The Gross Misconduct Hockey Road Trip extravaganza gets to close out the 2008-2009 season as well as get you prepared for the 2009-2010 season all at once by visiting one of my most favorite cities in the world:
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Those accents are very important.
Tomorrow morning I'll hit the road, the illustrious I-87, to attend the NHL Entry Draft. No, I won't be giving you a mock draft since that would be amateurish of me to do and would likely end up sounding really freaking stupid because, honestly, what am I going to tell you that you're not going to find more well informed elsewhere? Hell, just hit up the links on the sidebar and you'll find something you'll enjoy - it's out there and other folks are busting their ass a lot more on this than yours truly.
That's just how I roll. I guess.
The one bit of insight I'll give you is this, and these are the things I'll be keeping an eye out for.
Thankfully, one of them focuses in on the first two picks. I'm curious to see if Garth Snow and the Islanders have just been jerking all of us around for weeks and he's going to run to the podium and make it official that the Islanders give a crap about the team's future and select John Tavares first.
Not selecting Tavares would be damn near criminal and that's not a slight on Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene but Tavares was virtually NHL-ready last year. Hell, they tried to bend the rules to allow him to be drafted last year.
Tavares is the real deal and he'll be the guy to resurrect the Islanders back into relevancy, which is good since both Hedman and Duchene are pretty fantastic booby prizes for the Lightning and Avalanche who select after the Isles.
Provided the Lightning don't do something thoroughly insane they should take Hedman and have him starting on the blueline for the Lightning come September. He's big, he's Swedish, he plays defense. That's a pretty good pedigree to have coming to the NHL.
Then again, this is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team owned by the wackiest pair of terrible owners in the league, a couple of guys in Oren Koules and Len Barrie who were brought into Little Gary's office this week to get their problems figured out. Of course Gary sided with Oren Koules and hey, why not, he deals in real estate that's a really solid industry lately. No problems there at all.
Oh and Koules wants to pare down the payroll and get rid of Vincent Lecavalier. That ought to go over really well for the fans in Tampa who have already had these two jackals ruin what was once the crown jewel of how to be a non-traditional market and thrive.
This is also the team with the general manager Brian Lawton who said in an e-mail to other teams that if you want to talk about the Lightning that you talk to him and him alone.
"Please be advised that in order to avoid any confusion over the next couple of weeks, as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning Organization I am the only person authorized to speak on behalf of the team with regard to player transactions," the email read.
"No other person is authorized to negotiate player transactions. Any questions, feel free to call."
Of course with the flux in Tampa Bay and not knowing just what they'll do, Lawton has felt it necessary that Tampa will hang on to their pick which would be pretty wise considering a guy like Hedman would help sure up their defense for a good long while.
Then again, if Koules is getting the bigger share of the decisions on what to do, perhaps trading out of the spot will seem more appealing.
Sure it would. Then again, if the Islanders do go against the grain and do something unbelievably foolish like skipping over Tavares in favor Hedman then the power is in Tampa's hands. And if that happens? Hang on to your freakin' pants because Toronto general manager Brian Burke might actually start table dancing like the fine ladies at Club Super Sexe, full-frontal and everything.
Go ahead, go puke. I'll wait.
Feel better? Good.
If Tampa gets themselves into a position where they can use their #2 spot to leverage whatever they want to out of anyone, then perhaps even Burke might feel compelled to give up his BFF defenseman Luke Schenn in order to land John Tavares. Then again, who knows what other teams might want to throw at Tampa in order to get a crack at Tavares.
If, and these are HUGE ifs, the Islanders take Hedman or anyone else not named John Tavares the NHL Draft officially becomes a circus and the time allotted to Tampa at pick #2 becomes the most exciting time of the Draft as the Lightning phones will not stop ringing the whole time and with Lawton having to handle things with Koules and Barrie also calling to get their say in...
Well for chaos purposes alone I pray for this to happen. Then again, for the Islanders to become a relevant franchise again sometime before I'm dead, I hope they take Tavares. The Isles lack a lot but Tavares gives them the guy to build the franchise around and gives Kyle Okposo someone to have fun with out there.
The other things I'll be looking for this weekend come from a sheerly selfish standpoint in being an RPI Engineers hockey watcher and there's as many as four players with RPI connections who may get their names called this Saturday during the 2nd through 7th rounds.
Three of these players haven't suited up for the Engineers yet but two of them will in the 09-10 season in Jerry D'Amigo and Brandon Pirri. D'Amigo is getting a lot of press of late and could find himself getting called late in the second round or early in the third.
Christopher Ralph at HockeySpy has this scouting report on D'Amigo who he lists at #50 on his Top 60 list which includes some pretty high praise:
Scouting Combine Performance: Eug Sorokin observed: “Good looking guy, heard some chatter amongst the GMs and some teams like him a lot.” Sorokin was reminded of Zach Parise with respect to D’Amigo.
If RPI can bring in a guy who is anything like Zach Parise, head coach Seth Appert will do back-flips to celebrate because RPI will improve instantly from his presence.
Brandon Pirri comes into the draft having some questions over his defensive skills, but his offensive talents are unquestionably noticeable. His stats from this season playing for two different junior squads in Streetsville and Georgetown:
44 GP 46 G 48 A 94 PTS
For an RPI team that severely lacked scoring, Pirri will be a God-send for the program and any defensive shortcomings he may have will be picked up by his teammates. After all, when you're showing up as a sniper, worrying about backchecking probably doesn't rank out too high. Pirri also claims to have added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame bringing him up to 180 pounds, he'll need that to deal with some of the bruisers he'll line up against in the NCAA, most notably those at Cornell.
Pirri projects to be potentially anywhere from late third round to early fifth round for the 2009 NHL Draft.
The other players on the potential draft radar are 2010 recruit Jacob Laliberté and current Engineer forward Patrick Cullen. If either or both of them are selected, count on it being in the sixth or seventh round. Laliberté is a small sized forward but worked as a power play maven in the CJHL last year putting up astounding point totals. Cullen was a rookie sensation for the low-scoring Engineers and figures to build strongly on his freshman success getting teammates like D'Amigo and Pirri (among others) to join him in Troy this season.
One other quick note on this weekend. I'll be reaching out from the basement with a host of other tremendous bloggers from across the Internet this weekend at the official NHL Draft Tweet Up.
Yeah, I know, the Twitter name makes it sound sort of lame - deal with it, Twitter has taken over the world.
Nearly 100 folks from across the NHL blogging spectrum are taking part in this in some ways and even some of the big shots (Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, the folks from Pension Plan Puppets, even Eklund) are going to be there. I'd tell folks in Montreal to hide the beer and their daughters but it's too late to hide the beer and, well, who knows who's going to think it's a good idea to hit the "fun" parts of St. Catherine's Street on Saturday.
Either way, this event, something as simple and kind of under the radar like the NHL Entry Draft has evolved into a blogger summit, and even the folks at All Habs have extended a special invitation to everyone's favorite diminutive analyst, Pierre McGuire, to make an appearance and shake hands with some of the folks who enjoy needling him the most.
If he shows up somehow, this turns into an epic gathering of MONSTER proportions.
As if it wasn't going to be already.
Stay tuned to my own page at Twitter for draft observations, pictures, and other assorted nonsense. Hell, there's even a chance you'll get to see me suited up in my own zebra stripes.