2017 NHL Entry Draft – Central Division Team Needs

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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 Central 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 Central Division Team Needs.

2017 NHL Draft – Central Division Team Needs

Chicago Blackhawks
Draft position: 26th overall

The Blackhawks are one of few teams who can benefit from the Expansion Draft by unloading some salary. Chicago has had their backs against the wall just about every summer since 2010, with so many highly paid players on its team.

This may come at the expense of the teams’ first round selection this year, but they’ve also been lucky to accumulate a variety of mid-tier players through draft picks acquired in cap dump deals.

The Blackhawks could look to get bigger on the wings, with a player like Isaac Ratcliffe fitting the description. Stan Bowman hasn’t had a first-round pick since 2014, and could be wise to go for help on the back-end with his blueline core steadily aging.

Colorado Avalanche
Draft position: 4th overall

Colorado drew the worst straw at the draft lottery, missing out on its second first overall selection in four years. The Avs had a colossally awful season, and at this point, the team has a long road ahead before they can compete again.

Matt Duchene has been the subject of frequent trade chatter, and would fetch a nice haul of assets if Joe Sakic were to find an ideal partner to swap with. Despite losing out on the top-two prospects, Colorado has a few appealing options to choose from in the next tier of this draft.

Miro Heiskanen might make the most sense for the Avalanche, a positionally sound defenseman who might represent the most complete player at his position in this years’ draft. Cale Makar will also certainly get some looks, as the ceiling is there to become an adept puck-mover at the NHL level.

Dallas Stars
Draft position: 3rd overall

The Stars can now put a forgettable 2016-17 season in the rearview mirror, sweetened by a sizeable hike in the draft order. Dallas went from seventh to third, leapfrogging teams that are mired in much worse future situations.

After allowing 262 goals last season, good for second worst in the entire league. Dallas went out and acquired Ben Bishop, a much better option than the existing duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.

The Stars could easily be looking at Heiskanen and Makar as well, pieces who could soon fit into a currently unspectacular defensive corps. Dallas has a lack of depth on the back-end in the current state of its prospect system.

Minnesota Wild
Draft position: 85th overall

Team owner Craig Leipold regretted the decision of trading for Martin Hanzal at the deadline, as the Wild were ousted in five games in the opening round of the post-season. The team enters the draft without a pick in the first two rounds.

Minnesota arguably had the best showcase of prospects at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway all had productive tournaments, breeding optimism for the Wild’s pipeline.

Jonas Brodin has been a popular name in league trade discussions. If the Wild decide to trade Brodin before Friday, they could easily net a middle-to-late first rounder. Defense is the weakest position in the farm, so a pick in the first could net them a prospect like Urho Vaakanainen.

Nashville Predators
Draft position: 30th overall

The Predators first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history was certainly a testament to their ability to draft well. Homegrown talents Ryan Ellis, Viktor Arvidsson and Colton Sissons all made massive strides in 2016-17.

General manager David Poile has shown a bias towards drafting defensemen earlier in the draft in his 18-year tenure. Nashville’s strongest suit lies on the blueline at the future and professional level, being the source of most of its offensive firepower.

After Ryan Johansen went down in the Conference Finals, Nashville quickly learned how important centre depth is in the post-season. Robert Thomas and Jaret Anderson-Dolan represent strong options that project to go in the Preds’ range.

St. Louis Blues
Draft position: 20th overall

Kevin Shattenkirk‘s departure fetched the Blues a first-round pick from Washington. It looks like a good move as Shattenkirk was unlikely to sign in St. Louis or Washington this summer.

St. Louis will select at 20 as well as 27 in Friday’s first round. They can be added to the long list of teams looking to grab a center this year, especially with Paul Stastny becoming a UFA after the 2017-18 season.

Center Lias Andersson is what some would call a ‘safe’ pick. He’s not dazzling offensively by any means, but has many skills that are coveted by NHL teams. With their second of two first round picks, Jonah Gadjovich is a skilled forward who plays a heavy game that could get a look and give the Blues some size.

Winnipeg Jets
Draft position: 13th overall

It’s not hard to look at the future of the Jets and consider that they could be in the best position of any team. The brass has done a good job supplying the team with a group of blue-chip prospects, assisted by many years of picking in the lottery.

Winnipeg could look to package a few of these assets in a deal to acquire a defenseman or a center. If they stand pat, defence is the position pool that holds the least amount of high-end prospects in this system.

The Jets could hope pre-season darling Timothy Liljegren will be available for them at 13, who was plagued by mononucleosis but still holds high-end potential as a puck mover. Michael Rasmussen is a towering centre that seems poised for a career as a power play specialist.

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