It's not going to be easy, of course: good things rarely are. There will be decisions to make about the team, and they can be quite easy:
Bummer. Going zero-for-three at the toughest trophy in sports sucks, but losing it to Boston doesn't make it too hard to take: that's a pretty darned good team over there. The question now is: how do we make ours better?
What do we offer our restricted free agents?
...or quite hard:
Can we win with this nucleus?
That being said, I didn't see much in that final round that made me change my mind about where I think the team is heading. Losing one of the strangest series' I've ever seen in seven games wasn't the result I was hoping for (the Significant Other has kept her glee to a polite level, thankfully) but is still better than 28 other teams managed. And as an end result, we know where everyone's going to draft a week from now, barring first-round trades. So let's start talking Young 'Uns!
Everyone's got what they like to see in a player, and there are team needs that some will insist on filling while others try to follow the maxim of "getting the best player available" no matter what position they play, even if it means having more goalies than can be fit into a single system. Some teams will be looking for a player who is able to step in within two years, while others are willing to wait for a prospect that may need more seasoning, but has a higher projected outcome.
Everything printed here is, naturally enough, a result of my own incomplete knowledge of the players discussed and my peculiar prejudices about what I like to see in a player blended with where I think the Canucks will be looking in another week's time. Oh, and working on the assumption that Mr. Nugent-Hopkins won't be available in the late-20's:
1) Christopher Gibson. Any time someone is talked about as the best goalie in the QMJHL, you have to consider giving him a look. He played on a weak team - and in the Q, when you play goal on a weak team, you may as well get your uniform vulcanized. He managed a ridiculous .920 sv% on a sub-.500 team, plus he won the Telus Cup as a midget. And he's from Finland, in case his goaltending cred is ever in doubt. His dad is British, which just adds another nationality for the team. Gotta get 'em all!
2) Rocco Grimaldi. Okay, I admit it: a big reason I like him is for the name - how couldn't I? But he's also fast, strong, unafraid to go into corners despite playing centre, has produced at every level, represented the US internationally (and very well at that), and has good finish to go with playmaking skills. Oh, and he's also 5'6". And so's Martin St. Louis.
3) Phillip Danault. Not a top-end finisher, but a solid, two-way player and I like that. Used in all situations for Victoriaville, he plays a thoughtful game, which is my particular fetish. He already plays a reasonably complete game, and in a few years should be ready at the NHL level, but he'll have to grow into it.
4) Stefan Noesen. How can you not like a Texan who moves to Michigan so he can get into the OHL? Another very fast playmaker, he doesn't have consistency yet, but has been used in all situations finishing at +14 (best among the team's forwards) and about as many points as penalty minutes (77 and 80).
Taking a flier: three Russians that could pull off huge rewards will be available, but what they'll do when given the chance is anybody's guess.
1) Andrey Pedan needs to work on his puck movement, but is a big (6'4") shut-down player. He got 8 assists in 6 playoff games for Guelph, but nobody's really sure how. Be nice if that continued, but that's not what's going to get him drafted. Still, if points are going to go along with bone-jarring hits, who's to say no?
2) Nikita Nesterov: still in the Russian juniors, he's several years away from the NHL, but he's got a lot of attention for his ability to make plays as an offensive defenceman. Slick skater, excellent passer. He is definitely going to be drafted this year, but who knows where? He's got the talent, but will he come to North America?
3) Nikita Kucherov: 27 goals and 58 points in 41 games says a player is good; the 81 penalty minutes shows he's intense about it, too. Picked up 21 points in 7 games at the U18 tournament last year, five better than anyone else. A modest risk with massive potential for reward.
So there are my opinions! Anyone else got some names on their minds?