6-foot-7, is ahead of Zdeno Chara at the same stage. That said, Chara, though raw, possessed strength as a teenager that Myers lacks right now. With Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris in the fold and goaltending locked in, defense is the immediate need.
9. Nashville Predators (from Florida)
Colin Wilson, C, Boston University (Hockey East)
Some scouts worry about his skating but not his hockey sense. His father, Carey, played 12 seasons in the NHL. He's the 10th-ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting, but playing through injuries might have dropped his stock a bit. He impressed scouts with his performance at the NHL combine, a man among boys when it came to physical development. How that translates into performance at the next level is an open question.
Kyle Beach, LW, Everett (WHL)
High-risk, high-reward pick. Scouts thought he was a top-four talent coming into the season. Problem-child rep followed him, and he flatlined in the second half of the season, dropping his stock. Beach probably was slowed by a sports hernia issue, which kept him out of the combine's fitness testing. Rumors circulated that a concussion or two might account for his drop-off. If healthy and willing, Beach offers a physical component that other forwards lack in this draft. Along with Filatov, he's likely to fall.
Mikkel Boedker, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
If any of the defensemen mentioned here is still available, Chicago would pounce. Trying to move up for one of the elite defensemen would be of interest with Martin Havlat as a chip to play. Otherwise, the fleet Boedker looks to be a fit on a team that has Havlat and Patrick Kane on the other wing. Boedker as a fit behind Patrick Sharp? Looks like a long-term plan. Goaltending's a need, but it's hard for the Hawks to project at No. 11. They'll hope or believe good goaltending choices will be there in the second round. Josh Bailey, a center from Windsor who came on strong from midseason on, might be a fit.
12. Anaheim Ducks (from Edmonton)
Michael Del Zotto, D, Oshawa (OHL)
Has the most offensive upside of any defenseman in this draft with the exception of Doughty. Del Zotto was slotted as a top-five player going into this season but was dragged down by the Generals' underachieving season. One scout: "Del Zotto makes me nervous. It will be a tough pick to make if he's there. He just didn't progress this year." One explanation: Up until major junior, the game came too easily for MDZ. He, not Stamkos, had been the star on their youth-league teams.
13. Buffalo Sabres
Josh Bailey, C, Windsor (OHL)
The Sabres have drafted other positions the past two years and lost Daniel Briere and Chris Drury via free agency before the 2007-08 season. An upgrade down the middle is desperately needed. Zach Boychuk is a possibility here. Bailey has pro size, though, and could be more physical.
Colten Teubert, D, Regina (WHL)
The physical defenseman helped himself with his performance at the under-18s. Might never be a top-two defenseman but looks as though he could be safe as the third or fourth guy on the depth chart.
15. Nashville Predators
Zach Boychuk, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
The Predators have talent on their roster and in their system, but there's still a crying need for talent down the middle. Even if Nashville goes for a center with the pick at No. 9, Boychuk might be a good fit. He isn't big, but neither was Steve Sullivan. Hockey sense is his long suit.
16. Boston Bruins
Kirill Petrov, RW, Kazan (Russia)
The Bruins might be scared of the best available Russian players because of their experiences with Yuri Alexandrov, a second-rounder in 2006 whom they ended up not signing. But Petrov is pro-sized at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Some teams just hated his interviews at the combine, the same thing teams came away with after talking to Alexandrov two years ago. It's an open question whether either leaves Russia. Tim Thomas inspires no confidence, but Boston's future in goal rides with Tuukka Rask, stolen from the Leafs in broad daylight two years ago in the Andrew Raycroft trade.
17. Calgary Flames
Jordan Eberle, C, Regina (WHL)
You rarely go wrong banking on the Flames' taking the best available Westerner. Eberle's not big, but 42 goals in the Dub are, and he impressed at the world under-18s.
18. Ottawa Senators
Thomas McCollum, G, Guelph (OHL)
Goaltending is both the immediate and long-term need for Ottawa. Drafting the best in the first round is one option. Drafting another in the second round? Well, it wouldn't be the first time Bryan Murray went that route as a GM. Scouts think McCollum is a curious kid. Said one: "He started out as the No. 1 projected goaltender before the season, but until Christmas, he played poorly and had no confidence. Then, in midseason, he picked it up and was the kid that we'd seen before. Day and night. He has all kinds of talent. If he's the goalie you saw in the second half, he'll be a player."
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Colorado)
• Colby Robak, D, Brandon (WHL)
Blue Jackets would love to see Colten Teubert or Robak on the board here. If both are gone, the best available defenseman is still the first option with this pick acquired from the Avalanche for Foote. Would the Blue Jackets move this pick for immediate help on the blue line? It's up to other teams to make a case.
20. New York Rangers
• Mattias Tedenby, LW, HV 71 (Sweden)
Third-ranked European skater, according to NHL Central Scouting. The Rangers might poach Petrov in this slot if his stock crashes.
• Joe Colborne, C, Camrose (Alberta Junior Hockey League)
Big 6-foot-5 center is headed to Denver University. The Devils should go the NCAA route once again. Some scouts question his toughness and drive. In college, he'll have time to figure it out, and the Devils will have the luxury of waiting.
22. Edmonton Oilers (from Anaheim)
• Jakob Markstrom, G, Brynas (Sweden)
No one knows what the future holds, but it's not Mathieu Garon or Dwayne Roloson. Not much goaltending in the Oilers' system. One scout's reading: "[Markstrom] has that quality that few have. He's a team leader in goal."
Evgeny Grachev, C, Yaroslavl (Russia):
According to NHL Central Scouting, his stock plummeted during the season (from the No. 2 European skater to No. 9). Grachev could be a piece to fit beside Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
24. Minnesota Wild
• Harri Sateri, G, Tappara (Finnish League)
The Wild got great mileage out of Niklas Backstrom this season, but he's 30, and goaltending isn't a strength of the minor league system. Markstrom and Chet Pickard would be backup options.
Corey Trivino, C, Stouffville (Ontario Provincial League)
Harder to project than some others because of level of competition. Scouts headed to Stouffville all winter. Trivino fit right in with the major junior stars at the world under-18s. He's headed for Boston University in the fall. With young talent in the wings, the Canadiens can wait.
26. Buffalo Sabres (from San Jose)
• Luca Sbisa, D, Lethbridge (WHL)
Swiss pro-sized defenseman played better as the season went on.
Greg Nemisz, C, Windsor (OHL)
You rarely go wrong betting on the Flyers to draft size, and Nemisz has loads of it at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.
28. Los Angeles Kings (from Dallas)
• Viktor Tikhonov, LW/RW, Cherepovets (Russia)
Grandson of the legendary coach of the Soviet Union's greatest teams, Tikhonov has the pedigree. He was eligible but undrafted last season, even though he attended the combine last June. Stock shot up from one season to the next.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (from Pittsburgh)
• Jared Staal, RW, Sudbury (OHL)
Even if he were only a half-brother of Eric, Marc and Jordan, Jared's bloodlines would justify the pick. The youngest Staal brother is the late bloomer. He looked lost in his first season with the Wolves, but then blossomed last season, picking up 21 goals in 60 games. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's still maturing. A bit of a project but worth a roll of the dice.
Chet Pickard, G, Tri-City (WHL)
The sun is setting for Chris Osgood, and Dominik Hasek is done. With returning and emerging talent in all other positions, Detroit GM Ken Holland, a former WHL goaltender, goes for what he knows. The goaltending nominees for the second and third rounds include Jake Allen, who starred for the Canadian gold medalists at the under-18s. Dustin Tokarski of Memorial Cup champion Spokane is a fan favorite, but scouts don't think so highly of him. The Wings, of course, might go with the best Swede available.
Gare Joyce is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.
How will the first round of this week's NHL draft turn out? Gare Joyce gives us his mock draft.