TSN’s Bob McKenzie, in my book the most respected and connected hockey reporter in North America, has stated that he believes the Islanders are leaning toward drafting Victor Hedman. I called Bob today to get some insight into his prediction. Our conversation broke out into other areas.
You’ve said on TSN it will be Victor Hedman for the Islanders. Can you explain how you’ve come to the prediction?
First things first. Would I take it to the bank? Probably not. I first predicted Hedman on a fun segment we do call the “TSN Quiz.” It was more than a month ago. Fact is, anyone can make a case for the Islanders taking Hedman, John Tavares or Matt Duchene because that’s how the Islanders have decided to play it. How do I come up with Hedman for the Islanders? I can’t get into specifics, but it’s from listening to people.
Can you understand why I believe they are drafting John Tavares?
Of course, because selecting Tavares would be the easist, most logical thing to do.
Why do you say that?
For TSN, I do draft ratings that will be out a week on Monday. I talk to 10-12 top scouts and then rank the players. Tavares was the No. 1 pick, and it was virtually unanimous.
I know you don’t want to give up your entire story, but were Hedman and Duchene 2-3 in either order?
Yes, that was also clear-cut, although some people in hockey don’t see it as a big fall-off from the third pick to 4 and 5 like others do.
If the Islanders don’t draft John first overall, what will your reaction be?
I don’t scout players, so you’ll never hear me say, “What a stupid pick”! You might hear me say, “What a ballsy pick,” but I won’t go after a team. All three of these kids are excellent young hockey players. Also keep in mind that the scouts I interview for the rankings, they don’t necessarily have their jobs on the line. Their picks could always be different if they were making the selection for the Islanders. I should also point out that no one seems to view John Tavares as a generational talent.
That’s said a lot about Tavares, but is there even a slight chance that he could be?
There always is. If you score enough goals, say more than 50 in this era, you’d have to at least be considered generational. And Tavares can score goals. He’s not dynamic like Alexander Ovechkin. He’s not going to take it the length of the ice and go through people. To use a basketball term, Tavares is an outstanding half-court player, fantastic inside the blueline.
Does it go without saying Tampa Bay would like Victor Hedman?
I don’t know. I can tell you this: if the Islanders do not draft Tavares, there could be high drama on the draft floor. Tampa Bay will listen to every offer it gets in those minutes.
So that would mean…
If the Islanders are not planning on drafting John Tavares, they have to be listening to offers.
What does Colorado want?
They have the easiest job, unless they want to re-invent the wheel. They take who is left of Tavares, Hedman and Duchene.
Who comes after the Big Three?
Lately the consensus is pretty strong in favor of Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn in some order. Those are the players that some scouts feel are very close behind Matt Duchene.
What do you recall about the Pierre McGuire meltdown after the Islanders passed on Zach Parise to take Robert Nilsson?
I was sitting next to Pierre in our TSN studio above the draft floor. As each team passed on Zach, Pierre’s anxiety was building. He just didn’t understand a pick he felt for a few teams should have been obvious. As for the Islanders, it was really bad timing – because of his father being J.P., because of the skill, because he seemed to land in the Islanders’ lap. I tell you, it was like Mount Vesuvius with Pierre. What I remember most is you at the bottom of the platform playfully pleading with Gord Miller to try to get Pierre to calm down. “Stop! Alright already”!
If you’re making the first overall selection for the Islanders on June 26, who do you draft?
John Tavares. The only issue, compared to Hedman and Duchene, is how much JT is going to score. Will it be 30? 40? 50? He has hands, vision, sense of timing. My son played both hockey and lacrosse against John, who always played in a group a year or two ahead of his age. I’m not a scout, but I understand what Tavares could mean to a franchise like the Islanders. The thing about him is, he’s an amazing athlete and he’s fearless.