Mark Stone, 22, was the first player selected in the EURO draft in Copenhagen and he dutifully took his place next to Bern General Manager Randy Rock and coach Mike Babcock for photos.
In a few weeks, Stone will probably be standing next to Joe Thornton and Andrei Kostitsyn on the Bears’ top forward line. Stone will bring offensive puck skills, a strong work rate, and great defensive ability to Bern. In fact, he stands to someday be a candidate for the league’s best defensive forward trophy.
Thornton and right wing Radim Vrbata did not work well together last year for Bern, with Vrbata registering only 9 goals and a minus 37 rating. He played better in previous years, but no one will question Babcock if he demotes Vrbata in favor of Stone.
With the second pick, the Oslo Outlaws tapped Connor McDavid on the shoulder … but very gently. The injured Edmonton Oiler scored 5 goals and 12 points in his first 13 NHL games before going down with a broken left clavicle, but he is expected to resume his Edmonton career shortly. Oslo GM Chris Lee is banking on McDavid picking up where he left off in terms of productivity. Fans in Norway have to be licking their chops and trying to advance the minute hands on their clocks as they anxiously await the days when McDavid and Tyler Seguin with be on the same line, presumably with lucky Tomas Hertl.
David Bell, GM of the Milan Guerriero, said “This is an agonizing decision!” as he was on the clock to make the third pick overall. It had to be; just as it was for all the men in the top four or five draft positions. He wound up pulling the trigger on goalie Andrew Hammond, a 26-year-old who will push Ben Bishop into a backup role or out the door. Actually, Alex Stalock took over last year as the number one, posting surprisingly good save percentage and goals against numbers. Bell has to be hoping the competition for the starting position will have all his goalies upping their individual value. Expect a trade rumor involving a Milan goalie in the near future.
With the fourth pick, Copenhagen‘s Dylan Callow went with shifty Johnny Gaudreau, saying, “We were surprised to see that we ended up with the 4th overall pick, thinking we were in 5th spot, but we will take it. Given our dearth of LW talent, he will probably start alongside Weiss on our 1st line.” The Tridents’ roster now lists 10 left wings and two of them – Andre Burakovsky and Jonathan Drouin – are actually a year younger and a lot of OV points behind the newest Trident. The three of them plus Marko Dano on the right side, give Copenhagen four excellent young wings.
Mike Felter, the Munich GM, gets a German sounding name in Jack Eichel, the young Buffalo Sabre with great hands and a unique way of moving around the ice surface. In German, Eichel means acorn and in a year or two, Dire Wolf fans will be nuts about their Eichel. Felter was hoping to land one of the top four forwards and when Munich dropped to fifth on the drafting list, he was disappointed. Milan’s selection of Hammond put Munich where they wanted to be in the draft. Look for Eichel to team with Filip Forsberg and Fyodor Malykhin somewhere down the line in Bavaria.
Stockholm GM Michael Sauer, whose Websim profile page includes a Sabres flag, said he was really hoping for a shot at Eichel when the Eagles got to make the sixth pick of the draft. Instead, John Klingberg, a defenseman who will make an offensive impact on the league, will be leaving his hometown just outside Gothenburg and moving east to the capital city of his country. The Eagles will have a devastating defense in a few years when Cam Fowler and Zach Bogosian are nearing 30 and Olli Maatta, Jindrich Barak and Klingberg are getting regular ice time.
Victor Rask was taken 7th by Geneva, and the native of Leksand, Sweden will be close to breaking into the lineup in his first season with the Generals. He protects the puck well, isn’t deficient in any areas and plays a quiet game. Sergei Mozyakin remains the top young center on the team, but prospect Dylan Larkin is coming up fast. If Darryl Sutter or whoever is coaching Geneva in a couple of years can move Mozyakin or Larkin to LW, then they will have a great line in the making with those two and Valeri Nichushkin. And Rask will give them a strong 1-2 punch at center.
Minsk got stronger with the selection of RW Kevin Hayes at number 8 in the draft. During Season 5, when they finished third overall, the Hussars used Matt Martin on the fourth line. Hayes, a 6-5, 225 power forward, might replace him and he is every bit as big and strong as Martin and much better with the puck. He’s not nearly as nasty as Martin, however, which will mean less intimidation but fewer opposing power plays to kill off. Plus, Hayes has a high ceiling and will be capable of growing into a second line winger perhaps playing with the likes of Thomas Powell and Jordan Staal or Jacob Josefson.
Goalies went with the next two picks. Promising Calvin Pickard went to Prague, giving the Wolf Pack two 22-year-old goalies. With the selection, Ryan Miller’s value to the team took a big hit. Miller shared goaltending duties with Finn Niko Hovinen last season and the youngster had better numbers than the veteran who was earning $5.2 million. Miller has been the team’s goalie since the league began, but he his future became very cloudy this morning.
With the next pick, Zurich took 21-year-old John Gibson, making it two seasons in a row that GM Dennis Sullo has grabbed a goalie. Gibson and Sandro Zurkirchen, 20, give the Swiss team two promising goalies, and the pair is among seven goalies in the Lions system at the moment. Veterans Roberto Luongo (33 games played last season with an 89.2 save percentage) and Devan Dubnyk (53 GP, 89.2 save percentage) are both unrestricted free agents. The younger Lions might not quite be game-ready, and fans are anxious to see if one, both or neither of the veterans remain on the team for Season 6. And if both decide to leave, fans will watch to see if Sullo shops the free agent market or entrusts the job to the kids and 28-year-old Jeff Zatkoff. The selections of Pickard and Gibson means the first three goalies taken in the draft are all in the Southern Conference.
Edinburgh‘s John Charles drafted one of the few plug-and-play skaters available in the draft. Mike Hoffman, 25, is ready to give a host of slightly older Capital left wingers a skate for their money. He won’t get past Jamie Benn on the team’s depth chart, but his speed and tenacity might earn him second or third line duty right out of the gate. Hoffman’s natural sniping ability would pay off more with a playmaker on his line and Coach Randy Carlyle might have to shift one more LW to the right side before the lines are settled in Scotland. He already informed Pierre-Marc Bouchard that he’s now a center. The selection of Hoffman devalues Blake Comeau, 30, an unrestricted free agent this off season who only saw spot duty in Season 5.
Boston-born Noah Hanifin became the 12th player drafted when Copenhagen used one of its eight picks to acquire the 18-year-old, smooth-skating, offensive defenseman who is playing 17 minutes per game for the NHL Carolina Hurricanes this season. “I scouted him last night during the Canucks and Hurricanes game, and I was pleasantly surprised with his passing, control of the puck on the powerplay, and offensive awareness,” Callow said. “Given how rare proven D prospects are in the draft, and our lack of depth on D, we had to pick him up early in the first (round).” Hanifin is the fourth attributeless prospect on the Tridents and the only defenseman in that group. Copenhagen can pick one more prospect in the draft.
Tobias Rieder is one of the fastest skaters in the draft and the 21-year-old right wing was taken 13th by Michele Castaldini, GM of the St. Petersburg Red Stars. Rieder may not break into the lineup this season – Devante Smith-Pelley is the one he’ll have to get past on the depth chart – but of all the right wings in the Petrograd system, Rieder has the most potential. Castaldini is building a formidable forward unit for the future. If you look at those 24 and younger on his roster, you’ll find 4 centers with PO ratings of 78 to 88; 3 right wings with 79-84 PO; and 2 left wings at 79 and 86 PO.
With his third first-round pick, Copenhagen‘s Callow went with speedy Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a center who Coach Dave Cameron quickly said will be converted to right wing. Looking into the future in Copenhagen, Marko Dano looks to be the one skating on Johnny Gaudreau’s right wing, leaving Pageau to more of a checking role or possibly as a second line winger with super fast Simon Hjalmarsson and either Jonathan Drouin or Andre Burakovsky. Jared McCann of the Vancouver Canucks will also be in the picture at center next season for Copenhagen and that means Callow is in the process of constructing quite a stable of young, swift forwards. None of the young guys offer much in terms of size, strength and body crashing, but Callow has plenty of time – and picks – to fill those holes if he wants to. “We hope Pageau can turn into an elite checking winger along the lines of Burrows in his prime,” Callow said after taking Pageau. “He will move to RW to focus on his defensive skills.”
Minnesota native Anders Lee won’t have to learn a new language when he joins the EURO League this season. Geoff Paul picked him to be the newest member of the London Dons team which had its best season in the league, finishing 10th overall in Season 5 before running into a Belfast buzzsaw in Round 2 of the playoffs. Paul has 19-year-olds William Nylander and Sonny Milano coming over the horizon as prospects and he went with the relatively seasoned Lee with the 15th pick in the draft. Lee can fill a hole immediately if one of the Dons unrestricted free agent left wings – Daniel Sedin and Jiri Hudler – can’t be resigned. Right now, Taylor Hall and Brandon Saad are at the top of the depth chart at LW and they are going to be there for a long time. Paul already has Lee’s role defined in the plans for Season 6 and beyond. “We expect Anders to fit in right away as a bottom 6 forward alongside Sam [Gagner], and we’re excited to see him peak at around the same time as players like Taylor Hall, Brandon Saad, Jeff Skinner, and Martin Jones, among others,” he said.
Bratislava expects to have a major hole to fill on the right wing this season, but knowing no one in the draft pool would fill that hole, GM Chuck Massaro turned to the prospect pool to find a center to be buddies with current Eagle prospects Tuevo Teravainan and/or Nick Ritchie in the distant future. Dylan Strome, who played with Connor McDavid in Erie of the OHL and is having good numbers without McDavid this season, was Massaro’s choice. He also likes the fact that when Strome eventually hits NHL ice, he will be doing so in Arizona, where rookies Max Domi and Athony Duclair are thriving.
Massaro basically flipped a coin between Strome and Mitch Marner, who is Toronto Maple Leafs property. They are very similar players who have always been close to each other in prospect rankings behing McDavid and Eichel. In the EURO League, they were picked back to back. Helsinki GM Trevor Grimm went with Marner 17th overall. The Jokerit now have 8 prospects in waiting including Sam Bennett, Nikolas Ehlers and Marner. The latter two share offensive tendencies and the early guess is we will see them as linemates in Season 9 and beyond. Grimm was happy he got his guy, saying, “We got the player we wanted. We had him much higher than 17 on our list, but we hoped he’d slide to us because of the unknown factor of drafting a prospect. Enough people have compared him with Patrick Kane to make us think there’s the potential to have a real dynamic player in Marner. We couldn’t be happier!”
The run on prospects contined as Paris snagged Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov, who was taken 7th overall by Philadelphia in the lesser NHL draft. Provorov said he will definitely move to the Rouge Eiffels after getting a little seasoning in the NHL. Provorov plays a good all-around game and produced a ton of offense in the WHL with Brandon. Powerful Paris can afford to wait for Provorov to develop, but when Alex Pietrangelo, Kris Letang and Ossi Vaananen are finally too old, it will be Provorov and talented Ken Kuusk leading the way on the blue line.
Portugal’s team added a big, strong winger in Adam Lowry with the 19th pick of the draft, their first of two successive picks. If Lisbon‘s left wings stay on the left wing, Lowry may not ever get past Evgeny Kuznetzov on the depth chart. But they are different types of players and will be used for different purposes. Opponents won’t like playing Kuznetzov because his creativity and skill with the puck will make them feel silly. Lowry will make them feel pain if they aren’t careful. He’s an excellent forechecker who will pressure defensemen and pop in the occasional goal. Magnus Paajarvi has a couple of years on Kuznetzov and four on Lowry, so he will also be in the mix on the left side in Lisbon in the future.
With the next pick, Lisbon added Damon Severson, a cool-headed, poised defenseman who is all offense. The youngsters on the Lisbon blue line will all be ready for primetime very soon and if a few veterans filter out of the lineup and the the youngsters are all together, the team will feature superb puck movers in Seth Jones, Jonas Holos, Jared Spurgeon, Sami Vaatanen and Severson, as well as the more muscular Darnel Nurse. Severson will eventually challenge for a spot on the top pairing, but it might be better for him to get fewer minutes on the second pair because he will probably see his share of powerplay time.
At this point in the draft, commissioner Chuck Massaro came to the podium and said “I have a trade to announce.” It was the only time he heard cheering after he spoke.
Copenhagen dealt two of their remaining five picks to Stockholm along with Scottish depth defenseman Steven Chalmers for the signing rights to Jeff Carter. The picks Callow traded were for selections in the middle of the second round and then for the second last pick of the entire draft. If Carter signs with the Tridents, he will probably be moved to a wing to be the go-to guy for center Stephen Weiss.
Paris made the 21st pick of the draft and took Cedric Paquette, a 21-year-old left wing. Paquette is a defensive specialist who likes to hit. He will take some penalties but he will keep opponents getting rid of the puck quicker than they want to. Paquette will start his career in the minors but he has a blank canvas in front of him. He is the only Paris forward with attributes who is younger than 24 years old.
With the third-last pick of the first round, Minsk GM Igor Kirunov took Russian sharpshooter Dmitrij Jaskin, 21. Jaskin has decent size and while passing isn’t his strong suit, he will fire pucks when he gets the chance. Put him next to a good passer and the Hussars will have yet another threat.
Swiss forward Timo Meier is going to Berlin to be a member of the Smurf farm club. Scouts have had mixed feelings about Meier in the last year and a half. Some aren’t impressed while others see him as an all-business, hard-working, physical player and a good guy to have on their team.The San Jose Sharks felt that way when they took him 9th overall in the NHL draft. Meier is captain of his team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where he has averaged more than a point per game for the last two seasons.
With the final pick of the first round, the team that picked first – Bern – went with a bear of a boy in Lawson Crouse. The Ontario native who was selected 11th overall by Florida in the NHL draft, has said he models his game after Milan Lucic. He’s 6-4 and 215 at age 18, so he might have the mitts to back up the statement. He also has skill, scoring at about a point per game in the OHL and World Juniors.