I always omit the tip top picks from my draft board for the first round because EVERYBODY is going to be talking about those kids. Hughes, Kaako and Podkolzin are the top 3 and then there’s everybody else. If you have a top 3 pick, you’re taking one of those kids, that’s it. So for the sake of discussion we are going to ASSUME that the pick I am picking for is outside the top 3. The First round is where you have to hit and you have to knock it out of the park. First round misses are the deathknell to franchises and a string of them can doom a team to mediocrity for years. As a GM, you have to get this one right, and if you’re not confident in your scouting department, you should trade your first round pick for a known return commodity. Wasting them on busts and missed opportunities is just not an option. You better get it right and 4 out of 5 of these kids are surefire ways to do that as far as I’m concerned.
Victor Soderstrom – Defender (Right-Handed)
2/26/01: Skutskar, Sweden
Current Team: Brynas IF (SHL)
Victor Soderstrom is the best right handed defender in this draft and everybody else has him ranked too low. The kid is playing top minutes for Brynas in the SHL and is seeing some usage in all situations. It’s hard to watch him and not be wowed by his poise and maturity. It’s easy to forget that you’re watching a draft eligible player. He’s already such a complete talent and he’s only going to get better. There are some who even say that he’s better now, than Adam Boqvist was at this point last season. That guy went 8th. The inflated value of Right-Handed defenders and the history of truly solid first round Swedish defenders, coupled with watching his game footage tells me that this kid is a slam dunk, and I would honestly feel no anxiety about reaching for him as early as 4th overall.
Alex Newhook – Center/Wing (Left-Handed)
1/29/01: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Current Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Alex Newhook is an explosive scoring forward that has been wowing fans for 2 years in Victoria. He currently has 159 points in 97 BCHL games. He’s committed to Boston College next season so he won’t be in the NHL immediately upon being drafted, but he probably could be. He does everything well. There’s no holes in his game. The only strike against him is that he’s a kid from Newfoundland playing in the BCHL. All you have to do is watch him. The kid is a top 5 talent, and he’s getting dogged because he’s in an “inferior league.” I would honestly put him in the conversation to go top 3 with Kaako and Podkolzin, but I’d get scoffed at for it. I’m all in on Alex Newhook I absolutely love his game. If I had the 4th pick in the draft and the other 3 are gone, he would be my go-to pick.
Arthur Kaliyev – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
6/26/01: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Current Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Kaliyev grew up in Staten Island, but has played 2 years of junior hockey for the Hamilton Bulldogs. In that time he has developed a reputation as the most dangerous shot in the OHL. It’s a well earned reputation. Through 124 OHL games, Kaliyev has 76 goals. He’s a possession shooter. He finds the open space, where he can get a shot off, gets the puck on his stick and fires it. You’ll hear people say he’s not a great skater and you’ll hear people say his shooting motion is awkward. It really doesn’t matter. Is the best shot in the draft. If you’re an NHL team that needs a sniper, this is your kid. He’s a project. You’re going to have to teach him to defend and he’s going to have to work with a skills coach on his skating a bit, but the shot… The shot is money.
Dylan Cozens – Center/Right Wing (Right-Handed)
2/9/01: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
Current Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
The kid from the Yukon is almost universally assumed to be a top 5 pick. He’s often considered the top CHL forward available and is thought of very highly by everyone who gets paid to talk about prospects. My beef with Cozens, is that I’m afraid he’s got some of the Pavel Zacha syndrome where he’s so good at this level because of his size, and that might not translate so well, or quickly to the next level. He’s got all the pieces in place that you look for in a top prospect. He’ll go high. I just have some reservations about it. Hopefully I’m wrong.
Nils Hoglander – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
12/20/00: Bocktrask, Sweden
Current Team: Rogle BK (SHL)
Hoglander is another Swedish kid playing among men. He’s got 14 points in 40 games for Rogle in his rookie SHL season. He’s not big by any stretch of the imagination. He’s only 5’9, but you can’t tell him that. The kid has a motor that just doesn’t quit. He bounces off hard body checks as if they were rubber walls and keeps going. His speed and compete level are off the charts. He’s a tenacious forechecker and a real pest to play against. He’s an excellent passer and a good decision maker. For my money, Hoglander might be one of the most underrated prospects in the top 30. I don’t know if I’d take him top 5, but I would definitely consider him top 10 potential. I’m just, in love with his desire to forecheck, battle and create on the ice. That type of effort can carry a player a long way to a productive career in the NHL.