The NHL Draft is just around the corner and teams are gearing up for what promises to be a very busy weekend in Vancouver on June 21st and 22nd. The combine is now complete and teams have interviewed potential draftees for their team. We will examine the Metropolitan Division and what their team needs are at the NHL Draft.
Click each players name to get a full scouting report provided by Last Word’s own Ben Kerr.
2019 NHL Draft Team Needs: Metropolitan Division
Draft Position: 28th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier
Although the Hurricanes finished eighth in goals against per game last season, the goaltending situation is still questionable.Both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney are in need of new contracts and neither are what you would call an elite goaltender. McElhinney just turned 36 in May and is better served as a backup at this point in his career. Mrazek, who is 27, still hasn’t shown he can be trusted with a full workload as a number one netminder. While the 1A, 1B option worked last season, it is certainly not a solution long-term.
The other longterm need would be at the centre position. Outside of Martin Necas, the Hurricanes do not have any blue chip centre prospects. With Jordan Staal set to turn 31 in September, the Hurricanes will want to draft another big centre to hopefully fill his shoes once he regresses.
Projected Pick: Connor McMichael
Who better to fill Staal’s shoes than Connor McMichael of the London Knights. Much like Staal, McMichael plays a solid two-way game. He’s an extremely gifted skater with great top end speed and acceleration. McMichael is a very efficient player who brings a high compete level in all three zones. He can use his speed to beat you off the rush, but then also get back to defend just as quickly. His defensive positioning is outstanding as well. He fills the lanes correctly to help him intercept the play and then quickly turn it into offence in transition. McMichael also possesses a high hockey IQ, which allows him to think the game well and make the smart play. He has all the tools to be an effective middle six centre at the NHL level.
Draft Position: 81st Overall
The Blue Jackets will not be picking until the third round, 81st overall, as they traded their first two selections in separate trades. Their first-round pick was sent to Ottawa in the Matt Duchene deal. The second round pick was traded to Vegas in 2017 as part of the compensation for taking on David Clarkson‘s contract. Vegas later traded that pick to Montreal as part of the package to acquire Max Pacioretty.
Recent First Round Picks: Liam Foudy, Pierre-Luc Dubois
The biggest need for the Blue Jackets is skilled forwards. With the Blue Jackets likely losing both Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and possibly Ryan Dzingel all to free agency, there are going to be some gaping holes in the Blue Jackets lineup. Filling these holes is going to be tough as the Blue Jackets do not have a great prospect pool and have traded away their first two picks this year, their second and third next year, as well as their second-round pick in 2021.
Projected Pick: Mikhail Shalagin
With only two picks in the upcoming draft, the Blue Jackets will need to get creative and take players with raw talent. Players that are projects but with high-end skills. That’s what they would be getting in Shalagin. As Ben Kerr explains in his scouting report, Shalagin is a pure sniper with a lethal shot. He has an excellent set of hands and can also be a solid playmaker. However, his skating and his positioning are an issue. If he can manage to work out these deficiencies and fine tune his game, Shalagin could be a steal.
Draft Position: 1st Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Ty Smith, Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod
The Devils could really use some skilled forwards. Outside of Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, the club does not have any top end offensive talent on the roster. They finished 25th in the league scoring this season and their offence was completely exposed once Hall went down with a season-ending injury in December. With only two players hitting the 20 goal mark this season (Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman) and only one player hitting the 50 point plateau (Palmieri), the Devils desperately need to help up front.
Projected Pick: Jack Hughes
Help is on the way. The Devils won this year’s draft lottery and secured the right to draft the top prospect in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Jack Hughes. Hughes is elite in every sense of the word. He’s an elite skater, he has elite vision and an elite set of hands. Hughes has the ability to make every player around him better with his excellent play-making abilities. It is possible Hughes is able to make the jump to the NHL as early as next season. Hughes and Hischier will make a solid one-two punch for the Devils for years to come.
Draft Position: 23rd Overall
Recent First Round Draft Picks: Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Kieffer Bellows
The Islanders were one of the biggest surprises this past season. After missing the playoffs the year prior and losing John Tavares to free agency, most analysts felt that the Islanders were destined to fail this season. However, the Islanders made the playoffs as the second seed in the Metropolitan division and swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. However, their run was cut short by the Carolina Hurricanes in Eastern Conference semi-final. A big reason for this was the lack of goal scoring on the Islanders. The Islanders only managed to score a mere five goals in four games in round two which lead to them being swept. Finishing 22nd in league scoring and not having a single player reach the 30 goal mark this past season. The Islanders are going to have to go on the hunt for some more solid scoring to help the likes of Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee. Specifically on the wing.
Projected Pick: Bobby Brink
Brink fits exactly what the Islanders are looking for. While he is not the most gifted skater, he makes up for it in hockey sense, determination and scoring ability. Brink is a sniper. He has an excellent wrist-shot which he is able to get off quickly and is very accurate. His shot is considered to be one of the best in the draft.
Brink is not a one trick pony however, as he has the ability to be a playmaker as well. He has the ability to make everyone around him better and makes crisp and accurate passes due to his excellent vision. Brink could potentially be one of the steals of the draft.
Draft Position: 2nd and 20th
Recent First Round Draft Picks: Vitali Kravtsov, Lias Anderson, K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil
The Rangers are currently in a rebuild mode and have done a great job thus far. They’ve managed to put together a solid group of prospects over the past for years and added to that by trading for one of the top defence prospects in Adam Fox. The Rangers plan now is to just keep building from the draft and adding some more depth to their prospect pool. They’ve openly come out and said this is a full rebuild, so as the older generation of Rangers players play out their contracts their positions will be filled internally. The Rangers will just continue to draft the best player available and give themselves many options for the future.
Projected Picks: Kaapo Kakko at number two, Raphael Lavoie at number 20
The Rangers may not have won the draft lottery, however, getting a prospect like Kakko at number two is basically the same thing. Kakko is considered one of the best Finnish prospects ever. He set the record for goals scored by a teenager in Finlands SM-Liiga and also scored the golden goal for Finland at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver.
Kakko plays a strong all-around game. He’s extremely creative with the puck and has a hard and accurate wrist shot which he gets off very quickly. He’s also a very gifted play-maker. Not only is he gifted offensively, but he’s also very responsible in his own end. Kakko possesses all the tools to make him elite player at the NHL ready and it’s very possible we see him in the league as early as next season.
Lavoie is a strong power forward with a lethal shot. He is known as a sniper but is capable of being a playmaker as well. His large 6’4” 200lbs frame makes him extremely hard to knock off the puck. He uses this size to separate himself from his opponents and drive to the front of the net. Once he gets there, his soft hands allow him to be able to finish in close. Given his size, Lavoie moves rather quickly. If there is one knock on Lavoie it’s his defensive ability. However, he has improved that part of his game this past season. He’ll want to continue this development as he progresses to the NHL.
Draft Position: 11th Overall
Recent First Round Draft Picks: Joel Farabee, Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost, German Rubtsov
The Flyers have selected five forwards over the last three years with their first round picks and have only drafted one defenceman with their last 10 picks in the top two rounds over that span. It’s time to start focusing on defence again. Specifically on the right side. The Flyers have promising young players in Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, however, outside of those two its pretty bare. The Flyers could use a nice blue chip right shot defenceman to develop as the team builds through the draft.
Projected Pick: Moritz Seider
In terms of right shot defenceman, Seider is arguably the best in the draft. Seider possesses great size at 6’4” 200lbs and skates extremely well for his size. He makes a great first pass and is also able to transfer the puck out of the zone efficiently given his skating and stick handling abilities. Seider plays a physical game but can sometimes get caught out of position trying to land a big hit. He has all the tools to be an elite defenceman, however, is a project at this point his game needs some fine-tuning. Which is perfectly fine. The Flyers can afford to be patient with Sanheim, Myers and recently acquired Matt Niskanen currently occupying the right side.
Draft Position: 21st Overall
Recent First Round Picks: The Penguins have not made a selection in the first round since picking Kasperi Kapanen in 2014.
As it has been the past few years, the Penguins greatest need is on defence. The Penguins have never really had a solid defence group even when you look at their Stanley Cup winning teams. They don’t have any blue-chip prospects in the system whatsoever. Which is obviously due to their playoff success. However, they have managed to hit on their later round picks when it comes to forward. Now it’s time to shift their focus on their defence.
Projected Pick: Victor Soderstrom
While last year’s draft was filled with high-end defenceman, this draft is all about the forwards. This works out well for the Penguins as they can most likely get a shot at drafting there biggest need with the 21st pick, defenceman Victor Soderstrom. Soderstrom may be a bit undersized, however, his skating, puck skills and vision can compensate for that. His skating ability makes him effective in both offensive and defensive zones. He can use it to beat you on the rush but also backcheck quickly to defend in his own end. Soderstrom has the ability to quarterback the powerplay, although he could use a little work on his shot to make him even more effective. Given the tools he has in his repertoire, he could end up being a quality first round pick.
Draft Position: 25th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Alexander Alexeyev, Lucas Johansen
The Capitals have been focused on defence over the last four drafts as they have used 12 of their 22 picks to select defenceman. Now it’s time to shift the focus to the offence. Outside of Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals have only had one player over the last five years to hit the 30 goal mark. That was T.J. Oshie back in 2016-17. With Ovechkin set to turn 34 in September, it’s time the Capitals started stocking up on high calibre forwards through the draft.
Projected Pick: Pavel Dorofevey
To address the need for forward prospects, the Capitals would benefit from selecting Russian forward Pavel Dorofevey. Dorofevey is a very creative winger with an excellent set of hands. While not the greatest skater, he makes up with it with his excellent stick handling abilities and vision to either deke out his opponents or find the open man on the rush. He also possesses a quick and accurate wrist shot.
Dorofevey is great at cycling the puck and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice despite usually being a lot smaller than his opponents as he only weighs 163 pounds. Dorofevey will need to put on some muscle to continue to play this way at the next level but should come in time as he develops with the team.
Main Photo: NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 31: Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils moves in on Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangersat the Prudential Center on January 31, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey. The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)