Friday, 24 June 2016

Draft Day Recap!

Thirty kids got their big break tonight as the NHL Entry Draft took place in Buffalo, New York. Would things pan out with Auston Matthews going first? Who would make the first big trade of the evening in trying to improve his team in one fell swoop? Would any of the "expendable" goaltenders get moved to alleviate salary cap and expansion problems? There were many questions lingering over this draft, but how many would be answered? We'd find out over three hours as the NHL Entry Draft's first round was televised!

I'll keep this short and sweet with my thoughts on each pick and trade. I'll keep them somewhat broken up into easy-to-follow sections, so let's not waste any time as I break down the action that happened in Buffalo!

1. TORONTO SELECTS AUSTON MATTHEWS. No surprise here as Toronto gets its coveted first-line centerman. However, what was noticeable was the new jersey that Matthews threw on. Toronto kept things simple and sharp. I would have liked the double stripe on the hem to match the striping on the arms, but there's nothing wrong with this Toronto jersey as all. I still wouldn't wear one, though.

TRADE: Montreal trades Lars Eller to Washington for their 2017 second-round and 2018 second-round picks. This was part-one of Montreal's moves because...

TRADE: Chicago trades Andrew Shaw to Montreal for the 39th-overall and 45th-overall picks. Shaw will dd some much needed grit and a bit a scoring that Montreal lacked so much last year. He's not the piece that will put them into Stanley Cup chatter, but he'll help a rather soft forward group.

2. WINNIPEG SELECTS PATRIK LAINE. Winnipeg needs a bonafide goal scorer, and they get their man with Laine. He should change the dynamic for the Winnipeg top-six. Another no-brainer pick.

3. COLUMBUS SELECTS PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS. He was ranked as the top North American skater, and there's no question that Columbus needed a solid centerman after they dealt Ryan Johansen to Nashville. There may be questions as to his NHL readiness, but Dubois is still a good choice for the Blue Jackets despite there being a better all-around player still available.

4. EDMONTON SELECTS JESSE PULJUJARVI. They absolutely needed a defenceman, but there's no way that anyone would pass up Puljujarvi if he fell into one's lap. No-brainer. It should also be noted that Edmonton has a new patch on the jersey they gave Puljujarvi.

5. VANCOUVER SELECTS OLLI JUOLEVI. For a team that doesn't know whether it's rebuilding or tearing down, selecting the best defenceman available isn't a bad choice. Whether or not Juolevi is in Vancouver in five years is a different story, but he should help in the short-term while Jim Benning decides if he actually likes his job.

6. CALGARY SELECTS MATTHEW TKACHUK. Calgary lacks any sort of finisher around the net, and Tkachuk gives them that. They have speedy, skilled forwards, but they don't have that body who will drive to the net and chip home rebound after rebound. Tkachuk is good in close, and should be able to put up numbers like his dad when he finally fills out.

7. ARIZONA SELECTS CLAYTON KELLER. Arizona took a very skilled forward, but everyone expected Arizona to go with a defenceman. However, this was just part of John Chayka's new analytical plan going forward in the desert. We'll hear more from Arizona shortly.

8. BUFFALO SELECTS ALEX NYLANDER. On a day where Evander Kane was in trouble once more, Tim Murray might have found a suitable replacement for Kane. Nylander is skilled, can skate, and certainly has the hands to bury 30 goals per season. Kudos to Tim Murray on getting the best player at his spot.

9. MONTREAL SELECTS MIKHAIL SERGACHEV. Rumors swirled about the possibility of Montreal considering a deal for PK Subban, but I believe they took Sergachev as a possible replacement for the aging Andrei Markov. Sergachev might be able to step in right away, but I'd give him one year in the AHL to see how he adapts. Otherwise, that Markov spot is his in the near future.

TRADE: St. Louis trades Brian Elliott to Calgary for the 35th-overall pick and a conditional third-round pick in 2018. If Elliott re-signs, the conditional pick goes to St. Louis. Calgary needed a goaltender, and they got a very solid netminder in Elliott. In only giving up a second-round pick, they didn't overspend. This was a good deal for the Flames. The Blues, meanwhile, will go with Jake Allen and alleviate themselves of the problem of two players who want more starting minutes.

10. COLORADO SELECTS TYSON JOST. I like this pick for Colorado in terms of skill, but it doesn't help them down the middle in terms of size. Jost will be a bit of a project for the Avalanche until he matures physically, but they will have three incredible centermen if they can hold onto Duchene and MacKinnon until Jost arrives.

TRADE: New Jersey trades the 11th-overall pick to Ottawa for the 12th-overall and 80th-overall picks. Two teams flip in the draft order.

11. OTTAWA SELECTS LOGAN BROWN. Ottawa went and got big down the middle in a hurry. They needed to add some size. They needed a solid centerman. Brown's going to be a bit of a project for the next few years until he grows into that towering frame, but he has the raw talent to be a solid NHL player.

12. NEW JERSEY SELECTS MICHAEL MCLEOD. No one will doubt the heart and will to be the best that McLeod possesses. It's the hands and skating ability that might draw some questions. McLeod will be a good player for New Jersey, but he'll need some AHL time to develop his game first.

13. CAROLINA SELECTS JAKE BEAN. Carolina might have the deepest blue line in five years. Noah Hanifin is already proving he belongs, Haydn Fleury is developing, and now they have the best offensive defenceman in the draft in my view. This Hurricanes team will be dangerous from the blue line eventually.

14. BOSTON SELECTS CHARLES MCAVOY. When you think of the defencemen that Boston lost ove rthe last few years and couple that with Zdeno Chara's age, the Bruins needed a future top defenceman. Charles McAvoy could be that player. He has exceptional vision, skating, and passing. The only question will be if he can adapt to the NHL game.

15. MINNESOTA SELECTS LUKE KUNIN. After buying out Thomas Vanek earlier in the day, the Wild went and took a solid play-making centerman. Kunin isn't as flashy as some of the centermen up above, but he has a good sense for the game and makes excellent plays with his vision and abilities. This is a good, safe pick by the Wild for the future.

TRADE: Detroit trades Pavel Datsyuk and the 16th-overall pick to Arizona for Joe Vitale and the 20th-overall and 53rd-overall picks. The fact that Ken Holland moved Pavel Datsyuk's contract should have him in the running for GM of the year already. John Chayka's master plan continues to unfold because...

16. ARIZONA SELECTS JAKOB CHYCHRUN. He just signed Goligoski. He has Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He now has another solid defenceman who might be a year from stepping into the Coyotes' lineup. Chychrun comes from a solid lineage, and he's already close to being physically mature.

17. NASHVILLE SELECTS DANTE FABBRO. If there's a skilled defenceman on the board, he's probably going to Nashville. They have turned Ryan Ellis into an effective player despite his size, and Fabbro follows that same path. He could be a solid top-four defenceman in a few years.

TRADE: Philadelphia trades the 18th-overall and 79th-overall picks to Winnipeg for the 22nd-overall and 36th-overall picks.

18. WINNIPEG PICKS LOGAN STANLEY. Two Logans in the same round? Was there a Wolverine baby convention somewhere? In any case, the Jets pick the 6'7" defenceman who many scouts have felt was the most-improved player over the last year. Yes, he's going to have to grow into that frame as he's still a little wiry, but Winnipeg might have the tallest blue line in the league with Byfuglien, Myers, and, one day, Stanley.

19. NEW YORK ISLANDERS SELECT KIEFFER BELLOWS. With the threat of losing Kyle Okposo looming, the Islanders went and got themselves the best American goal scorer still available in the draft. Bellows is one of four players to score 50+ goals for the US U-18 team in the USHL, and he has the speed and skill to be a threat in the NHL.

20. DETROIT SELECTS DENNIS CHOLOWSKI. It was surprising to see Detroit take a kid who needs to fill out and has decided to go to school next year, but it fits their modus operandi as they want players who are ready to step in and contribute. I thought they'd take another bonafide goal scorer, but it's never a bad thing to take a defenceman who has excellent skills and hockey sense.

21. CAROLINA SELECTS JULIEN GAUTHIER. Need a big body who can score a pile of goals? Carolina can cross that off their list. Gauthier's production dropped off a little towards the end of the season, but there's no question this kid is a finisher. Carolina has to be happy getting Gauthier at this spot.

22. PHILADELPHIA SELECTS GERMAN RUBTSOV. Ron Hextall said he wanted to improve the speed and skill of his forwards, and the Russian centerman gives them that. He's a little undersized for the NHL at the moment, but the skill is definitely NHL-ready. A Russian in Philly - who would have thunk it?

23. FLORIDA SELECTS HENRIK BORGSTROM. He didn't get selected last season, but the 6'3" centerman has great hockey sense and will be going to the NCAA next season. Florida can afford to wait for him to get accustomed to the North American game, and he should be a nice addition to the Panthers when he's ready.

24. ANAHEIM SELECTS MAX JONES. If Anaheim was tough to play against before, Max Jones just made it a little harder. He's gritty, he can score goals, and he's defensively responsible. He won't outscore a Corey Perry, but he'll be one of those guys like Andrew Cogliano who always seems to chip in a goal when needed.

25. DALLAS SELECTS RILEY TUFTE. If he turns out like the player he's often compared to in Nick Bjugstad, the Dallas Stars got a steal in Riley Tufte. He's a graduate of the Minnesota High School system so he has a solid hockey foundation, but it will be entirely up to how he physically develops that will determine whether he'll be a Dallas Star one day.

TRADE: Washington trades the 26th-overall pick to St. Louis for the 28th-overall and 87th-overall picks. Flip of picks. No big deal.

26. ST. LOUIS SELECTS TAGE THOMPSON. The Blues are hoping Thompson grows into his 6'5" frame and becomes the next David Backes. He has good hockey sense, but there's definitely a feeling that Thompson is a project at best. It'll be a few years before the jury comes back on this pick. The Blues also have a new patch!

27. TAMPA BAY SELECTS BRETT HOWDEN. Tampa Bay makes the safe pick. Howden is a solid centerman who can play both ends of the ice. He'll need a bit of AHL time to get his pro game up to snuff for Jon Cooper, but Howden has the chops and skill to be a reliable NHL centerman.

28. WASHINGTON SELECTS LUCAS JOHANSEN. Johansen is a decent pick for a Washington team that needs two-way defencemen. Like his brother Ryan, though, he sometimes lacks for confidence in situations when his skill set has proven otherwise. If Barry Trotz can get him playing to his potential, Capitals fans will like this pick a lot.

29. BOSTON SELECTS TRENT FREDERIC. Frederic could be a taller Patrice Bergeron if he continues his development. He's very responsible on the defensive end, can contribute in the offensive zone, and is an excellent penalty killer. He won't wow you with his offensive stats, but the Bruins could be looking at another Selke winner down the road.

30. ANAHEIM SELECTS SAM STEEL. Anaheim adds some speed and skill down the middle with Steel. Steel is more of a play-maker much in the same mold as Ryan Getzlaf where he gains the zone, but allows his teammates to gain the zone before distributing the puck. He'll need a little AHL time, but I fully expect to see Sam Steel feeding Max Jones passes at some point in the future.

There are still a pile of names on the board that will help a number of teams, so this is just the beginning. There were a couple of notable teams who didn't participate - Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose - so expect them to be aggressive on Day Two of the NHL Entry Draft!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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