With the 2017 NHL Entry Draft now complete, we will have to wait a few years to really see how each team’s selections pan out. However, it’s always fun to look at first impressions.
There are a few ways to rank drafts. One could take each team’s draft position into account, giving all clubs an equal chance of getting a good mark regardless of how many picks they own and which round the picks are in, or one could look at the overall quality of players acquired.
For the purposes of this article, both will be taken into account. The most important question to be answered will be: which teams most improved their future chances over the weekend?
1. Vegas Golden Knights
C Cody Glass (6), C Nick Suzuki (13), D Erik Brannstrom (15), D Nic Hague (34), C Jake Leschyshyn (62), RW Jonas Rondbjerg (65), G Maksim Zhukov (96), C Lucas Elvenes (127), LW Jonathan Dugan (142), C Nick Campoli (142), G Jiri Patera (161), C Ben Jones (189)
Hockey’s newest team went with both quantity AND quality, absolutely nailing their three first-round selections and following up with solid picks throughout the draft. Suzuki and Brannstrom both could have gone in the top 10, Nic Hague could have certainly been a first-rounder and Jake Leschyshyn showed a lot of promise in Regina this season. This is the right way to start off an expansion franchise.
2. Philadelphia Flyers
C Nolan Patrick (2), C Morgan Frost (27), LW Isaac Ratcliffe (35), G Kirill Ustimenko (80), LW Matthew Strome (106), RW Maksim Sushko (107), LW Noah Cates (137), RW Olle Lycksell (168), D Wyatt Kalynuk (196)
Philadelphia had the easiest pick in this year’s draft as the New Jersey Devils left Nolan Patrick on the board for the Flyers at No. 2. Patrick will make an immediate impact in a Flyers uniform, but Frost and the big, physical Ratcliffe brighten the future quite a bit as well. Add in a potential first-rounder Matthew Strome dropping all the way to round four and some good late scoops in Maksim Sushko and Noah Cates, and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic in the City of Brotherly Love.
3. Vancouver Canucks
C Elias Pettersson (5), RW Kole Lind (33), LW Jonah Gadjovich (55), G Michael DiPietro (64), D Jack Rathbone (95), D Kristoffer Gunnarsson (135), RW Petrus Palmu (181), D Matt Brassard (188)
Vancouver has some rough yeas coming up in the near future, but the Canucks built a solid base for rebuilding in this year’s draft. Each of their first five picks have quite a bit of upside, particularly Kole Lind, who looks like a steal in the second round.
4. Los Angeles Kings
C Gabriel Vilardi (11), C Jaret Anderson-Dolan (41), G Matt Villalta (72), D Mikey Anderson (103), D Markus Phillips (118), D Cole Hults (134), C Drake Rymsha (138)
Hardly anyone would’ve believed that Vilardi, a potential top-three pick, would’ve been on the board for the Kings at pick No. 11. Nevertheless, he dropped (probably due to his skating ability) and Los Angeles didn’t miss its chance to snare a potential star. The Kings followed up with a great second-round pick in Jaret Anderson-Dolan, two solid late defensemen in Anderson and Phillips and a potential late-round steal in the talented Drake Rymsha.
5. Montreal Canadiens
C Ryan Poehling (25), D Josh Brook (56), C Joni Ikonen (58), D Scott Walford (68), D Cale Fleury (87), D Jarret Tyszka (149), G Cayden Primeau (199)
The Habs picked a potential No. 1 center late in the first round in Ryan Poehling and followed up with two solid second-round selections in underrated defenseman Josh Brook and center Joni Ikonen. Fleury and Tyszka were also two high-value selections for the blue line late in the draft.
6. Arizona Coyotes
D P.O. Joseph (23), D Filip Westerlund (44), RW Mackenzie Entwistle (69), C Nate Schnarr (75), D Cameron Crotty (82), D Noel Hoefenmayer (108), D Michael Karow (126), C Tyler Steenbergen (128), RW Erik Walli Walterholm (190)
It’s been a weird few days for the Coyotes. Firing a few important staff members, including coach Dave Tippett, while trading for Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson, raised some eyebrows for a team in a rebuild. Still, it was a pretty solid draft for the Yotes. Lots of their selections (notably Joseph, Entwistle, Crotty and Hoefenmayer) have extremely high ceilings even if they do come with a bit of risk. Steenbergen was a late-round steal while Westerlund and Schnarr could play big roles in the future as well.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
C Martin Necas (12), C Eetu Luostarinen (42), D Luke Martin (52), C Morgan Geekie (67), RW Stelio Mattheos (73), G Eetu Makiniemi (104), D Brendan De Jong (166), D Ville Rasanen (197)
This has to be the first time a team has drafted two Eetus, right?
Luostarinen may have been a reach in the second round, but Martin Necas may end up being one of the best players in the draft. He will take some work, but he’s a legitimate top five talent and a ridiculously smart hockey player. Also, Martin, Geekie and Mattheos were outstanding selections.
8. Florida Panthers
RW Owen Tippett (10), C Aleksi Heponiemi (40), D Max Gildon (66), D Tyler Inamoto (133), RW Sebastian Repo (184)
Tippett, who could’ve easily been a top-five pick, may turn out to be the best pick of the draft. The Panthers, who severely lack youth and skill on the right wing side, were gifted a dream scenario when the ultra-talented Mississauga Steelhead was still on the board at No. 10. To follow up, Florida selected a good center in Heponiemi and made some interesting late defensive picks, taking both Gildon and Inamoto from the USA NTDP.
9. Dallas Stars
D Miro Heiskanen (3), G Jake Oettinger (26), LW Jason Robertson (39), C Liam Hawel (101), C Jacob Peterson (132), RW Brett Davis (163), G Dylan Ferguson (194)
Heiskanen could be the best defenseman to come out of this year’s draft, and Oettinger definitely looks like the best goaltender. That’s the right way to navigate the first round.
10. New York Rangers
C Lias Andersson (7), C Filip Chytil (21), D Brandon Crawley (123), D Calle Sjalin (145), C Dominik Lakatos (157), C Morgan Barron (174), C Patrik Virta (207)
Andersson may have been a slight reach at No. 7, but he’s still an outstanding player that will be a top-six center if everything plays out right. So will Chytil, who looks like he could have what it takes to be an even better player than Andersson.
11. Nashville Predators
RW Eeli Tolvanen (30), LW Grant Mismash (61), D David Farrance (92), G Tomas Vomacka (154), C Pavel Koltygin (176), D Jacob Paquette (216)
Nashville fans who miss Shea Weber’s shot will absolutely love Tolvanen, who was expected to go as high as the top 10 yet inexplicably fell all the way to pick No. 30. The Preds followed up with another steal in the second round by nabbing Mismash from the USA NTDP, and then picked his talented defensive teammate David Farrance in the third.
12. Colorado Avalanche
D Cale Makar (4), D Conor Timmins (32), RW Nick Henry (94), G Petr Kvaca (114), C Igor Shvyrev (125), RW Denis Smirnov (156), D Nick Lievermann (187)
The Makar pick was an interesting one, as he won’t make an impact in Denver any time soon while making the long transition from the AJHL to the NHL, but he still has a ton of upside. The Avs opted for another defenseman in Timmins and then selected Nick Henry, a high-scoring winger from the Regina Pats.
13. Anaheim Ducks
LW Maxime Comtois (50), C Antoine Morand (60), C Jack Badini (91), RW Kyle Olson (122), G Olle Eriksson Ek (153)
For not having a first round pick, the Ducks hit it out of the park. Comtois looked like a lottery pick before struggling this season, but the potential is still there if developed correctly. Morand’s smarts and skills could have pushed him into the first round, but he was still on the board for Anaheim late in the second. Olson and Eriksson Ek could also become good value picks if their development goes as planned.
14. Calgary Flames
D Juuso Valimaki (16), C Adam Ruzicka (109), RW Zack Fischer (140), RW D’Artagnan Joly (171), LW Filip Sveningsson (202)
Valimaki was a great pick as a two-way defenseman who could see NHL action pretty soon. The Flames also added another defenseman, Travis Hamonic, via a trade with the New York Islanders. Hamonic was well worth waiting until the fourth round to pick again, and the Flames made the most out of their selection by taking Sarnia’s Adam Ruzicka.
15. St. Louis Blues
C Robert Thomas (20), LW Klim Kostin (31), RW Alexey Toropchenko (113), D David Noel (130), D Trenton Bourque (175), D Anton Andersson (206)
The Blues made the most of their two first-round picks by taking Thomas and Kostin. Thomas has incredible hockey sense and Kostin, who dropped because of injury issues this season and concerns about maybe staying in Russia, is a potential top-10 talent. St. Louis also was able to add an established winger, trading for Brayden Schenn from Philadelphia.
16. New Jersey Devils
C Nico Hischier (1), C Jesper Boqvist (36), LW Fabian Zetterlund (63), D Reilly Walsh (81), LW Nikita A. Popugaev (98), G Gilles Senn (129), RW Marian Studenic (143), C Aarne Talvitie (160), D Jocktan Chainey (191), D Yegor Zaitsev (205), D Matthew Hellickson (214)
Time will tell if New Jersey made the right pick by taking Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but as of now, it certainly looks like a safe pick. Popugaev was a nice high-ceiling addition as well, falling all the way to the fourth round despite being projected to be a potential first-rounder.
17. Minnesota Wild
RW Ivan Lodnia (85), C Mason Shaw (97), C Bryce Misley (116), D Jacob Golden (147), C Andrei Svetlakov (178), RW Nick Swaney (209)
Minnesota didn’t pick until the final third of the third round, but made two great selections with Ivan Lodnia at No. 85 and Mason Shaw in the fourth round. Talk about doing a lot with a little.
18. Tampa Bay Lightning
D Callan Foote (14), RW Alexander Volkov (48), C Alexei Lipanov (76), D Nicklaus Perbix (D), C Cole Guttman (180), C Samuel Walker (200)
Callan Foote is mature beyond his years in terms of hockey IQ and ability, and he will become one of the top defensemen out of this year’s class. Steve Yzerman made another nice pick in the third round, taking talented Russian goal-scorer Alexei Lipanov.
19. Buffalo Sabres
C Casey Mittelstadt (8), C Marcus Davidsson (37), G Ukko-Pekka Luukonen (54), D Oskari Laaksonen (89), D Jacob Bryson (99), LW Linus Weissbach (192)
Mittelstadt’s work ethic questions may wind up haunting the Sabres after using the No. 8 overall pick on him, but he still has a ton of potential to tap into. Davidsson has the potential to someday be a middle-six center and was a solid second-round choice, and Luukkonen gives Buffalo’s system another young stud between the pipes.
20. Detroit Red Wings
C Michael Rasmussen (9), D Gustav Lindstrom (38), D Kasper Kotkansalo (71), RW Lane Zablocki (79), C Zach Gallant (83), G Keith Petruzzelli (88), D Malte Setkov (100), D Cole Fraser (131), RW John Adams (162), D Reilly Webb (164), C Brady Gilmour (193)
The Rasmussen pick may not have been Detroit’s best move with Martin Necas and Gabriel Vilardi still on the board, and Gustav Lindstrom seems like a major reach in the second round, but time will tell if Ken Holland & Co. made the right decisions. Detroit made a handful of good picks in the third round, taking playmaker Zach Gallant as well as adding Keith Petruzzelli to a system a bit devoid of keepers.
21. Ottawa Senators
C Shane Bowers (28), LW Alex Formenton (47), C Drake Batherson (121), G Jordan Hollett (183)
The Senators only had four picks in this year’s draft, but they were able to get quality despite the lack of quantity. Bowers is a low-risk player with a good hockey mind, and Formenton has a ton of potential.
22. Chicago Blackhawks
D Henri Jokiharju (29), D Ian Mitchell (57), RW Andrei Altybarmakyan (70), C Evan Barratt (90), C Tim Soderlund (112), D Roope Laavainen (119), LW Parker Foo (144), D Jakub Galvas (150), D Joshua Ess (215)
This year’s draft host had a ton of storylines surrounding it as the Blackhawks traded away Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin and re-acquired Brandon Saad. As far as the draft went, Chicago did fairly well. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are two talented young defensemen while centers Barratt and Soderlund have some upside as well.
23. San Jose Sharks
C Josh Norris (19), D Mario Ferraro (49), C Scott Reedy (102), RW Jacob McGrew (159), C Sasha Chmelevski (185), LW Ivan Checkhovich (212)
Norris could’ve been a slight reach at No. 19, but his USA NTDP teammate Scott Reedy was a bargain at 102. Chmelevski was also a good offensive-minded pick while Ferraro, the only defenseman selected by the Sharks, is a smart player who with a great attitude who can be a leader off the ice.
24. Edmonton Oilers
RW Kailer Yamamoto (22), G Stuart Skinner (78), D Dmitri Samorukov (84), RW Ostap Safin (115), RW Kirill Maksimov (146), C Skyler Brind’Amour (177), D Philip Kemp (208)
Yamamoto could be the league’s next Johnny Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson: a little guy with huge offensive upside. Skinner was a smart pick as the Oilers could use another goalie in the system, and Safin has quite a high ceiling for a fourth-rounder.
25. Boston Bruins
D Urho Vaakanainen (18), C Jack Studnicka (53), G Jeremy Swayman (111), C Cedric Pare (173), D Victor Berglund (195), D Daniel Bukac (204)
Vaakanainen will look good on Boston’s blue line next to Charlie McAvoy someday, and Jack Studnicka was a smart pick in the middle of the second round. But, other than their early picks, the Bruins did not open a ton of eyes in the draft this year.
26. Winnipeg Jets
LW Kristian Vesalainen (24), D Dylan Samberg (43), D Johnathan Kovacevic (74), C Santeri Virtanen (105), D Leon Gawanke (136), G Arvid Holm (167), LW Skyler McKenzie (198), D Croix Evingson (211)
There’s a lot to like about the Vesalainen pick, but Samberg is a huge risk given his low level of competition at Hermantown High School.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs
D Timothy Liljegren (17), D Eemli Rasanen (59), G Ian Scott (110), LW Vladislav Kara (124), D Fedor Gordeev (141), C Ryan McGregor (172), D Ryan O’Connell (203)
If Liljegren shows that he is the player he was last season, the Leafs move up at least 10 spots on this list. He was the right pick at No. 17 given his high lottery-pick ceiling, but a young team like Toronto may have been better off had a player with a higher floor like Juuso Valimaki been available. The rest of the Leafs’ draft leaves a lot to be desired, although Rasanen has the ability to grow into a fine NHL defenseman as well.
28. New York Islanders
D Robin Salo (46), D Benjamin Miragaes (77), D Sebastian Aho (139), LW Arnaud Durandeau (165), LW Logan Cockerill (201)
Salo wasn’t a terrible pick, but the story of the Islanders’ draft centered around trades, not draft choices. They lost their first pick after cutting a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights (which worked out as losing Mikhail Grabovski shouldn’t hurt too badly), acquired Jordan Eberle straight up for Ryan Strome and then netted a plethora of future picks in return for Travis Hamonic.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
C Alexandre Texier (45), G Daniil Tarasov (86), C Emil Bemstrom (117), LW Kale Howarth (148), RW Jonathan Davidsson (170), RW Carson Meyer (179), D Robbie Stucker (210)
Lots of analysts like French center Texier, but like the Islanders, Columbus’s draft day was highlighted by a trade. Artemi Panarin is now a Blue Jacket, which should make Ohioans pretty excited.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins
D Zachary Lauzon (51), D Clayton Phillips (93), LW Jan Drozg (152), C Linus Oland (155), D Antti Palojarvi (186), D William Reilly (217)
If anyone could afford to have a lackluster draft, it was Pittsburgh. The defending back-to-back champs didn’t make any eye-opening selections despite having some big names still on the board at No. 51 and No. 93.
31. Washington Capitals
D Tobias Geisser (120), D Sebastian Walfridsson (151), D Benton Maass (182), LW Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (213)
When a team has only four picks, the first of which coming in the fourth round, it’s tough to to anything notable. The Capitals did, however, draft some players with interesting names. So there’s that.