What are the prospect weak points for the eight Metro Division teams? Tony Ferrari takes a look.
Carolina Hurricanes: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 2, 60th Overall
The Carolina Hurricanes led by Don Waddell have been able to put on a masterclass the last few years on draft day. They seem to understand exactly what players are going to produce above their draft slot and come away with a draft class that is always ranking amongst the top in the league. They may have the deepest and most skill-packed prospect pool in the NHL with really on the LA Kings as their rival. Despite players like Seth Jarvis graduating to NHL gigs, they have boast prospects such as Noel Gunler, Ville Koivunen, and Jamieson Rees up front and Scott Morrow, Aleksi Heimosalmi, and Alexander Nikishin on the back end. They even have Pyotr Kochetkov in the net. They may not have a first-round pick this year but if they’ve proven anything in the past, it doesn’t matter. Center might be a weak point of sorts but they really shouldn’t be too worried about position: just continue drafting the best player.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Center/Left Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 6th Overall (12th too)
Jarmo Kekalainen went all in a few years back, trading a great deal of picks for a shot at going for it in the playoffs. All he has done since is quietly build one of the most solid prospect pools in the league, with Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger leading the way. On the blueline, the team has Corson Ceulemans and Stanislav Svozil, surrounded by intriguing depth like Aidan Hreschuk and Nick Blankenburg, too. Where they view their weak point could be determined by how they view Johnson long-term. If they see him as a center, the left side is a bit weak. If they see him on the wing, center might be the weak spot. In reality, with picks at six and 12, the Blue Jackets could very well fill both spots and walk away ecstatic. How would a combination of Matthew Savoie and Joakim Kemell sound? How about Frank Nazar and Jonathan Lekkerimaki? The possibilities are intriguingly endless.
New Jersey Devils: Right Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 2nd Overall
If Shane Wright goes No. 1, Juraj Slafkovsky seems like the best fit in New Jersey. But what about defensemen Simon Nemec and David Jirieck? They have solid prospects at every position, except right-shot defenders. The defenseman pick seems to be more likely at 37th overall and the Devils should look to bolster their already solid forward prospects with the addition of Wright, Slafkovsky, or even center Logan Cooley, who is seen as maybe the most dynamic of the trio atop the class. You can never have too many centers, so don’t discount the two pivots.
New York Islanders: Left Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 13th Overall
The Islanders prospect pool isn’t great. There is a guy or two at every position that looks promising but it lacks depth overall. At left wing, they just lack in general. There are some players who could work out as bottom-six contributors but no one that looks overly promising in any regard. Could this be a spot where new Islanders’ head coach Lane Lambert influences the team’s decision? His nephew, Brad Lambert, is one of the most skilled and raw talented players in the draft class. He could be a fit here. They could also opt for a player like Liam Ohgren who would fit what the Islanders like to do in a structured, forecheck-heavy game but is a new head coach going to change things a bit? Time will tell, but this could be an interesting spot.
New York Rangers: Center
First Draft Choice: Round 2, 63rd Overall
With a very solid prospect pool all around, center was identified as the weak point because the Rangers don’t have a young stud waiting to emerge down the middle. At 63rd overall, they are unlikely to find that player in the draft this year but they could add to their already deep prospect pool at any position they see fit.
Philadelphia Flyers: Right Shot Defense
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 5th Overall
Oh, how sweet it is to have the world work out for you? The Flyers have some solid if unspectacular, forward prospects and their left-side blueline pool seems solid with names such as Cam York and Emil Andrae leading the way. They could use a boost on the right side and this year’s draft features two very good right-shot rear-guards in David Jiricek and Simon Nemec. With Wright, Cooley and Slafkovsky expected to go 1-2-3, the Flyers will be left with at least one of the top defensemen in the class. If they both happen to go ahead of them, they will have to “settle” for a future top-six center or a power winger that Philly would love. Darn.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Center, Defense, Goalie… everything?
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 21st Overall
The Pittsburgh Penguins have long had one of the more barren prospect pools in hockey thanks to a contending window that has gone on for over a decade with three Cups to show for it and a willingness to sacrifice the post-Crosby future to extend it. Big-time respect goes to them for that. With that said, this is simple. They need just about everything in their prospect pool. Take the best player available that falls to them and be happy with it. Simple as that.
Washington Capitals: Left Wing
First Draft Choice: Round 1, 20th, Overall
Washington has improved their prospect pool and it’s no longer as dark as the Pittsburgh pool but it’s still lacking in a lot of ways. They have names like center Hendrix Lapierre and defender Vincent Iorio that present some upside and NHL likelihood but they lack a star. At 20th overall, a star may be hard to find but they should be able to continue rebuilding their pipeline to a respectable level with the addition of a player such as winger Isaac Howard or defender Calle Odelius. Maybe they can look to the Djurgarden trio of Noah Ostlund, Liam Ohgren or Jonathan Lekkerimaki if one of them falls to 20th. The Capitals need to prioritize bringing in talent over everything at this point. Ovechkin can’t last forever - or can he?