By B.D. Gallof, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — As the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils battle it out for the Stanley Cup the rest of the teams are gearing up for the third week of June and the NHL Entry Draft, which will be held in Pittsburgh. Your intrepid columnist will be there covering the festivities, and the Islanders have another key pick, No. 4 overall.
During the cap era, drafts have become even more important, and with this column I’ll be kicking off a series analyzing the new draft class by speaking with experts in the field. In addition, please make sure to follow me on Twitter as I will be commenting on the Isles’ offseason and policing the rumor mill.
David Burstyn is one such expert. He’s Director of Scouting for McKeen’s Hockey, whose draft guide just came out last week.
The following is his analysis of what to expect as we head to the draft:
What is your and McKeen’s approach to scouting, video or live observation?
Burstyn: “Live observation is the best way to scout hockey players. While video can be effective, as you can slow down certain plays and examine a player’s skating stride more effectively, live viewings tell me more about a player than any other method. You can take in the entire game as see how the play develops and you are not limited to following the puck as the camera lens does. There are plenty of times in a game where I am not necessarily looking at where or who has the puck, rather I focus on the player. I am watching him in terms of his eyes, positioning, body language, shift management and stick placement in correlation with the play.”
What has made McKeen’s unique and able to develop such a good reputation over the years?
Burstyn: “We have been publishing an annual yearbook since 1994. We have a great, yet small group of scouts that are in touch with the game and know what to look for in a player that translates to success in the NHL. Several of our scouts have graduated to the NHL ranks, including myself as I had a job last season with the Atlanta Thrashers. ”
Last year a few picks ended up turning immediate dividends in the NHL. Do you see something similar happening this time around?
Burstyn: “I think Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray have the best chances to stick. Both are late ’93-born players and have already played an additional year of junior than the majority of their peers. Yakupov is an elite offensive player who can generate his fair share of chances and, quite frankly, was too good at times playing junior as he played the game two steps ahead of his peers. Murray is a polished and mature two-way defenseman. He has been the captain of every team he has played on since he was 10, with the exception of this year’s World Junior Championship. Recently, he participated in the Men’s World Championships before being drafted, becoming the youngest player to do so since Paul Kariya in ’93, ironically the same year Murray was born.”
Are there any other elite or potentially elite players in this draft class?
Burstyn: “There is a surplus of defensemen in this year’s draft that I firmly believe will patrol the blue lines for several NHL clubs. Injuries took quite a toll on several draft eligibles, however a player like Morgan Rielly; who missed 54 games and two playoff rounds to a knee injury, is a defenseman that is cut from the same cloth as a Kris Letang or an Erik Karlsson. He offers such a great puck rushing dynamic. Griffin Reinhart is another player who has strong bloodlines; his father was captain of the Canucks and enjoyed a prosperous 11-year pro career before his back gave out on him. He has a little bit of Shea Weber in him and his massive size, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and ability to process the game makes him a player that could enjoy a lengthy NHL career.”
Edmonton has a multitude of forwards, and yet once again has the top pick in a draft that McKeen’s says has top forwards at a high level. Do you foresee the Oilers or anyone else shifting spots, or can you never have enough young talent?
Burstyn: “This will be very interesting to see what Edmonton decides to do. I am a firm believer of building from the back-end out. The Oilers need a defenseman and may chose to shop the pick. However, you need a trading partner and the deal also has to make sense. Yakupov entered the draft as the consensus No. 1, however a poor playoff, followed by concussion-like symptoms due to a late hit he sustained towards the end of the season raised some question marks.”
This has been called a deep defensive draft. Do you agree?
Burstyn: “I couldn’t agree more. In addition to Murray, Rielly and Reinhart that I have already mentioned there is Lindholm, Trouba, Pouliot, Maatta, Dumba and Ceci, all defensemen that McKeen’s Hockey has rated in their top 20.
“Lindholm has come out of nowhere but has emerged as one of Sweden’s best defensemen as he finished the season strong, helping his team advance to the Elitserien and had a productive World U18 Championship to cap off an impressive season.
“Trouba is a physical specimen and the highest American-born player rated for the draft by McKeen’s. He has size, can skate, plays with a physical edge and handles the puck well. In his brief junior career he already has two World U18 gold medals as he played in the tournament last season as an under-ager and was one of the more consistent players.
“Pouliot does every thing well and excelled at the CHL Top Prospects game. He is a swift and agile skater, can spearhead a rush and contain his man down low.
“Maatta, the 1st overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, helped lead the Knights to an OHL Championship. He was used in all situations and played upwards of 35 minutes per game in the last two playoff series. He makes a good first pass, has excellent range and plays a consistent two-way game.
“Dumba is an offensive maverick who plays a similar game to PK Subban in Montreal. He has an absolute rocket of a point shot and he plays physical as his hits can change the complexion of a game. He finished off strong, leading all players in scoring at the World U18 Championships and captained Team Canada to a bronze medal finish.
“Ceci is another defenseman with a rocket point shot. He can operate the point effectively on a power play. He boasts good size but lacks a physical presence and will need to get stronger down low. However, he shows considerable potential.”
Do you agree with the draft philosophy that defensemen are harder to develop where some teams seem to be cautious about taking them too early? Might we see some in top 12 d-men drop much like in 2010?
Burstyn: “I don’t think they drop like they did in 2010 because there aren’t as many skilled players as there were in that draft that included Granlund, Johansen, Skinner and Burmistrov, all playing in the NHL or soon to be in Grandlund’s case. This year we will see plenty of defensemen go early as there are just too many of them.”
Of course, just about every Isles fan is demanding a defenseman, thinking of what is needed on the NHL level right away, despite the fact that it takes years to develop. Islanders drafts have constantly resulted in them taking the best player regardless of whether he plays offense or defense, with perhaps a caution on committing to a defenseman in the top 10. But, with that said, lets play devil’s advocate and say they go for a defenseman; who should be on their radar?
Burstyn: “The Islanders will have plenty to choose from, including Murray, Rielly, Trouba and Dumba or Reinhart. Murray may be the only one not available as he could be picked before they select. However, all those other players should be available. Trouba and Reinhart would be safe picks that should be able to step in and play in the next 2-3 years whereas Dumba and Rielly are solid players that could give the Islanders a great transitional game. However, size is a factor with both of them.”
What about on offense? Is there anyone the Islanders should pay attention to that is out of the top 10, but has top line or top pairing capabilities?
Burstyn: “Mikhail Grigorenko is a player that should be on their radar. He struggled considerably in the playoffs as his Quebec team blew a 3-0 games lead to lose the series 4-3 to Halifax in the QMJHL quarterfinals. He was a non-factor and reports following the loss claimed he had mono. At times during this season he looked absolutely dominant as he could control the pace of the game as his offensive imagination and reach were simply too good to defend against. He is a potential game breaker but he also suffers from inconsistencies and lacks intensity.
“Another player that the Islanders may take a hard look at is Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting (OHL). He is another prospect who missed considerable time with a knee injury but showed great mental resolve to rehabilitate his knee and return for the playoffs, where he played exceptionally well considering the circumstances. He plays a solid two-way game. His character is off the charts and he competes. His offensive game is also polished as he has an NHL snap shot, can see the ice and engages in the corners. Galchenyuk is the type of player that may push for his 8-10 NHL game audition (similar to Mark Scheifele of the Jets) before returning to juniors. He takes his off-ice training very seriously and already stands at 6-2, 200 pounds.”
How hard is it estimating Galchenyuk’s draft value and projection when there is no adequate sample size from this past season due to injury?
Burstyn: “As mentioned, he returned in the playoffs and played very well, logging ample ice and chipping in offensively. Prior to his injury Galchenyuk enjoyed a successful rookie season in the OHL as he led all ’94-born players in points with 83 on a team that did not have much of a supporting cast at the time. He also played well for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where all NHL teams would have seen him. Galchenyuk is a former 1st overall pick in the OHL, I was part of the scouting staff in Sarnia that selected him. The reason we chose him over others was his sheer ability to manufacture offense, while also playing a hard two-way game. His style compares to Marian Hossa.”
There seems to be a noted increase in Teuvo Teravainen’s stock value late in games. Is he the real deal?
Burstyn: “He has the best set of hands available in the draft. He creates instantly once he gets over the blue line as his wrists are lightning quick. He played very well at the World U18 Championships. However, he needs to get more involved as he can be too perimeter. If he is partnered up with two physically imposing players who can keep up with his creativity and imagination, he could be a very successful point-producing player at the NHL level.”
How valuable do you really think the NHL Combine is? Have you ever, or would you ever, especially if it was earlier in year, change rankings based on combine performance? Does junior teams playing right up until the combine make it more difficult to assess, while college kids and others might have not played for a month, and yet are all compared equally?
Burstyn: “The combine serves a purpose in that NHL teams can interview all the players at once. It gives them a small chance to get to know the player on a personal level. The V02 test is also a good indicator as to how hard they will push themselves. Also, several NHL teams pay close attention to the vertical leap as it measures explosiveness.”
If you were to predict where some guys outside the projected top 10 could land, who would they be and why?
Burstyn: “We have Lindholm at 11 but it is quite conceivable that he slips into the top 10 based on his upside. Radek Faksa, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) could slip into the top 10 as he plays a game similar to a Bobby Holik. He is strong and plays one of the best defensive games amongst the draft-eligible forwards. His board play is exceptional and he is still growing as he stands a whopping 6-2, 205 already and looks massive on the ice. Last year, Zegmus Girgensons as a rookie helped Dubuque of the USHL win a Clark Cup Championship and he was excellent for Latvia at the WJC this season. He offers a unique dynamic in that he doesn’t go around players, rather through them. He fits the mold of an honest power forward that also has some skill to put up some points.”
If you were to make a mock draft thanks to your own scouting acumen and experience, who would you take if you were each team in the top 10?
Burstyn: “I will base this on selecting the best player available. I could see there being several trades that would change the complexion of this mock draft:
“Edmonton – Yakupov – Oilers continue to add to their stable of young guns up front and go for the best offensive skill set of the draft even though Oilers management will have to find a defenseman to keep the puck out of the net
“Columbus – Forsberg – Forsberg has the capacity to play on their top line as he offers a vastly superior offensive skill set. He can score goals and make plays as well as play a punishing style of game. He needs to physically mature but he has all the ingredients to be a marquee player in the NHL
“Montreal – Galchenyuk – The Canadiens would like a forward who can help the team immediately and Galchenyuk may just push for a roster spot. Loaded with character and a modest offensive game, he is already physically developed to handle the rigors of the NHL. Rebounding from his knee injury will be the big question mark.
“N.Y. Islanders – Murray – Murray has the potential to be a cornerstone of the back end for years to come. His two-way play coupled with his leadership abilities make him a minute muncher and he has an offensive layer to his game.
“Toronto – Rielly – Given the success of smaller, puck moving defenseman such as Karlsson, Keith and Letang in the ‘new’ NHL, Rielly is the type of player that can control the tempo of the game who only surrenders the puck when he wants to.
“Anaheim – Dumba – Another offensively fueled defenseman who may lack size but not bite. Dumba is also equipped with a rocket from the point. He needs to work on his defensive game, but he has offensive instincts that simply cannot be taught.
“Minnesota – Trouba – Would take a hard look at Grigorenko, however with the likes of Granlund and Coyle set to join the team up front the opportunity to select Trouba is far too enticing. He offers great size and the tandem of Trouba and Brodin would be a great way for the Wild to build from the net out.
“Carolina – Grigorenko – The Hurricanes need help scoring goals and Grigorenko could be a point producer. He can play either on the wing or up the middle and given his sheer, natural skill set he could possibly suit up for the ‘Canes as early as next season.
“Winnipeg – Teravainen – The Jets would like a big body up front, but the temptation to grab an elite scorer makes him an ideal fit. Teravainen has golden hands and can create scoring opportunities with relative ease. He fared very well this season playing in the top Finnish Men’s league: SM-liiga.
“Tampa Bay – Lindholm – Lindholm entered the season as a virtual unknown, however helping his Rogle team advance to the Elitserien and finishing off the year on a high with a solid World U18 Championships upped his draft stock. He has size, is a crisp skater and more importantly can raise his level of play when games become physical. He can provide the Lightning with a solid offensive minded defenseman.”
Thanks to Dave and the scouts of McKeen’s, whose guide is a staple come this time of year. Stay tuned for more on the draft in June.
Read more columns by B.D. Gallof
Do you agree with Burnstyn’s assessment of what the Islanders should do with their pick? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …