Call it being fortunate. Call it being spoiled. Call it all the right parents conceiving at the right time. Actually, don't call it that – I don't want to think of my parents procreating. Whatever it is you call it, the past three years have had a consensus No. 1 pick emerge by midway through the season. The 2007 NHL Entry Draft appears to be well on the way to breaking that streak.
While that's not entirely unusual on its own, consider this: usually by mid-point, the World Juniors, a successful major junior/European pro league campaign or a combination of both have propelled one player into the hype-o-sphere. Looking past the obvious in Sidney Crosby (2005) and Alex Ovechkin (2004), MA Fleury (2003), Erik Johnson (2006) and even Rick Nash (2002) had the lion's share of discussion heading into their respective drafts.
What's muddied the picture even more heading into this June's proceedings is the dramatic collapse of several prospects who were at one time or another considered shoe-ins for the top spot. Ottawa 67s pivot Logan Couture, who has drawn feverish comparisons to Steve Yzerman, suffered a late start to the year thanks to a bout of mono. Angelo Esposito, on the radar since a blowout performance for Shattuck St. Mary's prep school at age 15, may just barely eclipse the century mark in points in the Q. This after scoring 97 in 56 games last year. Mikael Backlund, a Swedish centerman touted as being better than Nick Backstrom, has collected 3 points in 17 HockeyAllsvenskan games and was cut from the Tre Kronor WJC squad. And more recently, London Knights phenom and Team Canada forward Sam Gagner was significantly outclassed by linemate Patrick Kane at the World Juniors.
Despite the rise of several prospects looking to fill the hype void with their own word of mouth, the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is anyone's game right now. But never fear; in 2006, yours truly looked into the crystal ball and correctly predicted the draft places of Nicklas Backstrom, Semen Varlamov, Jamie McGinn, George Holloway, Tony Romano and Jesse Joensuu in addition to being within 5 picks of Eric Gryba, Niclas Andersen, Jonas Junland, Rhett Rakhshani, David McIntyre, Ryan Daniels, Ryan Flynn, Cory Emmerton, Felix Schutz, Chris Auger,Simon Danis-Papin, John Armstrong, John DeGray, Jordan Bendfeld, and Kyell Henegan.
So as of January 13th, here's Part 1 of the Bugg Bytes 2007 Top 30:
1. Logan Couture, C, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Height: 6'0 Weight: 191
Scouting Report: One of the best natural leaders in the CHL. Immediately changed the fortunes of the 67s top line upon returning from injury- suddenly, Jamie McGinn was not only very good but dominant once again. Incredible vision and timing. Creates plays through a combination of fantastic reads, pure skill and a willingness to get in the dirt. C