It’s easy to see nothing but doom and gloom when the Canes say minimizing salary is a top priority, but this is the season for optimism. The Canes unexpectedly signed Corvo, and the pictures of the kids at the RecZone and comments from observers look great (thanks LTD, abramsdoug et al!).
But frankly, I hadn’t really felt much optimism until I happened to notice Drayson Bowman’s stats from his WHL days. The stats for some of this year’s draftees were fresh in my mind.
I was hoping the Canes would get Nino Neiderreiter. He seemed to fill the need for size and scoring ability. He had 36-24-60 in the WHL regular season for Portland and 8-8-16 in 13 playoff games. When the Canes didn’t get Nino or Connolly and had no chance at Hall or Seguin, I saw no hope for getting a proven goal scorer or the kind of size the Canes seem to need on the wing.
Then I stumbled onto Bowman’s old WHL stats. Bowman’s last two years in the WHL, he had 42-40-80 and 47-36-83. In the playoffs, he had 11-9-20 in 21 games and 8-5-13 in 12 games. And don't forget: Bowman leaves Neiderreiter in the dust when it comes to the ease of spelling and typing their names. That’s a draft consideration bloggers should not overlook.
So I did a couple of additional comparisons, frankly looking for facts to cheer me up. In another WHL comparison, Zach Boychuk also scored at a faster clip than Johansen or Neiderreiter. Johansen had a very impressive 44 assists—but Boychuk had 60 assists at Lethbridge in 2006-7 and 91 points in 69 games. In an OHL comparison, this seems like a good time for a reminder that Jeff Skinner scored more goals this year than Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.
Despite all this, I was still feeling a bit down about this year’s draft because NHL Central Scouting had a bunch of our draftees ranked lower than the spots where we took them. Skinner and Levi were the most glaring examples. That doom-and-gloom syndrome is hard to shake when there’s so much uncertainty about who will even make the team.
I decided to seek an alternative opinion on the Canes’ draftees. I wondered whether Red Line Report has done an analysis of the 2010 draft that I could see free of charge, and how they might judge the Canes’ choices. There’s no analysis of the actual draft, but they have made their 2010 mock draft public. They had Skinner going 9th to Minnesota instead of 7th to the Canes (the Canes got Johansen in the RLR mock). That makes the Canes’ choice of Skinner look better. Things really start to look bright when you see that RLR had Justin Faulk going 21st to the Penguins and Mark Alt 24th to the Canucks. I take that as evidence that the Canes got THREE first-rounders in this year’s draft. With the two first-rounders acquired by trade, Riley Nash and Bobby Sanguinetti, this draft added FIVE first-rounders to the Canes’ system in a couple of days. I find it hard to believe that many NHL teams have done that.
While we’re taking a long drag on the hookah of irrational exuberance, let’s remember that freshman Brian Dumoulin made the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament team this year, and Wisconsin’s Ryan McDonough, playing against him, didn’t. That’s the Ryan McDonough taken 12th overall by Montreal in the 2007 draft and just signed by the Rangers. The Canes got Dumoulin in the second round. We’re talking about the 6’3” Brian Dumoulin who had the biggest wingspan (80 inches) at the 2009 NHL Combine (tying a 6’6.5” defenseman from Kingston). That wingspan is greater than Derek Forbort’s (78.5) and Erik Gudbranson’s and Jarred Tinordi’s (78). It would have trailed only Dylan McIlrath’s 83-inch wingspan at the 2010 combine. Dumoulin also had the lowest body fat, 6%, at the 2009 combine. Tyler Seguin was best this year at 7%, and Taylor Hall was an almost pudgy 7.45% body fat. I think it’s time to promote Dumoulin to first-round status based on both his outstanding performance a big step up in competition from when the Canes drafted him, and measurables that make his performance seem like anything but a fluke.
Of course, Danny Biega killed everybody in lots of tests at this year’s combine and Mark Alt did extremely well, too. Alt’s wingspan was only ¼ inch less than Gudbranson’s and Tinordi’s. While we’re on the subject of prospects with impressive measurables, Sanguinetti was the fastest skater in the AHL last year.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that measurables and college and junior performance don’t guarantee success in the NHL, and that none of the Canes’ prospects is a game changer in the way that Patrick Kane is. For God's sake, Kane had 62 goals and 145 points in 58 games for the London Knights in his OHL season--I looked it up because I hoped to find a Canes prospect had outperformed Kane. Not even close. Kane's OHL season makes Hall and Seguin look pedestrian, let alone Boychuk and Bowman.
Even discounting the level of competition and the disconnect between fitness measurables and hockey skills, I think the facts shift the balance at this point from doom-and-gloom to rational optimism about the Canes. They won't win the Cup this year and probably won't even make the playoffs, but the evidence is mounting for a bright, bright future. Guys like Bowman, Boychuk, Samson, Tlusty, and even Dalpe have already gotten their feet wet, Sutter and McBain have performed well in the NHL, and the Canes’ leading veterans are 27 or younger. It’s a question of when the Canes rise, not if.
The Canes' low self-imposed salary cap shouldn't spoil our outlook on the season. Not any more.