We waited for it for so long, and now it’s over before we even had time to process what happened. Yes, the 2011 NHL Entry Draft started last night at 7 pm EST, and it was every bit as exciting as we expected it to be. As usual, the Detroit Red Wings’ first pick was in the mid to late twenties (24th this year), and Detroit fans were excited to see which draft dark horses their team would snatch up this year.
Not too long ago, I predicted the Wings would take Russian center Vladislav Namestnikov from the London Knights of the OHL with the 24th overall pick. However, the Wings shocked quite a few people by trading that 24th pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 35th and 48th overall picks in the second round. As a side note, Namestnikov was taken 3 picks later at 27th by Tampa Bay.
This left the Wings with 3 second round picks, and speculation abounded that they may trade one or two of those picks to land a more established player to shore up their blue line. Alas, none of this came to fruition, but the Wings made good use of their extra picks, and added 9 new prospects to their system, including a couple of potential steals.
The Wings first picked at 35th overall, and with that pick they took Slovakian winger Tomas Jurco. Jurco spent last season with the Memorial Cup Champions, the Saint John’s Seadogs of the QMJHL. He scored 31 goals and 25 assists for 56 points in 60 games. He followed that up with 18 points in 19 playoff games, and 4 goals in 4 games during the Memorial Cup.
Many people knew who Jurco was even before the draft, because of his dazzling puck skills videos on youtube, and he could end up being a pretty big steal for Detroit. For starters, Jurco was projected as a top 20-25 talent going into the draft, and the Wings managed to pick him up at 35.
Jurco is lauded for his soft hands, and slick moves, so from that aspect he certainly fits into the Red Wings system. Detroit loves to load up on high skill Europeans, so it’s no surprise they jumped on him when they were put on the clock. Jurco is a great stick/puck handler, has great hand-eye coordination, and is a swift skater (paraphrased from his NHL.com profile).
He also comes with a good deal of size, standing 6-foot-2, and weighing in at roughly 187 lbs. He obviously still needs to grow into his frame, but he’s only 18, so he has plenty of time to do so.
Jurco’s only real downside is that his consistency has been questioned during the drafting process. When he’s on, he’s really on, but GM’s were unsure of his mental toughness. Jurco even admitted to that during his post draft interview.
According to him, he knew he needed to be better during the regular season, but he seemed to remedy that during the playoffs. He sounded confident that his consistency will not be a problem in the future. Only time will tell, but if he can keep his compete level up, the Wings could have a really good draft day gem here.
Jurco will more than likely return to Saint John’s in the QMJHL for somewhere around 2 more seasons, depending on how he performs at the Red Wings’ development camps this summer. Going back to the QMJHL would allow him to bulk up more before taking the next step, and he would have more time to prove his tenacity is present for good.
There is also the possibility that he proves those things this summer, and then who knows what could happen. Tomas Tatar, Detroit’s second round pick in ’09, ended up in the AHL immediately following his draft, due to a great summer showing, so there is a chance the same could happen with Jurco.
Without getting too far ahead of ourselves though, a lot needs to be done before he and the Red Wings brass make a decision about his future. Either way, Red Wings fans have to be elated with this pick. Jurco is an exciting player to watch, and could turn out to be a piece of the Red Wings’ puzzle in the not too distant future.