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NHL Draft Combine- Day 2 Recap

Here's the recap of Day 2 of the NHL draft combine.

Kirk Luedeke on The top three picks, Gabriel Landeskog

While I did meet Kirk yesterday, I didn’t get to talk to him as he was going off to talk with Grimaldi and Oleksiak. Today however, I did have a pretty long conversation with Kirk. I talked to him about the Nugent-Hopkins vs Larsson debate. He felt that Nugent-Hopkins will probably go first overall just because of how he’s been playing in Alberta for the last couple of years and perhaps the fans wanting a good Canadian boy at first overall- but he doesn’t discount Larsson as a potential pick.

As for Florida, we talked about who they might be interested in- I brought up Couturier and Huberdeau. He felt that Huberdeau might generate more interest with them for two reasons- the first being versatility and the second being that the Panthers have Nick Bjugstad in their system, who will likely be the team’s top line center in the future.

An interesting comparison Kirk brought up about Huberdeau was Taylor Hall. While Hall ended up being the first overall pick, he mentioned that they both were Memorial Cup Winners- which had them in the spotlight for a bit longer. Like last year with Hall and Seguin both fighting for the #1 spot, Hall did get a slight advantage for being in the spotlight longer with his second straight memorial cup win.

After we talked about the top three, we talked about his choice at 4th overall- Gabriel Landeskog, if he was available (remember- maybe Colorado and Florida decide to take him). In Tom’s mock draft, Landeskog was taken 2nd overall by the Avalanche. If he was available at 4th overall, Luedeke said that there’s no way the Devils pass up on Lando, simply because he’d be the best player available. David Conte likes him quite a lot- as evidenced by Kovyislove’s comment in my post on my story yesterday as well as a story Luedeke told me about Conte pretending not to like Lando so his ranking would drop. Landeskog mentioned that he could potentially be a future captain of the Devils down the road and that if Landeskog was drafted, he’d be a great ambassador for hockey in NJ.

My quick take on what he had to say- I do have to agree with him. While a top center like Couturier or Strome would look good beside Ilya Kovalchuk or a stud defenseman might look attractive, the Devils do have a weakness on the right side. Prospect wise, they have very few prospects there. Landeskog is listed as a left winger, but he is capable of playing on the right side and he could be slotted anywhere- on the top line or against the top competition. The fact that adding Landeskog would strengthen the right side is a massive plus, especially seeing as the team’s pretty much chock full of left wingers.

Of course, from what Luedeke had to say, I felt that if the Avs decided to take Larsson or Huberdeau with the 2nd overall pick instead of Landeskog, the Panthers would not pass on someone just because of what Kirk had to say about him. Especially seeing as the Panthers would love someone who can forge a positive identity for them.

Another thing we talked about was a prospect who did interest me- the big Jamieson Oleksiak, and whether or not he could be NHL ready. Kirk mentions that Oleksiak's late birthday helped him out- if he was draft eligible last season he'd probably be a late pick due to him not being well coordinated and not nearly as strong. This year he's turning heads because of his size, skill and better coordination. He brought up that Oleksiak has a weakness in his decision making- meaning teams might shy away from him seeing as he'd be more of a Hal Gill than a Zdeno Chara. Not necessarily a knock against him, but there's a difference between a big, reliable guy like Gill and a big guy who can be used in all situations.

My impressions

Personally, there weren't that many prospects I was interested in. There were some top guys like Oscar Klefbom, but they didn't really generate the same hype as other guys like Nugent-Hopkins. I didn't nearly get to talk to that many prospects, so I didn't get nearly as much to talk about. If there was one person who did alot to make a good impression with others, it was Klefbom. Kirk Luedeke thoroughly enjoyed him during his interview.

Joel Armia did look pretty good in the combine. One thing I liked about him- before doing the power test (the one Duncan Siemens got winded by), he was watching one of his peers doing it. He didn't look phased at all while awaiting one of the hardest tests there. I didn't get to see him do the test, but the fact that he showed no fear before a tough challenge was a good sign for me if you ask me.

Brian Burke

This one does deserve it's own section- I've only seen him on TV before I saw him at the combine. Burke looks way more intimidating in real life than he does on TV. I saw him talking to the media and doing an interview, and he looked serious. He walked by me while I was talking to Kirk Luedeke and he had the same expression- I don't think he even cracked a smile the entire time. Dude's all business.

Differences between Day One and Day Two

It was a very different experience in terms of media coverage. With all the big name prospects like Huberdeau, Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson and Landeskog here yesterday, there wasn't nearly as much media attention. Yesterday TSN had their stage set up and lots of people were there. The TSN stage took up most of the area and made it abit harder to get a look at the prospects doing some tests. This time I was able to see more prospects and more tests, simply because there were less obstructions.

Of course, I had a great time at the combine and it was a great experience for me. Of course, a lot of credit goes to John and Travis for helping me get this set up and getting me media credentials. I'm probably going to post some reflections about my experiences at the combine later.