With the NHL entry draft on the horizon, teams are gearing up for a busy weekend in Dallas on June 22nd/23rd. This years draft class is deep and a has a ton of foreign talent, three of which are the projected top 3. It also includes one player who is a generational talent and has all the makings to be an instant superstar. We will take a look at the Atlantic Division team needs and who they will potentially pick in this year’s draft.
2018 NHL Draft – Atlantic Division Team Needs
Draft Position: 57th Overall
The Boston Bruins won’t be picking until 57th this year as they traded their first-round pick to the New York Rangers for Rick Nash.
Recent First Round Picks: Urho Vaakanainen, Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic, Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn
The Bruins biggest immediate need is depth at right wing. They have two highly skilled top two with David Pastrnak and Danton Heinen but were forced to trade for Rick Nash and Tommy Wingels, as well as sign Brian Gionta last year so they had depth going into the playoffs. With all three being UFA’s this summer, it’s an area that needs to be addressed. Long-term, however, is on the defensive end. While they have McAvoy and Carlo who are young, Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Nick Holden are all on the wrong side of 30. With 2nd round picks usually not being NHL ready for a few years, they’re better off grabbing a defenseman with this pick.
Projected Pick: Kevin Bahl
For the Bruins, Bahl would be their replacement for Chara. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 231 lbs, he’s already a massive kid who only turns 18 on June 27th. Not the most offensively gifted, Bahl’s bread and butter is on the defensive end. He has above average skating ability and makes a good first pass. He keeps his offensive game simple. His long reach, ability to keep defenders to the outside and keep the puck out of his net will be his ticket to the NHL. He is the definition of a defensive defenceman.
Draft Position: 1st Overall
The Sabres have built a nice prospect pool for themselves recently as they have picked in the top 10 each of the past five years. This year will be no different, as the Sabres won the draft lottery and earned the right to the number one selection at this year’s draft.
Projected Pick: Rasmus Dahlin
This one is a no-brainer. Dahlin is the clearcut number one pick this year and there’s no reason for the Sabres to deviate from that. He’s a generational and will be able to jump into the Sabres lineup instantly. He will join a young defence group led by Ristolainen, as well as Jake McCabe and youngster Brendan Guhle. Buffalo will have one of the youngest and mobile defence groups in the NHL.
Draft Position: 6th and 30th
Recent First Round Picks: Michael Rasmussen, Dennis Cholowski, Evgeny Svechnikov
The Red Wings have a lot of holes in their line up, but none bigger than a right shot defenceman. Nick Jensen is currently the only player on the Red Wings roster who shoots right. They also don’t have any blue-chip prospects in the pipeline who could fill this void either. The Red Wings will certainly be looking to address this issue at the draft.
When it comes to team needs, no one fits the bill better than Boqvist. A right shot defenceman with speed and skill who is made for today’s game. Boqvist is a great skater with excellent puck skills and elite vision. He transports the puck well and can quarterback the powerplay. He has all the tools to be a franchise defenceman.
Bokk is an extremely skilled forward. He has excellent stickhandling abilities and can dangle opponents with next to no room. He has high-end hockey IQ and playmaking abilities but doesn’t have trouble finding the back of the net himself as well. Bokk has top 6 potential at the very least. Something the Red Wings are going to need with their captain Henrik Zetterberg‘s career winding down.
Draft Position: 15th Overall
The Panthers struggled defensively last year. They allowed far too many shots, and with Roberto Luongo not getting any younger, it’s an area they need to focus on to not put so much strain on the veteran netminder. The Panthers could also use some bottom line depth forwards, as they don’t have much scoring outside the top two lines.
Projected Pick: Bode Wilde
In a draft that’s defence heavy, Bode Wilde is one of the best. He has all the tools to become an elite defender at the NHL level. He has good size and puck skills to go along with her excellent skating ability. Wilde can become reckless at times and make you question is hockey IQ but is certainly something he will be able to work on at the University of Michigan next season.
Draft Position: 3rd Overall
The Canadiens team needs have been the same for a number of years. A number one centre. They drafted Ryan Poehling last year, but he projects to be more of a number two. Unfortunately for the Habs, there is not an elite level centre in the top five of this year’s draft. Having the third overall selection, the Habs will have to go with the best player available.
Projected Pick: Filip Zadina
Zadina may not be a centre, but he will certainly help the Canadiens in an area where they struggle; scoring goals. Zadina is a pure sniper, putting up 44 goals in 57 games for the Halifax Mooseheads this season in the QMJHL. The next step for the Habs is to find a centre for him to play with.
Draft Position: 4th Overall, 22nd Overall
The Senators are a season out of being one goal away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance. This season, however, they were a disaster. The biggest reason was due to their poor defensive play and possession numbers. The Senators left side on defence is extremely weak outside of Thomas Chabot. As well, the Sens don’t have any firepower on the left side up front other than Mike Hoffman. Having two first-round picks will give the Senators the power to address both positions at the draft.
The Senators will be able to address both needs with their first-round picks by taking Hughes and Denisenko with their two first-round picks. Hughes is the second best left-handed defenceman in the draft. Hughes is not the biggest in stature but with the game transitioning to speed and skill, Hughes checks off all the boxes. An elite skater with exceptional puck moving abilities, Hughes has all the makings for a top pairing defenceman for years to come.
Denisenko is a skilled player who plays a very aggressive style of game. An excellent skater with great stickhandling and playmaking abilities, Denisenko can hurt you all over the ice. If you give him too much space, he will take advantage of the shooting and passing lanes with his elite vision. If you play him tight, he can burn you with his speed, quick dekes and feints. He sometimes takes questionable penalties due to his highly aggressive style of play but its something you love about him as he’s always giving his all each and every shift.
Draft Position: 59th Overall
The Tampa Bay Lightning won’t be picking until 59th overall this year as they traded their first-round pick to the New York Rangers in a deal for Ryan McDonagh.
Recent First Round Picks: Cal Foote, Brett Howden, Anthony DeAngelo
Like a lot of teams in the Atlantic, Tampa’s need is on the back end. Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi are all UFA’s at the end of next season. With the Lightning being a cup contender almost every year, they’ve traded away a lot of futures to win now, not allowing them to build up their prospect pool on defence.
Projected Pick: Nils Lundkvist
Much like his Swedish counterpart Boqvist, Lundkvist is an exceptional skater with good puck skills. He’s not the biggest in stature but is surprisingly good defensively given his size. Lundkvist isn’t a dynamic player but plays a very safe and efficient game. He projects to be a top-four defenceman in the NHL.
Draft Position: 25th Overall
The Maple Leafs desperately need some depth on the right side on defence. The Leafs defence proved detrimental to their playoff success as they don’t have anyone capable of playing the top pair on the right side. Ron Hainsey‘s best years are behind him and Nikita Zaitsev took a step back in his second year in the league. With Liljegren the only promising prospect coming up on the right side and a draft that is defence heavy, the Leafs may want to use their first-round pick to address this need.
Projected Pick: Jett Woo
Defensively, Woo is one of the best in the draft. But he can also contribute offensively. His positioning is already top-notch. He keeps the opposition to the outside making it difficult for teams to create good scoring opportunities. He’s a big, strong defender who battles hard in front of the net as well as in the corners and really loses. Chances are if Woo is battling in the corner, he’s coming out with the puck. Woo punishes opponents with massive hits but doesn’t take himself out of position to make them. With the amount of offensive defenceman the Leafs have on the left side, Woo is the perfect compliment to each and every one of them.