Monday, June 29, 2009

Penalty Kill: Vatanen, Illo and Valentine

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

This final profile concludes our coverage of the Ducks' 2009 Entry Draft Class.

The Ducks certainly journeyed out of North America this year, and for the first time in 8 years, refrained from selecting a player from The Q. They took a chance at virtually every stage of the Draft, and could just as likely end up with four to five NHLers as they could zero.

Round 4 - 106th Overall

Sami Vatanen D
According to The OC Register, Martin Madden called Vatanen a "home-run or a strike-out type of pick" due to the rearguard's diminutive stature. And at 5'9" 160 lbs, he isn't kidding.

Like Bobkov, whom the Ducks picked before him, Vatanen made an impression at the IIHF U18 World Championships. As the captain of Team Finland, he registered 5 points (0 G) in a six-game march to a Bronze Medal. The pint-sized blueliner finished with a +6 rating, but that number is slightly skewed by a +5 nothced in a 7-0 rout of Slovakia during the Preliminary Round.

It was the young Finn's performance in the Bronze Medal game, however, that left most scouts gushing his praises. Down 4-3 to Canada in the 3rd, Vatanen showcased his playmaking and power play quarterbacking ability, as Finland went 2 for 3 with the man-advantage in the final frame. Vatanen assisted both goals.

-Size is his ONLY issue. A skillful passer, skater and playmaker, if he were a few inches taller, he might have gone in the 2nd Round.

-Room to Grow. At the Combine Fitness Testing, Vatanen was the Top Performer on the Wingate. He also did the most curl-ups. Clearly gifted physically, Vatanen still has room to get beefier, if not taller.

-The Ducks took a chance on a pint-sized power play quarterback with Marc-Andre Bergeron. Assuming Carlyle is still coach when Vatanen gets a shot at the NHL (which is no small assumption), it may be hard for him to play effectively in his own zone.

Round 5 - 136th Overall

Radoslav Illo C
A center for the USHL's Tri-City Storm, Illo was sidelined by a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. He came back to score 33 points (21 G), including 8 power play goals and 3 power play assists. He finished the season 2nd in shooting percentage amongst his fellow Storm.

Martin Madden broke down the pick for J.P. Hoornstra, saying of Illo, "He's an outstanding skater with great shot. He's not a physical player, he's a skilled player who goes to the hard areas."

-Potential Steal. He was injured early in the scouting cycle, and if his late performance is indicative of his abilities, the Ducks will have a steal on their hands.

-Raw Talent. Illo played a short season on a bad team in a league that doesn't get much respect for its level of competition. He may bust at the next level.

Round 6 - 166th Overall

Scott Valentine D
Valentine was the defenseman involved in the multi-player deal that sent John Tavares to the Knights. For London, the 6'2" 195 lb blueliner battled for ice time, producing 0 points and 20 PIM in 17 games. He took on a bigger role with Oshawa, and managed a goal and 8 assists in 26 games for the Generals. He plays an aggressive game, and has the skating ability and physical presence to back it up.

-Promotion to General. If this season is any indication, Valentine will flourish even further with the playing time he gets in Oshawa. He'll play in all situations, and get a chance to develop every part of his game.

-None. Valentine is a great value in the 6th Round. He may not develop offense, but how many 6th Round defenseman will? He may not make the NHL, but how many 6th Round defenseman will?


Rob said...

I watched Vatanen play against Canada at the U18's, and he was, by far the best player on the ice, especially in the 3rd leading their comeback. That Rajala kid was also very impressive.

Kyle Woodlief says Vatanen reminds him of when he first saw Niklas Kronwall, he was small but talented and physical.

In todays NHL a player like Vatanen can definitely make it, is being 5'8 that big a deal? Kimmo Timmonen is 5'10 and one of the best in the league.

Anyways Vatanen is fast and moves the puck well, definitely lots of potential there.

Rob said...

Also an interesting comment I heard during the draft.

Often times the "Steals" are not the players everyone knows about and they fall, it's the players that have not been seen alot and that's where the scouts earn their money. So it's entirely possible, a player like Ilo, had he not been hurt may have been more scouted and gone higher, OTOH he may have been more exposed and gone lower.

Remember when we picked Eric Tangradi? alot of people went "huh?" but he was one of those players that didn't get alot of attention, then got a bigger role and flourished.

Anaheim Calling said...

On whether or not 5'8" matters, I suggest you ask Jordan Schroeder.

It CAN matter for the Ducks. I think we asked a little too much of Marc-Andre Bergeron. If Carlyle is still the coach when Vatanen comes up, it will be an issue. Moving the puck under NHL pressure is even a problem for Mikkelson and he's 6'2" 200 lbs. Like Ryan Ellis, I think it's less about size and more about being drafted by the right team and system.

And on 'steals,' these are the late rounds where Martin Madden made his reputation. So, I was watching very closely. I really liked his work here. I think we got more lucky than anything with Tangradi. He was a rich man's Beleskey (in a world where income is directly tied to skating ability) and we were already watching Matt's games.

I like the hunches Madden played. As per our discussion on the Matt Clark post, I think it's the last few rounds when a pure shutdown defenseman becomes a steal. Valentine's being bred to eat minutes. And I think Illo is a great pick when you consider Madden's description. A skill player with courage is only an injury risk if your strength and conditioning coaches are a liability. Anaheim doesn't really have that problem.

Rob said...

Size is a secondary reason why Schroeder fell, it's his attitude that dropped him

Anaheim Calling said...

Well, as I said in our discussion of the Holland post, there's a lot of assumption in that statement.

Old school scouts like McNab do the grunt work, and have talked to some kids several times before they get to that interview room. And a scout's recommendation won't trump what the Director of Am Scouting and the GM have in their game plan.

Teams passed on him for a number of reasons, I'm sure. But the fact that big bodied US talent and Josefson were taken ahead of him, would indicate that teams were interested in size from 15-20. If not, there would be no reason (other than attitude issues) why Palmieri couldn't have climbed ahead of Schroeder.

As someone who was so quick to accuse me of pigeonholing Holland (which I didn't) based on a scouting opinion of him in one game, you're certainly quick to dismiss Schroeder based on the scouts breakdown of him in one day.