The road to the next Stanley Cup Champion begins with the NHL Entry Draft this weekend. A year ago Gillis gave up on Steve Bernier and coughed up two prospects (the 25th pick overall plus Michael Grabner) to acquire Victor Oreskovich and Keith Ballard. If the intent at the time was for Oreskovich to play more playoff games than Get-Baumgartner-on-the-line-because-no-one-trusts Ballard and Grabner to be up for rookie of the year, then roll out the banner because mission fucking accomplished.
Starting tonight and continuing into tomorrow, Gillis and the scouts jump into the spotlight to address the franchise's short and long term needs. It also means that Missy, eightseven and the other NM ladies get to oogle the kids (you know I'm right) who will struggle with comically large jerseys in front of the hockey world before being ushered quickly off stage for even more comical photo spreads. See above.
After the jump, we'll look at what GMMG may do with his selections. Naturally since we're guessing none of it will come true and instead he'll draft a broken table leg from OHL Whitehorse. Book it.
Gillis has only picked 17 times since he took over the team and nearly 25% of those have been from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Curious what his draft roster looks like? Roll tape:
Cody Hodgson (10th - 2008), Jordan Schroeder (22nd - 2009), Prab Rai (131st - 2008), Mats Froshaug (161st - 2008), Alex Friesen (172nd - 2010)
Anton Rodin (53rd - 2009), Steven Anthony (187th - 2009)
Yann Sauve (41st - 2008), Kevin Connauton (83rd - 2009), Jeremy Price (113rd - 2009), Patrick McNally (115th - 2010), Peter Andersson (143rd - 2009), Sawyer Hannay (205th - 2010)
Morgan Clark (191st - 2008), Adam Polasek (145th - 2010), Joe Cannata (187th - 2009), Jonathan Iilahti (175th - 2010)
NM went defense first and so too did not just one but two NHL Mock Drafts along with a Pierre McGuire-inspired TSN mock draft, though having the McGuire endorsement means David Musil's career is over before it begins. We loved what Tanev showed this year, have high hopes for Sweatt, Connauton and Sauve but no one is near the caliber of the late Luc Bourdon. None of the defensive picks above strike us as first pairing material. As the adage goes - and fate seems to reinforce on us at all the wrong times - you can never have enough defensemen and there will be plenty of options by the time #29 rolls around.
There's a similar quality issue up front. Aside from Hodgson and Schroeder and high hopes for Rodin, no one truly stands out. We have our fingers crossed for Bill Sweatt, Stefan Schneider and Prab Rai, but clearly the club could use some better building blocks. They are remarkably thin at pure right wingers with only Desbiens and prospects Darren Archibald and Kellan Tochkin so it stands to reason that St. John's RW Tomas Jurco was the selection in both Hockey's Future's mock draft and TSN's ("think a highly skilled Michael Frolik"). One of the NHL mock drafts has Vancouver taking Windsor LW Alexander Khokhlachev (a Russian? AHHH! RUN AWAY!!!) and notes "Skilled, flashy forward eventually will look great skating alongside Cody Hodgson" which is going to make Sergei Shirokov punt a bunny.
No way they'd take a goalie right? Wait, never mind.
Overall this draft feels like 2009 where Vancouver picked at 22nd and Schroeder dropped into their laps and they then landed intriguing Rodin and Connauton the two rounds after. They'll naturally be hoping a first rounder slated to go in the teens slips down and that they can unearth some gems in the middle rounds.
Conversely Gillis could treat us to some wheeling and dealing again (preferably after speaking with Vigneault about the feasibility of the acquisition actually playing). The 29th pick isn't sexy, but it's still a first rounder and Gillis has all his picks to offer along with two highly coveted rookies (Hodgson and Schneider), negotiating rights (Bieksa and Ehrhoff notably) and at least one serviceable veteran (Samuelsson). In exchange Gillis wants some quality but I suspect any true answers via the trade route are going to be costly; no one is going to have sympathy after Vancouver's regular season dominance. After Philly's moves yesterday - moving Carter and Richards for picks and prospects - maybe the time is now to move youth to bolster the immediate future. Losing Grabner was one thing, but are you ready to stomach seeing Ginger Jesus stroll out of town or see Hodgson be the real deal somewhere else for a proven commodity now?