Friday night at 6 p.m. CST, the 2011 NHL Entry Draft will begin. After a long hockey season, we’ve finally come to its conclusion in St. Paul, Minn. The prospects have been evaluated up and down, from physical testing to interviews to what they’ve done on the ice.
Now it’s time for the teams to make their picks and fans to be introduced to a host of new players that will be viewed as the future of their team.
If you’re unfamiliar with the prospects in this draft, I’ve compiled a bit of a guide for you to brush up. For those of you that don’t need any more prospect info, I’ve got some people to make sure you are following for the very best Draft coverage on the internet.
So you are aware, this will be my last post prior to the Draft. I’ll be in St. Paul for both days, providing most of my information through Twitter over the course of the weekend. You can expect a full rundown of the Americans at the Draft on United States of Hockey come Monday afternoon, but for real-time coverage, Twitter is where you’ll find me.
I’ll also be covering the draft for USAHockey.com, so I’ll share the links to my features when they become available throughout next week.
Some folks have asked me about my thoughts on the first round as a whole, not just Americans. Well, lucky for me, the fellas over at First Round Bust invited me to take part in their Mock Madness. I didn’t complete a mock draft, rather a Top 30 (as opposed to listing players by team). So you can check that out here, and make fun of me if you must.
Last little bit about my coverage… if you want to look back at any of the prospect posts I’ve had on United States of Hockey all year long, you just need to click either the “American Prospects” or “NHL Draft” tags at the bottom of this post.
Enough about me. Let’s talk about some other places you can get some of the best prospect info.
You probably already know about NHL.com, The Hockey News and the like, but there are some incredibly gifted prospect writers that are a little more under-the-radar.
One of the best has to be Kirk Luedeke, who writes for the New England Hockey Journal, New York Hockey Journal and his own blog, the fantastic Bruins 2011 Draft Watch.
There are few guys who work harder or are as knowledgeable as Kirk. He’s seen many of the prospects, but the one’ he hasn’t he’ll get great info from contacts in NHL scouting departments. His coverage throughout the year has been as comprehensive as you’ll find over at the Draft Watch blog. Whether a guy’s headed for the first or seventh round, Kirk’s probably got a post on that player. You don’t want to miss out on his info. Twitter: @kluedeke29
Next up, is a guy I’ve come to gain a lot of respect for. He’s meticulous in his research, leaving no stone unturned. Whether in person or on video, Corey Pronman has seen just about every top prospect available for the Entry Draft. He did a fantastic job with his Top 100 rankings for Hockey Prospectus. Pronman may have different ways of evaluating players than some others, and that’s what I like about him best. Between talking with pro scouts, using his own evaluation skills and breaking down a player’s statistics, Pronman has proven to be a valuable resource even in my own research. I’m eagerly awaiting his post-draft coverage as his pre-draft work has been fantastic. Twitter: @coreypronman
My buddies, Guy Flaming and Dean Millard, over at The Pipeline Show have their fingers on the pulse of the prospect world. Whether it’s CHL, NCAA or everything in between, these guys cover it with balance and passion. You can catch their radio show online, unless you live in Edmonton. Additionally, the pair run a fantastic prospect blog called Coming Down the Pipe!. These guys have talked to a great deal of their prospects on their radio show, so if you want to get to know a player better, be sure to check out their archive of interviews here. Twitter: @ThePipelineShow
Most of us never get to see every prospect. That’s what makes Jerome Berube’s NHL Draft Video site so great. You might not be able to evaluate players from highlight reels, but you at least get to see what a player looks like on the ice. So if you’ve never had the chance to see Mika Zibanejad play, Jerome’s got some clips. You never get to see any kids from the WHL? NHL Draft Video will hook you up. A great resource, and a fantastic idea for a blog. He works hard on it, so make sure to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Twitter: @JayHockey85
One of the blogs I’ve been following the longest is Western College Hockey Blog. Chris Dilks is locked into the NCAA and always has some great stuff before the draft including player profiles. Dilks has seen many of these players over the last three seasons and includes his evaluations dating back as far as he’s been following those players. It’s a great resource to see how some players have progressed/regressed. He also includes a ton of links in each profile which is incredibly helpful. He’ll also be at the draft, so make sure you keep track of his coverage. Twitter: @ChrisDilks
My buddy, Ryan S. Clark of the Fargo Forum is probably the best reporter covering the USHL right now. A passionate journalist, he’s been all over a league that can sometimes be under-covered. Make sure to check out his blog, Slightly Chilled. Twitter: @ryan_s_clark
Another great North Dakota-based writer is Brad Elliot Schlossman, who is the University of North Dakota for the Grand Forks Herald. Make sure to follow him as he’ll be keeping a close eye on Fighting Sioux recruits Rocco Grimaldi and J.T. Miller. He’s already put up some great stories, especially this one, and is a must-follow if you’re a college hockey fan. Twitter: @SchlossmanGF
Sticking with the college theme, College Hockey, Inc., will be providing plenty of updates about the current and future collegians earning selections at the Draft. Nate Ewell, the former PR director with the Washington Capitals is handling College Hockey Inc.’s PR these days and always has a wealth of notes. Twitter: @_collegehockey, @nateewell
If you want to check out all the news about prospects in Major Junior, there may be no better resource than Buzzing the Net, on Yahoo! Canada. Neate Sager does a terrific job with his coverage and Kelly Friesen’s Q & A’s with draft eligibles are always interesting. Also, don’t miss out on the terrific reporting from Sunaya Sapurji. Twitter: @neatebuzzthenet, @KellyFriesen, @sunayas.
If you aren’t following Mike Morreale and Adam Kimelman on Twitter, then are you ever missing out. The boys from NHL.com have been covering the prospects year round. You can always learn something new from their features. Twitter: @mike_morreale, @NHLAdamK
I also can’t leave out Ryan Kennedy, of The Hockey News. He’s been leading the charge on prospect coverage over at THN, and has a ton of great info. Twitter: @THNRyanKennedy
I could go on and on about all of the great prospect bloggers, but there are just so many these days. The folks up top are my essentials.
So I encourage you to check out those blogs, websites and Twitter feeds. There’s so much great prospect info, that there’s plenty of content to keep you busy leading up to the Draft.
Don’t forget, we’ll have a full recap of the Entry Draft festivities on Monday and beyond. So until next time….
Why on earth would the NHL/Minnesota Wild have the draft in Minnesota in a year that is among the weakest for Minnesota High School players or Minnesota players in general? Most scouts can have a general feel for a draft a couple years before it happens so I dont buy that there is no way they could have known.