Editor's Note: Michael Petrella (@TPLHockey) of the dearly-departed Production Line joins us to offer the latest in his annual series of NHL Entry Draft previews. Any formatting issues are mine, not his.
2014 NHL DRAFT TRUTHS
Generally speaking, the 2014 Draft isn't as "deep" as we've come to expect. It's not as strong as last year's -- and don't even get me started on the 2015 Draft, which is shaping up to the best in a generation. The top of this year's Draft board is every bit as talented as you'd hope, but there's a very sharp drop into the second tier.
Let's put it this way: there's no Anthony Mantha available at 20th overall this June.
While the top player in the Draft may very well be a defenseman (Aaron Ekblad), the bulk of the first round is going to be made up of forwards. In fact, after Ekblad, there's a significant drop off to the second best defenseman -- and there may only be 3-5 blueliners selected in the top 30. If a team needs a defenseman, and they don't get Ekblad at one or two, they're kind of screwed.
Luckily for the Red Wings, there are plenty of centers on the board -- and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that that's the position they're likely looking at. After trading Calle Jarnkrok to Nashville, and promoting Riley Sheahan to the Red Wings, there's not a ton of depth down the middle, particularly since Mattias Janmark's permanent arrival in North America doesn't appear to be imminent. Aside from Landon Ferraro and newly signed collegiate free agent Colin Campbell, neither of whom seem like they'll factor into the big team's plans, the center cupboard is dry.
DETROIT RED WINGS STRATEGY
The Wings don't always keep their first round draft pick. During the late 90's and early 00's, they would often trade their top pick for immediate help. And while that practice has (mostly) been abandoned, it's not unusual for the Wings to trade their top pick for a package of lower picks (several examples of which are below). With this Draft structured the way it is, it may be wise to employ that strategy again. There are a couple guys I like at 15, but if they're not around, the group between 20 and 40 are largely equal.
2013 -- Traded their 1st round pick (18th - Mirco Mueller) to San Jose for 20th (Anthony Mantha) and 58th (Tyler Bertuzzi).
The stock of defensive prospects that the Red Wings have at their disposal is quite impressive. From Ouellet to Sproul to Marchenko to Almquist to Backman to Jensen, there's no shortage of potential NHLers in the bunch. But, if the Penguins have taught us anything, it's that you can never have too many blue chip blueliner prospects -- even if they're not going to be on the NHL squad, they're valuable assets that can be moved for other assets. While there may not be a ton of potential first rounders, the collection of second round defensemen is vast -- and if the Wings pick up a second (they currently do not have one), it may serve them well to pick one of the D that finds itself amassed in that group.
Another trend worth noting is their every-other-year-draft-a-goalie trend. I can't remember who said it, but the Wings admitted to selecting a goaltender in every other draft to keep that cupboard full. After drafting Jimmy Howard in 2003, the trend started in ‘06:
Obviously, this is the every-other year, so I would expect the Wings to take a goaltender in the mid to late rounds, and it almost has to be a collegiate-bound goaltender, since you get longer to sign them than junior players. The reason for this is that Mrazek and Paterson will BOTH be out of waiver exemption before Jimmy Howard's contract expires… adding another goaltender to that logjam would not be wise.
FIRST ROUND OPTIONS
While it's not guaranteed that they'll select a center in the first round, I'd say it's a fair bet. Here are ten guys to keep an eye on -- more information can be found below in the prospect rankings. I have ranked them in an order that's a mixture of "likelihood to be available" and how much I like them as a fit for the Wings.
1. Alex Tuch -- USNTDP, Boston College commit -- 6'3, 222
2. Dylan Larkin -- USNTDP, University of Michigan commit -- 6'1, 190
3. Jared McCann -- Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) -- 6', 179
4. Sonny Milano -- USNTDP, Boston College commit -- 5'10, 159
5. Nick Schmaltz -- Green Bay (USHL), North Dakota commit -- 6'0, 172
6. Connor Bleackley -- Red Deer Rebels (WHL) -- 6'0, 192
7. Robbie Fabbri -- Guelph Storm (OHL) -- 5'10, 166
8. Jakub Vrana -- Linkoping (SWE) -- 5'11, 185
9. Kevin Fiala -- Malmo (SWE) -- 5'10, 165
10. Ryan MacInnis -- Kitchener Rangers (OHL) -- 6'4, 185
The top seven or eight will likely be selected in the first round. The others, however, are likely to slide into the second round. If the Wings prefer one of those guys, they'll likely trade down as they so often do.
BONUS DRAFT PICK OPTIONS
Without knowing the rest of the Draft order, it's hard to say who the Wings may make a deal with, but let's pretend they trade with someone like Anaheim to get the 28th and 38th (keep in mind that the Draft order won't be set until after the remainder of the playoffs, so these numbers are just educated estimates) or Buffalo (31st, 39th, and 50th). The following players may be available and would be attractive Red Wings picks.
1. Jack Dougherty -- USNTDP, University of Wisconsin commit -- 6'2, 185 (Right Handed)
2. Jack Glover -- USNTDP, University of Minnesota commit -- 6'4, 190 (Right Handed)
3. Brycen Martin -- Swift Current Broncos (WHL) -- 6'2, 182 (Left Handed)
4. Alex Peters -- Plymouth Whalers (OHL) -- 6'4, 207 (Left Handed)
5. Marcus Petterson -- Skelleftea (SWE) -- 6'3, 161 (Left Handed)
6. Alex Vanier -- Baie-Comeau Brakkar (QMJHL) -- 6'5, 224 (Left Handed)
1. Anton Karlsson -- Frolunda (SWE) -- 6'1, 189
2. John Quenneville -- Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) -- 6'1, 185
3. Eric Cornel -- Peterborough Petes (OHL) -- 6'1, 186
4. Chase DeLeo -- Portland Winterhawks (WHL) -- 5'9, 177
5. Shane Eiserman -- USNTDP, University of New Hampshire commit -- 6'2, 201
As mentioned above, I don't think the Wings use a first, second, or third round pick on a goaltender, but I do believe that they'll select one at some point. I focused solely on collegiate goalies, for reasons listed, and here are some names to check out. Of the six listed, only the top two are guaranteed to be drafted, and they may very well be around in the fourth round. While the others can be offered invitations to camp, they cannot be signed to contracts because of their collegiate commitments. The only way to guarantee they remain Red Wings property is to select them in the Draft.
1. Ed Minney -- USNTDP, Michigan State commit -- 6'4, 201
2. Black Weyrick -- USNTDP, Brown commit -- 6'2, 201
3. Chase Perry -- Wenatchee Wild (NAHL), Colorado College commit -- 6'2, 163
4. Hayden Lavigne -- Tri-City Storm (USHL), Michigan commit -- 6'3, 181
5. Kasimir Kaskisuo -- Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL), Minnesota-Duluth commit -- 6'2, 185
6. Zach Nagelvoort -- University of Michigan -- 6'2, 190
Nagelvoort is already enrolled, and therefore would need to be signed in three years. The others get all four years of college eligibility before necessitating an entry level deal.
PLAYER RANKINGS - TOP 75
1 - Aaron Ekblad - D - Barrie Colts (OHL) - 6'4 - 215 - Canada
He was the first defenseman ever to be granted "exceptional player status" by the Canadian Hockey League, allowing him to compete in Juniors a year earlier than his peers. At the time, he was only the second player ever granted such status (Tavares was the first).
2 - Sam Reinhart - C - Kootenay Ice (WHL) - 6'1 - 185 - Canada
Even though this has been The Ekblad Draft for several years, Sam (son of former NHLer Paul) Reinhart has made up the ground and may very well be the top pick. It all depends what the Panthers want to do with their lottery win.
3 - Sam Bennett - W - Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) - 6' - 178 - Canada
And playing the role of Jonathan Drouin this year is Sam Bennett -- a guy who, all of a sudden, found himself atop the CSS Rankings to deflect attention from the fact that this is a two-horse race yet again. He's still a hell of a hockey player, don't get me wrong, but he doesn't leap the other two if common sense prevails.
4 - Leon Draisatl - W - Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) - 6'2 - 208 - Germany
The top European player in this year's Draft. Even though he's German, he came to North America to play in the WHL with Prince Albert, presumably to play against better talent than is available in the German junior leagues. Or pro leagues, for that matter.
5 - Michael Dal Colle - W - Oshawa Generals (OHL) - 6'2 - 179 - Canada
Steadily rose throughout the rankings all season before becoming a consensus top five pick. Nice size and smart with a great shot. He's a hell of a player considering someone may get him at five.
6 - Brendan Perlini - W - Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) - 6'3 - 205 - Canada
Fast, smart, and smooth -- not to mention a great frame. Dangerous scorer, and responsible in the other two zones.
7 - Nikolaj Ehlers - W - Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) - 6' - 170 - Denmark
Probabaly the closest thing to Mantha in this year's Draft. Certainly doesn't have Mantha's girth, but he scores practically at will in the Q, and came on very strong during the season. Rose from a potential second rounder to (on some lists) a potential top five pick.
8 - Nick Ritchie - W - Peterborough Petes (OHL) - 6'2 - 231 - Canada
Power-forward, huge frame. Big brother was selected 44th overall by Dallas in 2011, and Nick will certainly one-up him at this year's Thanksgiving dinner.
9 - Jake Virtanen - W - Calgary Hitmen (WHL) - 6'1 - 208 - Canada
He's the whole package: quick, nice shot, good hands. He may very well go higher than 9, but won't slip much lower.
10 - Kasperi Kapanen - W - Kapla (FIN) - 6' - 180 - Finland
Sami's son (YOU'RE OLD!), he's the best Draft-eligible player from Finland this year. He's not as big as some others, but he uses his size well and is quite slippery.
11 - Haydn Fleury - D - Red Deer Rebels (WHL) - 6'3 - 198 - Canada
The second-best defenseman in the Draft, his first name really is spelled that way. Physical and not afraid to shoot.
12 - William Nylander - W - MODO (SWE) - 5'11 - 169 - Sweden
At one point was considered a potential #1 pick, knocking Ekblad down to #2, but has dropped a bit in recent months. Son of former NHLer Michael Nylander.
13 - Jared McCann - C - Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 6' - 179 - Canada
Not as big as some of the other centers available, he's been a steady riser throughout the season. Nice two-way player that would certainly strike the Wings' fancy.
14 - Nikita Scherbak - W - Saskatoon Blades (WHL) - 6' - 172 - Russia
I love, love, love Scherbak more than most seem to. He is Russian, but he's playing in the WHL. He's probably the fastest player in the Draft (we're talkin' Helm fast), and has an unbelievable shot. If the Wings weren't in desperate need of a center, I'd be a huge proponent of this pick.
15 - Alex Tuch - C - US NTDP - 6'3 - 222 - United States
While it's possible he goes top ten, the Boston College commit has nice size and forechecks well.
16 - David Pastrnak - W - Sodertalje (SWE) - 6' - 167 - Czech Rep
His name may sound familiar if you watched the World Junior Championship this season. He played well for the Czechs and will be a first round pick.
17 - Thatcher Demko - G - Boston College - 6'4 - 192 - United States
The top goaltender in the Draft is already manning the nets for powerhouse BC. It's possible that no one picks a goaltender in the first round, but if there's one taken, it'll be this guy.
18 - Nick Schmaltz - C - Green Bay (USHL) - 6' - 172 - United States
Another potential Wings pick is heading to North Dakota to play collegiate hockey. I'm less excited about him than Tuch or McCann, but Nick (brother of Jordan) Schmaltz will be a player.
19 - Dylan Larkin - C - US NTDP - 6'1 - 190 - United States
Heading to the University of Michigan in the fall, and it's fair to assume that he -- OR one of the three most recently mentioned centers -- will be available at 15.
20 - Sonny Milano - C - US NTDP - 5'10 - 159 - United States
Here's a funny one. He's heading to Boston College (who know how to pick ‘em), and had an absolutely bananas U18 Worlds tournament, co-leading the champion United States in scoring with ‘15 phenom Jack Eichel (with whom he'll be playing at BC). If there's one guy that might jump up the rankings in the final two months before the Draft, this is it.
21 - Julius Honka - D - Swift Current Broncos (WHL) - 5'11 - 178 - Finland
22 - Ivan Barbashev - W - Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) - 6'1 - 185 - Russia
23 - Josh Ho-Sang - C - Windsor Spitfires (OHL) - 5'11 - 166 - Canada
24 - Roland McKeown - D - Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) - 6'1 - 197 - Canada
25 - Brendan Lemieux - W - Barrie Colts (OHL) - 6' - 211 - Canada
26 - Kevin Fiala - W - Malmo (SWE) - 5'10 - 165 - Switzerland
27 - Anthony DeAngelo - D - Sarnia Sting (OHL) - 5'11 - 165 - United States
28 - Connor Bleackley - C - Red Deer Rebels (WHL) - 6' - 192 - Canada
29 - Robbie Fabbri - C - Guelph Storm (OHL) - 5'10 - 166 - Canada
30 - Jakub Vrana - W - Linkoping (SWE) - 5'11 - 185 - Czech Rep
31 - Nikolai Goldobin - W - Sarnia Sting (OHL) - 6' - 178 - Russia
32 - Adrian Kempe - C - Modo (SWE) - 6'2 - 187 - Sweden
33 - Ryan MacInnis - C - Kitchener Rangers (OHL) - 6'4 - 185 - United States
34 - Jack Dougherty - D - USNTDP/Univ. of Wisconsin - 6'2 - 185 - United States
35 - Anton Karlsson - W - Frolunda (SEL) - 6'1 - 189 - Sweden
36 - Brayden Point - C - Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) - 5'9 - 161 - Canada
37 - John Quenneville - C - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) - 6'1 - 185 - Canada
38 - Marcus Pettersson - D - Skelleftea (SWE) - 6'3 - 161 - Sweden
39 - Jack Glover - D - USNTDP/Univ. of Minnesota - 6'4 - 190 - United States
40 - Brycen Martin - D - Swift Current Broncos (WHL) - 6'2 - 182 - Canada
41 - Eric Cornel - C - Peterborough Petes (OHL) - 6'1 - 186 - Canada
42 - Chase DeLeo - C - Portland Winterhawks (OHL) - 5'9 - 177 - United States
43 - Daniel Audette - C - Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) - 5'8 - 178 - Canada
44 - Shane Eiserman - W - USNTDP/Univ. of NH - 6'2 - 201 - United States
45 - Ondrej Kase - W - Chomutov (CZE) - 5'11 - 165 - Czech Rep
46 - Spencer Watson - W - Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) - 5'10 - 185 - Canada
47 - Matt Mistele - W - Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - 6'2 - 183 - Canada
48 - Oskar Lindblom - W - Brynas (SWE) - 6'1 - 191 - Sweden
49 - Ryan Collins - D - USNTDP/Univ. of Michigan - 6'4 - 179 - United States
50 - Alex Peters - D - Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - 6'4 - 207 - Canada
51 - Tyson Baillie - C - Kamloops Blazers (WHL) - 5'10 - 185 - Canada
52 - Alex Nedeljkovic - G - Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - 6' - 184 - United States
53 - Blake Clarke - W - Saginaw Spirit (OHL) - 6'1 - 199 - United States
54 - Hunter Smith - W - Oshawa Generals (OHL) - 6'7 - 208 - Canada
55 - Christian Dvorak - W - London Knights (OHL) - 6' - 179 - United States
56 - Ryan Donato - C - Dexter HS/Harvard - 6' - 176 - United States
57 - Alex Vanier - D - Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) - 6'5 - 225 - Canada
58 - Jon Duchesne - D - Ottawa 67's (OHL) - 6' - 205 - Canada
59 - Ville Husso - G - HIFK (FIN) - 6'2 - 192 - Finland
60 - Jonathan MacLeod - D - USNTDP/Boston Univ. - 6'1 - 179 - United States
61 - Aaron Haydon - D - Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) - 6'3 - 190 - United States
62 - Aaron Irving - D - Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) - 6'1 - 190 - Canada
63 - Connor Chatham - W - Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - 6'3 - 225 - United States
64 - Warren Foegele - W - St. Andrews HS/UNH - 6'1 - 183 - Canada
65 - Arkhip Nekolenko - W - Spartak (KHL) - 6'1 - 159 - Russia
66 - Adam Brooks - C - Regina Pats (WHL) - 5'10 - 170 - Canada
67 - Ben Thomas - D - Calgary Hitmen (WHL) - 6'2 - 194 - Canada
68 - Jake Walman - D - Toronto Jr./Providence - 6'1 - 174 - Canada
69 - Brook Hiddink - C - Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - 5'11 - 194 - Canada
70 - Patrik Koys - W - Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) - 5'9 - 170 - Czech Rep
71 - Andreas Englund - D - Djurgarden (SWE) - 6'3 - 190 - Sweden
72 - Jayce Hawrlyuk - C - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) - 5'10 - 188 - Canada
73 - Justin Kirkland - W - Calgary Hitmen (WHL) - 6'3 - 181 - Canada
74 - Pavel Kraskovsky - F - Yaroslavl (KHL) - 6'4 - 181 - Russia
75 - Shayne Gersich - F - USNTDP/North Dakota - 5'11 - 172 - United States
NOTES AND BLOODLINES
#25 Brendan Lemieux is Claude's son. Oof.
#27 Anthony DeAngelo has been suspended TWICE for using slurs against other players.
#33 Ryan MacInnis is Al MacInnis' son. Inherited daddy's slapshot, but plays forward.
#35 Anton Karlsson is Ottawa Senators star Erik's brother.
#37 John Quenneville is Coach Joel Quenneville's cousin.
#43 Daniel Audette is Donald Audette's son.
#54 Hunter Smith is the tallest Draft-eligible player and is projected by some to go in 1st.
#55 Christian Dvorak is not related to former NHLer Radek.
#56 Ryan Donato is former NHLer Ted's son.
#58 Jon Duchesne is not related to former Red Wing Steve.
#72 Jayce Hawrlyuk was briefly hospitalized after collapsing for unknown reasons.
MOCK DRAFT :: APRIL 28TH
1 - Florida Panthers - Aaron Ekblad - D
When the Panthers won the lottery and moved up to #1, the argument immediately became Ekblad or Reinhart. They have a bevy of nice young forwards, including Jonathan Huberdeau and last year's second overall pick Aleksander Barkov. They're a little light on the back end and Ekblad will be the franchise defenseman they've lacked forever.
2 - Buffalo Sabres - Sam Reinhart - C
The Sabres need a little bit of everything, so to land a player that many think is the best in the Draft is a big deal, particularly after the emotional let-down of losing out on the Lottery. They slide into the player they likely would have selected had they won the top pick.
3 - Edmonton Oilers (trade for D likely if Ekblad gone) - Sam Bennett - W
I believe that the Oilers will try to move this pick unless, somehow, Ekblad slides down to three. The Oilers need defensemen, and have no need whatsoever for another young forward. If they can package this pick (and maybe one of those forwards) for an established blueliner, that's what they'll do. If they end up picking, it'll likely be the consensus "other top player" available.
4 - Calgary Flames - Michael Dal Colle - W
So the top three players are off the board, no matter who's picking, leaving the Flames and their new GM Brad Treliving. The Flames may go center since they have a little more prospect depth at the wing, but Dal Colle would be a tough guy to pass on.
5 - New York Islanders (potentially to Buffalo) - Leon Draisaitl - W
The Islanders are obligated to trade EITHER this pick or their first round pick in 2015 to Buffalo to complete the Vanek deal. If I'm the Islanders, I move this pick. While it's unlikely that the Islanders both miss the playoffs AND win the lottery next season, the 2015 Draft is way too good to gamble with. Imagine keeping this pick (which is relatively weak for a Top 5 pick), and somehow getting the chance to pick McDavid or Eichel next summer. That's a fate I don't wish on anyone. A decision must be made by June 1st.
6 - Vancouver Canucks - Jake Virtanen - W
The Canucks need a right winger real bad. According to Hockey's Future, only two of their prospects play the right side and only one of them is a surefire NHLer. Virtanen immediately fills that void and helps to rebuild a prospect base.
7 - Carolina Hurricanes - Kasperi Kapanen - W
New Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will likely be looking to make a splash, and who better than former teammate Sami Kapanen's hotshot son? Kapanen may not be ranked as highly as this, but it's a can't-lose pick from a PR standpoint, and he's a heck of a player to boot.
8 - Toronto Maple Leafs - Brendan Perlini - W
We're starting to get into "best available" territory and Perlini is a great pick for the Leafs at number 8. For a team that has trouble playing both ways, he's a nice player to start to right the ship organizationally.
9 - Winnipeg Jets - Nikoaj Ehlers - W
The Jets would do a backflip if they landed Ehlers without moving up, and they very well may. The best pure scorer in the Draft, he'd immediately be the top prospect in the organization and would look real good playing with Mark Schiefele for ten years.
10 - Anaheim Ducks (via Ottawa) - Nick Ritchie - C
It's kind of a bummer that one of the top teams in the NHL also get a top ten pick, but that's what happens when you make savvy trades. Since this is basically a bonus, you almost have to take the best available player -- and the Ducks should be comfortable with their prospects on the back end and in goal. A big center fits their mold to a T.
11 - Nashville Predators - William Nylander - W
The Predators' organizational strength lies down the middle, and some nice prospects on the left wing. The right wing position is a little thin, and though Nylander has fallen down the rankings a little bit, they'd be lucky to snatch him up without a top ten pick.
12 - Phoenix Coyotes - Jared McCann - C
Like the Predators, the Coyotes have a strong group of centers coming down the pipe. While it's possible they look to the wing with this pick, the next half-dozen or so forwards are going to be centers. Defense is also possible, but arguably their best prospect (Brandon Gormley) plays back there.
13 - Washington Capitals - Haydn Fleury - D
The Capitals actually have some pretty decent stock in all areas, but if they're thin anywhere it's on the blueline. To get the second-best defenseman in the Draft without giving anything up would be exciting for them.
14 - Dallas Stars - Alex Tuch - C
The Stars are a nice young team, but the top of their prospect pool is a little bit lacking. Jim Nill is a Draft genius, however, and expect that to turn around quick-like. Tuch is a wonderful, wonderful player and will be a nice piece to have when he's ready to leave school.
15 - Detroit Red Wings - Dylan Larkin - C
With Tuch and McCann off the board, the Wings will have their pick of a handful of worthy centers. Larkin is the biggest of them, and will be playing most locally at the University of Michigan. The Wings are no strangers to collegiate prospects (Howard, Smith, DeKeyser, Nyquist, Abdelkader, Glendening, etc.) and that system has served them well.
16 - Columbus Blue Jackets - Nikita Scherbak - W
They've never been afraid to grab a Russian in the past, and Scherbak is a good one for that system. He's speedy and could potentially step right into the NHL with the right situation. He has some tools that even the playoff version of the Blue Jackets are lacking.
*Remaining Draft order is not necessarily in the following order. But for argument's sake, we'll pretend it is*
17 - Philadelphia Flyers - Nick Schmaltz - C
The Flyers lack what you might call an elite forward prospect. And while they might not get one at this point in this Draft, they'd do well to select a center that will be able to develop slowly in the NCAA rather than being pressured into turning pro and helping out right away.
18 - New York Rangers - Sonny Milano - C
It's no secret that the Rangers dig American players, particularly guys who come through the National Team Development Program. Milano has had a real nice April, so it's downright likely that he's gone by this pick, but if he's available, the Rags get their Ryan Callahan replacement.
19 - Minnesota Wild - Thatcher Demko - G
The one team that's likely to go goaltender in the first round is Minnesota. Aside from Kuemper, they may not have another netminder who will definitely play in the NHL, and they're in decent shape in other areas. Demko is a big-time goaltender, and is no stranger to big games already.
20 - Los Angeles Kings - Ivan Barbashev - W
This is really nice value for this late in the Draft, and the Kings know what they're doing.
21 - Montreal Canadiens - David Pastrnak - W
Montreal had a monster 2013 Draft. They selected SEVEN guys I had ranked in the Top 100, including a guy I wanted so badly for the Red Wings to pick that it'll be hard to watch him do well in Montreal (Sven Andrighetto). They're fairly stacked everywhere, so they're in "best available" territory.
22 - Tampa Bay Lightning - Roland McKeown - D
Steve Yzerman knows as well as anyone that winners are built from the back end out, and now that Bishop may have solved his goaltending issues and they're (likely) satisfied with the top end of their forward prospect corps, it's time to upgrade that blueline. The one-time top ten pick McKeown would slot right under Slater Koekkoek on that list.
23 - Chicago Blackhawks - Brendan Lemieux - W
Brendan Lemieux has risen all season and will make a team very lucky in the latter half of the first round. The Hawks only real glaring hole among the prospects pool is along the wing, and this is a nice pick. Also, as if it would be harder for Red Wings fans to hate the Hawks more, why not inject some Turtle into their eventual lineup?
24 - San Jose Sharks - Josh Ho-Sang - W
When Connor McDavid was a midget, he was the second leading scorer on his team. Josh Ho-Sang may have benefitted from playing with McDavid, but he's proving to be a legitimate NHL prospect in his own right.
25 - St. Louis Blues - Connor Bleackley - C
If there's anything the Blues could use, it's another scoring forward among their ranks. Bleackley seems to have that ability and would make a nice addition to relatively thin crop of centers on the farm.
26 - Pittsburgh Penguins - Robbie Fabbri - C
The Penguins are drowning in defensive prospects, and don't boast a heck of a lot of quality down the center. They only have one center playing somewhere aside from Europe and the NCAA, so they're in a nice position to take a Guelph Storm.
27 - Colorado Avalanche - Anthony DeAngelo - D
The Avs could really use a winger or two in this Draft, but I can't shake the feeling they'd like DeAngelo's game. He generates offense from the blueline, and the Avalanche are not strangers to that kind of player -- not to mention, why not add to the balanced attack that Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog will be running for the next decade?
28 - Anaheim Ducks - Julius Honka - D
After taking a forward earlier, they'd probably take a defenseman to get one of each out of the first round. Honka is rated higher than this spot, and the Ducks aren't in any hurry to have him join the big club, so a project is just fine by them.
29 - Boston Bruins - Kevin Fiala - W
As impressive as the current Bruins are, there's a not a whole lot to be excited about coming down the pipe. While they -- like the Red Wings -- like guys who play both ways (see: Bergeron, Patrice), I don't think it'd be unwise to take a flier on a guy that's balls-out offense. With Krejci, Lucic, and Marchand's playing style, they won't be around forever.
30 - New Jersey (required to pick 30th as punishment) - Nikolai Goldobin - W
The Devils could use a better selection that this one, but this is what they get. With next to nothing to look forward to on the wings, selecting a guy who practically scores at will in the OHL will be a nice get for the last pick in the round.
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