The NHL Draft is in less than a month and we are in full swing offseason mode at the site. Brigstew has been busy with prospect profiles for months and Katya is in the middle of her pick predictions post, numbers 12 to 14 come out today and I can tell you the takes are hot.
For me, I’m inclined to trade the Penguins first round pick the Maple Leafs got in the Kasperi Kapanen trade unless someone from the top tier of the draft falls. And considering how players in the Draft always seem to fall, I’m inclined to take the pick. If the Leafs can manage to sneak away from the Draft Zoom call with anyone in my top-10, I’ll be thrilled. The prospects outside that list will probably turn into good players if chosen and developed well, but I really feel like Toronto needs a big swing and take a chance with the high value Pittsburgh gave up.
My Top 10
- Alexis Lafreniere
- Quinton Byfield
- Marco Rossi
- Lucas Raymond
- Tim Stutzle
- Jamie Drysdale
- Cole Perfetti
- Anton Lundell
- Yaroslav Askarov
- Rodion Amirov
How they can drop to the Leafs
I would be very shocked if Lafreniere or Byfield fall all the way to 15th, it would be absurd if they did. As Drysdale is the top defenseman in the class, it’s hard to see him go so late either. A lot of people liked Stutzle’s World Juniors for Germany as the top player on a bad team, so there’s a good chance he ends up in the top-three based on the flawed logic (in my opinion). Perfetti seems to have his admirers and Lundell is a centre, another coveted position, so probably not.
But for the three that are left, maybe?
Let’s start with the goalie because it’s the most specific to need and I’ll need to go through all the teams between where he could reasonably go and where the Leafs are.
All it takes is a handful of teams to be happy with their goaltending prospects to be weary of not getting a top skater with their first pick. He doesn’t need to be undervalued, just number two on a few lists.
6. Ducks: John Gibson is in the second year of an eight-year deal and they have a prospect in 20-year-old Lukas Dostal who was a .928 in the Liiga.
7. Devils: Mackenzie Blackwood is 23, but I don’t think he’s that great and with Schneider under contract for two more years, they might want to invest in a young cheap guy, I could see him going here (and so does Katya). The only hope Toronto has is if New Jersey gets lured in with a run on defensemen and take Jake Sanderson or they see a forward like Perfetti drop, which is likely because they sit pretty high in the Draft.
8. Sabres: Buffalo could either be dumb and shop for Jack Eichel’s next winger or 2C, or believe in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, or both. UPL is a very good AHL goaltender and they seem to be developing him well in Rochester, so that might be enough for a pass.
9. Wild: Kaapo Kahkonen is seemingly ready and waiting in the wings, and I think Minnesota is ready to give him the reins very soon. It wouldn’t be smart for them to saturate a position they seem quite confident in.
10. Jets: They have Connor Hellebuyck and are in desperate need to add a defenseman to their pipeline. Also, Askarov’s not Finnish so Winnipeg legally can’t draft him in the first round.
11. Predators: I’d be shocked if the Predators draft the pick and don’t trade it for help now. They seem desperate to make this era work (and with the contracts they have, David Poile has no choice). If they do trade the pick, it’s anyone’s guess who the target is for that team.
12. Panthers: Florida is in full bewildering mode right now. They just hired a former agent to be their GM and the Fentons to run their draft. If they take Braden Schneider here I wouldn’t even bat an eye. Plus, I don’t think Askarov looks like a reptile at all.
13. Hurricanes: This is a smart team who will probably take one of the two players I’m going to take about below. On the goalie front, however, it’s being reported that while their NHL situation is pretty weak (sorry, Optimus Reim), they really like their prospects Alex Nedeljkovic (AHL) and Pyotr Kotchetkov (KHL).
14. Oilers: Edmonton is light on prospects in the NHL, AHL, and on their reserve list. Askarov could very quickly go there, especially if they feel confident in keeping Jesse Puljujarvi and they like their defense prospects starting with Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear.
So of the nine teams above, I could see two or three taking Askarov before the Leafs get a chance, that makes the odds pretty low. But still, I dream!
The player who I always hear as “Rodi Onamirov” is ranked in the teens by most public lists, despite his incredible offensive potential. I feel like he’s been stereotyped as a small, one-way winger from Russia’s junior league, despite great MHL numbers and a strong U18 and U20 performance. He’s one of the older players in the draft (almost as old as Nick Robertson!), so comparatively he should be on the better side of this draft compared to some of the youngest players like Byfield or Marat Khusnutdinov.
But Amirov has some of the best defensive numbers in the draft class when looking at data tracked by people like Will Scouch.
He could become a really great NHL player who is a left wing in your top-six for years or bust once he makes the KHL (one assist through three games this season, which is promising). He is an undervalued swing for the fences that I think a lot of teams are too scared to take (except for maybe Carolina).
This is the big one. The hot take. Imagine if he falls even out of the top 10? That would be crazy. I wouldn’t believe it even though the logic would be so obvious.
Marco Rossi is small and scored a lot (A LOT) of points in the OHL last season. He’s a centre, like Brayden Point, though everyone I’ve read seems to believe he’s destined to be a winger once he hits the AHL. He’s a incredibly tenacious, talented, and versatile forward that, if he was two inches taller, he would be genuinely rivaling Byfield for LA’s affection (I have Byfield ahead because of his age relative to the class around him).
Even after Point wins the Conn Smythe, there’s going to be doubt as to whether small players can survive in the Big Bad NHL. I can’t fathom a dozen teams saying no to 120 points in 56 games, but again, all it takes is for a few teams to feel safer with forwards like Jack Quinn, Alexander Holtz, Connor Zary and the like for him to drop. Bob’s ranking has him seventh, it could happen.
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, New York Islanders 1 — TBL leads 3-1
Speaking of Brayden Point, he scored in Tampa’s Game 4 win after missing the previous game (their sole loss in the series) with an injury. Point was rubbed out hard along the boards with 10 minutes left in Game 5, and didn’t play for the remainder of the game with the Lightning up two, but he did stay on the bench and the team is hopeful he’s good for a potential decider on Tuesday. [Recap]
“Brayden Point celebrated his return to the lineup with two points, including one goal and an assist on the game-winning goal. Alex Killorn was also back to the ice after serving a one-game suspension. The Tampa Bay Lightning returned to their familiar roster during the postseason with 11 forwards and 7 defencemen, which proved to be a winning combination in this 4-1 victory over the Islanders.”
This is a must-win game for the Golden Knights, who face elimination from Anton Khudobin and the Stars tonight.