Who do you like?
Who did well?
Who ‘won’ the 2017 NHL Draft?
The real answer to these questions is “I don’t know” and we won’t know for a few years, but coming off a fascinating weekend in Chicago, we all have our favourites. These are picks at which we find ourselves nodding approvingly, based on either the brains or bravado behind them.
Before we start focusing on next years’ crop of prospects, how about one more list?
You sick of lists yet?
Well, this one’s a little different.
These are my favourite picks from each round of the draft. These selections made me raise my eyebrow, tilt my head to the side and perform what I like to call “the draft nod” as if to say “well done, sir.”
Nick Suzuki & Erik Brannstrom, Vegas Golden Knights.
In the first round, I’m split because I love what Vegas did with its first-round selections, specifically these two. Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks was a tap-in at No. 6, but grabbing Owen Sound centre Nick Suzuki with the 13th pick and puck-moving defenceman Erik Brannstrom from HV71 at No. 15 was just plain thievery. Suzuki can play in all situations, puts up points and is usually the smartest player on the ice. Brannstrom is a new-age defender who is able to move the puck efficiently, join the rush and rack up points.
Conor Timmins, Colorado Avalanche.
For me, Conor Timmins is a first-rounder all day and all night, but he slipped into the second round. Good on Joe Sakic to recognize that the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman was not going to last deep into the round and pounced. Timmins worked on his skating with renowned instructor Dawn Braid and his fast-twitch muscle reaction — plus his overall athleticism — with track coach Andre Metivier and it has paid off. The Greyhounds man is a point-producing defender who has the makings of a longtime NHL pro. Between Timmins and Cale Makar, the Avalanche did their organization’s blue line depth a world of good in this draft.
Michael DiPietro, Vancouver Canucks.
DiPietro is one of the most exciting goaltenders in his draft class to watch. He battles on every puck. He’s not the biggest goalie in the draft, but that’s never been an issue at any level for him, as we saw at the Memorial Cup where he led his Windsor Spitfires to the championship. And with all due respect to Dylan Strome, I thought DiPietro should have been named tournament MVP.
Funny story: When one team at the NHL combine told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small,” he fired back with “Well, I guess you have a problem with winning then.” How do you not like that?
Alexey Torpochenko, St. Louis Blues.
Torpochenko has the size and the skills, but can he put it all together? That’s the gamble. If he does, look out because the Blues just stole one.
Tyler Steenbergen, Arizona Coyotes.
After going through the draft last year and not getting selected, Steenbergen responded with a 51-goal campaign, improved his skating and overall speed, and almost led the Swift Current Broncos to a seven-game upset of the highly favoured Regina Pats.
D’Artagnan Joly, Calgary Flames.
His brother (well, one of his six brothers) Michael was a big scorer in the QMJHL and the Flames are hoping for some of that to rub off on the Baie-Comeau Drakkar winger to go along with his power-forward frame. Make no mistake about it, this player is still raw but the potential is there.
Ivan Chekhovich, San Jose Sharks.
Another player from Baie-Comeau, Chekhovich is a sneaky offensive player who led his team in scoring and played at just shy of a point-per-game pace. I’m surprised he fell to the last round of the draft.