Friday, June 30, 2017

NHL Draft Grades

The NHL Draft has come and gone, and I've had a little time to assess what every team has done. If you're keeping score on how many predictions I got right, I got Cale Makar, Cody Glass, and Owen Tippett with the correct teams and in the right slots, plus Klim Kostin going to the right team, but 11 slots lower than expected (he went 31st overall). Now, it's time to look at what each team did and hand out arbitrary grades.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks lost their first round pick in the Patrick Eaves deal, and given that they just resigned him to a new deal, it appears to be a first round pick well spent. They did incredibly well to pick up both Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand in the second round while they addressed their potential black hole in the goalie pipeline with Olle Eriksson-Ek in the fifth round. Jack Badini and Kyle Olson were also picked, and clearly, the Ducks have confidence in their blue line, as none of the picks were defensemen. Grade: B+

Arizona Coyotes: Most of their picks were on the blue line, with Pierre-Olivier Joseph having the most potential of the bunch. He needs to add weight, but he has all of the makings of another Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I didn't like that they didn't take a goalie in the draft, as it's rather barren beyond Adin Hill, but I did like Tyler Steenbergen, as he could be a steal in the fifth round. Grade: B-

Boston Bruins: The Bruins went predominantly centers and defensemen, with no wingers taken. Urho Vaakanainen was a safe pick, and given Jakub Zboril's slight regression in his development, it's not a bad pick. Jack Studnicka was a pick I liked here, as he fits the Bruins mold for centers. Grade: B

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres picked the best player available when it came time for their turn in the first round in Casey Mittelstadt. He will need a year, minimum, but he can eventually slot in behind Jack Eichel as a number two center. Other than Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen, however, the rest of the draft wasn't necessarily that great, as I thought they took a little long to address their blue line deficiencies. Grade: B-

Calgary Flames: For just having one pick in the first three rounds, the Flames made it count, as Juuso Valimaki will eventually slot in with TJ Brodie once he gets developed. The rest of their draft was throwing darts and hoping they hit the bullseye, but they did pick up Travis Hamonic in a trade, bolstering their blue line right away. Grade: C (not counting the Hamonic trade)

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes need a number one center, and while Martin Necas doesn't necessarily have that ceiling, he does provide speed, another aspect that the Hurricanes currently lack. Most of their picks have rather low ceilings, but are largely safe bets for lower end roles if they make the NHL, especially Stelio Mattheos. Grade: B

Chicago Blackhawks: With losing Trevor van Riemsdyk and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the days leading up to the draft, it was no surprise that the majority of their picks were defensemen. Henri Jokiharju was a reach, but he fits what the Blackhawks want out of their defensemen. With nine picks, the Blackhawks filled every position except in goal, where they could have used someone for much later. Grade: B

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs needed to hit a homerun on their first pick, and with Cale Makar, that's exactly what they did. While he is a year away, minimum, he has all of the makings of a franchise defender. They also did well in drafting Connor Timmins in the second round, further fortifying their shaky blue line. The rest of the draft wasn't as inspiring. Grade: B+

Columbus Blue Jackets: With no first round pick this year, the Blue Jackets could afford to just simply add warm bodies into the prospect pool. Picking Alexandre Texier was a surprise choice, but he fits exactly what the Blue Jackets want in a player, as he provides grit. Grade: C+

Dallas Stars: The Stars addressed their biggest problems in the first round, as Miro Heiskanen will add stability to a blue line that sorely lacked a steady presence while Jake Oettinger adds a top end goalie that should be ready by the time Ben Bishop's contract ends. They also drafted Dylan Ferguson, who got flipped for Marc Methot, further helping their blue line. Grade: B+ (moved up to A- after the trade for Methot)

Detroit Red Wings: For the most part, it was about getting as many players as they could for the Red Wings. They did fill a need for offense in Michael Rasmussen, who also happens to fill a size need as well. It helps that he can skate well. I liked the pick of Keith Petruzzelli, who could figure into the golatending future if he picks up a few extra pounds and develops as expected in college. Grade: C

Edmonton Oilers: They took a major chance on Kailer Yamamoto, but not based on skill. He's got a fair amount of filling out to do, but only a 5'9" frame to work with. However, his skill set should work with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Getting Stuart Skinner in the third round was also a smart move. Grade: B

Florida Panthers: The Panthers only had five picks, but they already have a considerably deep prospect pool. Getting the best scorer available in Owen Tippett was great, though reaching for Aleksi Heponiemi could be the bigger payoff if he gains weight, as he's just a buck-forty. Grade: B-

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are still in salary cap hell, given they're still on the books for both Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik. However, they did incredibly well in the draft, going down the middle with all their picks, as only wingers were not picked. Getting Gabe Vilardi at 11 was smart, as was picking up a rising Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Matt Villalta is another option in the eventuality that Jonathan Quick will retire, but the Kings hope that won't happen for a few years. Grade: B+

Minnesota Wild: Without a first or second round pick, the Wild had to make the most out of what they did have, and it seems like only Ivan Lodnia could be a potential NHLer. Size was largely ignored, as four out of the six picks are under 6' and only one breaks the 200 pound mark. Grade: D+

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens need scorers, and none of the picks look like a gamebreaking scorer. As a matter of fact, none of the picks were wingers. Ryan Poehling's potential ceiling is 60 points while they appeared to overcompensate for losing Mikhail Sergachev by adding four defenders. Grade: C-

Nashville Predators: The Predators paid lip service to each of the positions, with every spot getting one player richer after the draft. The best picks were Eeli Tolvanen, a pure goal scorer who fell to them at 30 and may very well begin his pro career sooner rather than later, and Jacob Paquette, the second to last pick in the draft who could see his numbers go up with a bigger role in Kingston. Grade: A

New Jersey Devils: They get a passing grade just for picking Nico Hischier, a player that may need another year in major junior, as he needs to pack on a few pounds, but he provides a dynamic presence down the middle. While they didn't fill their blue line needs until late, they did pick up a potential steal in the fourth round in Nikita Popugaev, who fell due to a drop in production late in the draft year. Grade: A-

New York Islanders: The Islanders went defensemen with their first three picks and left wingers with their last two picks. It is debatable whether any of them will have an impact, but the trade of Travis Hamonic for a 2018 first round pick indicates they may be hedging their bets in the case that this year doesn't pan out for them. Grade: C

New York Rangers: They reached on their two first round picks, but Lias Andersson was a solid pick while Filip Chytil could surprise if he pans out. The Rangers are still in win-now mode, as none of this year's picks are expected to contribute in two years. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: For just having four picks, the Senators did pretty well in shoring up their depth. Shane Bowers isn't a top center, though the draft was pretty thin on top centers after Hischier and Nolan Patrick, but he should be no worse than a quality third line center. Alex Formenton could be another London Knight that breaks out post-draft year while Jordan Hollett was a value pick late in the draft and could be a factor in net. Grade: B-

Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick was obviously a great pick, as he now figures to make the opening night roster thanks to a trade that sees the Flyers saying good-bye to Brayden Schenn. Morgan Frost was a reach, but they made up for it in value by taking Isaac Ratcliffe in the second round and Matthew Strome in the fourth round. The Flyers continue to replenish their pipeline, and now, all facets appear to be plentiful. Grade: A

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins traded out of the first round to take Ryan Reaves, who figures to be the cop on a team that can use one. As for the actual draft, the Penguins drafted four defenders, with the best potential going to Zach Lauzon. As is the case with recent drafts, the Penguins are in no hurry to rush any of their prospects. Grade: B+

San Jose Sharks: They reached for Josh Norris, but the potential as a Logan Couture clone was great, and the Sharks would gladly take it if that is the case. The Sharks stocked themselves down the middle with two other centers, a need that may be coming if Joe Thornton bolts in free agency. Grade: B-

St. Louis Blues: The Blues added Brayden Schenn and lost Ryan Reaves in draft day trades, and they added a solid two way player in Robert Thomas, as well as power forward Klim Kostin in the draft. They addressed their blue line late in the draft. Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning: Going with mostly centers in the draft, their best pick was defenseman Callan Foote, who suddenly gives the Lightning a strong prospect pool of defenders, which includes recently acquired Mikhail Sergachev. If Alexander Volkov and Alexei Lipanov come over to North America within a few years, they stand a decent chance of making an impact on the Lightning. Grade: B+

Toronto Maple Leafs: Timothy Liljegren headlines a pretty good draft pool for the Maple Leafs, and while he had a poor season, his potential is such that he could be the offensive starter from the blue line that the Leaf have lacked since Tomas Kaberle. Eemeli Rasanen is an intriguing defender who is a project, but has the size to be a difference maker while Ian Scott is a good option in goal. Grade: A-

Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson was a slight reach in the first round, but his potential marks out to be a number two center, at worst, once the Sedins move on. Their next three picks were great, as Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich were solid picks, as was goalie Michael DiPietro. Grade: B+

Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights' plan was go down the middle, and they did incredibly well with most of those picks. Cody Glass was a great pick at six while Nick Suzuki figures to slot behind him within a couple of years. Erik Brannstrom was a bit of a reach, but Nic Hague was a solid value pick in the second round. One sleeper to watch is Jake Leschyshyn, who figures to get a bigger role with Regina next season. Grade: A

Washington Capitals: Bereft of a draft pick for the first three rounds, this looks like a throwaway draft for the Capitals. None look like a contributor down the line, but the Caps have proven people wrong before. It's just harder to say so for this year. Grade: F

Winnipeg Jets: Though well stocked on prospects, the Jets did alright this year, with Kristian Vesalainen providing a possible big body that can score up front, thus cutting down on the possibility of moving Dustin Byfuglien to forward. Dylan Samberg is a few years away, but he has potential on the blue line. Grade: B-

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