Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2014 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2015 Draft Articles Click here.
The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL draft. Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now. However, we don’t want to wait, instead we follow our yearly tradition and do our draft grades now.
A note: We include trades in the grades. The moves for players like Ryan O’Reilly, Cam Talbot, Robin Lehner, Carl Hagelin, and others will be included in our draft grades.
A second note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean best player drafted. It means best value. For Example, Connor McDavid is the number one player in this draft in our rankings (and almost everyone else’s). However he is not our best value pick for the Oilers. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.
A third note: Links lead back to our scouting reports.
LWOS 2015 NHL Draft Grades
Detroit Red Wings
Players Drafted: Evgeni Svechnikov, Vili Saarijarvi, Joren van Pottelberghe, Chase Pearson, Patrick Holway, Adam Marsh
Best Value: Svechnikov
I’m a big fan of Evgeni Svechnikov. The Wings got a winger with a ton of offensive upside here, and its a really solid first round pick. The rest of the weekend was underwhelming though. The team had no second round pick. Their third round pick, Saarijarvi, is a 5’9″ defenceman who is great offensively, but his defensive game leaves much to be desired. Chase Pearson is a centre with good size, but really lacks offensive skills. The Wings are famous for late round steals, but I’ll be surprised if they get one out of this draft.
Adding a generational talent like McDavid assured the Oilers would be getting a high grade no matter what other work they did this weekend. However, they elevated their mark to an A+ with a couple of solid trades that help the team immediately. They got Cam Talbot for a package of draft picks, and I feel he is the best goaltender of those traded this weekend. When Henrik Lundqvist has been injured in New York, Talbot has stepped in and the Rangers haven’t missed a beat. He’s a big upgrade for the Oilers. The Oilers also made a good trade that benefits both teams with the New York Islanders on Friday, trading a pair of picks for Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart is a former 4th overall pick who is NHL ready. The Oilers needed to add a young defender and got one who has a higher upside and is further along in his development than any player they could have got at 16th overall. If there is one critique, it is a series of trades that saw the Oilers part with Martin Marincin and Travis Ewanyk, and get Eric Gryba in return. Gryba is not an upgrade on Marincin. That said in the grand scheme of things we aren’t going to knock down the grade for what they did with their bottom pairing defence on a weekend that they got a generational centre, a starting caliber goaltender, and a young top four defenceman. This weekend could be seen as a turning point in the fate of the Oilers franchise.
The NHL draft hosts got big cheers everytime they stepped to the podium, and had a solid weekend of picks even if it lacked a big flashy move for the hometown fans. There has been a lot of criticism of Lawson Crouse, but this is a player who was good enough to play a big role on a gold medal winning Canadian World Junior team. That’s rare in a draft eligible player, and at 11th overall I think its good value. Now I wouldn’t say the same things if he was picked in the top five, but at this spot its a quality pick. Montembault is a big goaltender who adds a prospect in a position of need for the Panthers. Schemitsch is a big defenceman with offensive skills. He needs to work on his footwork in the defensive zone, but is still growing into his 6’4″ frame and that may come. Malgin is an undersized forward with real offensive talent. If he can get past the size issues, he could be a valuable offensive contributor. Its a very good gamble in the fourth round.
One of the biggest and most physical teams in the NHL got even bigger and more physical this weekend. In a pre-draft trade that shook things up on the draft floor the Kings added Milan Lucic for their first round pick, backup Martin Jones, and prospect Colin Miller. He addresses a real need for goal scoring in L.A. while also adding to the team identity of being hard to play against. The draft picks also followed the theme. Cernak and Reddekop are big, physical, defensive defensemen. Dergachov and Wagner are big power forward types who play a two-way game. The Kings have assured that any team they play in a playoff series has to be ready for a war of attrition, or they will send them packing.
The big news of the weekend was the signing of Mike Reilly. The Wild are getting an NHL ready defenceman with first round level skills here. In the draft the team added a number of solid picks. Eriksson-Ek is one of the fastest risers on the board and had a tremendous second half of the season, with some great performances on the international stage. Greenway is a huge winger who likely would have been a first round pick in most of our recent drafts. Kaprizov is an undersized but extremely talented winger. The Wild also got good value in signing Devan Dubnyk long term immediately after the draft was over.
It was an underwhelming weekend for the Montreal Canadiens. Noah Juulsen fills a need in the prospect pool, as defence has gotten a little thin following a number of forward heavy drafts, but might have been available a few picks later if the team had traded down. Third round pick Lukas Vejdemo is someone who I have never seen, so I’m not going to be positive or negative on the pick. He hasn’t played for Sweden at the international level and so was under the radar. Head scout Trevor Timmins has high praise for him though. Matthew Bradley has been an aggressive two-way centre. Simon Bourque to me is real value in the sixth round, I loved the way he played in the QMJHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. One disappointment of the weekend though is that Marc Bergevin was unable to make a trade to find a the big scorer Montreal needs to add to their top six, or clear the cap space necessary to go after one in free agency. They did set up a P.A. Parenteau buyout on Sunday, but this was necessitated by the inability to make any other deals.
Nashville’s trade deadline move of giving up a first round pick for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli haunts them here. Franson and Santorelli just didn’t contribute in the way they hoped, and now they were without a first round pick. They did a good job with the picks they had though. Novak is a talented play making centre who I felt was a real steal in the third round. Trenin is a big power forward who can score and make plays, but needs a little skating work. Carrier and Richard are undersized players but add offence to the prospect pool.
I felt the Devils bypassed the best player available and drafted for need in the first round taking Pavel Zacha when Ivan Provorov was still on the board, and I’m not a big fan of that draft philosophy, especially with such a high pick. While Zacha is a quality prospect, I just feel Provorov was on another level. Second rounder Mackenzie Blackwood adds a quality young goaltender and again addresses a need, but was good value at the spot too. Speers is a speedy two-way forward who plays the Devils brand of hockey. Speaking of Devils hockey, the pickup of Kyle Palmieri helps to do that too. Overall a bit of an average draft for Ray Shero with his first shot in New Jersey.
New York Islanders
Grade: A (#2 Draft in the NHL)
Players Drafted: Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, Ryan Pilon, Andong Song, Petter Hanson
Best Value: Pilon (3rd biggest steal of the draft)
For a team that came into draft weekend without a first or second round pick, Garth Snow did some great work and the Islanders had a tremendous draft. Getting the 16th and 31st overall picks for Griffin Reinhart was a good deal for both the Islanders and Oilers. I’m a huge Mat Barzal fan, and getting him with that 16th pick was a major steal. Beauvillier is another talented forward as the Isles added offence with the first two picks. Their next three picks were defencemen, and again I felt like they got a steal at each position as I rated all three players as second rounders. Andong Song is the feel-good story of the weekend as the first Chinese born NHL draftee.
In Ryan Gropp and Robin Kovacs the Rangers drafted a pair of wingers who can play in tough areas and produce offence. Zborovskiy is a big defender with shut down potential but limited puck skills. Morrison is a great skater, and could be a productive forward, but must add muscle to his 6-foot, 154 pound frame. I didn’t like the trades though. I do like the move for Antti Raanta and using him to replace Cam Talbot makes a lot of sense from both a cap management and asset management perspective, but the Rangers didn’t get enough value for Talbot, considering what was given up for Robin Lehner. I also think that they will miss Carl Hagelin, who is now in Anaheim and didn’t get enough for him.