Kyle Woodlief is the chief scout and publisher of the Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter. He's also the mock draft guy for USA TODAY, selecting players based not on any inside intelligence on NHL teams, but on the quality of the players left on the board. We grabbed him on the phone for a few questions this week about trends in this year's draft, whether Steven Stamkos is an elite player and some players whose stock could rise or fall.
Q. Is there anything about the draft that people aren't realizing right now
WOODLIEF: I don't thing it's quite as deep as people think. There's a big drop-off around the Top 7, and there's a second drop-off after about No. 13. Really, there's not a whole lot of difference between the guys you can get in the mid-to-late teens and that you can get around No. 40. You can get good players deep in the second round, but you can also say that there aren't guys that are sure-things in the 20s in this draft. All the teams in 20s are looking to move up.
As far as the defensemen go at the top of the draft, how do you differentiate between those four?
It would depend on what an organization was looking for. Drew Doughty is the most offensively advanced of the bunch. He's got the greatest hockey sense in the offensive zone, with the best instincts. He's got the biggest offensive upside. Zack Bogosian is the best two-way player of the bunch. In the junior level, he's shown he can take the puck and go with it end to end if he wants. Good acceleration and speed. But he's also big and physical. His father was a linebacker at Syracuse University, and he comes from that mindset.
Luke Schenn is the best defensive shutdown player of the bunch. He could be his generation's Adam Foote. And Alex Pietrangelo is a guy who may drop slightly at the end because of the mononucleosis, and he wasn't very consistent throughout the year. But we're talking about a guy who's 6-foot-4 and will play at close to 215 pounds in the NHL. Great vision and passing skills, so he's not going to drop much below that Top 7.
You mentioned size, so let's talk about Nikita Filatov. Are there any legitimate concerns about his size for the NHL?
I don't think there's a concern about his size at all. He's almost a legit 6-1. It may be a bit of a generalization, but it's quite true that many of the European countries don't develop physically as early at their North American counterparts. I think he'll play in the NHL close to 190 pounds.
Who's the player you're most reminded of when you're watching him?
Pavel Bure. Not quite that explosive speed that Bure had. But nobody had the speed that Bure had.
What are your thoughts on Steven Stamkos?
He's certainly a legitimate first-line center, good for maybe 90 points a year when he gets into his prime years. A terrific two-way player.
It's funny: You bring up concerns about Nikita Filatov, and Stamkos is maybe eight pounds heavier than him; but other than that, they're identical. Neither one of them are afraid to play in traffic, get their noses dirty.
I don't have concerns about Stamkos. I just don't think he's quite in that upper stratosphere of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin-type players. Those guys, in their peak years, could be scoring 120 points [a season].
Any big movers or droppers in the first round?
We're not a predicting service, we're a scouting service. So we rank guys were we would take them. But I certainly talk to NHL teams and there are guys who could go in the first round that won't for a variety of reasons. Like Petrov. Roman Josi is another guy who might drop because there's a bias against Swiss players. The only actual skater who thrived in the NHL was Mark Streit, and he didn't come over to North American until he was 28.
What's the trend this year overall? Seems like the wind blows depending on who wins the Cup.
That's absolutely true, but this year I don't know if you could pick one player based on a puck-possession type game, because it takes a whole team to play that game. In terms of this year's draft, it's a deep draft around the blueline. I think half of this year's first-round picks will be defensemen. If you're looking for a trend, that would be it, because I can't recall too many years where more than 50 percent of the first round is defensemen.
Finally, was there a player who you saw drafted, thought was a sure-thing, and then he flopped?
Petr Vrana back in 2003. That was the deepest draft class of the last seven or eight years. We had him ranked in the top half of the first round, he was taken by New Jersey in the second round. But his shoulder just kept popping out.