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Monzo Minor: NHL Entry Draft Preview

By Brian Monzo
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Friday night marks one of the best events of the NHL offseason. Not a lot of people are into the NHL draft, but maybe they should be. It's the first chance for teams to start their offseason. Aside from the selections, there's a good chance a handful of big trades go down as well.

The first round is Friday night in Pittsburgh at the Consol Center. The remaining rounds are on Saturday.

The Oilers have the No. 1 selection and it's expected they will take Russian OHL stud forward Nail Yakupov. They have had the first overall pick in the previous two drafts as well and took forwards Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Yakupov will give the Oilers another future offensive machine.

For the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders, things could not be more different.

The Devils will likely be looking for an offensive forward. They have the 29th overall pick in the draft. The Islanders have the 4th pick, and with the draft stockpiled with defenseman, that is probably the direction the Islanders will go. The Rangers have the 28th pick, and could use another forward, but very well may be looking that pick.

The Devils made a huge run in the playoffs, only to lose to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. They had the option of forfeiting the 29th pick to the league due to the ruling in the Ilya Kovalchuk contract situation. I would have thought this would be a good time to do that, but they are low on prospects and could use a complete draft.

The Devils have made defense a priority the last few seasons, and drafted Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson last season. Even though this draft is stocked with defense, I think the Devils will draft a forward.

There are three players I could see the Devils drafting. The first is Thomas Wilson, a 6-4 forward out of the OHL. He is a punishing hitter that can put the puck in the net. He had 27 points in 49 games last season and added 141 PIM's. He's a power forward in the making. Forward Mike Winther was rated 32nd by the International Scouting Service and despite being only 175 lbs, scored 56 points in 71 games in the OHL. He has a history of lacking consistency in his game, but that could come with NHL coaching. The Devils lack depth in the middle and Winther could be a future second line player for them. Colton Sissons scored 26 goals in 58 WHL games last season, and not only can play on both ends of the ice, he is a leader. He is considered a 'character' player with a solid set of skills, including speed.

The Islanders drafted defenseman Calvin De Haan. That was the 12th pick in 2009. They also had the first overall pick that season and drafted John Tavares. They drafted Ryan Strome and Nino Niederreiter in the first round last two years, both forwards. With the fourth pick, they should have another chance to get a dynamic prospect. I would think they would go defense.

Two defensemen stick out to me that would be perfect for the Islanders. Canadian born Ryan Murray could be the best defenseman available in the draft. He is a two-way defenseman that put up 31 points in 46 games last season in the WHL with Everett. Murray is considered and very safe pick in the draft. That's the only real knock on him. There is no real spark and he isn't flashy. Neither is Dan Girardi. How many teams would want Girardi? All of them. Murray could be a top pairing defenseman for the next 15 seasons.

Matt Dumba may be the best offensive defenseman available in the draft. Playing for Red Deer in the WHL he scored 20 goals, and added 37 assists in 69 games. He has shown signs of being similar to Dion Phaneuf. He isn't quite as big as Phaneuf, but can still hit hard. He can score on the power play as well, scoring nine power play goals last season. He may go in the top three, but if he is available, he could be an Islander.

The Rangers have the 28th pick in the draft and while there is a decent shot that pick is moved, but if not, the Rangers will have another chance to add more young organizational depth. They are stockpiled in defensemen, so I would expect them to draft a forward if they decide to use the pick. They drafted gritty forward JT Miller last season, and in 2009 drafted Chris Kreider. We saw what Kreider could do in the playoffs. I would think the Rangers would draft a player who could score.

The two players I think the Rangers may go after follow the American born tradition. The first is Nicolas Kerdiles from the US U18 team. Kerdiles is 18 years-old and is 6'2 200 lbs. He is going to be a beast. He scored 13 points in 19 games and is the definition of a power forward. He can intimidate his opponents, which is something the Rangers need.

Tim Bozon offers the toughness that the Rangers' current crop of scorers tends to lack, drawing comparisons to Blues star David Perron. After a playoff run in which their stars were held relativly quiet, they could be looking for a scorer who can hold up through the long grind of the postseason. Bozon has shown the ability to shake off vicious hits and just keep on scoring.

Follow me on the Twit throughout the draft: BMonzoWFAN

Draft predictions? Leave them in the comments below.

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