DKM Hockey Podcast

Friday, June 15, 2012

NHL Draft advice for CBJ fans.

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about how mythical beast John Davidson would convince Rick Nash to stay in Columbus.  Where was Rick Nash going?  That's right, nowhere as long as he was in Columbus.  But today we are talking about swirling rumors around his pending trade and the 'talent rich' upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

Rick Nash traded.  Oh how I don't envy the CBJ front office this time of the year.  They look to trade Rick Nash, the CBJ's powerhouse of offence to another team who could use him as a solid 2nd or 3rd scorer.  No other team besides the Blue Jackets have envisioned building an offense around him.  Well, maybe the Islanders would have.  Nash is the missing piece to most other teams, and the only piece in Columbus.  Now that same organization tries to dump Rick Nash, a solid number two scorer as envisioned by 28 NHL general managers, for top scorer compensation.  Did I mention Nash's contract is player friendly and not anti-lockout friendly?  Rebuilding.  Laughable.  It's a term Howson uses openly so he can rationalize the minimalist return the franchise will get for Nash - aka Salary Dump.

The Blue Jackets have claimed that they are entering into a rebuilding phase, but I'm having a hard time finding more than parts of one season when they were ever 'built.'  Super-fans are placated by the possible loss of Nash by the manufactured fact that this year's draft is deep.  Deep.  It's more like Knee-deep.  Think I'm wrong?  Why does a story about Edmonton shopping the first pick get buried behind Rick Nash trade rumors?  It's a ho-hum draft year and everyone but the fans know it.  Admittedly, I've only spoken with two front offices this week.

Each GM has their formula for winning, and the successful GM can draft players to fit their team.  Some take time, some take luck.  A smart GM spends 5 minutes looking over stats, and months looking at everything else the player does.  What kind of person are they?  Are they coachable?  Does he alienate teammates?  Does he work hard?  Is his mom hot?  Is he ready?  All things being equal (which they seldom are) there are two solid fundamental ideals to go by in the NHL draft if you're a GM with an otherwise coin toss for a pick. 1) Take the best player available. 2) DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.

I am not being funny with ideal number two, if you're drafting on potential in the top 10, DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.  And really, if you're a CBJ fan, 'Don't draft the Russian' should be right next to your 'Carry the Flag' tattoo.  Think I'm just some blow-hard with a blog who knows a guy that knows a guy?Let's take some random draft years and look at our top 10 Russian picks.

2001: 1st - Ilya Kovalchuk; 3rd -  Alexandre Svitov; 5th - Stansilav Chistov
2002:  No Russians in Top 10
2003: 4th - Nikolai Zherdev
2004: 1st - Alexander Ovechkin; 2nd Evgeni Malkin
2005: No Russians in 1st Round
2006: No Russians in Top 10
2007: No Russians in Top 10
2008: 6th - Nikita Filatov
2009: No Russians in the Top 10
2010: 8th Aleksandr Burmistrov
2011: No Russians in the Top 10

The NHL is comprised of only like 4% Russians.  So naturally there would be fewer in the draft.  But still, at the U20 level, Russia has talent.  There are three Russians on this list that were legitimate "can't miss" players. There was media frenzy around them, you knew who they were when they were 15 years old - Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, and Malkin were studs from Day one.  Filatov and Zherdev were drafted on pure potential, which when faced with drafting a russian in the top 10 purely on potential, DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.  Of the Russians taken in the top ten the past decade, four are still in the NHL.  Three of the four that are not spent some time in Columbus.

Nail Yakupov is this year's top North American prospect (not already drafted).  There is no 'potential' on Yakupov, he should settle into a nice legitimate second line scorer somewhere.  He puts up legit numbers in the OHL.  However, his numbers aren't typically number 1 overall pick numbers, but they are in this year's draft.  They say 'North American prospect' because he plays major junior in the OHL - a most non-traditional route for a Russian considering how xenophobically protectorate Canada (I mean CHL) is of hockey for Canadians.  Yakupov's numbers are noteworthy, even though they are in the OHL.  How does he do if he played the WHL?  He did win CHL rookie of the year in 2011, but we know how well Rookies of the Year fair in Columbus.  His personal background is certainly unique, making for what is sure to be awkward interviews during post-game, if not making him more awkward than Steve Mason in the bars after a game. Oh wait, bars serve alcohol...

Anyways, to my point, Nail Yakupov will likely be available at pick number two if Edmonton doesn't trade it's number one pick.  Considering how badly Edmonton needs defensemen and how stacked they are with legit young forwards, it may be possible they look to trade the number one pick.  And really, if Wisniewski hadn't gotten a Nash-like contract (Nash-like in it's NTC, over paying-ness, and consistent Cap hit), he'd be on his way to Edmonton with he Kings acquired draft pick giving Columbus a number one pick in this year's draft.  Ok - I spoke with three front offices this week.

Columbus, if you find yourself in a position to draft Yakupov, only draft him if you plan on keeping him in Jrs one more year.  He had a multi-injury shortened season in Jrs this year, only his second in Major Jr, and he needs to play another year there.  While it may be foreign to people in three-balled Columbus to leave your number 2 pick (and possibly your number 1 pick) in Jrs, you are rebuilding and there is no hurry to force him into the NHL.  Having him play a frustrating season on the worst team in the league is not what this young man needs.  Leave him in Jrs one more year.  Come to think of it, it may be foreign to the NHL to put a non-goalie No. 1 or 2 pick back in Jrs.

Don't give me this Hall/Nugent-Hopkins crap.  Hall was an NHL ready pick ready after three full seasons in Major Junior.  He put up Nash like numbers his first two years in the NHL playing 75% of each season.  Nugent-Hopkins played parts of three seasons in Jrs, got to play on a team with a talented and same-aged Hall, and went balls-so-hard in the NHL.  Good luck finding film of Yakupov doing that.  There are lots of great videos of Yakupov dangling 17 year olds on the internet - not a lot of film of him banging in the corners.  Yakupov will have a good career in the NHL splitting time on the second line and top powerplay units.  He may make an All-Star team year.  Don't expect him to turn around a team or be the face of the franchise should he be drafted by Columbus playing in the Central Division.  Doing so would just be plain ignorant.

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