One trade! That’s it!?
All the pre-draft hype surrounding Erik Karlsson and Phil Kessel and Artemi Panarin and Ryan O’Reilly and Jeff Skinner yielded one deal?
And with a backup netminder as its centerpiece??
For this reason, it’s mighty difficult to point the finger at anyone for their work on the draft floor. There were no Griffin Reinharts for Mat Barzals, tonight.
So instead we’ll be exclusively positive.
Here are the winners of the 2018 NHL Draft:
Jason Botterill and the Sabres braintrust had the lightest lifting to do on draft night, but they walk away from the table as the biggest winners, without question. Rasmus Dahlin is the jewel of this draft, and the sort of player that can lift Buffalo out of its decade-long funk.
New York Islanders
Speaking exclusively to the draft, Lou Lamoriello walked into a pretty good situation with the Islanders. Holding back-to-back selections at No. 11 and 12, Lamoriello had the opportunity to select two lottery-level prospects or to flip one (or both, we suppose) to make an immediate improvement to the roster. While it’s been reported that he preferred the latter, Lamoriello has to be pleased with the talent that fell to him outside the top 10.
With Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, the Islanders bagged themselves top-level prospects at forward and defence, and each possesses an elite skillset. Wahlstrom might be the best finisher in the draft, while some pundits see Dobson as second only to Dahlin among defensive prospects.
What say you, John Tavares?
With Brooks Orpik and Philipp Grubauer now in Colorado, the Capitals may have been able to carve out enough cap space to carry John Carlson’s full freight on a long-term deal. Banking a second-round pick in the process? That’s strong work.
On the flip side, trading a second rounder for a goaltender that you’ve identified as one that could challenge Semyon Varlamov for the starter’s role — and potentially replace the incumbent at a reduced rate — is a step forward as well.
And good on the Avalanche for not even entertaining the idea of throwing Orpik in their lineup, making it known already that he’s up for grabs or destined for a buy out. Let that up-and-coming defensive corps get its reps.
Detroit Red Wings
To crown a team for their selections on the draft floor is to show your own bias. As someone who does not live in junior hockey rinks, I’m without one to share.
But if you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, though, you must be excited?
First Ken Holland was there to collect Filip Zadina, who slid to No. 6. It’s not a stretch to say that Zadina is the best pure scorer and maybe the most dangerous attacking force in the draft. He lit up the world junior tournament for the Czech Republic, put up massive numbers with the Halifax Mooseheads, and he’s already got some bite, which is always good:
Love Filip Zadina's swagger. Said he's going to make Montreal & Ottawa pay for passing on him.
“I was telling my agent, if they will pass on me, I’m going to fill their nets with pucks. I want to prove to Detroit that they make a pretty good decision.”
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) June 23, 2018
Then the same thing happened again at the end of the first round for Detroit.
Joe Veleno, a player who was granted exceptional status to join the junior ranks early a few years back, fell from the fringes of the lottery, so the Red Wings spent the pick acquired in the Tomas Tatar deal to add another highly-skilled forward to their stable of prospects.
Development camp in Detroit should have some more jump, this year.