This draft really starts at pick No. 3. The first team will pick either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, and the second team will pick the other guy. And then we'll get to pick No. 3 and the intrigue will begin.
Early on, it was thought that D Cam Fowler (No. 3 N.A. skater) of Windsor (OHL) was the obvious choice. But now he's dropping on nearly everyone's board, presumably because of his lack of physicality. Fowler is working on that part of his game, he tells the Windsor Star and, for now, he still holds the No. 3 spot in ESPN's Gare Joyce's mock draft. So he could still go third.
But coming on strong is F Nino Niederreiter (No. 14 N.A. skater) of Portland (WHL). 'El Nino' was the talk of the town as he shot up to No. 3 on the Red Line Report's rankings and No. 4 on Joyce's mock draft. However, the North American Central Scouting (NACS) has him all the way down at No. 23. Talk about a disparity.
So who does NACS have at No. 3? Erik Gudbranson (No. 6 N.A. skater) of Kingston (OHL). NACS chief scout Mark Seidel writes in the Hockey News, "Although there are some concerns about his propensity to get hurt and the fact he still has a lot to learn about the defensive side of the game, his toughness, offensive sense and hockey IQ make him an attractive prospect worthy of the No. 3 spot behind Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall."
The battle for No. 3 may be up in the air, but the two-player joust for No. 1 may be settling down. Here's the roundup:
• Perhaps Taylor Hall (No. 1 N.A. skater) is beginning to separate himself as the top pick in the draft. He faced off against Tyler Seguin (No. 2 N.A. skater) last week and, according to OHL Prospects, Hall outplayed Seguin: "[Hall] showcased his elite speed by creating chances off the rush nearly every time up ice."
• Alex Petrovic (No. 34 N.A. skater) of Red Deer (WHL) and Ryan Martindale (No. 24 N.A. skater) of Ottawa (OHL) may be dropping in the draft, North American Central Scouting writes.
• Vladimir Tarasenko (No. 2 European skater) of Russia might have top-five talent, but he might not even go in the first round. "There are (NHL) teams out there who simply aren't willing to gamble anymore with Russian players regardless of any upside they may have," the Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief tells Bruins 2010 Draft Watch. It doesn't help that he's under contract in Russia for next season.
• Austin Watson (No. 25 N.A. skater) may be skyrocketing up draft boards, Bruins 2010 Draft Watch writes. This comes after his trade to Peterborough from Windsor, which got him out of the shadows of Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler.
• G Louis Domingue (No. 4 N.A. goalie) of Quebec (QMJHL) is learning from the best: his coach and goaltending legend, Patrick Roy. And Roy talked about his goalie with NHL.com: "I like his size (6-foot-2 1/2, 185 pounds), I like the way he challenges the shooters. I like that he wants to learn. He's very receptive. I like his work ethic."
• Now, there's no more question about what Mark Alt (No. 37 N.A. skater) of Cretin-Derham High School is doing: He's playing hockey at the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. This comes after he mulled his college football option.
• Nick Bjugstad (No. 12 N.A. skater) of Blaine High School was named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey. No huge surprise there, though several NHL prospects were also in the running.
• Defenseman Alex Theriau (No. 74 N.A. skater.) was named the Everett Silvertips' Most Improved Player.
• Bryan Cameron leads OHL Prospects' list of top 10 overage players who could sign contracts with an NHL team. The Los Angeles Kings drafted Cameron in the third round of the 2007 draft, but didn't sign him.
• Speaking of overage players, NHL teams may start to draft more overage players. Brock Otten writes at School Your Pool, "Thanks in part to organization and contract number limits, teams are less interested in taking huge gambles on raw talent with serious flaws. Not when they can wait another year (or two) and have a chance to draft that same player after marked improvement."