The SBN Mock Draft has been going more or less as expected so far, minus one surprising selection. The master list is over at James Mirtle's site, and the top nine picks break down like this:
- New York Islanders: John Tavares
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman
- Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene
- Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane
- Los Angeles Kings: Braydon Schenn
- Phoenix Coyotes: Jared Cowen
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
- Dallas Stars: Oliver Ekman-Larssen
- Ottawa Senators: Nazem Kadri
I expected Paajarvi-Svensson to go in the fifth spot, and I'd rather hoped that someone would take a wildcard, allowing Nazem Kadri to drop to tenth. With Kadri gone, my list of possibilities (in alphabeitcal order) is this:
- Simon Despres
- Ryan Ellis
- Scott Glennie
- Jacob Josefsson
- Dmitri Kulikov
- Jordan Schroeder
I like all six players, and I tend to think all will have careers. My selection after the jump.
With the tenth overall pick in the 2009 SBN Mock Draft, the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Ryan Ellis.
This isn't a pick everyone - or even most - will agree with me on. Ellis is small (5' 9-1/4", 173lbs). He's not a bad skater, but he isn't greased lightning either. Most of the major rankings have him slotted between 11-15; and the fact of the matter is that he's a bit of a gamble.
There's a lot of very good information available on Ellis; Guy Flaming wrote a piece critiquing the defenseman which I've referred to previously, and it's a good read. Andrew's Dallas Stars Page does a great job assembling information from different services; I'm going to reprint a couple of the quotes he gathered here. First, Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting:
"He's a really smart, heady defenseman. His puck movement is excellent and the way he moves the puck around the zone is excellent. He's a real high-end offensive guy. He's got a great shot and he gets it through to the net. A lot of guys have their shots blocked, but he's got a real knack for getting it through, and that leads to a lot of tip-in and rebound goals. He's a smaller guy, but he's not afraid of taking the body. He shows no fear of getting involved in scrums, he's not intimidated."
Next, Redline Report:
"Yes, he's just 5-9, lacks blazing wheels and is not a very good defender. But you cannot ignore type of poise and native hockey instinct that is rare in 10 year pros, much less 18-year-olds. His off-the-charts hockey sense is the best of anyone, at any position, in this draft. Also one of the best PP quarterbacks to come along in the past five years, and despite his lack of size can absolutely rip a cannon point shot."
I really did think about this pick before I made. Dmitri Kulikov is a dynamic defenseman, and hard to pass on; Scott Glennie adds size and would be the best offensive prospect in the Oilers system, and Jordan Schroeder reminds me a ton of guys like Zach Parise and Phil Kessel.
But Ellis has sold me. His offensive ability is off the charts, even playing for a stacked team. I'll list his 16- and 17-year old seasons here for comparison with the best offensive defensemen drafted out of the OHL over the last ten seasons (note: the number in brackets is the percentage of total team offense each player contributed, adjusted for GP; all players listed in their draft year):
- Ryan Ellis: 57GP - 22G - 67A - 89PTS (34.1%)
- Drew Doughty: 58GP - 13G - 37A - 50PTS (27.5%)
- Bob Sanguinetti: 68GP - 14G - 51A - 65PTS (27.2%)
- Alex Pietrangelo: 36GP - 8G - 21A - 29PTS (25.7%)
- Steve Eminger: 64GP - 19G - 39A - 58PTS (24.0%)
- Michael Del Zottto: 64GP - 16G - 47A - 63PTS (23.1%)
- Rostislav Klesla: 67GP - 16G - 29A - 45PTS (21.4%)
Nobody is even close to Ellis off of this list; Doughty's the closest, but even he's well back. Ellis is also well ahead of players like Greg Hawgood and Kris Russel, who Flaming mentioned as a comparable junior players (Greg Hawgood: 71GP – 34G – 85A – 119PTS (26.9% of offense), Kris Russel: 72GP – 26G – 35A – 61PTS (26.1% of offense)). He's the only 17-year old defenseman in history to lead the OHL in assists, and he's probably the most talented defenseman offensively since I started following the draft.
Plus there's gravy. Ellis was named as being the smartest player, having the hardest shot, and being the best offensive defenseman in an OHL coaches poll; he was also named the OHL's outstanding defenseman at the end of the season. Ellis has won three gold medals in the last two years. He has extensive history and a good relationship with Oilers coach Pat Quinn. Among his defenders are two men who have coached him; all-time great Bobby Orr, and hard-nosed ex-NHL'er Bob Boughner.
"For those people who think because you're small you can't play in this game, he's not very big, but you'll see … he's a heck of a hockey player." -- Bobby Orr
"I've only been in the league three years," Windsor coach Bob Boughner told NHL.com, "and other coaches I talk to, they've never seen a defenseman have an impact in a junior game like Ryan Ellis."
It's a love or hate thing, and I'm sure there are going to be plenty of arguments for other guys, but for my dime I'd take Ellis. As for the notion that hockey sense can't compensate for size and foot speed, Oilers fans really should know better.