Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 NHL Draft: Final Thoughts

The expectations played out in the 2010 NHL Draft. There was a little drama, some notable trades (defenseman Dan Hamhuis' negotiating rights going to Pittsburgh was the biggest, along with the deal that sent former Gopher Keith Ballard to Vancouver), and a real American feel to this year's picks.

Not only that, but it was a really good year for current and future NCAA players. Even if you take out Tyler Pitlick -- the former Minnesota State forward who has already decided to go major junior starting this fall -- you have a total of 62 players with NCAA ties who were drafted, including nine in the first round.

None of them are expected to show up in the NHL this season, but they should add to the growing influence of college hockey on the NHL.

Among the 62 players were three with ties to UMD, and a number of players from Minnesota.

We talked about the UMD players in our draft notes Friday. As expected, defenseman Justin Faulk went in the second round. No. 37 overall to Carolina. It's a good fit for Faulk and for the Hurricanes, as they could use a couple more younger defensemen who can move the puck around. Faulk sure can do that, and I think he'll really impress UMD fans with his competitiveness and drive. Don't worry about him being a really early departure, unless he has a great freshman season and the Hurricanes just can't resist.

Early in the third round, we saw former Shattuck-St. Mary's forward Joe Basaraba, another 2010 UMD recruit, come off the board. He went to the Florida Panthers, who had a great draft, loading up on big forwards (they also drafted future Gopher Nick Bjugstad in the first round). Basaraba will fill out some at UMD, and develop his skills as a two-way player while improving as an offensive threat. We saw Dan DeLisle come in straight out of high school last year, and it took him a good chunk of the season to really catch on to things. Then, naturally, as he was coming into his own, DeLisle was injured in Houghton and never really was the same. I'm not sure it's really a fair comparison, as Basaraba is maybe a bit more refined as a skater and offensive threat, while DeLisle had more, well, meat on his bones. But I think you'll see some similarity in how Basaraba really improves toward the latter part of the season.

The other UMD recruit taken was 2011 forward Caleb Herbert of Bloomington Jefferson. The former Jaguar went to the Washington Capitals. Herbert will play in the USHL this season, and he should join UMD as a better player. While a guy like Basaraba has the experience of playing at a top-flight school like Shattuck, where he traveled all over and played a lot of hockey, Herbert's experience in high school hockey doesn't quite measure up. As a smaller player of sorts, Herbert is much better-suited to play a year in the more-competitive USHL before joining UMD. It will be a help in his development.

UMD has a full roster this season, so hopefully Faulk and Basaraba are able to gain strong footing early. There will be a ton of competition for the last two or three forward spots, along with the last defensive pairing. If the new guys come in with the right mindset, captain's practices and the official start of workouts in early October should be very entertaining.

While the Bulldogs do open on the road, they took the full roster on the bus the last time they headed out to Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette for Superior Cup games. Expect the same to happen this year, and expect to see a lot of lineup tinkering over the first two weekends of play, both of which are non-conference (games at Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan, followed by a home set against Providence).

Of the NCAA players drafted, it's hard to say if any stand much of a chance of playing in the NHL before 2012. If anyone does, it could be a guy like Bjugstad, who is very strong for a kid his age and body type. He's accelerated his development and his education, so we'll see how he adjusts to the college style come October. Since he's already taking classes and working out at Minnesota, I'd say he's anxious to get started.

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