The draft never fails to surprise, does it? While there weren’t any trades of substance on the night, the selections themselves brought intrigue and several franchises really filled their boots. Now it’s time to separate the winners from the losers.
As a point of fairness, “losers” may not be a great term, especially when it comes to players who could very well go early in the second round and turn out to be solid NHLers, but here we are. Let’s dive into it, with the caveat that Buffalo won thanks to Rasmus Dahlin, but we all knew that was going to happen.
Thanks to Montreal taking Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Arizona calling Barrett Hayton, the Red Wings are gifted with Filip Zadina at No. 6. The dynamic Czech clearly thought the Habs liked him in his media scrum and offered a warning for Montreal and Ottawa, which also passed on him: “I was telling my agent, if they will pass on me, I’m going to fill their nets with pucks.”
The Red Wings got some more good fortune at the back end with the pick they got from Vegas in the Tomas Tatar deal: Drummondville’s Joe Veleno was still available at No. 30, even though he looked like a mid-first rounder at worst. Veleno admitted to getting a little nervous as the picks flew by, but it all worked out in the end for him.
New York Islanders
Much like Detroit, the Isles got some nice “luck” in how things unfolded ahead of them. Because the rival Rangers had Vitali Kravtsov as their second-highest rated forward (then taking him ninth overall), the Isles got sharp-shooting Oliver Wahlstrom at No. 11, then followed it up by grabbing Noah Dobson, the big, quick defenseman still on the board because Chicago preferred Adam Boqvist. Picturing Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows taking passes from Matt Barzal and John Tavares in the future must tickle New York fans, but Dobson fills a huge need in the pipeline, giving the team a blueliner with big upside.
Sure, speed is always big in the draft, but a couple kids slid into the first round with their skating. Columbus grabbed Liam Foudy at No. 18, while X-factor Ryan Merkley was all smiles when San Jose called his name at No. 21. Chicago got another good mobile D-man in Nicolas Beaudin at No. 27, while Toronto countered with Rasmus Sandin two picks later.
This is a down year for the ‘Dub’ and everything is cyclical, so there’s no need to panic (2019 looks great already, for example). But only two WHLers went in the first round and one was the final selection, with Washington tabbing Red Deer’s Alexander Alexeyev. Spokane’s Ty Smith, who could have gone top-10, dropped to New Jersey at No. 17
It’s becoming commonplace; another year without a netminder in the first round. The unpredictability of the development curve is the obvious reason, but it’s still worth noting. This is a soft year for goaltenders, so this was expected. Next year should be fun, as the NTDP’s Spencer Knight looks to be one of the best goaltending prospects in years.
I only single out the Penguins because they finished dead last in Future Watch and couldn’t get back into the first round (I don’t know if they tried, to be honest). While the Penguins are still Stanley Cup contenders, that’s only going to last for so long unless they replenish the cupboard. They’ve been good at finding gems one way or another (Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, etc.), but how long can they play with fire?
Still on the Board
Day 2 will move fast and these kids will be just as happy when they get their jerseys (and they’re certainly not losers): Bode Wilde, Akil Thomas, Ryan McLeod, Jacob Olofsson, Sampo Ranta and Serron Noel.