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Winners and losers of the 2024 NHL Draft: Minnesota impresses while Philadelphia falls short

Winners and losers of the 2024 NHL Draft: Minnesota impresses while Philadelphia falls short
Winners and losers of the 2024 NHL Draft: Minnesota impresses while Philadelphia falls short

Welcome to my complete review of the 2024 NHL Draft classes of all 32 teams, including thoughts on almost all of the 225 prospects selected.

This annual year-end analysis follows a season of travel and countless viewings and conversations with coaches, managers, scouts, agents and players. It’s meant to be your one-stop shop analysis of your team’s picks.

This work is my view of how each team’s scouting department fared compared to the selections they had, carefully considering my own evaluations of the prospects but also each player’s consensus expected draft range and statistical profile.

This is not an evaluation of the total value that each club got out of its picks, but rather an examination relative to where they picked and the number of selections they had. Teams with more picks (or higher picks on average) are not guaranteed high grades, just as teams with fewer picks (or lower picks on average) are not guaranteed poor ones. Trades also are not considered, with the focus exclusively on the picks themselves.

The goal is for this to be the most thorough draft review available anywhere.

As always, the ranking of all 32 draft classes is sorted into the following tiers for an added layer of context:

• Winners: Teams I believe won out over their competition with consistent, sleuth, home-run-level selections relative to where they picked.
Overtime winners: Teams I believe did well with where they were slotted, even if they might not have picked the exact player(s) I would have.
Overtime losers: Teams I believe could have done better but might, in time, be happy with their pick(s) regardless.
Losers: Teams I believe will regret taking the player(s) they chose.

For more information on these players, here’s my full 2024 NHL Draft package, which featured 143 scouting reports this year:


Winners

San Jose Sharks

I liked what the Sharks did on Day 1 to move up and grab Sam Dickinson at No. 11, after taking Macklin Celebrini at No. 1. Dickinson immediately becomes their top defensive prospect and fills a glaring need within their pool.

They started off Day 2 by picking my top-ranked available player in Russian winger Yegor Chernyshov, who oddly enough fell after a mediocre finish in the MHL and didn’t participate in Gold Star’s camp due to a severe sunburn.

I loved the Leo Sahlin Wallenius pick in the second half of the second round. If Dickinson became their top defensive prospect, then Sahlin Wallenius, who was ranked in my first round, became their third-ranked defensive prospect after Dickinson and Shakir Mukhamadullin. Sahlin Wallenius is one of the better-skating defensemen in the draft (like Dickinson), so they’re clearly prioritizing adding mobility to their pool.

Even the Carson Wetsch pick in the third round was about where I had him. Wetsch is an athlete and a worker who projects as a potential fourth-liner and forechecker. That’s a fine player to take at No. 82.

I spent a fair amount of time watching Christian Kirsch this season, and while I’m not a goalie expert, I felt he had plenty of the tools you’d look for. He’s excellent one-on-one, his habits (sealing posts, covering his five-hole) are where you want them, and he’s strong down low, with active feet and a good stick.

They kept making picks I liked, including in the fifth round with Colton Roberts at No. 131, one of only remaining players on my board (No. 91). Roberts is a strong athlete with a pro build who plays a very competitive, hard game built around a chip on his shoulder and his strong skating. His reads and decision-making need buttoning up, and come with some mistakes, but he makes a good first pass and, with more reps, I could see him becoming organizational depth or a solid AHL defenseman.

I didn’t mind the Nate Misskey pick in the fifth round, either. Misskey didn’t make my top 10 overagers list but he was one of the final cuts for it. He has some pro tools and had a positive year in his development in Victoria even after missing time due to injury.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks added one of the most skilled players in the draft in Beckett Sennecke at No. 3, and while he wouldn’t have been my pick there, he also fills a right-shot winger hole within their pool. I liked the decision to move up and grab Stian Solberg, who was my No. 7 defensive prospect and the top-ranked one outside the big group of six in this draft. He’s going to be a solid second-pairing defenseman and he’s a natural potential partner for someone such as Pavel Mintyukov or Olen Zellweger.

I liked their start on Day 2, too, adding one of the top-remaining centers on the board in Lucas Pettersson, a very heady and well-rounded player who teams universally liked.

I was not the least-bit surprised when the Ducks took Maxim Masse. They’ve gone to the Q consistently, they like well-rounded players, and I think the conversation around a perceived lack of pace in Masse’s game took on a bit of a life of its own and pushed his consensus ranking lower than it belonged. He was a late-first/early second-rounder for me, so to get him at the start of the third round is good business. I won’t be surprised if he’s one of the small number of third-rounders to make it from this class.

The same goes for their fourth-round selection of Alexandre Blais, who was very productive in the Q the last two years (he finished sixth in scoring with 84 points and second in assists with 60) but is a small winger who doesn’t get to the inside a ton.

Ethan Procyszyn was an honorable mention on my list, but I can see the appeal of him in the third round as well, even if it wasn’t my favorite pick. He’s a worker who might be a fourth-liner someday.

I liked the Tarin Smith pick with their third third-rounder. He’s still very early in his development, but showed some quality in stretches this season as a young defenseman with Everett (albeit inconsistently).

Minnesota Wild

The Wild killed it.

I thought the Zeev Buium pick at No. 12 was one of the best of the draft, and I liked the Ryder Ritchie pick with their first selection of Day 2.

Buium was my No. 4-ranked prospect and No. 2-ranked defenseman, and I gave Ritchie a late-first rating. Ritchie is a crafty, nimble-skating winger who I think has an opportunity to post 90 to 100 points in the WHL next season. We all know the Wild dropped the ball on the Charlie Stramel pick a year ago, but their staff does a good job by and large.

There wasn’t a better player left on the board than Aron Kiviharju when they took him at No. 122. His lost season to knee surgery, his height (5-foot-9) and a-little-slow profile resulted in his precipitous fall, but Kiviharju is still one of the smartest hockey players in this age group and there were guys taken in front of him in the fourth round who have no chance to play at the top of their age group, let alone in the NHL. Kiviharju, whether he makes it or not, might be Finland’s No. 1 defenseman at the upcoming world juniors.

Even Sebastian Soini at No. 140 felt like one of the better players left, and he was a kid I would have considered there. Soini’s an interesting one, as a teenager who played a lot of pro hockey this year but surprisingly was cut by the Finnish U18 team (there were lots of folks around Finland who thought he should have been on that team, including some of his teammates).

Calgary Flames

I liked the Flames’ start to the draft. They clearly prioritized skill with their two first-rounders, Zayne Parekh and Matvei Gridin, who add something to their pool that they didn’t have. Parekh was my No. 5-ranked prospect and I believe he has star potential.

But the Andrew Basha pick with their first of two second-rounders felt like a hit to me as well (it was also a great moment for a local Calgary kid and his family). Basha is a skilled, smart and competitive player who I think has middle-six, PP2 upside if developed properly.

Jacob Battaglia was a bit of a departure from those other three, late in the second round, but he’s got skill and size, and his stock ran hot in the second half of the season. The question there is with his feet. I know he’s working hard at it with Dawn Braid, but he’s going to have to pick up a step or two to maximize the rest of his tools. If he can, he’s got bottom-six, secondary-scoring (he can shoot it) upside.

I was particularly fond of the selection of Henry Mews in the third round. He was viewed as a first-rounder coming into this season and I held him in the late 20s, even after he struggled a little bit with his identity this season. Mews looks a lot like Hunter Brzustewicz, Etienne Morin and others, and those guys aren’t all going to make it, but I think one or two of them could, and if they do, they will play the game with a modern tilt.

I’m not sure what Luke Misa will be at the next level. He is a small center whose game skews towards playmaking, but he hasn’t scored nearly as much as people have wanted to him. He’s one of the best skaters in the draft and he got to the inside more this year, and I gave him a third-round grade as a result. He’s got a chance, and if you can find guys with a chance or a tool that could carry them, targeting those guys in the fifth round makes plenty of sense.

I thought Hunter Laing was one of the more interesting prospects left in the sixth round. He was an honorable mention on my list as a 6-foot-5 center who showed some soft skill in a depth role on a deep Prince George team at forward. I think there’s more than meets the eye there and that he’s a worthwhile project.

Chicago Blackhawks

After making a lot of picks over the last couple of drafts, the Blackhawks now clearly have moved from a quantity to quality approach and I think it paid off on Day 1. I thought they got the best defensive prospect in the draft at No. 2 with Artyom Levshunov, and they were the only team to make three first-round picks, trading up twice to grab Sacha Boisvert and Marek Vanacker, two players I’m high on and who fit in within the identity they covet — while also looking different than Frank Nazar or Oliver Moore.

They like speed, too, eh? It came as no surprise to me, or anyone who has been paying attention to the players they’ve drafted over the years, when they took John Mustard, AJ Spellacy and Jack Pridham, three of the best skaters and fastest players in the class, all in the third round. Mustard gets after it and puts defensemen on their heels, and I think he’s got a chance to become an up-tempo NHLer who can play up and down a lineup in time. Spellacy is a physical, imposing, big, strong, athletic kid who is very raw but who could make an excellent fourth-liner someday. And Pridham is another great athlete.

The Blackhawks don’t have the fastest team in the NHL right now, but they have the fastest prospect pool in hockey by a wide margin. Another strong draft for that group.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal had the best Day 1 at the draft, and if both Ivan Demidov (my No. 2-ranked prospect) and Michael Hage (my No. 15-ranked prospect) hit like I think they can, that it could change the upside of the Habs as a team. I think Demidov has lead-a-team-in-scoring upside and Hage has a legit path to becoming a top-six player.

I’m not going to criticize the Aatos Koivu pick. He impressed a lot of people this year, he plays the game the right way, he’s got some quality (including a good wrister), and it’s a great story for him and his family. Koivu was one of the final cuts from my top 100 but he was going to be a third-rounder, so if the Habs liked him at No. 70, I can get on board with it.

The Logan Sawyer pick in the third round is an interesting one. He was one of the last cuts at forward from my top 100 but he’s 6-foot-1 with a lot of skill and he scored a bunch in the AJHL and BCHL with Brooks this season. He also was good at the World Jr. A Challenge and is going to a good Providence program, where he’ll be well-coached. He’s got some tools in the offensive zone but an unconventional stride was often the talking point with him (his knees can knock and splay out).

I thought they got a little cute with some of their late picks, but overager Tyler Thorpe was worth a pick where they took him in the fifth round. He’s a solid player.

Their Day 1 made them winners.

Overtime winners

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes traded their first-round pick, but they got a first-round player with the second pick of the second round in defenseman Dominik Badinka, who I believe has top-six upside in the NHL.

The Nikita Artamonov pick later in the second round was extremely on-brand for a Canes team that hasn’t shied away from taking Russians. Artamonov is a smart, well-rounded forward who doesn’t have a dynamic trait, per se, but who was a good contributor in the KHL this season.

The Noel Fransen pick, early in the third, also was on-brand. Fransen ranked almost exactly there for me and he is one of the more talented defensemen in the class after the big boys. I saw him make some very high-end skill plays off the line this year. The Canes always prioritize offense, and he’s a typical pick for them.

So too was Oskar Vuollet, who at No. 133 was pretty clearly one of the more talented skaters, handlers and shooters in the draft. Vuollet popped whenever I watched him against his peers the last two seasons, but didn’t get the national team exposure of others Swedes because of his late birthday. He’s got legit skill for a fifth-round pick.

I mocked Justin Poirier to Carolina, as well, only reinforcing how predictable they are (and how aligned they continue to be with my list). Poirier put the puck in the net at an elite level in the Q this year, and while he’s going to have to continue to prove that at the pro level as a 5-foot-8 winger, he was a no-brainer in the fifth round.

Russian defenseman Timur Kol at No. 168 was an equally predictable pick. Kol was just weeks away from 2025 eligibility and played well in the second-tier VHL in Russia this year. Below-average overall skating and an immature defensive game that lacks physicality and at times sense kept him off my list, but some believe that with reps and maturity, there’s something there — and he’s 6-foot-3.

They have a clear vision and they stick to it on the amateur side in Carolina. I thought about putting them in the winners category.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets clearly got their guy on Day 1 in Cayden Lindstrom, whose closest comp might be … Adam Fantilli.

I liked the Charlie Elick pick to start Day 2. He’s a rangy, extremely athletic, strong-skating, physical defender who offers something different to guys such as Denton Mateychuk.

I didn’t view goaltender Evan Gardner as a second-rounder, but there was a run on goalies there and I can understand the desire to hop on him after his strong rookie season in Saskatoon, even if the sample size was small.

I’ve got a lot of time for Luca Marrelli, who many around the OHL believed was a second-rounder. He was very productive this season and did it by playing a smart, heady game, by and large.

Tanner Henricks is an interesting bet at No. 101. His statistical profile kept him off my list but every time I watched him with Lincoln or at the Chipotle All-American Game, I was always struck by two things: How balanced his skating posture is and how he snaps his outlets around. He’s got a pro frame and mobility, and that’s a starting point.

Seattle Kraken

The Kraken have gone to the CHL a ton in their infancy, and that trend continued, as they used their first four picks on CHLers. I thought they should have targeted a defenseman at No. 8, but I still liked the Berkly Catton selection (he ranked No. 8 on my list).

Julius Miettinen, Nathan Villeneuve and Alexis Bernier all have NHL merits. Villeneuve has fourth-liner written all over him, or AHL call-up at minimum, once his game matures. Miettinen is a solid center with some skill who could become a third-liner. Bernier impressed me and others in the second half and into the combine on a Baie Comeau team that played until the final day of the QMJHL season. He’s a pro-sized, athletic defenseman who could become be a third-pairing option with continued development.

Though Ollie Josephson finished as an honorable mention, just outside of my top 100, pick No. 105 felt about right for him. He might not have the skill to get there but he’s got some pro tools, habits and work ethic, and he could become a solid AHLer who gives himself a chance to be a fourth-liner.

Clarke Caswell has a long way to go to be an NHLer but he was one of my best players available on my list when they drafted him at No. 141 (he slotted No. 77 on my list). Caswell is one of the better passers in the draft and plays a slippery, crafty game built around his agility and finesse. I want to see him get to the inside more, but he’s interesting.

Jakub Fibigr is a B-minus or C-plus prospect and was one of my honorable mentions, so I even liked that selection in the seventh round. He’s a summer birthday who played a big role for the Steelheads, often on their top power play and top pairing. I’m not sure what he’ll be as a pro, but he’s a good junior.

I’m lower on goaltender Kim Saarinen than most, but the third-round pick wasn’t ridiculous, ether.

New York Islanders

I liked their draft. Cole Eiserman was pretty clearly the highest-upside player available at No. 20, and I think that’s a sleuth range to grab him in, even if he comes with some warts (his premium asset is also of a higher grade there than anyone else’s).

They then took Jesse Pulkkinen, a towering overaged defenseman with surprising skill and a presence about him, and Kamil Bednarik, a multi-tool, versatile winger, basically where I had them, in the 50s and 60s.

Of the two goalies they took in Rounds 4 and 5, I’m actually higher on the second of them, the towering Marcus Gidlof. He’s raw but he’s got a lot of the tools you look for in a huge goalie.

Canadian defenseman Xavier Veilleux, their sixth-rounder out of Muskegon, has some backers and is a fine prospect (and Harvard commit) even if I could never get there on ranking him.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks didn’t make their first pick until the end of Round 3 at No. 93 but I liked what they did on Day 2.

I had Melvin Fernstrom 40 spots higher at No. 53. He flashed a lot of skill in the J20 level this season, he’s got good size and he can shoot it, and while his skating can be a little hurried at times, I think he gets around the ice well. He’s got a decent shell to work with.

I was high early on Riley Patterson (they took him No. 125 and he was No. 67 on my list) and stayed high on him this year. He’s got legitimate skill, he can skate, he was owed more on the stat sheet in the first half, and then the points started to fall late in the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a 90-point season in the O next year.

Anthony Romani, who, they drafted at No. 162, was my top-ranked overager, slotting immediately after Patterson on my list at No. 68. He finished second in the OHL in scoring with 111 points this year and even more impressive than that is how much of his production has been at five-on-five the last two years. Average size and tools gave teams pause, but he knows where to be in the offensive zone and you can’t go wrong with him where they got him.

I wouldn’t expect Parker Alcos or Basile Sansonnens to get pro deals in North America, even if they hit some checkpoints, but the other three picks were solid.

Florida Panthers

The champs didn’t pick until No. 58, but I liked what they did. That started by moving up to grab Linus Eriksson, a smart, athletic, well-rounded Swedish center who ranked in front of where they took him on my board. He showed well against pro competition and his peers this season, wearing the “C” for the national team.

I liked their third- and fourth-round picks. Russian defenseman Matvei Shuravin isn’t a sexy pick but he’s got a path to a third-pairing depth role and he was No. 67 on my list (they picked him at No. 97). Simon Zether, whom they got at No. 129, was No. 46 on my list. I think older birthday Euros who don’t get to play at U18 worlds in their draft year often fly under the radar because they aren’t scouted as heavily as older CHL/USHLers. Zether needs to play with more pace but has a lot of other redeeming tools, and he’s a center with size.

Washington Capitals

Between Andrew Cristall a year ago and Terik Parascak and Cole Hutson to start their draft this year, the Capitals have started to show that they’re unafraid to take players who look and play a little bit outside of convention. Given the lack of skill within their pool before they made those picks, I like the approach. They each come with some risk, but all three of these kids have hit potential relative to where they were selected (more so in Cristall and Hutson’s case).

After Parascak and Hutson, I liked their selections of Swiss defenseman Leon Muggli at No. 52 and big Latvian forward Eriks “Moose” Mateiko at No. 90. Mateiko is an awesome kid whom I expect to be named captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs next year (very rare for an import). He’s one of the most improved players in this class over the last couple of years and has always played well when I’ve watched him, both in the Q and for Latvia.

Ilya Protas at No. 75 was a little rich for me, but the Caps obviously have a relationship with the family and like him.

Nicholas Kempf is a worthwhile pick. Goalies can have a tough time at the NTDP, staying in games and playing behind leaky defenses at times. The defensemen in this NTDP age group didn’t do him any favors at times, either, and I thought he was consistently decent this year. Might be a backup.

Miroslav Satan is absolutely gigantic and has some question marks, but the seventh round is where you say “screw it” and take a player like that. I liked watching sixth-rounder Petr Sikora this year as well, even if he’s a long shot.

Love the Hutson pick in particular, though.

Los Angeles Kings

I thought the Kings got good value out of each of their first two picks, two of the top kids out of the OHL in Liam Greentree (who ranked No. 18 on my board and who they got at No. 26) and goaltender Carter George (who ranked a little lower on my board but was my No. 2-ranked goalie and who went as third goalie of the draft).

Jared Woolley is an interesting one. He wasn’t on my list but he’s a massive defenseman who is the latest London Knights player to to go the GOJHL Jr. B to OHL route with them. He became a third-pairing guy for them and played into the playoffs and the Memorial Cup even if his minutes on the OHL champs were limited in the bigger games. He’s got a chance to take a big step next season and does have some offense.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins didn’t pick until No. 44, and Harrison Brunicke felt like a Kyle Dubas pick. He’s a smart kid and a heady two-way player who developed well this season after playing in a more depth role on the Memorial Cup hosts a year ago. He’s a good athlete with good size, and I expect him to become one of their better, more well-rounded defensemen in the WHL over the next two seasons.

I liked the selection of Tanner Howe two picks later. Howe is a great kid and a fiery competitor with above-average skill. There were some who wondered about him as a late-birthday, average-sized winger with fine skating, but I think his competitiveness will take him as far as his game will go, and I could see him becoming an up-and-down-the-lineup type.

Chase Pietila has a lot of work to do if he wants to play pro but has some redeeming qualities and was taken outside of the top-100, so whatever.

I thought the Penguins’ best picks of the draft were their sxith-rounder and the first of their two seventh-rounders.

Joona Vaisanen was my No. 5-ranked overager and one of the best defensemen in the USHL this season. He’s an incredibly smart player who Dubuque’s staff raves about. And Mac Swanson is one of the class’ most talented and intelligent offensive players; he’s just tiny. I won’t be surprised if he becomes a point-per-game player in college and gets signed after his junior or senior year.

Nashville Predators

The Preds clearly covet competitive, hard-working, high-work rate forwards, and they doubled down on that identity with their first two picks, taking feisty and skilled Russian centre Yegor Surin in the first round and feisty and skilled NTDP winger Teddy Stiga in the second round. I like Stiga a little more than Surin but both were late first-/early second-rounders on my board, and the consensus favored Surin.

I’ve got a lot of time for the Viggo Gustafsson pick in the third round. He was No. 100 on my board and he flew a little under the radar this year. He looked better than his statistical profile every time I watched him this season, he makes plays, and his Sept. 11 birthday made him mere days away from eligibility for 2025.

I think Miguel Marques was overrated in the public sphere, but the third round was also an appropriate range for the crafty, elusive, and highly skilled Lethbridge winger. There are work ethic questions about him, but if he can dial it in off the ice and work on some of his deficiencies in his game, he’s got a chance.

Kelowna’s Hiroki Gojsic (who I thought played well off of Tij Iginla early in the year but didn’t take the steps I was looking for) and Czech goaltender Jakub Milota are fine picks, even if the 90s was a little rich for me on those guys.

Detroit Red Wings

I think the Red Wings had a decent draft. It’s not going to change their ceiling as a team, but Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Max Plante and Ondrej Becher all made sense where they took them. Plante is going to need to play with a little more pace to become an NHLer, but he’s a cerebral and hard-working player who makes his linemates better. Becher is an interesting one as an overager who impressed domestically and internationally this year, becoming an important part (and playmaker and driver) on one of the best lines in the WHL.

Landon Miller seemed to have some tough nights in net whenever I watched the Soo this year, but he’s huge and goalies are tricky, so who knows.

John Whipple, once one of the top American players in this age group, never became at the program what people thought he would, and he can struggle with his decision-making but he has some tools and I expect him to be a better college player than a junior player. He was No. 87 on my list and I don’t think they’re risking much by taking him at No. 144, even if he has some work to do.

I liked the Austin Baker selection at No. 203. I’m not sure he’s got the skill but he was a very good fourth-liner for the NTDP this year and he works and plays to his strengths.

Buffalo Sabres

Though the Konsta Helenius pick in Round 1 gave the Sabres more of what they already have in their crowded pool, I still liked him in that range.

The Adam Kleber pick makes a lot of sense for them at No. 42. Their top-four is locked in with Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Bowen Byram and Mattias Samuelson, and the idea of Kleber, a towering defenseman with some other qualities, as a potential third-pairing guy has appeal.

The same goes for Brodie Ziemer in the third round. They’ve got a crowd of potential top-six forwards, but Ziemer is the type of player you want in your bottom-six. He’s a leader and a worker who plays the game the right way and has among the higher odds for me among the middle-round guys in this class to actually play and carve out a career.

I don’t think they got anything with their two fourth-rounders, and that nearly moved them from overtime winners to overtime losers, but I thought they had a fine draft and I liked their last-second selection of Ryerson Leenders, who lacks ideal size for a goalie but who has been consistently good for a couple of years. Patrick Geary is a hard-nosed, competitive, defense-first defender who was a solid top-sixer on a top college team as an overager.

Utah Hockey Club

Utah’s scouting staff has a clear identity about they covet in both their forwards (hard-working, competitive, winning types) and defensemen (size) and they continued to target that this year with Tij Iginla (also one of the more dynamic on-puck play-creators and scorers in the draft) and Cole Beaudoin (probably the strongest player in the draft) on Day 1, and Will Skahan and Tomas Lavoie on Day 2, two big, strong defensemen who are, by all accounts, good kids. I don’t think any of them were reached for where they took them, either.

I liked the Veeti Vaisanen pick at No. 96. Vaisanen is an average-at-everything defenseman whose solid game put him in Liiga at an early age. He’s not super-mobile and lacks a dynamic quality, but I felt he was a third-rounder and he could become organizational depth someday.

I don’t see anything in their pair of fourth-rounders, but I thought the fifth round was the right time for Owen Allard to go. Allard, my eighth-ranked overager, surprised some people when he made Canada’s world juniors team this year. He lacks offense but he’s an incredible athlete and skater who gets after it and looks like a fourth-liner. If he becomes that, that’s a good pick in the fifth round.

Overage Czech defenseman Ales Cech, big Czech forward Vojtech Hradec and Norwegian Ludvig Lafton were all fine late-round dice-rolls. I worry about Lafton’s and Cech’s feet though.

I thought about overtime losers here, but they got a ton of players and only the two fourth-rounders surprised me.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets didn’t make a pick on Day 1 but they took a bit of a swing to start Day 2, drafting offensive defenseman Alfons Freij, a player who basically ranked on my board where they took him. Freij is a very active and involved player who creates a lot with his mobility and has power-play tools.

Though their next pick wasn’t until a couple of rounds later, I liked the decision to swap picks and grab Kevin He in the fourth round. He wasn’t on my list but I spent a lot of time on him late in the year, and he’s a great athlete and skater with some skill who I think has a chance to play.

Kieron Walton is an interesting gamble in the sixth round. Walton is a massive forward with impressive handling and feel on the puck for a player his size. And while he’s not a natural mover, his skating has come along enough to warrant being picked.

I don’t see anything in Finnish forward Markus Loponen, but I liked 3/4 of their picks.

Overtime losers

New York Rangers

The Rangers showed up to the draft relatively empty-handed, but I thought they did well. E.J. Emery felt like a perfect fit, not just because of the similarities between him and K’Andre Miller or Braden Schneider — as a long, mobile, athletic defenseman — but because they haven’t used a high pick on a defenseman since those guys.

They got one of the better players left in the back half of the draft in Raoul Boilard at No. 119. Boilard, who slotted No. 84 on my board, had a tough 16-year-old season in the BCHL and then had a mostly positive one in the Q this year, including a standout performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game. He’s got a smart offensive mind. I just want to see him be a little more consistent.

Don’t see anything in their other two picks, though.

Vegas Golden Knights

There had been some chatter about Vegas as a potential landing spot for Trevor Connelly, and he was one of the most skilled players left there, without question (if not the most skilled).

I liked the selection of overaged Belarusian goalie Pavel Moysevich in the third round. He wasn’t in my top 100 but he was among the goalies I would have strongly considered taking, and he was my sixth-ranked overager in the draft. He’s got ideal size, decent mobility, and tracks and reads well.

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for seventh-round pick Lucas Van Vliet. He was awesome on the NTDP’s fourth line at times, and while he may not become an NHLer, he’s got projectable size/skating/work ethic and some quiet skill. I could see him being a solid college player.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins were light on picks again this year but I thought they hade a decent draft. Dean Letourneau’s size, skating, finesse, skill package is extremely rare, and while I think it comes with some risk in the first round, there were several teams on him there and the upside is real.

Fourth-round defenseman Elliot Groenewold is a player I never thought much of in my small number of viewings, but some around the USHL call him hard to play against because of his size, mobility and physicality.

I quite liked the Jonathan Morello pick at No. 154. He would have been No. 101 or No. 102 had my list been longer, and he popped in the OJHL playoffs. He’s a strong skater and athlete who plays the game with jump and has a pro frame and a direct, attacking approach. He’s also a July birthday so there’s lots of time for him still (he’s a Clarkson commit).

I thought about overtime winners for them, so don’t read too much into the slotting here.

New Jersey Devils

The Anton Silayev pick at No. 10 feels like a natural fit for the Devils, who get something completely different from Simon Nemec, Luke Hughes, Seamus Casey and others.

I thought No. 49 was a little high for Mikhail Yegorov, but he’s a freak athlete and impressive kid who wowed some people at the combine, and their pool needed goalie depth.

I liked both of their late-thirds. Kasper Pikkarainen and Herman Traff were taken almost exactly where I had them ranked (90s) and both are big, strong kids who get after it. Traff’s got more finishing talent and upside, but if Pikkarianen can get a little quicker, he might have a more realistic path to a fourth-line role.

Matyas Melovsky is a worthwhile pick as an overager. He was a huge part of a Baie-Comeau team that went to the Q final when people didn’t expect them to, and was excellent at the world juniors. He’s a good player who has some fans in the Q.

I don’t see anything in their two fifth-rounders. That, plus taking Yegorov a little early, kept them just outside of my overtime winners.

Colorado Avalanche

I kind of dig the Avalanche using their first pick of the draft on the first goalie of the draft. It’s an area of need within their pool and Ilya Nabokov, a 21-year-old who was one of the best goalies in Europe this year and was the KHL playoffs MVP, is both closer to the NHL than his contemporaries in net (a bonus for a team like the Avs who are good now) and has a proven track record.

I’m a big Will Zellers guy (he ranked No. 54 on my board and they got him No. 76). He’s going to be a three-to-four-year college player in all likelihood, but he’s got skill and skating, he plays a thorny style, and he was my favorite of the three prospects at Shattuck this year.

There weren’t many players who could be described as skill guys left in the seventh round, either, so I liked the Christian Humphreys pick at No. 215. He might not be skilled enough to find a role at the NHL level, but he plays with speed and craft against his peers.

Jake Fisher and Maximilian Curran are peripherally interesting and are worth keeping an eye on. Goaltender Louka Cloutier was an important part of the Steel’s second-half turnaround in the USHL. It’s not an inspiring group due to where they drafted, but I liked what they did.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues clearly set out to build their pool on defense, which I think was the right approach. I thought taking Colin Ralph at No. 48 was a smidge early for a kid who is going to have to progress in some important areas to give good value there, but he’s a huge player with some redeeming qualities.

The Adam Jiricek and Lukas Fischer picks felt like the proper range. Jiricek comes with some risk after his lost season but he’s got an NHL makeup and some room for growth despite having already played at the pro level. I heard a lot about Fischer in the second half. He performed well in testing and interviews at the combine, he’s by all accounts an awesome kid, and he played huge minutes on a young Sarnia team in the OHL this season. There’s a belief among many around the OHL that he’s going to be a top-six defenseman in the NHL. He’s got the size, athleticism and physicality. With a little tidying up of the decision-making, he could be a solid pick with a late second-rounder.

They added some size at forward with their two third-rounders, though I’ve got a lot more time for the second kid they picked (Adam Jecho) than the first one (Ondrej Kos). Jecho needs to work on his mobility but he’s got some tools, and I’ve seen him make skill plays. I’ve always felt Kos was quite vanilla.

I didn’t rank Tomas Mrsic, but there are people around the WHL who believe in him, and that’s enough for me to like him at No. 113. He’s also got more skill than his production to this point indicates. He can make plays.

I wouldn’t expect fifth-rounder William McIsaac or seventh-rounders Antoine Dorion or Matvei Korotky to get NHL deals. The Blues could have been overtime winners, maybe.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers’ pick supply has been, and will continue to be, depleted in their push to win, but I thought they did fine with what they had. Sam O’Reilly with the final pick of the first round was a little higher than where I landed on him, but also where he was projected to go. He’s a smart player who could become a third-liner with some intellect.

Eemil Vinni was one of the better goalies in Europe in this class, and while I wouldn’t have used a second-round pick on him (I’ve always found him a little leaky), it’s fine.

I don’t see anything in Connor Clattenburg or Albin Sundin, but Dalyn Wakely was my ninth-ranked overager and had a 100-point season in the O this year. He’s a player I believe was hurt by COVID-19’s lost season in Ontario. He doesn’t have dynamic elements but he works, he’s a good athlete, he can shoot it, he’s got good instincts and he was a top PKer and faceoff guy in the league this year. He’s going to be an AHL middle-fixer even if he doesn’t make it, and the sixth round was the right range.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning didn’t select until fourth round, and while towering Gatineau defenseman Jan Golicic has a lot of work to do if he’s ever going to make his size work up levels, I liked the selection of Hagen Burrows later in the first round. When I watched Minnetonka High this year, I actually liked Burrows better than Javon Moore, who went in front of him. His skating needs some work, but the game comes to him quite naturally inside the offensive zone and he’s got an NHL shot. I’d be interested in working with him.

Fifth-rounder Joona Saarelainen is a ton of fun to watch and a top player in his age group in Finland but he likely will have a tough time being that at the pro level. And while I don’t see anything in sixth-rounder Kaden Pitre, I kind of like the swings they took on the three overagers they drafted in Round 7. Joe Connor was a top player in the USHL this season, Norwegian Noah Steen has looked like a real player whenever I’ve watched him, and goaltender Harrison Meneghin was one of the top goalies in the WHL this season.

Dallas Stars

I thought the Stars got off to a good — and predictable — start, taking Emil Hemming, one of my top-ranked players ,at No. 29. Hemming has a legit scoring package and, with a little more consistency, he could hit as a middle-six scorer.

They clearly like their Finns in Dallas, and I didn’t mind them going back there yet again for Niilopekka Muhohenen in the fifth round. He wasn’t on my list and doesn’t have much offense but he’s big, he’s mobile, and he defends well.

William Samuelsson is meh.

Ottawa Senators

I want to like the Senators’ drafts so that I can work my way back into the good graces of the citizens of Ottawa, and I think Carter Yakemchuk has a very high ceiling even if he wouldn’t have been my pick at No. 7, so this has little to do with that.

Gabriel Eliasson early in the second round both didn’t surprise me and was still the first pick of the draft by any team that I didn’t like. Eliasson is a mountain of a defenseman who moves fairly well for his size and was always going to be a second- or third-rounder for that reason, but I didn’t rank him on my board after watching him get in his own way more than any defenseman I’ve scouted in 11 years of doing this. He is the most undisciplined player I’ve ever watched and has shown no ability to play with any restraint, costing his teams in important moments and often resulting in benchings that don’t seem to have the right impact. If he makes it, he’ll be a pretty unique player. I wouldn’t have used a second-round pick on him, given the others who were available there.

Lucas Ellinas wasn’t on my list either, but there was a lot of chatter about him as a mid-round pick late in the year and I had two different sources in the final two weeks before the draft give him some love. He’s got good speed and there’s belief that he’s early in his development and could take a big step with Kitchener next year.

I liked their selection of Javon Moore at No. 112. He wasn’t on my board but he was included in my honorable mentions and he has some pro tools to work with. He can skate, he’s got good size and while I don’t think he has a ton of offense, I see a path to a depth NHL role with the right development.

Blake Montgomery is also an interesting gamble. He’s long and he can absolutely fly. He has some believers as a result, though he’s a definite long shot.

Ultimately, I think they took some guys too high and drafted a lot of projects. I did think about putting them in losers. *ducks from the tomatoes*

Losers

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers picked good players but I felt like each of their first three selections was a little rich relative to the picks they used.

Jett Luchanko had at least three teams all over him in the teens, but No. 13 felt like it was leaving upside on the board. And while Jack Berglund (honorable mention, just outside of my top 100) and Spencer Gill (No. 97 on my board) are both fine prospects, I didn’t like grabbing them in the 50s even if that was more their consensus range than my own. Berglund is going to have to work on his skating to be more than a good AHLer, and Gill, although he showed well for most of this season, has a lot of work to do to refine his defensive play and fill out his wiry frame.

Noah Powell, their fifth-round pick, is an absolutely awesome story. For starters, he’s deaf. He also took off like a rocket this season as an overager in Dubuque, scoring 43 goals and looking utterly dominant in stretches. He’s an OSU commit.

I never saw in Heikki Ruohonen what some others did, but the fourth round wasn’t a terrible range for him.

I don’t see anything in either of their last two picks, Ilya Payton or Austin Malone. I just never felt like they got good value out of their picks, other than maybe Powell, relative to where they drafted.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs were (yet again) light on picks.

I thought No. 31 was a little high for Ben Danford, but I’d been told he was their guy pre-draft, so moving back and grabbing him made sense. He’s a great kid who everyone around the OHL has a ton of time and respect for. They thought about naming him their captain this year in Oshawa. He’s got the defensive foundation and he developed more and more poise and offensive smarts in his game this year, adding elements that weren’t there in minor hockey or even his 16-year-old year. He’s a low-ceiling guy but he could be an effective NHL defenseman.

Victor Johansson, at No. 120, wasn’t in my top 100 but I was told to spend some time on him late in the year. He’s a heady, two-way type with decent athletic tools, even if he’s still early in his development and a long shot.

Holinka is the most interesting of their three fifth-round picks. He clearly looked to be above his peers at Czechia’s junior level this year and has some pro tools.

There were some peculiar picks in the fifth and seventh rounds from the Leafs, though. Sam McCue was a warrior for the Knights and he’s the one of their last five picks who I think has a chance to get a pro contract. He’s probably a bottom-six AHLer, though.

(Top photo: Dave Sandford / NHLI via Getty Images)