(Note: Igor Kirunov (Minsk) corrected something I wrote Friday, pointing out prospects won’t get their attributes until after the NHL season is complete, meaning they will not be available this EURO season even if they hit 40 games played before our mid-season evolution. Of course, if you GMs want, we could delay the start of the season until April to make that happen? I didn’t think so.)
The London Dons made news Friday by winning the draft lottery and selecting Braden Holtby with the first pick, and they will make more news today. Currently on the clock with the 26th pick of the draft, the Dons own three of the next 10 picks. (Update: Rasmus Ristolainen, an 18-year-old playing regular minutes on the Buffalo Sabres blueline was taken by London with pick 26.)
Through 25 picks, 4 went to Stockholm. including forwards Brendan Gallagher, Sean Monahan and J.T. Miller, as well as defenseman Jake Muzzin. Three of the four have PO ratings of 80 or higher, and Monahan is considered a can’t miss prospect.
Five other teams picked up more than one player on Friday. St. Petersburg concentrated on defensive hockey with its two picks in the first round, taking Cam Atkinson, a high-energy forward and Brendan Dillon, a rough and tumble defenseman. Their Russian counterparts, Moscow Spartak, had consecutive picks at 18 and 19, taking a defenseman with each. While their picks play the same position, they are polar opposites. Darnell Nurse is a big, strong tough teen and still a prospect, while Andrei Markov is a gifted offensive player who only has a few more years in him at age 34. The selection of the $5.7 million veteran probably caught the attention of Moscow’s Jason Garrison and defensemen who are not securely in the team’s top 6, like Kyle Quincey and Alexander Sulzer. Garrison, who is securely in the top 6, will be negotiating a new contract with GM Michael Banker, who has only two defensemen (Markov and $5.5 million Duncan Keith) earning more than $2 million per season.
Bratislava also picked up a pair of defensemen, passing on speedy Tyson Barrie and Markov to take Michael Stone and skipping Dillon to take Patrick Wiercioch. GM Chuck Massaro said he liked the balance the young defenders seem to have, admitting he really didn’t know anything about Stone until minutes before the pick. The Eagles now have four under-24 blueliners in the system expected to be full-timers starting Season 4 or 5. Tyler Myers is the best of that bunch and at 6-8, will be paired with 6-9 Zdeno Chara this season.
Belfast will not see the fruits of its draft-table labor for two seasons or more, but they acquired two of the most dynamic forwards of the draft, taking Nathan MacKinnon 4th overall and Jonathan Drouin 10th. MacKinnon will get enough NHL games in to join the Giants in Season 4, but Drouin, who is an elite puck-handler looks to be a year behind him.
Milan picked up two players who should be able to step right into the lineup: 26-year-old goalie Ben Bishop and 24-year-old right winger Peter Mueller. Antti Niemi remains the top goalie on the Milan roster, but the selection of Bishop must worry free agent Josh Harding, who is considered only marginally better. One of those three goalies might be leaving Italy soon. GM David Bell has stated publicly that he would trade Niemi.
After Friday’s run of 5 straight prospects going in the draft, only 3 more were selected from picks 10 to 25, including the aforementioned Drouin and Nurse, along with Elias Lindholm, a Carolina Hurricanes forward who projects to be a good two-way player. He was taken 12th by Oslo general manager Chris Lee.
Another well-rounded forward, Cody Eakin, went a pick earlier to another Scandinavian team. In Helsinki, Eakin could see significant playing time sooner rather than later. He shapes up as the heir-apparent to Paul Stastny as the Jokerit’s top line center, but he will start out his career there by battling for the fourth-line position. Either Jim Slater, a $1.2 million grinder or 25-year-old Zack Smith, who is hoping to resign with Helsinki, seem to be the competition for that job at the moment. But Helsinki has six more forwards who are free agents and 12 others under contract, so there is plenty of competition for all forward spots on the team.
Casey Cizikas gives the Edinburgh Capitals a brighter future at center, but as a third liner. Derek Stepan and John Tavares are ahead of him on the depth chart and both are under 24. But once established older players like Brandon Dubinsky, Lauri Korpikoski and Andrew Cogliano filter out of the system, Cizikas will be there, ready to pick up the slack.
Tyson Barrie fell to 16th overall and Zurich is happy about that. The speedy, 21-year-old puck-mover became the 12th defenseman on the team Friday, but of all of them, he has the highest potential rating. GM Dennis Sullo knows that most of those defensemen will be retired or gone by the time Barrie is ready to play, but Janne Niskala and Marc Staal, both 26, should be his teammates and mentors for a while.
Right wing Andrew Shaw, a 21-year-old pest and hard skater, may not see too many minutes with Munich this season, but he will be a mainstay for many years in Germany. He was taken 21st in the draft.
Dublin nabbed goalie Jake Allen with the last pick in the first round and boy, did they need a goalie. The only goalie on their roster at the time was Tim Thomas. And he is a free agent. And he’s 39 years old. Allen is not starting goalie material right now, but he projects to be.