Despite the fact that the regular season and playoffs last from October to June, almost everyone in the hockey world will attest to the game being a 12-month sport. The Stanley Cup Final just concluded a few weeks ago, and here we are, with teams already preparing themselves for the 2010-11 campaign. This weekend features the NHL Entry Draft, and by the middle of next week, the free agency period will begin. By the time August comes around, teams in the CHL will start their respective training camps, which will be followed by NHL training camps in September.
So, what about this weekend and the 2010 NHL Entry Draft? For those of us that work in junior hockey, this is a fun time of year, especially this summer, as the draft will be dominated by up and coming players from the three leagues across Canada and the northern United States. The more specific domination will come from the Ontario Hockey League, who will produce the first overall pick for the fourth consecutive draft (Patrick Kane in '07, Steven Stamkos in '08, John Tavares in '09).
The top two picks in this year's draft are pretty simple. The Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins will both get future stars in Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin... or is it Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall? Both of those players come from the OHL, as does the favorite to be the third overall pick - Erik Gundbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs. The OHL's domination could continue to the fourth overall pick, as defenseman Cam Fowler of Windsor has a realistic shot of making it a 1-through-4 sweep for the league that has won each of the last two Memorial Cups. If Columbus opts not to go with Fowler, they will likely select either Brandon Gormley of Moncton (QMJHL), or Brett Connolly of Prince George (WHL).
2009-10 was my first season as a broadcaster in the QMJHL, so Brandon Gormley presents a fun story for me. This past February, I had a chance to meet and interview the 18-year old, so watching him get picked in the first round will certainly be neat to watch. On the ice, Gormley is one of the top defensemen in the QMJHL, as he is intelligent, while being strong on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. Off the ice, I met a young man with tremendous professionalism and poise - a person any organization would be proud to call their own. The latter doesn't come as much of a surprise, as Moncton's Danny Flynn is one of the most respected coaches in the entire CHL. Depending on which team drafts him, Gormley could land an NHL job. If not, he will be a must see in Lewiston on November 26th.
Unfortunately, this summer's first round won't be loaded with players out of the QMJHL, although the 2011 Entry Draft could see Drummondville's Sean Couturier selected as high as first overall. That being said, this year's most intriguing story comes out of the Q, as Kirill Kabanov is the biggest mystery of the weekend. In terms of talent, he is a top-10 pick without question. However, Kabanov had injury problems throughout the 2009-10 season, and there have been serious questions about his attitude. During the first round of the playoffs, there was an incident between Kabanov, his teammates, and the Moncton organization that saw him miss the remainder of the postseason. The recent saga has seen Kabanov fall out of the first round on some draft boards, while others have him everywhere from 15th to 30th. When all is said and done, and we look back at this draft down the road, the Russian forward will either be a steal because of his talent, or a flop because of his attitude.
Other notable players from the Q that will hear their names called relatively early are Stanislav Galiev (Saint John), Petr Straka (Rimouski), and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Rouyn-Noranda), as well as goaltenders Louis Domingue (Quebec) and Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault (Halifax). In terms of goaltending, Jack Campbell of the US Under-18 Team and Calvin Pickard of the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) will be the first two chosen. Pickard is ranked higher according to NHL's Central Scouting, but Campbell's gold medal victory at the World Junior Championship could give him a slight edge. Over the past few years, goalies haven't been selected early, so if one is drafted on Friday, it won't be until the latter stages of the first round.
Looking at the local team, the Lewiston MAINEiacs will have at least one player selected in this year's draft, with the possibility of a few others. 18-year old forward Michael Chaput was ranked 78th among North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting, as well as 81st overall by The Hockey News. If those rankings hold true, Chaput could be selected between rounds three and five. After missing the end of the 2008-09 season with an injury, the Montreal, QC native rebounded to lead the MAINEiacs with 28 goals, while finishing second on the club with 55 points.
If Chaput hears his name called this weekend, it will mark the seventh consecutive season with a MAINEiac at the NHL Entry Draft, as well as the eighth straight year for the organization, dating back to the days of the Sherbrooke Castors. Michael would also be the second member of his family to get drafted, as his brother Stefan (also a former MAINEiac) was selected in the fifth round (153rd overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
Chaput could be joined in Los Angeles by a few of his teammates from the MAINEiacs. Forward Jess Tanguy was a late addition to the list provided by Central Scouting, appearing as the 191st ranked North American skater on the final rankings list. Tanguy burst onto the scene after joining Lewiston in January, recording 15 goals, 12 assists, and 27 points in 32 games. The Laval, QC native had six points in his first three games as a MAINEiac, before registering at least one point in ten of twelve games toward the end of the season.
Matthew Bissonnette wasn't ranked by Central Scouting, but could prove to be a late steal for a team in search of a large two-way forward. Bissonnette had 18 points in 28 games with Moncton, before being traded to Lewiston, where he had 12 goals, 19 assists, and 31 points in 27 games. The Beaconsfield, QC native had eleven multiple-point games as a MAINEiac, including a career high of four against Rimouski on January 29th.
Finally, defenseman Samuel Carrier was listed in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, but dropped out of the final rankings. Carrier is a power play quarterback with a powerful shot. After scoring nine points in 56 games with Quebec in 2008-09, the blueliner exploded for ten goals, 32 assists, and 42 points in 66 games with the MAINEiacs. The Varennes, QC native's most successful stretch came toward the end of the season, when he picked up 13 points (5g, 8a) in six games.
To all of the draft followers, I hope you enjoy the next couple of days, I hope your teams do well, and if you have any friends or family members in the draft, I hope this is the start of a long and successful hockey career!