2015 NHL Draft: Winners, losers, and in between from this weekend’s draft

By David Hahn

Travis Konecny - Philadelphia Flyers - 2015 NHL Draft

Photo: Philadelphia Flyers first round draft pick Travis Konecny was presented with the inaugural E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence on the second day of the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

 

Honorable Mentions

1. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers desperately needed to “hit” on this draft and they did just that with the home-run selections of Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny in the first round. With Provorov, they land one of the most complete defenders in the draft, and a young man that rarely gets into trouble or makes mistakes. Philadelphia traded up for Konecny after his hometown Ottawa Senators passed on him twice, taking a player that has future captain written all over him as he competes in all three zones, has a deceptive shot and physical nature.

The Flyers also picked up a trio of goaltenders in the draft, showing that they viewed the position as deficient and potentially solving a long-term problem of not being able to develop their own players in goal. Felix Sandstrom joins them from Sweden, and they also landed the NAHL Goalie of the Year, Matej Tomek, and used a seventh round pick on 6’6” Ivan Fedotov. The Flyers also took an exciting Czech prospect in David Kase, who has been electric on the international stage. One final notable addition is Cooper Marody, who recently won the USHL’s Clark Cup as one of the catalysts of Sioux Falls Stampede.

It was an interesting draft for the Flyers, especially as the only team that added three goaltenders in this draft. It’s a positive sign for a team that hasn’t been able to develop their own talents on defense and in goal.

2. New Jersey Devils

Under new management with Ray Shero at the helm, the Devils finally have a prized prospect to talk about with Pavel Zacha. He’s the perfect fit for the Devils as a versatile forward who doesn’t shy away from contact, yet still possesses an NHL-ready shot and strong will to succeed. The team is already paving the way for his potential debut, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he stays for at least the nine-game test. Beyond that, the Devils used an early second round pick on the top North American goaltender as ranked by NHL Central Scouting in Mackenzie Blackwood, who immediately assumes top billing in their system.

The Devils turned to a deep Sault Ste. Marie squad in the OHL to find defender Colton White and one of the most relentless forecheckers in the draft in Blake Speers. The former projects as a prototypical Devils defender and is added to an already deep group at the position, while the latter brings different elements of speed, tenacity, and scoring touch to a depleted prospect pool. The Devils should also be applauded for bringing in Kyle Palmieri, who fell on the Anaheim Ducks depth chart and was acquired at a reasonable price, bringing the hometown favorite back home.

It remains to be seen if this will be the last draft for David Conte, Lou Lamoriello’s trusted right-hand man. With new management on board, this weekend was a very positive step in the right direction after a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.

3. Edmonton Oilers/Buffalo Sabres

Any draft review would be remiss not to mention the teams that landed two generational talents, the Edmonton Oilers with Connor McDavid, and the Buffalo Sabres with Jack Eichel.

For Edmonton, McDavid topped what was a memorable draft, but they did relatively well considering they didn’t pick again until 117th overall after acquiring Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders. The Oilers landed Seth Jones’ little brother, Caleb, who will follow in his brother’s footsteps with the Portland Winterhawks. The club spent three additional picks on defensemen of varying degrees and skill levels, and did well to give Martin Marincin a chance in Toronto while picking up Eric Gryba from Ottawa.

Buffalo was the talk of the town, acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche, shipping off former top prospects Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and JT Compher in return. With Evander Kane ready to begin the 2015-16 season, the Sabres added Eichel as another high-end center to go along with Sam Reinhart, securing the Sabres future down the middle. After that, the Sabres reached a little bit for Brendan Guhle, and added three other WHL skaters in the process.

Disappointing Drafts

1. Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins stripped away some of the identity of their franchise by trading away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and then used those acquired assets reaching for questionable picks that may have been available later in the draft. Among the notable talking points of the draft, the Bruins amassed three consecutive first-round picks, but didn’t use one of them on Mathew Barzal, a consensus top-10 talent. Beyond that, the team opted to select Zach Senyshyn, who was buried on the depth chart behind top prospects in Sault Ste. Marie, but would have likely been available in the second round.

The remainder of the Bruins draft looks a little light on skill, as most of the 10 prospects they added are limited in what tools they bring to the table and don’t project as anything more than role players. The beauty of the draft is that this is just a starting point, but these players will have a lot of work to do in order to prevent this crop from being considered a disappointment, especially considering some of the names that were available when they picked at various points.

Peter Chiarelli was cast aside in favor of Don Sweeney, and the Bruins are the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. The Bruins did face salary cap problems, but a lackluster draft left a sour taste behind, especially after the team chose to move two fan favorites and special talents. No matter who is at the helm, the Bruins have their work cut out for them moving forward.

2. Vancouver Canucks

With the improvements that the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are making, the Vancouver Canucks needed to keep pace, and General Manager Jim Benning had a relatively weak draft. In addition, the team traded away Eddie Lack, failed to land assets this year for players who may have been available, and then passed on critically important picks. Brock Boeser is an intriguing prospect thanks to his ability to score, but has some question marks beyond that, and the rest of their draft seemed lackluster.

Dmitry Zhukenov is an unknown boom-or-bust prospect, and Vancouver fans do seem to be generally pleased with Carl Neill, who does have some room for improvement. The Canucks opted for Adam Gaudette, who has a limited ceiling, and Lukas Jasek, who hasn’t been able to put everything together yet. Overall, with prospects like Travis Konecny, Oliver Kylington, and Nikita Korostelev available with their picks, it was disappointing that the team opted for safer picks rather than home-runs.

The Canucks face a situation where the Sedin twins and other talents are aging, except the big problem is the team doesn’t appear to have replacements ready to fill their spots in-house. It’s a problem that stems from weak drafts spent on questionable talents, this one included.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Most draft pundits and members of the media expected the Pittsburgh Penguins to move some assets, but most of the damage has been done thanks to previous trades that left the club with no first round pick and just four selections overall. There was a lot of activity at the Penguins table, but ultimately nothing was done, perhaps a stubborn, steadfast approach to management by General Manager Jim Rutherford. The Penguins did land one of the drafts biggest fallers in Daniel Sprong, but questionable interviews and inconsistent play will need to be answered for if Sprong is to reach his lofty potential.

Beyond that, the Penguins chose an unknown Czech product in Dominik Simon and draft re-entry Frederik Tiffels, who did have a decent season with the Western Michigan Broncos. Lastly, life-long Penguins fan and former Wilkes/Barrie Scranton youth forward Nikita Pavlychev became the team’s newest draft pick. All four of their picks have a long way to go and will need a lot of development time, a disappointing return and questionable group moving forward.

The Penguins have been one of the best organizations for a long time, and they still certainly have some top-flight prospects ready to go. The NHL is shifting in the way teams are managed and put together, and the Penguins may need to focus on internal growth sooner rather than later if they want to solve their problems.

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey

 

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