Over the next couple of days, we’ll try and figure out just who Brian Burke has in mind for the No. 5 selection in Friday’s draft.
First, a couple of notes on philosophy. I think that Burke is a fan of big-moment players, and generally, big guys. He paid a premium for his first ever draft choice in Chris Pronger, trading a first, second and third round picks to move up four spots and get the pick that was going to come after Alexandre Daigle.
Teams naturally want to know what kind of teenagers they will be drafting and Burke said that players that are good enough to be high draft picks are almost always captains at some level as they grew up. When asked why he was never a captain (raising questions about attitude or some other red flag), Jaromir Jagr explained that it was because he always played with players that were three years older. Burke said it was the best answer he ever got to that question.
Burke also said that, when he was with Vancouver, he decided he liked Ryan Kesler after seeing him play one shift at Ohio State, telling his scouts he had seen enough and that they should do whatever they needed to get him in the first round. By contrast, Burke said he went to watch Wayne Simmonds play eight games for Owen Sound and didn’t see anything in those eight games to indicate that he’d be worth drafting.
We liked Patrik Stefan, we weren’t big on Brendl, but the World Juniors that year in Winnipeg and the twins weren’t very good, so I’m like ‘we’re not taking the twins. We’re probably going to trade the pick.’ We didn’t like that draft, and we thought we could make a good deal and trade the pick.
Then the twins made the men’s senior team for the World Championships in Oslo, and I said ‘you know, we’d better go over and watch these kids’. And they were terrific. Bigger ice surface, they’re playing with men, and back then the Swedish team never took 18-year olds on the senior men’s team. Never, and these two kids made it and they were great. That’s when we said we’re going to get the twins.
Finally, here is the list. Since :
Among them, Pronger, Smith, Umberger, Kesler, Ryan, Mitera and Biggs were all “big” players. Draft records aren’t readily available online, but the players in that group grew out to be much bigger than average, well into the 200 lbs and above. Kadri was drafted at 5’11 174, Biggs at 6’2 210 and Percy at 6’1 184.
Burke had been in Vancouver just five days before they went and selected Bryan Allen fourth overall in 1998, so I have to think Burke didn’t have a whole lot of input there, or he trusted his scouts.
Other than the Allen pick, Burke nailed every Top Five selection in his career, getting the best player available in each instance, but he’s 3-for-6 outside the Top Fifteen in landing successful NHLers. Biggs and Percy are still growing and weren’t factored in.
Nathan Smith was continuously injured and flopped. Mark Mitera and Logan MacMillan are in the minors, AHL and ECHL respectively, and Mitera was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for a song.
On the note of how Burke likes to draft captains: Ryan Murray captains the Everett Silvertips. I’m not sure on the “leadership capabilities” so to speak of the other guys in the Top Ten, but Colton Sissons captains his junior team with Kelowna and I really like as a potential late first/2nd round (so, 35th overall territory). He’s a terrific shutdown centreman.
But really, who knows where Burke is leaning. There’s a good mix of F and D (maybe leaned slightly towards D) in this group as well as small and big players. This at least gives you the impression he’s flexible at the draft table and isn’t set in stone in taking American college guys with every pick.
That whole “paying attention to really small samples” thing sort of bugs me, however. I get the feeling Burke would be pleased if Murray fell to him.