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Well, that sucked. Instead of re-hashing the events of last night, let’s just get to it. There will be no Hughes or Kakko in Colorado. Harsh, universe.
1. New Jersey Devils – Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP (USHL)
The Devils have a heavy USA Hockey presence and they’re going to be all about adding to their center depth with Hughes. Nico Hischier and Hughes are great building blocks moving forward as they now look to try to convince Taylor Hall to re-sign with them for the rest of his prime. Hughes may be the linchpin that helps keep Hall, helping the Devils two-fold in the long run.
2. New York Rangers – Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga)
Kakko broke the U-18 goal-scoring record in the Liiga, previously held by Sasha Barkov. This has driven plenty of his hype in the second half as he has closed the gap on Hughes for the top player selected. With the Devils being so heavily invested in the USA Hockey realm, they go with Hughes, leaving the Rangers with the easiest selection of the draft in Kakko. The power forward has played all over for TPS this year but probably goes back to his natural right wing slot in the NHL. He will help spark the Rangers rebuild that feels like it’s been going on for all of 12 seconds. Must be nice!
3. Chicago Blackhawks – Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP (USHL)
Wannabe New York holds the keys to the draft following the top two players going and there is an argument for about six players here. That’s going to be the case for most of the picks in the top ten as this is such a talented group but Chicago’s recent affinity for USHL players has me leaning towards Turcotte. He has the pedigree NHL teams love and following an injury-riddled first half of the season he finished on an absolute tear once he got healthy. He would be a strong consideration for the Avalanche at four if Chicago goes a different direction. As a note, the Blackhawks have used three first and two second round selections on defensemen the last three drafts so I have them passing on Bowen Byram here.
4. Colorado Avalanche (from OTT) – Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
This is a very tough call. Vasili Podkolzin is still available, as is Byram and two of my personal favorites in Peyton Krebs and Matthew Boldy. All of those guys represent something the Avalanche could use but I have them going with a center who is currently ripping up the WHL playoffs and rebuilding some of the stock he hurt during a lull over the winter where his uninspired play had NHL teams cooling on him a bit. He’s shaken the cobwebs off and caught fire at the right time. Podkolzin would be the big home run swing but I’m not sure the Avs want to take that chance here.
5. Los Angeles Kings – Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
This is a tough one. The Kings need speed and are desperate for help basically everywhere. I’m giving them Byram because it’s easier than trying to find the right forward for them. They absolutely need help on defense because Drew Doughty is basically the only guy on that defense that seems like a viable long-term solution. Byram may take a year or two while he continues dusting the WHL but he’s the top defenseman in this draft and after dropping all the way down to five, that’s a pretty good haul.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Vasili Podkolzin, RW, Russia
I’m putting ‘Russia’ because he played in the VHL, MHL, and KHL this year. Instead of listing all those teams, let’s just agree he played in Russia and move on. He has good size, a crazy motor, and high-end offensive ability. His numbers are overwhelming in club play but he’s been a dominant international player against his peer group. He’s signed for a couple more years and isn’t likely to make the jump to North America until he’s ready for full-time NHL action. That patience and the general ‘Russian Factor’ that exists has him dropping to six despite being the third-best prospect in this class. Detroit can affort to wait on Podkolzin; they aren’t going to be competitive anytime soon.
7. Buffalo Sabres -Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
According to some scouts I’ve talked to this year, Boldy is going to compete for a Selke Trophy someday. He’s a natural goal scorer with good size and high-end defensive ability. Buffalo moved on from Ryan O’Reilly and while Boldy plays on the wing, he can replace some of that defensive work they moved on from. There’s just as good an argument for Peyton Krebs here as he could actually replace everything O’Reilly gave Buffalo.
8. Edmonton Oilers – Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
The Oilers need defense. They need forwards to help McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins. They’re also maxed out at the cap. They suck. They need everything. I have them reaching here as they continue to try to build the defense through drafting. Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom have turned into fine NHL players and Evan Bouchard looks like the real deal. Broberg brings elite skating to the table but is a work in progress everywhere else. Edmonton is the headless horseman right now so it’s tough to get a read on what they might do so I’m giving them a defenseman.
9. Anaheim Ducks – Peyton Krebs, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
I was tempted to stop the fall of Dylan Cozens here but I feel Krebs is the superior prospect and I always trust Anaheim to make the right call. They are especially sound when targeting two-way players and Krebs is excellent. He moved from left wing to center this year on a bad Ice team where he played all situations and was very good. He’s likely to blow up at the combine with his interviews and he could easily go as high as Los Angeles. Anaheim doesn’t make draft mistakes.
10. Vancouver Canucks – Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes, (WHL)
This is a free-fall for Cozens but the Canucks benefit nicely. I do think Cozens is in for a fall come draft day as I think he’s the fourth-best guy from the WHL and the cluster of Americans will force a really good player or two down the board. Here it’s Cozens and the Canucks get a guy who can transition to right wing next to Bo Horvat and build that forward depth with Pettersson and Boeser. They have the luxury of not having to make a tough decision on who to target from this forward-heavy group as they just take whoever falls to them. Sometimes the draft is easy!
11. Philadelphia Flyers -Pavel Dorofeyev, Wing, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
This is a little higher than I’d like for Dorofeyev but he’s kind of a Russian version of Joel Farabee, whom they selected in the first round last year. There are no obvious fits here and the best guy left on my board, Trevor Zegras, just doesn’t make sense here and the top defenseman left is also a poor fit for their identity. Dorofeyev is a do-everything forward who the Flyers have the luxury of waiting a couple of years as he fills out and develops. This is them playing the long game but they’ve been comfortable doing it in the past and it makes sense again in this spot.
12. Minnesota Wild – Trevor Zegras, C, USNDTP (USHL)
This is a pretty great scenario for the Wild if it plays out this way. Zegras is a great playmaker with great vision and the kind of high offensive upside the Wild have not targeted in recent years. He’s a bit too perimeter-oriented for my taste but his overall profile is a great fit as the Wild seek to inject new blood into a stagnant organization.
13. Florida Panthers – Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
The obvious top forwards are off the board so the smooth-skating Harley continues his rise up the draft boards here. Florida hasn’t selected a defenseman in the top two rounds since taking Aaron Ekblad first overall in 2014. They have a legit scary forward corps with more prospects on the way so shoring up an iffy defense would go a long way. Harley has been on the rise for a while now after a breakout offensive year.
14. Arizona Coyotes – Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Coyotes double dip on the centers in the first round after taking Barrett Hayton last year. The addition of Newhook gives them another bite at the apple of high-end offense down the middle. He’s dominated the BCHL and is on his way to Boston College next season. We’ll get a much better idea of just how good this kid really is when he hits Hockey East next season. He’s a major roll of the dice and that’s something John Chayka has shown he’s not afraid of at the draft table.
15. Montreal Canadiens – Cam York, D, USNTDP (USHL)
The Canadiens could be in the money here as York is a legit offensive talent and looks to follow in the steps of Quinn Hughes at Michigan next year. He’s one of many talented blueliners but you wonder about Montreal and their love of more traditional types. Their success with Victor Mete should have them open to the idea of a smaller guy like York, even though he’s still over six feet tall. There are any number of defenders who would be a good fit here but York is the best left on my board so here he lands.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas IF (SHL)
I was really looking for an excuse to take Ryan Suzuki or Bobby Brink here and certainly goaltender Spencer Knight will be a consideration but here we have the Avalanche addressing their blue line. With Cale Makar getting ready to graduate, the only meaningful prospects in the Avalanche system are Nicolas Meloche and Conor Timmins. While both guys are far from established NHL players, they’re also knocking on the NHL door with the Colorado Eagles (assuming Timmins ever gets healthy, of course). Soderstrom is a great skater who can do a little of everything and getting 40 games in the SHL as a teenager is impressive. He’s a longer term project but Colorado needs to get serious about rebuilding its defensive pipeline.