Friday night marked Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a record (welcome again Vegas Golden Knights) 31 players were selected in the 1st Round. In case you missed any of the action, here’s how it all broke down.
2017 NHL Entry Draft– Round 1
New Jersey Devils–> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
Philadelphia Flyers–> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (OHL)
Dallas Stars–> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK, (Finland)
Colorado Avalanche–> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
Vancouver Canucks–> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
Vegas Golden Knights–> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
New York Rangers (from Arizona)–> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Buffalo Sabres–> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
Detroit Red Wings–> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)–> D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas)–> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Montreal Canadiens–> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
Dallas Stars (from Chicago)–>G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey-East)
Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St. Louis)–> C Morgan Frost, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Ottawa Senators–> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)
Chicago Blackhawks (from Dallas via Anaheim)–> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
Nashville Predators–> RW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
St. Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh)–> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Trades Made on Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
The Arizona Coyotes traded D Connor Murphy and F Laurent Dauhpin to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Artemi Panarin, F Tyler Motte and a 2017 6th round pick(170th overall) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Brandon Saad, G Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick.
The Arizona Coyotes traded D Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 1st round pick (7th overall) to the New York Rangers for F Derek Stepan and G Antti Raanta.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Jordan Schroeder from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for FDante Salituro.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded a 2017 1st round pick(26th overall) to the Dallas Stars for a 2017 1st round pick (29th overall) and a 2017 3rd round pick (70th overall).
The St. Louis Blues acquired F Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for F Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (27th overall), and a conditional 2018 1st round pick.
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded F Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 1st round pick (31st overall) to the St. Louis Blues and acquired F Ryan Reaves and a 2017 2nd round pick (51st overall) in return.
The time has come for my annual prediction of how the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will go. This year’s draft class is overall weaker than years past, but comes with a difficult choice for the New Jersey Devils, as they hold the 1st overall pick. The talk surrounding Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier is reminiscent of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin days leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
With that in mind, let’s see how many picks I get wrong (it’s an annual tradition!)– this year’s draft is being held in Chicago.
1) New Jersey Devils –> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL)
A gifted center, Nolan Patrick’s status as the long-time coming predicted 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft should not be affected by his injury shortened season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is a 6’2″, 199-pound gifted two-way player that can not only contribute in goals and assists, but brings some size down the middle for the Devils.
2) Philadelphia Flyers –> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
If New Jersey doesn’t take Nolan Patrick 1st overall, then the Flyers shouldn’t really have any complaints, because either Nico Hischier or Patrick is quite the impressive steal for the 2.4% longshots at the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier stands tall at 6’2″, 179 pounds, and had 38-48-86 totals with the Halifax Mooseheads in 57 games this season en route to being named the CHL’s Rookie of the Year.
3) Dallas Stars –> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
Gabriel Vilardi was part of this year’s Memorial Cup champion, the Windsor Spitfires, and amassed 29-32-61 totals in 49 games played this season. He’s a two-way center that remains composed in all situations while utilizing unparalleled hands and finesse in this year’s draft. Vilardi would be quite the addition to Dallas’s prospect pool at 6’3″, 203 pounds and only 17-years-old (until August 16th, that is).
4) Colorado Avalanche –> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland)
One can assume that the Avalanche are bound to be trading a bunch of forwards for forwards this offseason (at least), but more important than having an offense is having a defense and an offense (which Colorado has had one in recent years and I’ll give you a hint– it hasn’t been a defense). Miro Heiskanen is a 6’1″, 172-pound two-way defenseman that had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 37 games with HIFK this season and is just part one of many moves towards turning things around at Pepsi Center.
5) Vancouver Canucks –> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
The Vancouver Canucks can begin to start thinking about their long term approach to the end of the Sedin era by assuring themselves of a strong presence down the middle. Casey Mittelstadt brings that strong presence at center by virtue of his 6’1″, 201-pound frame and tremendous skill. There’s a reason why he was named this year’s Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. Mittelstadt had 21-43-64 totals in 25 games with Eden Prairie and 13-17-30 totals in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season.
6) Vegas Golden Knights –> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
For their first draft selection in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights are bound to select perhaps the most tactically smart playmaker of the draft in Cody Glass. The 6’2″, 178-pound, right-handed center had 32 goals and 62 assists (94 points– T-7th in the WHL) and is sure to fit right in with the Golden Knights roster and longterm plans. Vegas would be wise to let him play coming out of the draft, since Glass is perhaps the most NHL ready player besides Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
7) Arizona Coyotes –> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
The Arizona Coyotes have been stockpiling forwards (if you can believe it) in recent drafts, so this year seems to be the right time to snag a puck moving defenseman that’s committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season. Cale Makar had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) in 54 games with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season– a 20-point improvement in as many games compared to last season.
8) Buffalo Sabres –> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
At 6’6″, 215 pounds, Michael Rasmussen is exactly what the Sabres need to compliment the already sized up centers of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. Sheer intimidation could be one thing Buffalo banks on in the near future, thanks to their Goliath centers, but don’t let that be the only thing. Rasmussen has silky hands and had 32-23-55 totals with the Tri-City Americans this season in the Western Hockey League.
9) Detroit Red Wings –> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
Owen Tippett has been drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel (no, not necessarily because he’s a hot dogs and hamburgers guy– though we haven’t asked him– but rather, because Mike Morreale of NHL.com says so). The 6’0″, 200-pound, right winger had 44 goals and 31 assists (75 points) in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads and is a natural sniper.
10) Florida Panthers –> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
Martin Necas is a versatile center that can create space for the puck and generate offense with his playmaking mindset. The right-handed shot had seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 41 games with Brno this season. Florida shouldn’t be too concerned with his 6’0″, 167-pound frame, considering they’ve got a good mix of forwards to balance things out while Necas works on adding some muscle to his game.
11) Los Angeles Kings –> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
After missing out on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings fired their now former head coach (Darryl Sutter) and general manager (Dean Lombardi) and immediately replaced them with John Stevens behind the bench and Rob Blake as GM, so trying to predict who they’ll draft is difficult based on recent history. However, Elias Pettersson (19-22-41 totals in 43 games with Timra) might just happen to fall into their hands at 11th overall. He’ll need a year of seasoning before appearing in the Kings lineup.
12) Carolina Hurricanes –> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Sweden)
After a bout with mononucleosis in November, Timothy Liljegren wasn’t fully able to rebound this season with Rogle BK, however his skating remains unparalleled as one of the better defensemen of the draft. Liljegren can join the rush and pinch in from the point when needed in the offensive zone and scouts have yet to see the full potential impact of his style of play. Given the uncertainty surrounding Carolina’s money-puck strategy and how it will affect their blue line, drafting Liljegren might provide some security.
13) Winnipeg Jets –> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Klim Kostin missed a lot of time thanks to a shoulder injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Winnipeg Jets from taking a chance on what might be the best Russian forward in the draft. Puck possession is Kostin’s middle name and his 6’3″, 196-pound frame certainly must have something to do with that. The Jets could use him down the middle or restructure their wingers around the Kostin model, albeit acknowledging Blake Wheeler‘s size and existence already in Winnipeg.
14) Tampa Bay Lightning –> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
Steve Yzerman may continue to be a master of the salary cap (in terms of carefully maneuvering around large contracts, drafting and developing talent on a consistent basis and the like), but he’s got some critical thinking to do this offseason, what with pending RFAs galore and the Vegas expansion draft. Juuso Valimaki might be just enough to help relieve some of that pressure, having been one of the best defensemen of the WHL this season and amassing 19-42-61 totals in 60 games played.
15) New York Islanders –> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
Offensively skilled, Nick Suzuki isn’t the biggest player (5’11”, 183 pounds), but he is one of the best power play specialists in this year’s draft– notching 14 power play goals for the Owen Sound Attack this season. Suzuki had 96 points alone (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and would be an upgrade for the Islanders in more ways than one.
16) Calgary Flames –> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Kristian Vesalainen is a 6’3″, 207-pound power forward that might be able to muster his way to a new arena for the Calgary Flames. Jokes aside, Vesalainen would be a solid draft pick by Calgary for his physical prowess and goal scoring ability. In the Battle of Alberta, the Flames could select their very own Milan Lucic, but with more of a two-way element to his game.
17) Toronto Maple Leafs –> D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga (OHL)
How could the Toronto Maple Leafs get any better than they already are with a lineup full of kids? Answer: they could draft Nicolas Hague. Toronto’s got a plethora of players waiting to insert themselves into their mix of forwards that it wouldn’t hurt them to give a little more attention to their blue line for a bit. Hague is a monstrous 6’6″, 215-pound, shutdown defenseman that can also contribute on the power play. He had 18-28-46 totals in 65 games with the Mississauga Steelheads this season.
18) Boston Bruins –> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
It seems unusual to say, but the Boston Bruins have a little something on the horizon to start thinking about– what will the team look like after Patrice Bergeron (and David Krejci)? Boston GM Don Sweeney has a recent history of opting for college players and could select center Ryan Poehling with the future in mind. The 6’2″, 183-pound, playmaker has great vision and puck protection and had 7-6-13 totals in 35 games with St. Cloud State this season. Additionally, Poehling’s got intelligence (both on and off the ice) as he graduated a year early from high school and just tuned 18 on January 3rd.
19) San Jose Sharks –> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
The San Jose Sharks have some big names to re-sign this offseason, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Naturally, while one might think the Sharks should use this draft to find their eventual replacements, San Jose is already in a good spot regarding forwards. Their blue line, however, could use someone like the 6’4″, 212-pound, likeness of Callan Foote. He had six goals and 51 assists (57 points) in 71 games this season and is sure to follow in the foot(e)steps of his father, Adam Foote.
20) St. Louis Blues –> LW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
A 30-goal-scorer in 52 games played with Sioux City this season, Eeli Tolvanen brings just about every offensive element the St. Louis Blues are looking for in a forward. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the ice– at any time too. Quick with his feet, Tolvanen can snipe an impressive shot. Don’t let his 5’10”, 170-pound setup fool you, this winger is ready to become even better at Boston College in the fall. After a couple of seasons of losing vital veteran forwards, the Blues get a chance for redemption by bringing in a goalscorer that could soon be skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko.
21) New York Rangers –> LW Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL)
In 68 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, Jason Robertson (6’2″, 192 pounds) had 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. He knows what to do with the puck and with the unwavering uncertainty of Rick Nash‘s longevity, along with the legitimacy of Jimmy Vesey and others as impact players when you need them the most (like in the playoffs, for example), Robertson is a risk worth taking. He’s only a risk because his skating game could use some improvement.
22) Edmonton Oilers –> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Lias Andersson is a mobile two-way forward that matches grit with nifty hands that generate scoring chances, as evidenced by his 9-10-19 totals in 42 games played with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League this season. At 5’11”, 198 pounds, Andersson is the right fit for the Edmonton Oilers lineup, where he can increase his offensive skill by learning from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while taking a page or two from Milan Lucic in the physical game. Additionally, his father, Niklas Andersson, is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and played in 164 career NHL games.
The Coyotes have two 1st round picks in this year’s draft and they’d be smart to take a forward with their second pick. Luckily, Shane Bowers is just the player for Arizona. The Boston University-bound center scored 22 goals and had 29 assists (51 points) in 60 games for Waterloo this season. The 6’1″, 183-pound forward models his game after Jonathan Toews, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Coyotes to have in their prospect pool with a clear need for a stable, solid, two-way center.
24) Columbus Blue Jackets –> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
At 5’8″ and 153 pounds, Kailer Yamamoto is not a player to overlook. Why? Because he scored 42 goals and had 57 assists for 99 points (6th in the WHL in scoring) in 65 games with Spokane this season. Yamamoto is relentless on the puck and has hands beyond his years, as well as speed and skill that make him quite the threat on the ice.
25) Montreal Canadiens –> LW Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
After acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, the Montreal Canadiens have made great strides at improving their group of forwards. But with the uncertainty of everything panning out as planned, why not add to the plan? Maxime Comtois is versatile and ready to take the next step in his professional career with the right guidance (*ahem* Claude Julien‘s system). Best inserted on the wing, Comtois had 22-29-51 totals in 64 games with Victoriaville this season. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward could play center if the Canadiens see it fit.
26) Chicago Blackhawks –> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
Chicago is bound to have a tough offseason in a non-Cup year for the first time in a while, it seems, what with the Expansion Draft, as well as the salary cap working against their favor. While the Blackhawks may have to deal a top-4 defenseman or part of their core group of forwards (without getting too crazy, mind you, we’re not talking a trade involving Patrick Kane), Chicago can rest assured that Urho Vaakanainen is their defenseman of the future. The 6’1″, 185-pound blue liner is good at 1) getting the puck out of the zone and 2) playing his game– and a physical one at that.
27) St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) –> D Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
An offensive-minded defenseman with a right-shot, Conor Timmins fits the bill for the St. Louis Blues. At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, Timmins can rush the ice as a two-way defenseman who contributed 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 67 games this season. Think Colton Parayko, but not, because this guy’s name is Conor Timmins and he doesn’t already play for the Blues.
28) Ottawa Senators –> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USNTDP)
A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Josh Norris had 23-28-51 totals in 52 games played this season. The 6’1″, 192-pound center could contribute to the Senators organization in a manner similar to how Colin White has been implemented into the roster. Who knows, he might be worth it, Ottawa.
Tremendous hockey sense and intelligence are part of Kole Lind’s game. A natural playmaker, Lind was also known to produce goals of his own for the Kelowna Rockets this season, amassing 30-57-87 totals in 70 games played. The 6’1″, 178-pound right winger could be a solid fit alongside the likes of Jamie Benn and Seguin in Dallas.
30) Nashville Predators –> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
Hey look it’s Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty! Again, I’m only kidding. This Robert Thomas of the London Knights had 16-50-66 totals in 66 games this season as a two-way forward. A noted playmaker, Thomas reads and reacts to the play before him beyond his years and will need some time to really come into his own at the NHL level. Yet, the Nashville Predators can afford to take their time carefully crafting the almost 6′, 188-pound, center in their system that’s produced the likes of Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and many more in recent years.
31) Pittsburgh Penguins –> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
It took Henri Jokiharju a few months to really transition to the North American style of the game, but for this offensively focused defenseman, that wasn’t a big deal. He can get the puck out of his own zone with ease– not just with crisp passes, but also due to his incredible stride and speed in the transition department. Jokiharju (6’0″, 180 pounds) had nine goals and 39 assists (48 points) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season.
Other top potential 1st round prospects that should easily be 2nd round picks if they’re not taken in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:
G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey East)
LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph (OHL)
D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
LW Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
C Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)
G Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)
LW Matthew Strome, Hamilton (OHL)
C Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
LW Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)
So there you have it. This is how I see the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft shaking out. Be sure to tune in next Friday night (that’s one week from now) to watch your favorite team pick a teenager and hope for the best. I’ll be at work that night, so no spoilers, please. Let me believe I got more than two picks right for once.
Peter Chiarelli’s reign as GM of the Oilers begins with one of the most hyped turnarounds in hockey. Chiarelli’s leadership, combined with whatever decisions he makes in the offseason and drafting McDavid has talk of the Oilers making the playoffs, if not next season, then in the near future. A lot nearer than before. McDavid’s the best, period.
2. Buffalo Sabres C Jack Eichel, Boston University (H-East)
Eichel forgives Sabres GM, Tim Murray, on the stage with a professional handshake and is reunited (?- although they were never separated in the first place) with Evan Rodrigues. It’s possible that both make the roster on the same line.
3. Arizona Coyotes C Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)
Big, strong, great skating abilities- Strome is NHL ready as the plethora of talent youth in the desert continues to grow, that is unless they trade this pick. No matter the owner of the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Strome is a first choice franchise changer. While McDavid and Eichel overshadow him in the leadup to the Draft, Strome finds his niche and competes next season for the Calder.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (H-East)
Mike Babcock and Noah Hanifin make their Toronto debuts as legendary head coach, and potential NHL superstar defenseman, respectively in none other than the biggest market in the NHL. Hanifin is the best defenseman in the draft and Maple Leafs fans are going to love him (more than Dion Phaneuf!).
5. Carolina Hurricanes C Mitchell Marner, London (OHL)
This guy is a really skilled playmaker with 128 assists and 185 points in 127 career OHL games. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane and Jordan Eberle, with great vision and passing skills. Not a steal of the draft, but a great player to draft.
6. New Jersey Devils C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)
He effortlessly transitioned from the Czech Republic to North America. He’s 6’3”, 210 pounds, and can play a two way game. Think of him as this year’s bigger version of Boston’s David Pastrnak, if that suffices your hopes. Zacha could be the centerpiece to the Devils rebuild and Ray Shero’s master plan.
7. Philadelphia Flyers LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL)
6’4”, 211 pounds, and a physical force on the ice, Crouse brings a much needed power forward caliber to the Flyers lineup and adds size to their roster. Actually, he fits the Philadelphia style perfectly, big and tough.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets D Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL)
Extraordinary at the 2015 World Junior Championship for Finland- 6’4”, 209 lbs, effective on the power-play, and difficult to move off the puck. Has hockey sense and hands that supplement his shot. Next to Hanifin, he’s one of the best defensemen of the draft. Columbus fans should get used to seeing Jack Johnson pair up with Provorov in the future.
9. San Jose Sharks D Zachary Werenski, Michigan (BIG10)
The youngest player in NCAA history joins the youth movement in San Jose. He can block shots and adjust on the fly. He’s got some size to work with at 6’2”, 206 lbs. Werenski was named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team and the All-Big Ten Freshman Team this season.
10. Colorado Avalanche RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)
He’s a big power forward that will provide some oomph in the Avalanche’s otherwise soft lineup. Rantanen’s a decent skater for his age and should be a part of Colorado’s retooling, as they gear up to avoid another disappointing season like this past season. Signing Carl Soderberg and trading Ryan O’Reilly for valuable parts will help put them in position for being a playoff contending team in 2015-2016.
11. Florida Panthers C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL)
Offensively minded, Barzal was injured for a lot of WHL action. The Panthers luck out on a player that just may be able to make those around him better. He’s a 5’11”, 175-pound right shot forward with vision, playmaking skills, and had 12-45-57 totals in 44 games. Barzal also scored 4 times in 6 WHL playoff games.
12. Dallas Stars RW Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL)
Scored 44 goals in 61 games for Halifax this season. He can also be a playmaker as he had 46 assists this year too. Oh and he’s 6’1”, 209 lbs. Meier is exactly the player you want to covet if you are the Stars looking for substantial youth to build around.
13. Los Angeles Kings LW Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL)
6’1”, 177 pounds, led the USHL in scoring with 80 points. His 34 goals ranked fourth in the USHL, with 9 game-winning goals and 32 points on the power play. Connor’s got quickness and hands that can do things with the puck on his stick.
14. Boston Bruins C Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL)
His second half of the regular season in the OHL really displayed his skill level. With that said, his size isn’t much of an issue as his compete level and willingness is unmatched- and so is his work ethic. Had 29-39-68 totals in 60 games with the 67’s this season. Despite needing defense, the Bruins go with something else they need- offense.
15. Calgary Flames D Jakub Zboril, Saint John (QMJHL)
Zboril plays a willingly physical game despite only being 6’1”, 184 lbs. His shot from the point could come in handy on the power play. In general, he adds versatility to Calgary’s defense and the Flames walk away filling exactly what they need, some future youth on the blueline.
16. Edmonton Oilers (from PIT) D Oliver Kylington, AIK (SWE-2)
Kylington is a two-way defenseman that with proper development can fully utilize his skill set. Edmonton adds valuable youth to their blue line as their forwards continue to gain experience and begin carrying more of their weight. Likewise, they need a replacement for the deadline deal that sent Jeff Petry to Montreal. Looks like Peter Chiarelli’s still looking for a defenseman after all.
17. Winnipeg Jets C/RW Nicholas Merkely, Kelowna (WHL)
Merkely’s a great playmaker that knows how to crash the net with precision and skill. He also has a great hockey IQ that makes up for some lacking physical qualities in his game. Strong on the power play and spectacular on the penalty kill, Merkely brings a tremendous compete level and had 20-70-90 totals in Kelowna.
18. Ottawa Senators C Colin White, USA U18 (USHL)
Can’t go wrong with one of the best skaters in the draft. The Senators pick a forward that can move with the puck and carry it defiantly out of his own zone with ease. It also helps that he’s physically difficult to knock off the puck. He’s been compared to Patrice Bergeron and might be this year’s steal of the draft. White pays excellent attention to detail and wearing the opponent down by out playing his opponent all over the ice.
19. Detroit Red Wings LW Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
He’s a big power forward that will bring some physicality to the Red Wings lineup. Svechnikov made a seemless transition to North American play, leading QMJHL rookie’s with 78 points in 55 games. This 6’2”, 199-pound left-winger is too tough to pass on and draws comparisons to another Evgeni- Malkin, that is.
20. Minnesota Wild D Brandon Carlo, Tri-City (WHL)
The 6’5”, 196 lb. defenseman brings size and athleticism as a shutdown defenseman. He’s definitely more defensive minded, but that fits with Minnesota given the mindset behind Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, among others. Did I mention he’s huge? Again, shutdown. Adds enough of a physical element to go deeper in the playoffs.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from NYI) G Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL)
The Sabres are daring enough to take a chance at drafting a goalie in the 1st Round, given their numerous selections. While they skip over Ilya Samsonov, they go with the 6’4”, 215 lbs, Colts starter who had a 3.01 GAA in 51 games played with Barrie. The upside is that Blackwood’s a big goalie, fitting recent trends, the downside is that Buffalo still needs a goalie for the looming season.
22. Washington Capitals LW Paul Bittner, Portland (WHL)
At 6’4”, 205 lbs. this LW adds some much needed size on a transitioning Capitals roster. He’s a power forward that’s willing to be the first to rush in on a dump and chase, which fits in well with Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Adding his size and aggression makes Washington a tougher team to play against.
23. Vancouver Canucks D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR)
6’4”, 183-pounds, this left-shot defenseman is big and intelligent for his position. He’s a stay at home defenseman. Carlsson uses his size and strength as well as you need him to. He’s not an immediate replacement for Dan Hamhuis or Kevin Bieksa, but is ready to be the plan for the Canuck’s life after one or the other. Carlsson also has a reliable reach, given his height and nature of play.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH) D Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL)
6’1”, 181 lbs. Smart transitional skating defenseman that can handle pressure in getting the puck out of his own zone- he’s a natural fit in Toronto’s energetic, young, roster. Mike Babcock will be able to manage his defensemen just fine with the Maple Leafs stockpiling on the blueline as a result of this draft.
25. Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF) C Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SWE)
Eriksson Ek is a 6’2”, 180 pound, left handed shot that is strong on faceoffs and plays a two way game. He brings size down the middle for the Jets, a much-needed commodity, and has great vision. Eriksson Ek was ranked 4th overall on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of European skaters.
26. Montreal Canadiens D Jacob Larsson, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)
6’2”, 191 lbs. Sweden knows how to make solid defensemen and Montreal begins to replenish their defensive prospects, given how their current blueline is aging. Larsson reads situations well and controls the puck excellently. While he transitions well, Larsson will need to put a bit more muscle on him before seeing full time NHL action.
Boeser is a two-way forward that was tied for first in the United States Hockey League with 35 goals and 32 points on the power play in 57 regular season games. The 6-foot, 191-pound, winger was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and All-USHL First Team. Boeser will need to refine some elements of his game, but looks to continue to develop appropriately at the University of North Dakota this fall.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR) RW Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Sprong is a nifty playmaker with good hands and great speed, but he’ll need to get stronger to make the transition to the NHL and add grit to his already impressive offensive game. His 270 shots on goal were the 10th most in the QMJHL, so he likes to shoot with impressive accuracy and a quick release.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (from TB) LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL)
DeBrusk is always following the puck, whether it’s on the forecheck or forcing turnovers. He can be excellent on the power play, focused on moving the puck where it needs to go and scoring. DeBrusk had 120 points in 144 games over two seasons with Swift Current and his tenacity is astounding. He might also bring some physicality to Philly, at 6’4”, 174 pounds, which is much appreciated by their fans who cherish hard working, tough, players.
30. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI) C Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Positioning is one of Chlapik’s best assets, whether it’s with or without the puck, he goes to the right places. Smooth skating, with vision, he’s pretty decent all around as a 6’1”, 196-pound center. He was tied for the lead among QMJHL rookies with 33 goals in 64 games played. His impressive 33-42-75 totals help supplement his case as a first rounder. Chlapik also won 48.8% of his faceoffs in a solid transition from the Czech Republic to the North American style of the game.
*Barring any trades, this is how I see it progressing, but I’d like to see a lot of trades just to destroy my mock draft picks, like how someone always destroys any bracket I’ve ever made for any sport.
Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.
Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7, won division, second in conference)
After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time kicked out of playoffs in first or second round of playoffs since winning the Cup in the 2008-’09 season), Mario Lemieux & Ronald Burkle have pulled the plug on the entire coaching staff & GM Ray Shero (2006-’14). Since then, the Penguins have hired Jim Rutherford to replace Shero, Mike Johnston to replace Dan Bylsma, & Rick Tocchet to replace Tony Granato & Tood Reirden.
Mike Johnston has yet to record a game in the NHL as a head coach, but he does have experience in head coaching. His first head coaching position was in the college ranks when he coached New Brunswick for five seasons (1989-’94). After being hired by the Canadian men’s team in 1994 as an associate coach, he took the head coaching job in 1998 for a season. He departed Team Canada for an assistant position with the Vancouver Canucks, followed by being an associate coach of the Los Angeles Kings. His most recent position is with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), from 2008 until last season as coach & GM.
His first season witnessed the Winterhawks going 19-48-3-2, second to last in the league. The following season, Johnston’s Winterhawks (44-25-2-1) finished fourth in a competitive division for fifth in the conference, losing in the second round of the playoffs. In his third season, his team led the conference at 50-19-0-3 for third in the league. The Hawks made it all the way to the finals before losing to Kootenay. In 2011-’12, his team again made it to the finals, losing a deciding game seven.
Of course, the year the Winterhawks finally won their championship, Johnston was suspended for recruiting violations. As his violations were more connected to his GM position in a junior league, I don’t predict that he will have similar problems in Pittsburgh. He has proven that he can make rapid growth in only the course of one season, which may be exactly what the Pens need to cross the bridge between strong & elite.
Jim Rutherford is an ex-goalie (potential influence on future goalie signings, either this season or the near future?), playing for Pittsburgh from 1971 until traded to Detroit in the middle of January 1974. For the past 20 years, he has been the General Manager of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise, winning a division championship in 1998-’99, 2001-’02, & 2005-’06, a conference championship in 2001-’02 & 2005-’06, & winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in the 2005-’06 season. So far with the Penguins, he has signed six free agents & traded James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist & Nick Spaling.
Of course, the biggest question Penguins have is their goaltending. Based on moves made so far, Marc-Andre Fleury is still Pittsburgh’s starting goalie. He had a save percentage of 91.5% for the regular season, averaging 2.47 goals against per game. As much as everyone likes to get on Fleury during the playoffs, he didn’t have the meltdown people like to associate with him. In fact, in his 13 playoff games, he matched his regular season save percentage exactly, as well as giving up .07 less goals in those playoff games. He also had two shutouts over the postseason (almost 29% of playoff wins were shutouts), in addition to the five he had in the regular season (13% of his wins were shutouts), tied for fourth in the league.
The Pens also retained Jeff Zatkoff, who played in 20 regular season games last year for a 20-12-6, including a shutout. His save percentage in those games was 91.2% & he allowed 2.29 goals per game.
In addition, the Penguins also signed Arizona’s backup of a season ago in Thomas Greiss. In 25 games last season, he amassed a record of 10-8-5 (two shutouts, equaling Fleury’s eight percent of games played where the opponent was held scoreless) with a save percentage of 92% (better than both Penguin goalies, but with a smaller sample than Fleury), allowing only 2.29 goals per game (lower than both Pittsburgh goalies). Based on last year’s stats alone, he may take the backup position from Zatkoff.
The Pens come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Jussi Jokinen (signed with Florida), James Neal (traded to Nashville), & Matt Niskanen (signed with Washington).
They lost two of the top four players with most regular season games with the Penguins last season in Matt Niskanen & Jussi Jokinen both playing 81 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost seven of the top 19 players with the most playoff games with the Penguins last season in James Neal, Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen, Lee Stempniak (signed with the Rangers), Joe Vitale (signed with Arizona) (all played in all 13 games), Brian Gibbons (signed with Columbus), & Tanner Glass (signed with the Rangers) (both played eight games). The Penguins are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Christian Erhoff (Buffalo) & Patric Hornqvist (Nashville), who both played 75 games last season.
The Penguins are not bringing back half of their top six shot takers this year as James Neal (238), Jussi Jokinen (172), & Matt Niskanen (162, led defensemen) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 23% of the Penguins’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, eight of the top 19 shot-takers are not returning, as James Neal (49, led team), Jussi Jokinen (31), Matt Niskanen (24), Lee Stempniak (22), Joe Vitale (13), Brian Gibbons (11), Tanner Glass (10), & Brooks Orpik (eight, signed with Washington) are not returning. These shooters accounted for over 38% of the shots taken in the postseason.
Almost 20% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as James Neal (27) & Jussi Jokinen (21) are with other teams. The Penguins have added Patric Hornqvist (22) to try to make up for the missing goals, but he only makes up for Jokinen’s, meaning other players including new addition Nick Spaling (13 last season, acquired from Nashville) & returner Brandon Sutter (13) will need to step up their goal scoring.
Three of the leading five assisters will not be with the Penguins this season as Jussi Jokinen (36), Matt Niskanen (36, led defensemen), & James Neal (34) are not returning. To make up for this, the Pens have signed Patric Hornqvist (31), Christian Erhoff (27), & Steve Downie (20, signed from Philadelphia). These new additions don’t match the talent lost in this stat column, but they also didn’t have Sidney Crosby (36 goals), Chris Kunitz (35 goals), James Neal (27 goals), & Evgeni Malkin (23 goals) on their team.
Six of the top 11 +/- guys in the regular season have been lost, including Matt Niskanen (33, led team), James Neal (15), Jussi Jokinen (12), Brian Gibbons (five), & Lee Stempniak (five). Included in that, the Penguins also lost eight of the top 17 +/- players during the playoffs. Combined, Brooks Orpik (six), Jussi Jokinen (five), James Neal (two), Brian Gibbons (two), Tanner Glass (zero), Joe Vitale (zero), & Matt Niskanen (negative two) all total to 13, greater than the rest of the remaining team’s score of 12. To make up for these lost numbers, Pittsburgh has signed Nick Spaling (two), Patric Hornqvist (one), & Steve Downie (one). The three of them, though, only rival Jussi Jokinen’s contributions last season, so they will need to improve in that aspect.
The Penguins lost five of the top nine penalty minute earners in Tanner Glass (90, “led” the Penguins last season), Deryk Engelland (58, signed with Calgary), James Neal (55), Matt Niskanen (51), & Brooks Orpik (46). Sadly, the Pens picked up Steve Downie, who had minutes (106) equal to Neal & Niskanen combined. New hire Nick Spaling only served 14 minutes in the sin bin last season, which averaged out to almost 12 seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Penguins from defending the power play.
Present roster consists of 12 forwards, six defensemen, & three goalies (21 men).