The speculation is at an end! All our questions will finally be answered! Will the Florida Panthers move the number one pick? Who will that number one pick be anyway? What trades will happen in the minutes leading up to the Draft, and where will the dominoes fall after? And most importantly, who will the Dallas Stars take with the 14th overall pick?
Roughly a year ago we watched on draft day as Valeri Nichushkin fell down the ranks, eventually landing in Dallas' lap with the 10th overall pick. Skill-wise, many had placed Nichushkin as a potential top-three pick. But team after team passed on him. The Stars took the risk, and all signs point towards it having paid off for them.
This year's draft has a similar wild card in it: "He's the most skilled player in North America. He's the most skilled player to ever come through Windsor." That's Warren Rychel speaking, part-owner of the Windsor Spitfires. And he's speaking of Josh Ho-Sang, who has spent the last two seasons with the Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League.
Players that carry that description aren't available with the 14th pick in the draft. And yet... and yet... Only 18 of 30 teams opted to interview Ho-Sang at the NHL Combine, and a number of teams have removed him from their draft lists. Why? With Valeri Nichushkin it was the 'Russian Factor.' With Josh Ho-Sang it's what? The immaturity factor? The resistant to the established culture tradition factor? This is a kid who admires Patrick Kane for his partying ways. Who admires P.K. Subban, both for his play on the ice, and for his off-ice demeanor. But he doesn't emulate them. At least not off the ice. He says he doesn't go out partying. He's into Buddhism and traveling and helping people.
Who is this kid?
In his second season in the OHL, he went from scoring 44 points to scoring 85 (with only four extra games played) and turned a -23 rating into a +26. Take it for a flawed stat, but that's not happenstance. Especially not when you play for a middle of the pack team like Windsor.
So what do NHL teams know that we don't? And how far exactly will Ho-Sang fall in the Draft, due to his lack of intangibles, or possession of the wrong intangibles. Number 14, anyone?
I have no idea, but I'm beginning to really hope so. Of the articles I've read there's one anecdote that stands out. Talking about the interviewing process at the NHL Combine, and one of the 18 interviews Ho-Sang participated in:
They kept coming at him, because that's what teams do. They want to see how an 18-year-old kid reacts under the pressure. Even among those, one interaction stood out. The questioner stood up and started yelling. For two solid minutes, he was telling Ho-Sang exactly what he didn't know about hockey. Telling him that he was a blue-chip talent who didn't do the little things to win games.
When he was done, Ho-Sang's response was about the last thing you'd expect. He asked the guy to meet up for dinner. He wasn't offended by what was said and he didn't back down, either. He saw somebody who was passionate about his game and may have answers on how he could improve it. So they penciled in some time outside the combine to meet up. [ESPN]
I like this kid.
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Mikhail Grabovski, Brad Richards, Mike Cammalleri? Mike Heika speculates on free agents the Stars might make a move on, assuming Jason Spezza and Ryan Kesler are no goes. [Sports Day DFW]
I'm pretty sure this article has the best photo of Jamie Benn ever taken. It also has a quote from Bruce Boudreau that makes me not hate the man so much. [Unfair Park]
One potential free agent who didn't hold out two weeks for a pay increase from $5 million to $6 million? Marian Gaborik. He re-upped with the Los Angeles Kings before hitting the open market. [Puck Daddy]
Are the Stars looking for a veteran defenceman in free agency? Well, maybe. But there's not that much out there to be found... [The Globe and Mail]
Wait, Vincent Lecavalier's agent is talking to teams regarding a potential trade? Isn't that what NHL GM's are for? [CBS Sports]
Trade rumours. The most useless, unproductive way one can spend their time. Why then do I find myself browsing them every evening? [Spector's Hockey]
Speaking of trade rumours and speculation, there are those (outside of Dallas even) who are paying attention to what Dallas might, or might not, be doing. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Jason Spezza now in talks with four teams. Pretty sure last week it was two. Whatever. None of them are confirmed anyway. [SB Nation]
Central Division needs, and the potential solutions available in the draft. [NHL.com]
Expected to go at least in the top 10 of this year's draft, Leon Draisatl will become the highest drafted German-born player. That's not saying too much, but still. [The Guardian]
Down Goes Brown, with the top 10 most interesting prospects in this year's draft. [Grantland]
And lastly, this week's Puck Daddy Power Rankings is basically a who's who of recent bad moves in the NHL, and ones to come... By the by, don't read the last paragraph. The italicized one. Just don't. [Puck Daddy]