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Blackhawks Top Performer At Draft Table

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks
Now that the NHL Entry Draft is concluded, the only thing left to do is the post-mortem. So here's Red Line Report's analysis of Draft Day 2006. Although it'll be at least 3-4 years before we can tell who the true draft winners were, these are the teams we feel picked especially well, ranked in order of preference.

The top performers at the draft table:

1. Chicago Blackhawks

Give them a gold star and an A+. It's one thing to have 9 picks, it's another thing entirely to make them all count. The Hawks bagged a whopping seven of the top 98 players on Red Line's board, including three of the top 30 and four of the top 44. Jonathan Toews, Igor Makarov, and Jan-Mikael Juutilainen form a varied and dangerous triumvirate up front. Joe Palmer will prove to be one of the top three goalies from this year's crop. And Simon Danis-Pepin is a humongous blue-line project with potential. Tony Lagerstrom was a disappointment to us this year, but is talented and could still blossom. We even think the two late Ontario Tier II forwards, Peter Leblanc and Chris Auger, have some possibilities.

2. Montreal Canadiens

Give them a solid "A." With only six picks they managed to nab five of RLR's top 66 ranked prospects. They only had one of the first 48 picks, yet managed to bag four of our top 42. Montreal really loaded up on fleet, agile defenders who can play in the "New NHL." David Fischer and Mathieu Carle both have premiere offensive talent with great vision and passing skills. Sleeper Cameron Cepek is an aggressive blue-liner who was just coming into his own before a wrist injury put him on the shelf for most of the year. Of the two WHL forwards, Ben Maxwell brings lots of skill and Ryan White adds plenty of grit. And the Habs themselves think Pavel Valentenko was the real hidden gem of their draft day efforts.

3. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche only had six picks, but every single one of them was in our top 120, including four of our top 39 ranked prospects. U.S. NTDP teammates Nigel Williams and Kevin Montgomery were both huge steals where they were picked, and have great skating ability and offensive upside. Chris Stewart and Michael Carman are two of the hardest working players in this year's draft and bring a grind-it-out mentality that has been lacking in Colorado since the days of Mike Keane, Stephane Yelle, and Chris Drury. Codey Burki has first round skills, if he would ever apply himself consistently. And though Billy Sauer was overmatched at age 17 in college, there's still plenty of time for him to develop with some patience.

4. St. Louis Blues

From top to bottom, this may have been the most solid draft class of any team. They had nine picks overall, and every one of them could wind up helping this organisation, either at the NHL level or as quality depth in the system. Of course, any time you start with the top defence prospect of the past 15 years (Erik Johnson), you've had a good day. Gargantuan goalie Reto Berra is a future star. Tomas Kana brings grit and toughness, while Patrik Berglund offers big-time skills. Another pair of Swedes, d-men Jonas Junland and Alexander Hellstrom, bring size and offensive tools while Americans Ryan Turek and Andy Sackrison have speed and the versatility to play multiple positions.

5. New York Islanders

Had more total picks (12) than any other club and made some good choices. Kyle Okposo and Jesse Joensuu are a pair of big, banging wingers who know where the net is. Robin Figren is an agitating pest with great work ethic. Rhett Rakhshani is a similar style player, only with more speed and goal scoring touch, and late round find Brian day is yet another smallish super pest with good speed. Tomas Marcinko could turn into the best power checking centre to come out of this draft. Overall, they really re-stocked the entire mix up on the forward lines.

6. Atlanta Thrashers

Were the only team that was able to nab two of Red Line's top 12 prospects. Bryan Little is a terrifically skilled playmaker who will one day replace Marc Savard's offence centreing the top line. Throw in Riley Holzapfel and the Thrashers picked up two of the better playmakers in the draft. And having robust, sniping winger Mike Forney fall into your lap at #80 is nothing less than a godsend. Alex Kangas is a rapidly improving goalie with a future, and AJHL centre Jesse Martin may captain their AHL team down the road.

7. Phoenix Coyotes

Quietly had a very solid day at the draft table. Had an outstanding first round seeing Peter Mueller fall to them at #8 and then making a smart trade-up to grab Chris Summers, who had inexplicably fallen to 29. Getting your future 1st line centre and a top three defender in the first round is a nice opener. Add to that a 3rd round steal in punishing Swedish d-man Jonas Ahnelov and punishing d-man Chris Frank as a late round flyer, and you have the makings of a really sound draft.

8. Boston Bruins

Day started with Phil Kessel dropping into their laps at #5. What could go wrong after that? Landed another premium talent at the top of the second in defenceman Yuri Alexandrov, and perhaps the best cop in the draft with Milan Lucic in the 3rd. Brad Marchand is a stocky and skilled, if undersized, centre from the Maritimes, while Andrew Bodnarchuk is a stocky and skilled, if undersized, d-man from the Maritimes. And Levi Nelson is a guided missile posing in the body of a human being.

9. Buffalo Sabres

This thoroughly professional staff did their usual yeomen's work. Started the proceedings with only one pick in the top 45, yet somehow able to grab three of Red Line's top 41 ranked players. Included in the bunch are RLR's two absolute favourite sleepers in a pair of undersized Euros: Swedish goalie Jhonas Enroth, who we think could become the best of this year's crop, and German centre Felix Schuetz, a little buzzer who's so much fun to watch. Dennis Persson is a fast, skilled defender, and late rounders Alex Biega and Benjamin Breault are also tiny but skilled playmakers, so it's easy to see what the Sabres' draft trend was. The only real clinker was slow-footed/dim-witted second round d-man Mike Weber.

10. Los Angeles Kings

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