2012 Draft depth likely to shape deadline deals
By the time the trade window closes at 3 p.m. ET Monday it's likely that quite a few draft picks in the 2012 and 2013 NHL Drafts will change hands as GMs position themselves for the June selection process.
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was certainly busy this past week, making five trades in six days while stockpiling his cupboard with extra 2012 draft picks. Yzerman currently has two first-round picks and a minimum of three second-round choices -- which could turn out to be four if the conditions of one of the deals is met.
"I'm trading players and popular players for draft picks," Yzerman said. "These moves are made for the future. My only message is I'm going to do what I feel is necessary to be a Stanley Cup contender, and I think these moves help us get going in that direction."
Much of the movement up and down the draft board will have to do with how teams feel about the depth of the 2012 Draft.
Few, however, are as intimate with that question as NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr.
"Going in, we know that this year's draft is deep with defensemen in the first round," Marr told NHL.com this week. "We know that the top end of the draft offers some marquee players. Will they be as strong as a lot of other players in years' past? Maybe not.
"But once you get past the middle part of the first round, I think it's going to be like dropping a jar of marbles on the floor. This draft is deep, but it's just not deep at the top-top end. It's deep in that next class. Scouts will have players projected in different spots but that doesn't mean that the player listed 36th on one list won't be as good as the 16th best player on another list."
Judging by the fact that Yzerman is stockpiling first- and second-round picks as he remakes the Lightning, there is a believe that many teams agree with that assessment.
Marr, who spent more than two decades as a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Atlanta Thrashers, knows what life is like in the war room leading up to the trading deadline.
"We'd be in there with the GM, pro scouts, coaches and amateur scouts and we might jump in and say, 'Ask for this young guy too and see if you can get him in the deal,' " Marr said. "There might be talk on whether or not it would be good to get a late pick this year or go for a mid-rounder in next year's draft."
Marr said it's impossible to predict with any certainty exactly how deep a particular draft class might be until players are finally given an opportunity on the big stage.
"I know there are good players in every draft and, at 18 years old, there's more projection involved," he said. "It depends on where the player gets drafted, the opportunity he has and how he develops. There are so many things that can affect a draft class, so it's kind of hard to say (just how deep a class might be)."
In addition to the usual suspects on everyone's radar for the 2012 Draft, June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, there are quite a few players progressing up the ladder with the hope of making an impression during the next three months.
Here's one player from each major feeder league who Marr considers to be on the rise since Central Scouting met in January to produce its midterm rankings. The number in parenthesis represents that player's midterm ranking among North American skaters.
ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE
Scott Laughton (40), C, Oshawa Generals: Laughton, described as a prototypical two-way center, is in his second season with the Generals and has totaled career highs in goals (17), assists (29), points (46) and penalty minutes (84) in 54 games.
Marr: "Laughton has really made a significant move. He's a high-character player, plays in all situations and he's found his rhythm now. The experience he has comes into play and he's taken charge when he's out there, making things happen with the puck and putting up consistent numbers. There was a coaching change [in Oshawa] and he was put into a different role and has responded."
WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE
Mitchell Moroz (171), LW, Edmonton Oil Kings: The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Calgary native, considered a future power forward, is in his first full season with the Oil Kings. He's collected 13 goals, 21 points and 115 PIMs in 59 contests.
Marr: "He's got the reputation as being a bit of a tough guy, but he can skate, check and is finishing on offense. He's one of those guys where, when you go to the game, you wonder why he doesn't play more often. He's a bottom-six forward and if he plays on the third line, it's a bonus night for him, but he has special traits."
QUEBEC MAJOR JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Tomas Hyka (65), RW, Gatineau Olympiques: Labeled as a skilled forward and great playmaker, Hyka has erupted for 17 goals, 51 points and a plus-7 rating in 43 games. He's currently sidelined with a concussion.
Marr: "He's suffering from a concussion right now, but when I watched him, he was doing something special every game. When I watch Hyka, I'm seeing another Ales Hemsky kind of guy; they played for the same team in Gatineau. In fact, it wasn't too long ago, a player with the same frame as Hyka (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) played for Gatineau and played the same way. Now, that player [Claude Giroux] is now starring for the Flyers."
UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE
Austin Farley (187), LW, Fargo Force: Farley is a skilled forward with an edge. In 37 games, he has 24 goals, including nine on the power play, 24 assists, 48 points, a plus-7 rating and 65 PIMs.
Marr: "I think he'll be coming up in the final ratings in April. He's played well. He's been out with a wrist injury but will be back soon. Guys around the league tell me his mouth moves as fast as his feet, so he's just not fun to play against. He's always to the net, always in your face and always on the puck. He's got hockey sense and skill and can burn you with trash talk and his play. He's one of those guys you don't like playing against and you always know when he's on the ice. He has a little Steve Downie in him."
Samuel Kurker (41), RW, St. John's Prep (Mass.): The 6-foot-1, 195-pound wing, who possesses exceptional size, strength and speed. He's projected as a power forward.
Marr: "The gap is closing between Sam and [Cristoval] 'Boo' Nieves (No. 31) of the Kent School (Conn.). Not that 'Boo' is moving down, but that Kurker is moving up. He just was added by USA Hockey to the Under-18 National Team Development Program and he'll join them this weekend when they play against the University of Alabama-Huntsville. I like his power game to the net with the puck. He's got good puck control and deceptive speed. This is a guy who gets involved in the battles and goes and gets the puck."