2016 NHL Draft: Notes and Numbers from Buffalo

by Ken McKenna

2016 NHL Draft - Olli Juolevi (L), Mikhail Sergachev (C), and Jake Bean (R) - Top 3 Defensemen

Photo: Defensemen dominated the proceedings at the 2016 NHL Draft, with Olli Juolevi (L), Mikhail Sergachev (C), and Jake Bean (R) being the first three off the board at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY (courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

 

Firsts from Europe, OHL, USHL

As mentioned above, the first NHL prospect that was born in Belgium and identifies as such was selected at this draft. The Chicago Blackhawks chose goaltender Wouter Peeters from EC Salzburg 2 in Austria, but he was born in Turnhout, Belgium. Interestingly, two picks before Peeters was chosen, the New York Rangers chose Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Sean Day, who was born in Leuven, Belgium. But Day is considered a Canadian citizen, leaving Peeters as the first true Belgian to be drafted into the NHL.

In the OHL, the Flint Firebirds and Hamilton Bulldogs had their first players chosen by NHL clubs. The Firebirds’ Will Bitten led the way, going to the Montreal Canadiens in the third round, with Bulldogs’ defenseman Cole Candella going to the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round and Firebirds’ winger Nick Caamano going to the Dallas Stars six picks later, also in the fifth round. Both teams existed as different franchises in previous seasons, the Firebirds as the Plymouth Whalers and the Bulldogs as the Belleville Bulls.

One team that was a true expansion team this season was the Bloomington Thunder of the USHL. The Thunder made the 2016 USHL playoffs in their first season of existence, helping to draw attention to a pair of their players who were chosen at this NHL Draft. Forward Mitchell Mattson, who was ranked by some as a potential first round talent at one point, went to the Calgary Flames in the fifth round. Two rounds later, defenseman Jeremy Davies was chosen by the New Jersey Devils. Mattson will play for the Thunder next season, then attend the University of North Dakota, while Davies will head to Northeastern University this Fall.

Coming to the defense

Breaking the draft down by position (per designations from NHL Central Scouting), defensemen led the way with a total of 75 defenders being chosen at the 2016 NHL Draft. Nine defenders were chosen in the first round, with 14 selections in the third and seventh rounds being the largest number chosen by round.

Next on the list is centers, with 54 going to NHL teams at this draft. Twelve pivots were selected in the first round, which was also the high-water mark for the seven rounds. At left wing, 33 players from that position were drafted this weekend, with the eight chosen in the fourth round representing the highest number in one round. Right wingers totaled 23 selections, with the eight drafted in the second round being the top figure by round. Eight players were identified by CSS as playing more than one position, with two dual-position players chosen in the second, sixth and seventh rounds.

And the last line of defense, the goaltenders, garnered 18 selections in Buffalo. The five chosen in the sixth round what the highest total in a round.

Maple Leafs’ rebuild continues apace

In addition to adding the top talent from the 2016 prospect pool in center Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs also left Buffalo with the most selections of any club at the 2016 NHL Draft. The Maple Leafs added 11 players to their already large prospect pool, so the organization’s rebuild appears to be in good shape for the foreseeable future.

The host team for this draft, the Buffalo Sabres, totaled 10 selections, as did the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Five teams totaled nine selections apiece, including the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, and New Jersey Devils.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild left town with the fewest selections at four apiece.

 

2016 NHL Draft: Winnipeg Jets add draft’s top sniper in Patrik Laine

by Ken McKenna
2016 NHL Draft - Patrik Laine - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Winnipeg Jets prospect Patrik Laine had a decorated 2015-16 season in which he won two gold medals, and was named MVP of the Liiga playoffs and the World Championship (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

 

With Auston Matthews off the board as expected, the Winnipeg Jets used the second pick overall in the 2016 NHL Draft to add some offensive punch to their already solid prospect pool with the selection of winger Patrik Laine of Tappara Tampere. (more…)

2016 NHL Draft: Toronto Maple Leafs add Matthews to increasingly talented stable

by Ken McKenna
2016 NHL Draft - Auston Matthews - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Newly-minted Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Auston Matthews will get his first action in the new Maple Leafs sweater at the team’s summer development camp in early July (courtesy of Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

 

 

To the surprise of few, the Toronto Maple Leafs used the first overall selection at the 2016 NHL Draft on center Auston Matthews, the player widely regarded as the draft’s top prospect. The talented center competed in Switzerland last season, but he should be a strong candidate to make the Maple Leafs roster for the start of the 2016-17 season. (more…)

2016 NHL Draft: Dubois, Juolevi hope to turn successful seasons into high draft position

by Ken McKenna
Pierre-Luc Dubois - CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Photo: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward and 2016 prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois parlayed a strong showing at the 2016 BMO CHL Top Prospects Game into a top ranking for this year’s draft (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

 

 

All the questions have been asked by the media, while the eyes of scouts are now focused on draft lists. The only thing left now for the prospects heading into the 2016 NHL Draft is to find out which NHL club will call their names at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. (more…)

2016 NHL Draft: Matthews, Laine finish atop final ISS rankings

by ISS
2016 NHL Draft - Auston Matthews - USA; Patrik Laine - Finland

Photo: Forwards Auston Matthews of the ZSC Lions and Patrik Laine of Tappara Tampere are the top two prospects for the 2016 NHL Draft according to ISS Hockey (courtesy of John Crouch/Icon Sportswire and Melanie Duchene/EQ Images/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

The first round of the 2016 NHL Draft is now just a couple of days away, with the remainder of the draft taking place on Saturday at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.

Earlier this month, ISS Hockey released their final top 30 for this year’s draft, along with their 2016 draft guide. The order in June barely changed from the list presented in May, but there was some minor shuffling within the top 10. (more…)

2016 NHL Draft: Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft

by HF Staff

2016 NHL Draft Prospects - Logan Stanley, Samuel Girard, and Kale Clague

Photo: CHL defensemen are featured in the 21-30 section of HF’s 2016 Mock Draft, Logan Stanley (OHL), Samuel Girard (QMJHL), and Kale Clague (WHL) all being chosen in that range (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images, Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images, Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

 

Carolina Hurricanes - 21st Overall21. Carolina Hurricanes (from LAK) (Cory Lavalette) – Julien Gauthier, RW, Val d’Or Foreurs

The Carolina Hurricanes already have Michael McLeod in the fold with their first pick, so they may look to use this pick as collateral for an NHL player. But if they decide to make the selection, Julien Gauthier would give them more size and skill up front. Gauthier is, plainly put, a monster on the wing. Some have concerns based on his lack of assists this past season (just 16), but his 41 goals should ease their worries. He won’t be a physical, Milan Lucic-type, but he will put the puck in the net and be a handful for defenders.

 

Winnipeg Jets - 22nd Overall22. Winnipeg Jets (from CHI) (Devin Slawson) – Samuel Girard, D, Shawinigan Cataractes

While this pick could be viewed as a reach given the fact that Samuel Girard seems to be ranked solidly as a second round choice, he was one of the top offensive defensemen in his age group during the 2015-16 season. Girard doesn’t possess ideal size for an NHL defenseman, but neither did Pittsburgh defensive stalwart Kris Letang when he was drafted in 2005. Girard has a good two-way game, but he is particularly effective on offense due to above-average skating ability and a strong hockey IQ. The Jets arent blessed with great organizational depth at defense, so Girard will add a potential power play QB to the mix.

 

Florida Panthers - 23rd Overall23. Florida Panthers (Chris Roberts) – Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw Warriors

With an impressive group of young defensemen (despite dealing Erik Gudbranson), the Florida Panthers opt to improve their depth down the middle, taking center Brett Howden with the 23rd pick overall. Florida has plenty of center prospects, but none are sure things and Howden would immediately become their best forward prospect outside of Lawson Crouse. Howden, whose brother Quinton is with the Panthers organization, opened a few eyes with both a solid second half and a good showing at the U18 World Championship.

 

Anaheim Ducks - 24th Overall24. Anaheim Ducks (Jason Lewis) – Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestad

One could simply say “Because Sweden“, and that would probably suffice. The Anaheim Ducks love their Swedes. But the choice of Rasmus Asplund has more to do with the Ducks current lack of a real creative offensive center behind Ryan Getzlaf. With an aging Ryan Kesler and a very thin center group in the pipeline, the Ducks have to start looking for a potential 2C replacement down the line. Asplund is an offensive catalyst, and is easily the most talented center left on the board.

 

Dallas Stars - 25th Overall25. Dallas Stars (Sean Shapiro) – Riley Tufte, LW, Blaine High School

The Dallas Stars have good depth down the middle already, while the defensive pool is filled with young prospects. It is the perfect opportunity for the Stars to take a chance on a powerful winger with great size, two attributes that are already in abundance for the 6’5″, 190-pound Riley Tufte. When all is said and done, Tufte could end up as the top power forward from this draft class should his development continue on an upward path. For now, Tufte will develop his game at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

 

Washington Capitals - 26th Overall26. Washington Capitals (Sean Shapiro) – Logan Stanley, D, Windsor Spitfires

The Washington Capitals have an exciting prospect base at forward and in goal, but could use a towering defenseman like 6’7″ Logan Stanley in the system. Stanley is more of a defensive stalwart than an offensive force at this stage of his career, but his defensive game is very impressive given his size and skating ability. Stanley should be a force for what could be a very strong Windsor team in 2016-17.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning - 27th Overall27. Tampa Bay Lightning (Chris Roberts) – Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings

Given their NHL success in recent years, the Tampa Bay Lightning still have surprising prospect depth, particularly on defense. Kale Clague, a strong skater, improved his draft stock toward the end of the year and into the playoffs after a disappointing first half of the season. He rates strongly in terms of possession numbers, as well.

 

St. Louis Blues - 28th Overall28. St. Louis Blues (Suraj Skumar) – Tage Thompson, C/W, University of Connecticut

Despite the holes at left wing, it would be hard for the St. Louis Blues to pass up a player like Tage Thompson. He is big, skates well, and has become a go-to player at the University of Connecticut. He embodies everything the Blues like and comes with impressive versatility. Even though he lines up on the right, he is an improving center with solid abilities in the faceoff circle. Pegged as a power forward, Thompson is still very disciplined despite the physical side of his game and could become even stronger once he fills out his frame.

 

Boston Bruins - 29th Overall29. Boston Bruins (from SJS) (Pat O’Rourke) – Vitali Abramov, LW, Gatineau Olympiques

While undersized, Vitali Abramov has plus skill and brings a huge dose of speed from the right side, two areas the Boston Bruins are in need of at the moment. In his rookie year in the QMJHL this past season, Abramov was fifth in the league with 93 points (38-55), running away with the rookie scoring title. The next closest on the scoring leaderboard among rookies was Toronto prospect Martins Dzierkals, who had 67 for league champion Rouyn-Noranda.

 

Anaheim Ducks - 30th Overall30. Anaheim Ducks (from PIT by way of TOR) (Jason Lewis) – Wade Allison, RW, Tri-City Storm

The Anaheim Ducks make a splash by going with one of the most improved and dangerous forwards in the USHL this season. They also love the collegiate route in terms of development, and Wade Allison is committed to Western Michigan University beginning this Fall. He is a big power forward who simply goes hard to the net. While he may seem like a reach, teams would be wise to cash in on his meteoric rise in the draft rankings, and the Ducks have the opportunity to do just that with Allison still on the board at 30.

 

Follow Hockey’s Future on Twitter via @HockeysFuture

 

2016 NHL Draft Preview: A few Czech selection possibilities, but Slovakia lacks homegrown prospects

by Derek O'Brien
Ondrej Najman - Czech Republic - 2015 World Junior A Challenge

Photo: Dukla Jihlava forward and 2016 prospect Ondrej Najman competed for the Czech Republic in international play in 2015-16, performing well at both the World Junior A Challenge and the U18 World Championship (courtesy of Tim Bates/OJHL Images)

 

 

As has been the case for a number of years, very few of the top NHL Draft prospects from the Czech Republic and Slovakia play at home nowadays. The top Czechs for this year’s draft play in North America, but there will be at least one homegrown talent who is sure to be drafted, along with a handful of probable late-rounders. (more…)

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Puljujarvi, Laine the cream of a solid Finland crop

by Tony Piscotta

Antti Kalapudas - Karpat Oulu - Champions Hockey League

Photo: Karpat Oulu forward and 2016 prospect Antti Kalapudas competed in 10 Liiga games for Karpat in 2015-16 and was also a part of Finland’s gold medal-winning squad at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship (courtesy of Karpat Oulu/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

 

Other Notable Draft-Eligibles (listed in alphabetical order by position)

Goalies

Leevi Laakso, Vaasa Sport U20
6’0″, 170 lbs., 6/12/98
Kuopio, Finland

 

Leevi Laakso gradually emerged as a prospect in his draft year — appearing in two Mestis games with Hermes and enjoying success with the Sport U20 team under the tutelage of goaltending coach Aki Naykki. Not part of Finland’s U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Laakso earned the starting job for the squad at the U18 World Championship, appearing in four games and posting a 1.96 goals-against average and .897 save percentage before missing the final games due to illness.

Not in the CSS midterm rankings, Laakso is ranked 11th amongst international goalies in the final rankings.

Emil Larmi, Peliitat Heinola (Mestis)
6’0″, 185 lbs., 9/28/96
Lahti, Finland

 

Emil Larmi had a breakout season as a 19-year-old in his first season in Mestis. A backup to older goalies Joonas Harald and Oskari Taari during his junior career with Pelicans, he played 38 games for Peliitat, tying Jukurit veteran Mika Norja for the league lead. His goaltending numbers (2.68 goals-against and .916 save percentage) were respectable playing for one of the league’s weaker clubs. Larmi was the third goalie for Finland at the U20 World Juniors but did not see any action. He signed a Liiga contract with HPK Hameenlinna for 2016-17.

Larmi is ranked 15th amongst international goaltenders in the CSS final rankings in his third year of draft eligibility after being 11th in the mid-season rankings.

Defensemen

Niclas Almari, Jokerit U20
6’2″, 175 lbs., 5/11/98
Espoo, Finland

 

Niclas Almari finished the 2015-16 season with Jokerit after seeing limited ice time with Espoo’s U20 team. He has the prototypical frame of an NHL defenseman but is inconsistent at times. He skates well for a taller defenseman and moves the puck but is not overly assertive. Almari’s offensive game is limited but he can initiate the attack with a strong first pass. Like Laakso, he was signed to a Liiga contract by HPK for 2016-17.

Ranked 126th in the CSS midterm rankings, he is rated 62nd amongst international skaters in the final rankings. Both St. Louis and Dallas have used late-round picks in recent years on defensemen from Finland, so Almari could be that player this year.

Tarmo Reunanen, TPS Turku U20
5’11”, 165 lbs., 3/1/98
Aanekoski, Finland

 

Tarmo Reunanen entered his draft year with high expectations after finishing with 32 points in 54 games for TPS Turku during the team’s A junior championship season but was derailed by injuries for much of 2015-16. A skilled puck carrier whose game may be more suited to the larger rinks in Europe, he was selected by Jokerit in the fourth round (102nd overall) in last year’s KHL Draft. Reunanen could be an intriguing late-round selection for a team with the patience to watch him develop.

He was ranked 33rd in the CSS midterm rankings before sliding to 53rd in the final rankings.

Forwards

Antti Kalapudas, C/LW, KalPa Kuopio
6’0”, 180 lbs., 7/22/96
Oulainen, Finland

 

Antti Kalapudas played 34 Liiga games including three playoff contests in 2015-16, beginning the season with Karpat and spending time in Mestis before finishing with KalPa Kuopio. The 19-year-old was the last player chosen for the Finland U20 team and, after sitting out the first two games, had a big impact playing on a line with NHL prospects Kasperi Kapanen (TOR) and Mikko Rantanen (COL). A big scorer but perceived as too light and more of a perimeter player coming out of junior hockey, Kalapudas has added some bulk over the past two seasons and has worked on the supplementary areas of his game.

Ranked 59th amongst international skaters in the CSS final rankings in his third year of draft eligibility, Kalapudas is not likely to put up the offensive numbers he did in junior hockey. Rather, his skating ability, skill and awareness suggest he can be a worthwhile late-round selection for a team looking for a Joonas Donskoi-like late bloomer.

Otto Koivula, LW, Tampere Ilves U20
6’4″, 220 lbs., 9/1/98
Nokia, Finland

 

Otto Koivula, like Tuulola, is a projection pick but has the size and demeanor to be an effective power forward. What has held him back to this point is his skating — which is not yet at the level of Puljujarvi, Borgstrom and the other top forward prospects. What Koivula has in his favor, in addition to his massive size, is has passing ability, offensive instincts and ability to read the play.

He was ranked 20th amongst international skaters in the CSS midterm rankings and is 28th in the final rankings. He figures to be selected somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

Joona Koppanen, C, Tampere Ilves U20
6’5″, 195 lbs., 2/25/98
Tampere, Finland

 

Joona Koppanen is another big forward who skates well and plays a sound positional game in all three zones. More of a playmaker than a pure sniper in terms of his offensive game, Koppanen uses his reach to advantage and is adept at preventing scoring chances or regaining possession. He is a strong passer and has a hard, accurate shot.

Ranked 41st in the CSS midterm rankings, Koppanen is rated 27th in the final rankings.

Niko Kuiri, LW, Karpat Oulu U20
6’2″, 200 lbs., 6/5/98
Juuka, Finland

 

Niko Kuiri skated for Karpat’s junior program the past two seasons after playing in the Jokipojat club in eastern Finland. He has some offensive tools and was able to take advantage of his size advantage to score in the domestic U20 league, but he has not dominated the way his physical tools suggest he can.

Kuiri is ranked 69th amongst international skaters in the CSS final rankings after not being listed in the midterm ratings. NHL teams may wait another year to see how he develops before using a draft pick on him.

Markus Nurmi, RW, TPS Turku U20
6’4″, 175 lbs., 6/29/98
Turku, Finland

 

Few players have risen as much in the Central Scouting rankings as Markus Nurmi. Like Kuiri, he was not ranked in the midterm rankings but is now 31st in the final rankings.

A tall but thin forward who is still maturing physically, he has just begun to show signs of being the player he can be. Nurmi skated for Finland’s gold medal U18 team in Grand Forks, finishing +2 with two assists in seven games. Not yet as dominant as his size would suggest, he has impressive stickhandling and passing skills and is effective at using his reach to either regain possession or break up the opposition’s attack.

Follow Tony Piscotta on Twitter via @Piscottas_Way

 

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Bean heads WHL group that could have light first round presence

by Glen Erickson

Dillon Dube - Kelowna Rockets

Photo: Kelowna Rockets forward and 2016 prospect Dillon Dube improved his point total from 2014-15 to 2015-16 by 39 points, going from 17 goals and 27 points in 2014-15 to 26 goals and 66 points this past season (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

7. Sam Steel, C, Regina Pats

Sam Steel arrived in the WHL to some degree in the large shadow cast by Benson. Both players ran roughshod over opponents throughout central Alberta during their bantam draft year, dominating the score sheets. Steel is perhaps the most purely skilled forward among those in our ranking.

At 5’11” and 175 pounds, Steel is not as physically imposing as Howden or Benson, but he has the ability to set the tone in the attacking zone with his puck skills, vision and creativity. He appeared in all 72 regular season games with the Regina Pats, scoring 23 goals and adding 47 assists.

8. Dillon Dube, C, Kelowna Rockets

At 5’10” and 180 pounds, Dillon Dube is a thick, speedy forward with very good vision and puck skills. On occasion, Dube appears as though he is capable of doing it all at high speed with a heavy shot and quick release. He can be rambunctious, creating open space for his linemates.

From Cochrane, Alberta, Dube responded well this season to high expectations with 26 goals and 40 assists in 65 games. His scoring exploits were vital in Kelowna as the Rockets spent much of the past season without Rourke Chartier (SJS) and Nick Merkley (ARI) in the lineup. His penchant for physical play could vault him ahead of Steel.

9. Josh Mahura, D, Red Deer Rebels

Much like Benson, Josh Mahura had a tough time this past season, appearing in only two regular season games due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery. It is reminiscent of the experience Morgan Rielly endured during his draft season, when similar circumstances limited him to 17 games. Still, the former Moose Jaw Warrior rearguard was selected early in the first round and has become a stalwart with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While Mahura does not yet possess the same skill set and pedigree as did Rielly, he has been under the watchful eyes of Hockey Canada for some time and has been effective internationally. He was fit enough to appear in 17 postseason games with the Red Deer Rebels, and another four games at the Memorial Cup. He shoots well and moves with speed and good balance. He earned an invitation to the NHL Combine. The 6’, 170-pound Mahura could become an Draft Day surprise in Buffalo.

10. Noah Gregor, C, Moose Jaw Warriors

After a strong first half, where Noah Gregor put forth notable performances in both defending and attacking zones, he especially made scouts take notice with his early season performances in short-handed situations. His production was important in Moose Jaw while star center Brayden Point (TBL) nursed a shoulder injury.

Listed at 6’ and 178 pounds, Gregor is from Beaumont, Alberta. He appeared in all 72 games this past season, scoring 28 goals and adding 45 assists. He was also a late addition to Team Canada for the U18 World Championship in Grand Forks.

Other Notables

Simon Stransky, LW, Prince Albert Raiders
Jordy Stallard, C, Calgary Hitmen
Ty Ronning, RW, Vancouver Giants
Zach Sawchenko, G, Moose Jaw Warriors
Max Lajoie, D, Swift Current Broncos
Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna Rockets
David Quenneville, D, Medicine Hat Tigers
Stuart Skinner, G, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Egor Babenko, RW, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Matt Phillips, C, Victoria Cougars
Patrick Bajkov, RW, Everett Silvertips
Evan Sarthou, G, Tri City Americans
Josh Anderson, D, Prince George Cougars

Total number of WHL players selected at the NHL Draft

2015: 35 (1st Rd: 5)
2014: 37 (1st Rd: 9)
2013: 33 (1st Rd: 8)
2012: 32 (1st Rd: 6)
2011: 33 (1st Rd: 6)
2010: 33 (1st Rd: 5)
2009: 31 (1st Rd: 5)
2008: 37 (1st Rd: 9)
2007: 37 (1st Rd: 9)
2006: 24 (1st Rd: 4)

Follow Glen Erickson on Twitter via @glenerickson51