Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

NHL draft: Couturier, Jurco lead the all-steal squadOnly time will tell who had a great draft in 2011, but that we do not have. Years from now, people will rehash the seven rounds just concluded in St. Paul, Minn., and wonder at this selection or that selection.

In the short run, it's the one 24-hour span where everyone is an expert, an authority on someone he/she might have never seen play (present company not only included but right at the head of the line). TSN's Pierre McGuire did proclaim that the New Jersey Devils got "the steal of the draft" selected nearly NHL-ready Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson, Europe's top-ranked prospect, No. 4 overall on Friday. Some probably wondered how it's possible for a player to be a steal when his team only had to wait out three selections, but if Larsson becomes a multiple Norris Trophy winner, hey, some words will be eaten, cheerfully. Here, then, is a position-by-position all-steal team.

Centre: Sean Couturier, eighth overall, Philadelpha Flyers (Drummondville, QMJHL)

That's right, the cutoff point for it being too early to talk about a steal is something between fourth and eighth overall. The fact of the matter is the Flyers, a day after gutting their roster with the Jeff Carter and Mike Richards trades, landed a player who might make the team in a draft that was relatively scarce in NHL-ready players. Couturier is also pretty low-risk for the No. 8 spot, which can't always be said of some of the players taken in that slot. Where have you gone, Alexandre Picard?

If Couturier is too high a pick to be considered a steal, Boston Bruins second-rounder Alexander Khokhlachev might fit the bill. The 40th overall selection put up 85 points in his yearling season with the Windsor Spitfires.

Wings: Tomas Jurco, 35th, Detroit Red Wings (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL); Adam Lowry, 67th, Winnipeg Jets (Swift Current Broncos, WHL)

BTN's fondness for Jurco, AKA Tommy Toe Drag, might need no introduction to regular readers. He has shown there is much more to him than having some sweet skills. Red Wings GM Ken Holland, et al., saw something that other teams evidently did not prize as much, since they traded out of the first round (sending their 24th overall pick to Ottawa to for the pick used to take Jurco and the 48th, used on Montreal Juniors defenceman Xavier Ouellet).

As luck would have it, Tyler Cavanaugh, who was an athletic training student with Saint John, wrote a post Saturday relating a side of Jurco that people maybe didn't see.

Jurco was always one of the last guys at the rink. He was doing whatever he could to improve his game. He was working hand in hand with Jeff Kelly to try and improve his size in the Sea Dogs weight room, asking about supplements and vitamins that would be beneficial, and doing whatever he could to be better. He wants to add to his size and strength. From the time I was with the team in February until the Memorial Cup in May I noticed huge improvements in his game. (Station Nation)

Our Kelly Friesen has been a big booster of Lowry, who emerged as a versatile big man with a young team in Swift Current this season. Each season you see forwards, particularly power wingers, make a great leap after being drafted on spec in the middle rounds. One example from the draft class of 2010 is Ottawa Senators sixth-rounder Mark Stone, who tallied 106 points last season and is headed to Hockey Canada's world junior summer development camp. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Lowry might not be that prolific in his remaining two years of junior, but he's already shown some nice potential.

Defence: Ryan Sproul, 55th, Detroit Red Wings (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL); Justin Sefton, 89th, San Jose Sharks (Sudbury Wolves, OHL)

Sproul has had his tires pumped so much by this site there's fear he could probably enter a monster truck rally without a vehicle. (Fortunately for all concerned, Sproul is pretty grounded.) The Red Wings might have shown why there are considered the best at the draft-and-develop game. Without benefit of a first-rounder, they managed to land Jurco and Sproul, two players with considerable upside.

The 6-foot-3 Sproul emerged across the second half of his season in the Soo as an offensive defenceman with a big body, a rare commodity. He has been likened to Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green. Green was selected 29th overall in 2004. If Sproul reaches that level (and it will only get harder from here to do so) as the 55th pick, the Wings will have a steal.

Sefton, who emerged was the shutdown defenceman for Sudbury this season. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native has seen his rep yo-yo across his two OHL seasons (he was a high pick in the 2009 priority selection draft). He might be a case in which many teams got turned off, but one team stayed the course. It also probably counts for a lot that Sefton took on a heavy workload at an early age this season for the Wolves, who had a turnaround season under bright young coach Trent Cull.

Sefton is one of those extremely physical guys that Doug Wilson likes. He was initially regarded as somebody who could go earlier than he did, especially a couple years ago, but his hype did reach pretty high levels at one point. If the Sharks can set him right and he performs at levels proportional to his hype, he'll be a steal. (SB Nation Bay Area)

Oddly enough, both of our steals on the blueline play in the two northern outposts of the Ontario Hockey League. Feel free to wonder if that comments on winter driving conditions in the province; it is understandable if scouts stick around southern Ontario where there is a greater concentration of teams.

Goaltender: David Honzik, 71st, Vancouver Canucks (Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL)

Minnesota Wild fans gathered at the XCel Energy Centre were hit-and-miss with their chirps this weekend. The good: mercilessly booing any time the Vancouver Canucks made a pick. The bad: booing when Montreal Canadiens brass spoke in French. Another miss was the you need a goalie taunts levelled during the seventh round.

Say whatever you want about Roberto Luongo struggling in the Stanley Cup final (really, say whatever you want). The Canucks did get a good goaltending prospect in the acrobatic Honzik. This past season, the Czech import had pedestrian stats (3.54 goals-against average, .884 save percentage), but was often a human highlight reel. The Canucks have had good fortune of late with players drafted out of the Quebec league (prospects Yann Sauve and Steven Anthony, to name to). Honzik could be another.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Getty Images).

Related Articles

Buzzing The Net

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Blog Roll

Featured Sports Video