The NHL draft concluded last weekend with many fresh faces to look forward to in the coming years. If anyone followed my wonderful first round mock draft, I managed to get the first overall pick right. . . and nothing else. I guess I’ll chalk it up to talent. Now that I’ve bombed that, I’m going to give every NHL team a draft grade based on how they drafted this past weekend. For organizational purposes, I’ll go by division.
Eastern Conference- Atlantic division
Tampa Bay Lightning- B
With no first-round pick after their trade before the deadline, the Lightning still had a solid draft. They grabbed winger Gabriel Fortier with their first pick and then picked up two defensemen in rounds 3-4. My favorite pick was the two goaltenders. It’s never a bad thing to have more goaltenders and always multiple developing but two in one draft may be a little excessive. Fortier can become a solid role player for the Lightning in a few years.
Boston Bruins- B+
Also without a first round pick, the Bruins made the most of what they had. Taking Axel Andersson in the second round was a great pick to potentially step in when Chara retires. Lauko could be a potential steal in the third round and Curtis Hall is a prototypical Bruins forward at 6’2, 200, looking to lay down the hammer to keep opponents in check.
Toronto Maple Leafs- C
The Leafs picked up Rasmus Sandin at the end of the first round where most people thought he would have been gone. He’s a great prospect on the back end and will develop into a top four defenseman for the Leafs in the coming years. The rest of the prospects are work in progress players, which is of course to be expected. It seems though that we may never see the rest of the crows from this class.
Florida Panthers- D-
Serron Noel, really? Somebody had to take him I suppose, but we may never see him in a Panthers uniform. There is so much development for Noel to actually become a hockey player, it doesn’t seem likely he becomes an NHL caliber player. However, he is HUGE, which I love. He would be considered a tree. I am intrigued to see what will happen with Justin Schutz, the Panthers sixth round pick. He’s a sleeper that we’ll see in the league by 2020. #BoldPrediction ?
Detroit Red Wings- A+
I am an avid Blackhawks fan and grew up on the Hawks/Wings rivalry so for me to give them an A goes against everything I’ve ever stood for. However, the Red Wings knocked it clean out of the park this year. Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIssac could all play in year one. I expect to at least see Zadina and Veleno and both will produce. Jesper Eliasson could be starting in five years. Look out NHL, here comes the Red Wings, back to prominence.
Montreal Canadiens- A-
Well, they drafted the best pure center in the draft with the third pick. That was a great decision. Kotkaniemi will make a solid, if not great, center for years to come. Allan McShane (drafted #97 overall) will develop into a solid center in a few years. The Habs won’t be contending in the next couple of years, but this was a solid draft haul. They addressed their needs and that’s what the draft is for.
Ottawa Senators- C+
The Senators are currently in shambles and the recovery process starts with Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk can come in and play immediately if needed, but otherwise they could have made better selections. Tychonick has potential to see NHL action and maybe Kevin Mandolese (goaltender, #157 overall) will become the goalie of the future with the right coaching. Nothing jumped off the page though and the Senators are trending down rather then up.
Buffalo Sabres- B
Nobody likes to waste talent more than the Buffalo Sabres have in the last five years, but maybe with this draft class they can begin to turn things around. Both Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson will find their way into the NHL sooner rather than later, giving the Sabres an instant upgrade on the back end. Rasmus Ristolainen can’t do everything back there. The Sabres need help everywhere but they only drafted one non-defensive player. Bad move Buffalo, bad move.
Washington Capitals- B+
It was a solid draft for the Capitals. With an electric offense they made the perfect selection by going defense with their first two picks. Alexander Alexeyev is a big body and so is Martin Fehervary and with a little development, they’ll be able to fit right in in Washington. Kody Clark and Riley Sutter have promising futures and Mitchell Gibson could find himself as a potential backup in a few years.
Pittsburgh Penguins- B+
The Penguins had a mere four selections in the 2018 NHL draft and they made the most of them. Calen Addison has strong offensive upside and fits the stereotypical mold of modern day NHL defenseman. Filip Hallander was a steal at #58 overall. Both players could have found themselves in the first round and the Pens got them in the second. Justin Almeida and Liam Gorman are project players but provide intrigue for the future of the organization.
Philadelphia Flyers- C+
The Flyers had a decent draft and addressed their needs, but I feel that they could have picked a lot better than they did. Jay O’ Brien was a huge reach, especially with bigger and better players still available. Adam Ginning might be my favorite pick from their draft. He’s a big, physical player with a defensive edge to his game. John St. Ivany and Wyatte Wylie could develop into solid defensemen in the future but nothing stood out to me. Joel Farabee will be a solid player when he adds some weight.
Columbus Blue Jackets- C
The Jackets could have gotten way more value at #18. Foudy will be a solid player, but they could have went elsewhere for the same effect. With some coaching and training, Kirill Marchenko could be the best pick from this draft for the Jackets.
New Jersey Devils- B
To be honest I may have underrated this draft for the Devils. I almost love it. The Taylor Hall show may get some help with Nico Hischier having a full year under his belt, but it’s still something that will prove tough for the second year center. Taylor Hall can do it all, I was just hoping for an offensive guy to take some of the weight off. That being said, I LOVE the Ty Smith pick. They do need help defensively and they got it. They followed it up with another defenseman and a goalie before finally taking center Yegor Sharangovich in the fifth round.
Carolina Hurricanes- A-
Oh sure, go get the top scorer in the draft. Great choice! Seriously though, great pick. Follow it up with more offense, more offense and more offense. I can’t say they missed at all here. Jack Drury will become a solid center given time to develop. Luke Henman and Lenni Killinen have the potential to crack the lineup in the coming years and Jacob Kucharski could be around for Andrei Svechnikov’s prime. If only they could find a goalie *ahem* Callum Booth *ahem*.
New York Islanders- A+
Top grade goes to the Isles. At 11 and 12 they drafted Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, respectively. You have got to be kidding me. How did this happen. Both weren’t supposed to be there by then and they were. Those two picks alone give you an A. Both can start this season and make a solid impact. Follow it up with Bode Wilde who will probably start this year. Getting a goalie for the future and depth picks, the Islanders dominated this draft.
New York Rangers- F+
You went with Vitali Kravstov with Oliver Wahlstrom on the board. Terrible. Love the K’Andre Miller pick and that’s the ONLY reason you got the plus in the F+ rating. He has great upside and could become a stud in a few years. That’s it. The rest of the Rangers draft was questionable at best. A second-round goalie and then Nico Gross? Why did you even bother to show up to the draft?
Western Conference- Central Division
Nashville Predators- C
The Predators took a step back this year, between trades during the season and a draft day trade, they didn’t pick until the fourth round. They did get some potential value. Jachym Kondelik is a massive man and could be a future role player. Spencer Stastney was considered by Predator scouts as a “sleeper” and way undervalued. Only time will tell how he pans out. The Preds did what they could with what they were given and saved for next year, I expect bigger things in 2019.
Winnipeg Jets- B
The Jets were another team with no first round pick in this years draft (they traded it away for Paul Stastny) and they made the most of it. They picked up two forwards, David Gustafsson and Nathan Smith, that are very intriguing picks. When contracts hit the fan for Winnipeg, we may see these guys forced to step up into the big league. The two defensemen could see limited action at some point in their careers and goaltender Jared Moe has a cool enough name to get a courtesy start sometime in his career.
Minnesota Wild- B+
I’m actually excited about the Wild’s draft choices this year. Filip Johansson will become a quality starter for the Wild as early as this year. Jack McBain is by far my favorite pick. He’ll be the fourth line center this year and an immediate upgrade. The Wild took five centers total this year, which speaks to where their needs lie. In the fifth round, they picked up another defenseman, Simon Johansson. Could we potentially see a Johansson/Johansson line? A guy can dream, can’t he?
Colorado Avalanche- C+
Overall, I enjoyed Colorado’s selections. However, they could have done a lot better. I can’t really agree with Martin Kaut at 16. They could have traded back to the end of the first round or maybe even second and got him still. They followed it up with goaltender Justus Annunen. I think he has the potential to become a great starting goaltender, but he was taken a little too high for my liking. Sampo Ranta may be able to find his way into the NHL and Taylor Weiss may see third line action in the future, but there wasn’t much that had me applauding this draft class.
St Louis Blues- B-
I like the Dominik Bokk pick. I think he’ll turn into a quality starter and occasional miracle worker for the Blues. If Scott Perunovich could turn into a solid player if he adds a little weight to his frame. Joel Hofer in the fourth round could develop into a solid backup in the future. Tyler Tucker can turn into a huge steal for the Blues if he can develop his game and be more disciplined.
Dallas Stars- B+
The hometown team made quite a few quality picks for their fans. Ty Dellandrea could see action this year. Albin Eriksson is a big human being who has no problem being physical. With a little bit of discipline, he could be the grinder for the Stars in the coming years. Adam Mascherin has great potential as an offensive force. They drafted Curtis Douglas who may not even be human. Standing at 6’8 and 248 pounds, the man is an absolute tank. I can only hope that we’ll have the luxury of watching him steamroll people someday.
Chicago Blackhawks- B
I liked Chicago’s draft. Stan Bowman and Co. always do a fantastic job with the draft. That being said, I would have LOVED to see Evan Bouchard with the eighth pick instead of Adam Boqvist, Boqvist will be a great addition to the Hawks in 2020, but Bouchard would have been a great addition now. Nicholas Beaduin was another solid pick at 27 and Jake Wise has potential. Niklas Nordgren has great offensive upside and could be in the lineup in a few years and goaltender Alex Gravel is a project but could develop into a fringe starter at some point.
Las Vegas Golden Knights- B
The potential is all there for Vegas. A stellar draft in their first ever draft, I’m excited to see where Ivan Morozov will fit in once his contract in Russia is up. They added a lot of quality prospects that will help them in future. Slava Demin and Paul Cotter could become starters in the future with some polishing and Brandon Kruse has potential. Good first draft for Vegas
Anaheim Ducks- B
Two centers to start the draft? Not a bad idea actually. Isac Lundestrom is an intriguing pick and Benoit-Olivier Grouix could be an unidentified flying object in a few years. Blake McLaughlin had potential to become a starter in a few years and you can ever have too many goalies. Lukas Dostal was the clear cut number one goalie prospect in this year’s draft. The rest may not exist in the NHL, but the Ducks picked some solid guys for the future.
San Jose Sharks- C
Five selections for the sharks. Two solid picks, three not so great. I’m not high on Ryan Merkley, I think he won’t be much of a player in the NHL UNLESS he makes the switch to winger in the NHL. I like the Linus Karlsson pick, he can develop into a solid NHL player. Jasper Weatherby seems like a fun pick for the Sharks. He has the size to play in the NHL, now he needs some grooming to get his skill there. They drafted a goalie that the world will never see and John Leonard won’t see playing time either.
Los Angeles Kings- B+
The Kings needed to get some help in getting younger and getting some offensive talent and they got it. Rasmus Kupari was a great pick and they were fortunate enough to get Akil Thomas in the second round. Those two guys can make an impact year one and the Kings needed it. After falling flat against the Knights, a little infusion of Kupari and Thomas will go a long way. David Hrenak may be ready to see NHL action by the time Jonathan Quick calls it a career. They only get a B+ instead of an A- because they picked a second goalie that will never see a game.
Calgary Flames- D
Their first pick in the draft was in the fourth round. They had a total of five selections in the draft. Maybe Martin Pospisil comes in and beats people into submission? He can be a potential third line guy in the NHL and the Flames could use any and all help they can get. Past Pospisil, I see NOBODY. If they get really lucky, Milos Roman could make an impact in five years? This draft isn’t what it could have been for the Flames. Yet again, they went for broke last year and it really backfired. Trending down.
Edmonton Oilers- A
Evan Bouchard is my boy and I hope to see him do really well. He’ll make an impact in Edmonton this year. They followed it up by getting Ryan McLeod, who I had pegged as a first round pick. Goaltender Olivier Rodrigue was a stretch, but he may just pan out. Bouchard and McLeod fill major needs and that should help Connor McDavid sleep easy at night knowing he won’t be the only one making plays in Alberta.
Vancouver Canucks- A-
Quinn Hughes was a perfect pick for the Canucks and he’ll be a great addition to the team. Jett Woo will be another solid blueliner for the Canucks if he can stay healthy. He’s more of a defensive defenseman but pair him with Hughes and you have your bases covered. Tyler Madden has the potential to become a bottom six player in the NHL, but that all starts with bulking up. The rest of the Canucks picks leave a lot to be desired. They aimed for potential and they got plenty of that.
Arizona Coyotes- C-
The fifth pick saw Barrett Hayton get his name called. That’s almost as rich as the Cleveland Browns taking Baker Mayfield first overall instead of anyone else. Anyway, Hayton is a major risk, major reward pick. With how many better players there were, I have a tough time justifying it. Kevin Bahl could turn out to be a solid defenseman, but why defense? The second round had plenty of offensive talent and the Coyotes need it. After that, they kept trading back to get bodies. That strategy doesn’t generally pan out in the NHL. Sorry Arizona, you tried.
It amazes me that the NHL draft shook out the way it did, but you never know what’s going to happen come draft day. The obvious winners of the draft were the Red Wings, Islanders, Canadiens and Oilers. The losers of the draft were the Panthers, Rangers, Coyotes and Flames. Clearly we won’t know who the real winners and losers are until the season begins, but for now all we can do is speculate.