Commentary

Hall remains No. 1; Gormley rises up

It's Hall, then Seguin, in the final predraft projection; defense crowds top 10

Originally Published: June 23, 2010
By Gare Joyce | Special to ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesBrandon Gormley is moving up the draft boards -- perhaps all the way to Tampa Bay at No. 6.

Editor's note: This file has been updated to reflect the June 23 trade between the Blackhawks and Thrashers.

Every draft has its layers of talent -- groups of players who separate themselves from the rest. On Friday night, we're going to see those groups play out. If you've been reading along, you'll know that the draft is topped by a group of two; let's call them the A prospects. Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin could eventually be among the 10 or 15 best players in the NHL.

Then, there's a group of anywhere from three to five players -- whether you opt for the larger number depends on how highly you regard USDT G Jack Campbell and how healthy you think Prince George LW Brett Connolly is. The base of this group consists of three defensemen: Kingston's Eric Gudbranson, Windsor's Cam Fowler and Moncton's Brandon Gormley. These guys can be franchise-defining players -- the best players on winning teams. You'd call them A-minuses.

The next group, the B-pluses if you will, can range from about 10 to 20 guys. These guys could make a team's first forward line or top defensive pairing, but they're not likely to become franchise anchors down the road. After that, there's a B-level group who may fall into the middle of the second round but have a chance to be better than a guy drafted No. 15 or No. 20.

The difference between Hall, Seguin and the rest of the field is pretty obvious, though between that B-plus level and the level right below it the field tightens dramatically. So No. 45 is closer to No. 15 than No. 15 is to No. 5. Something to keep in mind if there's any wheeling and dealing at the draft.

And now, our final attempt at predicting the order of events when teams gather:


Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor (OHL)

The only concern about Hall is injury. He plays the game at such a high speed that he takes some awful-looking spills (and did at the Memorial Cup). Still, he figured it out at the major junior and international level (playing more as a draft eligible for the Canadian under-20 team than Steven Stamkos did), so the betting is that he'll figure it out at the next level.

Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth (OHL)

A pick that can be made five seconds after Edmonton's. A year ago at this time he was in the conversation for a top-10 spot. Seguin made a huge leap this year, so the question is: Can he keep up this improvement? If so, he might pass Hall eventually, but as it stands right now, he's the second-best player in this pool.

Eric Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL)

Jay Bouwmeester with a character upgrade and a compass. He might not be as offensively dynamic as Fowler and Gormley right now, but you'd rather have him out there with a one-goal lead than the other guys. With the No. 15 pick obtained from the Bruins, does GM Dale Tallon now put this pick in play?

Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL)

The Blue Jackets' quest for a first-line defenseman with offensive skills, a quest that started a long time ago with Rusty Klesla, finally comes to an end. Gormley does have a chance here, and Columbus has looked to the Q in the past for their first-picks -- but Fowler gets the slight edge.

Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George (WHL)

Again, any doubt about Connolly's fitness wipes out this pick and Gormley shuffles in. Any doubts -- and how couldn't they have them -- might make them inclined to at least look at Campbell, particularly considering their past, and present, experiences with G Rick DiPietro. That the Islanders use their pick here rather than trade it is no better than a 50-50 shot. Mike Milbury used to be Draft Elvis, the King of the Big Move, and Garth Snow has upheld the tradition.

Gare Joyce is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.