NHL draft. Image by: Getty Images
The trade fireworks we expected didn't happen. But which teams made out best after two days of drafting, and which want a do-over?
We thought this weekend would be a tradepocalypse. But with the exception of a couple big deals, teams mostly went about their business of making picks at the draft. But who made their organization better this weekend? And what trends emerged? Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers in Chicago, keeping in mind that all the kids should be proud of getting to put on an NHL jersey for the first time. And for those who didn’t go, it’s important to remember that this is far from the end of the road.
Vegas was also a huge winner on the weekend, but since I talked about the Golden Knights yesterday, I’ll move over to the Blackhawks. As hosts, they had fun with the proceedings, but they also made some astute picks. Defensemen Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell both bring a modern puckmoving game to the table, which will help replenish the Hawks once the Duncan Keith era comes to a close. In Tim Soderlund, they got a very skilled forward with a fourth-round pick.
The Kings picked up Gabe Vilardi as he fell down the ranks in the first round, but they also did some savvy picking on Day 2. Jaret Anderson-Dolan is a solid, 200-foot player, Matthew Villalta has a ton of potential in net, while Mikey Anderson is a smart, mistake-free defenseman. This was a nice draft for an organization that had a thin pipeline before.
The Flyers traded up twice early on in the draft to get their guy. I like that; why risk missing on Morgan Frost or Isaac Ratcliffe if you really like them? GM Ron Hextall has been a draft master during his tenure in Philly, stacking picks and making nice selections. This year was no different with Noah Cates (a raw Joe Pavelski type), big goalie Kirill Ustimenko and that kid who went second overall who might be pretty decent…
All jokes aside, Hextall and his staff get lots of different skill sets and positional needs every draft, which puts them in a great spot for the future.
This became apparent on Day 1, when Vilardi skidded all the way to No. 11 when many thought he could go as high as third overall. Another notable dropper was Matthew Strome, who had to wait until the fourth round before Philly snapped up the big, smart scorer. Everyone knows that Strome (and to a lesser extent Vilardi) needs to iron out his footwork, but he was generally seen as a second-rounder. Rickard Hugg, a two-way playmaker from Sweden, wasn’t selected at all.
Obviously there’s an asterisk here because Halifax’s Nico Hischier went first overall to New Jersey, but the ‘Q’ saw only five players go in the top-100 of the draft. Now, these things are cyclical, so there’s no need to panic, but it is worth noting. Next year already looks more promising thanks to a 2018 draft class led by Joe Veleno, Jared McIsaac, Benoit Olivier-Groulx, Alexis Gravel and Anderson MacDonald.
Right off the bat, I’ll say that I’m a huge Jack Studnicka fan. So it’s not all bad for the Bruins. But yet again, it feels like the team only tried to hit singles instead of taking a home run cut or two. Sure, you need balance, but I still don’t see a potential No. 1 center of the future in the organization and it doesn’t seem like the B’s are taking any chances.
This is a familiar gripe with the Capitals, but they just don’t draft enough players. I recognize that trades are made with an eye to the present, since Ovie and crew are in their Stanley Cup window, but Chicago doesn’t have this issue. For the second time in three years, Washington only made four selections. I think defenseman Tobias Geisser could be a great sleeper pick, but there’s little room for error here.