With the NHL regular season now over, and a brief delay before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, let’s take a quick look at the NHL Entry Draft coming up.
The NHL draft lottery will be held on April 30th. and the Toronto Maple Leafs who finished dead last have the best lottery odds, and can pick no lower than fourth. That said they are by no means a shoe in to land the top pick. Scott Wheeler @scottwheeler tweeted this nice graphic breaking down every team’s odds;
Their top ranked player is Patrik Laine who since the World Juniors has been a player on the rise and became the consensus second ranked player. With Matthews eliminated earlier in the first round of his teams playoffs, Laine has been raising his draft profile with a long playoff drive featuring some clutch scoring.
Patrik Laine is beginning to draw comparisons to Mario Lemieux. Um, Lemieux light perhaps in that he has size, strength, is a clutch scorer and seems to be unstoppable at times. That said, I do not think it is prudent to start projecting him as a future 100 point scorer as Mario was on pace to be.
There is a strong argument to be had that if Laine were a centre, he would be more strongly considered as the top pick in the draft, it’s that close.
There will be plenty of NHL Draft rankings and mock drafts but only Dobber Prospects breaks it down for you in fantasy hockey terms, and of course ICYMI we have our own Fantasy Ranking the NHL Draft Prospects here, a consensus list featuring contributions from our own writers as well as several other high profile writers from other sources.
You can also read our ever expanding list of draft eligible player profiles found here
You can catch my thoughts on several of the top ranked players on last week’s SBNation Arctic Ice Hockey podcast here The AIH show is a Winnipeg Jets centric show and I was also asked to share my thoughts on several Jet’s prospects such as Kyle Connor
Speaking of Connor, he was signed today by the Winnipeg Jets to his entry level contract and will be leaving College hockey. Connor is the top ranked prospect in the Jets organization and was a Hobey Baker finalist. Expect him to try to emulate the success Dylan Larkin had this year as a rookie with Detroit. Don’t be surprised if Connor follow Larkins path and is named to team USA for the World Championships in Russia. Larkin was impressive there last year and carried that momentum into training camp to help cement a roster spot; Connor has the skill to do the same.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser announce today he will return to the University of North Dakota next year for his sophomore season. His freshman season was very impressive as he was a key player on the CBS line with Nick Schmaltz (CHI) and Drake Caggiula which dominated the final two games with a combined six goals and 13 points.
Caggiula has emerged via the Frozen Four Tournament as the Most Outstanding Player and a highly sought after free agent. The Buffalo Sabres are heavily rumored to be one of the teams showing interest.
More College hockey news, the Boston Bruins have signed forward Danton Heinen to his ELC. Heinen leaves the University of Denver after his sophomore season and has averaged over a point per game in his two NCAA seasons. He could be a sleeper prospect who has tremendous fantasy upside, but is not on many rankings radar…yet.
Over to the KHL now, the Gagarin Cup final is under way between CSKA and Metallurg.
Nikita Zaitsev who is rumored to be signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off season is having quite the finals with three goals in three games.
There is quite a buzz in Leaf Nation as they are anxious to turn over a new leaf and go from tank nation to a contending team. Expectations that the team will add Zaitsev, Steven Stamkos and Jimmy Vesey this summer in addition to a fresh crop of draft picks which will be led by Auston Matthews. Add in top prospects Mitch Marner, William Nylander and late season revelations Nikita Soshnikov and Tobias Lindberg, and Leaf fans are salivating.
The Toronto Maple Leafs only have a 20% chance at Matthews as mentioned above, so that’s unlikely, but they can’t lose being guaranteed a top four pick. Sure Zaitsev seems like a done deal, but it’s not official until its official. The Leafs have a one in 29 chance of signing Hobey Baker winner Vesey, and sure they have leverage with some of his family in the organization, but other teams will make strong pitches *cough Boston. As for Nylander and Marner, Nylander has shown he belongs in the NHL but expect some growing pains as he plays his first full season. I believe it is more likely that Marner is returned to the OHL after a brief look to start the season. There is no rush so why not let him dominate another year and add more strength and size.
GM Lou Lamoriello recently tempered expectations by saying there is more pain coming, but there are some lesser known prospects worth getting excited about as well. Andreas Johnson should be making the move from the SHL to North America and the 21 year old could have an immediate impact in the top six. Two players drafted in 2015 that are looking like complete steals of the draft in the third and fifth round are Andrew Nielsen and Dmytro Timashov. Nielsen was a dominant defenceman in the WHL and Timashov had a breakout performance at the World Juniors.
Dobber has updated the Top 200 Fantasy Hockey prospects for April, be sure to read it here