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Liebman’s 2010 Entry Draft Predictions

June 25, 2010

Ah, the NHL Entry Draft. It’s the day when the hopes of an NHL franchise are realized, and all the hard work put in by a prospect and his family from the time he laces up his first pair of skates finally pays off.For the rest of us, it’s a chance to be the biggest cheerleaders for these 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. And for many like myself, it’s a reminder we’re not going to make the show. I mean, let’s face it. I may not be of legal drinking age yet, but my draft year came and went. Obviously I’m not seriously saying I had NHL-level talent – please. But there comes a time when you come to grips with the reality that you’ll spend the rest of your life as a spectator rather than a participant.

For me, that moment came when the New York Rangers decided to give 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto a chance to dress for the Original Six club this past season. Seeing this fresh-faced kid skate circles around some of the league’s top players and watching him do things with the puck I can only dream of was the final nail in the coffin for me. Which in its own way is something I kind of look back on fondly.

But that’s neither here nor there. Back to the draft. We all know the big question that’s going to be on everyone’s mind when Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini walks to the podium at the Staples Center on Friday: Taylor or Tyler?

I am of course referring to prospects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, the consensus top two prospects heading into the draft. Really, Tambellini can’t go wrong with either player. It’s simply a matter of determining who will have a greater impact on his team’s future.

Which, at the end of the day, is the job of the scouting and management brain trust of every NHL club.

I present to you my in-depth predictions for the top ten picks in this year’s draft, along with the rest of the first round. Bear in mind, many of these draft picks can change hands before and during the Friday extravaganza.

1) Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall – LW, Windsor, OHL

Back-to-back Memorial Cup MVPs will certainly get the attention of teams; Hall’s been on scouts’ radars long before then. This kid has been fast tracked for superstardom in the NHL. Drawing many comparisons to legendary sniper Alexander Mogilny, Hall is going to be a boon for an Oilers team that is starved for on ice success.

2) Boston Bruins (From TOR): Tyler Seguin – C, Plymouth, OHL

The one thing Seguin does have over Hall is his performance during the draft combine – Hall elected to not partake in the fitness portion of the combine after a grueling season. Seguin, meanwhile, blew most people away. Arguably the best playmaker in the draft, Seguin can also put the puck in the net; his 48 goals were more than Hall put up.

3) Florida Panthers: Erik Gudbranson – D, Kingston, OHL

Panthers GM Dale Tallon has a chance to restore the almost extinct Panthers the same way he helped rebuild the once dismal Blackhawks into Cup champs. He may not have been in the organization when the Hawks clinched Lord Stanley earlier this month, but his fingerprints were all over that team. Selecting Gubrandson, a rock-solid defender in the mold of Norris winner Duncan Keith will be a key stepping stone for Florida.

4) Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Fowler – D, Windsor, OHL

Scott Howson’s going to have his hands full. A year after making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets suffered an incredible collapse. Fowler will be an offensive specialist from the point for many years to come. He could easily go to Florida, but there are many who feel that he needs to work on his play away from the puck.

5) New York Islanders: Brett Connolly – RW, Prince George, WHL

There are many unanswered questions about Connolly, and rightfully so: when you’re limited to 16 games during your draft year, you’re going to get a lot of questions. That being said, Connolly is a gifted goal scorer who will fit in just fine alongside the Islanders’ John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.

6) Tampa Bay Lightning: Ryan Johansen – C, Portland, WHL

Often recognized as a poor man’s Eric Staal, Johansen will eventually fit in as the no. 2 center behind Steven Stamkos on the Lightning depth chart. A tall and lanky center at 6-3 and 194 lbs., Johansen will be given plenty of time to fill out his frame.

7) Carolina Hurricanes: Derek Forbort – D, U.S. NTDP, USHL

Raw is a perfect adjective used to describe Forbort, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’s got all the tools to develop into a solid two-way defender, and scouts observe that he has tremendous upside.

8 ) Atlanta Thrashers: Jeffrey Skinner – C, Kitchener, OHL

Skinner may not have the skating ability of Taylor Hall, but he’s certainly got the goal-scoring pedigree (50 goals this year). A bit on the slight side, Skinner will have to bulk up, but he should have no problem as he returns to the Rangers for at least one more season.

9) Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund – LW, HIFK, Fin.

The comparisons to Saku Koivu will continue to dog Granlund for some time as he develops: a supremely gifted center with a drive to succeed; he will also be criticized for being undersized, as Koivu is.

10) New York Rangers: Nino Niederreiter – LW, Portland, WHL

The Swiss sniper dazzled at the World Juniors and showed that he has an offensive flair to him that includes timely and clutch goals – something that the Rangers need. A future power forward, Neiderreiter has shown he has the drive by deciding to ignore the big money offers in his homeland to play and accelerate his game in the ‘Dub.

11) Dallas Stars: Brandon Gormely – D, Moncton, QMJHL
12) Anaheim Ducks: Jack Campbell – G, U.S. NTDP, USHL
13) Phoenix Coyotes (from CGY): Calvin Pickard – G, Seattle, WHL
14) St. Louis Blues: Brock Nelson – C, Warroad, USHS
15) Florida Panthers (from BOS): Alex Burmistrov – C, Barrie, OHL
16) Ottawa Senators: Austin Watson – RW, Peterborough, OHL
17) Colorado Avalanche: Evgeni Kuznetsov – LW, Chelyabinsk Traktor, KHL
18) Nashville Predators: Calle Jarnkrok – C, Brynas, Swe.
19) Los Angeles Kings: Emerson Etem – C, Medicine Hat, WHL
20) Pittsburgh Penguins: Nick Bjugstad – C, Blaine, USHS
21) Detroit Red Wings: Jarred Tinordi – D, U.S. NDTP, USHL
22) Phoenix Coyotes: John McFarland – C, Sudbury, OHL
23) Buffalo Sabres: Charlie Coyle – RW, South Shore, EJHL
24) Chicago Blackhawks (from NJ): Riley Sheahan – C, Notre Dame, CCHA
25) Vancouver Canucks: Mark Pysyk – D, Edmonton, WHL
26) Washington Capitals: Vladimir Tarasenko – RW, Novosibirsk, KHL
27) Montréal Canadiens: Quentin Howden – LW, Moose Jaw, WHL
28) San Jose Sharks: Alex Petrovic – D, Red Deer, WHL
29) Anaheim Ducks (from PHI): Jon Merril – D, U.S. NDTP, USHL
30) Chicago Blackhawks: Ryan Spooner – C, Peterborough, OHL

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