Monday, August 20, 2007

First Round by the Hockey News

I had purchased the Hockey News annual Ultimate Pool Guide to see what they had in store for the 2007/08 season (prognostically, of course) and there was some pretty interesting ideas in there, despite some errors and being poorly laid out. But really, if the Hockey News was to have their way in the first round (to a certain degree), I think you'd see it laid out something like this...

Sidney Crosby - 128 points: There's no denying that Sid the Kid is going to have yet another stellar season, but maybe THN his somewhat overshooting the mark here. Sure, it's possible that Crosby is going to dance around everyone this season, but a 128-point effort should lead us all to believe that the Pens are going places this season and they could the THN pick to win the Cup this year.

Dany Heatley - 106 points: Last season's 50-goal campaign and eventual Cup Finals berth was enough to sway THN towards Heatley in the two spot of the draft. There's no question in my mind, Heatley is a high first-rounder, but I could think of a couple guys I might want before him.

Martin Brodeur - 104 points (2 for a win, 2 for a shutout): After a record-breaking season with the Devils, it does seem to be a bit of a long shot that Brodeur can repeat his 120-point season from a year ago, but even long shots come to fruition. To me, Brodeur is a safer pick, because of his long history of being healthy.

Joe Thornton - 104 points: Slowly becoming a model for consistency, Thornton has had injuries in the recent seasons, but performs on a regular basis when he's on the ice. A solid pick in the four spot.

Jason Spezza - 104 points: A THN favourite to do well, but seemingly under-perfoms. Spezza was rated number two last season by THN and only managed to play in 67 games. If he had played a full 82-game schedule at his pace, he would have finished 4th. He can't seem to guarantee a full season, but if he could he would be a safe pick. I don't know if I'd rate him so high.

Roberto Luongo - 102 points: THN has Luongo rated with more wins than Brodeur, but the stingy defense in Jersey earned Brodeur a few more shutouts. How far Luongo goes this season will be how far the Canucks go and a repeat performance of his 104-points last season would be enough to put him in the same spot as the THN's prediction.

Jaromir Jagr - 100 points: The Rangers will be a team to be reckoned with in 2007/08 and Jagr will have to lead that charge. They acquired some new help for the Czech winger and he could very well do the best with what he's going to get and 100 points might be a bit of a sleeper amount. Even the 7th spot might be a steal for Jagr.

Marc Savard - 100 points: Over the last two seasons, Marc Savard has been in and around the Top 10 in pool rankings. Even a step down in winger skill from Atlanta to Boston didn't hinder his totals as some might have speculated. With the Bruins finding more depth this offseason, there's no reason why Savard couldn't do it again.

Miikka Kiprusoff - 100 points: A safe pick here in 9th is Kiprusoff. With the ability to steal games for the Flames, he does what every pool team owner wants (or fan for that matter) and that's win games despite a lack of production from other players. Even when key guys on the team are injured, Kipper seems to keep the wins rolling in, but he does like to make it close sometimes.

Alexander Ovechkin - 100 points: In this 100-point bracket, you could simply re-arrange the names and you might find yourself a little happier with your selection. Amazingly, Ovechkin finished 3rd in rankings in his rookie season, but fell down to 16th this past season. Slotting him here in 10th does seem to be a good fit for him, but he's also a pretty good gamble if you wanted to take him higher as well.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere - 100 points: Having Giguere in 11th suggests that he'll get this great confidence boost from finally winning the Cup and receiving a big fat paycheque. His highest rank previous was 13th in his Finals year and he was only 35th last season (of winning the Cup). Somehow, I don't see Giguere being that guy in Anaheim, especially since the team is in disarray waiting for the news of Niedermayer and Selanne to come down the line.

Ilya Kovalchuk - 100 points: Only 76 points last season doesn't suggest that Kovalchuk is ready to hit triple-figures again this season, but it's certainly not out of the question. With teams possibly checking Hossa a little bit harder, it may open some ice for Kovalchuk this season. He does have the skills, but he does have some question marks. How high will he go?

Jarome Iginla - 98 points: Just outside of the 100-point mark sits Jarome Iginla. His pace last season was better than Dany Heatley's in a less-dynamic offense in Calgary. It shouldn't surprise anyone in any draft to see Iginla go higher than 13th, since the Flames are even better on the blueline, which should translate into more confidence going forward. Iginla could very well be a Top 5 pick in any pool.

Marc-Andre Fleury - 98 points: Another clue as to where THN sees the Penguins this season is the number of wins they gave to Fleury. Fleury has been tagged for 44 wins this season, the same as Giguere and one more than Brodeur. Obviously, Fleury isn't ready for all those shutouts quite yet, but he sure isn't far. THN is making or breaking their predictions on the Penguins this season and they have a pretty good chance at being right.

Daniel Alfredsson - 98 points: The third Senator to hit the list isn't a big surprise. Alfie had a great season and an awesome post-season... something he may be able to carry over to the 2007/08. He did drop in the pool rankings last year, falling from 6th to 22nd and THN has ranked him somewhere in between. He's pretty safe as a pool pick and this could be a good fit as a pick here in 15th. Halfway through the first round sounds about right.

Evgeni Malkin - 98 points: Malkin impressed a lot of people last season. He finished 24th in my rankings with 33 goals and 85 points and there's little question that he'll only get better. Another mid-first round pick seems to be relatively correct and could be bumped a bit higher, whether or not you think he'll see more time on the power play with Crosby or not. The Penguins will be all about offense and Malkin is another huge piece to that puzzle.

Marian Hossa - 97 points: THN is showing a decline in Hossa's production in this coming season, but really, if Kovalchuk is going to have a monster season, I would have to think Hossa is going to be just as good, if not better. Hossa was a catalyst for the Thrashers drive to the playoffs and is (personally) under-appreciated for his efforts. If you believe that Kovalchuk and Kozlov are going to have big seasons, tack on a few extra points for Hossa.

Evgeni Nabokov - 96 points: The Sharks are not coming into this season with the high-expectations that they came in with last season. That isn't to say that they shouldn't win a lot of games, but the Sharks are now without a lot of excess pressure. Nabokov takes the reigns again full-time in San Jose and should be up to the task. THN has him winning 41 games, which should be a reasonable number.

Pavel Datsyuk - 95 points: There was a marvelous display put on by Datsyuk and the Red Wings down the stretch and into the playoffs and it really seemed like Datysuk had really found his footing in the NHL. There is just something about only 95 points, which seems awfully low, but they do have him scoring 32 goals, which sounds like a pretty reasonable number. If Datsyuk can have a healthy 82-game season, there isn't any reason why he couldn't hit 100 points either.

Ryan Miller - 94 points: A 43-win season is what THN suggest for the American keeper for the Sabres. Miller won 40 for Buffalo last season and really did prove himself among some of the best. Miller missed 4 games due to injury last season, which isn't much, but was battling with Martin Biron for the number one job for a little while as well. Now Miller is the big dog in Buffalo and should see about 10 more starts, which should equate into a few more wins. Maybe 43 is too few?

Henrik Lundqvist - 94 points: This Ranger team will have a ton of expectation thrust upon them and Lundqvist will have to take the brunt of it in the way of the number of shots he'll face this coming season. The Rangers don't have a great deal of defensive defensemen in the line-up right now, but if Marc Staal was to join the fold, they should be that much better. Nevertheless, Lundqvist is one of the better keepers in the league on a skill stand point and if the Rangers pour all those goals in (like they should), he'll win you a lot of games.

Vincent Lecavalier - 93 points: Finishing 4th last season, Lecavalier is predicted to have a sudden drop in production... from 108 points to 93. Vinny took the Rocket Richard Trophy last season while carrying the load with Martin St. Louis. It isn't like the two have been separated, so that's where the surprise in drop has come from. Lecavalier may have just been outclassed by some guys above him on this list (when it comes to potential), but 93 points does seem a tad low.

Joe Sakic - 92 points: Also receiving a shot in the arm is Joe Sakic. His 100-point season has been reduced to a possible 92-point season, in the eyes of THN. With improvements to the back end and some maturity from the team's young stars, Sakic may have himself an explosive sunset to his career. The 38 year-old Sakic may still have a few years left in the tank, but 92 points does seem a tad low for the potential of that team.

Daniel Briere - 92 points: The $10 million man may have himself a little bit of a short-coming season. Finishing with 95 points in Buffalo last season, he sees a small drop as well. Briere will be a part of a brand new Flyers team, which cannot be compared to the team of 2006/07 at all. The prospect of playing with Gagne and Knuble should keep the minute warrior in the spotlight. 92 points is nothing to sneeze at, but we'll see about that in camp.

Martin St. Louis - 91 points: Some patterns do hold true and at least THN has knocked down St. Louis' points if they were going to knock down Lecavalier's. This dynamic duo will be defended somewhat differently by their divisional opponents, that's what a summer's worth of watching video should do for some teams. However, there is only so much you can do about certain talents. Some guys will remain talented, despite anyone's work to cut them off at the pass. A small reduction seems rather fitting, if teammates are about the same.

Dominik Hasek - 90 points: Yup... Hasek is returning to the Red Wing nets for yet another season. It seems like a stretch for the 42 year-old, but the Wings want him back and THN thinks he'll muster up 38 wins. It's a tall task for the aging wonder. His age and volatility for injury really doesn't have him rank very well on my list. Sitting in the 26th spot does seem a tad high, but in the risk/reward equation, it is very high. It is certainly possible, but somewhat unlikely still.

Olli Jokinen - 90 points: When you think of first round names, how come Olli Jokinen never immediately springs to mind? Is it the Panthers? Is it Miami? Yeah, probably. Jokinen has finished in 18th in both the past two seasons. He's a Top 20 player, demoted to 27th here. If the Panthers were to really draft some good talented wingers or nab one off the market, Jokinen potentially could be better. Horton is on his way to being great, but he may not be the best fit for Jokinen. On name though, it's hard to swallow a guy like Jokinen so high in the draft.

Thomas Vanek - 90 points: Did Kevin Lowe see 90 points out of Vanek this coming season? You're damn right he did. Vanek led the league in plus/minus last season and scored 43 goals. Vanek's potential should be even greater and that is definitely what Lowe saw when he got Vanek to sign that offer sheet. He'll be looked upon to lead the Sabres offensively and might find himself in a large leadership role in the coming years.

Mike Cammalleri - 90 points: Cammalleri went to arbitration with good intent. To get market value for his services and to a certain degree got that. It wasn't his idea of market value, but it was close. He did get a 2-year deal with the Kings, so this season could be one of two things: 1) the first of a running total before Unrestricted Free Agency or 2) a year to lament his loss with a less-than-expected point total. 90 points is 10 higher than last season, which suggests that THN believes he is that guy to be better as the years go on, rather than a "contract year" player.

Marian Gaborik - 90 points: Gaborik has been damned by injuries in the last few years of his career, which has kept his numbers way down. He is a potential 50-goal scorer and THN predicts he'll score 44 in 72 games. This seems to be a reasonable total as Gaborik is a potential mid-first round player... he just needs to adjust his body to the new rigors of the league. When everyone realizes that he has got his body in awesome shape... look out. He'll be a premier player in everyone's pools.

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