Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
I've been patiently awaiting Hockey's Future's Ducks draft preview. I was tempted to comment on Malloy's draft for TSN, but I felt his board went screwy right around the 14th pick. While I am willing to believe that Edmonton would take Ellis instead of Kulikov, I refuse to believe that the Panthers would choose Moore over Kulikov. I know that I said I'd personally choose Moore over Kulikov, but the young Russian from The Q has had a steady and overwhelming hype that makes Moore the lesser of the two in the quest to replace Bouwmeester. The Ducks would be fortunate to take either player, of course, but if Malloy's mock board plays out 1-13 on Draft day, I'd assume the Ducks would end up with Moore, not Kulikov.
Who does Hockey's Future say we get? Louis Leblanc. HF's Chris Shafer has a notably grim, but all too realistic take on the Ducks' situation. The website has yet to roll out its entire mock board, but they are clearly of the opinion that certain players will NOT fall into the Ducks hands. Specifically, they forecast Nazem Kadri going 13th to the Sabres and John Moore going 14th to the Panthers. Shafer hints, as I have before, that in such a situation, the Ducks would be tempted to trade down to add a 2nd Round pick, which they currently lack and may need if they want to draft a quality netminder. Trading down would force Anaheim to cast its lot with a riskier boom-or-bust forward, but that may be preferrable to taking a "safe" player like Leblanc.
So, let's talk Louis. The 5'11" centerman played well in the Quebec midgets, but turned down the QMJHL to go the NCAA route with the United States Hockey League. Leblanc knotted 28 G and 31 A in 60 games for the Omaha Lancers this season, earning him the USHL's Rookie of the Year honor, and stamping his ticket to the ECAC, where he is committed to play for Harvard in the Fall.
I haven't seen him play, as my armchair scouting career has yet to reach the point where I find a way to watch USHL games, but there's a nice Meet The Prospects feature on the Islanders website with three quotes that echo the consensus of the scouting buzz surrounding Leblanc: Strong skater, competitive, knack for team play and a nose for goals in front of the net. At the combine, he was a Top Performer in Body Fat, Skinfolds, Standing Long Jump, Push Strength and Pull Strength. For the specific numbers, feel free to search his name in our chart of the Central Scouting Top Performers list.
-Draft Upside: Shafer points to Leblanc as a relatively low-risk player, meaning you pretty much know what you're getting.
-While he isn't touted as a game breaking forward, Leblanc is noted for courage and grit around the net that can provide timely, though not abundant, secondary scoring.
-Draft Downside: There are some teams that are high on Leblanc, and the Ducks may get more value in a swap and 2nd Round pick trade with a team as close in the drafting order as, say, The Canadiens.
-Harvard may not be the best program to develop Leblanc, and while some feel he'll fast track to the NHL in a couple of years, I think his devotion to his education will keep him in the Ivy League a bit longer.