Well, the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, but it certainly won’t be soon forgotten by the Portland Winterhawks organization or their faithful followers as eight of the Hawks players were selected in the draft that featured 210 players being selected. Here is a breakdown of the eight picks and some thoughts on each:
1 – Ryan Johansen, 4th overall, 1st Round – Columbus Blue Jackets: I touched on the meteoric rise of Johansen yesterday, but it is still incredible to think about a day later just how far he has come in such a short time. He described himself as having “baby moose legs” in bantams and midgets due to being tall and skinny. He is starting to fill out his frame and when he’s done, he will have the prototypical big center frame that NHL teams covet and he has the skills to be a dominant player at the next level. I can’t wait to see what he does as an 18 year old in the WHL in 2010-11. The first ever Hawk selected by the Blue Jackets.
2 – Nino Niederreiter, 5th overall, 1st Round – New York Islanders: When the Hawks moved up to select Nino in the CHL Import Draft a year ago, there were high hopes that the Swiss born player would add some offense to the Hawks line-up. Mission accomplished. Nino showed early on that he had the will and skill to be a force night in and night out in the WHL and then backed that up on the big stage in Saskatoon at the World Juniors. I hope that I get to see what he can as an 18 year old in the WHL 2010-11 as he has the strength and size to be in the NHL next year, but I think (somewhat selfishly) that he could use another year of development prior to making the big jump. The second Hawk selected by the Islanders, the previous being Jeff Finley in the 3rd Round of 1985.
3 – Brad Ross, 43rd overall, 2nd Round – Toronto Maple Leafs: The other guy on perhaps the best draft eligible line in the history of the CHL, Ross had to wait 13 picks into the second round before Brian Burke and the Leafs traded up to select him. If there was a player that fits the Burke style, it is Ross. He will be a fan favorite in Toronto for his agitating style and will try to live up to what Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker did for years wearing the Leaf sweater. This is the first Hawk selected by Toronto since they took Gary Nylund, #3 overall, in 1982.
4 – Taylor Aronson, 78th overall, 3rd Round – Nashville Predators: Aronson follows in a great line of former WHL defensemen to be selected by the Preds and maybe surprised some folks by slipping ahead of Troy Rutkowski in the draft order. Aronson really started to get noticed in the second half of the 2009-10 season and in the playoffs as well before getting injured. He will most likely miss the start of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but he should be a mainstay guy next year for Portland. Aronson is the first Hawk to be selected by Nashville, so I guess Brent Peterson was due to get a Hawk in the draft.
5 – Troy Rutkowski, 137th overall, 5th Round – Colorado Avalanche: Troy had a great start to the 2009-10 season and a great finish as well, but a bit of a slump in the middle of the season probably led to him dropping a bit further down in the draft order and I believe the Avs got a steal on picking Rutkowski at this spot. Rutkowski can be a dominant puck moving defenseman and he is another player that has really developed since getting passed over in the WHL Bantam Draft. Troy is the first Hawk to be taken by Colorado since they moved to the Mile High City from Quebec. Prior to the move, Adam Deadmarsh was the last Hawk taken by the Avalanche franchise, going 14th overall in the first round of 1993.
6 – Luke Walker, 139th overall, 5th Round – Colorado Avalanche: The feel-good story of the draft for Portland IMO. A guy in his last year of draft eligibility, having worked his way into a national team spot for Team USA at the World Juniors, getting selected is just great for Walker. He has shown to be a very good two-way player for Portland and from what I understand, he has been working very hard since the end of the season to get that much better for 2010-11. Walker could now sign and move to the pro ranks with Colorado or the Avs could decide to have Walker play his overage season in Portland. We may not know that until October.
7 – Mac Carruth, 191st overall, 7th Round – Chicago Blackhawks: How many battles did Mac Carruth have with Kyle Beach during the past season? Well, they are now going to be teammates at the Blackhawks training camp in the fall. Isn’t that what makes sports great? Chicago doesn’t have a lot of depth in goal on their extended roster and getting Carruth late in the draft will help add to that depth. Carruth showed tremendous growth after joining Portland early last season and he is a guy that battles for everything, especially protecting the blue paint around the net. Carruth is the 11th Winterhawk to be selected by Chicago, but the first since Jerad Smith went in the 7th round of 1997.
8 – Riley Boychuk, 208th overall, 7th Round – Buffalo Sabres: Hmmm…the Sabres had pretty good luck taking another big Portland forward in 7th Round back in 2000 when they used the 220th pick on Paul Gaustad. Riley Boychuk fits the same mold as Gaustad…big, strong and Boychuk, IMO, has better hands at his age than Gaustad did when he was drafted. I would imagine that Gaustad and Boychuk will work very closely together as Paul knows what it takes to get to the next level. Boychuk is the seventh Hawk to be taken by Buffalo with Michael Funk being the last, taken in the second round of 2004.
There you have it…eight picks…that ties the Hawks all-time record for players selected in a single draft, matching 1978 and 1980.
Congratulations to all…and it is a great day to be a Hawk!