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.
Anaheim Ducks: B
The Ducks got very good value when they drafted Comtois. He was once seen as a top five pick, but had a disappointing draft season. The thing with Comtois is that he started the season at wing and did not produce much. In December he was shifted back to centre and had good numbers. Antoine Morand is small but very skilled. He is playing centre now, but may end up as a winger going forward.
Badini was passed over for the draft last year. While we aren’t surprised that he was drafted, 91 seemed a bit early and a bit of a reach. Olson is another smaller player with skill. He plays like a buzz-saw though, as Olson is not afraid to mix things up in the corners or in front of the net. He also is talented enough to put up points. Eriksson-Ek gives the Ducks a nice goalie project to work with. He is the brother of Wild prospect Joel Eriksson Ek.
Arizona Coyotes: B +
Picks: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Filip Westerlund, MacKenzie Entwistle, Nate Schnarr, Cameron Crotty, Noel Hoefenmayer, Michael Karow, Tyler Steenbergen, Erik Walli-Walterholm
Trades: Acquired Niklas Hjalmarsson, Acquired Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta
Best Value: Hjalmarsson
It was an interesting weekend for the Coyotes. Long-time head coach Dave Tippett was shown the door. This was followed by a slew of trades. The Coyotes got excellent value in picking up Hjalmarsson. He’s a solid defensive defenceman. They gave up Connor Murphy, whose contract is nearly as big as Hjalmarsson’s. Centre Laurent Dauphin was passed by many on the Coyotes depth chart. They also picked up Stepan and Raanta. Stepan is proven top six centre and Raanta will be the team’s new number one goalie. The seventh overall pick and Anthony DeAngelo was a big price. Given the age of the Coyotes team, getting proven talent, and the need to hit to the cap floor, this is decent value. The value in their Saturday trade down with the Flyers was great as well, getting two extra picks while moving nine spots.
The Coyotes also had a boatload of picks. We had Joseph lower than many others did, as we see a player who does a lot of things good, but does not have a standout skill. He could be a solid NHL contributor though, but most gain weight. Westerlund was also taken quite a bit higher than where we had hm as a mid third. These two picks keep them away from an A grade. They got good value later in the draft. Entwistle is a solid power forward prospect for the third round. Schnarr, Crotty, and Hoefenmayer were all good value when they were taken. Arizona keeps putting good drafts together, now its time to start graduating the prospects to the NHL team.
Boston Bruins: B-
The tradition continues. For the third straight year, the Bruins made a first round pick that left many scratching their heads. Vaakanainen had a nice Under-18, but there are major questions about his offence. He had a late 1st/early 2nd grade, but the Bruins took him at 18. At 53 the Bruins took Studnicka. Its a little higher than we had him ranked. One thing about Studnicka is that he had a strong second half of the season after Anthony Cirelli was traded off of Oshawa and he took the top line job. We felt he was a sleeper, and the Bruins may have got a real good pick in the slot.
Swayman played behind a weak Sioux Falls team, so his numbers aren’t the greatest. However, he is a solid goalie prospect. Pare was basically a depth forward on a Saint John, and didn’t play many minutes this year. He might get more opportunity as some of the Sea Dogs move on. Bukac is a tall, skinny defenceman who has many skills but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet.
Buffalo Sabres: B-
The Sabres went into this draft looking to bolster their blue line. However, with the top two blueliners off the board early, and Casey Mittelstadt falling, they had to take him. Some were concerned about his combine performance, and yes he must add strength. However, he is dominating his age group and scoring points without that strength. One can only imagine where he will be once he adds it. Davidsson gives the Sabres another strong centre prospect who plays a two-way game. He was a quality second rounder. It looks like the Sabres will lose Cal Petterson. The Sabres also took a young goalie for the pool in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. He was the third goalie on our draft board and is an excellent prospect.
The problem here is that Sabres didn’t even address the blue line until their fourth pick, a third round selection at 89th overall. When they did take defencemen, they made some strange picks. Laaksonen and Bryson were not even on NHL Central Scouting’s ranking lists. Laaksonen has never played for any of Finland’s national teams in his age group. Bryson is tiny at just 5’9″, though he has some offensive skill. The Sabres simply failed to address their biggest organizational need.
Calgary Flames: C+
The Flames gave up a lot for Travis Hamonic, losing a first and two second round picks. He is a good defenceman, but this seems like too much for what he brings to the table. The Flames were already missing their second and third round picks this year, which certainly is going to hurt their draft grade.
They added Finish defenceman Valimaki to their prospect pool. He is an excellent defence prospect who could replace Mark Giordano eventually. The Flames captain isn’t getting any younger. In the fourth round the Flames get Ruzicka. He is a huge centre with a ton of offensive potential. However, he’s been plagued with consistency issues.
Fischer has passed throught the draft twice already, and while he had a good season, was not dominant on a strong Medicine Hat team. He also really exploded in his fourth year of junior after three middling seasons. In D’Artagnan Joly the Flames get a powerful forward with good speed and a strong shot.
Carolina Hurricanes: A
The Hurricanes came into the draft with an outstanding pool of defencemen, but needing to build their forward depth, especially at centre. They did a fantastic job of accomplishing that goal. In Necas they get a centre with high end offensive skill, as well as a good two way game. Luostarinen and Geekie are both second year eligbles who had fantastic seasons and made a big push up the draft board. Mattheos took over as a top six centre for Brandon while Nolan Patrick was hurt. He performed admirably in the job.
In Luke Martin, they get another defenceman. He plays a simple, shutdown role; and his shutdown game compliments the Hurricanes existing puckmovers nicely. Makiniemi is a good sized goalie prospect who will develop overseas. De Jong and Rasanen are projects on the blue line, but both players have the skating skills to intrigue.
Chicago Blackhawks: B-
Picks: Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell, Andrei Altybarmakyan, Evan Barratt, Tim Soderlund, Roope Laavainen, Parker Foo, Jakub Galvas, Joshua Ess
Trades: Acquired Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin; Acquired Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg
Best Value: Barratt
The Blackhawks hosted the draft, and made a big splash with two trades on Friday. As stated in the Coyotes grade, the Hjarlmasson move was a downgrade in talent for the Hawks, while not saving them near enough cap space to make it justifiable ad being due to cap reasons. The Saad deal was a good one. Saad is under contract for two years longer than Panarin, and has scored only six less goals over the last two seasons. The Hawks also find a new backup goalie in the deal.
Jokiharju and Mitchell give the hawks a pair of quality puck moving defencemen in the system. They are new school NHL defenders who contribute to quick transitions and generating offence. Barratt is a pure sniper who is also responsible defensively. He committed to Penn State. In Altybarmakyan the Hawks get a talented Russian who flew under the radar. Soderlund is an undersized winger passed over a year ago, who shone at the World Juniors. Foo is a skinny winger who was passed over a year ago, but was a big part of a long playoff run this year.
Colorado Avalanche: A-
The Avalanche needed to improve their defence and they did just that. In Makar they might have the best player in this entire draft. His upside is enormous. Makar is a sublime skater with outstanding offensive skills. The only question mark is the level of competition he has faced to date. In Timmins the Avalanche got another offensive defenceman who is incredibly smart and controls the game at the OHL level. Henry is a smart player, who gets into good positions without the puck as making good decisions with it. He has a great shot and release.
The Avalanche went with Kvaca, who is a third year draft eligible. He dominated the second division in the Czech league this year and looks to move up next season. Igor Shvyrev was one of the top playmakers in Russian junior leagues. If the Avalanche can sign him, they will have a steal. Smirnov is another undersized, overage player who put up good numbers in college.