With another draft in the books and unrestricted free agency still a few days away, I thought now would be a good time to review the selections.
I won’t be giving out grades since I haven’t seen all the drafted players but will take note of the six clubs who stood out in my opinion and did well in finding talent that will have a legitimate chance to play, and in some cases excel, in the NHL, especially since I’ve seen and studied up on all the 1st round picks with the exception of Ryan Johnson (BUF, 31th) while writing the pre-draft preview pieces. (forwards) (defensemen and goalies)
Adding Trevor Zegras to an impressive group of forwards within the prospect pool is one thing, but also adding Brayden Tracey - WHL rookie point leader (36G/81P in 66 games) - only solidified Anaheim’s draft as an overwhelming success. I can only imagine the giddiness the Ducks scouts and staff had watching Tracey (11th ranked forward in my draft preview) being passed over and available at 29.
There are no shortage of years where a talented C/LW such as Zegras (5th ranked forward) would’ve been drafted in the top 5, so seeing a dynamic playmaker with his upside available with the 9th overall pick was most definitely Anaheim’s good fortune. Considering a lot of consensus rankings had Tracey available going into the 2nd round, not letting him slip past them was an astute call.
If anyone does deserve an unmitigated A+ it’s most likely Carolina. Drafting Ryan Suzuki 28th overall (16th ranked forward) gives them an electric playmaker in the system, but the subsequent picks is what will set up Carolina for success for years to come.
Second round picks Pyotr Kochetkov (36th overall) and Jamison Rees (44th) gives them the Russian version of Spencer Knight as a potential starter in net, and a future top 6 C/LW in Rees (8th ranked forward) who will bring a vigorous sense of tenacity along with high-end speed and skill to a roster that already has young talent and an established taste of success.
The Hurricanes were probably quite pleased with Minnesota’s and Chicago’s selections of Vladislav FIrstov (31st ranked forward) and 6’6” D-man Alex Vlasic right before the Canes selection of Rees.
But the Hurricanes joyous surge was only getting started. Their 3rd and 4th round selections of Patrik Puistola and Tuuka Tieksola will give them quickness and skill developing overseas, most likely in Finland’s top Liiga, where they’ll be able to fine tune while competing in a men’s pro league that should only expedite their availability to the Hurricanes roster.
Not only did the Kings draft one of the better all around centers available in Alex Turcotte 5th overall, but their next 3 selections are nothing to sneeze at. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff at the King’s table was perfectly content seeing Victor Soderstrom, Cam York and Ville Heinola all taken off the board leading up to their 22nd overall selection of Tobias Bjornfot.
Then with the 33rd overall pick in the 2nd round, they probably didn’t expect to have a chance to snag a 17-year-old who put up 51 goals and 102 points after putting up 31G/48P as a 16 year old rookie with Hamilton in the OHL. But that’s exactly how the draft lined up for the LAK’s when Arthur Kaliyev (13th ranked forward) was available. Factor in the energetic spark plug Swede that is Samuel Fagemo, who they took with the 50th overall selection, and the King’s maybe didn’t procure a ransom, but did make out like bandits.
Drafting the well-documented Matthew Boldy out of the U.S. Developmental Program 12th overall gives the Wild a front line winger to mold into an all-around power forward. While drafting Vladislav Firstov 42nd overall in the second round gives them a promising talent to develop on a longer term trajectory.
But what’s notable are the selections of Adam Beckman in the 3rd round (17th ranked forward) and mobile, skilled D-man Marshall Warren in the 6th. Beckman wasn’t projected to be drafted much higher than the 3rd round, but after seeing and comparing him to others, thought he was drastically underrated.
His WHL rookie campaign speaks for itself, even if the consensus wasn’t as impressed. After a massive growth spurt, his season yielded 32 goals/62 points in 68 games - good for 2nd among rookies only to Tracey’s 36 goals and 81 points. Then in the playoffs was among the rookies leaders in points per game producing 8 goals and 12 points in 15 playoff games. And being among the league leaders in faceoff percentage at 60%, not bad either.
Somewhat overshadowed by his USDP class, Warren and his puck moving skill set slipped through the cracks and was only drafted in the 6th round after projections and rankings had him going a lot sooner. But in my opinion, his long term projection places him among the top defensemen available. His slight 5’11” frame being listed at 168 lbs no doubt factored in to him slipping, but once developed, starting with joining BC next season, I believe Warren has a very promising future.
Having the #1 selection the year Jack Hughes is available immediately turns your draft into a huge success. On top of that, drafting Nikita Okhotyuk in the 2nd round gives the Devils a developing mobile physical presence. I’m not comparing him to Scott Stevens, but those in New Jersey who remember him will appreciate his style.
Also thought that picking up Graeme Clarke in the 3rd round (20th ranked forward) was not only a great value pick but also gives the Devils a promising and versatile forward to develop. After being somewhat blocked by older players on a stacked team, this pick will only look better and smarter after next season, a season in which Clarke gets moved into a more prominent role on his OHL Ottawa squad.
Noteworthy too is the selection of Patrick Moynihan in round six. Much like Warren, this 5’11” 180 lbs center will have a chance to escape the long shadow of his USDT compadres with his Providence College season on the horizon. May not be a top 6 center long term but clearly has a shot at being a steady 3C and the kind of depth player teams need to win.
Selecting quality all-around Center Peyton Krebs 17th overall should most definitely bear fruit. However in a couple years I believe the selections of mobile physical D-man Kaeden Korczak and high IQ winger Pavel Dorofeyev (15th ranked forward) in rounds 2 and 3 will leave other GM’s and scouts scratching their heads wondering what, and how, they missed.