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 2015 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 “NHL Draft”! The following is a complete listing of all our 2016 Draft Articles.
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.
LWOS 2016 NHL Draft Grades Part Two
Note: We include trades in the grades. The moves for players like Andrew Shaw, Brian Elliott, Anthony DeAngelo, Frederik Andersen, Kerby Rychel and others from the last week will be included in our draft grades.
A second note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean best player drafted. It means best value. For Example, Auston Matthews 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 Maple Leafs. 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: The links lead back to our scouting reports.
Ottawa Senators B-
The Senators had just five picks in this year’s draft. In Logan Brown they get a big and talented playmaker. The son of Jeff Brown skates well for a 6’6″ player, and has the passing skills and vision to make linemates better. He has a long reach and excellent puck handling ability, extending plays and giving his teammates time to get open. He also has a good shot. Brown must work on his consistency game-to-game and even shift-to-shift; although he was much better in the second half of the year. Jonathan Dahlen is an impressive offensive talent. He may be a bit undersized, but he has all the skills scouts look for when it comes to an offensive forward. He has an excellent array of shots, including a good wrist shot with a quick release; a hard slapshot; and a quality backhand.
Todd Burgess was passed over in the last two drafts. The 20-year-old saw a big increase in his point totals, and is a better playmaker than a goal scorer. There is some question about his skating. He will play NCAA hockey with RPI next year. Max Lajoie is an excellent skating defenceman. His speed, acceleration and quick pivots allow him to cover a ton of ice. Lajoie has very good hockey sense. He makes smart decisions with the puck; and reads the play well without it. Markus Nurmi is a big winger, who showed a good defensive game at the under 18. His offensive upside is a bit of a question at this point.
Philadelphia Flyers A
The Flyers had a tremendous draft. They got three players we had first round grades on. They also got Wade Allison who was amongst the quickest risers on the board, Tanner Laczynski who was in our top 100, and Connor Bunnaman who was just outside that top 100. The Flyers have one of the best groups of young defencemen in the NHL. They added a number of quality forwards to that group this year. Rubtsov was caught up in the meldonium scandal and playing in Russia, so he slipped a bit. He is the gem of the Russian U18 team, leading their offence while also killing penalties and playing in all situations. An extremely well rounded centre he will fit in well in Philadelphia.
Laberge has the versatility to play both centre and wing. With his playmaking ability, and strong skating, he does seem suited to playing in the middle of the ice. He could be a bit more selfish and use his tremendous shot more often. Hart was the best goalie in the draft class. He has great technique, and the cool and calm demeanor needed in a goalie. Allison plays a simple game, but a highly physical and highly effective one. He is a budding power forward, willing to throw hits on the fore check, get involved in battles along the boards, and go to the front of the net. He was the USHL playoff MVP. Laczynski, was overlooked last year, but proved he has high end skill with a huge season in the USHL. Bunnaman is big and physical. He contributes at both ends of the ice.
Pittsburgh Penguins C+
The Penguins traded away their first round pick in last year’s Phil Kessel deal. In the second round, they took goaltender Filip Gustavsson. With Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry in the system, he doesn’t fill a need; but was the best player available. Gustavsson challenges Carter Hart for the mantle of best goalie in the draft. Kasper Bjorkqvist was a bit of a reach at 61st overall. He profiles as a good defensive forward, but with a lack of offense, I don’t see him as a second round pick.
Connor Hall is a stay-at-home type. He broke his jaw early in the year, and missed several weeks. His lack of offence doesn’t impress scouts, but a very strong defensive game does get their attention. Moving Beau Bennett to New Jersey to acquire this pick was a good move, getting a draft pick for a forward who just didn’t fit into the team. Ryan Jones was passed over in two drafts. After showing a bit more offensive prowess with Lincoln this season, the Penguins took him in the fourth round.
San Jose Sharks C
Picks: Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor, Manuel Wiederer, Mark Shoemaker, Joachim Blichfeld
Best Value Gregor
Dylan Gambrell was a reach in the second round. Passed over in last year’s draft he did put up 47 points in 41 games for the University of Denver, which is an outstanding freshman season. He is a two-way player who projects as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He will need to bulk up though, and work on continued improvements to his skating.
The San Jose Sharks only drafted one of our top 100 ranked prospects. Noah Gregor was outstanding value in the fourth round. Gregor has very good speed and acceleration. He also shows good agility and edge work, allowing him to maneuver in and out of traffic, both with and without the puck. He has a heavy wrist shot, with good accuracy and a quick release. He also shows a good arsenal of shots, with a strong snap shot, and one-timer. Gregor has excellent vision and sees openings to thread the needle to create a scoring chance for a teammate. He has a knack for throwing a saucer pass over an opponents stick and landing it in time to hit his teammate’s blade.
St. Louis Blues B+
The Blues went for size in the first round with Tage Thompson. Thompson uses his size to his full advantage in playing a power forward’s game. He is often the first one in on the forecheck, pressuring defenders into mistakes. He works very well down low, cycling the puck and getting to the front of the net. He can score goals in a variety of ways, tips, rebounds, one timers, and with a strong wrist shot. Kyrou is a great skater, featuring excellent speed and top-notch acceleration. Once Kyrou gets a step on a defender, he can really turn on the jets and pull away, allowing him to cut wide and still get to the net. He is an excellent playmaker and has s strong defensive game.
In Evan Fitzpatrick the Blues get one of the best goalies in the draft (3rd on our board). He has good size, and covers a lot of net. He takes advantage of this by coming out to challenge shooters, and by having an excellent sense on his angles. He’s also very technically sound for a young netminder, with rebound control not often seen in someone his age. The Blues took a fifth round gamble on Conner Bleackley. A 2014 first round pick who was not signed, Bleackley has had injury issues. The Blues hope he can find the game that made him a first rounder two years ago.
Tampa Bay Lightning A-
Picks: Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Connor Ingram, Ross Colton, Christopher Paquette, Oleg Sosunov, Otto Somppi, Ryan Lohin
Trade: Sent Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona
The Lightning pick up four players in our top 4o, and a potential late round steal in Somppi. Howden is skilled in all three zones. He is blessed with good size, and takes advantage of it, using leverage and working hard in the dirty areas of the ice. Howden creates offence by winning battles along the boards, as well as establishing position and getting tip-ins and rebounds in front of the net. He is also good defensively. The question mark here is if his offensive ceiling is high enough, or if he’s more of a complimentary player.
Libor Hajek projects as a strong defensive defenceman, who also adds a little offense from the back end. Katchouk is another strong two-way forward who does a lot of little things right on the ice. Like Howden the questions relate to his ceiling. Raddysh profiles similarly. He has the size and speed to get in on the forecheck, and plays a power forward style. He has a good shot and can score goals in tight. He also works hard in his own end. Somppi combines good skating skill and nifty puck handling to be very dangerous off the rush. He can create space for teammates to get open, and then hit them with a tape-to-tape pass.
If there is a criticism here, its that they didn’t get enough value for Anthony DeAngelo. He is a close to NHL ready defenceman. DeAngelo won the 2015 CHL Defenceman of the year, and had a very good AHL campaign this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs A
Picks: Auston Matthews, Yegor Korshkov, Carl Grundstrom, Joseph Woll, J.D. Greenway, Adam Brooks, Keaton Middleton, Vladimir Bobylev, Jack Walker, Nicolas Mattinen, Nikolai Chebykin
Trade: Acquired Kerby Rychel, Acquired Frederik Andersen
Value: Rychel trade
In Auston Matthews the Leafs get the best player in the draft. There has been a lot written about him on this site, so I’m not going to go into detail here, other than to say he is a franchise changing centre. Yegor Korshkov was a bit of a reach at 31st overall. He had a great world junior tournament, and has size and some skill, but we saw him as a third rounder. Grundstrom is a two way winger, who is strong defensively and goes hard to the front of the net. Woll was the goaltender for the US NTDP. He is a butterfly goalie, with good size and quick reflexes.
J.D. Greenway takes full advantage of his tremendous size. He throws punishing bodychecks to attackers who come in with their heads down. They are the type of hits that force opponents to reconsider rushing up his side of the ice. He makes a good first pass out of the zone, and shows some untapped offensive ability. Middleton is a big and tough defenceman, who can block shots, clear the crease, and battle in corners. Middleton is a good skater for his size. There is not much offensive game to speak of.
The Kerby Rychel trade is a steal for Toronto. He hasn’t quite blossomed as expected in Columbus, but the young power forward has a lot more value than Scott Harrington. It was unlikely that Harrington was cracking the Leafs line-up. The move for Frederik Andersen solves the Leafs need for a number one goalie.
Vancouver Canucks B+
The Canucks were the first team to take a defenceman in this year’s draft, nabbing Olli Juolevi. Juolevi can do it all. His strong two-way game is based on his strong skating ability. He has very good speed in both directions, and good acceleration. His pivots are crisp and his edge work is very solid. This allows him to quickly transition from offence-to-defence or vice-versa. Juolevi helps to quarterback the Knights powerplay with good skating ability, a powerful slap shot, strong wrist shot, and very good passing skills. He has excellent vision and the shows the smarts to make the smart play with and without the puck. He also strong defensively.
Lockwood is an outstanding skater. He has a great first step, excellent acceleration, and elite top end speed. He uses that speed to create opportunities off the rush, taking defenders wide and going to the net. Candella was injured for about half the year and fell in the draft. He is a good skater, with strong edgework and pivots. He has great mobility in both directions, that really helps him be a two-way player. Candella has good stickhandling ability, and can skate the puck away from fore checkers and out of danger. He is also a very good passer, both in starting the transition game and acting as a power play quarterback.
Washington Capitals B-
The Capitals drafted Lucas Johansen, the brother of Nashville’s Ryan Johansen. Lucas is a defenseman from the defence factory in Kelowna. He has the potential to be an effective two-way defender in the NHL, playing on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. With his size, it would be nice to see him play a meaner and more physical game, but if that is what you are hoping for it doesn’t seem likely to happen. However, he can still be an effective defender, and someone who alse adds points from the back end. Pilon is the son of former Islander Rich Pilon. He is an undersized centre, but plays a gritty game and has a great wrist shot.
Malenstyn plays a simple, but effective game. He works hard in all three zones, bringing physicality and grit to the team. Malenstyn creates offense by winning battles for loose pucks, and then getting the puck to the front of the net. His shot is powerful, but lacks accuracy. He could stand to work on his stick handling, and playmaking ability. Malenstyn has a well developed defensive game.
In giving two future second round picks for Lars Eller, the Capitals may have slightly overpaid for a player who has never quite lived up to his potential.
Winnipeg Jets A
In Laine, the Jets get an elite sniper. We’ve all heard about his shot; and its the best in the draft class. However, Laine is more than just an elite shooter. He’s got great size, plays physical, has very good vision and passing skill; and plays a strong defensive game. He’s got it all, and the Jets are very lucky to have him. We didn’t like the pick of Logan Stanley. He’s the type of old-school defensive defenceman that is going the way of the dodo. Sure he hits, and blocks shots; but he has little in the way of an offensive game. He does not handle the puck well, and his skating is below par. With his size we kinda guessed he’d be a first rounder, but we also thought that if a team made that move it would be a mistake.
The Jets made up for that mistake with Green. He is the exact opposite of Stanley, and the type of defenceman that teams are looking for. He can skate, he controls possession, and can handle the puck and make pinpoint passes. Green should not have slipped to the third round, and the Jets got a steal here. We had him at 37th, ahead of Stanley. Cederholm has outstanding height at 6’3″, but is a bit skinny and could stand to add some muscle. He does not have much of an offensive game, but is excellent in his own zone. He has outstanding hockey sense, reading the play well. He can handle the puck a bit and makes a good pass to start the transition game.