Teenager Jakob Chychrun is playing on Arizona's blueline and is contributing after the Ducks drafted him 16th overall this year.
More than a month ago, I examined the early progress of the first 15 picks of the 2016 NHL entry draft.
Today, it’s time to update the progress (or lack thereof) of the bottom half of the first round:
D Jakob Chychrun, Coyotes (from Red Wings)
Arizona had to absorb the final season of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to trade up and select the rock-solid D-Man, but GM John Chayka has acquired an asset that will help to solidify the team’s blueline for years regardless of where it’s located. At 18, the former Sarnia Sting star has become a penalty-killing regular who posted a goal and two assists in 12 NHL games. Already asserting himself against men, the 6-2, 205-pounder has 23 PIMs. Projection: His superior hockey IQ, high-end skating ability and passing skill with translate into offense at some point at a much-higher level than father Jeff and uncle Luke Richardson, both former NHL defenders. In the meantime, he’ll register modest points and healthy penalty minute totals for poolies.
D Dante Fabbro, Predators
After bolstering its up-front scoring, Nashville went right back to stocking its pipeline with a quality defenseman. Not imposing at 6-1 and 192 pounds, the former Penticton Vee combines excellent positional play with high-powered offense. Jumping straight from Junior A to the NCAA, Fabbro is off to a modest start with a goal and an assist in eight games as a freshman with Boston U, but he’s plus-7. Projection: The Preds (and poolies in deep keeper leagues) will have to wait for the right-handed shooter while he percolates in the NCAA, but he’ll be worth the wait.
D Logan Stanley, Jets
Continuing a run on blueliners halfway through the first round, Winnipeg continued its love affair with jumbo Jets. At 6-7 and 227 pounds, he rivals Dustin Byfuglien (6-5, 260) and Tyler Myers (6-8, 229). Known for modest offense, the towering Stanley has four assists in 11 games to start his third campaign with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires (another aerial reference). Projection: Stanley, who sure has the right last name to appeal to an NHL team, will need more time as a junior and probably some AHL experience because huge defensemen typically mature later than other players, although the left-shooting Stanley has good mobility for his size. His offensive upside will always be limited, but the Jets might envision a future pairing with veteran Myers, which would be a nightmare shutdown combination for opponents.
LW Kieffer Bellows, Islanders
A chip off the old block, the son of former NHL sniper Brian Bellows already has three goals and an assist in eight games as a freshman at Boston U. A physical power forward, he also has 18 PIMs. Projection: The rugged, shoot-first Bellows will build on his U.S. National Team Development Program experience and provide the Isles with a reliable source of goals and hits.
D Dennis Cholowski, Red Wings (from Coyotes via Rangers)
Packed with talent up front, Detroit selected a sure-fire future NHLer who was ahead of the curve when he played in Junior A as a 16-year-old. Cholowski is still looking for his first NCAA goal but he has six assists in nine games at St. Cloud U, which is impressive considering he leaped there straight from the BCHL. Projection: Mature beyond his tender years, Cholowski skates well and plays intelligently, taking what opponents give him and not trying to do too much. As such, he might require minimal or no AHL seasoning once he turns pro.
RW Julien Gauthier, Hurricanes (from Kings)
Carolina undoubtedly was happy to snare the versatile Gauthier this late in the round. Combining size (6-3, 231) with skill and unusual speed for someone that big, the newly named assistant captain is again scoring at a point-per-game pace in his third season with the Val-d’or Foreurs of the QMJHL. Projection: A high-scoring power forward who plays responsibly in all three zones, Gauthier was the only draft-eligible member of Canada’s world junior tournament roster. Such maturity combined with his physical gifts indicates he has an outstanding NHL future.
C German Rubtsov, Flyers (from Jets via Blackhawks)
Although he scored twice to lead Russia to a 4-3 victory over a squad of Ontario Hockey League all-stars in the third game of an annual Canada-Russia series, he’s not known for high-octane offense. The modestly sized center’s calling card is hard work in an honest, intelligent two-way game. Pointless in eight KHL games for Vityaz Podolsk, he’s got 15 points in as many games with Russkie Vityazi Chekhov in the MHL, Russia’s version of the U.S. Development Program. Projection: Rubtsov might remain for the rest of the season in the MHL, where he had 26 points in 28 games last season. The young center’s offensive upside is not elite but he compensates in virtually every other facet of a hockey player’s profile. A sure-fire NHLer.
C Henrik Borgström, Panthers
The crowd-pleasing playmaker hit the ice skating in his North American debut with the U of Denver, racking up five goals and five assists in his first nine games. That’s not a surprise considering his 29 goals and 26 assists in 40 games last season with HIFK U20 in the Finnish Junior A league. Projection: The ultra-skilled 6-3 puck-handler will acclimate to North America in the NCAA and be an offensive force in south Florida.
Power forward Max Jones, an Anaheim 2016 first-round draft pick, produces offensively, plays with an edge and sometimes crosses the line:
LW Max Jones, Ducks
Another first-round power forward, the hard-hitting winger is off to a sensational sophomore start for the OHL’s London Knights with eight goals and 12 assists in just 10 major junior games. A plus-16 rating and 27 PIMs provides an even broader measure of Jones’ worth to a team. Projection: He’s got good size at 6-2 and 206, eagerly plays with an edge, shoots with a quick release, kills penalties well and is a cinch to be a top-six NHL producer one day, especially since he’s coming from one of junior hockey’s most prolific pipelines to the bigs.
LW Riley Tufte, Stars
Earning the Mr. Hockey Award as the best high school senior player in Minnesota, Tufte continues to defy Type 1 diabetes, although he’s without a point in his first seven NCAA games with the U of Minnesota-Duluth. That’s not a cause for concern because only 27 USDP games separated him from high school and the NCAA. Projection: Ten goals and 14 points, almost a point per game in the U.S. Hockey League, established Tufte’s scoring cred. His game will grow close to home in the NCAA before he follows the Stars south to Texas. At 6-5 and 205, he’s already well on the way to being physically ready for the pros.
C Tage Thompson, Blues (from Capitals)
The lanky 6-5 power forward is ahead of an almost point-per-game pace as a freshman at the U of Connecticut with five goals and seven assists in his first 10 games as a soph. After beginning his rookie NCAA season on the fourth line, Thompson didn’t take long to earn primo minutes with a superior shot. Leading the NCAA with 13 power-play scores will get you noticed. Projection: Using his size, Thompson makes it tough for opponents to separate him from the puck. He’s going to have to add some muscle, but he’s got time to do that before he graduates to the pros, projecting as a future No. 1 center in St. Louis.
C Brett Howden, Lightning
Following a 68-game, 64-point campaign with Moose Jaw of the WHL, the solidly built 6-3 forward has nine goals and five assists in 11 games as an assistant captain with the Warriors. Projection: A good team player, Howden offers size, speed and forechecking ability as he follows older brother Quinton, a 2010 first-round pick of the Florida Panthers. Brett plays on both special teams and projects as a solid two-way center.
D Lucas Johansen, Capitals (from Blues)
After 49 points in 69 games last season with a blueliner factory otherwise known as the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, the younger brother of Blue Jackets’ center Ryan Johansen has a goal and seven assists in 16 junior games. Projection: Lucas’ modest offensive production this season is not troubling because high-powered offense is not his game, at least not yet. Doing many things well without excelling at anything, Lucas is a sure, steady choice who might exhibit untapped point production once he gets stronger.
C Trent Frederic Bruins (from Sharks)
After 40 points in 61 U.S. National U18 games, Frederic has four goals and six assists in eight games as a U of Wisconsin freshman. Projection: Exhibiting a good hockey IQ, strong work ethic, mobility and versatility, the 6-2, 204-pounder projects as a solid, two-way middle-six NHL forward.
C Sam Steel, Ducks (from Penguins via Maple Leafs)
The undersized speedster is burning up the WHL with 15 goals and 15 assists in 14 games as an assistant captain with the Regina Pats. He reads plays well and can either make teammates look good with great playmaking or score himself. Projection: His size will always be a concern, but Steel might make his mark if the NHL still has a place for small, skilled players by the time he’s ready for the best league in the world. His speed makes him dangerous on the power play or the penalty kill. He’s considerably smaller than Ryan Getzlaf, but Steel might eventually succeed him as Anaheim’s top center.