chicagoblackhawks.com caught up with Kyle Woodlief, publisher and chief scout for the independent scouting service Red Line Report, following the 4th round of Saturday's 2006 Entry Draft for his take on the Blackhawks' selections.
You had Phil Kessel ranked just ahead, but you probably aren't going to take issue with the Hawks taking Jonathan Toews at #3.
No, I was fairly certain after I saw Dale Tallon scouting Jonathan Toews personally a couple of times late in the season that he was a kid they had really zoned in on. And I've said many times, for me, Toews is the best, most complete two-way forward in the entire draft. It always comes down to different styles, what type of system you want to play. Toews is a terrific player. I'd have no quibbles if he had gone second overall behind Erik Johnson; I think that would have been just fine for Toews.
He's a kid who is vastly underrated in terms of his goal scoring ability. He has one of the best shots in the entire draft. He can pinpoint laser beams to the corners like nobody else in this draft. And he's got great instincts; he's just got great hockey sense in all three zones. He's a really mature kid, very articulate, comes from a good family. He's going to be a quality, character kid. I think he's only 185 pounds or so now, but I think he's got a really good size frame that he's going to fill out. He's probably going to play in the league around 205 eventually. He kind of reminds me of a Rod Brind'Amour in that he plays the game so hard in the defensive end and he does everything well. There's nothing that he's weak at.
|He has one of the best shots in the entire draft. He can pinpoint laser beams to the corners like nobody else in this draft. --Kyle Woodlief on Jonathan Toews|
You also had Igor Makarov, who the Blackhawks took 33rd overall, rated very high at #19.
Even though there's a tentative agreement in place with the Russian federation and there's not nearly enough leeriness on the part of teams to draft Russians this year as there was last year when there were no Russians picked until #70 overall ... still, you saw them drop about a round from where they should have. There's a lot of Russians who ordinarily would have gone late-first, early-second round who all dropped down to late-second, early-third ... These kids [like Makarov] on talent alone would have been late-first, early-second round picks. It's a testament to how highly they thought of Makarov that he didn't drop as much as the other kids did.
He's a really skilled kid with the puck. He drives hard in the offensive zone, finishes his checks. He's got good speed and really good acceleration, really nice lateral east-west mobility that allows him to beat defensemen off the rush one-on-one on a consistent basis. He's going to need a couple of years; he's not going to be ready right away. But he's a good kid; he's going to have to work on his English. I've talked to him through his translator a few times and he's not real comfortable at all with English...
...But he wants to get better...
That's half the battle, that he wants to work at it. And I don't think they'll have many problems trying to bring him over to North American pretty quickly. He's very anxious to get over here and begin the North American portion of his career as quickly as possible.
You had Simon Danis-Pepin rated 98th, but called him a "sleeper." Were you surprised at all that the Hawks took him at #61?
We didn't have him rated quite that highly, but it doesn't surprise me at all that he went that highly. At 6-7, 210 pounds... I know it's the 'new NHL' where speed and skill is highly valued, but teams are always looking for the next big defenseman who can come out of the woodwork and really dominate physically.
|For me, [the Hawks] got three first-round values. You can't argue with that. -- Kyle Woodlief|
The reason he's somewhat of a sleeper is that he was the second-youngest player in U.S. college hockey behind Jonathan Toews, actually. It's really tough for a tall, gangly, 6-7 inch defenseman whose coordination hasn't caught up to his body yet and ask him to play against college seniors who are in many cases 23, 24 years-old. A 17 year-old can't keep up with that pace of a game yet. He didn't play much, was a healthy scratch early in the season. Finally after Christmas he started getting a little bit more ice time and played pretty steady hockey.
But that's one of the reasons he's a sleeper. He's a very young kid to go to college, playing in an extremely strong program -- that University of Maine program is always a powerhouse. It's hard to justify taking a guy in the top 40 or 50 picks when he didn't get a whole lot of ice time in his draft year, and he didn't play a CHL schedule where he's playing 70 games. I think he played in 23 games this year, which isn't a whole lot of chances to see him play.
In the 4th round, the Blackhawks took defenseman Ben Shutron and goalie Joe Palmer, who you had rated as the 30th best player in the draft.
Shutron is a real good puck-moving defenseman. His hockey sense is a little bit questionable, and he's not real good in his own zone, so he's got a lot of work to do in that regard. But he's a hard-working kid and he's coachable, so there's definitely hope that he's going to come on. He's got the offensive skills and the tools to play in today's NHL.
Joe Palmer, in Red Line Report's opinion, could turn out to be one of the real steals of the draft. We had him ranked 30th, late first-round pick... He's a big kid at 6-1, 205 pounds, and he's very, very flexible and athletic for a big goaltender. He's got all the tools necessary to be a real solid NHL #1 netminder someday. It's going to take him a little time. He's going to require probably four years at college. He's going to Ohio State and Casey Jones, a good friend of mine, is going to work with him very hard there. It's a good program for him to be in and I think it's going to be a really good experience for him to grow over four years and ease his way into his pro career.
You were big on the Blackhawks' 2004 Draft with Cam Barker and Dave Bolland. It's not over yet, but so far does this draft class rank anywhere close?
Well, the kids that we've been talking about so far are all really solid picks. Toews and Makarov and Joe Palmer... when you look at it this way, right there the Hawks picked three of Red Line Report's top 30 players. For me, they got three first-round values. You can't argue with that.
Email web producer Adam Kempenaar at: firstname.lastname@example.org