NHL draft: Oilers and Flames earn high grades in Western Conference
We say the same thing every year: There’s simply no way to accurately assess a team’s performance at the draft the day after it has taken place. But that’s not going to stop us from trying. Here’s a quick look at the West, taking into account the draft, trades, goals met and potential for improvement both short and long term. Keep in mind that a grade of C reflects an average performance.
Edmonton Oilers: A+
New GM Peter Chiarelli made four trades over the weekend, two of which will significantly impact the team next season. He outsmarted the Rangers to acquire Cam Talbot, a potential No. 1 goalie, at a very reasonable price. He evened the scales a bit by overpaying to obtain Griffin Reinhart, but the former Islander could play on the second pair someday. Oh, and they added generational talent in Connor McDavid with the first pick. Nice job.
Calgary Flames: A+
GM Brad Treliving came into the weekend with an excellent defense. He left with maybe the best in the West after swindling Boston’s rookie GM Don Sweeney out of Dougie Hamilton. That deal cost him his first rounder, but he got excellent value with second-round selections Rasmus Andersson (53) and Oliver Kylington (60). Both have top-four potential.
Arizona Coyotes: A
Reviews were universally positive for GM Don Maloney’s work at the draft table. Dylan Strome (3) is the big, playmaking center every contender needs. Nick Merkley is undersized but gritty and a terrific value pick at 30. A pair of US NTDP grads, Christian Fischer (32) and Brendan Warren (81) add depth on the wings, a clear organizational need. The trade with Philly brings in Nik Grossman, a veteran defender who steps onto their third pair and allows them to add $4.9 million of salary for just $525,000 by assuming the contract of Chris Pronger. Seems crazy, but for a team looking to get to the cap floor, it makes sense.
Winnipeg Jets: A
It was another impressive draft for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who is building a rep for being pretty good at these things. USHL scoring wiz Kyle Connor dropped into their laps at 17. Jack Roslovic might have been a reach at 25, but there were whispers about him rising. Both boast elite skill sets. Jansen Harkins (47) was a value pick viewed by many as a possible first rounder. Erik Foley (78) is worth watching. The late bloomer has a ridiculous high end and is a nasty piece of work.
Anaheim Ducks: A
Carl Hagelin, acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Emerson Etem, adds speed, scoring and playoff experience to their top six and immediately makes Anaheim a more dangerous team. The trade for goaltender Anton Khudobin provides insurance that was missing during this season’s early injury troubles. Jacob Larsson (27) was the third-rated European prospect and projects as a two-way, second-pair D. Julius Naatinen (59) could be the breakout player from this draft. High skill level and hockey sense could see him become a top-six forward.
Minnesota Wild: B-
Joel Eriksson Ek (20) is a low risk, low upside pick. He’ll play, but could be limited to a third-line role. Jordan Greenway (50) has the size (6' 5", 222) to become a dominant power forward, but there are questions about his shot and his effort level.
San Jose Sharks: B-
Timo Meier (9) is a prolific scorer with first-line potential. Jeremy Roy (31) is an all-purpose blueliner with offensive upside, and well worth the two extra picks it cost the Sharks to move up from 39. But GM Doug Wilson left Sunrise without addressing a glaring need for a No. 1 netminder and failed to clinch a deal for Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
Los Angeles Kings: C+
The price paid for Milan Lucic was high—a first round pick, backup goalie Martin Jones and prospect Colin Miller. If the big, bad former Bruin rebounds into first-line form alongside Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, it was well worth it. If he struggles to regain the step he apparently lost during the past two seasons, he’s going to be an exorbitantly well-paid third-liner. Reviews were mixed on GM Dean Lombardi’s performance at the draft table. Defenseman Chaz Reddekopp (187) is a possible seventh round sleeper.
Dallas Stars: C
Denis Guryanov (12) was a stunning choice at 12. That’s not to say the 6' 3" Russian forward wasn’t the right choice, just completely unexpected. His high skill level is undisputed, but he’s yet to prove himself against competition of higher caliber than Russia’s middling junior league. The sense is that he’ll play, maybe even star, but there’s risk associated with calling his name this early. Chris Martenet (103) and Joseph Cecconi (133) address an organizational need for smart, stay-at-home defenders. The acquisition of Antti Niemi’s negotiating rights was worth the price (a seventh rounder). If he signs, he shores up a position of concern.
Colorado Avalanche: C-
Maybe Patrick Roy can squeeze a more dedicated effort out of his former junior protege Mikhail Grigorenko. Maybe Nikita Zadorov can be whipped into shape and molded into a dangerous second-pairing shutdown defender. Maybe J.T. Compher is more than an aggressive third-line banger. But those are a lot of maybes trying to compensate for the loss of world-class center Ryan O'Reilly. The Avs simply aren’t as good heading into next season as they were before the deal.
Nashville Predators: C-
Tough to make a big splash without a first rounder, but the Preds addressed an organizational need by taking centers Yakov Trenin and Thomas Novak with their first two picks. Novak (85) was a bit of a slider, but rates highly on vision and hockey sense. He has a chance to be special.
Vancouver Canucks: C-
Brock Boeser (23) has high upside as a finisher, but it’s tough to get worked up about a draft class that features five of seven players taken 114th or later. The decision to send goalie Eddie Lack to Carolina for a third rounder (used on defenseman Guillaume Brisebois) should not be well received back in Vancouver. Neither should the failure to move aging defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
St. Louis Blues: D
With just one selection in the first three rounds, the Blues were left to pick from necks, gizzards and beaks by the time their turn at the podium came. Vince Dunn (56) is an undersized skilled defender with great wheels and a high hockey IQ. He projects as a second-pair/power play type. Keep an eye on Luke Opilka (146). St. Louis has had luck drafting local goalies in the past.
Chicago Blackhawks: D
It was expected that GM Stan Bowman would use the draft as a stage to move his team towards cap compliance. That didn’t happen. He’s not up against the clock just yet, but Bowman’s job just became a little more difficult. The Hawks sat out the first day of the draft, but appear to have done well on day two with Graham Knott (54), an Adam Henrique-type winger with offensive upside.