Giving teams grades on their draft when there are no real objective measures necessarily means the results are assumption-based and subjective. I have my personal preferences, things that I emphasize when I look at players and their potential. They are not always correct by any stretch. However there are some things that just seem to ring true of all good NHL players. They have good hands. Their work ethic is unquestioned. These players have that "it factor", the hockey sense, that undefinable characteristic falling under the category of, "you know it when you see it". Skating doesn't have to be excellent, but it does have to be adequate. Give me those qualities, and I'll give you an NHL player.
After doing a bunch of research and review, my own personal ratings system had its own set of hits and misses. In the final analysis, I hit on 26 of the guys selected in the 1st round. Personal favorites like Tage Thompson and Lucas Johansen went a little higher than anticipated, while other prospects like Mascherin, Benson, and Hajek all went close to my estimates. It was indeed a crazy draft with lots of 2nd and 3rd year eligibles taken over some of the players I thought would be snagged for sure (Kyle Maksimovich, for example). In the end, there were a surprisingly robust number of teams that I thought did quite well in what I would have characterized as a mediocre draft.
Here are my thoughts on how each team did:
Very solid out of the gate with Max Jones, a prototypical Ducks player, snagging Sam Steel at #30 was heralded by most as a great move. I like the Jack Kopacka pick more than I did the Mahura selection, but with prospective hits 3 out of the first 4 choices, Ducks fans shouldn't have anything to complain about. Their later picks, both 2nd year eligibles who showed good progression, were solid as well. B+
I'm not sure why everybody was all fired up about the Coyotes' selections in this draft. Yes the 1st two picks were very good: Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun, but the price paid to move up for the latter was ridiculous, cap room notwithstanding. Ken Holland saw John Chayka coming from a mile away and had his way with the youngster. Still, Cam Dineen was a very nice get in the 3rd round. They selected two other defensemen in rounds 6 and 7 who were "meh". The best move may have been snagging Anthony DeAngelo from the Lightning for a 2nd round pick. Solid B+ (could have been higher without the Datsyuk debacle).
Poor Boston, or more accurately, poor Boston fans! I just feel sorry for them given the Bruins' front offices struggles as of late. That said I really like the Charlie McAvoy pick (NCAA, RHD) almost as much as I hated the Trent Frederic pick. The latter almost certainly would have been there at least into the 2nd round, likely the 3rd. Ryan Lindgren is a solid if not very sexy pick. Joona Koppanen might turn out to be something but they picked him right where he should have gone. Oskar Steen was a nice late round get. C
There's no two ways about it, they had a very good draft. Nylander is eventually going to be the wing that Jack Eichel sets up the most. Asplund was a solid pick and Cliff Pu came on strong at the end of the year. Brett Murray a big, young project forward along with the defender Budik, and first year WHL forward Hagel all have promise.The Kulikov trade felt a lot like a wash although he eats up big 2nd pairing minutes which is sure to help the Sabres. In the end any misses they may have are inconsequential. A
To me they are one of the two big winners of this year's draft. The trade for Elliot shores up their goaltending issue and didn't cost that much. Their first 6 picks were nearly perfect. Tkachuk falling to them was a blessing. Dube as a mid to late 2nd rounder was not quite a steal but a very solid pick up there. Adam Fox is a boom or bust small blueliner. Tyler Parsons had an unbelievable run at the end of the season, proving to be the fastest rising goaltender. Lindstrom is a big time scorer in Swedish Juniors and showed well on the international stage. Some had Mitchell Mattson as a 2nd or 3rd round project pick; Flames got him in the 5th. Tuulola is another big Finn with soft hands and a big appetite. Tiny Matt Phillips was a 37 goal scoring, point per game player. Falkovsky is as big as Logan Stanley and it didn't cost a pick to select him. A+
Much has been said about the job that The Ronald did so I won't belabor the point. Simply put, the first 3 picks were homeruns. Two great forwards and a premier defender to help keep that pipeline full. After Filipe, our next two picks in the 3rd round were boom or bust. Hudson Elynuik has size, skill, bloodlines, and was hampered with a toe injury early in the season (some think his scoring numbers would have been even better). Lafontaine was probably a bit of a reach in the 3rd, but he's got real talent. Still, there are really very few reaches by that point in the draft. Filipe and Zimmer are both high upside guys with Matt Filipe bringing the edge the organization needs. Helvig was a great flyer on a guy who came into his own later in the season. He is a solid depth pick-up in net. Carroll is, well, he's a player. You can't hit homeruns with every pick. A-
Their 1st pick was in the 2nd round and they snagged Alex DeBrincat who despite his size is likely an NHL scorer in the future. Chad Krys while rated highly by some, isn't all that in my book and he was falling consistently over the last few months. The Kayumov pick was too early in my estimation. Lucas Carlsson is a mediocre "can't hurt you" selection. The Peters selection has promise. However the rest are questionable at best and throw-aways at worst. C-
Most know that I'm very high on Tyson Jost. I absolutely love the Cam Morrison pick as well; I think he'll be quite a player after his NCAA days. However, I'm not a fan of Josh Anderson. Other picks outside of Barron are pretty mediocre. Come to think of it he's pretty mediocre as well. The Berra for Grimaldi trade is a bit of a nothing, with unexciting players going each way. Pretty much a big bag of "meh". C
Too much was made of taking Dubois over Puljujarvi. The Blue Jackets got a blue chip centerman on the rise so that didn't alter my impression of their draft as much as some others. I like to think of the Peeke and Abramov picks as being flip flopped. But because they weren't, that speaks to the team's drafting logic....and not in a positive way. They hit nicely on 3 out of 5. However they did eject Kirby Rychel for a pretty weak package and I think that's a mistake showing a lack of overall patience. He could have been dealt for more in my opinion. Weird. B-
Riley Tufte is a boom or bust pick but has loads of talent. I think he'll tend more to the boom side of the equation. The Stars didn't pick again until late in the 3rd round and did something of a reach with Karlstrom. He's a nice prospect but would have likely been there when they came around again at 116. The rest of the picks are non factors for me. C-
I hate saying this but I liked what these guys did overall. But we all know the "trade" made it all worthwhile. While they didn't pick up any real blue-chippers, they did pick up 4 defensemen who will all likely play in the NHL. Cholowski was a particularly fast riser at the end of the season. They also were able to sandwich Givani Smith in between, another good, big bodied forward pick. A
Many pundits, I'm guessing from Edmonton especially, highlighted the Oliers' draft. Well color me unimpressed. Pool Party fell to them through no effort of their own. Then, with all of that leverage, they couldn't get what they really need on the back end. I like the Tyler Benson pick but it is a calculated risk. Niemelainen has been a faller, but he'll be a solid bottom pairing guy. With the exception of Rasanen, none of their other selections impress. And guess what? They still don't have the blue chip defender they crave. C+ (mostly for lack of creativity)
I can't even begin......Borgstrom at #23? You're kidding right? He easily would have been a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick. Ang and Stillman were solid if unspectacular picks. The only real win for the Panthers was Adam Mascherin. C- (and I'd be inclined to characterize that grade as a gift).
A lot of people like Kale Clague but I'm not impressed. I like their 4th rounder, Moverare as much if not more. Eyssimont might turn into something but it's a long shot. They didn't really do anything to help the team or the prospect pool. D
They got Luke Kunin who will be a good pro. He'll be a better pro than many even imagine. I think folks will look back on this draft an wonder why he didn't go higher. Even though the Sokolov selection is a long shot they got they got him as a late round gift. The Wild only had 4 picks and did what they could. B-
Oh, how the Canadian press loved what the Habs did. With Sergachev and Bitten, they hit pretty nicely with two of their six picks. Mete has a chance to be an impact defenseman. There was really nothing else to see with their remaining picks. The ditching of Eller and addition of Shaw rounded out their moves. I like the former and can't stand the latter, but I'm not a coach or a GM. B
Selecting Dante Fabbro was sort of like our Jake Bean selection. They took whom they thought was the best player on the board. However, Girard over any of Allison, Grundstrom, Dube, or Raddysh just seems like a brain cramp. Rem Pitlick is a personal favorite who has likely put himself in the conversation as an pro option. Fredric Allard may prove to be an NHL puck mover yet. The rest, however, was a big bag of nothingness. C-
The Devils are another team that crushed this draft. Starting out nicely with McLeod, both Bastian, and Joey Anderson followed, one a big bodied net-front presence and the other the 3rd member of the high scoring Keller/Bellow/Anderson line for the USNTDP team. They then followed it up with 4 other solid prospects: Gignac, Maltsev, Cormier, and Rykov. The Bratt pick might prove to be a late round gift. This is a team on the rise. A
New York Islanders
Keiffer Bellows followed by Golyshev, and the big Finn Koivula were strong opening picks. Then the Isles took a couple of gambles, which is what you should do at this point in the draft. I kind of like Adams, a smallish goal scorer from the USHL. He could turn into a nice late round find. Ending with diminutive defender David Quenneville, who showed well at the U18s in North Dakota, was a strong finish. B+
New York Rangers
They might as well have sat this one out. Starting with the raw, immensely talented, and dumb as a box of rocks Sean Day as their 1st pick (which happened to be in the 3rd round), the Rags drifted from bad to, well, bad some more. There is the smaller offensive defenseman, Tarmo Reunanen. Tim Gettinger might prove to be a useful 3rd or 4th liner some day given his hulking size. But only if he improves his skating, his strength, and his hockey sense....is that all? Their best pick might have been the fortunate faller Ty Ronning who landed in their lap in the seventh round. D- (just because nobody fails my class)
This is another draft that impressed me. Starting with Logan Brown, who fills a pretty big need at center, then stepping up on cerebral Jonathan Dahlen, the Sens started well and didn't look back. They then took 3rd year eligible Todd Burgess, a right shot center or right wing. Lajoie is guy I liked for the Canes as a 4th or 5th round blueline pick up. Another big Finn Nurmi, while a project, is young and talented. There's time for him to bake into a real player. B+
The Flyers had 10 picks and hit on at least 8 of them. German Rubtsov is a perfect fit for what they need and what they are building. Pascal Laberge is going to surprise folks with his savvy offensive ability and the Flyers were lucky to get him at this point in the 2nd round. They then selected what was probably the best goalie prospect in the draft, Carter Hart. Wade Allison and Carter Twarynski both were late season fast risers, both of whom project as hard working power forwards. Late picks, Tanner Laczynski and David Bernhardt both could be steals in a few years. In overall ranking and grading, Philly and Calgary performed nearly identically well. A+.
Another club that just didn't have much to work with, the Penguins sort of blew the opportunity that they had. With only a few picks, all late in their respective rounds, nothing special came of them. Gustavsson, a goalie, was an interesting choice for their first selection, but there were other options that I would have explored including Cam Dineen on the back end or the big body of Taylor Raddysh. Bjorkqvist, a high scorer in Finnish junior league, was an interesting selection. All the rest were late round flyers on blueliners (hoping for another Slavin JR?). The results just don't show well. D
Like Pittsburgh, they didn't have much to work with. Unlike Pittsburgh their 1st selection of Dylan Gambrell was an interesting pick for an older NCAA goal scorer. He seems to have NHL potential. Noah Gregor is another of those late season, fast risers and as a point per game guy he also had a terrific post season. Taking a flyer on the German Wiederer was a very solid risk to take. Not bad, not bad at all, especially given what the Sharks had to work with. B
The Blues had a good solid draft doing well with what they were given. Nothing flashy but they got some value for their picks starting with 3 forwards and a goalie prospect: Thompson, Kyrou, Fitzpatrick, and Kaspick. Taking a flyer on Conner Bleakley was a smart calculated risk. Again, not a lot of sizzle, but plenty of steak was had. Solid B
Some pundits didn't like the Bolts' draft as it didn't take enough risks. I disagree. They were another team that, while not flashy (and somewhat going against past drafts) picked the smart, safe selections with some talent mixed in. Howden is a solid 3C with 2C upside. Libor Hajek was the best blueliner on the board when they picked. Katchouk is scrappy and skilled. Raddysh was the forgotten man in Erie, but were his numbers all about Dylan Strome? Ingram, Colton, and Somppi were all good to great picks at where they were made. A-
You automatically get at least a C+ just for picking Auston Matthews 1st. Add to the fact that 5 of their 1st 6 picks look like solid winners, that ordinarily would bump it up to one of the higher draft grades. Still, the Korshkov pick was a head scratcher. Adam Brooks was the right type of flyer for example and Grundstrom is a prototypical NHLer. Woll and Greenway both look like effective guys who have a future. It felt like they overthought themselves by half with their remaining picks however. With all of the opportunity it seems they should have done better and/or had more options. B+ (marked down for an excess of unrealized potential)
I'm surprised the Canucks were smart enough to select Olli Juolevi when they did. They need depth all over but especially on the back end. He's going to be very good in this league; that's a prediction I'll stand behind. I also like the Lockwood selection. He's rapidly growing as a scorer. The last round flyer on Brett McKenzie may also yield something. And any team who can draft a Rodrigo (Abols) is a okay in my book. Solid B
As much as I like Lucas Johansen, there might have been other, better players available at this pick. The Caps seem to lack more depth at forward than on the blueline. Their remaining picks were "I am no one" types. This was a floundering draft for the Capitals. D
Much like the Leafs getting a baseline starting grade because of their first round selection, Laine provides the Jets with similar benefit. However, a big chunk of that good will gets tossed out the door because of their idiotic "trade up" to select Logan Stanley....a huge defender who can't skate and has next to no offense. My guess is their next pick, Luke Green, ends up a better NHL defender than Stanley. However, Cederholm, Stallard, and Berdin were all very good picks for where they were taken. That somewhat makes up for the "trade up" blunder. B+
The real winners were teams like the Flames, the Flyers, the Sabres, the Red Wings, the Devils, the Lightning, and the Hurricanes. The loser list is a bit shorter.with the Kings, the Rangers, the Penguins, and the Capitals all dwelling in that unenviable position. Let's face it, once you become a perennial contender drafting is always going to be more difficult. This process will only get more difficult as expansion dilutes the field bit by bit (it does come back over time as the game's popularity helps fill the development pool).
It is difficult to imagine how many or which ones of these youngsters are going to be skating for NHL teams on opening night. My guess is you'll certainly see Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, probably Pierre-Luc Dubois, and probably Jesse Puljujarvi all on their respective drafting teams this Fall. Maybe some others will surprise, but I doubt it. What has now surfaced, however, are specific teams with specific needs for this upcoming season. Those needs can now only be addressed through free agency or via trades. That's where the Canes will want to prospect going forward. Hopefully they will find a gold nugget or two.