2017 NHL Draft: Good & Gross
I said this on Twitter Saturday morning, but I’ll say it again here. James Duthie was bragging up Bob McKenzie going 27 for 31 on Friday night. Elliotte Friedman was bragging up Sam Cosentino going 27 for 31 on Friday night. Those two are terrific, so please don’t get me wrong here. But I went 28 for 31. Seven of the picks were right on the money, 18 of them I had the right position, and I think it was another five or six of them I at least mention in the write up that they could go the way they ended up going. I’m bragging, absolutely. And I don’t like people who do that. But I also got nobody who is going to do it for me. I’m not talking about friends of mine or family or anything along those lines needing to do it. But I’m not about to put in as much work as I do every year and be humble when hit on things better than anyone else did.
Now that I’ve done my little rant, on with the show…
I thought about calling this “likes and dislikes”, but that’s been done. So the least I can do is change up the wording. I start this piece off every year by stating that this is done mainly for fun. Sure, it’s a bit of an overview of what went down in the draft. Some of the moves I rip on are going to be great, some of the moves I love are going to bust, but it’s fun to look back at these in a few years and see how right or wrong a guy was.
Carolina: Ronnie Franchise is so underrated as a GM in this league. I guess it remains to be seen at how good he is at wheeling and dealing because they need to address their top six, but at the draft table since he took over from Jim Rutherford, the Canes have just crushed it. They desperately needed a centre, and Martin Necas was the kid. Has some filling out to do, needs to work on his game away from the puck, but a massive upside. And Ron Francis said “Necas isn’t a sure thing, so we better land some insurance down the middle”.
Eetu Luostarinen is a big lanky Fin centre whom they took at 42. He has talent, needs time to fill out much like Necas, is an overager but only by 13 days, and again addresses that need down the middle. Morgan Geekie at 67, RH shooting centre who put up terrific numbers in the WHL this season. Only true knock was that just like Luostarinen, he was an overager. He is only two months older than Kailer Yamamoto while putting up numbers that weren’t far off that of the Edmonton Oilers first rounder. Stelio Mattheos at 73, RH shooting centre with good wheels, good size and is known for being a kid who can play in any situation and is pretty versatile. Doesn’t have the offensive upside the other three have, but he’s a kid who’ll likely play in the league for a number of years in a bottom six role. Oh, and then the cherry on the cake was that they took a tendy in the fourth round, 104th overall. Don’t know much about Eetu Makiniemi, but it’s a goaltender in the middle of the draft, love that.
The Hurricanes man, watch out for them. May have been one of the worst teams in the last decade in the league, but they’re about to get REAL good for a very long time.
Buffalo: Not a good start Mr. Botterill. I like Jason Botterill, seems like a great dude in all the interviews I’ve seen with him. He needed to do something to really help his system on D. At the 8th pick…he didn’t. Not the biggest fan of Casey Mittelstadt with that pick as I felt there were better players on the board and he in no way helps out the roster. Would they have had to of reached on a D-man there? Yep. Did they need to rather than take Mittelstadt? Yep. Down the line when they’re looking to trade Mittelstadt or Reinhart for a D-man and they can’t, they’ll probably look back at this draft and kick themselves.
But it wasn’t just in the first round. They went with another centre in the second round! Marcus Davidson, nice prospect, awful pick for them! Josh Brook, Filip Westerlund, Robin Salo, Ian Mitchell, Luke Martin, there were so many quality D-men on the board in that spot and they passed for yet ANOTHER centre. D-men have probably never been more valuable in this league then they are right now, and an organization who needs them maybe worse than any other team opted to not take one until the 89th pick in the draft, taking only two D-men total. That’s just awful.
Maybe Botterill believes he can trade his way out of this mess, but it’s a very “2014 Oilers-like” mess right now. Maybe they win the Rasmus Dahlin like sweeps just like the Oilers won Connor McDavid, but I wouldn’t be putting any eggs in that basket.
Los Angeles: Later, I’ll hit on who made the biggest mistake passing on Gabe Vilardi. But for now, I’ll rave about how the Kings stole him at the 11th pick. Is it going to be a steal long term? We’ll see. But as far as value, Vilardi was very worthy of being the 3rd pick in the draft, and he falls to 11. Couldn’t fit the Kings needs or type any better.
If you checked out my top 62 list, you’ll know what a big believer I am in Jaret Anderson-Dolan. I really believe that kid is going to play in the league, and is capable of being a Nick Bonino/Tyler Bozak type in that he’ll play a complete game and be skilled enough to be a terrific compliment to a winger who can drive offence (much like the kid he played on a line with in Spokane). So for the Kings to land him at 41 was great for them.
Matthew Villalta with the 72nd pick was probably a little early, but they walked away with a goaltender on the second day and I always like that. Mikey Anderson was a D-man a lot of people liked, and Markus Phillips at 118 was ridiculous! Drake Rymsha with their last pick (138th) was again a pick I really liked. Brock Otten who covers the OHL kids exclusively had Rymsha as his top overage kid available from the OHL.
Three D-men, three centres and a goaltender. Wow, that was about as perfect of a draft for the Kings as they could have hoped for.
Detroit: How in the fuck do you pass on Gabe Vilardi?!?! I had a tough time figuring out how the Rangers and Sabres did it, but for the Detroit Red Wings to pass on Vilardi, who couldn’t have been a better fit for their team, and playing his junior hockey in their freaking backyard, and you pass on that kid for one who did an alarming amount of his offensive damage in junior on the PP, and is a shoot first centre, something that rarely ever creates good results. I’m going to say it right now, I was expecting Rasmussen to be a bust before the draft, taking him over Vilardi for the Wings just sets him up to be a disaster there.
The whole draft wasn’t all that bad. Their four 3rd rounders all were pretty solid picks in my opinion, they did continue to address the need on D taking five defencemen total, two in the top 71. But that 9th pick is just unforgivable. Maybe I’ll look like a jackass saying that, wouldn’t be the first time, but I’ve seen these scenarios play out before and they never turn out well.
I wonder if the end isn’t near for Ken Holland. He does a lot of stuff these days that is really head scratching. Us as fans and the media as well tend to overrate lucky things that happen to teams and give far too much credit to the GM when it happens, such as hitting a home run on both Datsyuk and Zetterberg. As the Wings have fallen off, and the UFA’s don’t flock to Detroit on discount deals, Holland shows more and more flaws in what he does. I’m not saying he should be fired, but I’m just wondering if that sentiment is going to pick up steam in the next few years?
Nashville: The Preds are coming off their best season in franchise history and David Poile, whom I’ve ripped on a lot in the past but acknowledge that in the last three or four years he has really gone to another level, continued to do some of the best work in the leauge. The story of there draft was insane value picks. I did not like Eeli Tolvanen in this draft, had him ranked lower than most. But he was very worthy of being a first round pick, and for Poile to get him at 30 was tremendous. And they’re a team who can afford a guy who is really one dimensional as Tolvanen is.
Then they got Grant Mismash at 61. There are 50 kids who could have gone in the first round, so I won’t use that cliche, but he was definitely in that group of 50 for just about everyone. So to land him at 61 is awesome! David Farrance at 93. He’s small, but one of the most skilled D-men in the draft and he’s off to BU this fall so he’ll have some extra development time with a great program. They took a tendy in the 4th. Tomas Vomacka. Know very little about him, but they took a tendy in the mid-late rounds and that’s always a good move. Then in the 7th they got D-man Jacob Paquette who if he wasn’t in top 100 lists, he wasn’t far off it and it’s probably fair to say he fell 75-100 spots further than most expected him to go.
A damn good organization got even better this weekend, and all while selecting at the bottom of every round.
Edmonton: This is the hill I’m going to die on, because I believe I’m the only one in “Oilerland” who feels this way. Calling their draft “gross” in this case probably doesn’t accurately describe how I feel about their draft, but I didn’t like it. Kailer Yamamoto, with who was left on the board, I was ok with him as the pick. He’ll play, he’s a driver offensively, and he’s going to be a massive favourite of the fans and the media.
They got some great value with Ostap Safin at 115 and Kirill Maksimov at 146. Safin is the type of kid we saw a ton of in the early 2000’s. A massive, old school power forward who has all the ability to dominate, but the motor isn’t there. I would have been willing to take a chance on a kid like this at pick 50, and they got him at 115. In Maksimov, all the OHL guys adore that pick. His game really took off after his trade from Saginaw to Niagara, had a real good U18, nice size (6’2, 192) and real good speed and skill.
So why do I hate this draft for the Oilers? Well, they didn’t take a damn centre until the 6th freaking round!! The draft is about what’s needed in the system, especially after the first round! Yamamoto over Ryan Poehling at 22, I was cool with, but they then needed to go get a centre. After 66 picks, there was only one centre who would have been a great fit for the Oilers off the board (Jake Leschyshyn). They traded up to get local kid, goaltender Stuart Skinner. I have zero against Skinner at all. They didn’t reach on him, he came on late in the season and in the playoffs, I really like that pick if they had addressed a much bigger need. But they didn’t, despite Bob Stauffer trying to convince us that a goaltender was the big need at that point. You take a goaltender in the 4th, 5th or 6th round, not there. I have a tough time believing that by the start of the 3rd round the Oilers couldn’t have done something similar to what they did for Skinner to jump up and take a kid like Morgan Geekie, Stelio Mattheos, or Alexei Lipanov.
Going into the second day I maintained that the Oilers needed to stockpile centres, and they did the opposite. Nugent-Hopkins likely will need to be moved within the next 13 months, Letestu is a UFA after next season, and this club has literally nothing in the pipeline at CENTRE. That’s a damn vital position to be bare at, I don’t care how great your top two guys are.
Oh yeah, and they sold Jordan Eberle for pennies on the dollar instead of packaging Eberle and getting Travis Hamonic, a guy who fit the Oilers needs on the blueline perfectly. I could care less that the Flames got him as an Oilers fan, anytime you’re looking over your shoulder at what your rival is doing probably means that they’re better than you. But I care a ton that the Oilers could have got that guy who not only fit on the ice, but he has one of the best non ELC contracts in the league. Instead, they settled for Ryan Strome and re-signed Kris Russell to a likely unmovable contract. Fucking piss poor management.
This team should be loading up to take a big run at the Cup this season before McDavid’s new contract kicks in, and instead they appear to be content just being good instead of great. As an Oilers fan, I’ve quickly lost a ton of faith in Peter Chiarelli. The man’s track record proves that the Kessel trade was an outlier, and that he badly undervalues his top assets.
Toronto: Having Timothy Liljegren fall to them at 17 was in no way a shock. It was dumb, but it wasn’t anything of a shock. I had said it in the weeks leading up to the draft that there was no way he was getting past the 17th pick. The Leafs had too much of a need and he was too perfect of a fit to drop any further, and his season can be chalked up to having mono. “But but but he played terrible in this game, and that game, and his decision making went from phenomenal to terrible…” The kid had mono. Is he a sure thing? Hell no. Is he any more of a bust risk than Heiskanen or Makar? Not in my books.
They took a home run swing with the 59th pick selecting the hulking Fin Eemeli Rasanen. RH shooting D-man who had similar point totals to Pierre-Olivier Joseph. He’s a project without a doubt, but at the 59th pick in the draft I have no problem risking a pick on a kid with ridiculous potential like Rasanen has. Then they got Ian Scott the 110th pick, and while I wouldn’t say that was insane value (no reach either), what I would say is that Scott has been on the scene for a few years now as a top goaltending prospect and has the talent to be an starter in the show someday. He played behind a horrendous team this season in P.A. Again, a gamble worth taking at that pick.
The Leafs came into this draft needing RH shooting D and to add a goaltending prospect to the system. They got two RH shooting D (four D-men in total) and that tendy and did it all while getting good value. That’s a pretty good draft I’d say.
New Jersey: You know…maybe the Pens were right about Ray Shero. It’s amazing that Shero takes no heat whatsoever in the hockey world for the Taylor Hall trade. Congrats on winning the value of a deal, your reward was your team being a whole lot worse, and so far it doesn’t appear as though he knows how to get out of this hole.
I had zero issue with the Hischier pick, 100% get that one and don’t think you could go wrong with him at number one. Where Shero completely dropped the ball was in rounds two through six where he only picked one defenceman. WHAT?!? How do you only take one freaking D-man through the first six rounds!!!? This is why the “BPA” approach is so flawed. You have a league where centres are going to cost a ton of assets or cap, and defencemen are essentially unavailable. So if you don’t understand what little value wingers have, then you could end up with very few centres and defencemen. You need to have a strategy in the draft, and the Devils showed at pick 36 in taking Jesper Boqvist that they had no plan. Even if the D-man you take at 36 isn’t as good as a kid like Boqvist, it’s funny in the NHL how when GM’s actually do trade their defencemen that they want DEFENCEMEN back in the trade. You have to take a lot of swings on D in this league now! The Ducks don’t hit on all of their’s, but they’ve taken a lot of swings on D over the last ten years and it’s resulted in them drafting ten D who either have established themselves in the league or look like damn fine prospects. “But they took three D in the 7th round”. Too little too late. Shero went three picks until he finally took a D-man, and then didn’t do it again until the 7th round. If an owner actually realized what a mistake that is Shero would be fired on the spot.
The Devils are a major mess right now. They have some good pieces, but they have so many big holes and until they start taking those holes seriously they are going absolutely nowhere.
Vegas: Of course you should have a real good draft if you have three picks in the top 15. But they killed it with those picks, and then had some real good choices later on. Cody Glass at six, a RH shooting centre with size and his only true flaw being that he needs time to fill out. Nick Suzuki at 13, I was a massive Suzuki fan all season and they got him a little later than I and most people suspected he would go. So they did exactly what I had figured they’d look to do after the expansion draft which was load up on the position they couldn’t fill in that draft. And then Erik Brannstrom at 15 was great for their blueline. He’s short, but he has a stocky build, so I doubt the size will be much of an issue for him, and as Red Line Report said earlier in the year there wasn’t much difference between Cale Makar and Brannstrom.
Then you had day two for the Golden Knights. Nicolas Hague at 34, great value and adds to their blueline again. Jake Leschyshyn at 62, great value and adds to their much needed haul of centres. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say in five years or so that Glass, Suzuki and Leschyshyn could be their second, third and fourth line centres. They followed the “one tendy per draft” rule and also got good value with Maksim Zhukov at the 96th pick, and Ben Jones was a centre out of the OHL I was really intrigued by going into the draft and they managed to snag him in the 7th round, 189th overall.
So I felt George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, Scott Luce and company absolutely crushed it in their first draft.
Winnipeg: I didn’t have another “gross” draft which I could find, and I couldn’t not rave about what Kevin Cheveldayoff did yet again. You know, one of these years, the Jets might fire Chevy. And the media is going to say “yep, he refused to make the moves he had to do to get the Jets over the hump”. Maybe that’ll be the case. But when has he not done what’s needed to be done? And all he’s done is draft insanely well since becoming the GM in Winnipeg, and he did it again this weekend.
Kristian Vesalainen fits with them perfectly. No, they didn’t need another winger. But at 6’3, highly skilled and a good set of wheels, he fits their mold and I’m never going to rip on a team that gets tremendous value like he was at the 24th pick and fits how they want to build. Dylan Samberg wasn’t amazing value, he went about where he should have gone. But holy shit is he ever the type of guy they love! 6’3, good skater and a mean S.O.B.! They took two RH shooting D-men at 74 and 136th respectively which addresses a hole I felt they had entering the draft, took four D-men total. I felt like they got awesome value with Skyler McKenzie at 198. An overager and an undersized kid (5’8, 154). But he had 84 points with Portland this season and is a total prick out on the ice. Finally as seems to be the theme with most teams who’s draft I like, they took a goaltender in the mid-late rounds…in this case Arvid Holm in the 6th round. I don’t know him, but I know I love teams taking a goalie in that range.
The Jets get high grades from most every year. One of these years it has to start paying off big. I admit, Kevin Cheveldayoff might be too conservative. David Poile was like that for a long time too. If Chevy can ever figure out to just take a little more risk like Poile did, the Jets could get scary good in a hurry.
As for some of the other teams, there was a lot of stuff I liked.
Chicago finally going with a D-man in the first round was good, and also getting Ian Mitchell with their second round pick was solid too. Two RH shooting D-men with your first two picks, I’d say that’s a good haul.
Dallas taking Heiskanen I wasn’t the biggest fan of (zero shock to me that a trade never got done for the pick, so can we please shut up in the future about how a top five pick is going to be dealt?) But having said that, you can’t ever have too many D-men so it isn’t as if I hated the pick by any stretch. What I did love though was trading up to ensure they got Jake Oettinger who was the best tendy in the draft. I don’t like going with a goalie in the first round, but if any team was in a spot to do it and any goaltender was worth a first rounder, it was the Stars and it was Oettinger. And then to get Jason Robertson at 39 was good value. I don’t know how the kid interviewed, but if he’s willing to put in the work off the ice he could be another stud winger who the Stars have had great success finding over the years.
Minnesota didn’t have a pick until the 85th in the draft, yet they got awesome value with their first two picks in Ivan Lodnia and Mason Shaw. If you read my top 62 rankings, I personally had Shaw 29th, and as much as some make think it’s a homer bias it just isn’t. I’m sky high on the kids character, IQ, and five on five production. Lodnia was a key cog for the Erie Otters run to the Memorial Cup final, and while I didn’t rank him in my top 62, he was heavily considered. At the 85th pick, he was a kid well worth taking.
Calgary didn’t do a lot I was over the moon about at the draft table this year as they have in years past under Brad Treliving. But the Travis Hamonic trade was a steal. It’s amazing with Trevliving that he not only gets what he needs, but always gets great value on top of that. Does this put the Flames on par with the Oilers? I hope I’m not being a homer here, but I don’t think it does because while the Flames now probably have the second best blueline in the West, they don’t have a D-man who is going to give teams big problems. I guess it remains to be seen how well guys may fit with each other and there for possibly elevate each others games. And Dougie Hamilton is capable of taking another step still I believe, but the other three are what they are. And they’re damn good! But I think there is still a gap between the Oilers and Flames, although Peter Chiarelli might close it before Treliving does…
Vancouver just missed my list of teams to rave about too. I probably would have taken Glass over Pettersson, but again I’ll say Pettersson has the bigger ceiling of the two kids so I completely understand. Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Mike DiPietro, really liked all those kids where the Canucks were able to land them. Again, I don’t believe the Canucks are in near as bad of shape as some make it out to be.
Again, I’ll state the obvious. We won’t know how much of this was right or wrong for probably ten years! I’m going to look like an ass with some of what I said, I have little doubt of that. I’m going to look right on a few things too. The big payoff isn’t what I said today, it’s in five years or so, if this blog even exists, and seeing how right or wrong any of this was. And when that day comes, be sure to never let me hear the end of it….ok, maybe don’t do that, but you can beak me about it a max of two times. Deal?
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