Wild West Draft Recap: A Focus on the Golden Knights and Discussion of The West
After all the expansion prognosticating and endless mock entry drafts the results are in. Again, we remember that, while we might (?) have sound logic and hockey knowledge we’re rarely going to nail the vast majority of picks.
Many had the Golden Knights going for more of a win-now scheme than building for the future. I like some of the players they got, but imagined their initial roster looking a bit more competitive than the one that emerged. A lot can change as the smoke clears from the jam-packed week that was, and in the next few months as their salary cap numbers stabilize, but in the end they did the seemingly smart thing and stockpiled picks – translating into three selections in 2017’s top 15. Those amounted to Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Erik Brännström – future, and maybe not far-future, staples. That’s before you consider their Nicolas Hague selection in the early second round. A good start to say the least.
Some expected a Vegas deluge of goalies, if for nothing else than GM George McPhee to draw from as swappable assets to help grow the Knights. They ultimately got three – Fleury, Pickard and Berube with some interesting names left out. Grubauer is still a Capital, Mrazek a Red Wing, Raanta a Ranger that became a Coyote and so on.
After all the talk of Trevor van Riemsdyk being a natural fit for Vegas’ young(ish) blue line, he was swapped to Carolina almost immediately for a package including the 62nd overall pick. That became gritty and smart Regina Pat pivot Jake Leschyshyn.
I was surprised Jonathan Marchessault was exposed, as most probably were before early-week rumors circulated, and a Nashville ‘hands-off James Neal’ deal never materialized. So some core forwards should be fun to watch including the aforementioned as well as Vadim Shipachyov, David Perron, and Reilly Smith. I’m a William Carrier fan so I’m interested to see how he’ll follow up an injury-shortened 2016-17 with probably more playing time than he got in Buffalo. I’ve also been waiting to see Temuu Pulkkinen get some real NHL playing time free from injury. Looks like that time’s here.
The VGK stocked up on defensemen, swapping a few (David Schlemko and TVR) for more picks, but again I was surprised they laid off taking Mathew Dumba opting instead for signing Erik Haula and bringing in Alex Tuch for a third-round pick. Tuch is one of my favorite prospects and I think he’ll deliver, but Dumba sure is good.
Shea Theodore gets more playing time than he likely would have as a Duck in 2017-18, and I’m betting he runs with the opportunity, but in the end will he be a better get than Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson would have been? Dunno.
For Minnesota and Anaheim, the two squads who seemed most likely to lose very valuable assets, I think both came out relatively okay, especially considering the relative youth and proven NHL skill we’re taking about from Dumba, Brodin, Vatanen and Manson. We’ll also see how long they hold on to Alexei Emelin and Marc Methot. I imagine McPhee will see what they can get for each this summer, or maybe hold on to them until the trade deadline for potential maximum profit.
Anyway, we’ll get more into Vegas next week. There will likely be more player movement to ruminate upon by then. Plus, I won’t be so sleep-deprived and rambling from draft-related travels.
The NHL Entry Draft was great personally. I got to go to my first and see some of the inner-workings. Super, super cool to be there as the Nico/Nolan debate, and its place in the Devils/Flyers rivalry, were ascribed concrete destinations. For me, as cheesy as it sounds, the best part was seeing all the young athletes receive recognition and fulfillment as the professional hockey door opened to them. So many fantastic and personable people – from the first round through the seventh. Very impressive.
West-wise, there are so many intriguing incoming prospects with new roles to consider. Colorado’s Cale Makar and Conor Timmins blue line haul seems well-advised. The Sharks cornered the market on Team USA prospects with Josh Norris and Scott Reedy. Their cohort member will set out to make Smashville Mismash-ville, joining another USHLer Eeli Tolavanen after his precipitous drop to 30th overall.
Dallas further attended to their net adding Jake Oettinger, and to defense with Miro Heiskanen. Arizona continued their youth-infused overhaul with another Chayka-era puck-moving defenseman in Pierre-Olivier Joseph, along with newly-arrived defensive stalwart Niklas Hjalmarsson. In addition to incoming Connor Murphy, Chicago looked to puck-handling, smooth-skating Henri Jokiharju as a future NHL defender with dangerous power play upside.
There’s much more than that to look forward to as well. The potential of Kailer Yamamoto eventually joining an Edmonton crew of prolific scorers. Calgary’s continued quest to boast the deepest of all bluelines by bringing Juuso Valimaki in as well as Travis Hamonic in a trade from the Islanders. Gabe Vilardi’s later-than-expected selection will likely, eventually, help boost LA’s offensive game. Elias Pettersson’s dekes and offensive wizardry should excite Vancouver and wake up their scoring before long. What a fantastic player. Bucking many forecasts, Winnipeg selected Kristian Vesalainen adding to Winnipeg’s wealth of young and dangerous scoring forwards. Forward Ivan Lodina, projected by some as a late first rounder, could provide good value in the third round as Minnesota’s first selection.
Even without a first-round pick, swapped to Dallas for now re-signed Patrick Eaves, Anaheim brought in some promising forward prospects. Maxime Comtois and his childhood friend Antoine Morand, along with USHL-champ Chicago Steel stalwart Jack Badini as he heads off to Harvard, and a lesser-known of the Tri-City Americans’ prospects Kyle Olsen are all candidates to raise Duck forward scoring as time unfolds. Highly-rated Swedish goalie Olle Eriksson Ek could also be an Anaheim bargain found in round five.
High-profile trades also altered the landscape. St. Louis had a busy weekend with Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin fortifying their future lines, along with acquiring Brayden Schenn, while the Blues said goodbye to Ryan Reaves and Jori Lehtera. With the backdrop of Marian Hossa’s unfortunate culmination to a brilliant career it seems, the Blackhawks continued their annual summer salary shaving with Panarin and Hjalmarsson departing and Saad and Connor Murphy joining. It was interesting to be in Chicago as that all went down. Arizona added Derek Stepan to their center corps and said goodbye to Shane Doan. Not sure it’ll happen, but I hope he gets one more shot at a Cup with a contender next year.
So after all that it’s all about free agents, more transactions, players recovering and training and other true offseason stuff.
Thanks to everyone I cajoled into publishing my thoughts recently – of course Dobber and Peter from Dobber Prospects, as well as Mark from My Hockey Rumors who put up with all my hurried expansion posts, and Matt from Canes and Coffee for letting me share thoughts on US prospects. Super busy and even more super good times.
And much appreciation to all of you who took the time to read what I wrote this year. I hope I helped add to your enjoyment of the 2016-17 campaign and draft doings, and that you check in regularly over the summer as we gear up for 2017-18.
Follow me on Twitter @KWcrosscheck
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