Ryan Dadoun

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Draft Grades - East

Sunday, June 25, 2017


The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is in the books and while it will be years before we’ll know how these prospects turn out, we can offer our first impression on how each team did.  We’ll also take this opportunity to factor in the trades that happened immediately before or during the draft when offering our evaluation.

 

This section of the Draft Grades focuses on the Eastern Conference squads.  For Corey Abbott’s look at the Western Conference teams, please click here.

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

 

Boston Bruins

 

Grade: B

First Round Selection(s): Urho Vaakaninen (18th)

 

The Bruins only had two selections in the top-100 picks with Jack Studnicka (53rd) being the other player they took.  Both of them have the potential to be solid, though not necessarily exciting players for fantasy owners.

 

Vaakaninen’s more of a defensive defenseman and while he might develop offensively, he will probably be making it into the NHL on the back of that defensive side of his game.  In the same vein, Studnicka is more of a two-way forward than a pure offensive threat, so while he might end up being someone that can contribute with the puck, he’s probably not going to end up as a top line forward.  Both of them are projects, so don’t expect them to make a splash in the NHL anytime soon.

 

Overall, the Bruins had a fine, if unremarkable draft.

 

Buffalo Sabres

 

Grade: B+

First Round Selection(s): Casey Mittelstadt (8th)

 

With Mittelstadt, the ideal is that he’ll develop into an above average second-line center to provide the Sabres with a strong one-two punch between him and Jack Eichel.  Between his speed and playmaking abilities, Mittelstadt has the potential to bring a lot of offensive flare to that hypothetical line if he continues to develop on his current course.  The Sabres won’t be seeing him next season though as he’s expected to play for the University of Minnesota instead.  That’s probable for the best as he could use the development time.

 

Buffalo also had two second round selections and used them on forward Marcus Davidsson (37th) and goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (54th).  Some pegged Luukkonen as the top goalie of the 2017 class, so to get him in the late second round is pretty good.

 

Carolina Hurricanes

 

Grade: B

First Round Selection(s): Martin Necas (12th)

 

The Hurricanes ended up with nine picks in this draft and four of them were used on players from European leagues.  Necas, who played in the Czech league, is of course the most noteworthy of that group.  He’s a good skater with offensive upside, but it’s likely going to be at least a couple years before he’s playing with Carolina.

 

It makes a lot of sense that the Hurricanes spent their top pick on a forward given that they already have a strong, young defensive core.  Carolina ended up only using one of its first seven selections on defensemen with the lone example being blueliner Luke Martin, who was claimed with the 52nd overall pick.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

 

Grade: C+

First Round Selection(s): None

 

Columbus surrendered its first-round pick and a 2019 second-round selection to Vegas in a move that allowed them to dump David Clarkson’s contract onto the Golden Knights and that William Karlsson would be the player Vegas took from the Blue Jackets in the expansion draft.  That’s in addition to the Blue Jackets having already lost its second round pick to Vancouver as compensation for hiring John Tortorella.

 

Without a pick in the first two rounds, Columbus surrendered prospect Keegan Kolesar to Tampa Bay so that the Blue Jackets could get the 45th overall pick, which they used on forward Alexandre Texier, who played in France last season.  Columbus didn’t select again until it took Daniil Tarasov with the 86th overall pick, who didn’t play in 2016-17 due to a shoulder injury.

 

In the end, while there was a lot of movement involved with the Blue Jackets, Columbus doesn’t have much to show from it in terms of prospects worth highlighting at this time.

 

Detroit Red Wings

 

Grade: B+

First Round Selection(s): Michael Rasmussen (9th)

 

The last time the Red Wings had a top-10 selection was in 1991 when they took Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick.  This time around they went with Rasmussen, who is an imposing center at 6-foot-6.  He can move well for a player of his size though and additionally he’ll play around the net.  He could develop into a very valuable offensive tool for the Red Wings, but he will need more time to develop in the WHL before going pro.

 

The Red Wings also took defenseman Gustav Lindstrom with the 38th overall pick, who was a bit of a surprise to go that high, but he has potential, both offensively and otherwise.  Detroit also had four third-round picks with perhaps the most noteworthy of those selections being on goaltender Keith Petruzzelli (88th overall).  As is almost always the case with goaltenders on draft day, he’s still at least a few years away from the NHL level, but he’s a big body at 6-foot-6 with impressive athleticism.

 

Florida Panthers

 

Grade: B+

First Round Selection(s): Owen Tippett (10th)

 

Panthers GM Dale Tallon was looking for a goal scorer in the entry draft and they arguably got the best one available in Tippett.  The 18-year-old forward is coming off an OHL campaign where he scored 44 goals and 75 points in 60 contests and another 10 goals and 19 points in 20 playoff games.  Tippett’s also a great skater, but the knock on him is his defensive game and that’s the issue that will likely keep him out of the NHL for a little bit longer.  Although that being said, Panthers coach Bob Boughner has suggested that he might end up giving Tippett a shot in 2017-18 given his already NHL-ready shot and speed, so he’ll at least be worth keeping an eye on during training camp.

 

Florida also got Max Gildon with the 66th overall pick, which is noteworthy because he was projected to go in the second round.  Time will tell if the Panthers got a bit of a steal here, but Gildon is a blueliner with a good shot and size.  He’ll continue his development by going to the University of New Hampshire.

 

Montreal Canadiens

 

Grade: B

First Round Selection(s): Ryan Poehling (25th)

 

Poehling had just seven goals and 13 points in 35 games with St. Cloud State last season, but the forward has more offensive upside than those numbers might suggest.  Still, as you might expect from a late first-round pick, he’s a project and one that will likely stick with St. Cloud State for now.

 

The Canadiens also added a defenseman in the second round when they took Josh Brook (56th).  He’s a good all-around blueliner that doesn’t really stand out in any one area.  There’s the potential for him to make it in the NHL, though likely not as someone who’s going to excite people.

 

New Jersey Devils

 

Grade: A

First Round Selection(s): Nico Hischier (1st)

 

The Devils lucked out and got the first overall pick by winning the draft lottery.  This wasn’t an ideal year to win the lottery as there was no generational talent to grab, but the Devils have to be pleased that they had the opportunity to add Hischier to their organization.  He shot up the draft rankings in 2016-17, in part thanks to his superb showing while playing for Switzerland in the 2017 World Junior Championship.  He also had 38 goals and 86 points in 57 QMJHL games with Halifax in 2016-17.

 

He excels when it comes to puck handling and vision and could eventually be the offensive force that the Devils sorely need.  He’s also one of maybe just a couple players from this draft class that has a fairly good shot of immediately playing in the NHL.

 

New Jersey also grabbed Jesper Boqvist with the 36th overall pick and he’s another center with plenty of upside.  His speed and skills with the puck are among his main assets.

 

New York Rangers

 

Grade: A-

First Round Selection(s): Lias Andersson (7th) and Filip Chytil (21st)

 

The Rangers shipped Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona in exchange for prospect Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick.  As good as Raanta is, the fact that Henrik Lundqvist is locked into a long-term deal limited his future in New York, so the main loss in that trade for the Rangers was ultimately Stepan.  Andersson isn’t likely to step into the NHL in 2017-18 and immediately replace Stepan, but he certainly could be a big part of the Rangers in the not too distant future.

 

Andersson is a two-way center with a high hockey IQ, who comes from a hockey lineage that includes his father, Niklas, who played in 164 NHL games and his uncle, Mikael, who was in the top league for 15 seasons.  He might not end up exciting fantasy owners though as his offensive upside isn’t as high as some of the other top prospects.

 

Chytil is another center and his style has drawn some comparisons to Auston Matthews, although he likely doesn’t have Matthews’ upside nor is he as NHL-ready as Matthews was.  That being said, Chytil is a great prospect that could be another significant contributor for the Rangers in a few years.

 

The Rangers didn’t have any picks in the second or third rounds.

 

New York Islanders

 

Grade: C+

First Round Selection(s): None

 

The Islanders gave up the 15th overall pick to the Vegas Golden Knights along with a 2019 second-rounder and Jake Bischoff so that Vegas would select Jean-Francois Berube in the expansion draft and take Mikhail Grabovski’s contract off the Islanders’ hand.  That was quite the price for the Islanders to pay.

 

So the Islanders ended up waiting until the 46th overall pick when they took defenseman Robin Salo.  That started a theme as they also took blueliners Benjamin Mirageas and Sebastian Aho in the third and fifth rounds.

 

Some of the Islanders’ picks might end up being good in the NHL, but they didn’t get anyone that stands out at this time.

 

Ottawa Senators

 

Grade: B-

First Round Selection(s): Shane Bowers (28th)

 

Bowers is one of those forwards with a lot of potential, but not a ton to show for it just yet. He’s more of a project though, so that’s not really a big deal.  He’s expected to go to Boston University to hone his game and hopefully grow more offensively.  He’s not a player that has one thing about him that really stands out, but he’s a hard worker that positions himself well and competes at both ends of the ice.

 

Ottawa then took winger Alex Formenton with the 47th overall pick, who’s most noteworthy for his speed.  He’ll need to bulk up though.

 

Philadelphia Flyers

 

Grade: A

First Round Selection(s): Nolan Patrick (2nd), Morgan Frost (27th)

 

The Flyers defied the odds by getting the second overall pick via the draft lottery and used it on the player that was likely would have been taken first overall had he not missed so much of the 2016-17 campaign due to injuries.  That aside, he’s a tremendous offensive talent that also has good size at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds.  There’s a fair chance that he’ll make the Flyers out of training camp despite being limited to 33 WHL games last season.

 

The 27th overall pick was acquired by Philadelphia as part of the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera and a 2018 conditional first round pick.  Frost has great vision and is capable defensively, but he leans too heavily on feeding the puck to his teammates, to the point where he can be a bit predictable to defend.  He could eventually be a second-line center for the Flyers, but he’s a project.

 

On the second day of the draft the Flyers kept making news as they dealt the 44th, 75th, and 108th picks to Arizona for the sake of getting the 35th overall selection to get Isaac Ratcliffe.  In Ratcliffe Philadelphia has added a towering forward with solid skating and offensive talent.  He’s got top-six forward potential and might bring a mixture of skill and grit to the table.

 

Then in the fourth round, the Flyers added Matthew Strome (106th), who is the younger brother of Edmonton’s Ryan Strome and Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome.  Matthew’s skating needs work, but he does have a lot of offensive upside.  Basically every prospect can be called a gamble, but you could make a case that Matthew is a much greater risk than most.  Still, with a pick that late, can you fault the Flyers for taking that chance?

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Grade: C+

First Round Selection(s): None

 

As the Stanley Cup winners, the Penguins had the 31st overall pick and they dealt it to St. Louis in exchange for Ryan Reaves and the 51st overall selection.  The Penguins didn’t have their own second rounder (62nd) as they sent it to Carolina back in February as part of the Ron Hainsey trade.

 

Consequently, defenseman Zachary Lauzon was the Penguins’ only selection in the first two rounds.  As an aside, Pittsburgh has now used eight of their last 12 picks over the last two years on defensemen.

 

Lauzon can chip in somewhat offensively, but he’s definitely much more of a defensive defenseman and he plays a very physical game.  He’s not going to be on a lot of fantasy teams in standard leagues, but if he develops as hoped then he could certainly find a place on the Penguins’ roster in a few years.

 

There’s really not much to speak of when it comes to the Penguins’ draft, but that’s just the price of being a championship team.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Grade: B-

First Round Selection(s): Cal Foote (14th)

 

Cal’s the son of retired defenseman Adam Foote, but they’re different types of defensemen.  Cal Foote is much more of an offensive defenseman than his father was; though at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he certainly has the size to be physical should he develop that aspect of his game.  If Matthew Strome was a bigger gamble than most prospects, then Cal Foote could be seen as the mirror imagine in the sense that he’s a safer pick than most draft day prospects.  He’s not NHL-ready yet, but he has the potential to be a valuable top-four defenseman.

 

The Lightning followed it up by taking a pair of Russian forwards in Alexander Volkov (48th) and Alexey Lipanov (76th).  Volkov was something of a surprise in the second round, but we’ll have to see how he develops.  He missed a lot of the 2016-17 campaign due to an ankle injury, so an argument could be made that he consequently flew under the radar a bit.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

 

Grade: A-

First Round Selection(s): Timothy Liljegren (17th)

 

The Maple Leafs showcased a lot of promising rookie forwards last season, so it’s not surprising to see them use their top pick on a defenseman like Liljegren.  He’s also a potential steal at 17th overall as he went into the 2016-17 campaign as a potential top-five pick.  The reason why he slipped this far is because he dealt with mononucleosis last season and didn’t play for two months as a result.  That aside, he has a lot of offensive upside, a high hockey IQ, and is a good skater.

 

They took another blueliner Eemeli Rasanen (59th) in the second round.  Rasanen is 6-foot-7, so obviously he’s a huge presence, and he has a great shot.  He needs to work on his skating though and is definitely a project.

 

Washington Capitals

 

Grade: D

First Round Selection(s): None

 

Washington didn’t have a first round pick because it was surrendered in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.  The Capitals didn’t have a second round selection either as a result of the Lars Eller trade.  Nor did they have a third round pick due to the Mike Weber trade.

 

That’s a lot of picks sacrificed for a team that can’t seem to get past the second round.  To be far, that’s being said with 20/20 hindsight, but it did result in this being an uneventful draft for Washington.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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