2017 Draft Reviewby Matt MacInnis | August 27, 2017, 12:09 PM ET
Fresh off the franchise’s first ever trip to the Continental Cup Finals, the Vancouver Island Norsemen were very active on draft weekend, making a pair of trades and selecting six new prospects.
The most significant moves the team made were the two trades with the Dublin Shamrocks, which collectively saw the club add defenceman Josh Manson and forward Richard Panik, plus a third round pick. In return, the Shamrocks received first, second and fourth round picks.
GM’s Take: “From a trading perspective, the weekend could not have been more of a success. We came out with two talented young players that we expect to play on our team for years to come as meaningful contributors. In particular, we had a very high rating from our pro scouts on Manson, who we think has a lot of runway ahead of him.
“Philosophically, we didn’t mind moving some of our high picks. We were not enamoured with this draft class, and felt that there was very little difference in terms of players from about 25 to 65.”
Alex Formenton, LW, 51st overall (2nd round)
London Knights (OHL)
Formenton is a lanky winger with elite speed who is expected to have a more prominent role in the SICHL factory that is the London Knights this season. Formenton needs to refine his puck skills and improve his shot, but he has a few traits that project him as a second line winger if the team’s player development system does its work.
GM’s Take: Alex was a kid who we expected to probably be around when we made this pick. He had a really rough end to his season, especially in the playoffs, but when you see him skate you know he’s going to be someone who can help a team out at any level. It’s also important to realize that he was probably the youngest player in the entire draft, so we expect to see some big strides from him.
Nikita Popugaev, RW, 64th overall (3rd round)
Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Popugaev may have been one of the more controversial players in the draft. He had a first round rating with many services throughout the season, but teams were scared off by late season struggles and potential attitude concerns. What analysts agree on is his unique blend of size (6’6”, 205 lbs) and remarkable individual skill that could make him an impact player at the SICHL level.
GM’s Take: This was the pick that we acquired as part of the Panik deal, where we agreed to slide from the late 50s down to 64 here, so we wanted to get a second-round talent. We know there’s a lot of risk with Nikita, but we also know he has ‘sick mitts’, as the kids say. I have no idea today what role Popugaev will play on our team in five years, but I feel that it could be everything from playing alongside Sid to working in a tire disposal centre on the outskirts of Moscow. In this draft, we believed you need to take risks in order to be rewarded, and this pick was a risk.”
Tobias Geisser, D, 139th overall (5th round)
Zug Academy (Swiss)
A 6’4, 200+ lbs defenceman with good feet and a booming shot, Geisser profiles as a modern defenceman. He isn’t physical enough at this stage, but he’ll have a long time to develop. Geisser will play the season with Zug of the Swiss team and is expected to play a prominent role on Switzerland’s World Junior team as well.
GM’s Take: I know everyone says this, but we were actually surprised to see him available at 139. We had a big gap between our picks, and we had a top-100 rating on the kid. He needs some work, but we’re going to give him time, and playing against men in Europe is going to force him to add some sandpaper to his style.
Jacob McGrew, RW, 160th overall (6th round)
Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
A big-shooting California native, McGrew missed the entire 2016-17 season with a knee injury, and won’t make his WHL debut until this fall.
GM’s Take: We’ll see what we have in Jacob this season. Nobody’s seen him play hockey for almost a year. He’s been a big-time producer at every level he’s played at to date, but the Dub will be an enormous step up for him. We’ll be watching carefully. Like I said earlier, we thought you really needed to take big swings in this draft, and hope you just connect.
Cole Guttman, C, 167th overall (6th round)
College-bound (St Cloud State) centre Cole Guttman is expected to spend another year in the USHL, captaining Dubuque. Coincidentally he and McGrew were teammates in the LA/Anaheim minor league hockey system as recently as a year ago. Guttman has a well-rounded offensive game, but doesn’t have a lot of size.
GM’s Take: We’re going to have to be patient with Cole, as he’s probably a good 4-5 years away from playing professional hockey. But with the progress of some of our kids like Nylander, Barzal, Erne and Kempe, we can afford to use a late pick on a kid whose long-term upside we like, even if it’s going to take a while before we see him.
Croix Evingson, D, 195th overall (7th round)
Shreveport Mudbugs (NAHL)
One of the few players drafted out of the NAHL, Evingson is a 6’5, 220 lbs physical specimen. He’s unquestionably very rough and will need to take advantage of the coaching available to him this fall at UMass-Lowell.
GM’s Take: Any time you have the opportunity to draft a kid from Alaska who played his junior hockey in Cajun-country for a team called the Mudbugs, you have to take it.