What are the prospect weak points for the eight Atlantic Division teams? Tony Ferrari takes a look.
Boston Bruins: Left Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 2, 54th Overall
Part of the “problem” with being perennially competitive is that your prospect pool generally takes a hit over time and can look a bit underwhelming in certain areas. The Bruins are certainly facing that reality right now. They have some intriguing players such as Fabian Lysell and Brett Harrison up front and Mason Lohrei on the back, but they really lack depth and star power overall. Lacking their first-round pick likely won’t help, but this is a draft where a first-round talent is sure to fall for one reason or another. At 54th overall, there could be a very intriguing player available. The question will be whether they swing on upside or take a projectable, safe player with less risk.
Buffalo Sabres: Right Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 9th Overall
The Buffalo Sabres are poised to have a massive impact on day one of the draft with selections at 9, 16, and 28. They have a lot of prospects - and good ones at that - due to the fact that they’ve been drafting quite high for a few years now, so they shouldn’t go hunting for any specific player. The 2022 NHL draft class has some very intriguing right-shot defenders though, the one hole that seems to be in Buffalo’s system, so they will be able to stay patient. The advantage of having the three picks in the first round is that it gives them license to swing on one of Seamus Casey, Mattias Hävelid, Ty Nelson, Ryan Chesley, or Tristan Luneau, but still not feel forced to jump up if one or two get taken. Buffalo is in a good spot to keep building.
Detroit Red Wings: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 8th Overall
Steve Yzerman has come into Detroit and really begun to turn things around and build up their prospect pool. His drafting has been spot on and he seems to trust his scouts who happen to be some of the best in the game, especially in Europe. They just had Moritz Seider win the Calder Trophy and fellow rookie Lucas Raymond finish fourth in the voting. They have Simon Edvinsson headlining their loaded defensive pool and Jonatan Berggren has been improving year-over-year to lead the forward pack. The one glaring need is their hole down the middle. Captain Dylan Larkin is a good center but he can’t do it alone. With no other top-six option presenting itself at the moment, the eighth overall pick looks poised to net them a center to fill that void. They could play it safe with a Marco Kasper or take a swing on Matthew Savoie. Could they go against consensus yet again by taking Brad Lambert in the top 10?
Florida Panthers: Right Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 3, 93rd Overall
The Panthers’ prospect pool is a bit underwhelming. They could certainly use some centers now that Anton Lundell has made the jump to the NHL but they also lack on the back end, particularly on the right side. With a lack of picks over the next couple of years, the team is expecting to compete in the here and now. That could mean the few prospects they have could be on the move in trades since they no longer have a first-round pick for three years and only three picks in the first three rounds over that same stretch. The best case here is that they win a Cup and can ignore the wasteland that their prospect pool could very well become.
Montreal Canadiens: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 1st Overall
Don’t overthink this. Montreal is set up perfectly with the first overall pick and a highly-touted center who plays a two-way game with good offensive production after a lost year sitting right there. If Wright bottoms out as a Ryan O’Reilly-type center, they are stoked. If he ends up becoming Jonathan Toews, they are ecstatic. If he reaches the unfair ceiling of Patrice Bergeron that has been put on him, the Canadiens have a star on their hands. Imagine passing that up? Take Wright.
Ottawa Senators: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 7th Overall
For a team that has been toiling a bit the last few years, the Ottawa Senators prospect pool isn’t as impressive as it should be. They often seem to lean towards the safe pick and have even mentioned that they allow the future salary cap to influence their choices, so they need a home run here. The Senators are getting good and they could use another real game-breaking talent to go along with Stützle, particularly a true center that can help drive play. Cutter Gauthier would fit the safe mold they’ve drafted with in the past, but an option such as Matthew Savoie or Brad Lambert could be the swing for the fences that Sens fans seem to desire. They truly are their own beast when draft day arrives, though, so you never know what they are going to do.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Left Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 31st Overall
Back-to-back Stanley Cups followed by a finals loss would generally leave teams in a worse spot than what Tampa Bay is in. Keen drafting and a sound development system have allowed the Lightning to maintain a steady flow of players from the draft to their NHL lineup over the last few years. They still have some solid prospects in the system, such as Niko Huuhtanen and Dylan Duke, but they lack star prospects and that may be hard to come by this year. The Lightning will probably draft a player and make everyone question how they fell to the 31st spot, so just get ready for that now.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Goalie
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 25th Overall
The value that Toronto has managed to find over the last few drafts, often without their first-round pick, has been impressive. Their biggest hole in both their prospect pool and NHL roster right now is in net and while neither of those should or will be solved with the 25th overall pick, they could snag another high-upside player such as winger Jagger Firkus or defenseman Owen Pickering and then use their later pick to address the goalie situation in their prospect pool. The Leafs could also trade down and try to address both a high-upside pick and a goalie in the second round. Let’s be honest, that is probably how this goes down.