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.
Columbus Blue Jackets: B
Picks: Alexandre Texier, Daniil Tarasov, Emil Bemstrom, Kale Howarth, Jonathan Davidsson, Carson Meyer, Robbie Stucker,
Trade: Acquired Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte; Acquired Jordan Schroeder, Traded Keegan Kolesar;
Best Value: Panarin Trade
The Blue Jackets were involved in a series of trades before they even made their first pick. They picked up elite skill in Panarin, the type of high-end skill their team needs to take the next step. They also got some depth in Motte and Schroeder, hoping that one will replace William Karlsson. Keegan Kolesar went for a second round pick, which seems fair to both teams.
The Jackets were all about high risk, high reward picks. Their first pick, Texier, has very good speed and puck skills. He played in France last year, and the French team played in second division of their IIHF tournaments. He looks like a very good prospects, but the question has been his level of competition. Tarasov looked fantastic as a 16-year-old and was expected to be a top prospect in this draft. However, injury made 2016-17 a lost year for the Russian netminder. Bemstrom skates well and has a good shot, however he must learn to handle the puck at top speed.
Howarth is a third time draft eligible with great size, who played in the BCHL. He broke out offensively in his final year of junior eligibility, with 58 points in 51 games. Davidsson is another third time eligible. He is a good skater, who again must learn to handle the puck while maintaining that speed. Meyer is also a third year eligible, who had a breakout year.
Dallas Stars: B+
In Heiskanen, the Stars take the draft’s top rated defenceman and address a major need. The smooth skating Finn is good at both ends of the ice. He might even be ready to play in Dallas this year, though a year overseas remains the most likely outcome. Oettinger is the top goalie in the draft class. The Boston University goalie has the type of frame that teams are favoring today. At 39th overall, the Stars got Robertson, a player who many had ranked in the first round. He scored the game winning goal in a ridiculous 1/3 of the Frontenacs wins this season.
Hawel had a rough start to the season, playing wing for Sault Ste. Marie. He looked better in Guelph, when put back to centre. Peterson can be a physical presence in the offensive zone, but is very inconsistent in doing so. His skating stride is also awkward. Brett Davis is a powerful centre who can control the puck down low, but needs a bit more speed. Ferguson gives the Stars another goaltending project.
Detroit Red Wings: C+
Picks: Michael Rasmussen, Gustav Lindstrom, Kasper Kotkansalo, Lane Zablocki, Zach Gallant, Keith Petruzzelli, Malte Setkov, Cole Fraser, John Adams, Reilly Webb, Brady Gilmour,
Best Value: Petruzzelli
The Red Wings had a boatload of draft picks, but didn’t seem to use them efficiently. Rasmussen is a big centre, who didn’t score much at 5v5. Taking him ahead of Gabe Vilardi was a major gamble. Lindstrom is a good skater and has a fantastic shot. However he can be a bit too prone to turnovers, and was a reach early in the second round. Kotkansalo is good defensively, and transitions well through the neutral zone, but doesn’t produce a lot offensively. Zablocki is a very good skater, who gets in quickly on the forecheck, and puts pressure on opposing defenders. He controls the play down low.
Gallant is a powerful centre, with excellent defensive abilities. He could be a shutdown centre for a long time, but his offensive upside is questionable. Standing 6’6″ tall, Petruzzelli has the size and the skills to be an excellent goaltender, but needs development time. Setkov, Fraser and Webb all continued the theme of big, physical defensive defenceman for Detroit. Meanwhile, Adams is a big and physical winger. The Wings seemed to favor size over skill in this draft, which seems to go away from the philosophy that has been so good for the organization for so long.
Edmonton Oilers: A-
The Oilers got some very solid pieces in this draft. Yamamoto, is undersized, but is one of the most dynamic players in the draft. He will fit in extremely well next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Stuart Skinner is one of the top goalies in the draft. His numbers may not be great, but he played behind one of the weakest teams in the WHL. After that come some potential high reward picks. Samorukov is a big and talented defenceman, who must gain consistency. Safin has size and skill up the middle, but again must put it together on a consistent basis. Maksimov is an outstanding skater, with great hands. He also has defensive and consistency issues. If even one of the three works out, the Oilers will have gotten a high end talent in the middle rounds.
The moves the Oilers made on Thursday and Friday take this trade from an A to an A-. The move of Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome makes some sense. The Oilers downgrade in talent, but gain significant cap space. However, the effect of the deal was lost when the Oilers gave Kris Russell a four-year, $16 million deal.
Florida Panthers: B+
The Panthers were one of the few teams to pick a pure winger in the first round and they got the best available in Owen Tippett. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, is a fast skater, and also has the size to play a power game. He can do it all. Heponiemi played some centre this year, but also profiles as a winger going forward. He is another immensely skilled player with size concerns.
Gildon is a big defenceman with a well-rounded game. He has a great package of size and skill, and the ceiling here if he can round out his game is very high. He could be a top four, two-way defenceman. Inamoto is a mobile and physical defenceman who is also from the USNTDP. He needs to work on handling the puck, and making smart passes. Overall the Panthers were well on their way to an A grade, if not for the lack of picks here.
Los Angeles Kings: A
Concerns about skating were the likely cause of Vilardi falling to the Kings at 11th overall, but you won’t hear the Kings complaining. They have gotten a power forward, with high-end skill who was ranked in the top three by many in the scouting community. To pick that up at 11 has to be seen as a steal. In Anderson-Dolan they get a skilled centre, who has good skating, and plays with dogged determination.
Villalta is a goalie project with good size, and who is technically sound. He came out of nowhere for Sault Ste. Marie this year and improved a lot. The question is how much more can he improve. Its a good gamble to take though. Anderson moves the puck quickly, getting it up ice by skating it out of danger and making a quick outlet pass. He has excellent vision, and transitions the puck forward. Phillips is another smooth skater who is very good in transition. He must work on his positioning, but this is a very coachable thing to fix.
Minnesota Wild: C
When a team does not have your first pick until 85th overall, they really are behind the eight-ball. That is the situation that the Minnesota Wild found themselves in this year. Lodnia is a creative winger, with excellent edge work and agility. He put up points in limited minutes on a stacked Erie Otters team. Shaw put up huge points in the WHL, but there are questions about his lack of size. The two give the Wild a pair of risky players, but ones who could bring back a big reward.
Misley is a two-way centre, who has very good possession skills. However he will need to face stiffer competition after playing in the OJHL this year. Golden is a very good skating defenceman who can transition the puck, but needs major work in his own end. Andrei Svetlakov is a 21 year old center with experience in the KHL. Swaney is a third year eligible who had decent numbers in the USHL and is headed to Minnesota-Duluth.
Montreal Canadiens: B+
The Montreal Canadiens came into the weekend looking to improve their prospect depth at centre and on the blue line. They did just that. Poehling is a 200-foot centre, who can be a playmaker at the offensive end, and shut-down opponents top lines. He didn’t have big point totals but was the youngest player in the NCAA after accelerating through high school. Ikonen is a highly skilled Finnish centre, with great skating, puck-handling and an excellent shot. He could have been a late first/early second rounder.
The Canadiens got immediate help for the blue line with a trade for David Schlemko. They also added Josh Brook and Cale Fleury who have very good offensive skills, and solid defensive games. Walford and Tyszka are more stay at home defencemen. Walford has a good shot and passing skill, but must work on his skating. Tyszka also has a good shot, but must work on his passing. Both are physical defenders. In Cayden Primeau, the Habs get a tall and athletic goalie who needs to refine his technique.