D-Day nets more D for Expressby J.J. Jameson | September 28, 2015, 12:15 PM ET
The Fredericton Express needed a blue chip forward prospect in the 2015 SICHL Entry Draft. No question. In the previous five drafts they had used their first round selections to add three defensemen and one goaltender; their second round selections picked up three more blueliners and only two forwards. There has been a clear need for some skilled forwarded in the Express system for a couple of years, but heading into yesterday's draft that need was critical. So with his first top-10 pick since 2011, GM Mark MacRae selected Zachary Werenski. A defenseman.
"I'm not going to lie, we were planning on taking a foward with our pick." admitted MacRae "That was 'Plan A'. But we all saw what happened. Noah Hanifin inexplicably slipped down. Ivan Provorov slipped down. Basically all the other teams were reaching to take forwards. We just could not pass up a kid like Zach in the tenth position. It felt like 2011 all over again when Dougie Hamilton fell to us. We still feel like we got the best player available in that draft."
How does MacRae explain his amazing good fortune?
"Most of the GMs in this league are idiots. No, seriously. They just aren't very smart."
After that moment of truth, the well-known narcissist dropped the microphone and walked off from the interview. So let's look at who the Express picked up on draft day.
Werenski is a highly-touted American defenseman playing for the University of Michigan. He's got good size, great hockey smarts and plays a true 2-way game. He projects to be yet another top-pairing defensemen in the logjam of top Express D prospects. Seriously. We can't have six top-pairing dmen can we?
In the second round, with the 47th overall pick, the Express took yet another defenseman: Jonas Siegenthaler. This defensive Swiss blueliner shouldn't be a surprise pick as GM MacRae was seen in the stands for two of Switzerland's games at the most recent U-20 WJC in Toronto and at the time was reportedly very impressed by the skating and decision-making of this young kid.
Finally in the third round, the Express selected a forward. Admittedly this year is considered to be an unusually deep draft, but at 60th overall (the Kansas City pick acquired last year in the Pekka Rinne trade) we can't have too many expectations of winger Dennis Yan. Or can we? This actually is a potentially very exciting pickup for a third rounder as Yan was considered by many to be one of the most offensively-gifted players available. Drawing comparisons to Alex Semin, this kid might not ever be caught backchecking, but hey... with the best defensemen in the league back there who cares? He could be a boom or a bust, but I really liked this pick.
The Express also held their own third round pick and selected defenseman Guillaume Brisebois. He was expected to go much higher in the draft - a consensus second rounder - so I can't really blame the team for taking yet another D that fell to late in the third round. He's a quick skating, 2-way guy who should turn pro down the road. Think M-A Vlasic type.
Canadian centerman Adam Musil was selected in the fourth round at #103 overall. If his last name sounds like a hockey name, it should. His father is Frantisek Musil and his uncle (Bobby Holik) and grandfather also played hockey at the international level. Adam projects to be more of a grinder-type third or fourth line player. With family ties like he has, there is better than average hope that he pans out to that potential.
EliteProspects.com calls Express fifth round selection (#131 overall) Jesse Gabrielle a "scrappy, skilled winger that can be difficult to play against". He probably should have been gone in the fourth round, so this seems like yet another good value pick for Fredericton.
With no sixth round pick, the Express made their final selection in the seventh round a goaltender: Ryan Bednard. A skilled American kid who is playing currently in the USHL, committed to college after that and should be years away from SICHL hockey if he develops his game. A definite long-term project, but with goalies you just never know, right?
Another entry draft come and gone and still a critical need for some top-end forward prospects, but with what seemed like pretty great value for pick position all the way through the draft, the Express have to consider the draft a pretty solid success. The talent on D in this system is among the very best in the SICHL, so I guess we can hang our hats on that as we head into silly-season: Free Agency.