Winner - St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues made out like bandits at the NHL draft this weekend.
First the Blues used the 21st overall pick to select OHL playoff MVP Robby Fabbri. Fabbri was second among all CHL draft eligible skaters in even-strength goals (behind only Jake Virtanen) and had the second best even-strength goal differential behind only Nikolaj Ehlers. Both of those players were top-10 picks.
In the second round the Blues grabbed Ivan Barbashev, arguably one of the best offensive forwards in this draft. In addition to playing with a commendable physical edge, Barbashev had the fourth best assist rate of any first time draft eligible forward in the CHL. The three players who finished ahead of him were top-five draft picks (Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and Sam Bennett).
In all, the Blues made five selections in the first 100 picks and in addition to Fabbri and Barbashev picked up the top-rated European puckstopper in HIFK's Ville Husso (who posted a .923 save percentage in a difficult men's league last season).
Then they picked Jaedon Descheneau in the fifth round, a second time draft eligible skater who played with Reinhart, but doesn't appear to have been a passenger for the Kootenay Ice. That could be the steal of the draft.
Winner - Tampa Bay Lightning
In the Steve Yzerman era, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been among the league's best teams at the draft table and put in another strong performance in Philadelphia, Pa. this weekend.
Yzerman used one of his first round picks to select Anthony DeAngelo, easily the most skilled defender in this draft. DeAngelo had some "character" red flags, but that's why he was available so late in the first round. He'll need to work on his defensive game, but in terms of talent and puck-skills, DeAngelo arguably has top-five talent.
The Lightning then traded out of the first round with the pick received from the New York Rangers in the Martin St. Louis trade, and used their additional pick to stop Brayden Point's fall. Point is undersized, but he's a dynamite talent.
Winner - Arizona Coyotes
This Coyotes draft class is loaded with talent, so much so that they earn our final "Winner" nod, edging out Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks by a nose.
The Coyotes got Brendan Perlini, 6-foot-3 and one of the fastest skaters in this draft class, with their first round pick and added tantalizing sleepers like Ryan MacInnis (son of Al), Christian Dvorak and Anton Karlsson (brother of Erik) with their other three draft picks in the top-100. Late round picks Dysin Mayo and Memorial Cup MVP Edgars Kulda are very intriguing as well.
Loser - Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators appear to have misjudged the market for Jason Spezza and failed to move back into the first round this weekend. Maybe the offers for Spezza will improve after several teams miss out on pending unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny, but when you're looking to move a guy with a $7 million cap-hit, the draft is generally the place and time.
In addition to hanging on to Spezza and not selecting in the first round, Ottawa's mid-round picks lacked sizzle. Late-round picks Francis Perron and Kelly Summers are intriguing names, but that was too little too late to salvage Ottawa's weekend.
Loser - Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded top-sniper James Neal to the Nashville Predators this weekend, a move that arguably downgraded the quality of their forward group. Patric Hornqvist is an excellent player and an immovable force at the net front, but he's no James Neal. For their trouble, the Penguins also received Nick Spaling, an expensive fourth-liner who simply doesn't move the needle.
To cap off an uninspired weekend, the Penguins made only one draft selection in the first three-rounds, having dealt their second and third round picks for Doug Murray and Lee Stempniak respectively (ouch). Their first round pick was an excellent one, Kasperi Kapanen represents excellent value with the 22nd overall selection, but that's insufficient to salvage what was yet another miserable weekend for a reeling organization.
Loser - Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks were the big mover and shaker at the draft, making four separate deals this weekend. Several of those moves were intelligent - trading Jason Garrison for, in effect, Linden Vey is a nice maneuver - but it's not enough to wash out the bad taste left over from the lopsided Kesler trade.
New Canucks general manager Jim Benning had his hands tied, but still had to settle for an anemic return on a star player; recouping only a late first round pick, a 26-year-old depth forward (Nick Bonino), and a bad contract (Luca Sbisa). That the Canucks subsequently used that late first round pick on an underwhelming offensive talent in Jared McCann, doesn't help matters.
One might credibly argue that Vancouver's moves were about clearing the decks (and cap-space) and that they shouldn't be judged too harshly before the other shoe drops. That's probably fair to an extent, but the fact remains: Vancouver netted poor value in a trade involving a star player with a division rival.
It's tough to come back from that.
Feature photo courtesy of Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters