2015 Draft Preview – Is it too early for San Jose Sharks to turn back?

Nikolay Goldobin.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Years of frustration have come crumbling in on the Sharks. Despite a top-four group of forwards that’s as good as any other team in the league, the Sharks fell apart in the second half and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. It’s only the second time in the 17-year career of homegrown talent Patrick Marleau that he’s gone home in early April without playing any post-season games.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 9
Round 2, pick 39
Round 4, pick 106
Round 5, picks 130, 142
Round 6, pick 160
Round 7, picks 190, 210

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
San Jose needs a top-flight goalie in the worst way. Antti Niemi has had some good seasons and some very good seasons in his five years with the Sharks, but he never rose to the occasion in the playoffs, and the team is sure to let the 31-year-old Finn walk as a UFA. The Sharks also need depth among the D-corps.

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2015 Draft Preview – St. Louis Blues playing with house money

Matt Larkin
Robby Fabbri (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues have everything. They’re as deep as any team in the sport at every position, and a few of their best drafted youngsters haven’t even reached the NHL yet. St. Louis’ needs are more about veteran experience than anything they have to nab at the draft table. GM Doug Armstrong thus has the freedom to pick any high-ceiling player who falls to him at any position.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 56
Round 4, picks 94, 116
Round 5, picks 127, 146
Round 6, pick 176

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The only tangible thing the Blues need is veteran support on defense, depending on what happens with UFAs Barret Jackman and Zbynek Michalek. More than anything, the Blues need intangibles like leadership and Stanley Cup experience. Their 2014-15 roster had no one who’d played in a final, let alone a Cup winner. Pursuing an accomplished UFA like Justin Williams makes sense. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins need wings to fly

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.

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2015 Draft Preview – Philadelphia Flyers always looking backward

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 – Amazing rookie brigade alters Ottawa Senators’ future

Ken Campbell
Matt Puempel (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Ottawa Senators staged their furious charge and made the playoffs against all odds, their freshmen led the way. Andrew Hammond was not a rookie by NHL standards because of his age but was still a first-year player. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Curtis Lazar? No ambiguity there. That speaks to how well the Senators have drafted over the past few years.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 18
Round 2, picks 42, 48
Round 4, pick 109
Round 5, pick 139
Round 7, pick 199

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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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2015 Draft Preview – Diligence paying off for New York Islanders

Josh Ho-Sang (Photo by Mitchell Leff, Getty Images Sport)

The Islanders put a lot of stock in the draft and, in particular, the draft combine. The franchise has been infamous in the past for making the kids they interview fill out a lengthy personality test, but clearly it serves a purpose: noted free spirit Josh Ho-Sang was nabbed in the 2014 first round, and his play has continued to be solid. Of course, they also drafted the downright wacky Kirill Kabanov a few years back, too, so it’s not an exact science.

PICKS:
Round 3, picks 72 and 82
Round 4, pick 112
Round 6, pick 172
Round 7, pick 202

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2015 Draft Preview – New Jersey Devils seek a red-hot sniper

Stefan Matteau. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Major domo Lou Lamoriello, who will still have a major say in all things Devils despite handing GM duties to Ray Shero, has always been a big supporter of the college system, which is no surprise given Lamoriello’s Providence Friars roots. The Devils like to give their NCAA kids as much time as they need, and the franchise goes to the well often. The only year New Jersey didn’t have a draft class featuring at least one NCAA-bound player was 1995. Kids from the U.S. NTDP are frequent targets.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 6
Round 2, picks 36 and 41
Round 3, pick 67
Round 4, pick 97
Round 6, pick 157

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
The Devils’ offense was a horror show, ranking 28th with 2.15 goals per game, and there are no sure things in the system. Reid Boucher is the best candidate, but he hasn’t found his touch in the NHL and has had only middling production in the AHL. And while players such as Blake Pietila and John Quenneville have potential, their scoring ceilings aren’t high. This must be addressed quickly.

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