LWOS 2016 NHL Draft Grades Part Two

Welcome back to Top Shelf NHL 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.

Detroit Red Wings B

Picks: Dennis Cholowoski, Givani Smith, Flip Hronek, Alfons Malmstrom, Jordan Sambrook, Filip Carlsson, Mattias Elfstrom,
Trades: Traded Down while sending Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona
Best Value: Datsyuk Trade

Trading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona was outstanding value. It only required the Red Wings dropping four spots in the draft, and they picked up another draft pick in the process. This move frees up huge cap space. With the amount of room they were creating, most observers thought that dealing Datsyuk’s contract would have cost Detroit more.

Improving the Red Wings blue line was a clear priority in this draft. The Red Wings added Dennis Cholowoski. He is an excellent skater, and that defines his game. It allows him to be tough to beat one-on-one, and gets him into good defensive positions. He can also join the rush, or run things on the blue line. They also took Flip Hronek, a Czech defender best known for this defensive game. He has underated offence. Sambrook is another smooth-skating defender. Strong pivots and agility allow Sambrook to quickly transition from offense to defence, and vice-versa. He has strong passing skills, both in starting the transition game, and working to set-up plays at the blue line. Second round pick Givani Smith is a buzzsaw. He never stops moving his feet and finishes his checks. He also has the skill level to produce points.

Edmonton Oilers B+

Picks: Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyler Benson, Markus Niemelainen, Matthew Cairns, Filip Berglund, Dylan Wells, Graham McPhee, Aapeli Rasanen, Vincent Desharnais
Best Value: Pulujarvi

With a big three prospects in the draft, the Oilers looked like the big draft lottery losers when they fell to fourth. But they are the Oilers, and they never lose a draft lottery. Thanks to an inexplicable pick by Columbus, the Oilers still got one of the big three, at fourth overall. With his size, skill and skating ability, Jesse Puljujarvi has the potential to be a first line, franchise defining winger in the NHL. Tyler Benson is a natural goal scorer. He has a hard and accurate wrist shot with a good release. He also has a very good one-timer. He is willing to stand in front of the net and take punishment to get tip ins and rebounds.

The Oilers would then start to address their defence. They took Markus Niemelainen, another huge Finn. Niemelainen is mainly a defensive defender, but there are hints that an offensive game may be lurking under the surface. He does have a hard slap shot, though he does not use it enough, and he needs to work on getting it on net and through traffic.  They also took Matthew Cairns, a solid two-way defenceman who will play for Cornell next season. The Oilers also took goaltender Dylan Wells. He struggled at times this season, but his fundamentals are good. He will be a long-term project.

Florida Panthers B-

Picks: Henrik Borgstrom, Adam Mascherin, Linus Nassen, Jonathan Ang, Riley Stillman, Maxim Mamin, Benjamin Finklestein
Trades: Acquired Keith Yandle, moved Dmitry Kulikov
Best value: Riley Stillman

This was the first draft for Panthers general manager Tom Rowe. He got things started with an immediate upgrade to his blue line this week, picking up Keith Yandle. He finished the week shipping Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo.  As far as picks go, he may have surprised some with Henrik Borgstrom, but word is that the Finnish centre has been rising on draft boards for quite some time. Adam Mascherin lacks height, but is built like a tank. He shows a real knack for getting to the right areas and putting up points.

In the third round, Linus Nassen was another surprising pick. Nassen can skate, but there are big questions if he was the best player available at the spot. Jonathan Ang was a draft combine beast. He has blazing speed, but needs to play the game a little bit more aggressively to truly take advantage of it. Riley Stillman is the son of former NHLer Cory Stillman. Playing on a rebuilding Oshawa club, he got better as the season went along, and fits the mould of a prototypical puck-moving defenceman.

Los Angeles Kings C-

Picks: Kale Clague, Jacob Moverare, Mikey Eyssimont, Jacob Friend
Best value: Clague

Due to a series of trades over the last two years, the Kings were seriously lacking in draft picks. This really hurts their grade. Second rounder Kale Clague was excellent value. He skates well and has good stick handling ability. He starts the transition game, either by leading the rush or with a great first pass. A natural power play quarterback, Clague can walk the line, throws strong, crisp passes, and has excellent vision. He also has a good shot. Moverare is an effective stay-at-home defenceman. He is tough to beat one-on-one off the rush. If forwards attack Moverare’s side of the ice with their heads down, he is capable of throwing a big hit. Eyssimont is a gritty forward, who goes to the net and scores dirty goals. Undrafted last year, he had a big freshman season for St. Cloud State to put his name on the draft radar.

Minnesota Wild C

Picks: Luke Kunin, Brandon Duhaime, Dmitry Sokolov, Brayden Chizen
Best value: Sokolov

The Wild also lacked picks this year. In the first round they took Luke Kunin, who had an outstanding freshman season with 32 points in 34 games at Wisconsin. He needs to work on his skating, but shows high level hockey IQ. He seems to always make the right play with the puck on his stick.  Without it, he is able to find openings in the defence and set up to fire a wrist shot, snap shot or one-timer. Kunin’s release is quick and shot is heavy, fooling goaltenders. He can also score goals in front of the net, with quick hands to pounce on rebounds, and the hand-eye co-ordination to tip-in shots. Kunin protects the puck well on the cycle, and can play a possession game.

Brandon Duhaime is a two-way winger who plays a physical game. He wins battles on the boards in all three zones and has a decent shot. A lack of creativity, and questions about his ultimate offensive upside remain here. Sokolov is the polar opposite.  He is a winger with a ton of talent and creativity. However there are questions about his work ethic and his work in the defensive zone. Showing up to the draft combine out of shape furthered those concerns. That said the talent level is high, and if he fixes those issues, this could be a seventh round steal. Brayden Chizen is a huge defenseman who likes to play a physical game. He will need to develop his skill with the puck, and improve his skating.

Montreal Canadiens A

Picks: Mikhail Sergachev, Will Bitten, Victor Mete, Casey Staum, Michael Pezzetta, Arvid Henrikson,
Trades: sent Lars Eller to Washington, and acquired Andrew Shaw
Value: Will Bitten

The Canadiens started the weekend with a splash, sending Lars Eller to Washington, while picking up Andrew Shaw.. Shaw is an upgrade on Eller, as he is better suited for the wing. Add his agitating game to Brendan Gallagher, and the Habs will be trolling the league next year. In the first round they may have gotten the most purely skilled defenceman in this class.  Sergachev is a great skater, who has a cannon of a slap shot, is a tremendous passer, plays physical, and has size. If he can continue to work on his positioning, he could be a number one defenceman in the NHL.

Speed was the theme of the Habs draft. Will Bitten is an absolute speedster, and a steal in the third round. He did everything for the Flint Firebirds and put up a great season, despite playing for a team that was an absolute train wreck off the ice. He shows soft hands and goal scoring ability as well as a two way game. Victor Mete and Casey Staum are smooth skating defencemen. They both move the puck extremely well and create offense. Mete was part of the Memorial Cup Champion London Knights, where he played a big role as the second best defenceman on the team. Michael Pezzetta has size and decent skating ability. He finishes his checks, and plays a physically punishing game.

Nashville Predators B+

Picks: Dante Fabbro, Samuel Girard, Rem Pitlick, Frederic Allard, Hardy Haman-Aktell, Patrick Harper, Konstantin Volkov, Adam Smith
Best Value: Allard

General manager David Poile has always operated on the philosophy of building a solid blue line. No one should be surprised that he followed that again this year, using five of his eight picks on defencemen. The strength of Dante Fabbro’s game comes from his silky smooth skating stride. He has a great agility, and an excellent first step, allowing him to pounce on loose pucks quickly. He is a two-way defender, who does just about everything well. He didn’t play against the highest competition in the BCHL, but should mature quickly at Boston University next year.

Girard could be the most offensively talented defenceman in the draft. He skates well, can pass through the tightest of openings, and has outstanding vision. He also has a good shot. However, his lack of size and the issues that could cost him defensively make him a real boom or bust type of prospect. Frederic Allard plays a very smart offensive game. He can also play the role of power play quarterback, and has really high hockey IQ. His defensive game is a work in progress. Looking for some offence, the Predators took Rem Pitlick. The undersized forward was passed over in the 2015 draft, but after leading the USHL in scoring last season, he would not be overlooked again. Extremely talented, concerns about his height were the reason he was available in the third round.

New Jersey Devils B

Picks: Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Joey Anderson, Brandon Gignac, Mikhail Maltsev, Evan Cormier, Igor Rykov, Jesper Bratt, Jeremy Davies
Trade: Acquired Beau Bennett
Value: Anderson

The Devils continued built up the forward group, going for forwards in their first five picks. They also added Beau Bennett in a trade with Pittsburgh. In Michael McLeod they get one of the best skaters in the draft, and a centre who can play at both ends of the ice. There are some questions about whether he has the offense to be a true top line centre or not; but he should be a good second liner, with the ability to play against the other team’s top players. In the second round, the Devils took his Mississauga Steelheads linemate Nathan Bastian. At 6’4″ tall, he is a big and strong forward.  He uses his size to win battles n the corners, to protect the puck on the cycle and to get to the net. He has vision and hockey IQ to be a play maker, with the soft hands to execute deflections and bang in rebounds.

Joey Anderson was the third forward on the US NTDP’s top line. He was an excellent compliment to Keller and Bellows, doing the dirty work on a tremendously successful line. He battles in the corners and in front of the net, creating time and space for linemates. Brandon Gignac is a smallish centre, with excellent speed and quickness. He profiles as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. While the Devils re-stocked the forward pipeline, there same question mark appears on each of their picks. The Devils took a number of players with strong two-way games, but are unlikely to have gotten a true game breaker. All of the picks have a limited offensive upside. The Devils would have been smart to gamble on at least one home run pick.

New York Islanders C

Picks: Kieffer Bellows, Anatoly Golyshev, Otto Koivula, Collin Adams, Nick Pastujov, David Quenneville
Value: Bellows

The Islanders only managed to acquire one of the top 100 players on our draft board. The player they did get is Kieffer Bellows, the son of Brian Bellows, and a talented American sniper. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, as well as an excellent one-timer.  His arsenal also features a heavy snap-shot, and good back hand. Bellows also has the soft hands, and quick reflexes, to get deflections and to pounce on rebounds and score in tight. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty, battling for space in front of the net. Bellows is more of a physically punishing forward than his father was, as he is more than willing to throw big hits when he gets in on that forecheck. He also shows excellent stick handling ability.

Later in the draft the Islanders gambled on Anatoly Golyshev, a 21-year-old KHL forward. He put up 44 points playing in the KHL this year. He is extremely talented, as both a play maker and a goal scorer. With his age, and his experience against men, he could be NHL ready. The question is will be when the Islanders can sign him. Koivula is a big forward with an excellent shot. He will need some time to work on his skating. Collin Adams is a smaller forward with a great shot and release.

New York Rangers C+

Picks: Sean Day, Tarmo Reunanen, Tim Gettinger, Gabriel Fontaine, Tyler Wall, Ty Ronning
Value: Day

The Rangers are another team who had a serious lack of picks. They did not get their first selection until the third round, 81st overall. They did get excellent value in the pick, taking one of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the entire draft. Sean Day is an outstanding skater, has tremendous size, a good shot, and basically every other tool you would want to see in an elite defenceman. Unfortunately, he has not been able to put all those tools together, and his on-ice play is a bit disappointing. Questions remain about his work ethic and commitment. If he can grow past those, and get some good coaching; he could be the biggest steal in this draft class.

Tarmo Reunanen is a puck moving defenceman. He is a tremendous passer, with excellent vision. He can start the transition game or quarterback the powerplay. He must get stronger, and improve his defensive game. Another huge (6’6″) prospect in this year’s draft, Tim Gettinger is not your typical big man. While he does not shy away from a hit, he is not one to drive the physical play. Gettinger is a goal scorer, with a heavy wrist shot, and an excellent release. He has the instincts to find openings in the defence in order to get off that wrist shot, or a powerful one-timer. He also has decent puck handling ability and uses his body as a shield to protect the puck in the cycle game. Ronning, the son of Cliff Ronning, is an intriguing prospect. He is an undersized player, with a ton of offensive skill, as the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.


Check out part three of our draft grades here.


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