Jonathan Drouin of Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan Mackinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers pose after being taken in the top three at the NHL Draft on Sunday. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, N.J. – Some great drama during the first round of the draft, with Seth Jones falling to Nashville at pick No. 4 and hosts New Jersey nabbing a new star netminder in Cory Schneider in a trade with Vancouver for the ninth pick.
But who maximized their selections in the top 30 and what trends emerged? Here are the first round winners and losers. (Calgary also used all three of its first-rounders and got nice value in Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk.)
There was a lot of talk surrounding the Blue Jackets and their three first round selections, but in the end rookie GM Jarmo Kekalainen used them all. Columbus grabbed forwards Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano. All three bring different skill sets, though all can score. Rychel and Dano are physical players who fit the blue collar mould in Columbus, while Wennberg excels at putting himself in scoring positions and burying his chances.
The Sabres used two picks in 2012 to shore up the middle of the franchise, taking Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons in the first round. This time, they went with a pair of big defenders in Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. Ristolainen is closer to the NHL and has played against men back home in Finland for the past couple years, while Zadorov is a mammoth with a mean streak. The Sabres are becoming quite adept at filling their needs lately.
We knew this would be a good year for the Quebec League, but the first round turned out very well. Nathan MacKinnon kicked it off at No. 1, while six players overall went in the first 23 picks. Emile Poirier (22nd overall to Calgary) was probably the biggest surprise. The 'Q' has now won three straight Memorial Cups and rang up two of the top three picks in 2013 with Jonathan Drouin (third to Tampa) joining Halifax liney MacKinnon.
No netminders were selected in the first round and though it has become apparent that goalies taken in the seventh round can turn out just as well as those nabbed in the top 30, it is surprising. Halifax's Zach Fucale was the top keeper available, but he was still on the board six picks deep into the second round, when Montreal grabbed him.
Rough year for the college game. Only one NCAA-bound player was selected and he might not even go. Montreal took U.S. National Team Development Program product Michael McCarron with the 25th overall selection and while he is committed to Western Michigan, he has also kept in contact with the Ontario League's London Knights. The NTDP itself didn't have a great first round, though Seth Jones did come out of the program – his late birthday just meant moving on to Portland in the Western League before he was draft eligible. McCarron was the only NTDPer to go in the top 30, though that wasn't shocking – this year's edition was slated to have a lot of talent go in the second and third rounds.
Call this a minor loss. Two of the Russians expected to go – Valeri Nichushkin and Nikita Zadorov – still went in the first round, but at 10th and 16th, they were on the board longer than expected, while Valentin Zykov fell to the second round. Tough to say if this was a “Russian factor,” since all are committed to North America (Zykov and Zadorov were already here), but it was noticeable, particularly since Nichushkin had been called a top-three talent by some scouts and was not expected to drop past the first five or six picks.
PUCK PANEL: DRAFT RECAP
THN senior writers Ken Campbell and Ryan Kennedy are joined by Uffe Bodin, the Editor in Chief of HockeySverige.se, to discuss Seth Jones dropping, the three Swedes taken in the first round and why Columbus was a big winner.
Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy.
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