Goaltender Brian Elliott heads to Calgary! Photo: Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Wow. That took FOREVER. Well, regardless of how long it took, night one of the 2016 NHL draft is in the books. Between the selections, trades, and inevitable booing of Gary Bettman, it made for fabulous entertainment. From the almost 4 hour event, there were some clear winners and losers in my mind.
Big Winners: The Calgary Flames
Holy smokes, the Flames performed highway robbery, trading their second round pick in this year’s draft as well as a conditional 2018 pick to St. Louis in exchange for goaltender Brian Elliott. The Flames’ goaltending this season was atrocious, and in one night it got significantly better. To me, the Flames look like a playoff team next year with the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, and now Brian Elliott. Additionally, the Flames selected Matthew Tkachuk 6th overall, and while he probably will not contribute to the Flames next season, he appears to be someone who could contribute to that organization in the near future. A great night for Brian Burke and company.
Winners: The Edmonton Oilers
Even when they lose, they win… Most people around the NHL expected the first three picks to be Matthews, Laine, and Puljujarvi (in that order). However, the Blue Jackets decided to select Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall, leaving Jesse Puljujarvi, who had drawn comparisons to former Finnish Oiler great Jarri Kurri, to fall right into Edmonton’s lap. Now, instead of playing on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno, he gets to play alongside Connor McDavid, who could probably make me a 30 goal scorer. With this addition, it will be interesting to see what they do with their other forwards, and more specifically Nail Yakupov.
Winners: The Arizona Coyotes
After selecting talented American forward Clayton Keller with their first pick in the first round, they acquired the 16th pick from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Pavel Datsyuk! Oh my goodness! Well… they got Datsyuk’s contract, as Datsyuk has committed to playing in Russia next season. The Coyotes picked up his contract, as they needed more committed cap in order to reach the cap floor, a problem I wish the Capitals had. With that 16th overall pick, the Coyotes selected talented blueliner Jakob Chychrun, who will soon be making contributions to that organization already loaded with young talent. 27 year old general manager John Chayka had a great first draft.
Winners: The Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes already had an embarrassment of riches on defense, with the likes of Justin Faulk, Jacob Slavin, and Noah Hanifin, so going out and drafting Jake Bean just made them that much richer (and embarrassed?). If that weren’t enough, they traded back into the first round and got big forward Julien Gautier, a desperately needed forward for a team that struggled to score this season. GM Ron Francis continues to give Carolina a reason not to relocate, and with a deep blueline built for the future, Francis went out and got a big bodied forward with a tremendous amount of skill as well.
Winner: AMERICA! 12 PICKS BABY! USA HOCKEY IS DO OR DIE!
The Leafs and the Jets can be considered winners as well, having selected generational talent like Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but these picks were pretty obvious. I tried to stick to the teams that did the most in this draft as my winners. On the flipside, let’s check out the losers
Losers: The Vancouver Canucks
Nothing against their pick Olli Juolevi, who has great offensive skill, but for a team that is rebuilding, regardless of what their clueless GM Jim Benning tells anyone, they easily could have moved down and got their guy in addition to several assets. This is a team that did not move pending free agents Dan Hamhuis and Jannik Hansen at the deadline (one report said that the Canucks rejected the same package for Dan Hamhuis from the Stars that they eventually gave Calgary for Kris Russell, which included Jyrki Jokkipakka and a conditional 2nd round pick which could become a first in this year’s draft if the Stars had made the conference finals). While the Canucks needed a defenseman, and addressed a need with this pick, I believe they could have and should have traded down in order to collect assets, and potentially get Juolevi at the pick they could have traded for.
Losers: The Saint Louis Blues
Brian Elliot stole games for the Blues in the playoffs, and the reward he gets is a trade to Calgary? Good for him, but what on earth are the Blues thinking? Jake Allen is an excellent goaltender, and Brian Elliot’s contract does expire at the end of this season, but to only get a second round pick and conditional 2018 pick for one of the better goalies in the league this season? Inexcusable. In addition to this, the Blues gave up their third round pick in this year’s draft to move up 3 spots (good work GMBM for pulling that one-off). Hopefully, the Caps can flip that pick for Nail Yakupov, but we’ll see what happens.
Loser: My Sleep
Between Gary Bettman being mercilessly booed every time he attempts to say anything, to every team saying the same thing before making picks, the draft took WAY TOO LONG, and I did not get a lot of sleep as a result. At the GM meetings next year, this needs to be addressed. Teams could congratulate the Stanley Cup Champions (vomit) and say hi to their fans in the intro video that is played in the arena, and not take up any more time. Seriously, NHL, we gotta do something about this.
Day two should be thrilling, as there are still some really solid prospects on the board, plus more trades to be had. Will Ben Bishop get dealt? What will the Caps do? Will Jim Benning do more stupid stuff? Day 2 of the draft begins at 10AM on NHL Network.
By Matthew Jacobson