What are the prospect weak points for the eight Central Division teams? Tony Ferrari takes a look.
Arizona Coyotes: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 3rd Overall
The Coyotes are perennially rebuilding and the third overall pick is a great place to continue that. They lack a top-end center prospect and their NHL roster is full of question marks. Logan Cooley seems to be destined for the Arizona slot on draft night, assuming Shane Wright doesn't go first overall. Barret Hayton is a good player, but can he fill a top-six role in the long-term? College free agents Jack McBain and Nathan Smith profile as third liners. They need impact players down the middle and the third overall should provide that for them
Chicago Blackhawks: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 2, 38th Overall
Chicago is in a very interesting position. They traded their first-rounder in the Seth Jones trade and they are in a rough spot because of it. They are uncompetitive and many of their best players could be on their way out. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are nearing the end of their careers, and Alex DeBrincat has become one of the biggest names in the rumor pool. They also have a prospect pool that is pretty thin after a few B-level prospects on the back end and a couple of interesting wingers. Their center depth isn’t overly encouraging and finding a high-caliber player with the 38th pick could be a tall task. Do they move DeBrincat and secure a pick in the first round to try and rectify that? That will be their biggest question heading into draft night.
Colorado Avalanche: Right Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 3, 97th Overall
The Stanley Cup champions have a solid prospect pool, which is great for a team that's already at the top. They have young players in the lineup such as defender Bowen Byram and forward Alex Newhook who are graduated to the NHL and their prospect pool features Jean-Luc Foudy and Oskar Olausson up front and Sean Behrens on the back, with Justus Annunen looking promising in the crease. They could certainly use some depth on the backend, particularly on the right side but as the reigning champs with a bunch of young up-and-comers already in the system, they certainly aren’t hurting.
Dallas Stars: Right Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 18th Overall
The Dallas Stars system has quickly become one of the most interesting in the NHL. They have good players at every position with names such as Wyatt Johnston, Maverick Bourque, Logan Stankoven, and Ayrton Martino up front as well as Thomas Harley and Jack Bar on the back end. They have quality and quality at just about every position, but right wing seems to be a bit thin. They very well could see one of their centers, such as Stankoven, become a right winger and they certainly don’t need to draft for need as they are solid all-around. They could go just about anywhere and take the best player available and take advantage of a player falling into their laps on draft night.
Minnesota Wild: Right Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 19th Overall
The Minnesota Wild have no cap space and already had to off-load Kevin Fiala as a result. They have some good youngsters in Matt Boldy (who has already graduated to the NHL) and Marco Rossi, but they still have some work to do. With picks at 19 and 24, they will have a chance to further supplement their prospect pool while they work themselves out of salary cap hell. Do they take a safe player and a riskier one such as a combination of defenseman Lian Bischel and center Brad Lambert? Targeting the right wing seems like it could lead to a reach so they should just take best available and if a center from their prospect pool has to move over, it’s not the worst spot to be in.
Nashville Predators: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 17th Overall
Quietly building a solid prospect pool, Nashville is full of good-not-great level prospects with Zachary L’Heureux, Fyodor Svechkov, and Phillip Tomasino standing at the top of the class. There's some upside, but still more room for improvement They could use some center depth because after Svechkov, the group falls off fairly quickly with some players who would qualify as swings but really no promise they ever play NHL games. They lack a high-end defender in their pool as well so if one of the high-upside guys like Owen Pickering, Kevin Korchinki, or Denton Mateychuk fall, they could certainly look to swing on them.
St. Louis Blues: Right Defense/Left Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 23rd Overall
When you are constantly competitive, it's tough to build up a high-end prospect pool. The Blues are in that spot right now but at least they have a Stanley Cup to fall back on from their miracle 2019 run. Jake Neighbours and Zachary Bolduc look like promising NHLers but both could find their way into middle-sic roles. Scott Perunovich looks like a top-four blueliner, but they need more help. They could use some talent just about anywhere in their prospect pool but they should jump all over a right-shot defender if they fall to them or fall back on a left winger if they can’t identify the defender that could be a difference-maker. They just kind of need a bit of everything. Swing for the fences and get a high-end prospect if possible.
Winnipeg Jets: Right Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 14th Overall
The Jets have some really interesting prospects upfront, but that’s kind of where their prospect pool lives and dies. They have some high upside players such as Nikita Chibrikov on the wing or Anton Johannesson and Dmitry Kuzmin on the backend, but they're far from guaranteed NHLers. The Jets have the prospect pool of long-time contenders but they’ve been living in the pretender category for a while now and they looked rough down the stretch last season. They have a good pick this year yet again and should be able to snap one of the highly skilled right-shot defenders such as Ryan Chesley, or they can take a deeper run at Sam Rinzel or Seamus Casey. They sit in a good position, but moving up to get someone like Simon Nemec would be huge for them, albeit unlikely without a major player off the roster heading the other way. Could a Mark Schiefele deal net them a pick in the top 10? Perhaps.