NHL Entry Draft Breakdown

With the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks selected forward Patrick Kane of the OHL’s London Knights. And the Philadelphia Flyers followed that up by selecting James Van Riemsdyk, making it the first time in NHL history that two Americans were selected 1-2 overall. Here’s a closer look at the first ten selections…

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, RW
London Knights, OHL
An incredibly skilled playmaker, Kane also boasts elite-level finishing ability. He demonstrated a willingness to battle through traffic while playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championships, and could potentially step into the ‘Hawks’ lineup this coming fall. And given the ‘Hawks’ struggles over the past decade, they didn’t want to be the team that passed on Kane, unequivocally the most coveted player available this year.

2. Philadelphia Flyers: James Van Riemsdyk, LW
University of New Hampshire, NCAA
A burly power forward, Van Riemsdyk is already large enough to compete in the NHL, but he’s going to spend at least one season in college sharpening his skills. The prototypical Flyer, Van Riemsdyk is a fearless crease crasher, which should play quite well in Philadelphia. And best of all, the Middletown, NJ native will provide Flyers fans with a near-local hero to root for.

3. Phoenix Coyotes: Kyle Turris, C
University of Wisconsin, NCAA
An excellent two-way center with well-above-average offensive skills, Turris is mature beyond his years. While some scouts have been seduced by Kane’s skill and others by Van Riemsdyk’s combination of size and skill, a number of teams have Turris ranked first overall. And though there are concerns about his lack of size, it’s a good bet that the slight center will only get better as he fills out. The Coyotes unabashedly coveted Turris, and were thrilled that he was still available at #3.

4. Los Angeles Kings: Thomas Hickey, D
Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL
Projected by some scouts to go as late as the second round, this talented puck-moving defenseman is very solid positionally. His upside would at this point appear to be lower than Blue Jackets prospect Kris Russell’s, and it’s fair to say that the Kings are taking a huge risk by selecting Hickey this early. GM Dean Lombardi will look like a genius if the pick pans out, but Lombardi probably should have dealt down in the first round and still gotten Hickey… plus a kicker (draft pick, prospect, roster player) of meaningful value.

5. Washington Capitals: Karl Alzner, D
Calgary Hitmen, WHL
The most valuable defenseman available, Alzner doesn’t boast top-end offensive skill, nor does he cut a particularly imposing presence on the ice. But he’s excellent in all aspects of the game, and the Hitmen can count upon him to deliver 35-40 minutes per night of nearly immaculate defensive zone play. And after seeing how critical Scott Niedermayer was to the Ducks’ success—this despite finishing the postseason with only 11 points in 21 games—it was no surprise that Alzner went in the top five.

6. Edmonton Oilers: Sam Gagner, C/RW
London Knights, OHL
A bit on the small side, Gagne is an exceptionally gifted offensive player. Some scouts are questioning whether his production this season (like Esposito’s last year) was due to the presence of another top-tier player on his line (Kane), but those doubts could just as easily be cast upon Kane in the reverse. The son of former NHLer Dave Gagner, Sam should fit in quite well in Edmonton.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jakub Voracek, RW
Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
The Blue Jackets already boast some tremendous top-flight talent, but their effort level isn’t particularly consistent. Enter Voracek, one of this draft’s few certainties. A solid two-way forward who works extremely hard on the ice, the deft playmaker was an excellent choice. More seductive talents (like Alexei Cherepanov) were still available, but for the Blue Jackets—who have already invested a tremendous amount of effort into the development of enigmatic forward Nikolai Zherdev—the safe choice was the right choice.

8. Boston Bruins: Zach Hamill, C
Everett Silvertips, WHL
A talented playmaker with excellent puckhandling skills, and perhaps most important to the Bruins, he has excellent hockey sense. The knock on Hamill is that he may lack the skating ability to excel at the NHL level, but his strong two-way play and on-ice smarts will likely make up for his lack of top-end speed. Like the Kings, the Bruins appear to have taken a player earlier than necessary; like Lombardi, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli probably could have moved down in the first round and still gotten Hamill (plus a “kicker” of meaningful value).

9. San Jose Sharks (from St. Louis): Logan Couture, C
Ottawa 67′s
The Sharks exercised their option to take the Maple Leafs’ first round pick (#13, acquired in the Vesa Toskala deal), then moved up by swapping the pick to St. Louis in exchange for the ninth overall pick. A hard-working, intelligent forward, Couture’s one critical weakness is his skating ability. But the Sharks–much like the Bruins with Hamill–believe that the positives far outweigh that negative.

10. Florida Panthers: Keaton Ellerby, D
Kamloops Blazers
Perhaps the most prolific offensive defenseman available in the draft, Ellerby is tailor-made for today’s NHL. A very intelligent player, he has the size (6’4″, 186 pounds) and skill to dominate at the NHL level. For the Panthers, it is mission critical that they begin to develop some puck-moving rearguards to complement Jay Bouwmeester on their blue line. Ellerby immediately becomes the Panthers’ power play quarterback of the future.

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