Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL draft. Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now. However, we don’t want to wait, instead we follow our yearly tradition and do our draft grades now.
LWOS 2017 NHL Draft Grades
Note: We include trades in the grades. The moves for players like Travis Hamonic, Artemi Panarin, Brandon Saad, Derek Stepan, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Eberle, and others from the last week will be included in our draft grades.
A second note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean best player drafted. It means best value. For Example, Nico Hischier was the first player taken in this draft. However he is not our best value pick for the Devils. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.
A third note: The links lead back to our scouting reports.
Click Here for PART ONE; or for PART TWO; or Part THREE.
St.Louis Blues: B
The Blues made a couple of trades late in the first round. They gave up a couple of first round picks to get Brayden Schenn. Centre was a major need for the team, and they paid a big price, but addressed that needs. They also cleared a bad contract with Jori Lehtera heading to Philadelphia. In the second trade, they moved up twenty spots in the draft, while also picking up Oscar Sundquist for Ryan Reaves. While Reaves is a fan favorite, the fact remains that his hockey skill is limited. This was a really good trade for the Blues.
In Robert Thomas the Blues get one of the fastest risers in the second half of the year. He is a tenacious centre, who also has great vision and play making ability. Klim Kostin could be a real steal. He has high end skill. Injury and inconsistency was an issue this year. Toropchenko is a fast and skilled winger, who played with Kostin in 2015-16. Noel has a big shot and good skating skill. However, he needs to use his size to play more physical, and get better passing the puck.
Tampa Bay Lightning: C+
The Lightning reached early in the first round when they took Cal Foote. He’s a good defenceman, but with Timothy Liljegren and Juuso Valimaki on the board, this is a pick that Steve Yzerman could regret. Volkov was a third time draft eligible. He was also a reach in the second round. He has decent size and speed, but has never shown big production, even in the Russian junior leagues. Getting Lipanov in the third round was a coup though. He is an outstanding playmaker, who is also responsible in his own end.
Perbix is a big defenceman. He has some skating issues though, and is a second year draft eligible still playing high school hockey. Guttman is an average skater, with average skill level, but very good hockey IQ. Walker is an undersized speedster. Overall this draft is very underwhelming from the Lightning.
Toronto Maple Leafs: B-
The Leafs had a tremendous first round pick, but underwhelmed on Day Two. Liljegren checks all the boxes for the Leafs. He has outstanding talent, really should have gone higher than he did, and fits their organizational needs. He may not have produced as much as expected this year, but a bout with mono seemed to be an issue. Rasanen is a huge defenceman, who plays a very physical game for Kingston, but may not have the puck skills to succeed at the next level. At 6’3″ Scott has the type of size that NHL teams look for. He also has quick legs that take away the bottom of the net. Scott tracks the puck well for his age.
Kara was an unusual pick in the fourth round. He was totally off the board and not even ranked by central scouting. Gordeev is another big defender. He has decent skating for his size and some puck skill, but is a huge work in progress defensively. McGregor has good skating ability, but just has not produced much in the way of offence for Sarnia. He is tall and lanky, and gets knocked of the puck a lot. He has real issues playing in traffic.
Vancouver Canucks: B+
Some might criticize the pick of Pettersson as being too high. However we felt that there wasn’t a big difference between players we had ranked 3-10. He is a talented player who put up outstanding numbers playing against men in Sweden’s second division. Lind put up big numbers for Kelowna. He is equally adept at both scoring goals and setting them up; and has an excellent wrist shot. Jonah Gadjovich is a huge power winger who broke out in his third season in the OHL. He was a huge part of Owen Sound’s second half dominance.
DiPietro is a smaller, athletic goalie. He was outstanding for Windsor this year, and the biggest reason why they won the Memorial Cup. There is a legit case that he was snubbed for the tournament MVP award. Rathbone is an undersized puck moving defencemen, with really good skating ability. Petrus Palmu also had a huge season for Owen Sound. He’s an undersized player, but has the pure skill to put the puck in the pack of the net.
Vegas Golden Knights: A+ (Best Draft)
Picks: Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Nicolas Hague, Jake Leschyshyn, Jonas Rondbjerg, Maksim Zhukov, Lucas Elvenes, Jonathan Dugan, Nick Campoli, Jiri Patera, Ben Jones
Best Value: Elvenes
The Golden Knights took full advantage of some very advantageous expansion draft rules this year, and turned it into a great draft that stocks their system. With three picks in the top 15, they snagged two potential top line centres in Glass and Suzuki. They put up big numbers in Portland and Owen Sound. Erik Brannstrom is one of the most intriguing players in this draft. He put up huge numbers in Sweden, numbers that rival Erik Karlsson‘s draft year. This isn’t to say he will be as good as Karlsson, but it does show the talent he has.
The Knights got another defenceman with a first round grade in Hague, taking him early in the second round. He has two way skills, and intriguing size. He has to clean up some skating technique though. Jake Leschyshyn is the son of a former NHLer. He might be a bit undersized, but he is a hard worker who is not afraid to get mixed up in things. Maksim Zhukov has excellent athleticism, especially in his lateral movement as he gets from post-to-post extremely quickly. Elvenes is extremely talented offensively. He must play a little less selfish offensively, and work on his defensive game.
Washington Capitals: D
Picks: Tobias Geisser, Sebastian Walfridsson, Benton Maass, Kristian Roykas Marthinsen
The Capitals didn’t have a pick until the 120th selection of the draft. This seriously hampered their ability to pick up talent this year. Geisser is a tall and lanky Swiss defenceman who is good defensively, but needs to play a bit more physical. Walfridsson is another good sized defensive defenceman. He plays physical in his own end, punishing players with hits and clearing the front of the net. Maass is an offensive defenceman who hasn’t faced high end competion yet. Overall
Winnipeg Jets: B
The Jets got a steal in Vesalainen. The big forward was the best player at the Under 18s. He has the power to get to the front of the net and the skill to finish when he gets there. Samberg spent most of the season playing high school hockey, but went to the USHL at the end of the year. He is a raw prospect. The size and the skating ability are certainly there, but he has not faced a lot of high quality competition to date. Kovacevic is an excellent skater who plays a two-way game.
Santeri Virtanen could be a real diamond in the rough for the team that drafts him. He missed most of the year due to injury. The lack of playing time this year may have him flying under the radar. He could be a solid second or third line centre if he develops properly. Gawanke is a solid defenceman with good size, and a hard slap shot.