Pacific Division Draft Grades: Vegas aces 1st test, Kings impress
The 2017 NHL Draft has come and gone, and all 31 teams are exiting Chicago with varying degrees of satisfaction in regards to their respective hauls.
While we likely won't know they all fared for a few years yet, we can take a quick look at the results and assess how the teams made out.
Here's our take on the teams in the Pacific Division:
|5||153||Olle Eriksson Ek|
After dealing their first-rounder to acquire Patrick Eaves at last year's trade deadline, the Ducks played shorthanded this weekend, not announcing their first pick until the 50th selection.
Still, Anaheim made the most of it, drafting Victoriaville winger Maxime Comtois in the middle of the second round. Comtois has played two seasons in the QMJHL, where he finished this year with 51 points in 64 games. The French Canadian forward is noted for his versatility, as not only is he familiar with taking faceoffs, he's a left shooter who can play right wing.
With their final pick, the Ducks opted for Olle Eriksson Ek, the second-highest-ranked European netminder and brother of Joel Eriksson Ek, a first-round pick by the Minnesota Wild in 2015. With Farjestad Jr. this season, Eriksson Ek appeared in 30 games, posting a 2.16 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
|7||190||Erik Walli Walterholm|
The Coyotes were left with one pick in the opening round after dealing the seventh overall selection to the New York Rangers for Derek Stepan. He fills an immediate need in the desert, while the Coyotes hope Pierre-Olivier Joseph is an option down the road.
Selected with the pick Arizona obtained for Martin Hanzal, Joseph is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman who likens his playing style to San Jose Sharks blue-liner Marc-Edouard Vlasic. With Charlottetown this season, Joseph tallied six goals and 33 assists in 62 games.
Outside of the opening round, the Coyotes made an interesting selection in Hamilton forward Mackenzie Entwistle, a budding power forward who plays an effective game by keeping things simple. In his second season in junior, Entwistle finished with 25 points in 54 games.
Juuso Valimaki, the No. 16 pick overall, is a dynamic, offensive defenseman who plays a new-age game. Valimaki is noted for his speed and mobility, not to mention strong skating that allows him to join the rush and generate offensive chances. In 60 games with Tri-City this season, Valimaki registered 19 goals and 42 assists, nearly double his 32 points in 2015-16.
With pick No. 109, the Flames added Adam Ruzicka, a Czech-born center whom NHL Central Scouting ranked 37th among North American skaters. At 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, Ruzicka has no shortage of size. He finished his first season with the OHL's Sarnia Sting with 46 points in 61 games.
Kailer Yamamoto promised Edmonton it'd be a mistake not to choose him, and the Oilers listened, grabbing the Spokane winger 22nd overall.
As the NHL landscape changes, there is more room for players like Yamamoto, a 5-foot-8 offensive dynamo who weighs in at about 150 pounds. But his lack of stature didn't stop Yamamoto from finding the scoresheet in the WHL, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with 99 points in 65 games, tops among his Chiefs' teammates. Yamamoto's playing style is built on speed and quickness, a model he compares to Patrick Kane and Mats Zuccarello.
In Round 6, the Oilers opted for a bloodlines pick, adding Skyler Brind'Amour, son of Rod who captained the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. Skyler is a product of the U.S. National Development Program and is committed to Michigan State for 2019-20.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings may have the steal of the draft with Windsor Spitfires center Gabriel Vilardi, a hulking pivot who plays a strong possession game and boasts exceptional hockey sense and puck-handling skills.
While other teams may have been scared off by Vilardi's slow stride, the Kings are confident they can cash in on a player who finished with 61 points in 49 games. Vilardi followed up that performance with seven points in four games en route to a Memorial Cup championship with the Spitfires.
Anderson-Dolan chalks in as another key pick by the Kings, a reliable center with Spokane who excels in the details of the game. He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 76 points in 72 games, trailing only Yamamoto for the team scoring lead.
San Jose Sharks
It was a relatively quiet draft weekend for the Sharks, who had just two picks before the draft boards hit triple digits.
In the opening rounds, the Sharks called the name of Joshua Norris, an American-born center who impressed at the scouting combine, where he took the top spot in five of the 14 fitness tests among the 104 participants. With the U.S. National Development Program Juniors this season, Norris tallied above a point-per-game pace. He then chipped in seven points in as many games with Team USA at the Under-18s. He is committed to the University of Michigan for 2017-18.
In the second round, the Sharks selected Mario Ferraro, a mobile, puck-moving defenseman. At 5-foot-11, Ferraro is a tad undersized to man the blue line, but his skill set is that of a modern rearguard. He tallied 41 points in 60 games this season with the USHL's Des Moines Buccaneers.
The Canucks came away with a good haul at the draft, but may have reached by taking Elias Pettersson with the fifth pick. Only time will tell, but Vancouver may have fared better in taking Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt, who went sixth and eighth overall, respectively.
Still, Pettersson is no slouch. The Swedish center was the second-best European skater as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. Pettersson boasts a skill set that will have Canucks fans excited, as the slick pivot is known for his quick stride and energetic style. With Timra this season, Pettersson scored 40 points in 43 games, finishing behind only Jonathan Dahlen, a Canucks prospect, for the team lead.
In Round 3, Vancouver added Windsor netminder Michael DiPietro, who put together a strong performance with the Spitfires to capture this year's Memorial Cup. He'll be part of the Canucks' future in the crease, joining the likes of Thatcher Demko, a second-round pick by the Canucks in 2014.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas liked their odds with so many spins at the wheel, walking away from their first entry draft with 12 selections.
Key among them was Glass, a highly skilled center with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. The Golden Knights recognize the value of strength up the middle and trust they have that piece in Glass, a strong playmaker who is a constant scoring threat. Glass led the Winterhawks in scoring this season, wrapping the 2016-17 campaign with 94 points in 69 contests. It was an impressive finish for Glass, to say the least, after he tallied 27 points in the previous season.
Aside from Glass, a handful of other selections highlighted the weekend for the Golden Knights, including Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki, a diminutive but skilled pivot who boasts elite vision and a high hockey IQ. Suzuki scored 96 points in 65 games with the Attack this season. Fellow OHLer Nicolas Hague, a defenseman with Mississauga, was another impressive pick by the Golden Knights.