Corey Abbott

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Draft Grades - East

Monday, June 25, 2018

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is in the books and the free agent frenzy is on the horizon. Before that happens we will examine how teams in the Eastern Conference did at the draft table in Dallas.


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Boston Bruins


Grade: C


First Round Selection(s): None (Top pick was Axel Andersson at 57th overall)


The Bruins sent the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to the New York Rangers as part of the Rick Nash trade. Boston wasn’t on the clock for a selection until the second round when the team chose Andersson, who is a Swedish junior player. He is slated to be back with Djurgadens IF J20 next season. Andersson is an offensive-minded defenseman, which was a popular theme for this draft. He is a good puck mover and has potential as a power-play quarterback.


Speedster Jakub Lauko, who was taken in the third round with the 77th overall pick, could be worth keeping an eye on as well. He went later than most had projected and could be a strong value selection for the Bruins.


Buffalo Sabres


Grade: A


First Round Selection(s): Rasmus Dahlin (1st)


There were no surprises here when Buffalo took Dahlin with the top pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. This was his draft from the beginning. The Swedish defender has the ability to be an impact player in all situations and he should be a cornerstone player for the Sabres for years to come. Dahlin’s blend of intelligence, skating, puck handling and physicality present him with all the tools to be a success at the next level as a number one defenseman.


The Sabres made Mattias Samuelsson the first pick (32nd overall) of the second round. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound rearguard is a physical and mobile player who can move the puck well. He is committed to play for Western Michigan University next year. The Sabres didn’t make another selection until the fourth round when the club made their lone forward pick of the 2018 NHL Draft. Buffalo took USHL rookie of the year Matej Pekar in that spot. Five of the team’s six picks were used on defensemen.


Caroline Hurricanes


Grade: A


First Round Selection(s): Andrei Svechnikov (2nd)


Carolina was a big winner at the NHL Draft Lottery when the team moved up from the 11th spot to the second overall selection. The Hurricanes used the pick on Svechnikov, who is the younger brother of Detroit prospect Evgeny Svechnikov. Andrei is a dynamic forward who boasts great skating, puck skills and hockey sense. He finishes plays in the attacking end and can play a hard-nosed style, which should make him an impact player in the NHL as a top-line forward.


The Hurricanes took Jack Drury with the 11th pick in round two (42nd overall). He was a second team All-Star in the USHL in 2017-18. His father, Ted Drury, played 414 career NHL games after he was the 42nd overall selection in the 1989 NHL Draft. His uncle is Chris Drury, who appeared in 892 matches during his NHL career.


Carolina also completed a big trade on the second day of the NHL Draft when Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm were sent to Calgary in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox. Hanifin and Lindholm were both fifth overall picks of the Hurricanes and even though they are both still young, the Hurricanes clearly didn’t envision them as part of the future anymore. They both could turn into the players that Carolina thought they had when they drafted them, but the club was clearly looking for changes after a ninth straight year of missing the playoffs.


In any case, it isn’t a poor return by any means for the Hurricanes. Ferland will add some grit and scoring up front, while Hamilton is an offensive catalyst from the back end and is the best player involved in this transaction. Fox could be back at Harvard University next season, but he is an intriguing piece as well if Carolina gets him under contract.


Columbus Blue Jackets


Grade: B-


First Round Selection(s): Liam Foudy (18th)


Columbus arguably reached for their top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, but Foudy is a solid player. He increased his draft stock thanks to a strong finish to the year with the OHL’s London Knights. He benefited from a larger role following some late-season trades and amassed 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) in his last 30 outings. Foudy also tested very well at the Draft Combine. He is a speedy forward who has top-nine forward potential at the NHL level.


Skating is not a strong asset of Kirill Marchenko, who Columbus selected in the second round with the 49th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. However, he does possesses an offensive skill set that could make him a top-six forward. Marcus Karlberg, who was chosen 80th overall, is another player with some promise. He is a quick, playmaking forward who might be a regular in Sweden’s second division, with Leksands IF, in 2018-19.


Detroit Red Wings


Grade: A+


First Round Selection(s): Filip Zadina (6th), Joe Veleno (30th)


Detroit was linked frequently to the top defenders of this draft class, especially since they would have filled an organizational need, but the team had a pair of talented forwards fall into their lap during the opening round of the 2018 NHL Draft. Zadina was too good to pass up at No. 6 and probably should not have fallen that far. He is a dynamic forward with game-breaking offensive abilities. Zadina’s speed and hockey sense makes him dangerous just about every time he is around the puck. Veleno was also a great pickup at No. 30, as he was widely projected to be selected earlier. He has two-way acumen, plays the game intelligently and has the skill set to finish.


The Red Wings added more talent in the second round with Jonatan Berggren (33rd overall) and Jared McIsaac (36th overall). McIsaac is a superb puck mover from the back end who has top-four upside, while Berggren has great two-way upside and top-six forward potential.


Detroit took three players in the third round, including Jesper Eliasson, who was the first of two goaltenders that the team selected. He is set to play for the Vaxjo Lakers HC J20 team next season and the Wings may have reached a bit for him as other netminders were ranked ahead of him. Still, this was a great draft for an organization that desperately needed to stock the cupboard with prospects.


Florida Panthers


Grade: B+


First Round Selection(s): Grigori Denisenko (15th)


The Florida Panthers added some organizational depth up front at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Denisenko didn’t post strong numbers in the MHL, but he is a highly-skilled forward with top-line potential. He is a great skater with playmaking ability and scoring talent. He could be in the KHL or CHL next season with a better chance to showcase his offensive flair.


The Panthers also snagged Serron Noel early in the second round with the 34th overall pick. The son of former CFL running back, Dean Noel, was projected as a possible first-round selection and gives Florida another potential top-six forward for the future. Noel has the size, speed and soft hands to be a successful power forward. Logan Hutsko (89th overall) is another winger prospect who has some potential. He has bounced back from some devastating injuries (broken neck and fractured kneecap) and will be worth monitoring during his sophomore season at Boston College.


Montreal Canadiens


Grade: B-


First Round Selection(s): Jesperi Kotkaniemi (3rd)


Kotkaniemi was regarded as the best center in the 2018 NHL Draft, but it’s fair to say that Montreal may have reached slightly to take him with some talented scorers on the board. However, it’s hard to fault them for trying to develop a top-line center and that is what Kotkaniemi could end up being for the organization.


Montreal also added plenty of value among the other 10 selections in the draft. The Canadiens made three second-round picks in Jesse Ylonen (35th overall), Alexander Romanov (38th overall) and Jacob Olofsson (56th overall). Ylonen and Olofsson stand out as a solid value choices, but right now they project as top-nine forwards.


Another player worth highlighting is Allan McShane, who was scooped up in the fourth round with the 97th overall pick. He is a gifted playmaker with very good offensive instincts. Seven of the 10 skaters Montreal chose were centers.


New Jersey Devils


Grade: C+


First Round Selection(s): Ty Smith (17th)


Smith is a superb defenseman with a high ceiling. He is another great skating rearguard with plenty of hockey sense and he is projected to be a top-four defender.


The Devils didn’t have another pick until the fourth round when they chose blueliner Xavier Bernard at 110th overall. Aside from Smith, nothing else really jumps out from New Jersey’s draft class.


New York Islanders


Grade: A+


First Round Selection(s): Oliver Wahlstrom (11th), Noah Dobson (12th)


Much like the Red Wings, the New York Islanders got tremendous value with two picks in the opening round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Wahlstrom and Dobson both could have gone higher and the Isles didn’t hesitate to snatch them up when they were available through the first 10 picks. Wahlstrom offers big-time goal scoring ability, while Dobson has the all-around talent to be the second-best blueliner to come out of this draft class behind Rasmus Dahlin.


In the second round, New York selected Bode Wilde, who could have gone on Day 1 of the NHL Draft. Getting him at pick No. 41 is a great value pick for the Islanders. Wilde has the skill set to be an all-around, top-three defender.


New York Rangers


Grade: B+


First Round Selection(s): Vitali Kravtsov (9th), K'Andre Miller (22nd), Nils Lundkvist (28th)


The New York Rangers had three selections in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft and got quality prospects with their choices. The Rangers passed on some excellent players at No. 9, but Kravtsov has all the makings of a top-six forward who can generate goals and points. Kravtsov also plays with a hard-nosed style and has the size to be a menace in the attacking zone. The Rangers moved up four spots to take Miller, who is a smooth-skating defender with great size and offensive abilities. Lundkvist is a mobile rearguard with a high hockey IQ and great on-ice vision.


New York took the first goalie of the 2018 draft class at No. 39 when the team chose Olof Lindbom, who was excellent at the IIHF World U18 Championship for Sweden. The Rangers used six of their 10 picks on defensemen, with OHLers Joey Keane (88th overall) and Nico Gross (101st overall) standing out as potential value picks.


Ottawa Senators


Grade: B


First Round Selection(s): Brady Tkachuk (4th), Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th)


The Senators surprised some by keeping the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. That decision means that Colorado will get Ottawa’s first-round choice in 2019. Ottawa will need a big bounce-back campaign to prevent the Avalanche from getting a high draft choice. The Senators took Brady Tkachuk, who is the son of Keith Tkachuk and younger brother of Matthew Tkachuk, with that selection. Tkachuk plays a similar in-your-face style that seems to run in the family. He can also score and should become a top-line winger for the Senators.


Ottawa used the 26th overall pick on Jacob Bernard-Docker, which was higher than most had him going, but they traded down and acquired an extra pick before selecting him. His hockey sense and strong skating have him projected as a top-four defenseman. Bernard-Docker is slated to play for the University of North Dakota in the fall. With the other pick the Senators received in the deal, the club took Jonathan Tychoick. He is another potential top-four defender with sublime skating and two-way skills.


Philadelphia Flyers


Grade: B-


First Round Selection(s): Joel Farabee (14th), Jay O'Brien (19th)


Farabee is loaded with offensive potential and should be a great pick for the Flyers. He can play in all situations and has the ability to make the players around him better. Farabee is set to play for Boston University in 2018-19. Philadelphia took a big swing at No. 19 with Jay O’Brien. It’s widely believed that he was chosen too early, but he has does have promise and could prove the team was right to take him when they did. O’Brien will play for Providence College next season and could be a top-six center down the road.


Adam Ginning was taken by the Flyers in the second round with the 50th overall pick. He is a big-bodied defender who could be a shutdown defender in the fourth or fifth spot on the roster. Ginning doesn’t have the flashy appeal of most of the other defensemen taken in this draft, but he still could turn out to be someone to monitor.


Pittsburgh Penguins


Grade: C+


First Round Selection(s): None (Top pick was Calen Addison at 53rd overall)


Pittsburgh dealt their first-round pick to Ottawa as part of the three-team trade with Vegas to acquire Derick Brassard. For a team that only had four selections in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Penguins did remarkably well. It was quality over quantity as the team’s first pick was Addison, who could have gone higher. He is projected as a top-four defender and possesses plenty of offensive talent. He handles the puck very well and uses his intelligence to make the best play possible. Pittsburgh snagged Filip Hallander at 58th overall after trading up with Colorado. He is a hard-working forward with two-way skills who could fit into Pittsburgh’s top-nine forward group in the future.


Justin Almeida, who was taken in the fifth round at 129th overall, is an undersized forward who exploded offensively last year in the WHL. The 19-year-old is worth keeping an eye on because of his speed and skill.


Tampa Bay Lightning


Grade: C


First Round Selection(s): None (Top pick was Gabriel Fortier at 59th overall)


Tampa Bay has built an outstanding prospect pool, but this was not one of their better draft performances if flash and skill is what you look for. This could be a class that adds organizational depth to the AHL more than anything else The Lightning didn’t have a first-round pick to work with after sending it to the Rangers as part of the Ryan McDonagh deal. Tampa Bay wasn’t on the clock until No. 59 when Fortier was chosen. He is projected as a top-nine forward at best. His skating and intensity stand out as his strongest qualities. Dmitry Semykin was taken with Tampa Bay’s third-round pick at 90th overall. He is bruising shutdown-type blueliner.


Radim Salda, who finished first among QMJHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in 62 games last year, could be someone to monitor. His minus-37 rating and 78 penalty minutes may raise some eyebrows, but he played on a bad Saint John team in 2017-18. Still, he could be a good investment for a seventh-round pick if his hockey IQ improves.


Toronto Maple Leafs


Grade: B


First Round Selection(s): Rasmus Sandin (29th)


The Leafs traded down and still got a player the team wanted when Sandin was available. He has great hockey sense, mobility and passing skills. He has power-play quarterback written all over him and could be a top-two pairing defender.


Toronto chose overage defender Sean Durzi in the second round with the 52nd overall pick. He had a big year in the OHL with 49 points in 40 games after he attend the Leafs’ development camp last spring. He’s another offensive-minded defender who made positive strides in his own end in 2017-18.


Toronto’s next draft choice, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, was the youngest player in the 2018 draft class. His September 15, 2000 birthday is right at the cut off date for eligibility or else he wouldn’t have been obtainable until 2019. The 76th overall pick will get plenty time to develop in the OHL with Peterborough, where he had 51 points in 68 matches last year.


Washington Capitals


Grade: B-


First Round Selection(s): Alexander Alexeyev (31st)


The 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals wrapped up the first round of the draft with the pickup of a two-way defenseman in Alexeyev. His sound hockey sense, skating skills and offensive instincts helped him amass 37 points in 45 games for Red Deer of the WHL last year. Alexeyev could be a second-pairing defender at the NHL level.


The Capitals got the 47th pick from Colorado in exchange for Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik. The move freed up valuable cap space and allowed the team to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent John Carlson to an eight-year, $64 million deal. It’s certainly a steep price tag, but he would have been a significant loss if he would’ve gone elsewhere. Orpik might also be back after he gets bought out by the Avalanche.


Washington made back-to-back picks in the second round when the club took Martin Fehervary and Kody Clark at 46th and 47th overall, respectively. Fehervary has some offensive upside, but his style is more conducive to a defensive-minded blueliner. Clark is the son of former NHLer Wendel Clark, who was the first overall pick in the 1985 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kody had 18 goals and 39 points in 56 games in his second OHL campaign with the Ottawa 67’s in 2017-18.


The Capitals chose another player with NHL bloodlines in the third round with the selection of Riley Sutter at 93rd overall. His father, Ron, is one of six Sutter brothers to play in the NHL and he has several cousins who have played professionally as well. Riley improved during his third season in the WHL to 25 goals and 53 points in 68 games with Everett. The 18-year-old power forward also added 19 points in 21 playoff matches.

Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
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