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CHICAGO – The 2017 NHL Draft weekend in Chicago has come to an end. There were some stunning trades. There were some interesting picks in a tricky draft. There were winners and there were losers, at least in a hasty first glance.
Let’s start with the obvious: The New Jersey Devils won the lottery, and hence are an automatic winner in selecting Nico Hischier at No. 1, for he loves to hockey.
But what about the rest of the weekend in the Windy City? Here’s how Puck Daddy saw the winners and losers:
WINNER: Gary Bettman
The commissioner has basically become a wrestling heel at the NHL Draft, knowing his very presence will draw heat from the crowd. But Bettman took it to another level in Chicago: At one point, with the boos during his opening remarks present but tepid, Bettman told the crowd “c’mon, you can do better than that.” And the floodgates of jeers opened. He’s become self-aware! This is dangerous!
LOSER: Fun In General
Holy [expletive] was that tedious. Brief, but tedious. The big Chicago moves happened hours before the draft. There weren’t rumors flying on Day One, of the “OMG THOSE GMs ARE TALKING!” variety. Little drama, even less intrigue. The most exciting thing that happened in the first round was when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane showed up on stage for the Blackhawks. Yes, the most exciting thing involved Jonathan Toews. That’s all you need to know.
WINNER: Cales and Coles
Big weekend for Cales. You have Cale Makar, going to the Colorado Avalanche at No. 4. And Cale Fleury, gong at No. 87 to the Montreal Canadiens. Then you had Kale Howarth going at No. 148 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that kid better have some sick salad in the NHL.
Oh, but let’s not sleep on Coles! There was Cole Fraser at No. 131 to the Detroit Red Wings and Cole Hults at No. 134 to the Los Angeles Kings and Cole Guttman to the Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 180. Big weekend for Coles, too.
Alas, D’artagnan Joly, taken at No. 171 by the Calgary Flames, was in fact the only D’artagnan elected in the 2017 NHL Draft. Try harder, parents of Canada.
WINNER: Finland Blue
Finland had an impressive draft, continuing to trend upward as a hockey power. The Finns had 14 players selected, including No. 2 overall pick Patrik Laine. In 2017, they had 23 players selected, including six in the first round and six in the second, which was a record for Finland. Somewhere, Teemu smiles.
LOSER: The Green Room
Eh, sometimes you try something new and it doesn’t click. The NHL went with a Green Room for the draft like the NBA, keeping some of the top prospects there instead of in the stands. The previous format produced better moments and nothing close to the cringe moment that was Klim Kostin being stuck in that room to the bitter end:
— kms davis (@blueorangesign) June 24, 2017
He would go at No. 31 to the St. Louis Blues.
Speaking of which …
WINNER: St. Louis Blues
The Blues wanted Jori Lehtera and his two years at $4.7 million annually the heck off their cap. Vegas didn’t take him. So they went the trade route, and pulled off a coup: Dealing him to the Philadelphia Flyers with the No. 27 overall pick and a conditional first-round pick for Brayden Schenn.
Then they traded Ryan Reaves, a fourth line enforcer, to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with the No. 51 pick for Oskar Sundqvist and the No. 31 pick, which they used on Kostin, the No. 1-rated skater among European players by the NHL’s Central Scouting who slid down the draft board due to an injury.
Meanwhile, they snagged Robert Thomas, a playmaking center from OHL London, at No. 20, and had a strong draft after that.
LOSER: Jim Rutherford
He traded a first-round pick and a roster player for a 30 year old that plays less than nine minutes a game, is a fighter in a league with no fights anymore and is Ryan Reaves. If there wasn’t so much goodwill built up for Rutherford, this would be Zac Rinaldo Trade 2.0.
But hey, at least now with an enforcer on the roster, the Penguins can finally challenge for the Stanley Cup.
WINNER: Stan Bowman
Cap strapped and contractually obligated, the Chicago Blackhawks general manager got creative and aggressive to get better in the short term and really set up his team in the long term. Getting Brandon Saad gives them cost certainty for four years and could reenergize Jonathan Toews. And talking to people here, there’s a lot of love for the Connor Murphy acquisition. They have to make the Marian Hossa money disappear, and Patrick Kane needs a new linemate – Alex DeBrincat? – but Bowman did well here.
LOSER: Detroit Red Wings
The consensus weakest draft of 2017, for a team that can’t afford a dud. They had the quantity, but not the quality:
Michael Rasmussen was a reach at No. 9, an attempt by Ken Holland to find his Holmstrom or Franzen 2.0 at a time when the League’s going smaller and more skilled. As for the rest of the draw, everyone we pestered about “who had the worst draft?” inevitably circled back to what the Red Wings did. As Scott Wheeler put it:
The worst draft of the weekend, by a landslide, belongs to the Red Wings (relative to my ranking). Keith Petruzzelli the only good pick.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) June 24, 2017
That’s about what was said here in Chicago as well.
WINNER: Vegas Golden Knights
Look, when you have 12 picks, including five in the first two rounds, you’re bound to find some players. What GM George McPhee and his scouting staff did was exceed expectations. Centers Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki were absolute coups in the first round. Erik Brannstrom of Sweden could end up being a Torey Krug type. Their later picks were admirable too. Really strong first class for the Knights.
LOSER: Jim Benning, Poker Player
Please note that the Vancouver Canucks had a really strong draft overall, including a potential goalie of the future in Mike DiPietro in the third round. But as the story goes here in Chicago: Vegas wanted Cody Glass. They were prepared to trade up from No. 6 to get him. The top four picks were all standing pat. Benning and the Canucks were at No. 5. Golden Knights GM George McPhee said he was going to flip a second round pick for that flip-flop of firsts, but discovered he didn’t need to when he was literally told who Vancouver was drafting at No. 5. (One assumes by Vancouver.) So he knew Glass would be there at six, and kept his second-rounder. The art of negotiation, folks.
WINNER: This Shirt
LOSER: That Nameplate
Rough start to Tippett’s Panthers career pic.twitter.com/J3YvNDCM3U
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 24, 2017
WINNER: Philadelphia Flyers
While we don’t love Lehtera, getting two first rounders in that Schenn swap is a ridiculously good return. They used the one in this draft on Morgan Frost at No 27, who has playmaking skills if not exactly love for the Flyers. In Nolan Patrick at No. 2, they get the second best forward in the draft and a better goal scorer than the guy who went No. 1. The aggressive trade to select Isaac Ratcliffe at No. 35, the Matthew Strome pick at No. 106 … just a really great two days from Ron Hextall and company.
LOSER: Matt Duchene
The Colorado Avalanche center continues to live in limbo, as no one stepped up to make a trade for him and now Joe Sakic is making noise that Duchene may be back with the Avalanche next season.
WINNER: Small Guys
Players like Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau have made the world safe for those of smaller stature, as eight players in the first two rounds were 5-foot-10 or shorter. In the case of Kailer Yamamoto, taken by the Edmonton Oilers at No. 22, he was the shortest player ever drafted in the first round at 5-foot-7 and three quarters.
LOSER: Artemi Panarin
The winger put up incredible numbers in his first two NHL seasons on Patrick Kane’s line, breaking 30 goals in each season. At last check, Patrick Kane is not on the Columbus Blue Jackets. (And for the Jackets, they go from Saad making $6 million for four years to Panarin making $6 million for the next two years before free agency.)
WINNER: New York Islanders
Credit where it’s due with Garth Snow. Getting Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome was a strong move to bolster the Islanders’ offense. And while dealing defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames will impact the defense, getting back first and second-round picks in 2018 and a second rounder in either 2019 or 2020 is the kind of haul that can net even more top six talent to play around John Tavares.
LOSER: New York Rangers
Along with the Red Wings, the team most frequently mentioned in the ‘WTF?’ category for its draft performance. Lias Andersson at No. 7 (acquired in the Derek Stepan trade with Arizona) was a total reach for a player whose primary upside appears to be a chance to get to the NHL rather soon. Two North Americans among seven picks, a collection of gambles and head-scratches according to the punditry on site.
WINNER: Arizona Coyotes
The first part of the week, everyone was wondering what the hell was going on with the Coyotes, after they bungled the departure of both Shane Doan and coach Dave Tippett. But then they traded for Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta, had a strong draft, and GM John Chayka was back to boy genius status.
LOSER: Eight Year Contracts For 30-Year-Olds
Locking up T.J. Oshie for $5.75 million against the cap is just dandy. He’s proven he can work in a top line role, does a lot of really good things for you and is a generally pleasant person to be around.
T.J. Oshie at 30 years old for $5.75 million over eight years is … vomit. Consider some of the other names recently making that level of cap hit on long-term deals: Patrick Sharp, Dustin Brown, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Andrew Ladd. That’s a lot of regret there.
But this is a great contract if your owner already knows there are going to be compliance buyouts in the next lockout.
Who were your winners and losers in the draft?
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