This is the third 2010 NHL mock draft we've offered; in the last one, in late March, the trio of Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Eric Gudbranson went 1-2-3. That stays the same in this edition.
A few weeks back I was asked where the drop in talent falls in this draft. At the time I said it was a five-deep draft or seven-deep if you count the Russians (Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov). That's true as far as it goes. More fairly, I think there's a drop after the top two, then a drop after the No. 6 pick (or, if you're Russian-friendly, No. 8). There's probably not a lot of difference between, say, who you'll get at No. 9 and at No. 16. That is, No. 16 has as much of a chance to be a first-line player as No. 9. In the 20s, you'll get a question mark thrown in with every pick and you're in the territory of second-line upside. If you were to get someone there who develops into a first-line player it would be a big win. And the difference between the player you get at No. 20 and No. 40 might be marginal.
The U.S. won the world under-18s in Minsk but didn't really get a breakout performance from any of the forwards in the USDT program. (Austin Watson did play for the Americans but he only joined the team prior to the tournament, after Peterborough was knocked out of the OHL playoffs.) All year long NHL scouts have been impressed by the U.S. blue line and the top two prospects there, Derek Forbort and Jonathan Merrill, raised their stock. The two other prominent American D-men (Jarred Tinordi and Stephen Johns) firmed up their top-50 status but probably did not show enough high-end skill to move up into the top 25.
Note: The draft order is still fluid at this point of the playoffs. Those teams that make the conference finals will make up the final four slots, with the Cup runner-up No. 29 and the Cup winner No. 30. For our purposes here I've gone with the chalk and put those teams with the best regular-season records into the third round and have made it San Jose over Pittsburgh in the final, again based solely on record.
Enjoy -- and be sure to check out the NHL draft blog consistently leading up to the proceedings.
Taylor Hall , LW, Windsor (OHL)
A scout recently told me that one of his counterparts in Boston was talking openly about "knowing" that Edmonton is going to take Tyler Seguin with its first pick, leaving the Bruins with Hall as a consolation prize. I have my doubts. I have to believe that either the Oilers are floating misinformation about their intentions or the Bruins are having a bit of fun by stirring the pot. Hall was the best talent coming into this season and the best at its conclusion, regardless of NHL Central Scouting's selection of Seguin as the No. 1 in North America. In the playoffs, with Windsor rallying from three games down in the best of seven in the conference finals against Kitchener, Hall has only strengthened his case and made Edmonton's choice easier. Hall's Alberta roots make this pick even sweeter.
Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth (OHL)
Seguin struggled to generate offense in Plymouth's series with Windsor, but you can put it down to the Whalers just being outmanned. Otherwise, his season was a resounding success. He made huge strides in the season. It might turn out that he's Matt Duchene to Hall's John Tavares. It might be that Seguin, like Duchene, has only started to tap into his talent in two major junior seasons, while the late-birthday Hall -- like Tavares -- possesses much more experience at the same level and is farther along the development curve. The strides that Seguin made this season are remarkable; nobody tabbed him in the race for the top pick a year ago.
Eric Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL)
Scouts panned Gudbranson's performance at the world under-18s in Minsk, but will probably cut him some slack on that count. It's easy to believe that Gudbranson's midseason bout with mono caught up to him overseas. It was also a case of a brutal team dragging him down. If Boston were to go (slightly) out of the box, the Bruins could look at him at No. 2; they have done workups on him. Likely, though, he'll still be available for the Panthers at No. 3. Some might question if he has the power-play upside to separate himself from Gormley and Fowler. Bonus: Right-handed shot.
Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL)
Fowler has looked a little scattered in his own end recently. He's easily the best skater of the top three D prospects -- but he's also the one that ranks lowest among them on reading the game and playing without the puck. Fowler (or any of the other top D-men) would fill a crying need for Columbus if development unfolds as expected. The Jackets have a decent prospect pool up front (all the more if they can ever get Nikita Filatov back), including picking up D John Moore last year in the first round. He looks as though he'll have NHL game, though not with the offensive potential that Fowler (or Gormley) has.
Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton (Quebec Major Junior League)
The Isles have had 11 picks in the top three rounds of the last two drafts and GM Garth Snow has shown a willingness -- or even eagerness -- to make bold moves on draft day, whether it's moving down to add picks or up to get a player that his scouts have targeted. I'd say it's no better than a 50-50 pick that the Isles will be picking in this slot. If they do, the easiest thing would be to project the Isles opting for the top D-man not selected in the top four. Scouts love Gormley's hockey sense; on that count he ranks the highest of the top three D prospects. Either Gudbranson or Fowler might be a better fit. There's some overlap with Gormley's game and that of last year's No. 12 overall pick by the Isles, Calvin de Haan of the Oshawa Generals (OHL).