Atlantic Division Draft Grades: Maple Leafs, Sabres win big
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 Atlantic Division:
|1||18||Urho Vaakanainen (D)|
|2||53||Jack Studnicka (C)|
|4||111||Jeremy Swayman (G)|
|6||173||Cedric Pare (C)|
|7||195||Victor Berglund (D)|
|7||204||Daniel Bukac (D)|
The Bruins missed out on a wave of higher upside defenseman in the first round, so they opted to select Vaakaneinen, who, by all accounts, projects to be a solid, safe blue-liner. Though he isn't flashy, he held his own playing with men in the top Finnish league, and could be NHL ready sooner than later. His ceiling is capped by a lack of physical attributes and little offensive ability.
With their next two picks, the Bruins selected Studnicka, who didn't produce much offense in the OHL last year, and an undersized goaltender in Swayman. Sub-6-foot-2 goaltenders have a difficult time succeeding in today's NHL. Obviously, there are a few exceptions, but it's rare.
|1||8||Casey Mittelstadt (C)|
|2||37||Marcus Davidsson (C)|
|2||54||Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G)|
|3||89||Oskari Laaksonen (D)|
|4||99||Jacob Bryson (D)|
|7||192||Linus Weissbach (LW)|
Mittelstadt needs to work on his upper body strength (he failed to do a pullup at the NHL combine), but he is oozing with offensive upside. He may have dropped slightly for playing high school hockey in his draft year, but when he played against stiffer competition in the USHL, he still flourished. It may take time, but he could be an offensive difference-maker for the Sabres.
The Sabres arguably snagged the best goaltender in the draft in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Doesn't that name just scream Vezina Trophy? The Finn stands at 6-foot-4 and posted a 1.78 GAA and .916 save percentage in the Finnish junior league.
They took a huge gamble in the third round, going way off the board to select Laaksonen, a defenseman listed at 5-foot-9 and just 133 pounds(!) on NHL.com. This pick will draw criticism, but obviously the Sabres know something about him that most don't. It's not uncommon to see strong skating, undersized defenseman shine in today's NHL. In the third round, it's okay to start taking risks.
Detroit Red Wings
|1||9||Michael Rasmussen (C)|
|2||38||Gustav Lindstrom (D)|
|3||71||Kasper Kotkansalo (D)|
|3||79||Lane Zablocki (RW)|
|3||83||Zach Gallant (C)|
|3||88||Kieth Petruzzelli (G)|
|4||100||Malte Sekov (D)|
|5||131||Cole Fraser (D)|
|6||162||John Adams (RW)|
|6||164||Reilly Webb (D)|
|7||193||Brady Gilmour (C)|
Rasmussen is a 6-foot-6 center. Every team covets a big center. However, Rasmussen's skating is a major question mark. He had 55 points in 50 games in the WHL this year (pretty low for a top-10 pick), and just 19 of those points came at even strength. That's extremely alarming. This pick has bust written all over it.
Despite the red flags over the first-round selection, Detroit had an astonishing six more picks in the top 100, gathering a large quantity of high-end talent, including three, 6-foot-2 European defenseman with upside.
|1||10||Owen Tippett (RW)|
|2||40||Aleksi Heponiemi (C)|
|3||66||Maxwell Gildon (D)|
|5||133||Tyler Inamoto (D)|
|6||184||Sebastian Repo (RW)|
As a winger, Tippett's overall upside is somewhat limited compared to most centers taken in the top 15, but he has an absolute laser of a shot and might be one of the safest picks of the draft. He's a lock to be a future 20-goal scorer, and could end up being a perennial 30-goal scorer. He would fit nicely alongside playmakers Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
In the second round, the Panthers nabbed an undersized Finnish center in Heponiemi (he weighs just 149 pounds, per NHL.com), but he's a quick, elusive skater and an even quicker thinker with the puck on his stick.
|1||25||Ryan Poehling (C)|
|2||56||Josh Brook (D)|
|2||58||Joni Ikonen (C)|
|3||68||Scott Walford (D)|
|3||87||Cale Fleury (D)|
|5||149||Jarret Tyszyka (D)|
|7||199||Cayden Primeau (G)|
Though Poehling was just a freshman at St. Cloud State this past year, he was clearly outclassed, tallying just 13 points in 35 games. When watching video on him, the majority of his goals were tip-ins. While this is certainly an effective way to score, a first-round center should be able to create offense on his own, not rely on others to create it for him.
However, the Canadiens looked to salvage their draft by going for need, adding a plethora of defensemen and centers in the later rounds. They also added the son of NHL great Keith Primeau, Cayden, with their final pick.
|1||28||Shane Bowers (C)|
|2||47||Alex Formenton (LW)|
|4||121||Drake Batherson (C)|
|6||183||Jordan Hollett (G)|
It's difficult to say a team had a great draft when they only had four selections.
However, Bowers finished tied for 10th in USHL scoring this year. He is regarded as a player with a strong two-way game, though lacks any wow factor in any particular attribute. Nonetheless, it sounds like the Senators have a future top-9 forward on their hands.
Tampa Bay Lightning
|1||14||Callan Foote (D)|
|2||48||Alexander Volkov (RW)|
|3||76||Alexei Lipanov (C)|
|6||169||Nicklaus Perbix (D)|
|6||180||Cole Guttman (C)|
|7||200||Samuel Walker (C)|
The Lightning took a safe pick in the form of Callan Foote, the son of longtime NHLer Adam Foote. Callan is a chip off the old block, having shutdown defenseman written all over him, but he could prove to be a better skater and puck-mover than his old man.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman opted to complement his security blanket first-round pick nicely with some highly skilled Russian forwards in Rounds 2 and 3.
Toronto Maple Leafs
|1||17||Timothy Liljegren (D)|
|2||59||Eemeli Rasanen (D)|
|4||110||Ian Scott (G)|
|4||124||Vladislav Kara (LW)|
|5||141||Fedor Gordeev (D)|
|6||172||Ryan McGregor (C)|
|7||203||Ryan O'Connell (D)|
In almost every single preseason mock draft, Liljegren was going first or second overall. He failed to progress in his second year, but that can be tough to do as a 17-year-old defenseman playing with men. He also battled injuries and an illness, resulting in a halt in his development. He is one of the smoothest skaters in the draft and has elite offensive upside.
The Leafs addressed a huge need after the first round, adding two towering defensemen. Rasanen stands at 6-foot-7, while Gordeev is 6-6.
The Buds also took a chance on a 6-foot-3 netminder, Scott, who may have fallen in the draft due to his results. He posted an ugly goals-against average and save percentage, but played for the worst team in the WHL.
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