With the NHL entry draft on the horizon, teams are gearing up for a busy weekend in Dallas on June 22nd/23rd. This years draft class is deep and a has a ton of foreign talent, three of which are the projected top 3. It also includes one player who is a generational talent and has all the makings to be an instant superstar. We will take a look at the Pacific Division team needs and who they will potentially pick in this year’s draft.
2018 NHL Draft – Pacific Division Team Needs
Draft Position: 23rd Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Sam Steel, Max Jones, Jacob Larsson
The Anaheim Ducks have been Stanley Cup contenders for many years. Now that their core group of forwards such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are on the downslope of 30, it may be time for the Ducks to restock the cupboards in terms of forward prospects.
Projected Pick: Serron Noel
When you think of the Ducks, you think of big rugged forwards. That’s exactly what they would be getting in Serron Noel. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 209 lbs, Noel has the stature of an NHL power forward. Not only is he big, but he can skate like the wind. His biggest deficiency is his play away from the puck, but that can be taught.
Draft Position: 5th Overall
While it’s not an immediate need, the Coyotes defence situation will have to be addressed in the near future. While they do have Oliver Ekman-Larsson signing long-term on July 1st, as well as Jakob Chychrun and Pierre-Olivier Joseph in the pipeline, the rest of the Coyotes defence is on the wrong side of 30.
Projected Pick: Brady Tkachuk
While he’s not a defenceman, it’s going to be hard for the Coyotes to pass up a competitor like Tkachuk if he’s available at 5th overall. Tkachuk possesses all the tools to be a high-end power forward at the NHL level. His brother Matthew Tkachuk says he’s a bigger, faster, and nastier version of himself. It would be the second time a member of the Tkachuk family dawned the Coyotes jersey, as his father Keith Tkachuk spent 5 seasons there early in his career.
Draft Position: 105th overall
Calgary won’t pick until 105th this year as they traded their first and second round picks to the New York Islanders in a trade for Travis Hamonic. They also traded their third-round pick in a package to acquire goaltender Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes.
The Flames have a decent mix of youth and veterans in their line up. However, they are in need of another offensive centre to play behind Sean Monahan. Mikael Backlund is more of a shutdown centre and Mark Jankowski doesn’t seem to have the offensive abilities needed for the second line. Sam Bennett can play centre but is shaping up as more of a winger. With the Flames not picking until 105th, they will need to address this via trade or free agency.
Projected Pick: Kyle Topping
When you don’t have a pick until late in the draft, you have to be creative. Most of these players will be projects, such is the case for Kyle Topping. Topping is undersized, and won’t dazzle you with his raw talent. He does, however, have decent puck skills, vision and is creative enough to warrant drafting him with the 105th overall pick. The other skills can be taught, and with the right development could potentially become an effective piece of the offence. However, it would be surprising if the Flames didn’t make a trade to acquire an earlier pick at this year’s draft.
Draft Position: 10th Overall
In terms of production, the Oilers defence group is one of the worst. Oscar Klefbom hasn’t provided as much offence as they had hoped. Nor has Andrej Sekera, who is coming off an injury-plagued season and is on the wrong side of 30. The Oilers will be looking to address this issue in the off-season and what better time than at the draft which is filled with playmaking/puck moving defencemen.
Projected Pick: Ty Smit
With a draft filled with puck-moving defencemen, Ty Smith is one of the best. Although undersized, Smith is an absolute workhorse. He plays top pairing minutes and draws the toughest defensive matchups. He may not be as offensively gifted as Quinn Hughes or Adam Boqvist, but is must better defensively. He is the piece the Oilers have been looking for on defence for years.
Los Angeles Kings
Draft Position: 20th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Gabriel Vilardi, Adrian Kempe
With the best part of the Kings defence group between the ages of 28 to 33, it’s time for the Kings to refill the cupboards with defence prospects. Defencemen usually take a little longer to groom, so chances are that a defenceman picked at the end of the first round won’t be ready for at least 2 to 3 years. With Kale Clague being the only blue-chip prospect on the back end, its time for the Kings to stock up.
Projected Pick: K’Andre Miller
Miller is a towering defenceman standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 205 lbs. He has a quick powerful stride and possesses good puck handling skills. Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Miller grew up playing forward and only switched to defence recently. He proved to be one of NTDP’s top blueliners this season, which is huge for a guy still learning the position. The potential is there for Miller to become a top pairing defenceman at the NHL level.
Draft Position: 61st Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom
When you look at the Golden Knights roster, the clear immediate need is a top pairing defenceman. At the moment, Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt are the only two who could potentially get there, and even that is a reach. It is something that will more than likely be addressed via trade this summer. The long-term need, however, is a replacement for 33-year-old goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Projected Pick: Justus Annunen
The best use for Vegas’ second-round pick this year would be on one of the top goaltenders in the draft. That would be Justus Annunen. Annunen is a large goalie standing at 6’4” which is what teams want these days. He covers a lot of the net and has great rebound control. Annunen is very calm and doesn’t get caught out of position. He helped Team Finland capture gold at the World Under-18 Championships this year. There aren’t many holes in his game and could be the future starting netminder once Fleury stares to wear down.
Draft Position: 21st Overall
While the Sharks have a decent defence group at this particular moment, 4 out of the top 6 are on the wrong side of 30. They don’t have any blue-chip defencemen in the pipeline and have only selected a defenceman once in the first round in the past 11 drafts. This draft would be a good time to switch things up.
Projected Pick: Jared McIsaac
McIsaac is your classic defenceman. McIsaac is an excellent skater. He has an excellent stick and keeps opponents on the outside making it hard to beat him 1-on-1. He’s a tough player to play against. He’s not the most gifted offensively, however, he did close out the season with 21 points in his final 20 games playing for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL this season. He was the QMJHL’s defensive rookie of the year in 2016-17. He’s the type of player any coach would love to have on their team.
Draft Position: 7th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi, Brock Boeser
Like most of the teams in the division, the Canucks are also in need of defence. True top-pairing defencemen are tough to come by, and when teams get them, they don’t often let them go. Fortunately for the Canucks, this draft is filled with potential top-pairing defencemen. It would be very surprising if they didn’t use their first pick to draft one.
Projected Pick: Noah Dobson
Noah Dobson is fresh off a Memorial Cup win with his team the Acadia-Bathurst Titan where he was a key piece of the teams’ success. Dobson is 6’3” and can skate like the wind. He has the size and speed that NHL teams are so desperate for nowadays. He is very creative and has elite vision. His offensive abilities are through the roof. Dobson has all the tools to become a top pairing defenceman in the near future.
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