Ryan Kennedy

Ryan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.

Winners and losers after the first round of the draft

Noah Hanifin (photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SUNRISE – The start of the draft went 1-2-3 as expected, but as the first round got deeper, things veered in surprising directions. Who were the winners and losers on the night? I didn’t count Edmonton and Buffalo, since we always knew they’d have a good night. Otherwise, here’s how I saw things go down:

Winners

Carolina

My intel was that Noah Hanifin was not going to fall past Carolina at No. 5 and sure enough, the Canes pounced on the exceptional defenseman when Toronto passed on his services. Hanifin had an amazing second half at Boston College and should he return, he’ll be the cornerstone of the Eagles.

Russians

The first big shock of the draft came when Dallas tabbed right winger Denis Gurianov with the 12th pick. Though the ‘Russian Factor’ may still be a thing for some franchises (Columbus, for example), Stars GM Jim Nill has not been afraid to take Russians who played back home during his tenure. After all, Valeri Nichushkin was his first-ever pick.

“I’m not too worried about him going back to Russia,” Nill said. “He’s going back there next year, we knew that all along. But we’re looking for the best player available three, four years down the road and we’re comfortable that he’s going to come over and play for us.”

Another Russian with KHL ties, goalie Ilya Samsonov, went to Washington. Thanks to Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have been a mecca for talented young Russians for years and in Samsonov the Caps landed the most highly-rated netminder in the draft class.

Add in CHLers Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) and Evgeny Svechnikov (Detroit) and you have the most Russian first rounders since 2004, when Ovie and Evgeny Malkin headlined the festivities.

The NCAA

The college ranks set a new standard with three first-rounders in the top eight picks thanks to Hanifin, Jack Eichel (Buffalo) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). It was a grand year for NCAA hockey and this first round was the capper. Miami-bound Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) was a nice surprise too, as he was seen as a borderline first-rounder.

Ottawa

The Sens, who already have a great young roster, added a smart, slick-skating defenseman in Thomas Chabot and then a fast two-way/shutdown center in Colin White. Ottawa will be very tough to beat in a couple years if these kids shake out the way they are projected.

Losers

Small Guys

Once again this year, scouts sang the praises of players in the 5-foot-10 range, but couldn’t convince their bosses to pull the trigger early. While I didn’t expect Travis Konecny or Nick Merkley to go in the top 12, I thought one or both would go in the top 20. As it turned out, Konecny went 24th to Philly, while Merkley lasted until No. 30 when Arizona scooped him up.

“Obviously there were only a few guys 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, and you get nervous about that,” Merkley said. “You just take it as it is and enjoy the moment.”

On the bright side, 5-foot-10 Anthony Beauvillier was a surprise first-rounder when the Islanders traded up to grab him 28th.

Boston

I don’t mean to pile on, but from an outsider’s view, the Bruins panicked tonight. Certainly when they acquired picks from Los Angeles and Calgary, they didn’t intend to use all three of their selections (which came 13, 14 and 15). But no trade emerged and the Bruins took two players they could have gotten later while passing on immense talents still on the board. Why didn’t they grab White, a Massachusetts product, or Kyle Connor, a future No. 1 center? Or, incredibly, Matt Barzal, who slipped to the Isles one pick later?

2015 Draft Preview – The Washington Capitals make investments

Ryan Kennedy
Jakub Vrana (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Capitals pulled off a pretty neat trick the past few years: mining the second half of the first round for talent and consistently hitting on it. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Marcus Johansson all qualify, and picking in that range can be tricky. Add in no-brainer lottery pick Alex Ovechkin plus Nicklas Backstrom and you’ve got a pretty good homegrown core already. All told, Washington has drafted quite well.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 22
Round 3, pick 62
Round 4, pick 113
Round 5, pick 143
Round 6, pick 173

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The Caps are solid in all areas right now, but a two-way center who can also score wouldn’t hurt – someone in a Ryan Kesler mode. With Jakub Vrana in the pipeline, skill is taken care of in spades. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins need wings to fly

Ryan Kennedy
Kasperi Kapanen. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Based on the past two drafts, the Penguins are firm believers in education. Perhaps it’s because the 2013 Frozen Four was at their rink, but the Pens have drafted almost exclusively NCAA-bound players lately. Only one 2013 draftee was from major junior (goalie Tristan Jarry of Edmonton). University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman center Jake Guentzel already looks like a steal.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 46
Round 5, pick 137
Round 6, pick 167
Round 7, pick 197

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Wingers, sweet lord, wingers! The Penguins still head into nearly every off-season wondering how to find complements for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and the draft has not been kind in that regard. Beau Bennett is waiting to bust out, and he’s the closest candidate.

Read more

2015 Draft: Europeans ready to make an impact

Ryan Kennedy
Mikko Rantanen (right) of Finland (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The 2015 draft has largely focused on North America, what with twin terrors Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel dominating headlines, with Dylan Strome, Noah Hanifin and Mitch Marner not far behind.

But there were some excellent prospects plying their trades on the other side of the Atlantic this season and they’re ready to let their skills do the talking.

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2015 Draft Preview – Philadelphia Flyers always looking backward

Ryan Kennedy
during the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Flyers aren’t picky about where their talent comes from or where those players are going as long as they have potential. Prep schoolers and kids destined for mid-table NCAA schools such as Bowling Green and Connecticut have all been selected lately, as was NAHL goalie Anthony Stolarz. Curiously, no players from the OHL – a traditional hotbed – have donned the Orange and Black the past two drafts.

PICKS:
Round 1, picks 7 and 29
Round 2, pick 61
Round 3, picks 70 and 90
Round 4, picks 98 and 99
Round 5, pick 128
Round 6, pick 158
Round 7, pick 188

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2015 Draft Preview – New York Rangers can take first day off

Ryan Kennedy
poses for a portrait during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.

It’s not that the New York Rangers are bad at drafting. They just don’t do it as often as most other franchises. Thanks to playing in one of the most desirable sports markets in the world and having a splendid core that makes Stanley Cup runs, the Blueshirts have tended to build through trades and free agency lately – and it works. But because of that, New York has picked in the first round just once in the past three drafts (Brady Skjei in 2013) and, barring a trade, it won’t pick in the top 30 this year, either.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 59
Round 3, pick 89
Round 4, pick 119
Round 6, pick 179

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The Rangers aren’t particularly gritty up front, and that’s fine when the speedsters are on their horses, but it wouldn’t hurt to get some rougher, edgier players back in the jersey – think Andrew Shaw in Chicago or Kyle Clifford in Los Angeles.

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