Draft Day Theme? Risk.by Sean Gallagher | September 23, 2018, 1:38 AM ET
With picks and players flying around on the transactions list all week, the only certainty about the SICHL 2018 Entry Draft was it's uncertainty. St. Louis' Spartans started with 12 picks, moved several and acquired others and ended up making 11 selections in total. The team was reportedly in talks on picks as high as the lottery teams, could have held up to four first rounders at one point and were in the works on choices in nearly every round of the draft.
When all was said and done, Sparty added two first rounders, three third rounders and six other players across the fourth through seventh rounds. With four defensemen chosen, two goaltenders, two centers and three wingers selected, it would look like the team had a plan that they wrote out and applied. The truth, actually, is much different.
"The SICHL Draft is always wild," said GM Gallagher, "You never know where guys will be picked based on conventional wisdom, so you just try to get the guys you want, no matter where you have to take them."
This approach, of course, means that players get taken in weird places. This year, which many experts believed to be a down year for high-end talent, was a perfect storm in that manner. Once the first ten picks were made, things started to get nuts.
"Picking at 13 and 28, we decided to just focus on getting players that we thought fit our system," said Gallagher, "We abandoned the Best Player Available model a while ago, because BPA doesn't necessarily mean we'll get a guy we actually like for our system and our culture.
"This year we targeted Ty Smith very early on. We thought he'd be there mid-round and we think he's a guy we'd like on our team. At the later pick (28) we had three guys bracketed and two were gone by then, so we took our guy. We knew that taking two defenders in the first round was a possibility, but not something we were afraid of, either. I see a path for both of them to be big contributors to our team in the future."
Smith. taken at 13, is hoped to be an exciting two-way top pair defender. The new SICHL is a league where smaller skilled players can play big roles and St. Louis is counting on Smith to thrive in that environment. Alexander Alexeyev, the 28th overall pick, is more of a traditional SICHL body, but also plays a good two-way game. It's hard to tell what his ceiling could be, as his draft year was marred by injury and personal tragedy as he lost his mother, but Spartans management is convinced this kid will end up being a bargain as a late first round choice.
After missing the entire second round of the draft, Sparta came into the third and subsequent rounds swinging for the fences on homerun or strikeout prospects like centers Philipp Kurashev, a shift playmaker, Allan McShane, another smaller, skilled pivot, and shooting winger Ryan O'Reilly. None of the three are guaranteed SICHL careers, but each could wind up as top-6 level talent.
In the fourth round, Gallagher grabbed Stanislav Demin, yet another skilled player whose potential is as high as his bust probability. Like many St. Louis defensive prospects, Demin will hone his craft in American college games, as he's slated to attend the University of Denver. After Demin, Sparta selected Tyler Weiss, possibly one of the most intriguing long-shots of the group. A North Carolina native, Weiss has heart and skill in spades, it just remains to be seen if he can continue to overcome the odds and become a professional hockey player or if it's just too far of a leap for the southern boy to make.
With two of the last four picks in the arsenal, St. Louis grabbed a pair of Zs in Danilla Zhuravlyov and Dmitry Zavgorodniy, two (more) boom-or-busters who might never be heard of again or who could become legitimate SICHLers. The other two late picks were spent on (guess what?) long-shot guys in goaltenders in Kevin Mandolese and Zachary Bouthillier.
"We got what we'd hoped to get," said Gallagher, "We didn't get everyone we'd hoped for, but we definitely had the midset of coming into this draft willing to take the riskier players over the safer players. Now it's up to those kids to prove the scouting community wrong for doubting them and to prove us right for taking them. I hope they put a chip on their shoulders and get after it.
"I think they will."