While the NHL Entry Draft is key to building and maintaining a winner, the annual selection process remains a popular time for trades.
During the hours leading up to the draft, multiple major trades made headlines. Most notably, the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks struck the biggest deals. Arizona and Chicago linked up on a trade that saw the Blackhawks send Niklas Hjalmarsson to the desert in exchange for blueliner Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. Chicago then struck a deal with Columbus, sending former Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a 2017 6th round pick to the Blue Jackets. In return, the Hawks reacquired forward Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg, and a 2018 5th round choice. Panarin and Saad have similar cap hits, but Saad’s contract has four years left compared to two for Panarin.
Meanwhile, Arizona continued to transform their roster. They traded away young defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the 7th over pick in this draft to the New York Rangers. In return, the Coyotes, received center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta. Arizona acquired a much-needed veteran to be their number one center. More importantly for them, they also received a goaltender potentially ready to step into the starting role after trading Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames.
Speaking of the Flames, they also made a splash by trading for Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and a conditional fourth round pick. In return, Calgary gave the Islanders first and second round picks in 2018 and a conditional second round pick. Seems like a pretty steep return for a defensive-minded, second pairing defenseman, but on paper, the Flames have a fantastic top four on their blue line.
The St. Louis Blues rounded out the trade action by sending rugged forward Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh. In return, they picked up forward Oscar Sundqvist. It’s a rather curious move for Pittsburgh. The Penguins just won back-to-back Stanley Cups without needing a player like Reaves to protect their stars.
As expected Hischier, Patrick go 1-2 in the draft
Heading into this weekend’s draft, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier were the consensus top two prospects in this draft. Scouts and pundits view both players as potential top line NHL players. The only question heading into the weekend: who would get chosen first? Going into last fall, Patrick was believed to be the consensus top pick. Despite his offensive productivity, injuries limited him throughout the season.
Meanwhile, Hischier’s stock skyrocketed, and after much speculation, the New Jersey Devils took the Swiss-born center with the top pick. Hischier is the first player from Switzerland to be chosen first overall. At 6’1″, 178 pounds, Hischier is tremendously skilled and can play at both ends of the rink. He also has room to put more muscle on. Patrick, chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers with the next pick, is a center that is an inch taller and about 20 pounds heavier than Hischier. He’s a player that projects to be able to contribute at both ends and score in a variety of ways.
Big night for Finland at the draft
A record six Finnish-born players heard their names called in the first round, surpassing the five picked in 2002. This year’s group is led by defenseman Miro Heiskanan, a left-handed puck-mover rated as the top European blue-liner in this class. Chosen by the Dallas Stars, Heiskanen is regarded as a smooth skater who can play a 200-foot game. The other first round Finns included defenseman Juuso Valimaki to the Flames at #16, blue-liner Urho Vaakanainen at #18 to the Boston Bruins, forward Kristian Vesalainen to the Winnipeg Jets at #24), defenseman Henri Jokiharju to the Blackhawks at #29, and forward Eeli Tolvanen to the Predators at the #30 spot.
Vegas uses 12 of their 13 picks in the draft
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights made headlines with their wheeling and dealing during the expansion draft. As a result, Vegas owned 13 selections in this entry draft. Those included three in the top 15 selections in the first round and three in the second. They traded one of those second rounders to Columbus in exchange for 2015 draft pick Keegan Kolesar. Kolesar is a power forward who just finished his final season in the WHL and brings offensive ability along with an edge to his game.
The Golden Knights picked centers Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki as well as defenseman Erik Brannstrom. Glass and Suzuki are premiere play-makers that won’t step right into the league, but provide an excellent foundation for Vegas’s prospect base. Brannstrom isn’t the biggest defenseman, but the league is heading towards smaller, puck-moving blue-liners. The Golden Knights also chose six more forwards, one more defenseman, and two goaltenders in their first ever draft class. Vegas doesn’t figure to be a playoff team next season, but on paper, they appear to be off to a good start in terms of building for the future.