Battle of the Scouting Departments – Part 5 of 5

by Stuart McDonald on July 4, 2009
  • The Journey
  • Battle of the Scouting Departments – Part 5 of 5










The final portion of our five-part series evaluating the recent scouting of NHL teams.


The teams are presented in alphabetical order. Four of the five articles were published prior to the draft. Please note: This is not an assessment of each team's current prospects but an examination of the people currently doing the drafting and how well those people have done in recent drafts.

St.Louis Blues (A-)

Draft day decision makers: St. Louis' amateur scouting has seen very little turnover in the last five seasons. Senior Vice President and GM Larry Pleau has been with the club since 1997 while Assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen has been with the club for seven seasons. All amateur scouts with the club at the 2005 draft are still with the Blues in some scouting capacity.  

2005 – St.Louis stunned everyone on draft day, grabbing unheralded T.J. Oshie with the 24th pick. Oshie was rated much lower by almost every organization but has proven to be grand larceny at 24th. Oshie would be a top-10 pick today. The Blues drafted promising goalie prospect Ben Bishop with the 85th pick.    
2006 – Erik Johnson has had injury troubles, but when he does play he shows flashes of skill that prompted the Blues to take him No. 1 overall. Patrik Berglund, a 6'4, Swedish center went to St. Louis with the 25th pick and has proven to be almost as big a steal as Oshie. Berglund had 47 points in his rookie season and battled for top rookie honors well into teh spring. Skilled defender Jonas Junland notched 30 AHL points in his first year in North America. The promising Swede was taken 64th overall.
2007 – This was an extremely successful draft for the Blues. Although 2007 was a fairly average draft year, St. Louis' first seven picks are either solid prospects or already play in the NHL. David Perron, the best of the bunch, went 26th overall, but even defenseman Cade Fairchild taken 96th, holds promise as an offensive defenseman. Lars Eller, Ian Cole, Simon Hjalmarsson, Brett Sonne and Aaron Palushaj are all good prospects.          
2008 – St.Louis stayed true to form in 2008, not missing with their early round picks. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo went to the Blues with the fourth pick while Phil McCrae and Jake Allen went 33rd and 34th respectively. Allen is one of the best goalie prospects in North America. McCrae, a forward, suffered from mono early in the season but bounced back well.

Summary: St.Louis have had a lot of high picks but never miss on any of them. Grabbing Oshie 24th, Berglund 25th and Perron 26th shows St.Louis can consistently grab elite talent after the top 20, something few teams can do. St.Louis would earn an A but for their average performance in the later rounds.

San Jose Sharks (C)

Draft day decision makers: In his current position since 2003, GM Doug Wilson has always been able to lean on Director of Scouting Tim Burke, a veteran of 12 seasons. A relatively stable scouting organization, six of the sharks' senior scouts have been with the club since at least 2005.     

2005 – The Sharks wisely moved up to grab unheralded Devin Setoguchi with the eighth pick. Setoguchi has taken a while to develop, but came into his own last season with 65 points. The Sharks took Marc-Edouard Vlasic with the 35th pick and up and coming defenseman Derek Joslin with the 149th selection.      
2006 – San Jose drafted smooth-skating behemoth Ty Wishart with the 16th pick overall. Traded to Tampa in the Dan Boyle acquisition Wishart is developing nicely and should be an excellent shutdown defender. Early in the third round the Sharks nabbed Jamie McGinn, a top-six forward in the making.
2007 – Logan Couture has taken a long time to develop. Luckily for him, the Sharks are extremely patient with their forward prospects because they have so few of them. The Sharks took Couture ninth overall. They grabbed blue chip defenseman Nick Petrecki 28th overall and German goalie Timo Pielmeier 83rd. Pielmeier has had two productive seasons in the QMJHL since being drafted. San Jose stole Nick Bonino with the 173rd pick. The Boston University pivot had 50 Points for the Terriers before being picked up by Anaheim last season.
2008 – The Sharks didn't have a first or second round pick. They may have scored late, however, as defenseman Jason Demers notched 33 points in the AHL after being taken 186th. Goalie Harri Sateri, taken 106th, has also shown some promise playing for Tappara Tampere in Finland.
Summary: The Sharks draft goalies almost exclusively in the mid rounds. Since 2005 they have taken five goalies with picks ranging from 83rd to 140th. Both Pielmeier and Sateri show promise. The Sharks have not drafted a sure-fire star player despite drafting eighth, ninth and 16th overall. They do better than average in the later rounds although they have whiffed with a few early picks.

Tampa Bay Lightning (Not Rated)

Summary: No organization has had an overhaul as complete as Tampa Bay. Current GM Brian Lawton had a different role prior to assuming his current position in June 2008. Both Chief Scouts are in their first season with the Lightning and there has been a huge turnover among the scouts.

Toronto Maple Leafs (C-)

Draft day decision makers: This is a hard team to get a read on. GM Brian Burke is new, but there are a number of holdovers that have been with the club much longer. Cliff Fletcher, GM for the 2008 draft, is still with the organization. Dave Morrison, Director of Amateur Scouting, has been with the club since the 2007 draft, while six of the 11 amateur scouts were with the team at the 2005 draft. The 2005 and 2006 drafts will be given less weight in the grading but will still be examined.  

2005 – Tuukka Rask is looking more and more like a shrewd pick. Taken 21st overall, Rask has improved every season and has a real chance to be a star. The Leafs had no second pick, but Phil Oreskovic, a defensive defenseman taken 82nd, will almost certainly be a top-six blue liner. The real steal in this draft was Anton Stralman, taken 216th. Stralman is a top-four, puck-moving defenseman.
2006 – Jiri Tlusty, taken 13th overall, is developing nicely into a top-six forward. Nikolai Kulemin was a solid pick at 44th overall despite his considerable defensive liabilities. The Leafs unearthed another late-round gem taking NCAA power forward Viktor Stalberg 161st overall.
2007 – The Leafs had no first or second pick but grabbed checker Dale Mitchell in the third round. It's still early, but  Chris diDomenico looks like he could be a top-six forward despite being taken 161st overall.
2008 – The Leafs moved up to grab Luke Schenn fifth overall. Schenn has lived up to the hype and appears to be a foundational pick. Ninety-eighth pick, Mikhail Stefanovich, scored 49 goals in 56 QMJHL games.
Summary: The Leafs haven't done badly in the last four drafts. They have drafted some decent first rounders, and have consistently drafted NHL talent in the mid and later rounds. Brian Burke is an excellent GM but his teams do not have great draft records. Except for Bobby Ryan, Anaheim's draft record under Burke has been abysmal. Burke's presence brings down the Leafs grade.

Vancouver Canucks (D-)

Draft day decision makers: Only four of the Canucks 10 scouts at the 2005 draft are still with the team. Two of the four returnees, Chief Amateur Scout Ron Delorme and Chief European scout Thomas Gradin, are important decision makers, so there is some continuity since '05. Current GM Mike Gillis was hired in April 2008 and had some input into the 2008 draft.   

2005 – Luc Bourdon taken 10th overall, tragically passed away in 2008 but showed promise as a pro defenseman. Mason Raymond, taken 51st overall, currently has a top-nine role and could become a top-six forward.
2006 – Speedy Austrian Michael Grabner went 14th overall. He's developing steadily but his star potential is waning. The Canucks had no second round pick.
2007 – Patrick White looks like a complete bust with the 25th pick.
2008 – Cody Hodgson is a real anomaly. A Canuck draft pick with star potential is rare. Hodgson, taken 10th overall, was named CHL player of the year and led Canada's World Juniors to a gold medal. Yann Sauve, the first pick in the second round has some potential as an offensive blue liner.
Summary: The Canucks are almost incapable of drafting any talent beyond the first two rounds. Even then, they've made some less than stellar decisions. If it wasn't for Cody Hodgson, the Canucks would have earned an F.

Washington Capitals (D+)

Draft day decision makers: GM George McPhee and Director of Amateur Scouting, Ross Mahoney have worked together in Washington for 11 seasons. Six of Washington's seven amateur scouts in 2005 are still with the organization, so they are a very stable group.    

2005 – Washington managed to blow their two first round picks but scored a gem in the sixth round. Washington drafted small forward Tim Kennedy only to trade him to Buffalo two weeks after the draft.
2006 – In 2006, Washington almost made up for a terrible 2005 draft. With the fourth pick overall they took slick center Nicklas Backstrom who is already a star. Simeon Varlamov caught everyone off guard in the 2008-09 playoffs, taking over for Jose Theodore and leading Washington to the seventh game of the conference semi-finals. Washington lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Taken 23rd overall, Varlamov looks like he's Washington's goalie of the future. If Varlamov fails, 34th pick Michal Neuvirth could be the guy. Neuvirth also has star potential. Francois Bouchard, taken 35th and Oskar Osala taken 97th could both make Washington's top-six, although it's still too early for both of them.
2007 – The Caps grabbed defensive defender Karl Alzner with the fifth pick in the draft. Alzner is developing nicely. The same can't be said for the Caps' two second round picks or for their third rounder. This draft was almost as bad as 2005.
2008 – Defenseman John Carlson will help Alzner on the Capitals blue line next season. The 27th pick notched an amazing 76 points on the London Knights and should be a star one day. Twenty-first pick, Anton Gustafsson, took a step back last season but should be a decent two-way NHL forward. Dmitri Kugryshev came over from Russia and proceeded to tear up the QMJHL, scoring 74 points in 57 games. Taken late in the second round, Kugryshev should play in Washington's Russian dominated top-six one day.  
Summary: Very few teams have two terrible drafts in four years. Despite fantastic drafts in 2006 and 2008, two bad drafts are almost unprecedented.  



Top 15

A+   Detroit Red Wings
A+   Montreal Canadiens
A    Buffalo Sabres
A-   Colorado Avalanche
A-   Dallas Stars
A-   St.Louis Blues
B+   Los Angeles Kings
B+   Boston Bruins
B    Edmonton Oilers
B    Ottawa Senators
B    Philadelphia Flyers
B-   Pittsburgh Penguins
C+   Chicago Blackhawks
C+   New Jersey Devils
C+   Phoenix Coyotes

Bottom 14 (Tampa Bay was not ranked)

C    San Jose Sharks
C    Nashville Predators
C    Calgary Flames
C    Columbus Blue Jackets
C    Atlanta Thrashers
C-   NY Rangers
C-   Toronto Maple Leafs  

D+   Washington Capitals
D+   Carolina Hurricanes
D    Anaheim Ducks
D-   Vancouver Canucks
D-   Minnesota Wild
F    Florida Panthers
F    NY Islanders

NR   Tampa Bay Lightning