NHL draft in Chicago. Image by: Getty Images
Word gets around the draft about what teams are thinking, so here is some tasty talk we've been told in the past couple days.
Draft weekend has become one of the most explosive of the entire year and while trades and trade rumors involving NHLers are all over the place, there is also a lot of talk about what is going to happen with the actual picks.
Now, this is a tough subject because the teams and GMs have a vested interest in subterfuge – you don’t want to talk too loudly about the kid you want, lest the team that drafts one slot ahead of you gets wise and snaps him up. But word does get around about what teams are thinking, so here is some tasty talk that I’ve been told in the past couple days. And for the record, none of these are certainties…but they are interesting.
The first note concerns defenseman Timothy Liljegren, who came into the year as the No. 2 prospect behind Nolan Patrick, but suffered through injuries and inconsistency. There is still a lot to like about the young man, however, particularly his dynamic skill set on the back end. Buffalo and Detroit apparently both like Liljegren a lot and coincidentally, the Sabres and Red Wings are scheduled to pick eighth and ninth overall, respectively. Should Detroit miss on Liljegren due to Buffalo, keep Michael Rasmussen’s name in mind – the Wings are apparently intrigued by the big center. While I had Liljegren ranked a bit lower in my final list (14th overall), it wouldn’t be wild to see him as the third D-man off the board. Speaking of which…
Vancouver is apparently split on Cale Makar vs. Miro Heiskanen. The Canucks are scheduled to pick fifth Friday night and should a team (Colorado, I’m looking in your direction) take one of the splendid blueliners ahead of them, then perhaps this is all a moot point. But if both defensemen are available, there may be some contentious talks at the Canucks table. Personally, I don’t have a preference. Heiskanen may be a safer pick, but Makar has a more dynamic ceiling. Both are great.
With the New York Rangers acquiring the seventh pick overall in the Derek Stepan trade, the Blueshirts all of a sudden have a much bigger interest in this draft’s top-end prospects. Originally, New York wasn’t supposed to pick until 21st overall. Now, they’re doing a lot of research on center Casey Mittelstadt, the talented high schooler bound for the NCAA’s Minnesota Golden Gophers next season. Crafty, with great vision and hands, Mittelstadt would be a great addition to a fallow Rangers prospect pipeline.
The nerdy part of me is very excited about this last one: Russian goalie Daniil Tarasov is at the draft and had meetings with at least eight NHL teams. Tarasov is nearly 6-foot-5 and has a great pedigree, but missed the entire season with Tolpar Ufa due to a growth on his shin that needed to be removed. The growth and the healing process made it impossible for him to put on his goalie pads this season, but European scouts have a book on him from last year, when he was very solid. Should be interesting to see where he ends up, and how high he goes.
Finally, I’ve been told that the NHL will have a Green Room for the top eight prospects this year, similar to what other sports have. Instead of sitting in the stands, the players (and their families and agents) will be sequestered back stage. It’s a new wrinkle, but some agents I’ve talked to aren’t too high on the idea: what if a kid slides in the draft and has to sit there by himself for an hour? Personally, I don’t think that’s good TV.