NHL Draft Winners and Losers


With the NHL Draft in the rear-view mirror, teams are hopeful that they didn’t waste valuable assets on players that aren’t going to pan out for them.

Each club hopes to have struck a gold mine and, for some, that may be true. For others, well, they may have found fool’s gold.

Let’s examine the biggest takeaways from this year’s draft class.


The New Jersey Devils were big winners on the draft floor and rightfully so. It’s hard to be a loser with a first overall pick in a draft, (here’s looking at you, Edmonton) but the Devils selected center Jack Hughes with the top choice. Hughes’ creativity with the puck has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane, a welcomed comparison by Devils fans who hope to have secured a franchise centerpiece.

GM Ray Shero also made one of the more ambitious trades of the weekend, landing superstar defenseman PK Subban from the Nashville Predators. The trade gave the Predators cap relief with New Jersey taking all $9 million of Subban’s salary, but the Devils still landed one of the top-20 defensemen in the league for the small price of two players and two second-round picks.


Shero must be trying to prove that the Devils are trying to become consistent contenders which would hopefully sway Taylor Hall to re-sign with the franchise.

The Colorado Avalanche had a successful draft, selecting defenseman Bowen Byram of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants fourth overall. That selection, acquired from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene trade, frees up the club to pursue trade options for fellow defenseman Tyson Barrie more aggressively. Thus freeing up cap space from Barrie’s $5.5 million cap hit, and acquire more secondary scoring.

Byram, along with blossoming star Cale Makar are poised to lock down the top pairing in Colorado for the distant future. With their own draft pick, Colorado selected center Alex Newhook from the Victoria Grizzlies. Newhook, while he may need some time to develop in juniors or in the AHL before making the big club, fills the biggest need for Colorado; a second line scoring center. The drop off from Nathan MacKinnon to Alexander Kerfoot was severe, and the Aves seem to have addressed that issue.

Los Angeles Kings fans had reason to celebrate because of their drafting success. At fifth overall, they selected C Alex Turcotte from the US National Team Development Program. Turcotte played behind phenom Jack Hughes in the program, but still put up 27 goals and 35 assists in that role in 37 games. The Kings hope that he can slot into their lineup right below Anze Kopitar a few years down the road, as he is committed to playing college hockey this coming winter.


The Kings also used the first-rounder that they received from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Jake Muzzin trade to select d-man Tobias Bjornfot at 22nd overall. Bjornfot, a Swedish-born defenseman, was the captain of their gold medal U18 team. His game hopefully will fill the void left from the Jake Muzzin trade once he comes over to North America.

In the beginning of the second round, the Kings selected Arthur Kaliyev at the 33rd overall spot. Kaliyev, who many viewed as a first-round talent, slid until the Kings jumped on him. By that metric, the Kings drafted three first-round talents in this draft with only two first-round selections. Naturally, he must have slid for a reason, but Kaliyev scored 51 goals for the Hamilton Bulldogs last season. 50-goal scorers don’t just grow on trees and the Kings will gladly take that gamble of finding a premier scoring winger for their roster.

The biggest flop in this draft to me has to be the Nashville Predators. They drafted center Philip Tomasino from the Niagara IceDogs 24th overall. Tomasino should add to their center depth down the road, which has been a position of weakness for them since acquiring Kyle Turris who just hasn’t panned out as expected.

GM David Poile tried to make something happen, shipping off PK Subban for defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, along with two second-round picks. The Predators were able to clear all of the cap from Subban’s contract and didn’t have to eat any money, but they gave away a top-20 defenseman in his prime without receiving a blue-chip prospect or a first-rounder in return. The team who acquires the best player normally wins the trade, and this one is a no-brainer that Nashville lost the trade.

The other major loser from this draft was the Ottawa Senators, who sat and watched Colorado select Bowen Byram with their pick and chose defenseman Lassi Thomson at 19th overall. For just over a year of Matt Duchene’s services, the Senators lost out on drafting potentially Bowen Byram, Alex Turcotte, or any of the other top prospects in the draft class. The only reason that Ottawa had a first rounder in the draft was because they subsequently traded Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets for prospects and that first-round pick. They also received a conditional first round pick if Duchene resigns, an outcome that has become less and less of a possibility.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and GM Kyle Dubas, despite working toward extensions for Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen over the weekend, were losers at this draft for the trade they made with the Carolina Hurricanes. Dubas packaged Patrick Marleau’s $6.25 million cap hit with a first and seventh-round pick for Carolina’s sixth-rounder: All in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Kyle Dubas has been handing out first-rounders like candy, giving up this year’s for Jake Muzzin and next year’s to get rid of a bad contract.

Yes, they are cap-strapped and do have prospects in the pipeline like Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, but eventually you need to replenish your prospect pool with top end talent. Also, moving out contracts with such high picks to resign a core group that hasn’t won a playoff series together in three tries is a recipe for failure. Why not try to package that first round pick to acquire a star rather than to retain one of your own? You can even trade the rights of a Kasperi Kapanen while they’re at their height to bring in a proven star to cement your group.

I understand that they had to move Marleau’s contract to keep Kapanen, Johnsson, and Marner on the books, but this move seemed like a big stretch by Kyle Dubas.


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