The NHL Entry Draft is rapidly approaching and people are getting excited to see what each team will do on June 22nd and 23rd. Dallas will host one of the most talented draft classes in recent history. Here, we will look into what each team within the Metropolitan Division needs to do when Draft Weekend arrives.
2018 NHL Entry Draft – Metropolitan Division Needs –
Draft Position: 2nd Overall
Last summer, Carolina thought they had found their new franchise goaltender in Scott Darling. Following a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, then-GM Ron Francis committed to him with a four-year contract worth $4.15 million annually. This proved to be a disaster. Darling went 13-21-7 with a 3.18 GAA and .888 Sv%. Finding a suitable starting goalie stands out as their largest need.
This past season’s decline of former All-Star defenseman, Justin Faulk and promising young center, Victor Rask. Despite having a solid young defensive core, the Hurricanes need to beef up their top forward lines. They may find just that at the upcoming draft.
Projected Pick: Andrei Svechnikov
The last time the Canes drafted this high, they selected their future longtime captain and face of the franchise, Eric Staal. This year, they will once again select second in the draft, moving up nine spots. New GM, Don Waddell, recently all but confirmed the predictable. Carolina is most likely going to select Andrei Svechnikov from the OHL’s Barrie Colts. The Russian native is ranked second in just about every player ranking. He should make an immediate impact in the Hurricanes’ top six forwards come October.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Draft Position: 18th Overall
Columbus has once again failed to win a playoff series. After winning the first two games in overtime, the Blue Jackets subsequently lost the next four in a row to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, Washington Capitals. The breakout of Pierre-Luc Dubois and acquisition of Artemi Panarin gave fans hope, however.
General manager, Jarmo Kekäläinen, will likely need to replace second line winger, Thomas Vanek, as he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Despite a trade request in January, key defenseman, Jack Johnson remained on the team but is also a UFA. The Blue Jackets need depth players to fill key roles in order to finally get them over the hill of winning a playoff series.
Projected Pick: Rasmus Sandin
Despite drafting All-Star defenseman, Zach Werenski, in 2015 and trading for the young blueliner, Seth Jones, Columbus still has a weak prospect pool in that department. Rasmus Sandin has ranked anywhere as a middle to late first rounder. The Swedish defender isn’t the biggest, standing at 5’11 and weighing 190 lbs. He is, however, an effective offensive defenseman for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL and Sweden’s U17 and U18 international teams. His IQ and agility are apparent but Sandin’s physical play is surprising for his size as he isn’t afraid to throw the body. Sandin could provide Columbus with hope for the future when he becomes NHL-ready.
New Jersey Devils
Draft Position: 17th Overall
After winning the top pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Devils made the playoffs for the first time since losing the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. Despite the predictable early exit at the hands of last season’s powerhouse, Tampa Bay Lightning, the New Jersey still showed they are moving in the right direction.
Their overwhelming need is to address their lack of defense. Sami Vatanen has been a great acquisition since he was traded from the Anaheim Ducks in November. Will Butcher is coming off a solid rookie season and continue to develop nicely. Damon Severson is also a steady depth defender but this only accounts for three of a decent top four defensive core. Going after a blueliner in free agency such as John Carlson or Calvin de Haan can provide a much-needed pairing alongside Vatanen.
Projected Pick: Bode Wilde
Should Bode Wilde fall to 17, which is very possible given the incredible talent depth of this draft class, New Jersey will likely scoop him up without hesitation. The 6’2, 196 lbs. defenseman brings an incredible all-around talent to the table. He excels in all three zones on the ice, being able to close in on the puck carrier and break up lanes, as well as posing a serious threat on the breakout, and opening up rushes on the offense. The University of Michigan has a great hockey IQ and uses his size to his advantage as a two-way defenseman. If General Manager Ray Shero has the opportunity to select Wilde, he would boost the defensive talent of his prospect pool immensely.
New York Islanders
Draft Position: 11th Overall and 12th Overall
With John Tavares possibly on his way out of New York, the Islanders will look to their emerging superstar, Mat Barzal to step up to a first line center role. Players like Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle provide suitable top six wingers but filling in the second line center vacancy along with forward depth stands out as a big need.
Most pressing of a need is their lack of defense. The Islanders’ top defensive pairing, Nick Leddy and Dennis Seidenberg, are better suited as a 3rd pairing. New general manager, Lou Lamoriello, should focus on acquiring blueliners that are cut out to be playing at the NHL level.
Projected Pick: Ty Smith at 11th, Joel Farabee at 12th
Should the Islanders keep both first-round picks, Ty Smith has the ability to add talent to their prospect pool. He boasts an elite skating ability and great hockey IQ. This past season, scouts witnessed a breakout year with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. He can kill penalties effectively while also moving the puck well. His large frame gives him a physical edge as well, standing at 6’2 and 200 lbs.
Joel Farabee is another solid prospect to add to the Islanders’ pool. The captain of the US National Development Team has shown gradual improvement over the years. His agility, speed, and stick skills are something to get excited about. He will need more time to develop, however, to increase his shot power and strength. Farabee is 6’0 but only 168 lbs. which is a definite area in need of improvement. Shoring up his physical game could put him in contention for an effective top-six forward one day.
New York Rangers
Draft Position: 9th Overall, 26th Overall, 28th Overall
Until such time as the Blueshirts are ready to become a playoff force again, the Rangers need to use their cap space as an asset. They lack defensive depth and a suitable fourth line. GM, Jeff Gorton, should use this as an asset. Acquiring picks and prospects in exchange for picking up bad contracts will greatly help New York. Players like Bobby Ryan, Antoine Roussel, and Troy Brouwer can still play a role on the Rangers roster while also bringing a good return. Continuing the rebuild is their sole focus for a while. Developing talent and acquiring pieces towards a winning team is all they need to do.
Projected Pick: Adam Boqvist at 9th, Dominik Bokk at 26th, Ryan McLeod at 28th
The draft projections outside the top three are probably the hardest to gauge in years. Players such as Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Adam Boqvist have all been in the conversation for the Rangers to select at ninth. Many also speculate that Gorton will try to trade up to secure the prospect they want. This will likely come at the cost of one of their firsts and a roster player. Should they select Boqvist, they’ll still get a generational talent that’s compared to the likes of Erik Karlsson. His offensive abilities are marvellous and he doesn’t turn 18 until August, giving him a youthful edge.
Dominik Bokk and Ryan McLeod can also provide more options to their ever-growing pool. Following the acquisitions of defensive prospects, stocking up on forwards can effectively round out New York’s future roster. The pair is excellent skaters with even better hands. Their playmaking abilities should be a significant boost to any roster they land on.
Draft Position: 14th Overall, 19th Overall
The Flyers had been dealing with the oft-injured and mediocre tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. With playoffs approaching, they attempted to solve the problem by trading for Petr Mrazek. They were met with even more mediocrity and were eliminated in six games in the first round of the playoffs. It’s been made clear that the 26-year-old restricted free agent will not return next season. Philadelphia is likely sticking with Elliot and Neuvirth this year but needs to search further for a franchise goaltender either in free agency or in the upcoming draft.
Projected Pick: Rasmus Kupari at 14th, Ryan Merkley at 19th
Rasmus Kupari would fit well in the Flyers’ system as he impressed scouts with his raw abilities. The Finnish native played respectively in Liiga as a 17-year-old. While playing with grown men, Kupari put up 29 points across a 57 game span. He’s a fantastic skater and his stick-handling abilities are regularly highlight reel worthy. Kupari can juke and deke his way through traffic and find an open man to set up quality scoring chances. The 6’1, 188lbs. prospect plans on staying in Finland for another year to develop more. This shouldn’t affect the Flyers at all thanks to their recent influx of centers drafted in the first round.
The Flyers’ defensive prospect pool is extremely shallow. Ryan Merkley could very well be the solution to this problem at the draft. His offensive awareness and speed offer a high upside. Standing only at 5’11 and 170lbs, Merkley has the ability to be an effective leader on a power play unit which the Flyers need to improve.
Draft Position: 53rd Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Kasperi Kapanen
It’s hard to depict a specific need for a team that’s just coming off back to back Stanley Cup Championships. Despite finally being dethroned this year, the Penguins remain one of the most sound rosters on paper. Though players they traded for during the season such as Riley Sheahan and Derick Brassard didn’t pan out the way they had hoped, there is still time to improve next year.
Probably the most pressing need for Pittsburgh is their goalie development. Following the departure of longtime franchise netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury, in the Expansion Draft, the Penguins looked to Matt Murray. The 24-year-old had an impressive 2016-17 season which was the driving force behind the team’s fourth Cup. Murray seemed to be ready to take the helm but this past year seemed too much to handle as his number slipped. His .907 SV% and 2.92 GAA wasn’t what people expected. Getting Murray back on track should right the ship that the Penguins slightly diverged.
Projected Pick: Nicolas Beaudin
The Penguins prospect pool is about as shallow as a puddle. Since 2012, they’ve drafted just one player in the first round. Despite not drafting in the first round again this year, Nicolas Beaudin still can be a valuable piece to the Penguins’ future. The Canadian defenseman isn’t the biggest, standing at 5’11, 172lbs. He doesn’t necessarily have the offensive skills that the other blue-liners do in this draft class. What he does have is a keen ability to break the puck out of his own zone. He has fantastic vision and passing ability but needs to work on his speed and backchecking. Despite being ranked as a low second round pick, Beaudin has the potential to excel on any NHL defensive core.
Draft Position: 31st Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Lucas Johansen, Ilya Samsonov, Jacob Vrana
It’s a pretty safe bet that the priority for the Capitals right now is NOT what they need for next year but rather what their next drink will be. They’ve earned the celebrations as they’ve finally won the Stanley Cup. That being said, Washington first needs to find a new home for Philipp Grubauer. The 26-year-old RFA proved his worth as a starting goaltender. Potential landing spots could be the Islanders, Sabres, Hurricanes, andRed Wings. Cashing out on Grubauer’s signing rights can keep the Capitals competitive in the future.
Another task on Washington’s to-do list is to re-sign key players. Skaters such as Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, and Michal Kempny all are due for extensions. However, the future of UFA defenseman, John Carlson, is uncertain. The 28-year-old lit up the score sheet this year with 68 points in 82 regular season games and 20 points in 24 playoff games. The whole league is focused on where the biggest free agent will land.
Projected Pick: Alexander Alexyev
Another addition to the list of Russians selected by the Capitals in the draft could expand this year. Following the loss of key defensemen Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt last summer along with the uncertainty of John Carlson‘s tenure in Washington, a well-rounded blue-liner could help immensely. Alexander Alexeyev‘s play in his own zone is enough to make any Capitals fan excited. He doesn’t often take risks offensively which limits his turnovers but may hinder his offensive production. His 6’3 190 lbs. frame is no testament to his skating ability as he can still skate with speed and agility. Alexyev could be an effective replacement to one day be a core defenseman on the Capitals roster.
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