One of my biggest criticisms every year is teams drafting legacy players far higher than they deserve. The Bruins waited until the second round to pick up former Boston star Ted Donato’s son Ryan, though, which was a smart move. Instead, they nabbed Czech winger David Pastrnak with their 25th overall pick. Much better.
They get a B, though, for not trading up at the draft-or, for that matter, trading at all. As broke as the Bruins are, they really should have made a few more moves than they did. Fantastic prospects, considering the class, but not what the team necessarily needed this year. They don’t fail, though, because all five draftees selected could make great bargaining tools in the near future, if needed.
Toronto Maple Leafs
While I wanted to fail Toronto for The Carlyle Extension, I have to admit; the team did some good things in Philadelphia, starting with the selection of Willie Nylander eighth overall. The Swedish powerhouse forward was one of the top-ranked European prospects according to Central Scouting, and is known for having the kind of attitude and work ethic that the Leafs need to make the playoffs more than once every decade (I’m sorry, Cousin Brian.)
While this first-rounder may look electrifying and fresh, though, the 103rd overall selection will look eerily familiar. New Jersey native JJ Piccinich said he models his playing style after ‘blue collar players’ like Justin Williams and Ryan Callahan, but with his burly physique and self-driven scoring style, he reminds me almost too much of Phil Kessel. Between him and second-round pick blue liner Rinat Valiev, who is described as having a “big heart and big shot”- that scored an own goal in his WHL debut- the Leafs either picked a team with great soul or more great busts. For a team with fans that might mutiny with another missed postseason, these picks were almost too risky. Still, with high risk can come high reward; I applaud Toronto for selecting quality players like this.
If I gave every team that drafted former teammates an ‘A’, a lot of unworthy GM’s would be walking away from this year’s entry draft with Honor Roll. Hextall may have nabbed teammates from Calgary when he selected Travis Sanheim in the first round and Radel Fazleev in the fifth, but he failed to address all of the needs his team faces. Sanheim is a strong defenseman, but the team needs to look at faster scorers as first-round picks and blue-liners towards the second or third rounds. Instead, the second round pick- Nicolas Aube-Kubel of the Val-d’Or Floreurs- is a low-scoring, high-penalty winger who seems like a very lateral movement for a team that hasn’t managed to take home a Stanley cup in over a quarter of a century.
Despite my complaints, though, Philadelphia gets brownie points for doing what many teams weren’t able to in this particular draft year- draft players who seem like they will skate well together for years to come. The team selected a balanced number of forwards and blue liners, recognized that another goaltending prospect wasn’t a necessity, and nabbed guys who already know how to play nice together. This year’s host team gets a B for this reason alone.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit gets a huge round of applause for picking up Dylan Larkin, who almost everyone had their eye on. Not only is he a good player with smart hockey skills, but he has the kind of good attitude that characterizes the Red Wings. He needs some more development before he’ll be NHL-ready, but he could be a phenomenal assett for the team within a few years.
This was the theme of all the draft selections made by Detroit this year- both centers Dominic Turgeon and Christoffer Ehn are known for their work ethic as well, and goaltending prospect Chase Perry looks incredibly coachable. My concern with the selections made by Detroit, though? So much time seemed to have been spent scouting feel-good players that less time was spent looking at actual skill. All of the draftees selected by Detroit are long-term projects, which means that the Red Wings will have to make do with what they already have in the system for at least the next couple of seasons. Not the worst showing at the draft by far, but decidedly not a superstar cast.