Friday, June 25, 2010

NHL Draft: Fearless Predictions

I have gotten a few people asking where I think the top local prospects will go in the NHL Draft, which starts in Los Angeles Friday night.

Before I finish building my ark (it's rained a lot here the last 16 hours or so), here are a few thoughts on the proceedings.

Derek Forbort, D: I think it's a mortal lock that Forbort will become the first Duluth native to ever be picked in the draft's first round. The future North Dakota defenseman skipped his senior season at Duluth East to play for the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor, and that decision turned him from a surefire top 20 pick into a surefire top 20 pick.

With all due respect to the NTDP, which does great work in helping elite prospects from hockey hotbeds like California and Oklahoma develop their skills, this should serve as a sign that Minnesota high school hockey players don't have to look at it as a be-all, end-all for development.

I think Forbort has an outside shot of going in the top ten. It depends on how long the upper tier of defensemen (Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley, and Erik Gudbranson) come off the board. My belief is he will fall no farther than No. 11 to Dallas, who has a local connection because of the drafting of Matt Niskanen a few years ago.

Justin Faulk, D: Faulk is UMD-bound, and nothing that happens Friday should change that. He will benefit from a chance to play against bigger and stronger WCHA forwards, whereas a move to major junior would put him with kids who won't test his body nearly as much.

TSN's Bob McKenzie ranked Faulk 30th on his list this week, but that's about as high as I've seen him. It does show an upward trend for Faulk heading into the draft, and it helps that he's part of a great group of NTDP defensemen (joined by Forbort, Jarred Tinordi, and Jon Merrill) in this upper part of the draft.

However, size matters to pro scouts, and while Faulk's strength and compete level are both very good, his body frame is not, especially compared to his three teammates. It's going to hurt him, and while he has an outside shot of being drafted Friday night, I'll tab him as an early second-round pick.

Joe Basaraba, F: The future Bulldog is smart on the ice, has a good shot, and is an intense player. He has to add muscle, but once he becomes a Man Made By (Justin) May, I'm sure he will fill out nicely.

Basaraba has moved up and down on the boards I have seen, rating in the 30s on some and into the 70s on others. For that reason, his actual draft placement comes down to timing. There are likely to be teams that really like him, and also some teams that will shy away for reasons only they fully comprehend.

If the right team is picking, it wouldn't surprise me to see Basaraba go in the second round. However, I think I'll lean towards the slight fall he's taken in the ratings, and conservatively predict he will come off the board in round three Saturday.

Adam Krause, F: Krause is a big forward who works hard, has great character, and will score some goals. But he is not projected to be a big-time offensive threat in college, and his skating might not be the best. While Krause will work hard and earn everything he gets, he will probably fall into the fifth or sixth round of the draft because of concerns about his upside.

Caleb Herbert, F: Another future Bulldog, Herbert was a dynamic scorer in high school at Bloomington Jefferson, and is a top offensive talent out of his age group. He's not very big, though, and that makes it hard to imagine anyone will take Herbert before the fifth round.

I don't think 2011 UMD recruit Chris Casto, a defenseman from Hill-Murray, will get drafted. If he does, it will happen in the seventh round.

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