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Auston Matthews could be the next big thing in the NHL
0:43 | NHL
Auston Matthews could be the next big thing in the NHL
Friday June 24th, 2016

The selection of Auston Matthews kicked off a record-setting night for American hockey at the 2016 NHL Draft. 

The Scottsdale, Ariz. native was taken with the first pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, making him just the seventh American to go No. 1. After him, 11 more U.S.-born athletes  joined him, setting a new mark for the first round.

And with just 11 Canadians being selected, it marked the first time in draft history that American outnumbered their rivals to the north.

It was a a good night for Finland as well. Sniper Patrik Laine and power forward Jesse Puljujarvi were the second and fourth picks of Winnipeg and Edmonton, respectively. When defenseman Olli Juolevi was taken fifth by Vancouver,  it marked the first time three Finn were among the top five picks. Prior to Friday night, just five Finns had ever been selected in the top five.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, a big, toolsy forward, was the first Canadian taken. He went at No. 3 to Columbus.

We offered our thoughts on each pick as the first round unfolded. Here's a look at how it played out.

10:57 pm: After nearly four hours, the first round finally drew to a close with the selection of Regina Pats center Sam Steel by the Anaheim Ducks. Slick playmaker who worked the point of the power play as a rookie, so the tools and the vision are there to mature into a top-six pivot. Good value pick for the Ducks.

10:54 pm: Bruins go off the board (surprise!) to select Trent Frederic at 29. After watching 2015 head scratcher Zach Senyshyn blossom in his post-draft year, I'm willing to cut GM Don Sweeney some slack, but taking a kid who projects as a strong two-way third-line center doesn't seem like a great use of the pick they obtained from the Sharks in exchange for Stanley Cup netminder Martin Jones. He'll be remembered as an historical selection, through. Along with being the 12th American taken in the first, he was  the fifth graduate of the St. Louis Jr. Blues--a huge coup for that minor hockey program. 

10:48 pm: Like the Stars, the Capitals buck their Euro-centric drafting history (nine of past 10 first picks) to select Canadian defenseman Lucas Johansen. Solid second-pair prospect who is 3-4 years away from getting a look in Washington. 

10:41 pm: Brett Howden is a low-risk, low-reward pick for the Lightning. He looks like a long-term player, someone who can move around a roster and find different ways to make a contribution, but this isn't a kid who'll be an All-Star or a top scorer. He's just a piece of the puzzle.

10:25 pm: Stars break a four-year streak of drafting Europeans and grab a big question mark in Riley Tufte. Absolutely destroyed Minnesota in high school, but never quite found his stride in a brief turn with the USHL. That big frame is appealing, and scouts love his hockey sense, but GM Jim Nill is gambling here. There's not a huge upside—second line, complementary winger—and there's a real chance he flames out.

10:16 pm: Boy, is Max Jones a Randy Carlyle-style player or what? A truculent winger who makes the opposition pay a price every time he's on the ice. Doesn't mind crossing the line on occasion, sometimes to the detriment of his team, but there's never any concern about his energy or intensity. Perfect fit for the Ducks, who have to be thrilled he dropped to 24. 

10:11 pm: The Panthers go off the board to select Henrik Borgstrom, a 6-3, 190 center out of Finland. He was passed over in last year's draft, but grew more comfortable in his body this season and it really showed in his skating. Had solid counting stats (29-26-55 in 40 games with HIFK Jr) but considering the analytical bent of Florida's new front office, he must have posted some off-the-charts #fancystats. He's going to the University of Denver next year, and might need all four years to prepare himself for the NHL.

10:03 pm: The Flyers taking a Russian in the first round. The post-Ed Snider era takes an unexpected turn in Philly. German Rubtsov addresses a need for forward depth in the organization and should mature into a solid middle-six center, but I don't believe for a minute this is the player they expected to acquire when they traded down from 18 to 22. Rubtsov was caught up in that meldonium scandal that got the entire Russian national team suspended from the U-18 tournament. There are still questions to be answered about how the use of that substance may have impacted his play.

9:59 pm: Tough break for the Flyers, who probably believed Julian Gauthier would still be on the board for them at this spot. Instead, the big, physical forward goes to the Canes, where his goal-scoring ability will be a nice fit with the slew of playmaking centers in their organization. For what it's worth, that's the pick they acquired from the Kings in the Andrei Sekera trade back in 2015. 

NHL
Red Wings trade Pavel Datsyuk’s cap hit to Coyotes

9:50 pm: Islanders get the help they need on the wings by selecting Kieffer Bellows. Goal scoring power forward, one of only two in this year's class to net 50. Heavy shot, good frame and soft hands in tight. This could be one of those picks that, a few years down the road, has folks wondering how he possibly lasted so long. 

9:43 pm: Jets trade up with the Flyers to grab Logan Stanley, who could turn out to be a great value. Love his size and his aggressiveness, but he's still very raw in his skating and his reads. Given time, he could be an outstanding No. 4. Hand it to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff—the guy is stockpiling some amazing young talent.  

9:36 pm: Predators select Dante Fabbro, a real value pick for a team that needed to supplement its organizational depth on the blueline. He's years away from seeing the ice at Bridgestone, but he'll be worth the wait. The shutdown skill is there, and so is the offensive upside. What a day for the BCHL and the Penticton Vees who have had two players taken in the first round (Jost was the other). 

9:23 pm: After a long delay and much suspense, Detroit sends Pavel Datsyuk and their first-rounder (#16) to Arizona for picks #20 and #53.

Great deal for Detroit, who hold on to their young talent while ditching Datsyuk's contract, freeing up space that could be used to lure Steven Stamkos to the Red Wings. And when you look at the picks that changed hands, that's basically an even swap. Essentially, they dumped that $7.5 million cap hit for nothing.

That said, there's real value here for the Coyotes as well. They take Jakob Chychrun at 16, a player who could end up being the steal of the draft. He has work to do on his game, but he's a legit talent who'll likely be a stalwart on their second pair for the next decade.

They Yotes also win big on the ledger. Datsyuk's salary counts against the cap, and helps them get to the $54 million floor but doesn't cost them real cash. For a team that has to watch every penny while working to make a go of it in the desert, that's a significant plus.

It might not be the best hockey trade, but it's one that impacts the health of the organization next year and well into the future. Props to John Chayka. The NHL's youngest GM is handling his first draft like a seasoned pro.

9:06 pm: The Wild came into the draft saying they wanted size and scoring talent. Luke Kunin doesn't have the big frame, but he has big potential. One scout compared him to Dylan Larkin for his speed and the maturity of his game. He scored in six of his final seven contests at Wisconisn—a small sample, but a hint of the kind of touch that made him so appealing to Minnesota.

8:57 pm: Bruins stay in their backyard, taking Boston University defender Charlie McAvoy. The B's have so many needs, but defense is first among them. McAvoy is a tremendous prospect thanks to his creativity and mobility, but it's his ability to think the game at a high pace that makes him so appealing. He'll quarterback a power play down the line. Good value at 14 for the B's, though I would have rather seen them take Kieffer Bellows here and grab a defenseman (maybe Lucas Johansen?) at 29. 

8:51 pm: The Canes continue to stock up on defenders, adding Jake Bean to a talent pool that already features Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown. Other than size, he checks all the boxes. Can't say enough about his composure/hockey sense/puck skills. You don't have to look hard to find a scout who'll say he was the most promising defender in this year's draft.

8:45 pm: The Devils take a bit of a flyer on Mississauga center Michael McLeod. Everyone loves his speed, everyone loves his compete level, but does he have the scoring touch to justify a selection this early? Does he have the hockey sense to think the game at the next level? For a team that was desperate to add offensive polish, McLeod is a risky pick. 

8:43 pm: The Senators sent a third-rounder to the Devils to move up one pick to select Logan Brown at 11. For my money, there wasn't a better prospect in the Ontario Hockey League. Showed so much growth over the second half of the season when he figured out that he needed to get to the net and take the occasional shot instead of relying on his passing skills. His potential is off the charts.  

NHL
Flames acquire goaltender Brian Elliott in trade with Blues

8:33 pm: Colorado selects Tyson Jost, who has a bit of Avs GM Joe Sakic in his game. Smart, hard-working player who is effective in all three zones and always seems to be at his best in the biggest games.  Interesting they overlooked an obvious need for blueline help, but there's no denying the value in this pick. He's at least three years away, but he'll be a real weapon down the road. 

8:23 pm: Canadiens grab Mikhail Sergachev with the ninth pick. Exactly the sort of player who might make a trade of P.K. Subban a little easier to swallow...if that ever comes to pass. He's the second D off the board, but in my books he has a higher upside than Juolevi. A hard, heavy shot, an agile skater and an aggressive physical presence. Once he works through some rough aspects in his defensive zone coverage, he's going to be an elite top-pair defender. Great choice by the Habs.

8:19 pm: Another trade: Calgary sends the No. 35 pick in this year's draft to St. Louis for goalie Brian Elliott. What a day for Treliving, who has Tkachuk fall into his lap at six then gets the legitimate No. 1 goaltender he desperately wanted for a second rounder. Elliott has one year left on a deal that pays him $2.5 million then he's eligible to go UFA. If he re-signs, the Flames have to send a 2017 third rounder to the Blues. Be fascinating to see how Elliott plays as the clear No. 1 without Jake Allen looking over his shoulder. 

8:13 pm: Tim Murray is the greatest. The Sabres GM doesn't even thank the home town fans that pack the FNC for the draft before making his pick, winger Alex Nylander. Very surprised the Sabres didn't go defense here, but Nylander is far from a sketchy pick. He's the sort of talent who can pull you out of your seat with his dangles and leave goalies checking their gloves for holes with his deadly accurate shot. Going to make for some fun games between the Sabres and the Leafs, who will dress Alex's brother William. 

NHL
Desert Bloom: Vegas expansion, Auston Matthews point to new era

8:08 pm: The moneypuck gang has spoken in Arizona as the Coyotes go with diminutive center Clayton Keller. He's slick, creative and dangerous, arguably top five in terms of pure talent, but at his size he's no sure thing. The Yotes are likely to let him simmer in college for three or four years before even considering giving him a look in the NHL. Darren Dreger reporting that the Flames have acquired goalie Brian Elliott from St. Louis. Now word yet on what he cost. 

8 pm: Flames raced to the podium to take Matthew Tkachuk. Cue Calgary GM Brad Treliving's inevitable, "We couldn't believe he was available" interview response. Tkachuk is a winger who is almost constantly in beast mode. A nasty, physical force who is almost unstoppable once he gets below the dots. Great finisher, better playmaker. Probably needs another year in juniors with London, but it won't be long before he's a consistent producer for the Flames. 

7:53 pm: You could hear an audible gasp from the crowd when the Canucks called Olli Juolevi over his London teammate Matthew Tkachuk. There was a clear positional need here, but that's not how you draft in hockey. GM Jim Benning obviously saw Juolevi as the best player available; we'll see if he ends up being right. A solid, 200-foot defender who thinks the game at an elite level and moves the puck as well as any backliner the Canucks have ever dressed. Pretty good night so far for Finland, with three of the top five picks.

7:47 pm: Who needs to win the lottery? Jesse Puljujarvi just fell into Edmonton's lap. Amazing. Just an incredible break for that franchise. Gives the Oilers another elite weapon who could score 40+ skating alongside Connor McDavid. Have to think they'll be working the phones now in an effort to clear a logjam of talent on the left wing with an eye on addressing their clear need on the blue line. 

7:42 pm: First shocker of the day ... the Jackets go with Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi, who looks absolutely stunned in the stands. Bold call by Columbus. Scouts compare Dubois, who can play both wing and center, to MVP finalist Jamie Benn and that's not outrageous based on my viewings. He has the tools and the maturity to earn a spot next season. Still, Puljujarvi is an exceptional talent, and this is a pick that may come back to haunt the Jackets. It certainly calls their decision making into question.

7:38 pm: The Blackhawks now have picks 39, 45 and 50 in the second round. Have to think they'll look to put together a package to move up into the first round. 

7:32 pm: There was some buzz that the Jets were looking in a different direction, but they eventually went the way everything believed they would. One scout told me they thought Patrik Laine would score 60 goals in this league one day. Just an elite sniper, almost Ovechkin-esque. He's going to be an impact player for Winnipeg next season. 

7:30 pm: Hawks couldn't afford to re-sign premier agitator Andrew Shaw, who was said to be asking for $4.5 million per on a new deal. This clears some cap space for them moving forward, and opens a spot for one of their promising young forwards--Ryan Hartman is the favorite to assume his role. 

Shaw's motor is always going, which is something that couldn't be said for the bigger, more talented Eller. The Caps hope that a change in role and coaching will make him an effective middle-six option, something that was missing during their playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

7:23 pm: Only one pick on the board and we now have two trades. The Canadiens have dealt Lars Eller to the Capitals for a 2017 and a 2018 second round pick. And the Blackhawks have shipped Andrew Shaw to Montreal for two 2016 second rounders (#39 and #45). Imagine him on a line with Brendan Gallagher? Just a reminder: the rival Bruins sent two second rounders to Tampa Bay for Brett Connolly. Brutal asset management.

7:20 pm: How long has it been since the Leafs have dressed a player that other teams feared? That's what Matthews is. He'll step into the lineup next season and be the name that every opposing coach circles on the white board. Fast, creative and dangerous, he's ready to be a star. And he's our No. 1.

7:15 pm: We're under way. After Commissioner Gary Bettman has been greeted with a warm cascade of loud boos (an "energetic welcome," he called it), it's time to coronate Matthews.

• Matthews blazed own unique path to NHL  

• DRAFT CROP: Top forwards | defensemen | goalies

•​ First round mock draft | Sun Belt Rising; U.S. players by birth state

•​ Each team's best active drafted player | No. 1 picks through the years

 All-time worst picks by Eastern teams | Western teams

 Notable draft busts | Late round gems | Greatest by slot

• VAULT: Connor McDavid (2014) | Jack Eichel (2014) | Sidney Crosby (2003) | Eric Lindros (1991) | Mario Lemieux (1984) | Wayne Gretzky (1978) | Guy Lafleur (1971) | Bobby Orr (1966)

2016 NHL Draft: First Round Picks
  • 1
    toronto maple leafs
    auston matthews, C
    zurich SC (Switzerland) |
    6' 2", 216
    24-22-46 in 36 games
    Matthews is the dominant No. 1 center the Leafs have lacked since the retirement of Mats Sundin. Every element of his game is elite, from his size to his skating to his offensive creativity. He competes consistently and raises the level of his teammates. Look as hard as you want for holes—you won't find them.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “The complete package. He'll be a superstar in this league.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Anze Kopitar

  • 2
    winnipeg Jets
    PATRIK LAINE, RW
    TAPPARA TEMPERE (FINLAND) | 6' 4", 201
    17-16-33 in 46 games
    Over time, he might prove to be as fine a player as Matthews ... maybe even better. Laine isn't quite the overall package, but he's a more dynamic scorer and the more likely of the two to challenge for the Art Ross and the Rocket Richard. Coming off an MVP performance at the World Championship, he'll step into a top-six role next season.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “I've never heard of a 17-year-old dominating a men's league like Finland's the way he did. He has an exceptional shot, a quick release...and throws everything net. He'll be a volume scorer.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Ovechkin

  • 3
    columbus blue jackets
    PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS, C/LW
    CAPE BRETON (QMJHL) | 6' 2", 205
    42-57-99 in 62 games
    The winner of the CHL's Top Prospect Award, Dubois is a natural left wing who spent most of this past season playing center. To a team that traded away both Hunter Shinkaruk and Jared McCann during the past few months, that's catnip. Dubois is big, physical (122 PIM, 12th in QMJHL) and has tremendous hockey sense to go along with elite scoring ability.
     
     SCOUT SAYS: “He's a complete, 200-foot player. He's opportunistic in the offensive zone...equally comfortable taking the shot or making the play. A tenacious defender who reads the play quickly and makes good decisions away from the puck."
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Jamie Benn

  • 4
    edmonton oilers
    JESSE PULJUJARVI, RW
    KARPAT (FINLAND) | 6' 3", 208
    13-15-28 in 50 games
    There's a greater than zero chance that this pick will be dealt to a team looking to acquire Puljujarvi or possibly even Pierre-Luc Dubois, whose ability to play center might make him more attractive. If the Jackets keep it, they'll add a big-bodied winger who drives possession (team-high 57.5%), has a quick, accurate shot and plays a complete 200-foot game. He can play a top-six role next season in the NHL.

    • SCOUT SAYS: “Powerful skater...uses his size effectively to battle for space...above-average offensive instincts...well-developed defensive game.” 
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Blake Wheeler

  • 5
    vancouver canucks
    OLLI JUOLEVI, D
    LONDON (OHL) | 6' 2", 188
    9-33-42 in 57 games
    The consensus top defenseman in the draft. He's a smooth skating defender who is efficient both with and without the puck. He has elite hockey sense and can create offense in transition. Great situational awareness makes him highly effective in his own end.

    • SCOUT SAYS: “He has that ability to move the puck up the ice that every team is looking for. Poised under pressure...creative with the puck...has the tools to be an outstanding power play QB.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Roman Josi

  • 6
    calgary flames
    MATTHEW TKACHUK, LW
    LONDON (OHL) | 6' 1", 202
    44-82-16 in 63 games
    Tkachuk is an abrasive, physical presence with high-end offensive tools. He gets knocked for his skating and for piling up points on a super line. Neither criticism is fair. Tkachuk isn't blazing fast, but he's strong on his feet and has a powerful stride. And while he benefited from his linemates in London, his hockey sense and sharp passing was as critical to their success as they were to his.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Aggressive forward who plays a pro-style game. Strong skater who can create offensive chances with his slick hands as well as his heavy shoulders. Needs to work on his defensive game.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: His dad Keith.

  • 7
    arizona coyotes
    CLAYTON KELLER​, C
    USA NTDP (USHL) | 5' 10", 164
    37-70-107 in 62 games
    Take size out of the equation and Keller might be the fourth-most talented player in the draft. He's an offensive wizard who uses his supernatural hockey sense to exploit weaknesses and create chances for himself and his teammates. He did that consistently for the NTDP, smashing the career scoring records of Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel and setting a single-season assist mark with 70. Still, it's impossible to ignore the obvious question: Can he overcome his lack of size and translate that game to the NHL? It's a risk, but the rewards are too ample to ignore.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Don't overlook how young he is. He won't turn 18 until July ... he's way ahead on the development curve. He could be the steal of the draft if he falls out of the top-10.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Joe Sakic.

  • 8
    buffalo sabres
    ALEXANDER NYLANDER​, LW/RW
    MISSISSAUGA (OHL) | 6', 178
    28-47-75 in 57 games
    Maybe the most exciting player in the draft. He's a deft stickhandler who can deke a defender out of his shorts before picking off the one opening a goalie gives him. Has a nasty, accurate wrister that just flies off his stick. With brother William set to join Toronto, this would make the rivalry a whole lot more fun.
     
     SCOUT SAYS: “The most upside of any defenseman in this draft. He checks all the boxes. Size, skating, smarts and a cannon of a shot that will make him a big point producer.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

  • 9
    montreal canadiens
    MIKHAIL SERGACHEV, D
    WINDSOR (OHL) | 6' 2", 221
    17-40-57 in 67 games
    The left-shooting, right-sider won the OHL Defenseman of the Year award as a rookie, a testament to his play in all three zones. He draws attention for his unparalleled ability to push the play and his confidence on the attack, but he also brings a surprisingly mature defensive game. He has an excellent stick and a nasty physical presence. Could be a franchise defender.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: A trenchant appraisal
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Skill set resembles...

  • 10
    colorado avalanche
    TYSON JOST, C
    PENTICTON (BCHL) | 5' 11", 190
    42-62-104 in 48 games
    Jost is a solid value at this point. He's undersized, but makes up for it with determination, an improved defensive game and eye-popping offensive tools. He broke Connor McDavid's scoring record at the U-18 Worlds this spring, scoring 15 points in seven games for Team Canada. 
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “There are always questions about a kid who lights it up in a lower league, but I don't hear anyone knocking [Jost] for it. He's one of the better skaters available and is a wizard with the puck. Really like his wrister.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Jonathan Toews
     

  • 11
    ottawa senators
    LOGAN BROWN, C
    WINDSOR (OHL) | 6' 6", 222
    21-53-74 in 59 games
    Pick acquired from Devils: He's a massive center with a powerful, agile stride, high-end hockey sense and elite playmaking skills. Brown really opened eyes down the stretch, scoring 13 goals and 24 points in his final 13 games as he committed to driving the net and taking the shot instead of looking for the pass first. That “selfishness” makes him a much more dangerous, and more appealing, prospect.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “One of the most intriguing kids in this draft. His potential is unlimited. Everyone loves his size. Everyone loves his skating. Can he be that dominant first-line center? I think so.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan Johansen

  • 12
    new jersey devilS
    MICHAEL MCLEOD, C
    MISSISSAUGA (OHL) | 6' 2", 185
    21-40-61 in 57 games
    Pick acquired from Senators with third rounder (#80).  Every scout believes McLeod will be a player. The discord comes when they argue about what type of player he'll be. Some see him as a dependable, two-way forward who makes things happen at both ends of the ice with his skating. Others think he can be a dangerous weapon once his hands catch up to his feet. He'd add size and speed to an organization that is loaded on the back end and needs some talent up front.
     
     SCOUT SAYS: “McLeod catches your attention every game. He has a high motor ... [and] is one of the top skaters in this draft." 
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Darren Helm

  • 13
    carolina hurricanes
    JAKE BEAN​, D
    CALGARY (WHL) | 6' 1", 173
    24-40-64 in 68 games
    There are some who feel Bean will be long gone by this point—at least one scout has him as a lock for the top 10—so the Canes could get exceptional value with this pick. Bean was the goal-scoring leader among WHL defenders, jumping up from just five in 2014-15, but his real strength is his passing. When he gets the puck on his stick, it's out of the zone and out of danger in a hurry. skinny.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Smart ... dangerous offensive-minded defenseman...who could mature into a solid No. 3/second power-play weapon. I'd like to see him take fewer risks. He wants to make something happen so badly sometimes that he tries to force a play where there isn't one." 
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Justin Faulk

  • 14
    boston bruins
    CHARLIE MCAVOY, D
    BOSTON UNIV. (NCAA) | 6', 199
    3-22-25 in 37 games
    The youngest player in the NCAA this season looked like a veteran by season's end. McAvoy has the smarts the Wings love and plays a fast-paced, possession game. Can lead the rush and distribute the puck effectively. Needs to work on his defensive awareness, but the tools are there to be a reliable second-pair blueliner.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Was a dominant player at times but has just scratched the surface of his potential. A bit raw in his defensive reads but knows just what to do when the puck is on his stick.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan McDonagh

    • 15
      minnesota wild
      LUKE KUNIN, C/RW
      WISCONSIN (NCAA) | 5' 11", 193
      19-13-32 in 34 games
      Kunin's a fierce competitor who does whatever it takes to make a positive impact each time he's on the ice. Solid finishing skills combined with high-end hockey sense and passing ability. Relentless in the defensive end.
       
      • SCOUT SAYS: “Multi-purpose forward who can chip in with big plays in all three zones. Plays with intensity and focus.”
       
      • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan O'Reilly
       

  • 16
    arizona coyotes
    JAKOB CHYCHRUN, D
    SARNIA (OHL) | 6' 2", 200
    11-38-49 in 62 games
    Pick acquired from Detroit with Pavel Datsyuk. Came into the season as the top-rated defenseman for this draft. Now he's third ...maybe fourth. That might be because others made greater progress, or it might be that he's facing blowback after being touted as a possible top pick. Either way, there's no denying the raw tools. He's capable in all three zones but is best in his own end where he's physically punishing and strong positionally.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Didn't have the year we expected, but no one should write him off. He still has that size and that strong positional game. Will he process the game fast enough to excel at the next level? That's the question. There's not a lot of downside, [though]. He's going to be a good player.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Aaron Ekblad
  • 17
    nashville predators
    DANTE FABBRO, D
    PENTICTON (BCHL) | 6', 192
    14-53-67 in 45 games
    Fabbro was the top defenseman in the BCHL this season, playing a modern possession-style game. He's a highly effective puck mover and a strong skater but his hockey sense and his situational awareness are his greatest assets.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “He's a reliable two-way defenseman who processes the game quickly and makes excellent decisions with the puck. Projects as an offensive-minded top-four.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan Ellis

    • 18
      winnipeg jets
      Logan stanley, D
      WINDSOR (OHL) | 6' 7", 224
      5-12-17 in 64 games
      Pick acquired from Flyers with third rounder: ​With one first round win under their belts, the Jets can afford to swing for the fences with this high-upside prospect. Stanley is a massive, shutdown defender who uses his size and physicality to quell any opposing attack. But is that all there is? Any team using a first-rounder on him will have to believe that he can become more effective outside his own zone.
       
      • SCOUT SAYS: “It's important to see a player developing [in his draft year]... he might have been the most improved player in the OHL. He was so much more comfortable with the puck on his stick. Last season, it was a hand grenade. He just wanted to get rid of it. Now, he's making plays, and good ones, too."
       
      • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Tyler Myers.

  • 19
    new york islanders
    KIEFFER BELLOWS, LW
    US NTDP (USHL) | 6', 197
    50-31-81 in 62 games
    Despite his size, Bellows plays like a power forward. He's a punishing checker, aggressive on the puck and always has his GPS set for the front of the net. He's a natural finisher, like his father, former NHL star Brian Bellows, who says Kieffer has a better shot. One of the best pure goal scorers in the draft.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “You can't ignore the pedigree. He was gifted with those hands ... [but] his drive and work ethic are his own. Needs to work on his skating.” 
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Corey Perry
  • 20
    detroit red wings
    DENNIS CHOLOWSKI​, D 
    CHILLIWACK (BCHL) | 6' 1", 177
    12-28-40 in 550 games
    Pick acquired from Coyotes with Joe Vitale and pick No. 53. ​It's all projection with Cholowski, who feasted on lesser competition in the BCHL this season. He's painfully thin and that's made him easy to push around, but scouts look at how quickly he's grown and think it's only a matter of time before his body fills out. In the meantime, they rave about his skating, his hockey sense and his positioning.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “A tremendous skater already, but you can imagine how good he'll be once he gets stronger. Great offensive instincts. Knows how to get the puck through a crowd to the net.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Goligoski

  • 21
    carolina hurricaneS
    JULIEN GAUTHIER, RW
    VAL D'OR (QMJHL) | 6' 3", 231
    41-16-57 in 54 games
    (Pick acquired from Kings). Gauthier is a specimen. His combination of size, speed, power and desire make him a challenge for any defender to handle ... but it's his ability to finish that makes him so intriguing. His Cy Young-like stat line raises eyebrows, but for a team that needs size as much as scoring touch, that's something the Canes are likely to overlook.

    • SCOUT SAYS:  “An old-school power forward with a shoot-first mentality. He can beat you with his strength and his hands.” 

    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Rick Nash


  • 22
    philadelphia flyers
    GERMAN RUBTSOV, C
    RUSSIA U-18 (MHL) | 6', 178
    12-14-26 in 28 games
    (Pick acquired from Jets with second round pick, #36). Russian center earns high marks for his hockey sense and his competitiveness and his skating is borderline excellent. He's committed to playing hard at both ends of the ice and while there are questions about his scoring ability, his work ethic suggests he can address any problems.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Might be the best two-way forward in the draft. Lacks elite offensive talent, but has some zip on his wrister and good instincts. Missing [U-18 World Championship after entire team tested positive for meldonium] hurt his chances to move up [in the first round]."
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Steen

  • 23
    florida panthers
    henrik borgstrom, c
    hifk (finland Jr) | 6' 3", 176
    29-26-55 in 40 games
    He was passed over in last year's draft, but has grown more comfortable in his body this season and it really showed in his skating. Had solid counting stats (29-26-55 in 40 games with HIFK Jr) but considering the analytical bent of Florida's new front office, he must have posted some off-the-charts #fancystats. He's going to the University of Denver next year, so don't expect to see him in South Florida anytime soon.
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Rikard Rakell

  • 24
    anaheim ducks
    MAX JONES, LW
    LONDON (OHL) | 6' 2", 206
    28-24-52 in 63 games
    Big, strong, aggressive, borderline dirty ... this kid was born to wear black and orange. Jones projects as a middle-six power forward who can rev up the team with his motor or a big hit. Plays a hard north-south game and has better offensive tools than he gets credit for.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “He's a wrecking ball out there. Absolutely fearless. He'll earn his living below the dots. A hard man to play against.” 
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Scott Hartnell
     

  • 25
    dallas stars
    Riley tufte, LW
    fargo (USHL) | 6' 5", 205
    57-35-92 in 52 games
    Tufte ranked second in goals (47) and third in points (tied;78) among Minnesota high school players, his fourth season with the Blaine Bengals and second as captain. Earned First Team All-USA honors.
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: James van Riemsdyk

  • 26
    st. louis blues
    TAGE THOMPSON, C
    CONNECTICUT (NCAA) | 6' 5", 195
    14-18-32 in 36 games
    A frame like that is bound to grab the attention of scouts, but that doesn't mean they agree on what he could become. Thompson's 14 goals were a decent total for a freshman, but 13 of them came with the extra man. That will drop him in some books, but raise him in others since that total led the nation.
     
     SCOUT SAYS:  “Raw. Really raw. Doesn't use his size to his full advantage. Doesn't skate all that well... [and] needs to put more effort into his defense. But, he has a heavy shot and he plays a smart game. He's someone who, with the right coaching, could become a player.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Martin Hanzal

  • 27
    tampa bay lightning
    BRETT HOWDEN, C
    MOOSE JAW (WHL) | 6' 2", 193
    24-40-64 in 68 games
    The brother of Quinton Howden plays a similar game to the Panthers' depth forward. There's nothing flashy about him, but he brings good size and a well-rounded skills package that projects to a solid middle-six role. He'll probably wind up being more valued for his defensive ability than what he can do on the attack.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “Solid complementary player. Send him over the boards and trust him to give it his all.”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Travis Zajac
  • 28
    washington capitals
    LUCAS JOHANSEN​, D
    KELOWNA (WHL) | 6' 2", 175
    10-39-49 in 69 games
    He's not his brother, Predators star Ryan Johansen. Different position. Different temperament. Different skill set. Lucas is a smooth skating, two-way defender who can be trusted in all situations. He can key the transition game and join the rush when appropriate, but he's at his best in his own zone where his smarts and positioning make him highly effective.
     
    • SCOUT SAYS: “If you're looking for a safe pick, he's your guy. He'll give you reliable minutes without a lot of fanfare. Probably tops out as a second-pair [defender].”
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Dan Hamhuis

  • 29
    boston bruins
    trent frederic, c
    usndtp | 6' 2, 203
    24-30-54 in 84 games
    (Pick acquired from Sharks). Projects as a two-way,  third line center. Big and smart, but offensively limited.
     
    • COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: David Backes

  • 30
    Anaheim ducks
    sam steel, c
    Regina (whl) | 5' 11", 176
    23-47-70 in 72 games
    (Pick acquired from Maple Leafs). Outstanding skater, good penalty killer with some offensive upside.
     
     

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