2016 NHL draft: Scouts’ takes on all 30 first round picks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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