L: Bochenski, Schaeffer, Hartnell, Daze, Fedoruk-P1, Jokinen, J-P1
Bochenski is already regarded as one of the worst picks of the draft. His high-flying pre-season was not an indication of his readiness for full-time NHL duty. Schaeffer has come-back from a prolonged mentorship in Europe to show off some excellent skills, but given he’s never been a dressable forward previously he’s a bit of a risk to play regularly without serious concerns. Hartnell leapfrogs both of them to take the #1 spot by default. A good blend of nastiness and skill, this could be his breakout season. So far, he’s more on the Tocchet track than the Brad May, and that is worth cheering. Daze is once again hurt, but the 6’5” skill forward is nevertheless a solid winger when healthy. When that will be is anyone’s guess. Fedoruk is a banger with some skill, but he’s an NHL checker now, and unlikely to progress further. Jussi Jokinen though has all the tools to emerge as a legit scoring forward, including NHL wheels. Given the weakness at this position, he might well earn a promotion.
C: Sundin, Allison, Richards, Morrison, Koivu-P1, Stumpel-P1, Weiss-P1
The rating would be higher had Sundin not eaten a puck with his face. With him out, Allison shoulders the load more than capably. Mike Richards has taken off in Philly, and has been everything he was advertised, including the hyperbole of his being the next Doug Gilmour. Morrison is a slick playmaker who has maxed out in the 70’s. Given the quality of his linemates there is unlikely to be any improvement on his career best. Koivu the younger is a strapping power pivot who has to put his hands to better use. He could be a comer. Weiss and Stumpel are moving in opposite directions in the sunshine state. Stumpel is in his end days, whereas Weiss is slowly building up to a top-line role.
R: Barnaby, Cheechoo, Bergeron, Carter, Nilsson-P1, Bure-P1
Barnaby is still an agitating pest capable of 25 goals, but this shouldn’t qualify him for the top line. Cheechoo might develop into a solid power winger who scores 30, but that’s if everything breaks his way. Bergeron jumps to the top of the pack with his impressive speed and skills making him the clear scoring threat of the bunch. Anson Carter may also bump someone down the list, but he maxes out around the 65 point mark in a good year. Nilsson has Billion Dollar skills, and a 50 cent head. If a coach can reach him in time he could be the next Naslund. More likely he’ll be another Nylander. Val Bure has taken his Hollywood wife and packed it in, with no more all-star games in his future. He might re-emerge as a threat in LA, but don’t bet on it.
D: Zdlicky, Morris, Sopel, Mclaren, Markov A., Foote, Corvo, Delmore
The ‘Z’ man has arrived as a top end QB, but one without a track record other than his first season. Can he keep it up? Yes. Morris has never hit the peak that was expected and has settled into a role as a ‘tweener’ defenseman, with a ceiling of 45 pts. Sopel and his rockstar haircut get new life on the Island where his booming point shot will be better appreciated. Andrei Markov is on the verge of becoming a Zubov level defender, but has to improve his offensive performance to earn the comparison. Foote is a stable defensive defender who maxes out around the high 20s. Corvo and Delmore are WD feeder.
G: Luongo, Thibault, Toivonen-P1
Luongo is still the heir apparent to Patrick Roy, and his numbers will only improve as the D in front of him gels. Thibault is a pure back-up based on the amount of high speed rubber that will be directed his way – it could be a long season for him. Toivonen has terrific potential but is likely trade bait given Luongo’s long term status.