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 Metropolitan 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 will continue on with Metropolitan Division Team Needs.
2017 NHL Draft – Metropolitan Division Team Needs
Draft position: 12th overall
The Hurricanes are fortunate to have gone through a relatively successful rebuild so far. Despite failing to qualify for the post-season in eight consecutive years, they have done a good job collecting youth and developing them correctly.
Most of the ‘Canes shortcomings can be attributed to poor play in net, predominantly the efforts of long-time starter Cam Ward. However, the team is strong on the blueline and on the wings.
Without a true #1 centre, Carolina can be expected to pull the trigger on a middleman in this draft. Nick Suzuki has the makings of a top-line centre, but there are questions on his skating ability. If the Hurricanes don’t see that as prohibitive towards his potential, there could be a fit.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Draft position: 24th overall
Rumblings out of Sin City suggest this pick may end up property of the Golden Knights, in exchange for the expansion team to stay away from various exposed players. Columbus is in pretty good shape for the future, boasting an arguable top-five prospect system.
Should the Jackets keep this selection, they should look to further strengthen their defensive core. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones pose as an elite tandem for years to come, but the team could actively look to continue building their defensive corps.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph has been climbing up draft boards in recent months. Touted as a passionate defenseman with keen hockey sense, Joseph could be a nice project for Columbus to take on.
New Jersey Devils
Draft position: 1st overall
Five years removed from an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils have been stuck in the basement ever since. In each of those five seasons, the Devils have ranked in the bottom-five in league goal scoring.
Although they may not have been the worst team in the league this past season, they might be the most deserving of a dynamic offensive talent. Nico Hischier may have given himself a slight edge over Nolan Patrick, after a spectacular season leading up to the draft.
There is a chance Hischier is too physically immature to begin the 2017-18 season with New Jersey, but if the team decides to make the Swiss product its selection at first overall – they will certainly give him every opportunity to make the team.
New York Islanders
Draft position: 15th overall
Another team that has been rumoured to have put its first round pick on the table to protect certain players from Vegas, the Islanders also possess a nice crop of prospects. Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier both had impressive rookie campaigns for the Isles.
Mathew Barzal was undoubtedly one of the stronger players in junior this season, pacing Seattle to its first Memorial Cup appearance. With many of its young forwards tracking nicely, perhaps the team could look to the back-end to improve.
Ilya Sorokin is a high-upside goaltender that New York currently has stashed in the KHL, but taking a look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the second round could make sense for a team with no clear answer in goal.
New York Rangers
Draft position: 21st overall
The aging Rangers failed to make it past the second round of the post-season this year, just three years after making it to the Stanley Cup Final. Most will agree that the team is regressing, and a prospect pool devoid of top-end potential – besides KHL netminder Igor Shesterkin – is only going to make things worse.
This might be a good year to acquire more equity by trading down in the draft, especially where it projects to be one of the thinner crops in years. If the Rangers decided to trade say, Derek Stepan, they could make a stab at restocking the cabinets.
Ryan Poehling was the youngest player in the NCAA last season, his stats didn’t blow anyone out of the water but scouts liked the upside as a two-way forward. If the Rangers move on from Stepan, they could groom a player like Poehling to help pioneer the teams’ future.
Draft position: 2nd overall
Philadelphia took the biggest leap of all teams in the draft lottery, jumping from 12th to 2nd when the lottery was conducted. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny both turned in impactful rookie seasons, graduating from the Flyers high quality prospect pool.
The Flyers will go with whoever is available between the aforementioned Hischier and Patrick, happily walking away with a blue-chip consolation prize.
Patrick missed most of his draft eligible season with injuries, but still showed an elite skillset and plays a game without any deficiencies. Philadelphia’s good drafting fortunes will continue after they select one of the young centres.
Draft position: 31st overall
After becoming the first team to win consecutive Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, the Penguins will not be without a first round pick this season after trading away their 2016 first rounder to acquire Phil Kessel.
Pittsburgh hasn’t really had a strong group of prospects in a decade, mainly relying on its existing core, trading picks and prospects for impact players and acquiring players through the college free agency route.
The Penguins can get a little creative here, given the expertise they currently possess on their roster. Shane Bowers is a player Pittsburgh could consider. Bowers turned in two solid years in the USHL, and will now look to fill the void left behind by Clayton Keller at Boston University.
Draft position: 120th overall
The Capitals made the most significant move at the trade deadline, going after Kevin Shattenkirk and trading their first rounder in the process. The move did not pay off, as Shattenkirk appears headed for free agency and Washington will not pick until the fourth round.
Both the Leafs and Penguins were able to use their speed to expose the Capitals in the post-season, signalling a possible culture change that the team could try and get faster to compete with the likes of the future of the league.
Sasha Chmelevski could conceivably fall into the fourth round given some question marks regarding his intensity. The Capitals will likely be on the lookout for the best value possible in the draft when they select their first player at 120.