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
The Ducks get good marks for the trade that brought them Carl Hagelin. The speedy winger could finally be the solution to their long search for a winger to play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. In the draft, the Ducks started with Jacob Larsson and added another young two-way defender to go with their large stable of the same. Julius Nattinen has the potential to develop into an eventual replacement for Ryan Kesler. Gates is another big, powerful centre prospect who will attend the University of Minnesota this year. With their second pick of the third round the Ducks added Sideroff, a speedy winger with a good two-way game. Troy Terry played on a very deep US NTDP team and didn’t get a lot of ice time. When he did play, he showed off good stickhandling skills. Overall the Ducks picks focused on the size and rugged two-way game needed in the battles in the tough Western Conference.
The Coyotes stockpiled early picks with seven picks in the first three rounds and it paid off, as they managed to grab seven of our top 100 overall. They really loaded up and worked to improve their offence. Strome could be the big franchise centre that every team covets. Merkley was a real steal at the bottom of the first round, all he does is produce points, and he can play centre or wing. We felt Fischer might have been a bit of a reach at 32, but he is a strong two-way winger. Capobianco had a rough season in Sudbury as he played on the worst team in the CHL, but that didn’t stop him from being able to put up points from the blue line. Hill is a raw but athletic goaltending project. Garland is an undersized winger who put up huge points in the QMJHL. Looke has playmaking skill on the wing, and Warren brings power. When it comes to trades, I wasn’t a fan of what the Coyotes did in moving Sam Gagner for Nickas Grossman and Chris Pronger’s contract. Its a downgrade in talent. That said, it seems to make sense for a team that needs to hit the cap floor while they tank for a shot a local boy Auston Matthews next year.
Players Drafted: Jakob Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Zachary Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo, Jacob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzon, Daniel Vladar, Jesse Gabriel, Cameron Hughes, Jack Becker
Best Value: Carlo
It was a rough first draft for Don Sweeney as the main man in Boston. There are certain commodities in the NHL that are extremely precious, and young, top pairing defencemen are that. Trading Dougie Hamilton for a package of picks just wasn’t a smart move. Zdeno Chara isn’t getting younger, and Hamilton was emerging as his eventual replacement. Big centres are another commodity and the Bruins allowed Carl Soderberg to leave, and yes I see the cap issues they had, but they cleared real cap space in the Milan Lucic deal. These three trades took a big chunk out of the Bruins team and they look like a rebuilding club now. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if the Bruins got replacements in the draft, but they were unable to package any of their picks into a move for a top 5 pick. Then when their picks came around, the Bruins made a good selection with Zboril, but had reaches with Debrusk and Senyshyn. Carlo was good value in the second round and we don’t mind the Lauzon pick. Vladar has talent, but seems an odd selection for a team with a lot of young goaltending talent already in the pipeline. Overall a puzzling day for Bruins fans.
Getting Jack Eichel was always going to put the Sabres in “A” grade territory. Anytime you add a sure-fire franchise #1 centre, you have done well, and Eichel is better than any of the last five first overall picks. Brendan Guhle was also a solid pick as a two way defender who came on late in the year. Devante Stephens is a talented skater with shutdown defensive skills. On the trade front the Sabres snagged Ryan O’Reilly on the cheap. Mikhail Grigorenko may do better reunited with his old junior coach in Patrick Roy, but all signs pointed to him being a bust if he stayed with the Sabres. Nikita Zadorov has talent, but was also heading down a dangerous path after some clashes with management/coaches last year. I’m a J.T. Compher fan, but the best case scenario for him is becoming a lesser version of O’Reilly in three years time; and that is surely not guaranteed. Add in a second round pick, and the Sabres also get some veteran depth in Jamie McGinn. As good as that trade was, we give a thumbs down to the Sabres other move of the weekend. A first round pick for Robin Lehner is a hefty price when we see how Cam Talbot and Eddie Lack went for a lot less. Add in a cap dump in Legwand, and I don’t get why the Sabres paid so much for Lehner.
Wow, it was a great weekend for the Flames. My mock draft talked about how the team needed to add some youth on the blueline, and they managed to do that this weekend. I talked above about how the Bruins didn’t get nearly enough for a young stud defenceman in Dougie Hamilton, and the Flames were the recipients of the steal. Then the Flames added a pair of Swedish defence prospects who seem to be near polar opposites, but are both solid picks. Andersson is a player who maximizes his talents to be a premium defender in the OHL and put up huge offense. Meanwhile Oliver Kylington has all the skills necessary to be an elite defender, but doesn’t get the most out of them, causing him to fall in the draft. If he figures out how to use his natural talent, Kylington will be an absolute steal at 60th overall. Andrew Mangiapane adds some forward talent in the sixth round, and is a pick that reminds me a lot of when the Flames took Johnny Gaudreau in the fourth round.
Players Drafted: Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, Callum Booth, Nicolas Roy, Luke Stevens, Spencer Smallman, Jake Massie, David Cotton, Steven Lorentz,
Best Value: Eddie Lack Trade
Noah Hanifin looks like a future stud on the blueline and is a great pick for the Hurricanes at fifth overall. Sebastian Aho is a talented winger, but a reach that early in the second round. Booth adds a nice goalie prospect to the pipeline. Nicolas Roy has size, and good hands, but his skating is a huge issue. If he can solve that, he could be good. In trade news the Hurricanes added a defenceman for the powerplay in James Wisniewski for the cost of a backup goalie in Anton Khudobin, while getting a new goaltender in Eddie Lack in an absolute steal of a trade. Lack might be better than Robin Lehner and the canes paid far less of a price to get him. He’ll put pressure on Cam Ward for the starting job. A good weekend for Ron Francis.
The Hawks didn’t have an awful lot of picks this weekend, moving both their first and second rounder at the trade deadline. If thats the cost of winning the Stanley Cup though, its a price any franchise would gladly pay. In different circumstances they might bet a worse grade from me, but Antoine Vermette scored some big goals, and Kimmo Timmonen played his best games as a Hawk during the Stanley Cup Finals, so we just can’t criticize Stan Bowman here for a lack of high picks. Onto the draft picks they did have, Knott is a potential power winger who could develop into a third liner who can help the Hawks in the Western Conference wars, while Gilbert is a worthy project on the blueline. The most disappointing thing for the Hawks is likely their inability to get some cap relief via trade this weekend as Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg have been rumored to be on the market.
It was a weekend of ups and downs for the Avalanche. For every great move they made, they followed it up with an equally puzzling one. I really liked the trade to grab Carl Soderberg, and while I realize it sealed the deal and meant the end of Ryan O’Reilly’s time in Colorado, I really didn’t think the Avalanche maximized the value they could have gotten for O’Reilly. In the first round the Avs made a quality pick in Rantanen, a power forward with skill who gives them excellent value at the spot. Then at the start of the second round they made a big reach for Greer when a lot of more talented players were available. In Meloche and Beaudin they get a pair of solid value picks out of the QMJHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Players Drafted: Zach Werenski, Gabriel Carlsson, Paul Bittner, Kevin Stenlund, Keegan Kolesar, Sam Ruopp, Veeti Vainio, Vladislav Gavrikov, Markus Nutivaara
Best Value: Gavrikov *Second Biggest Draft Steal*
Size and defence were the orders of the day in Columbus, as the team drafted six defenders in their nine picks, and their picks were all over 6-foot tall, with an average height over 6’2″. In Werenski they get a defenceman who brings high end offensive capabilities. In Carlsson, they get his perfect partner, a mobile stay-at-home type. Bittner is a potential steal who had early 20s grades from us all season. Gavrikov was very impressive as a defensive defenceman at the World Juniors, and as a draft re-entry is closer to NHL ready than most late round picks. He came second in our “Steal of the Draft” ranks.
A puzzling weekend for Jim Nill, someone I thought has done great work in his first two off-seasons in charge of the Stars. Guryanov flashes skills that make him look like a player worthy of a lottery pick, but the fact is that he doesn’t do it consistently enough and I think he’s a reach here. Hintz also seemed to go a bit earlier than I expected, but is a talented winger, and things were close at that range. Chris Martenet is a huge defenceman who skates well for his size. He just missed the cut in my top 100, falling at 101. His size is intriguing. The strangest move of the weekend though was the Stars trade for the rights to Antti Niemi. I’m not sure where he fits in Dallas as Kari Lehtonen has a big contract that seems to be tough to move. Signing Niemi, would mean that Lehtonen would need to be unloaded or the Stars would just be spending too much cap space on goaltending. With all the goalie moves in the last couple days I’m not sure there are many landing spots for Lehtonen.