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McPhee Calls Entry Draft Weak, Then Says He Doesn’t Call Drafts Weak

GM George McPhee made his first Vegas radio appearance since the lottery debacle on ESPN 1100 this afternoon (interview here, begins at 28:00). McPhee joked with Ed Graney and Mike Pritchard that after he found out the results, he was happy he got stuck in Washington. Stanley the Rooster still believes his presence could have helped the situation. But I digress.

When talking about the draft, McPhee mentioned once again how much of an advantage the Golden Knights have had in knowing they would be selecting the top six from the beginning of the season. In the same answer he then went on to divulge some information we’ve discussed many times, but never thought we’d actually hear from McPhee’s mouth.

With this particular draft there are a couple of players at one and two that I think are a lot better than the next layer of players. You can get the same player at 3 at 6 at 9 so I’m not worried about getting a good player because there are enough them there that we’ll be fine. -George McPhee

Essentially he said, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are good, and the rest of the players a cut below. However, while most scouts around the continent believe Nico and Nolan are good, no one is ready to compare them to the McDavids, Matthews, and Eichels of the world. So, in agreeing, McPhee basically said the draft is not as strong at the top as in recent year’s past.

A few minutes later, McPhee went on to say he doesn’t calls drafts weak or strong.

I’ve tried to approach every draft in the same way, some people say certain drafts are strong drafts, certain drafts are weak drafts, and I’ve never ever looked at it that way because if you go into what is supposed to be a weak draft and come up with two or three good players then it wasn’t a weak draft. I believe this is where good drafting teams really make their hay. If you go into what’s supposed to be a strong draft, seems like everybody gets good players. When you go into a weak drafts, the good scouting departments come up with the players and create separation between teams. -McPhee

And then there’s me listening to all of what McPhee said thinking, well yeah that’s all accurate. So, let’s try and recap.

The lottery sucked so much it was worth not being at. It’s disappointing the lottery sucked because those top two guys are good. Not that good, but pretty good. After them though, it’s not as good. There’s a big mess of players that are all very similar. We have to now pick from that mess. But this draft isn’t weak because if you pick the good players then you got some good players and the draft can’t be weak if you got multiple good players.

Yup, that all makes sense to me.

Nolan Patrick Draft Stock Continues To Slip

Months ago Brandon Wheat Kings star prospect Nolan Patrick was the near consensus first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Through a season of injuries and a fantastic campaign by the Swiss standout, Nico Hischier is starting to find his way to the top of draft boards.

So what do you do if you have the first pick overall this summer? Patrick’s two-way game and 6-foot-3 frame seemed to make him a safe top pick before the injuries, but Hischier’s hockey IQ and elite offensive skills make him look like another Jonathan Drouin. For me, it’s Hischier right now – and he certainly had to earn the distinction. -Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News

Hischier has been stupendous all season long and has continued his excellent run during the QJHML playoffs. Meanwhile, Patrick has been out much of the season and missed the Wheaties playoff series in which they were swept.

Here’s the good news, the Golden Knights didn’t need the 2016-17 season to know who Nolan Patrick is. While many teams were set to take advantage of another pre-draft eligible season for Patrick (he missed the cutoff by four days last year), they weren’t afforded a wealth of ice time due to Patrick’s nagging injuries. The Golden Knights on the other hand have Kelly McCrimmon on their staff. The current owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings and the former coach and GM of Patrick through his first three years in Manitoba.

Of course the lottery balls still have to have their say (still no official date on the lottery yet), but it’s likely that if McCrimmon believes Patrick is the next Anze Kopitar, he and McPhee will do what it takes to make him a Golden Knight. Therefore, the injuries, the rise of Hischier, and the lack of minutes from Patrick could in fact be a blessing in disguise for Vegas.

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Drafting Third Is Equivalent To Drafting Fifteenth; You Know What That Means

TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button updated his mock Entry Draft this week with no change at the top. Week in, week out Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier have led the top two picks of June’s draft. Last week Button slotted Vegas in the third draft position just missing out on the Patrick, Hischier sweepstakes. Vegas is still selecting third in Button’s mock draft, but the player drafted was different this week.

According to Button’s latest mock draft, the player currently slated to go third is 18 year-old center Martin Necas. The young center has 7 goals and 8 assists in 41 Czech Extra League games. The numbers don’t mimic Patrick or Hischier but obviously the skill speaks for itself.

Necas has a style of game that reminds me of Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. He has a high skill level, can finish or create, and has a desire to find some way to make an impact in every game he plays. – Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting

Whoa Giroux?!? According to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau Necas is rated the fifth best international skater. For a full player spotlight check out our post from January.

Of course Necas sounds like a promising franchise center, but now we’re getting into deep waters. TSN analysts Bob McKenzie, Frank Seravelli and Button have all stated the talent pool is less impressive than past drafts. After Patrick and Hischier, who are dubbed can’t miss players, the talent drops significantly. Analysts have said drafting 3rd or 15th is about the same this year. Not good for Vegas if the ping pong balls act anything like the craps table does for Ken.

Drafting Necas doesn’t have much value at pick third. In a way after the first or second pick it possibly doesn’t matter where Vegas drafts in the top six. We’re all thinking it, and of course McPhee is… but the Golden Knights really need to trade up. Getting in the top two, Vegas would kill two birds with one stone. The new franchise would draft their potential future center and they make a big splash for the fans.

Hitting the big splash isn’t necessary for the Golden Knights but it could work out for the franchise’s future. Drafting a player that’s a unanimous first or second pick is a much different from selecting a player third that could’ve been drafted sixth, ninth or thirteenth. Of course, the pick itself is valuable, but this is a different circumstance. The Golden Knights first franchise selection will be over analyzed and critiqued. Waiting a couple of years for Necas to develop could frustrate the T-Mobile faithful. Plus, he may continue playing in Eastern Europe next year while waiting for his turn in Las Vegas. I’ll say it for Vegas fans, just trade up and secure the first or second pick. Hey, I don’t need to tell the Golden Knights how to draft but I know 16,000 invested fans will.

If Nolan Patrick’s A Golden Knight, It’ll Be For Good Reason

Since the signing of Reid Duke, the entire Golden Knights fan base have been playing make-believe GM. The dream transaction almost every armchair general manager (including myself) wants to make, is drafting top rated prospect Nolan Patrick. By now, we’re all aware Nolan and Duke play together in Brandon, Manitoba. Patrick is currently projected first or second in most analysts mock drafts. Duke, who becomes the Golden Knights first signed player could also become the team’s first player ambassador.

Of course, we can’t expect Kelly McCrimmon to exchange all of his Brandon currency for Vegas gold but his influence could help. If he believes Patrick is worth trading future assets for, I’m sure his boss will listen. George McPhee wouldn’t just trade up for a splash, but we have to imagine McCrimmon’s opinion is heavily valued by the GM. Conspiracy nuts like myself and Alex Jones expect lottery shenanigans leading to Vegas magically getting the first pick, but the possibility of drafting four to six is real if the odds are legit.

McPhee will be having very serious conversations with all 30 GMs in the near future so he’ll know (he might already) what the price of moving up will be. Analysts like Craig Button and Bob McKenzie are both down on this year’s draft but that doesn’t mean a team will make trade-swapping easy on Vegas.

Now that we know the situation, we have to ask the obvious question, is trading up for Nolan Patrick is even worth it? The projected number one pick’s numbers are silly over the past three plus seasons in Brandon. In 28 games this season, the right-handed center has 42 points. Last year he posted 102 points in 72 games with a rating of +51. Out of Patrick’s 18 goals this season only a few are assisted by Duke. While both centers play many shifts on separate lines, they continuously show up together on Brandon’s lethal power play unit. The Wheat Kings are in the top half of the WHL, scoring 64 PP goals this season. Teaming up on special teams in Vegas could be one reason to reunite Duke and Patrick. 

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Interview: Reid Duke, First Golden Knights Player

The first player in franchise history, Reid Duke, was kind enough to lend us a few minutes to talk about his historic signing with the Vegas Golden Knights. The interview aired live on KXNT Radio as I (Ken Boehlke) filled in as the host of The Alan Stock Show.

Reid and I talked about his decision to come to Vegas, playing with Nolan Patrick, the media tour he’s been on, and played a quick game of trivia.

 

All interviews on SinBin.vegas can be set up to automatically download on the device of your choice by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher. (That’s the fancy way of saying, click the word iTunes or Stitcher and subscribe.)

2017 Draft Being Compared To Draft That Killed The Thrashers; Beware McPhee

The 1999 NHL Entry Draft… regarded as the worst in NHL history. Here’s the scary part, draft analysts have been pulling out the ’99 term to describe this year’s rookie draft. Even hockey’s most positive analyst isn’t exactly pumped about the prospects available to the Golden Knights in their first ever Entry Draft.

This year’s draft appears to have considerably less sizzle and marquee value than each of the last two that featured the Connor McDavid versus Jack Eichel rivalry in 2015 and the Auston Matthews sweepstakes in 2016. –Bob McKenzie, TSN

Okay, fine. Its not like years past, but how bad could it possibly be?

The last time we had a draft like this, in terms of level of athletic competition was ’99… worst draft in the the history of the league -Pierre McQuire, TSN 690

Oh God, he did it, he said ’99, it’s got to be that bad. Only 16 first round draft picks in ’99 played a total of 82 games. In 1998, 23 out 27, and in 2000, 21 of 30 first-rounders skated for a minimum of 82 games. Sure, we’ve been touting ‘Number one Nolan‘ and ‘Nico the Knight‘ but after ’99, anything is possible. Scouts could easily be wrong on Patrick and Hischier. Analysts are expecting so little, Vegas should feel lucky to be in the mix for two potential goal scorers. If June’s amateur draft is anything like 18 years ago, Vegas should start focusing on 2018’s draft. You think the hockey world is being too dramatic? Here, remind yourself of the negative impact the ’99 draft had.

1999: Top Ten breakdown

1 – Patrik Stefan/Center – Atlanta

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First Two Picks In This Entry Draft A Clear Cut Above

Number One Nolan or Nico the Knight? It’s a question that some lucky NHL general managers and scouts will answer before June. TSN’s Craig Button consistently projects Nolan Patrick as his number one overall pick. Also, Button continues to be impressed by Swiss skater Nico Hischier. Button believes two teams will be happy to select one of the top prospects. After that though… not so much.

I’m not so sure there’s a difference between the 3rd and the 15th pick… The top two guys, Patrick and Hischier have separated themselves. They’re a cut above. –Craig Button, TSN’s Director of Scouting

Patrick has gone bananas in his return from injury. The Brandon Wheat King center has five goals and 13 points in seven games since his return. Including four helpers in last night’s Wheat King 6-3 victory. Wow, right? Most analysts say it’s easy scouting Patrick. He was on the outside cusp of last year’s draft, so they’re very aware of his talent.

It definitely is a two-player field for the top [North America] ranking and Nolan Patrick was the frontrunner going into the season for the 2017 draft and remains the top candidate for NHL Central Scouting. It’s unfortunate [Patrick] had to miss so much time but it was necessary for him to be able to return at 100 percent. He’s been well known to NHL scouts for the past three years; his game continues to show he’s a top prospect. –Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting

Patrick may not be deemed a “generational” talent like Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews but has the size and skill to be an NHL All-Star.

There’s no franchise-type player in this draft and even the No. 1 consensus pick, Nolan Patrick, had the injury factor so there are still questions. That said, Patrick is a big, strong center and can skate well. It’s just a matter of his development and getting more experience and strength. But he has all the pro attributes that you’re looking for. –Joe McDonnell, Dallas Stars Director of Amateur Scouting

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Martin Necas

TSN’s Craig Button came out with his latest draft prospect power rankings. Leading the board was the expected number one overall pick Nolan Patrick. The Brandon Wheat King is expected to return to after a long lay off recovering from a sports hernia. Ouch. We profiled Patrick way back in 2015, and discussed him as a potential franchise player. Even after missed time, Button still ranks the 17-year old center above any other amateur. However, if Vegas misses out on Patrick there are other potential star prospects.

SinBin.vegas has already spotlighted two of them in Nico “The Knight” Hischier and top defensive prospect Timothy Liljegren. Both could be more realistic options if Vegas doesn’t pick first. If the Golden Knights get bumped out of the top three, the following top prospects should still get fans excited. We’ve talked about the top three and now it’s time to dig deeper.

Fourth on Button’s big board is Czech center Martin Necas. The 6’0 right-hander plays in the Czech Extra League and is known for his competitive edge, which scouts love.

He refuses to be denied when he’s faced with a challenge, and his game will only become that much better as he matures physically. -Craig Button, TSN

Continued mentions of Necas’s competitiveness is what Vegas scouts should like the most about the young Czech’s scouting report.

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When It Comes To Draft Risk, Center > Defenseman

Over the last few weeks I’ve highlighted the top defenseman Timothy Liljegren and a top three forward Nico Hischier. Either prospect would be a great start for Vegas. Stud defenseman like Liljegren don’t come around often. In fact, 2012 was the last draft multiple defenseman were selected in the top five. Crazy enough, eight rookie blueliners were picked in the top ten that year. (Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, Derrick Pouliot, Jacob Trouba, Slater Koekkoek)

All this draft chat had me thinking about McPhee’s strategy. Who would the Golden Knights draft between the highest rated defenseman, or a top three center? SinBin.vegas commenter James made a strong point about a few somewhat recent drafts. Drew Doughty selected second could easily have jumped over Steven Stamkos. Same with the 2009 draft with John Tavares and Victor Hedman. Of course, all four organizations feel incredibly satisfied with their selections. I will always lean towards a top-rated center over a defenseman. As important as goaltending and defense is, NHL offense comes at a premium. However, if a talent like Doughty comes up my decision wouldn’t be tough.

Drafting a center in the Top-5 of the NHL Entry Draft has been almost ridiculously successful for NHL clubs over the past 10-15 years. There will always be a few misses, like Alex Galchenyuk in 2012 or Kyle Turris in 2007, but just about every other one during the past 13 years has had major impact. Take a look at the centers drafted early from 2003-2016.

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Timothy Liljegren

When it comes to the 2017 NHL amateur draft we’ve really only heard one name at the top, Nolan Patrick. Names like Maxime Comtois and Kristian Vesalainen have come up as possible candidates for the Golden Knights, but we’ve already crowned Patrick as the prized jewel of next June’s draft. However, TSN’s Craig Button wrote an article last week about Swedish prospect Timothy Liljegren as a possible number one. Since Patrick has only skated in 10 games this season for the Brandon Wheat Kings, other options are starting to creep into the picture. The 6’2″ defenseman is described as smooth and mature. Liljegren the number one rated blue liner, could be a future player Vegas fans root for. Although, the ping pong balls have to fall our way.

What makes Liljegren a top talent is his maturity and effective play in high competition. The 17 year-old Swede is currently playing in the Swedish Elite league for Rögle BK. There’s not much footage on him available, and he’s been sidelined with mono, but most believe he’s ready for the big stage in North America, so we’ll have to take their word for it. Lately, the NHL has showcased its young talent sooner than later. McJesus, Jack Terrier Eichel, Papi Matthews and Patrick ‘Laine’s Better’ all made a pro-roster their first year.

Are Nolan Patrick and Liljegren prospects ready for the NHL? Neither are rated like McDavid, Eichel and Matthews were, yet Patrick and Liljegren are still considered franchise players. If the Golden Knights are lucky enough to draft either, fans should be very excited. I couldn’t imagine Vegas rushing draft picks to the big club, so fans might wait a year or two. George McPhee has already discussed developing his prospects. With that in mind, McPhee will probably plan on expansion and free agency for his 2017 roster. As we’ve discussed already, playoffs are not the Golden Knights main concern out of the gate. Building for the future is hopefully what this organization is planning. A big, two-way defenseman like Liljegren would be top priority to the organization.

As a talent evaluator, Button is well respected around domestic and international hockey. He’s had success projecting a prospects impact in the past. Even with limited playing time for both, they’re in Button’s top two draft slots. What does that say for the rest of the top ten? If he’s convinced there are two highly skilled prospects then Vegas fans should be very optimistic. Look out if Patrick or Liljegren end up with the Golden Knights. The Pacific teams won’t be winning as much as they’re expecting on the Strip.

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