PHILADELPHIA, 2:15 pm - In the NHL draft version of speed-dating, the top five prospects (as selected by NHL Central Scouting) faced the media after the morning skate at Wachovia Center before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
An NHL executive brought out the young men – Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Cam Fowler, Brett Connolly and Erik Gudbranson – and said, “Here ya go.” A few dozen reporters descended on them. Point Blank conducted interviews with all of them, but let’s start today with a few random notes of interest to Islanders fans.
The Point Blank Most Impressive Prospect of 2010 goes to…Erik Gudbranson. He’s 18 years old, but has a presentation, polish and maturity beyond his years. He’s also friggin’ huge. Gudbranson told me he had a goal this summer to put on more weight. I looked at him and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
Of course, what’s most important is how a player performs on the playing surface. However, if the Islanders’ choice came down (in part) to how the prospect conducted himself at the Draft Combine and visit to Long Island, I would think it would be Gudbranson in close to a landslide.
Check this out: Gudbranson and Cam Fowler have only two in-person interviews – in Columbus and New York (“Islanders,” clarified Gudbranson, clearly excited about it). Fowler reported that the pair of defensemen may even travel together. Gudbranson said the week of June 10 will be a whirlwind for him because he’s going straight from an NHL event in Toronto to Long Island to Columbus. “Then I have to get back to school,” said the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year.
Before visiting the Islanders and Blue Jackets, Fowler seemed pumped to get a few days off in Mexico as he, Hall and the rest of the Windsor Spitfires celebrate their Memorial Cup championship. Fowler and Hall have had no time off since the start of the season in September that included the World Junior Championships, OHL playoffs, Memorial Cup and then right into the Draft Combine and trip to Philadelphia. “Best year of my life,” said Fowler. “Besides, all the distractions since the Memorial Cup help keep my mind off the draft.”
Gudbranson and Fowler both said they expect to meet with Garth Snow, possibly Charles Wang and some of the players. They have received itineraries from the team with a specific schedule of meetings, a tour of the community and fun stuff. Gudbranson volunteered that he believes the Islanders’ medical team will check him out.
Brett Connolly can be sure of that. He told me that a visit to Long Island “is in the works,” but he doesn’t have a confirmed date yet. Connolly said the Draft Combine was key for him because he was able to answer all the questions about his hip. The Prince George wing, who will most likely go between the third and sixth picks, is by far the least slick of the top five prospects. Again, that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be the best hockey player – which is all the matters.
The Islanders gave their list of confirmed visitors to Katie Strang of Newsday (subscription needed). Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Alex Burmistrov and Ryan Johansen have already visited. As PB previously reported, Gudbranson is set for June 10 and Fowler on June 8. Brandon Gormley comes in on June 11.
Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin only have two outside visits each, both to Edmonton and Boston. If you needed proof that they are a lock to go 1-2 in some order (probably that order), there you have it. It appears the other 28 teams are so convinced they won’t be moved that they are not bothering to ask for extra time with Hall and Seguin. Both kids were very impressive. Seguin was sharp and cordial at all times. When we turned the camera on for a FanHouse interview, Hall lit up and put an extra layer of smooth on.
Comments on this post and the top draft prospects.