Sunday, June 25, 2006

2006 Draft

The draft came and went while my internet connection was conked out. If it was a typical year, three of the players selected will go on to have hall of fame careers. The only question is who are they? At this point we have little more than wild guesses.

Continuing the trend in the 2005 draft few European trained players were selected. Only six went in the first round this year, led by Niklas Backstrom who went fourth overall to Washington. This change is partly due to CBA, since teams must sign any Europeans they draft within two years or they re-enter the draft (when previously they held their rights until age 31). Also this is partly because of transfer fees. When a player under contract with a European league leaves to play in the NL, the NHL must pay transfer fees to his previous team. As a result of a yearlong fight with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, these fees will rise (in the tentative agreement they have reached). So it will cost NHL teams more money to bring a European to the NHL and they don't have as long a time window to do so. This creates a situation where it is quite possible that one of the Hall of Famers in this draft might be a European who slipped a couple rounds. If less players are beng drafted from a given group, it becomes more likely that a talented member of that group was available later in the draft.

The draft was not without trades, which in the short term have more impact in the NHL. In fact, it is quite likely that no players drafted in 2006 will hold down an NHL job this season. Last year, only Sidney Crosby jumped to a full season in the NHL from the 2005 draft and scouts universally claim there is no Crosby available this year.

The trades began with Luongo for Bertuzzi. Atlanta traded talented but injury prone Patrik Stefan and defenceman Jaroslav Modry to Dallas for Niko Kapanen and a 7th round pick. Los Angeles traded Pavol Demitra to Minnesota for prospect Patrick O'Sullivan and their first round pick. Colorado traded Alex Tanguay to Calgary for Jordan Leopold, their second round pick and a conditional second rounder in a future draft. Boston traded Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for goaltender prospect Tuukka Rask.

When all was said and done, I think Calgary made the biggest short term gain adding Tanguay for Leopold and draft picks. The biggest long term gain is very hard to assess given the number of drafted players that I have never seen play. It's the team that grabbed a future hall of famer in the second or third round (or beyond). At this point your guess is as good as mine as to who that might be.

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