2015 Draft Preview – Los Angeles Kings needed the break

Brian Costello
Adrian Kempe (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The analytics crowd are quick to point out the possession-dominating Kings missing the playoffs was a stats anomaly. The purists say possession stats mean nothing if you don’t possess a playoff spot after 82 regular season games. What can’t be argued is Los Angeles played a league-high 64 games the past three playoffs. The time off this spring will do their bodies good.

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.

PICKS:
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

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
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

Canada’s world junior camp roster shows a wide-open competition

Canada's Lawson Crouse (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2015 world juniors in Toronto, there were many Canadian players we could basically check off as guarantees long before the roster was decided. Connor McDavid, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Sam Reinhart, Zach Fucale, Darnell Nurse, Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey were all locks, for example.

With the tournament shifting to Helsinki for 2016, Canada’s braintrust will have some tougher decisions to make, as evidenced by the summer camp roster.

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?

PICKS:
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

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
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.
Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Detroit Red Wings still the prospect kings

Dylan Larkin (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

For years, the Detroit Red Wings had based much of their success on their ability to find late-round gems, almost always from Russia or Sweden. But that paradigm is shifting. The Wings’ top prospects are Canadians and Americans, and two of them – Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin – were first-round picks. That’s not to say the Wings have lost their magic in the late rounds. Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen was drafted 111th overall in 2010 and defenseman Alexey Marchenko was taken 205th overall in 2011. Center Axel Holmstrom is now considered a steal, going in the 196th spot in 2014.

Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Dallas Stars can score, but need to defend

Matt Larkin
Brett Ritchie (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars were supposed to join the NHL’s elite this season. They made the playoffs last year on the strength of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn’s sublime chemistry, and an off-season Jason Spezza trade made them a one-line team no more. Instead, Dallas regressed, missing the playoffs. Its offense remained outstanding, but few teams struggled as much preventing goals.

Read more

2015 Draft Preview – Columbus Blue Jackets prospects like to move

Ryan Kennedy
Sonny Milano (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Blue Jackets will draft players from any and all circuits, but those kids tend to wind up in either major junior or the AHL. Sonny Milano chose Plymouth over Boston College, Peter Quenneville left Quinnipiac for Brandon, Markus Soberg went from Sweden to Windsor and Marko Dano dumped the KHL for the AHL. Will the trend continue?

Read more

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.

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

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
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