NHL Draft Grades: Eastern Conference

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Two-hundred-and-seventeen players were drafted this weekend, and for most, it’s far too early to know what kind of players they’re going to be, especially given how much influence what happens after the draft has. We can only judge on what we know now - but we’re going to judge anyway.

It’s time for draft grades. Here is the Eastern Conference (you can find the Western Conference here):

Boston Bruins: C–

It’s difficult to get top marks when you don’t draft until the late in the second round, but there’s nothing particularly enamoring about the rest of the Bruins’ picks either. Jakub Lauko has potential and Axel Andersson is a good skater. Everyone else is kind of “eh, we’ll see, I guess.”

Buffalo Sabres: A–

Rasmus Dahlin is an amazing defenseman. Mattias Samuelsson has the potential to be a pretty good one, although he could stand to work on the offensive side of his game in college. The rest of the Sabres’ Day 2 group are more unknown quantities and none of them really jump off the page. If it weren’t for Dahlin throwing off the curve, this grade would be slightly lower.

Carolina Hurricanes: B+

Andrei Svechnikov instantly becomes one of the Hurricanes’ best forwards, especially with Elias Lindholm now in Calgary. Jack Drury, who heads to Harvard University next season, has potential but was picked perhaps a bit higher than necessary - the Hurricanes left a little talent on the board there. Luke Henman’s hockey IQ is good and Lenni Killinen is a good skater, but it’ll take time and development to get a clear picture of what they really got on Day 2.

Columbus Blue Jackets: B+

Liam Foudy was a reach at 18 - perhaps too much of one. The Blue Jackets somewhat made up for that when they managed to snag Kirill Marchenko in the second round, especially as Marchenko was a player general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said that they had ranked in the first round on their list. The chances they took later on Day 2 could pay off for them as well.

Detroit Red Wings: A+

The Red Wings had the best draft in the East (besides the New York Islanders). Great picks just kept falling into general manager Ken Holland’s lap, and he didn’t overthink them, and the Red Wings’ prospect pool benefited immensely. After getting Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno on Day 1, they kicked Day 2 off with Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIsaac, two players many prospect pundits had ranked inside their first round. Alec Regula of the London Knights could end up a good bet as well. They added 10 prospects in all, and in drafting, quantity is almost always beneficial (with some exceptions).

Florida Panthers: B+

After the Panthers chose Grigori Denisenko on Day 1, they launched Day 2 with Serron Noel, a player who could have easily been a first rounder. Logan Hutsko is more of an unknown than the two before him, but if he can be the player scouts say he is, there’s serious potential there. Those three tip the scales toward a higher grade.

Montreal Canadiens: A–

Choosing Jesperi Kotkaniemi at 3rd overall when a player like Filip Zadina was still on the board may have caused some to look askance at the Canadiens, but their overall draft haul - 11 prospects - puts them in a much better position than they were prior to this weekend. After Kotkaniemi, who was possibly the best center in the draft, they drafted Jesse Ylonen, Jacob Olofsson, Cameron Hillis, Jordan Harris, Allan McShane, Cole Fonstad, and several others.

New Jersey Devils: B

The Devils were pleased when defenseman Ty Smith fell to them, and rightfully so. Smith could’ve gone higher than 17, and will be a great addition to their defensive pool. The rest of their picks were guys who could skate well, or guys who could make plays, along with a decent goalie prospect in Akira Schmid. Given that they didn’t have a second or a third round pick, they definitely could’ve done a lot worse.

New York Islanders: A+

Best draft in the East besides the Red Wings. When you start your picks off with offensive standout Oliver Wahlstrom and Memorial Cup Champion Noah Dobson, and then select Bode Wilde, Ruslan Ishakov, Blade Jenkins, Jake Pivonka, and Jakub Skarek on Day 2 - that’s a pretty good weekend, folks. The Islanders’ prospect pool got a much-needed kick in the pants at this year’s draft.

New York Rangers: B+

Vitali Kravtsov at 9th overall was a little startling, but not in a bad way. He’s got the potential to be a very good player at the next level. K’Andre Miller is a phenomenal skater who needs some seasoning at the college level, but could be great for them in the future. Picks like Joey Keane, Nico Gross, and Riley Hughes could turn out to be good gets late, and they snagged steady, smooth Nils Lundkvist with their last first-rounder. All in all, a pretty good weekend for the Rangers.

Ottawa Senators: B–

Brady Tkachuk was a good pick at 4th overall, but the Senators absolutely left talent on the board with Filip Zadina still around. Jacob Bernard-Docker was a huge reach in the first round, so that knocked their grade down as well. Still, they ended up with guys like Jonathan Tychonick, Jonathan Gruden, and Angus Crookshank (contender for the runner-up slot in the Best Draft Names category as well as a good puck-handler). Despite making some questionable choices, they still improved their prospect depth overall.

Philadelphia Flyers: C+

Joel Farabee is going to be one exciting player. After that, though, the Flyers sort of underwhelmed. Jay O’Brien was way off-board at 19th - no offense to Jay O’Brien - and they also picked Adam Ginning too high at 50th given who else was still around. They just left too many good players on the board after their first pick to target average skill guys that seemed safe. It was like they got their man in Farabee and just figured they could do whatever afterward.

Pittsburgh Penguins: B–

The Penguins only took four prospects, which bumped their grade down, in the later rounds especially, quantity in prospects is good, but those four prospects were pretty good choices. Calen Addison was an excellent get for the Penguins at 53rd, and filled an organizational need to boot. Filip Hallander was another player ranked higher than he was selected, and he’ll make a great addition to their forward prospect pool. Gorman is somewhat of an unknown quantity, but Almeida could have real potential.

Tampa Bay Lightning: D+

The plus is generous here and was given because Gabriel Fortier or Alexander Green could turn into something. All in all, though, this year’s draft class is not remotely up to the Lightning’s usual standards, and it’s difficult to muster up any real enthusiasm. Here’s hoping they managed to find a diamond in the rough.

Toronto Maple Leafs: B+

This was a pretty good first draft from new Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. Trading down to take Rasmus Sandin was smart, because they got their guy and got another pick out of it. Sean Durzi attended their camp last summer, and while some could argue (possibly rightfully) that drafting an overager that high is questionable, there’s something to be said for knowing the player you’re getting. The rest of their picks balance it pretty well, given that they got Filip Kral late and picked up Semyon De-Arguchintsev, who has real offensive potential to go with his terrific name. There are reasons to feel good about this year’s haul, Leafs fans.

Washington Capitals: C+

The Stanley Cup Champion Capitals went pretty safe with their picks. Alexander Alexeyev is steady and smart, and has potential to make an impact. Kody Clark and Martin Fehervary can play, but don’t have much in the way of high offensive ceilings. They did get Eric Florchuk, a pretty competent forward, with their seventh-round pick, and the guys chosen in between were pretty safe choices. Overall not a bad around, but not a standout one—they just went more for safety than for offensive upside in most of their choices.

Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on twitter at @HockeyWthHannah.

NHL Draft Grades: Eastern Conference
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