In this week’s Journey, we begin a three-part series looking back on the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Part One outlines the 30th-21st selections, and recaps each prospects post draft seasons and where they are on the developmental arc.
30th: Anaheim Ducks – Sam Steel – Regina Pats (WHL)
2016-17 Stats: 66 GP, 50G, 81A, 131 Points
For the start of this series, we revisit the last pick of the 2016 first round, a pick that Anaheim acquired from Toronto as part of the Frederik Andersen deal, after the Leafs received it from Pittsburgh for Phil Kessel. Personally, I don’t feel that the Ducks get enough credit for their draft record. Despite only having two top 10 picks since 2006, the club has found a ton of talent in the back half of the first round. Jake Gardiner, Kyle Palmieri, Rickard Rakell, Shea Theodore, Jacob Larsson, Max Jones and Steel were all players drafted after the 15th pick in that time. If the first round was redrafted, it’s likely that Steel would be one of the biggest risers of the group.
Steel’s 131 points were tops in the WHL this past season, winning him the Bobby Clarke Trophy for leading scorer and the Four Broncos Trophy as the league’s MVP for the 2016-17 season. After taking this huge step forward, it’s likely he will feature for Canada at the World Juniors. Bigger question is if he makes the Ducks out of camp or returns to the WHL. My guess would be another season of dominating the WHL, but the big club isn’t out of the question.
29th: Boston Bruins – Trent Frederic – Wisconsin (NCAA)
2016-17 Stats: 30 GP, 15G, 18A, 33 Points
Frederic wasn’t the most popular pick among Boston fans when he was selected at the end of the first round in 2016. He never was a high ceiling, top line guy and the Bruins scouts as much as admitted that after they selected him. However, he does have a high floor, and has been good since his draft year, posting over a point-per-game pace for Wisconsin in his freshman season. Maybe there is a little more offense then the scouts expected?
With Frederic, he’s a big power forward who could be a good multi-category option for fantasy owners down the road. He should hit, pack on penalty minutes and score goals but much will be determined by his deployment. If Boston does view him as a third liner, his production must come with less ice time and opportunity. He’s still a way off, so monitor his progress throughout his college career.
28th: Washington Capitals – Lucas Johansen – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
2016-17 Stats: 68 GP, 6G, 35A, 41 Points
Not every first-round pick has to be a homerun. Some can be solid, all-around NHL options with significant careers. That’s the way that I felt about Johansen when he was drafted, and the way I still feel about him now.
After a breakout season offensively in his draft year, the young rearguard took a step back on the score sheet in 2016-17, but a step forward in defensive responsibility. He likely will be a player who can be a top-four defenseman in the future, with minute munching potential. It’s still unknown how his offense will develop at the next level, but there is plenty to be excited about. He will again be back in Kelowna to lead with Rockets defense corps alongside 2017 draftee Cal Foote.
27th: Tampa Bay Lightning – Brett Howden – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
2016-17 Stats: 58 GP, 38G, 43A, 81 Points
Another WHL player and another guy who has an NHL sibling is Howden, who was plucked 27th overall by the deft drafting Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016. He’s another high-floor, low-risk prospect type that is often targeted at the end of the first by an organization who already has an established core. A born leader, the 19-year old Howden will captain Moose Jaw for the second consecutive season.
Howden’s 38 goals finished in the top 15 among WHL players, and his 83 points finished in the top 25. He will likely be a consideration for Team Canada at the WJC, and would be ready to make the AHL jump if it wasn’t for the 20-year-old rule when it comes to CHL players. I don’t expect him to spend a ton of time at the AHL level when he makes the jump to professional hockey, as the skills he possesses and the simple, smart game he plays would be a great fit as a middle forward in the future.
26th: St. Louis Blues – Tage Thompson – UCONN (NCAA)
2016-17 Stats: 34 GP, 19G, 13A, 32 Points
Thompson was one of my favorite late first round guys in his draft year coming off a stellar freshman season at UCONN where he paired up with now San Jose prospect Max Letunov. The 6’5” forward followed up his strong performance in his first NCAA season with a good sophomore year, matching his production with 32 points, despite playing extra games with Team USA’s gold-medal winning World Junior team.
The Phoenix native was lucky enough to play 26 AHL games at the end of 2016-17, which was a good trial for what is to come when he makes the jump to the professional game full-time this year. His output at the AHL level should grow leaps and bounds in 2017-18 as Thompson becomes more acclimated. He should top out as a top-six winger who will be a handful for the opposition to deal on the power play.
25th: Dallas Stars – Riley Tufte – Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
2016-17 Stats: 37 GP, 9G, 7A, 16 Points
Dallas selected Tufte as a guy who down the road could be a power winger and finisher at the NHL level. The Minnesota native was at the time, and still is a raw prospect, but his measurables and talent are undeniable. In his draft year, Tufte was named Mr. Hockey in his home state as the best Minnesota High School Hockey Player, splitting time between his high school and the USHL, much like Casey Mittelstadt did this year.
If you are willing to wait a bit, Tufte still has a high ceiling as a goal scorer. He should take on more responsibility in his sophomore season in Duluth and that should translate on the stat sheet. A name that is thrown around when projecting Tufte is Blake Wheeler, but it remains to be seen if he can reach that type of offensive potential. If he does, it will be many years in the future.
24th: Anaheim Ducks – Max Jones – London Knights (OHL)
2016-17 Stats: 33 GP, 17G, 19A, 36 Points
If you like multi-category guys who can score but also chip in with hits and penalty minutes, then Jones is your guy. Many thought that his offensive output would stagnate after the exodus of top-end talent from London following the 2015-16 season, but Jones took a step forward offensively, although in fewer games in his post-draft season.
He’s still a few years away, and likely will have to battle from the bottom of the Anaheim lineup to the top to provide substantial offensive production. However, we have seen pesky players find a niche in their team’s top lines before, and Jones has the ability to do so, as playing alongside talent only makes him more valuable. Whether he rounds out his career as a bottom six guy, or can have a Pat Maroon-type impact remains to be seen.
23rd: Florida Panthers – Henrik Borgstrom – Denver (NCAA)
2016-17 Stats: 37 GP, 22G, 21A, 43 Points
We talked about Sam Steel being a guy who would be selected at a higher position in a 2016 re-draft, and Borgstrom fits that mold as well. A maligned pick at the time he was drafted due to some of the names on the board around him, the overage forward proved everyone wrong with a tremendous NCAA freshman season for Denver in a National Championship winning season.
Finishing third among college hockey freshman in scoring behind 2017 draftee Denis Smirnov and Arizona uber-prospect Clayton Keller, Borgstrom has cemented himself at the top of the Panthers prospect depth chart. He oozes offensive ability, impressing with his hands and shiftiness, many times wowing spectators with the plays he sets up and the goals he scores. He still needs to put on weight and will continue to develop with the Pioneers before turning professional in the next couple offseasons.
22nd: Philadelphia Flyers – German Rubtsov – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
2016-17 Stats: 16 GP, 9G, 13A, 22 Points
After an inconsistent start to the season splitting time between the KHL and the MHL in Russia, Rubtsov made the decision to make the move to the CHL and join Chicoutimi. He took off offensively, posting 22 points in his first 16 games.
Rubtsov will again be back in the Q, this time for a full season and with a good amount of offensive responsibility heaped on him with Nicolas Roy moving on to professional hockey. It will be imperative for the young Russian to play a full season and get on a developmental path to continue to grow his game both offensively and defensively. He still has high upside as a prospect, and has shown flashes of his talent since he was drafted. I feel like this is the season that he puts it all together and has a breakout campaign, so jump on him now if you can find an impatient owner.
21st: Carolina Hurricanes – Julien Gauthier – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
2016-17 Stats: 43 GP, 17G, 34A, 51 Points
Carolina acquired the 21st pick of the 2016 draft in exchange for shipping Andrej Sekera to Los Angeles at the 2014-15 trade deadline. With that pick they selected one of the drafts best goal scorers, fresh off potting 41 for Val-d’Or in the 2015-16 season. Although his point total and goal total wasn’t as high in his draft plus-one, Gauthier continues to be a high-end prospect for the Canes with an NHL future.
Gauthier featured in Canada’s World Junior team, producing at a point-per-game pace with seven points in the teams seven games. With size and strength that you would put up against most NHLer’s already, odds are that a kid of his talent level won’t spend too much time at the AHL level. He’ll get a look at camp this fall after getting rave reviews from GM Ron Francis following the teams summer prospect camp. Expect some AHL time, but a productive winger once he makes the jump to the Hurricanes.
Stay tuned next week for Part Two, which will take a closer look at the progress of prospects selected 20th-11th at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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