Well, NHL Entry Draft time is upon us…I can hardly believe that I will be flying to Buffalo, N.Y. in the morning and that by this time Friday night, Bruins fans will know who the next big hopeful will be.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but rather than write an excessively long post here, I’ll take the advice of a recent blog critic who didn’t like the length of my Bruins draft strategy piece and break it down for you in about 15 minutes. He’s out of luck on the bolded names, though- sorry pal. As Kenny Loggins once crooned- I’ll meet you halfway. I’m sharing my thoughts on where the Bruins are heading into the draft, and where I think they’re going, and not just in round 1. Keep in mind this is just one person’s opinion, and lots of things can happen between now and pick No. 14 in the First Niagara Center.
Here’s the audio:
I am not going to weigh in on internet rumors surrounding Jimmy Vesey. Look, until he either signs with the Buffalo Sabres or he doesn’t and becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15, I’m going to do my level best to stay above the fray. Because of my relationship with him and members of his family going back to his prep school days, that’s precisely *why* I’m not going to get into the middle of what is flying around. I give full credit to the Sabres for stepping up and getting his rights- that puts them in the driver’s seat, at least for the next some-odd 60 days, and Tim Murray will either convince him to forego the chance to pick his destination, or Vesey will stay the course. My thinking- and it’s just my own intuition here- is that he’s come a full four years since Nashville drafted him in Pittsburgh. What is less than two months more at this point? But if Murray and Sabres owner Terry Pegula (and don’t forget Jack Eichel) make a convincing enough pitch, there’s not much stopping him from ending the soap opera.
But, if you’re looking for me to repeat things flying around various message boards- that’s not happening.
Now, onto the mock draft:
1- Toronto- Auston Matthews, C; The Leafs get their man- Arizona native’s the wire-to-wire No. 1 overall selection and with good reason.
2- Winnipeg- Patrik Laine, LW; The first big winners of the NHL’s new lotto jackpot system cash in with this pure shooter who turns goal scoring into an art form.
3- Columbus- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW; GM Jarmo Kekalainen pounces on this Finnish horse who isn’t quite the threat his countryman is, but isn’t that far off, either.
4. Edmonton- Matt Tkachuk, LW; On a team whose GM once saw firsthand what Milan Lucic could do, the Oilers grab a high-end power forward with serious bloodlines.
5- Vancouver- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW; The Canucks need help everywhere, so Jim Benning can’t go wrong here with as complete a two-way threat as there is in this class.
6- Calgary- Logan Brown, C; Described by my pal Reed Duthie (who calls Hamilton Bulldogs games) as an “aircraft carrier with feet”, this massive center is also highly skilled, meaning- he’s off the board in the blink of an eye.
7- Arizona- Olli Juolevi, D; Is this Finnish version of the old Val Kilmer movie ‘Real Genius’ the first defender off the board in Buffalo? Very possible.
8.- Buffalo- Jakob Chychrun, D; After making a splash with the Vesey trade, the Sabres fire more shots across the bow, picking up this big name at 8, but his hockey IQ has raised some doubts.
9- Montreal- Alex Nylander, RW; The Canadiens seek skill and scoring, so why not grab the player who might have absolutely been the most talented player in the OHL draft class, even if he doesn’t always bring it.
10- Colorado- Mikhail Sergachev, D; The Avalanche land a big talent that has scouts divided on his overall defensive awareness, but may be at the top end of the skill factor in the OHL.
11- New Jersey- Tyson Jost, LW-C; Ray Shero blinks- he can’t believe Jost is on the board here, and after landing Pavel Zacha a year ago, grabs another potential elite forward bound for North Dakota in the spirit of one Zach Parise 13 years ago.
12- Ottawa- Michael McLeod C; The Senators are betting that McLeod’s blend of size, skating and smarts propels him to stardom up the middle, even with questions about his NHL upside.
13- Carolina- Clayton Keller, C; Small but dynamic center has major league potential as an uber-dangerous playmaker.
14- Boston- Dante Fabbro, D; Knowing what the Bruins tend to value in their players and what they need at this stage, this defender is right up their alley at 14.
15- Minnesota- Luke Kunin, C; St. Louis native did a great job as a freshman on a poor team- the sky’s the limit and the Wild can’t resist.
16- Detroit- Charlie McAvoy, D; A player who could just as easily go to Boston two picks earlier, if he’s still on the board here the Wings pounce.
17- Nashville- Jake Bean, D; The Predators know Bean has a high-end skill set and grab him with outstanding value at 17 where others had him projected inside the top-10.
18- Philadelphia- Kieffer Bellows, LW; Passed up by his hometown Wild, Bellows doesn’t have much time to dwell on it & makes sense as a fit in Philly with his deadly release and penchant for filling the net.
19- NY Islanders- Riley Tufte, RW; Big, massive, skates well, tremendous long-term promise and the Isles struck gold with Brock Nelson in Minnesota before, so why not take a big payoff project here?
20- Arizona via NYR- Julien Gauthier, RW Major concerns about hockey sense and a tepid second half after tearing it up early in the season mean that the Val d’Or standout slides, but he’s solid value here.
21- Carolina via LAK- Max Jones, LW; Speedy power forward has some nasty play that has gone over the line, but if the Hurricanes can harness that raw aggression- he could be one of those role guys you win with.
22- Winnipeg via CHI- Logan Stanley, D; When you pick Laine at 2, you can afford to take on more of a project player with your bonus 1st-rounder, and with Stanley’s size, skating and snarl- he looks like a solid bet to play even if he tops out as a mid-tier shutdown D.
23- Florida-German Rubtsov, C; The Russian forward in class is someone worth jumping on in the early 20’s and Dale Tallon does just that.
24- Anaheim-Tage Thompson, RW; Huge but raw with an upside that some in the NHL scouting community feels is too legit to quit, the UConn Husky becomes a part of the West Coast quack attack.
25- Dallas- Dennis Cholowski, D; It sure looks like the late-surging BCHL two-way defender is bound to land in the 1st round, and he looks like a good fit for the resurgent Stars under Jim Nill.
26- Washington- Pascal Laberge, C; Speedy and skilled, the Capitals need to find secondary scoring behind Ovechkin and Backstrom- this Victoriaville Tigre brings that in spades.
27- Tampa Bay- Brett Howden, C; Some say he looks a lot like his older brother, but this Howden seems to have more killer instinct and finish around the net. Stevie Y. will take it.
28- St. Louis- Lucas Johansen, D; With Kevin Shattenkirk likely to leave via trade, the Blues will look to infuse more offensive talent and potential with this latest product of the Kelowna D machine.
29- Boston via SJS- Markus Niemelainen, D; The B’s could go with a forward with their second pick like a surprise 1st-rounder in Wade Allison here, but if they add another 6-5 D who can really skate, this Finn will complement the right-shooting Brandon Carlo nicely at some point.
30- Anaheim via Toronto via PIT- Boris Katchouk, LW; Anaheim grabbed the big RW earlier, now they get the gritty, in-your-face and underrated Soo Greyhounds scorer at the end of the round after giving up Frederik Andersen to the Leafs. (Thanks to the readers who pointed out my mistake)
Alex DeBrincat drops out of the 1st round, but he won’t last long in the 2nd.
Okay- that’s it. I’m off to Buffalo.
Reminder- if you want breaking NHL draft news, picks, analysis and hot takes (or is it “taeks?”) give me a follow on Twitter: @kluedeke29 I might be able to get some Periscope action going as well, so look for that.
Will be on TSN 690 with my Red Line Report boss, Kyle Woodlief, with host Tony Marinaro this Friday, June 24, from 11-noon (Eastern) live from First Niagara Center to talk draft, draft and nothing but draft.
Will do some deeper dives on the draft at the blog in the coming days, but this is pretty much it until the big event, and even then- will just hit the wave tops, but keep checking in- I might have some Easter Eggs and surprises for you.