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

2015 Draft Preview – Boston Bruins shift focus to cubs

Ken Campbell
David Pastrnak. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

This season, Boston had the youngest player in the AHL and the NHL. They both just happened to be the same player. When the Bruins took David Pastrnak 25th overall in 2014, they didn’t envision him having the season he had for them. He played so well in the AHL and was such a standout at the world juniors that the Bruins had no choice but to call him up when they ran into injury trouble. Pastrnak thrived on a line with fellow prospect Ryan Spooner and veteran Milan Lucic. The Bruins pick in the first half of the first round for the first time since doing so in 2010 and 2011.

Round 1, pick 14
Round 2, pick 37
Round 3, pick 75
Round 4, pick 105
Round 5, pick 135
Round 6, pick 165
Round 7, pick 195

This team is aging quickly and not all that beautifully. An injection of youth is needed to shake up a group that looked rather lethargic in 2014-15. With the announcement Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell won’t return, the Bruins will need fourth-liners of the quality they’ve had in the past.

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2015 Draft Preview – Arizona Coyotes pound sand in desert rebuild

Brian Costello
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

It looks fishy that Arizona traded Devan Dubnyk just 19 games into the season and he went on to become a Vezina Trophy finalist for the Minnesota Wild. Almost as though the Coyotes were making a run for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But few could have predicted Dubnyk would maintain his spectacular play. After all, he was a bargain-basement signing by Arizona last off-season.

Round 1, pick 3
Round 1, pick 30
Round 2, pick 32
Round 2, pick 60
Round 3, pick 63
Round 3, pick 81
Round 5, pick 123
Round 7, pick 183

Only the pop-gun offense of Buffalo was worse than that of the Coyotes. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23 goals) was the lone player with more than 17 goals. Arizona needs better goaltending as well, but that will have to come in-house from Mike Smith, who’s signed long-term.

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2015 Draft Preview – Anaheim Ducks on cutting edge of development

Brian Costello
Hampus Lindholm (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

No team does a better job being competitive and well positioned for the future than the Ducks. They’ve been at or near the top of the NHL and Future Watch standings the past few seasons under the direction of GM Bob Murray and top talent assessor David McNab. The Ducks are parsimonious with picks and prospects, not willing to give up much in the way of future players just to get a playoff boost.

Round 1, pick 27
Round 3, pick 80
Round 3, pick 84
Round 5, pick 148
Round 6, pick 178

Anaheim has a fine assortment of talented forwards in their early 20s who are regular contributors. They’d love for at least one of Kyle Palmieri, Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem or Jakob Silfverberg to break through and become the 25- to 30-goal secondary scoring threat the team has lacked since Teemu Selanne moved on.
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Five reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning will win tonight’s Game 7

Brian Boyle and Tyler Johnson. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning have delivered exactly what we hoped they would. We’ve gotten mostly fantastic goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and wildly unpredictable goaltending from Ben Bishop. We’ve seen the NHL’s two fastest teams trade chances in a warp-speed transition game leading to breakaways and comebacks. Steven Stamkos and Rick Nash have awakened. Martin St-Louis and Ryan Callahan have scored on their former teams.

So it’s perfectly fitting to see these two teams clash in a Game 7 tonight. Who ya got? It depends on what you value most: veteran goaltending and the mystique of a storied arena or good, old-fashioned scoring chances, the symptom of possessing the puck more than the other team. Can you guess which side I fall on?

Here are five reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning will prevail in Game 7.

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