Al Muir's Blog
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(11:03) Long night...and I'm long overdue for a couple of Canadian cold ones. I'll be back here tomorrow with a second-round wrap-up and on the main site Monday with an overview of the draft. Thanks for stopping by and for all the comments and emails...and I hope your team got the player you wanted.

(10:56) The Stanley Cup champs close it out (and give the Bell Centre crowd a parting gift) by calling on Quebecer Simon Despres with the final pick of the first round. Everyone figured they'd be looking to add a defenseman with this pick, but Despres was a bit of a surprise. Not that he wasn't highly ranked (Central Scouting had him at eighth) but it was clear that few teams held him in such high regard. His size (6-4, 204) and skating ability suggest he'll be an NHLer, but his limited offensive instincts and questions about his compete level left many questioning his upside. If he's the next Hal Gill, he's a useful player...but you need more value than that out of a first round pick.

(10:51) Yep...it's Ashton. a power forward with great size (6-2.5, 205) and some offensive potential. Works hard in the corners, finishes his checks, skates hard up and down the boards. Best-case scenario, he's good for 20-goals a year, much like his dad, Brent.

(10:45) The Wings trade away their first rounder--they've had just four in the last 10 years, so the deal wasn't exactly a shock--to the Lightning, who've been trying to grab another first rounder for the last hour. Look for them to take Carter Ashton.

(10:40) The Hurricanes pass on a few players ranked more highly by other clubs to nab Philippe Paradis, a center from Shawinigan. He's another safe pick who looks like a lock to become a long-term NHLer as a depth player ... and maybe more if he realizes his offensive upside. Has NHL size (6-2, 195) and could make a relatively quick ascension to the pro ranks based on his mature, responsible defensive work. Jim Rutherford said the 'Canes would be looking for size up front from at least three of his six picks. With Paradis in tow, look for two more similarly built bruisers to get the call on Saturday.

The Hawks follow with Dylan Olsen. Solid value pick. Big hitter (6-2, 210) who also uses that bulk to launch bombs from the point. Odd fact: he grew up, and actually learned the game, in Italy. His father Darryl finished his pro career there after playing one game with the Calgary Flames back in 1991.

(10:32) The Ducks take Palmieri with their second pick of the round. I talked to a couple scouts this week who thought all of the fuss over his dismissal from the USNTDP was much ado about nothing. He's undersized, but fiesty and more than one scout drew a comparison to Chris Drury. He's highly competitive and has a plus-shot. Could be a tweener, flipping between the second and third lines.

(10:25) Not too many boos for Peter Chiarelli as he selects Rimouski center Jordan Caron. Big kid (6-2, 201) who plays a controlled, physical game and is a monster on the cycle. Sounds like an ideal Bruin--but don't get carried away by the 36 goals he scored this season. The consensus is that he maxes out as a high-end third liner.

(10:20) The Caps take center Marcus Johansson. That's the record for the Swedes and the third time in four years that Washington has gone to Sweden for their first rounder. He's one of those players whose value varied widely depending on who you spoke with. At least one team had him rated in the first round (well, at least two including the Caps) but others saw him as nothing more than a third or fourth rounder with some upside. He might be your Axelsson--a safe enough pick based on his defensive play, but there's real concern that he might not be able to contribute offensively at the NHL level. 

(10:08) The Flames take Tim Erixon, the son of former Ranger Jan Erixon. Not the most exciting pick, but he was highly regarded as a responsible presence in the defensive end. A safe pick who'll probably top out as a No. 4 on Calgary's blueline. Have to think he'll stay in Sweden for another two or three years before he starts his NHL career. Really surprised Sutter didn't take a Western Canadian boy. Could have nabbed Ferraro or Ashton and picked up an Erixon-type later in the draft (Jesse Blacker comes to mind).

Erixon's also the sixth Swede taken in the first round, tying the record set in 1993. 

(10:03) Nice moment: the Canucks send Montreal native Roberto Luongo out to make the pick. Shroeder finally gets the call after what has to be the longest wait of the night. Have to believe that teams were turned off by his size (5-8, 175) and an unimpressive showing at the World Juniors (note to his apologists: I'm talking about his passive efforts in games against legitimate competition here, not Germany and Slovakia). Still, he's a dynamic skater, wildly creative with the puck and has a tremendous shot, evidenced by his 1.3 points-per-game average with the Gophers, tops among all NCAA freshman. I do believe he'll end up being a top-six forward for the Canucks...and make more than a few teams regret passing him over.

(10:01) Nice to take a breather during the TV timeout (yep, they even have them at the draft).  Gave me a chance to look at who might be taken in the next couple picks. I still like Kyle Palmieri for Vancouver and Landon Ferraro for the Flames, but keep an eye on Carter Ashton, Dylan Olsen and Tim Erixon.

(9:56) And that's why the Blue Jackets move up. They get Moore, a great value pick at this point of the night. He's one of the best skaters in the draft and has a real sharp eye with the puck. He'll key their transition game and be an ideal QB for a power play that's held them back as other elements have come together under coach Ken Hitchcock.

(9:53) Anaheim trades pick 21 to Columbus for 26 and 37. Dropping five slots to pick up a second rounder? Nice asset management by Bob Murray. If you're a Ducks fan, you have to love the night your team has had. And that's a steep price for the Jackets. They must have targetted someone to help their blueline. Moore? 

(9:50) Devils made the deal to move up and take Jacob Josefson at 20. Haven't seen him myself, but scouts have talked up his two-way ability. That may come off as a bit of faint praise for a Euro--tends to bring up images of workmanlike drones such as P-J. Axelsson. But I've heard him described as a poor man's Henrik Zetterberg by at least one scout. Given that Lou Lamoriello traded up to get him, you can bet that latter comparison is probably close to the mark.

(9:45) A couple trades coming up? Looks like the Kreider pick has a couple teams itching to grab a player who might have slid a bit. Schroeder and Moore are out there.

(9:39) Touching moment when the Rangers mention the passing of Alexei Cherepanov. Worth noting that they were awarded a compensatory pick (#47) in the wake of his death. The Rangers then go mess up the will of the hockey gods by grabbing Kreider, a fantastic skater with decent size, albeit as raw as they come. Pretty much exactly the type of player everyone figured they were looking for. There was some question about just how good he was because he spent the year playing high school hockey in Mass. He's going the college route with Boston College. He'll probably be there at least three years before the Rangers even begin to think about his future in the NHL.

(9:32) What a great moment..actually, a pair of them. There's something right in the hockey universe when the Wild takes a kid from Minnesota and the Habs select one from La Belle Province. Have to wonder if the Bruins will make it a trifecta by taking Chris Kreider...

(9:28) The hometown Habs are on the clock. If they don't take Louis Leblanc, these fans might recreate the Metallica/Guns and Roses riot. Shoot, they might riot if the Habs *do* take Leblanc...

(9:22) Can't imagine anyone's mock is looking too good at this point. Shocked that the Wild didn't take Gopher forward Schroeder. At least they make home staters happy by taking Minnesota's Mr, Hockey, Nick Leddy. Another surprise: don't believe anyone saw him as the first American to be taken. He's small, but skilled and should impact their transition game. He'll join Schroeder at the University of Minnesota this fall.

(9:15) Peter Holland goes to the Ducks. Bit of a riser there. As I wrote in my mock, he's got all the tools but has a reputation as a Patrick Marleau-type. Great size, tremendous hands and outstanding skating...but you wonder whether he's willing to pay the price to make the most of his gifts. He'll work the greasy areas just often enough to tease you into hoping he can do it all, but not often enough to make anyone a true believer. Be interesting to see if playing with blood and guts types like Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf will rub off on him.

(9:07) Shocked that the Panthers passed on John Moore. Pretty much everyone I spoke with had him headed to Florida. But, similar to the Paajarvi-Svensson pick, the decision to go with Kulikov was probably a case of a team going with a player they had rated higher and didn't expect to be available. I've heard talk that he has a contract with a Russian team, but don't hold me to it. I'll have to look into the details on that one. If that's true, that probably played a role in his slide. Kulikov is a legitimate two-way defender, blessed with both elite playmaking skills and a sound reliability in his own end. Plays a North American-style game--he's plenty physical and not afraid to take a hit to make a play. The eventual replacement for Jay Bouwmeester? Sure looks like it.

(9:02) The Sabres go with Zach Kassian. Had a few letters from Sabres fans saying there was no way Kassian would slide past them to the Habs (where I had him going in my mock). Good call on their part. This pick addresses a clear organizational need. The Sabres have suffered from the presence of too many smallish, timid forwards. That won't be a problem with Kassian who's all grit and sandpaper. The question is, will that be enough? Some nights he looks like Milan Lucic. Some nights, like Brad May. He might end up as a banging third liner which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but at this point in the draft there was a lot of skill left on the table and that opens the Sabres up to some second guessing. But if he works on his skating and addresses his consistency issues, this could turn out to be a great pick. Let's hope for the latter. The thought of all those Buffalo/Boston contests being highlighted by Kassian/Lucic tangles is heaven for fans of old time hockey.

(9:00) No Americans taken in the top 10 since 1993. EDIT My bad--. Should read: No Americans taken in the top 10 for the first time since 1993. Thanks for the correction Kuckooforkovalchuk. Trying to juggle too many plates at once here. Fingers aren't working as fast as the brain...and there's room to argue just how fast the brain is working...

(8:50) Wow...can I take that back? I love Snow's aggressive use of his assets, but moving up this far to get Calvin de Haan? That's a wild card pick. Time will tell how good he'll turn out to be, but I didn't hear anyone suggest that de Haan would be taken earlier than the 20th pick. He's a smooth skater, moves the puck well and has a real nose for the net. Most of his 55 assists came off rebounds and passes down low. But there are questions about his size. He's 6-0, 173. He'll get bigger and stronger, but strong enough? Elis may be short, but he's built like a fire hydrant. de Haan is a bean pole. Again, not to knock him--consensus is he'll be a player--but seems like he could have been had later in the round. Of course, we'll never know...

(8:48) The Isles trade 16, 77 and 182 to the Wild for 12. Wow...Garth Snow had a phenomenal draft last year and now he's making this year's event his as well.

 (8:45) Looks like the Ellis pick has Minnesota in turmoil. Guessing he was their first choice in this spot. They might move the pick.

(8:41) Alright! My boy Ryan Ellis goes to the Preds. Geez, what a defense David Poile is building in Nashville. Ellis is the real deal. Thinks the game as well as anyone. Stronger than he's given credit for. Tremendous shot from the point--he'll be an elite power play quarterback. And don't worry about his five-on-five play. He'll need some time to develop, but that side of his game will come with experience and physical maturity. And geez, imagine him and Shea Weber throwing bombs from the point. That'll be worth the price of a ticket. And with one more high-end defensive prospect in the system, you have to wonder if the Ryan Suter trade rumors will finally amount to something.

(8:37) Nashville's on the clock. I like Jordan Schroeder with this pick. He's tiny, but has tremendous offensive instincts and proven chemistry with 2008 Preds' pick Colin Wilson

(8:31) There he goes. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson to Edmonton. This kid looks like a prototypical Oiler. Compared by some to Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Kent Nilsson, he's all about speed, strength and creativity. He's fearless when it comes to driving the net. Arguably the fastest player in the draft. Can you imagine him on that Edmonton ice? Wow. He's under contract with Timra for one more year and honestly, I think he'll probably stay in Sweden for another year or two after that. Still, great value pick. You always hear executives say, "We can't believe he was there when it was our turn to pick" but in this case, it's true.

(8:29) The Oilers have to go with MPS here, don't they? I liked Ellis with this pick, but didn't think Svensson would drop this far.

(8:23) The Sens go with Cowen. Smart, value pick. He's a massive, shutdown defender who probably would have gone higher were it not for an injury that sidelined him for much of the season. This kid was absolutely dominant in the Memorial Cup last season as 16-year-old. Word is his knee is fully healed from the ACL/MCL injury. Should be a nice counterpoint to last year's first rounder, Erik Karlsson, a smallish, Brian Rafalski-type blueliner who thinks offense first. Add in recent picks Patrick Wiercioch (42, 2008) and Brian Lee (9, 2005) and they've got the makings of a promising back-end.

(8:17) Look for the Lightning to try to move up to acquire another first round pick. They've got a pair of seconds to deal. Could be looking to grab one of the defenders that is sliding (Jared Cowen, Dmitri Kulikov) or one of the lower rated blueliners (John Moore, Ryan Ellis), depending on who they can convince to bite.

(8:15) Joe Nieuwendyk makes his first pick as GM of the Stars: Scott Glennie. Bit of a surprise. Great goal scorer, underrated playmaker. Can play center or wing, but you have to think he'll be a winger in the pros. Really thought they'd go defense with this pick, especially with a couple kids with top-pairing potential still on the board. Says a lot about how Dallas wants to play. With Jamie Benn and now Glennie ready to jump in in a couple years, you'll see Nieuwy's Stars playing a more offensive-minded game. Gotta be honest--I would have taken MPS here. Love his speed and creativity.

(9:06) The Leafs take Nazem Kadri. Great speed, great hands, thinks the game at high speed...but doesn't seem to fit the mold of player that Brian Burke has been saying he was looking for. Belligerent? Truculent? I don't think so. He gives Toronto's offense an explosive option...but man, I saw him take a LOT of nights off this season. Yeah, he was great in the playoffs but when a kid in his draft year sloughs off that much...well, it's no wonder at least one team had him ranked in the 20s.

Gotta love the Montreal crowd chanting "67! 67!" as Toronto was making the pick.

(8:01) The Coyotes take Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Caught me by surprise with this one. Heard a lot of chatter about him over the past few days but I thought he was the beneficiary of some misdirection hype from a couple of teams. My bad. Second Swede to go in the top six--bodes well for them to break their record for most first rounders. I've never seen him play, but the scouts who have rave about his skating and puck distribution skills. Smart player, not particularly physical, but always in position. Almost no chance he'll be in the NHL next year.

(8:00) Columbus trades a pair of picks (16 and 77) to the Islanders for four picks (26 37, 62 and 92). Have to see what they do with the selections before passing judgment on this one but you can see the advantages for both sides.

(7:53) The Thrashers grab Evander Kane and the Kings follow with Brayden Schenn. A couple of hard-nosed, second liners. Kane is a new-age power forward type. Not the biggest kid (6-1, 176) but he plays the game with consistent intensity. Goes hard to the net, has great hands. He'll be a special player...wouldn't be a total shock to see him in the NHL next season. He has the emotional maturity to make the jump. Schenn plays the game like Mike Richards. Not as talented a goal scorer as Kane, but a better playmaker and an outstanding two-way player. He needs more time in Brandon. Can't see him making the jump right away.

 

(7:45) Don't hold me to this, but I've got Philly's salary cap hit at somewhere in the neighborhood of $53.5 million next year with Pronger added and Lupul subtracted. That's with one goalie signed, so they've got about $3.3 million left to fill their roster. They need to address a couple of forward holes, but they can do that cheaply with youngsters like Claude Giroux and former first rounder James VanRiemsdyk. Finding a pair of reliable stoppers will be a real test for Paul Holmgren. Of course, he'll have an easier sell when he can offer them a defense of Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Randy Jones and Matt Carle. Hearing they (along with the Blues) might be interested in Josh Harding and that Martin Biron is Colorado bound.

 

(7:34) Colorado's on the clock...and it'll be Matt Duchene. First three fall as most expected. This kid can do it all. Heart and soul player. Great wheels, special hands, tremendous defenisve player. Like Jonathan Toews, he earns a lot of comparisons to Bryan Trottier. Tells you all you need to know about him. He has the potential to wear the C in Colorado, and could play in the NHL as soon as next year. Avs fans have to be excited imagining Duchene and Paul Statsny as the top two centers in the near future.

(7:21) Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul, the 21st overall pick this year and Philly's first next year for Pronger. Wow. That's a steep price to pay, although it should propel the Flyers into contender status next season after consecutive playoff disappointments. The big question: How are they going to make this work under the cap? Daniel Briere has to be gone, right? Maybe Mike Knuble?

From the other perspective, what a nice job by Murray remaking the blueline in Anaheim. Next year they have Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski and now Sbisa. That's a nice top four, and relatively cheap. Might be able to keep Francois Beauchemin now, too. Plus, that extra first rounder....wonder if he'll try to package 21 and 15 to move up? I don't think he will--you can throw a blanket over the players from 10-25--but if they have their eye on someone they now have the assets to make it happen.

The Lightning are at the podium. Geez, Brian Lawton looks blown. Think his life's been turned upside down over the past couple weeks? They take Victor Hedman. Again, no surprise. A team that dressed an NHL record number of defenders last season needed a bedrock guy. Hedman is a beast, a great skater, tremendous offensive force, moves the puck exceptionally well. He's a real No. 1 type defenseman. He should play this season.

(7:15) It's Tavares. Honestly, can't believe anyone is too surprised by this choice. This kid is a goal-scoring machine. You have to take junior scoring marks with a grain of salt, but an OHL record 215? This kid's the real deal. They now have Tavares and Josh Bailey as their top two centers for the next decade. Not quite Malkin and Crosby, but this will be a very solid duo.You really have to be impressed with the young talent that Garth Snow has acquired since assuming the position. Respectability was getting closer. With this pick, it's just around the corner.

Say this about Tavares: The kid is instant excitement. He's not the most compelling personality in front of a microphone (nothing wrong with him, just a little vanilla), but he's going to attract a lot of attention with his work on the ice. Be interesting to see if his presence has any impact on the team's ability to get shovels in the ground on the new building they so desperately need.

(7:10) Geez, what a brutal attempt at pandering French by Gary Bettman. Makes Sascha Baron Cohen in Talledega Nights sound like Gerard Depardieu.  And you have to love the most predictable fan reaction in all of pro sports. Wouldn't you love to walk behind him on the streets to hear if he's booed randomly throughout the day?

(6:59) Hey, Dashiva. Depends who you talk to on the first goalie. Matt Hackett is the consensus best goalie available, but I've heard a few scouts say they favor Edward Pasquale, the big (6-2, 216) stopper from Saginaw. I don't think either of them goes in the first, but I expect Colorado to use their second rounder to grab one and wouldn't be surprised to see Philly trade up in the second to grab one for their system. They don't have a second round pick at the moment, but could have two third rounders (if Boston doesn't exercise an option on one of them). They'll have to come up with something interesting to move into the second.

That was quick. Just hearing that Anaheim has dealt Pronger to Philly. Just a rumor at this point. I'll be back in a bit.

 

(6:50) Appreciate all the emails. Wish I could get to 'em all, but things are starting to roll. I'll try to get to a few of them as the opportunity arises. Bridgit in Ottawa asks about Dany Heatley being dealt tonight. Can't rule it out, but I don't think it happens. That salary is like a massive zit on the forehead of the prom queen. You wish you could overlook it and focus on all the positive attributes, but there it is ... staring at you. My gut is that if he is dealt, it'll be after free agency shakes out and teams decide to react to any perceived shifts in power in their division/conference. We'll see.

 

(6:37) Ducks now confirming that Niedermayer is coming back and will sign with the team. Guess that signals the official start to the Pronger sweepstakes. Doesn't necessarily mean he'll be dealt tonight (I don't think Anaheim GM Bob Murray's in any hurry), but a high pick would certainly sweeten the pot.


(6:20) The Kings and Senators are talking. Could just be discussing favorite fishing holes or cottage plans, but they are talking. We'll see if anything comes of it. I still think the Kings hold on to the pick.

Had an email about Ryan Ellis. Full disclosure: I grew up a fan of the Spits so there might be some personal bias involved in this assessment. Still, I've seen as much of this kid as anyone in the draft and I think he's going to be dynamic. Kind of reminds me of Greg Hawgood, the old Bruins defender who saw the ice and moved the puck as well as anyone in the league, but was the size of Billy Barty. Tough act back in the '80s. These days? Much more workable. I think Ellis will be a major contributor for someone. I can't imagine him dropping past 12, but I think he goes at 10 to Edmonton, even with their need for a physical forward.

 

(6:12) Hear a couple other outlets are announcing Niedermayer intends to play next season. That didn't take 'em too long...

Had a couple emails asking if I still thought the Isles would be going with Tavares at No. 1. Honestly, I really like Matt Duchene's game and I think he's going to be a heck of a player, but I can't believe that Garth Snow is going to take him. If he wants Duchene, he can trade down and get him. At No. 1, it's got to be Tavares. Like I wrote earlier, you can teach a kid anything but how to score. Tavares has got some special hands and a knack for creating space for himself in the greasy areas. I think people are just looking to create some friction when they start talking up Duchene as No. 1. 

 

(3:14) Chris Pronger to the Blues? Could be. Looks like Scott Niedermayer is coming back to the Ducks for one more season, and that means Pronger and his salary are on the way out.

(3:10) Will the Kings keep their first-rounder? Broad consensus was that they would move it as part of a package to obtain immediate help for next season (possibly Dany Heatley?). Word now is that they're leaning toward keeping the pick. 

(2:41) Can someone explain to me how this Tomas Kaberle plus seventh overall to Boston for Phil Kessel rumor makes sense? Kaberle's salary may be very reasonable at $4.25, but that still leaves Boston in the same cap quagmire they're in with Kessel, assuming the potential RFA is looking for $-$4.5 million. For this to work, Boston has to move another significant salary. Ryder, maybe? I just don't see this working out without other moving parts.

(2:15) Rumors are circulating that the salary cap has been set at $56.8 million, or $100,000 more than last season.  Official statement by the NHL says lower Limit of $40.8 million, an adjusted midpoint of $48.8 million and an upper limit of $56.8 million.

(2:08) Had two scouts tell me there's "no chance" that Zach Kassian falls to Montreal at 18 as I predicted in my mock draft. They could be right. At the same time, I've had another observer tell me that someone is going to make a mistake taking him too early, likening him to the next Brad May...nice player, but you're looking for a little more talent early in the first round. We'll see how it goes. Also heard that Dallas might be looking at John Moore. Eight seems too high to take him considering the blueliners that would have to be left on the board at the time, but this is worth watching.

 

 It's all about to go down in Montreal, tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern on Versus.

Will the Islanders use the first overall pick on sniper John Tavares, hulking defender Victor Hedman...or go off the board and take two-way center Matt Duchene?

Will Brian Burke make his promised splash, wheeling and dealing to move up in the draft, or flipping his first rounder for some immediate bellicosity?

Will the Bruins dump Phil Kessel to save some cap space? Could Dany Heatley be fitted for a new sweater? What about Vincent Lecavalier, Patrick Marleau, Chris Pronger or Jay Bouwmeester? All are rumored to be on the block, as are Ryane Clowe, Tomas Kaberle, Joffrey Lupul, Josh Harding and about a dozen more players who could impact a team's success next season.

As soon as the boos greeting Gary Bettman's appearance subside, I'll be here offering instant analysis of all the picks and deals. I'll even address some of your questions, as time allows. See you back here tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern . . . or sooner, if things get interesting. In the meantime, check out my first round mock draft and see what you think.

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