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.

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

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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2015 Draft Preview – Prey become Predators for Nashville

Kevin Fiala (Getty Images)

GM David Poile and his plucky Nashville Predators bamboozled the league in 2014-15. They were supposed to be an also-ran in hockey’s toughest division but instead enjoyed one of their best seasons in franchise history. They’re stacked in goal and on defense, and a few of their best forward prospects have emerged.

Round 2, pick 55
Round 3, pick 85
Round 4, picks 100, 115
Round 5, pick 145
Round 6, pick 175
Round 7, pick 205

The James Neal trade didn’t give Nashville the elite sniper it needed. Filip Forsberg bloomed, but he’s more of an all-around scorer than pure shooter. The 2015 free agent class lacks a slam-dunk 30-goal man, so Poile will have to search the trade market if he wants one. Also, what if Mike Ribeiro opts not to re-sign? It would leave Nashville without a No. 1 center.
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2015 Draft Preview – Montreal Canadiens must think big

Alex Galchenyuk. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In what has been an otherwise impressive record of drafting and developing, the Montreal Canadiens have a black hole, the effects of which are being felt by the organization today. In the 2008 and ’09 drafts, amateur scouting director Trevor Timmins and his staff selected 13 players, none of whom has made an impact at the NHL level. Those players are in their early 20s now and should’ve been in position to not only make contributions, but also carry the team in future years. Perhaps if the Canadiens had been able to mine some talented players with size, they wouldn’t be one of the smallest and poorest possession teams in the league.

Round 1, pick 26
Round 3, pick 87
Round 5, pick 131
Round 6, pick 177
Round 7, pick 207

The Habs have size on the blueline but desperately need some bigger forwards who can play. They drafted hulking Michael McCarron in the first round in 2013, but he’s a few years away, if he makes the NHL at all.

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2015 Draft Preview – Minnesota Wild must fill in gaps

Matt Larkin
Alex Tuch (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Wild’s immediate future is tough to project after an odd season in which goalie Devan Dubnyk’s freakishly good performance carried them to the playoffs. Did that feel-good story mask a few team needs? The Wild’s good young forwards have blended nicely with their vets, and their blue-chip blueliners have improved, but they still have some flaws to address at the draft and in free agency.

Round 1, pick 20
Round 2, pick 50
Round 4, pick 111
Round 6, pick 171
Round 7, picks 201, 204

Jonas Brodin has emerged as a defensive pillar, and 2012 first-rounder Mathew Dumba made an impressive jump to full-time NHL duty, but Minny could use a physical, top-four veteran blueliner to take pressure off Ryan Suter. Many of the Wild’s checking forwards are UFAs this summer, so GM Chuck Fletcher must re-sign or replenish bodies for his bottom six. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Florida Panthers hunting for snipers

Ken Campbell
Aaron Ekblad (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

When it comes to future prospects, the Florida Panthers are the envy of many teams around the NHL. But when you have a top-five pick in four of the past five drafts, you’d better be stockpiling some young players who will eventually show the way. That’s why so much of the strength in the Panthers prospect list is already on the NHL roster. There isn’t much star power among the Panthers’ non-NHL youngsters, but Florida can remedy that in this draft with the 11th overall pick – a player who should be good enough to contribute, since it’s such a deep draft, but not one who will face the pressure of stepping into the lineup right away.

Round 1, pick 11
Round 3, picks 77, 88
Round 4, pick 102
Round 5, picks 132, 147
Round 6, pick 162
Round 7, picks 192, 206

The Panthers were just 25th in goals scored. Their leading scorer had only 54 points, and their power play ranked 24th in the league. This team desperately has to find a way to create more offense 5-on-5 and with the extra man. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Edmonton Oilers strike gold once again

Connor McDavid (Adam d'Oliveira Photography on McDavid head, Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images on Edmonton body, manipulated by Erika Vanderveer)

It didn’t seem that long ago the Oilers made the proud choice selecting Taylor Hall over Tyler Seguin with the first pick in the 2010 draft. That was supposed to be Edmonton’s first step forward after bottoming out in 2009-10. Hard to believe, then, that next season will be Hall’s sixth in the NHL, and the anchor is still caught among the seaweed. Selecting first overall for a fourth time in six years is bound to pay huge dividends this time. Have you heard of Connor McDavid?

Round 1, pick 1
Round 1, pick 16
Round 2, pick 33
Round 2, pick 57
Round 3, pick 79
Round 3, pick 86
Round 4, pick 117
Round 5, pick 124
Round 6, pick 154
Round 7, pick 184

In no particular order, the Oilers need more reliable goaltending, a good base of top-four defensemen and scoring depth in the middle six. But because few big-name players reach unrestricted free agency July 1, it’s improbable Edmonton can fill those needs in a single off-season. It’s a better bet the Oilers hire a coach who can push the right buttons and find a way to snap the losing culture.
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2015 Draft Preview – It’s step forward, step backwards for Colorado Avalanche

Conner Bleackley (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche endured quite the reality check in 2014-15, vindicating the stat geeks who predicted a massive regression after a “lucky” Central Division title run the year prior. Colorado’s flashy young forwards and great goaltending weren’t enough. A lack of brawn and defensive ability all over the roster proved too much to overcome. The Avs slid from the NHL’s third-best record to out of the playoffs. Their development plan has a long way to go.

Round 1, pick 10
Round 2, pick 40
Round 3, pick 71
Round 4, pick 101
Round 6, pick 161
Round 7, pick 191

Late-blooming Erik Johnson is a nice story, but this team does not have a bona fide No. 1 defenseman – and perhaps not even a No. 2. The Avs need a stronger two-way presence up the middle, too. They missed Paul Stastny. Some size on the wings would help them sustain a forecheck better. Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Trade winds blow for Chicago Blackhawks

Teuvo Teravainen (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks need the draft more than they have in recent years, not because they’re rebuilding, but because they’re repairing. Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’ cap hits explode to $10.5 million each next season, and veterans Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are well into their 30s. GM Stan Bowman must strengthen the franchise’s young foundation knowing he’ll have to shave some salary. So far, so good with the development of Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen.

Round 2, pick 54
Round 3, pick 91
Round 4, pick 121
Round 5, pick 151
Round 6, picks 164, 181
Round 7, picks 211

Bowman can’t afford to keep his entire forward corps as is, especially with RFAs Saad and Marcus Kruger due for new contracts. Veterans must be jettisoned, whether it’s through letting UFAs Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette walk or trading Sharp. Doing so will create a need for new offensive forwards, especially wingers, in the system. No position in hockey develops easier. Read more