Let me state the obvious here: the Oilers and Sabres are winners on the 1st night of the draft. I’m not going to give them each a little paragraph on how good McDavid and Eichel are because come on, we get it. They will be superstars. Congrats to those two organizations. Let’s take a look at the remaining teams and how they performed in the first round.
After the Coyotes lost out on the McDavid-Eichel sweepstakes, many saw them trading this pick away before the draft started. There were rumors the Bruins would trade up to take Noah Hanifin, but that offer never materialized. The Coyotes went onto take C Dylan Strome, who was ranked by many as a Top 5 player available in the draft. While playing with McDavid in Erie, Strome put up a ridiculous 129 points (45 G, 84 A) in 68 regular season games. He stands at 6’3″ and 185 pounds and will put on some weight as he is only 18 years old (as most of these players are). He is a very good skater, has a great shot, and is a natural-born leader.
What makes the Coyotes a winner is their 30th pick, Nick Merkley. Many experts saw Merkley as a Top 20 pick, so for him to fall all the way to #30 to the Coyotes may be the steal of the 1st round. Merkley had 90 points (20 G, 70 A) in 72 regular season games with the Kelowna Rockets. He is a play-making center and also possess an incredible work ethic along with Strome.
These two picks from the Coyotes will certainly pay dividends in the coming years. These two both have the potential to be cornerstone players for their club.
New York Islanders
The Islanders came into tonight with zero first picks and wound up with the 16th and 28th pick. They traded Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton for the 16th and 33rd pick – a brilliant move in my opinion. Reinhart was falling out of favor in the organization, so to fetch a 1st and 2nd round pick for him was a great play.
With the 16th pick, the Islanders snagged Matthew Barzal, arguably a Top 10 pick in the draft. His stock fell a bit after he injured his knee this past season while “roughhousing” with teammates in the locker room, which required surgery. Even with that issue, Barzal had 57 points (12 G, 45 A) in 44 games for Seattle Thunderbirds. He is a very intelligent player that brings a strong two-way game. He is very good with the puck and has great vision. I was very surprised he fell this far.
As for the 28th pick, the Islanders traded their 33rd and 72nd pick to select forward Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier played for the Shawinigan Cataractes this past season in the QMJHL and put up some very impressive numbers – 94 points (42 G, 52 A) in 67 games. He is extremely quick with the puck and while he is a playmaker, he can score his fair share of goals.
The Hurricanes only had one pick in the 1st round (5th overall), but they certainly made it count by taking defenseman Noah Hanifin. Most scouts and experts saw Hanifin as the 3rd best player in the draft, so the Hurricanes must be very happy he fell to them at #5. There aren’t any issues with his game. He is a great two-way defenseman, strong skater, smart player, and brings it every night. He is everything you could ask for with the 5th pick in the draft.
This past season at Boston College, the 18 year old had 23 points (5 G, 18 A) in 37 games. He currently stands at 6’2″ and 205 pounds and should continue to fill the frame he possesses. The Canes now have Justin Faulk at the NHL level, with Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown in their system. The addition of Hanifin makes their defensive depth even stronger and will be a very fun sight to see in a couple of years.
It is very tough being a Washington Capitals fan. I deal with all of this unnecessary Alex Ovechkin hate, see the team choke in the playoffs every year, and now this! A goaltender with their 1st pick! Yes, Ilya Samsonov was the top-rated goaltender in this year’s class, but the Capitals don’t need a goaltender. Goaltending might be the position they need the least nowadays. They have Holtby in the NHL, who should be put in an elite category nowadays, as well as Phillipp Grubauer, Pheonix Copley, and last year’s 2nd round pick Vitek Vanecek. It makes zero sense to me!
Samsonov is highly regarded and has drawn comparisons to fellow Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, but that’s not the point. The Capitals don’t need a goalie. They lack some serious organizational depth at center and had many options available when the 22nd pick rolled around. I really hope I’m wrong about this, but I would hate to see guys like Konecny or Merkley turn out to be superstars (whom the Capitals passed on), while they are stuck with their 8th string goalie.
The Bruins absolutely shocked the world today and announced a mini-rebuilding effort. They dealt top defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary, worried they wouldn’t be able to give him the money he was asking for. They also traded the epitome of Bruins’ hockey, Milan Lucic, to the LA Kings. It was very shocking to many and the Bruins wound up with the 13th, 14th, and 15th pick.
The Bruins made a strong play to trade up to the 3rd pick to draft Noah Hanifin, a Boston native. They whiffed on that deal and stuck with their three picks in the middle of the draft. With those picks, they took D Jakub Zboril, LW Jake Debrusk, and RW Zachary Senyshyn respectively.
Zboril was projected in my different spots in the draft, but I did like the Bruins’ pick there. He is a quick, two-way defenseman who may end up on their 1st pairing in just a couple of years. But after Zboril, the Bruins reached and took Debrusk and Senyshyn, who were projected to be picked late in the 1st round. Both are very good players, but the Bruins could have traded down and selected them – especially Senyshyn, who many thought would go in the early to mid 2nd round.
I only have two losers listed because I didn’t have an issue with many of the picks. I was really expecting some hockey bombs to go off tonight, but it didn’t happen. The Bruins made some serious noise earlier in the day and that was the end of it. I wanted to see Kessel traded. I wanted to see Sharp traded. Talbot. Skinner. You name it. I wanted to see something HUGE happen. It didn’t. What are you going to do? I still see Sharp and Talbot getting traded this offseason – I just thought tonight was going to be the night.
Overall, a successful night for most of the teams in the NHL. This draft is loaded with talent and many of the picks made sense for their respective squads. Two guys who are still available that I am big on are D Oliver Kylington and C Jansen Harkins, both whom were 1st round talents at one point. Whoever snags these two tomorrow will be very happy with their selection.