The main considerations for the NHL draft are the long-term needs of the farm system, and what the organization will need five years from now. Expecting any draft pick — even a first- or second-rounder — to have an immediate impact on the current NHL roster is unrealistic. If you go back and look at your favourite team’s NHL roster or any NHL roster from five years ago, you can see the high turnover rate of players. Generally, a first-round pick will take three seasons before making the NHL club, a second-round pick will take four years and the remaining picks could be five or more years. A long-term approach is needed during the NHL draft and if a prospect happens to make the jump early then that is simply good luck.
The winds of changes are blowing strong in Boston; with a blossoming team, the Bruins’ faithful are getting antsy to win a Stanley Cup. The farm system is almost strong enough to make Boston an annual contender and three more skilled prospects will make all the difference. They have the extra first- and second-round draft picks from the Phil Kessel trade so the cupboard will be full soon.
The first step was drafting centres Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne, Maxime Sauve, Brad Marchand and power forward Jordan Caron. The Bruins could add additional skill up front, but it’s not a priority. The trio of Andrew Bodnarchuk, Yuri Alexandrov and Tommy Cross lead the defence so it would not hurt them to add another couple of skilled defenceman. The Bruins know that if goaltending wins championships then they are on the right track with Tuukka Rask, who has shown he can carry the load. The only other netminder of note is Michael Hutchinson, so another goaltender to groom would be wise. The defence should be the top priority in this year’s draft, but getting the chance at picking either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin would change that.
What’s on the Farm Key Prospects: (C) Zach Hamill, (D) Tommy Cross, (G) Tuukka Rask, (C) Joe Colborne, (C) Brad Marchand Strengths: Centre Weaknesses: Offensive defencemen, elite potential on the wing
Montreal Canadiens | Draft position: 27th overall
Draft Needs: Defence, goaltending
Since 2001, under director of player recruitment and development Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens have done a complete 180 compared to the 1994 to 1999 drafts. Do not discount the prospects they have collected up front, as the Habs have potential to be a solid group. They have a good variety of talent in Tom Pyatt, Aaron Palushaj, Max Pacioretty, Ben Maxwell, Louis LeBlanc, Joonas Nattinen, Danny Kristo and Ryan White so the future has promise. They have some depth on defence with Yannic Weber, David Fischer and Mathieu Carle all showing potential. The Habs will need another goaltender to groom for the long term just in case one of Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak is traded. It certainly would not hurt to add another highly skilled defenceman to the farm system now that P.K. Subban is ready to make the permanent jump to the NHL.
What’s on the Farm Key Prospects: (C) Louis LeBlanc, (LW) Max Pacioretty, (D) PK Subban, (C-W) Ben Maxwell Strengths: Talented depth at forward gives them the opportunity to focus in other areas. Weaknesses: Defence
Ottawa Senators | Draft position: 15th overall
Draft Needs: Skilled forward, goaltender
The Ottawa Senators have had a strong history of drafting and developing prospects. They no longer have the depth of elite talent they once had, but they do have some potential NHL players on this list. This group does have some skill, but the character and grit overshadows that. In the forward ranks they have Jim O’Brien, Cody Bass, Jakob Silverberg, Zach Smith, Derek Grant and Louie Caporusso, but none of them is considered to be a first-line player. The strength is on the defence where things look bright with Jared Cowen, Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Eric Gryba, and Tomas Kudelka. Their goaltending looks solid with Robin Lehner, but it would not be a bad idea to add some depth behind him. Long term the Senators must focus on obtaining offensively skilled forwards they can build the rest of their prospects around over the next few drafts.
What’s on the Farm Key Prospects: (D) Erik Karlsson, (D) Patrick Wiercioch, (D) Brian Lee, (D) Jared Cowen, (G) Robin Lehner Strengths: Defence, solid two-way forwards
Weaknesses: Skilled forwards
Toronto Maple Leafs | Draft position: 3rd round
Draft Needs: Defence
When you consistently trade away your first-round picks and prospects it will come back to haunt you. To the Leafs’ credit they have done a good job acquiring NCAA free agents in Tyler Bozak and Christian Hansen. That has given the younger prospects time to develop and will benefit the organization down the road. Now they do have a few potential NHL players in the mix and the overall depth and offensive talent at the forward positions is promising. The group of Phillipe Paradis, Jimmy Hayes, Kenny Ryan with 2009 picks Nazem Kadri and Jerry D’Amigo are projected as top-nine forwards at their peak. The remaining duo of Dale Mitchell and Chris DiDomenico are projected to be anywhere from third- to fourth-liners. The only defencemen they have in the system of note are Keith Aulie, Jessie Blacker and Juraj Mikus, so the Leafs need an upgrade in talent and depth on the blue line as well. If they can continue to sign prospects out of the NCAA ranks it will hasten the rebuilding process and put less pressure on the young prospects.
What’s on the Farm Key Prospects: (RW) Jimmy Hayes, (C) Phillipe Paradis, (D) Keith Aulie, (C) Nazem Kadri, (RW) Kenny Ryan Strengths: Skill and depth at forward Weaknesses: Defence
Buffalo Sabres | Draft position: 19th overall
Needs: Skilled forwards with size
The Buffalo Sabres have been quietly assembling a fine group of prospects that have character and the ability to play a two-way game. It is up to Kevin Devine and his scouting staff to keep the talent flowing to reduce the stress on management. On the offensive side the future will have to come from Zack Kassian, Luke Adam, Phillipp Gogulla, Tyler Ennis and Nate Gerbe as the offensive talent starts to wane after that. The Sabres will need forwards with a combination of size and skill and adding Kassian and Adam is a great start. The lack of depth within the forward ranks is due to Buffalo focusing on defence. The defence has great talent and depth with Dennis Persson, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Mike Weber, Brayden McNabb, Drew Schiestel and T.J. Brennan. They have Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth in the mix, but they could use another high-end goaltender just in case.
What’s on the Farm Key Prospects: (RW) Zack Kassian, (RW) Tyler Ennis (G) Jhonas Enroth, (D) Dennis Persson, (D) Mike Weber Strengths: Good depth and talent at defence Weaknesses: Forwards with size