Starting in 2009, I began an annual project where I make my own selections in real-time during the NHL Draft--and thus, not knowing where certain players might fall to-- as a way of providing some sort of record when it comes to draft analysis. Lots of people talk about certain players they like and don't like when it comes to the draft. This forces a bit of accountability on me.
The struggle of a very weak draft was real with this one. It started from the very first pick, where I had no clue, and probably went back and forth between three choices a number of times over the course of the year. Beyond that, I just had a hard time finding players that I really liked and felt confident in drafting. A lot of picks felt like I was taking a player because I couldn't come up with a better option, rather than having to decide between two or three players I really liked in that range like some other years. You never know though. We'll see how this group pans out in a few years, but I'm not overly confident.
With that strong vote of confidence, let's get to the picks.
Pick 1- Sam Bennett, F, Kingston(OHL)(Actually selected: 4th overall)
Pick 30-Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College(Actually selected: 36th overall)
Every other year I've done this project, I've felt pretty confident about the first overall pick. Not the case this year. I probably should have just taken Ekblad, which I felt like was the safe pick, but I'm really not a fan of using that first overall pick on a defenseman. I think you've got to swing for the fences and try to get a big-time offensive producer in that spot. Bennett isn't there yet, but I think he could get there some day.
Dylan Larkin and the other two NTDP forwards were still sitting there at 15th, but Kevin Fiala(who went 11th) and Fabbri were both ahead of that group on my list. Size was the knock on Fabbri, but I love his skating, and he's a very smart player. I think he'll be effective, and has slightly higher upside than Larkin.
I'm a big advocate of not taking goalies in the first round, but with Larkin, Tuch, Milano, and Schmaltz all going earlier in the first round, I didn't have anybody on my list graded as a first round draft pick. Based on second hand opinions, I liked what I heard about Ivan Barbashev and was a little surprised he fell. I probably would have picked him if I had actually seen him play. I do really like Demko, and think he's got potential to be a very good goalie some day.
As a sidenote, at one point before the draft, I thought I was going to end up taking like four goalies based on where I had Demko, Brandon Halverson, Zach Nagelvoort, and Chase Perry, who were the top four goalies on my list, but the three others were all taken before I would have picked them.
I sense a theme here. Dougherty and Collins were really close together on my list, and I almost went with Collins at 31, but instead went slightly safer with Dougherty. I thought I was on the higher end of opinions on Collins, and was maybe reaching at 45, but apparently not since he went two picks later. I was actually a little disappointed in taking Glover at 60, even though it was pretty close to where he actually went. I would have waited longer if I had another option in that spot.
Pick 90-Luc Snuggerud, D, Eden Prairie HS(Actually selected: 141st overall)
Tryamkin and Wallmark were two kids that had been passed over in prior drafts, but were extremely impressive at the World Juniors this year. There's KHL concerns with Tryamkin, and Wallmark is small, but both bring some elite things to the table that were worth picks.
Snuggerud ended up slipping a lot at the Draft. He's unproven against quality competition, but I don't believe he was the product of his weak environment. I love the way he brings the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone, and love the way he handles the puck. One of the few Minnesota high school guys I really felt good about.
Here's a case of being less picky the less you see of a player. People over in Finland had serious concerns over Keskitalo's skating ability, and that probably kept him from being picked. I just saw him at the World U18s and thought he played a couple really nice games, so I was willing to take a chance on him with no real strong other options available.
Franklin has come a long ways over the past two seasons since leaving high school, and I think there's still another level he can reach.
Lindo slid a bit throughout the year as the offense just didn't come for him, but he plays hard and isn't afraid to go to dirty areas, which I liked when I saw him play.
Three more guys that weren't picked at all. Hitchcock and Sheehy were two guys that I thought were actually pretty underrated. Hitchcock is smaller, and perhaps some of his production was a product of playing with Dylan Larkin, but I really liked his vision and passing ability. What Sheehy did in the USHL this year was impressive. I wonder if the fact that he consigned himself to being a role player at Minnesota hurt his draft stock at all.
Pick 181-Eddie Eades, D, East Grand Forks HS(Actually selected: Undrafted)
Eades is a project, but I like the odds giving him four or five years to develop better than hoping a middling CHL prospect jumps to the head of the pack in the next 700 days; the point by which he'd have to be signed. Fortunato's size worked heavily against him, but he could become an offensive, puck-moving defenseman. Nazarian was a player that impressed me this year, albeit in a small sample size.