2017 NHL Entry Draft – Atlantic Division Team Needs

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Atlantic Division Team Needs
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 25: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) battles with Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber (6) during the first period in a game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada. The Montreal Canadiens won 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Nick Turchiaro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

by Jack Thompson

Before the NHL Draft begins on Friday, 30 teams will first have to endure the Expansion Draft. They will each lose a player to the Vegas Golden Knights. Rather than focus on expansion, we look at Atlantic Division Team Needs in the NHL Draft.

It’s no surprise the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is a little different than what has been the norm for the last few years. Compared to years past, the lack of top-end talent available is significant. This will likely prompt teams to seek out organizational need at their selections rather than grab the best player available; unless the value is simply too good to pass on. With expansion taking place just 48 hours prior, the 2017 NHL Draft is bound to carry some suspense. In considering what each team needs to look for in this years draft; we’ll start with the Atlantic Division Team Needs.

2017 NHL Draft – Atlantic Division Team Needs

Boston Bruins
Draft position: 18th overall

One glaring issue for the Bruins is the lack of their production from the back-end. Torey Krug‘s 25 powerplay points led the team, with Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles both checking in at second with three points apiece on the man advantage.

Boston was blessed with the presence of 2016 first rounder Charlie McAvoy in their first round match-up against Ottawa. McAvoy handled the second most minutes of all skaters behind Chara. He tallied as many power play assists in six games as the Bruins captain did in 75 regular season games.

The Bruins may be best suited to trade the pick for an available defenseman on the market such as Jonas Brodin. They also cannot go wrong with drafting to bolster their blueline for the future.

Buffalo Sabres
Draft position: 8th overall

Buffalo has a nice base of prospects, some of which could start helping the club as soon as the start of next season. Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, and 2016 first-rounder Alex Nylander all showed promise with the AHL’s Americans.

This will be the fifth year in a row that the Sabres select in the Top 10 of the draft. The Sabres will likely look to add a defenceman to a young core that includes Rasmus Ristolainen, Brendan Guhle, and Jake McCabe.

Potential defencemen available include Cale Makar, Timothy Liljegren, or Juuso Valimaki.

Detroit Red Wings
Draft position: 9th overall

To put things in perspective as to the last time Detroit selected this early in the draft, it was in 1990 when they drafted Keith Primeau of the Niagara Falls Thunder.

The Red Wings have a couple of big holes on their team. They were inefficient on the power play, which ranked 27th last season. Detroit’s blue line is also not getting any younger. Three of their top-four rearguards are 30 or older.

Of course, the legendary Håkan Andersson – the Red Wings scout who has been unearthing top flight Scandinavian talent since the team drafted Primeau – will likely have a more precise grade on fellow countrymen such as Timothy Liljegren or centre Elias Pettersson, both of whom could represent the next wave in Detroit.

Florida Panthers
Draft position: 10th overall

A puzzling step back in 2016-17 for the Panthers mainly came down to poor possession stats. On paper, Florida does not have many apparent weaknesses, but beyond Aleksander Barkov the centre depth is certainly suspect.

Vincent Trocheck had another solid season, but is not an ideal middleman for starting out with the puck. Nick Bjugstad continues to stagnate in The Sunshine State, having his worst season as a pro.

Pettersson, as mentioned earlier, and Martin Necas both have the tools to eventually become effective top six centres in the league. Although the former will have to bulk up considerably, Florida is in a good position to grab a solid centre.

Montréal Canadiens
Draft position: 25th overall

The Canadiens had a promising makeup for the future of their blueline before sending out Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev last week.

The acquisition of Jonathan Drouin bodes well for the teams response to an occasionally invisible forward corps, but the team is still without a top-six centre beyond Alex Galchenyuk.

As far down as they are, it’s unlikely the Habs will find a long-term answer as a first line centre in this draft. However, there are some potential second liners available.  They can also look to replenish the loss of youthful defenders. Some qualit defenders are expected to be available at 25, possibly Erik Brannstrom or Nicolas Hague.

Ottawa Senators
Draft position: 28th overall

General manager Pierre Dorion shouldn’t look to shake up too much for his team. Coach Guy Boucher‘s system did wonders for the current installment of the Senators. The team could look to add a top six scoring winger via trade given the assets they currently possess.

Despite receiving stellar play from the goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Mike Condon, it’s likely unsustainable for both goaltenders to get back to that same level next year and in the future.

The Senators do have Swedish netminder Marcus Högberg waiting in the ranks, but there’s reason to believe they could be interested in Jake Oettinger. Oettinger had an impressive freshman year at Boston University between the pipes. He projects to go somewhere in the late first, early second round range.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Draft position: 14th overall

The Bolts charged up their prospect system bringing in Mikhail Sergachev from the Canadiens in exchange for Jonathan Drouin. A tough luck season that resulted in a plethora of injuries and inconsistencies had Tampa on the outside looking in on this years’ postseason.

With a solid group of defensive prospects in Sergachev, Dominik Masin, and Libor Hajek, the Lightning can afford to look at getting some help on the wings. They also have a deep pool down the middle.

Having Nikita Kucherov on the team, and the aforementioned Sergachev in the system it could be worthwhile for the Lightning to take a chance on Russian Klim Kostin. Steve Yzerman has been one of the more willing managers when it comes to acquiring Russian talent as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Draft position: 17th overall

The Leafs appear to have established themselves as an offensive force in the league for the next decade; with the current team they have in place. This is of course barring a colossal step back next season.

Where the Leafs could definitely stand to improve their roster is on the blueline. Beyond the top four of the defensive corps is where the Leafs found their weakness, not being able to fully protect goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Juuso Valimaki, a two-way defenseman who has intriguing offensive upside and Callan Foote – the son of two-time Stanley Cup winner Adam Foote – are both attractive options who should remain on the board by the time the Leafs announce their pick at the draft.

 

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