The Central Division sent five teams to the playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. All eyes were on the draft to see how the teams would plan for the future, but as we know, with any draft, the selections are always a guessing game. Finding the right pick is difficult, primarily since it is based on how they are playing now and how they are projected to play in the future.
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The Coyotes were the second worst team in the NHL this past season, and with the draft lottery, they received the third pick overall in the first round. They chose to take Logan Cooley at third, despite Shane Wright still being available. They traded with San Jose Sharks to move up to the 11th spot to grab Conor Geekie and then took defenseman Maveric Lamoureux at 29. Arizona believes they have found their number one center in Cooley, and if Geekie develops into the player the Coyotes think he can be, then Arizona will have a formidable forward duo on the ice in the not-too-distant future.
The other seven players that were selected the next day in rounds two through seven rounded out Arizona’s plan of going for speed and grit. Artyom Duda, Julian Lutz, Miko Matikka, Jeremy Langlois, Matthew Morden, Maksymilian Szuber, and Adam Zlnka make the Coyotes a better team than they were before. Even if they won’t be playing for them just yet. Arizona needs this type of talent to get themselves out of the bottom of the league. However, despite these players giving hope to the organization and fans alike, the Coyotes will eventually need to stop taking on other teams’ bad contracts. Hopefully, that starts sooner rather than later.
General manager Kyle Davidson found himself getting a Blackhawks team on the verge of disaster. He has been working on getting into a rebuild mode, and putting more prospects in the pipeline is an excellent place to start. Chicago drafted 11 players, taking Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, and Sam Rinzel in the first round. Initially not having any first-round picks, they made a series of trades, including saying goodbye to Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach.
When looking over the list of drafted players, you get an idea of what Chicago was going for: speed. Although drafting two defensemen in the first round was a headscratcher, if they can help with the rebuild that is coming in a few years, Davidson will have had a successful draft. Although to truly rebuild, they will need to say goodbye to players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. However, it will be hard to unload them unless the Blackhawks agree to retain some of their salaries. Therefore, fans will have to hope the drafted players will contribute and not lead to another championship drought.
The 2022 Stanley Cup Champions had just two draft spots this year, so they needed to make the most of it. They had used most of their picks for this draft to get the right parts for their championship team. They would have had two more, but they sent their third and fifth-round picks to the New York Rangers to acquire goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. The Avs added very little to their prospect pool, just a defenseman and a goaltender. In the sixth round, the Avs selected defenseman Christopher Romaine, who will be playing Division One NCAA Hockey for Providence College this fall. With the last pick of the draft, they took goaltender Ivan Zhigalov, playing for the Sherbrooke Phoenix out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs was not what Dallas was expecting. However, having six picks in the draft to look forward to can take the sting out of it just a little, but not much. The Stars were lucky to draft Lian Bichsel in the first round. Fans will have to be patient with this pick. It may be 3-4 years before he will grace the Stars’ lineup. However, if he develops into the player the front office and scouts think he can be, Dallas will have a cornerstone defenseman in their future. They also took three other defensemen, a goalie, and a forward on the draft’s second day. While it might be strange to see them take four defensemen in the draft, just remember that in recent drafts, they have leaned more toward taking forwards.
Minnesota was the second-best team in the Central behind the Avs. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round to the St. Louis Blues. Though the draft pics selected in this draft will not play for at least a few seasons, a few of them will undoubtedly help the Wild in future playoff runs. The Wild selected eight players at the draft, including six forwards and two defensemen.
Minnesota had two selections in the first round, taking forwards Liam Ohgren and Danila Yurov. They are similar players, but Yurov is considered to have a higher upside. Both are projected to be NHL players and could be playing for the Wild within a few years. The Wild had a need at the center position, and they drafted Hunter Haight in the second round and Servac Petrovsky in the sixth round. These two players will take a while to develop and might have a longer path to the NHL.
Nashville had the misfortune of playing against the Avs in round one, getting swept 4-0 by Colorado. The Preds struggled to find the net, and choosing Joakim Kemell in the first round, will be a future solution to the problem. Despite his small size, he is able to find the net. He was projected to go as high as the top 10, so it might be considered a steal for Nashville. In addition, they added another excellent player who can score in center Adam Ingram. However, the Predators have had quite a few holes in their blueline, and while they drafted two defensemen, they happened in later rounds. Several defensemen were available when choosing their 17th pick, but going with a forward is either brilliant or ignorant of their need at defense.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are another team to experience losing at the hands of the Avalanche, although they at least made it past the first round and won two games against them. They performed slightly better at the drat, choosing three great high-end picks in Jimmy Snuggerud, Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, and Michael Buchinger. After Buchinger, they picked up several more left defensemen. Perhaps they are hoping at least one of them will pan out and make it to the NHL on a permanent basis. There are several players they could have taken to help their prospect pool, but they appeared to be looking for certain qualities or characteristics. Fans hope they have found them and will improve the team in the future.
The Jets had the 14th worst record in the league, finishing sixth in the Central Division. At draft time, the Jets had seven selections to make. They took forward Rutger McGroarty and center Brad Lambert in the first round. Both have great skill, but there is some concern about Lambert’s ability to show up on a consistent basis. Hopefully, that will be worked on before he makes it to the Jets’ lineup.
On the second day of the draft, they took two defensemen, two centers, and a goalie. Elias Salomonsson and Danil Zhilkin might prove to be valuable assets in a few seasons. Salomonsson is a strong skater and has a great shot, he’ll need to work on his offensive ability a little more, but he’ll prove to be good in the Jets’ lineup. Zhilkin is a skilled player but will need to work on his pace and play off the puck.
Best Pick: Danila Yurov
Yurov is a top-ten talent that fell in the draft more than likely because he is Russian and currently plays in the KHL. With the turmoil going on in the world, some teams shied away from Russian players overall. However, the Wild were able to get him late in the first, and though he is not much of a physical player, he has excellent puck handling, and many believe he will be a top-six winger in the NHL.
Worst Pick: Maverick Lamoureux
While he is not a bad player or skater, he was chosen earlier than he should have been. He is a larger player, which is the biggest draw for him now. If he can make it to the NHL, he will likely be on the third pairing. Lamoureux will be a work in progress, and while he has a great reach, fans will be crossing their fingers that he will improve on his offensive game.
Sleeper Pick: Conor Geekie
Geekie’s skating may not be the best at the moment; if he can improve in that area while still working on what makes him a great player, Arizona will have a great player. He has great stick handling and a great shot. It is obvious why Arizona took him, and he will add needed depth at center. He might be even better than projected if the Coyotes work with him on those skills that detract from his play.
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