The 2018 NHL draft is now in the history books and there has never been a draft that produced more surprises in the top 10 than this one. As always there are winners and there are losers and this year produced some extreme examples and today we have some fanbases cheering at their luck and some cursing their management groups.
#1) Buffalo Sabres
Starting with the obvious we have the Sabres. This team has been horribly mismanaged for so long that it must have seemed in Buffalo that it would never turn around. Well take heart Buffalonians, Rasmus Dahlin is the piece you have needed. Years of ineptitude have loaded the Sabres with some extremely good players including Casey Mittlestad, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and an elite center in Jack Eichel but drafting Dahlin allows the Sabres to move Ristolainen down in the order, and limiting his minutes, to where he is far more effective.
Assuming the Sabres sign a goalie or that Linus Ullmark proves he can be a starter, I expect the Sabres to be the surprise of the league next year. I am saying it now, they will be in contention for a playoff spot in February.
#2) Detroit Red Wings
All seemed doom and gloom in Detroit midway through the year. A floundering franchise that seemed to be sliding into the perpetual mid-pack group despite having a few young players with potential they insisted on icing a team with no clear message. Too many veterans to rebuild and too much youth to contend.
Things started to turn around when GM Ken Holland absolutely robbed Vegas GM George McPhee for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks for Tomas Tatar. Apparently McPhee was enchanted with Tatars 56 point career year four years ago and paid for him like he was an impact player.
Then, on draft day, sitting with the 6th overall pick, Holland was preparing to take a good young defenseman there and then, with the pick acquired from Vegas, take a potential depth forward to develop into his bottom six but that was not meant to be. When three GM’s decided to take leave of their senses, elite goal scoring winger Filip Zadina fell into their lap and Ken Holland wasted no time taking the player who should have been the 3rd overall pick. Then, in what can only be described as a Christmas (in June) Miracle, the 8th ranked North American skater Joe Veleno who was projected in the top 15 fell all the way to Holland at #30.
Detroit fans should be sending out many thank you cards to other GMS.
#3) Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks are in a tough spot. This is a team that hired Jim Benning 5 years ago because he was a “master drafter”. So far he has lost most of the trades he has made, signed (and tried to sign *cough* Lucic *cough*) overpriced veterans to huge overly long contracts and has gone 2 for 5 in first round draft picks. So when fans heard that the Canucks were shopping the pick it must have sent mixed feelings. First of all no one wanted to watch Benning make another terrible pick, but they also had fears of him trading away the pick for an overpriced veteran like Ryan O’Reilly.
Thankfully for the fans in Vancouver neither of these things occurred. Benning, like Holland ahead of him, must have been slack jawed watching the GMs in front of him leave the more talented players on the table to go off the board to fill team needs. And when the Canucks turn came up, they were more than happy to run up to the stage and grab a pick they desperately need in Quinn Hughes. Hughes is what every successful team seems to have these days, a small, offensively elite, defender.
While there will be growing pains and mistakes made that result in turnovers and goals against at first, Hughes is a wizard with the puck and he will help the Canucks get out of their own zone far more efficiently. A key piece who likley improves Bennings dismal first round record to an even .500.
#4) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers were delighted to see the defenseman they desperately need in Evan Bouchard fall to them at the 10 spot. After years of trying to shore up their blueline with over priced free agents the Oilers hit this one out of the park. Evan Bouchard is the perfect fit as he is, arguably, the best passer from the back end in this draft. He has the ability to hit both short passes out of the zone or to hit McDavid flying at full speed down the ice.
Bouchard does not possess the flash or elite offensive ceiling that other dmen such as Quinn Hughes or Adam Boqvist but he is NHL ready and can still contribute to the attack extremely effectively. As Bouchard was expected to be long gone by the 10 pick, this is a wonderful gift for a struggling Chiarelli.
With the continued development of Darnell Nurse expect to see a vastly improved Edmonton Back end next year.
#5) New York Islanders
Did any team need a huge draft more than the Islanders? This is a team desperately trying to convince John Tavares that they are no longer the tire fire of a franchise that they have been for the last decade-plus. Well they got it.
Sitting on the 11th and 12th picks, they should have been looking at players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Barrett Hayton, or Vitali Kravstov with no upper range defensemen available. Instead, Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, were available and the usually stoic Lou Lamoriello could not contain his huge smile at the idiocy of a few GMs that allowed these players to fall to him.
Wahlstrom is an elite goal scorer who, if Tavares is retained, could easily put in 40+ goals a year. Snipers of this calibre being left until the 11th pick is unheard of. Then, to top it off, they quickly grabbed Noah Dobson who had seen his stock rise to the point that some were predicting him to be a top 5 pick. Islanders fans should be taking a few minutes from their nervousness over the Tavares situation to do an frenzy filled happy dance!
And….. The Losers
For there to be winners, someone hos to lose. And here they are……
#1) The Montreal Canadiens
We have all seen the now famous face of the long suffering Canadiens fan on twitter and her reaction says it all. When you own the 3rd overall pick and want to be a contending team, drafting off the board because you are unable to make trades to fill a need is a terrible idea. With that said, Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be a good NHL player in a few years and will probably top out being an outstanding 2nd line center. Unfortunately that will be well into the decline of Shea Weber and possibly Carey Price as well.
Marc Bergevin has proved again and again that the only skill he has as the GM of the Canadiens is that he speaks French. He has taken a contending team and torn it apart with bad trade after bad trade, terrible player development, and now an unforgiveable draft.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 23, 2018
If Price stays healthy next year you can expect them to finish just outside of the playoffs. If he does not then you can expect to see the Canadiens once again near the bottom of the league.
#2) The Ottawa Senators AND Brady Tkachuk (a Tie)
The Senators are a team that is falling apart at the seams and this draft pick will likely not help anything. While Brady Tkachuk is a great young talent with grit and skill, all the Ottawa fans are going to see is that Pierre Dorian took “character and intangibles” over an elite scoring wingers like they have not had since Dany Heatley popped 50 in for them many years ago.
It will be very hard to explain to the fans of Ottawa why you drafted a player that can be traded for over the type of player no team ever gives up. Perhaps the Senators were looking forward knowing they would never be willing to sign a goal scorer of that caliber to a market value contract?
The fans lose in this deal but also, sadly, so does Brady Tkachuk. Forced to play for a team that is in disarray and looks to be on the sharp decline for the next 5-8 years. Tkachuck should pray for new ownership and a Quebec relocation.
#3) The Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are showing off the good and the bad of hiring a young GM who is not part of the old boys club. The good is, John Chayka makes bold moves, is one of the extremely few GMS willing to trade and is very bright. The bad is, he is also something of a slave to advanced stats and has shown this to be a detriment with over priced contracts to Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers and now in the draft by going WAY off the board and picking Barrett Hayton who was projected anywhere from 11-20.
With far superior players bot front and on the back end available, Chayka decided what he needed more than anything with his enviable draft position was a two way, second line center who could play defense. Someone just like Derek Stepan who he already has.
This pick is a complete disaster for the franchise. While Hayton will be a serviceable 2nd line player you get so few chances to get the elite talent that passing on them should be a fire-able offense.
#4) Hockey Fans
With so many storylines of all the available players and ongoing trade talks, the NHL GMs proved, once again. that they are terrified to make any deals unless it is so obvious even a blind monkey could see they are winning the deal.
It is painful watching teams get destroyed slowly because ownership and existing GMs balk at anything that even smells a little bit like a fair deal.
Here is a note to GMs, the NHL, and the NHLPA…. PLAYER MOVEMENT AND TRADES ARE GOOD FOR THE LEAGUE.
Player trades keep fans engaged and draw in new fans. They keep the sport in the news over the summer.
No player trades has the opposite affect. Fans start to bore of the status quo and “events” like the draft or trade deadline lose viewership and fan interest.