The 2018 NHL Enrty Draft will be held Friday in Dallas at the American Airlines Center. Trades and the Draft have always gone hand in hand. Most recently, I explored some of the biggest established players that might be out there and what it might take to acquire them. And while some 25 deals involving players have taken place through the last four drafts, it pails in comparison to the number of swaps involving picks. Last June saw nine trades directly impacting the first round alone–including four while on the clock. Tis the season for moving up or down. In saying so, here’s a look at picks 1-31, who has them and whether or not it might be in play.
1.) Buffalo Sabres: No way, no how. Nope. Not a chance. GM, Jason Botterill will hold onto first overall for dear life. What awaits him? An 18-year-old Swedish blueliner with loads of offense and franchise-player potential in Rasmus Dahlin. Party on Buffalo–this is a huge step in the rebuilding process.
2.) Carolina Hurricanes: Not the same kind of ‘no’ as with first, but Andrei Svechnikov, the Russian-born, Barrie Colt right winger is the consensus number two on Friday. Carolina has missed the playoffs every season since 2009, but hasn’t picked lower than fifth–Elias Lindholm (2013) and Noah Hanifin (2015). Their move up of nine spots in the lottery should be welcomed in their pursuit to end the league’s longest playoff drought.
3.) Montreal Canadiens: Is Marc Bergevin eyeing the big Finnish-born center, Jesperi Kotkaniemi? There’s many that think he is as the Habs prepare to select third overall. It makes sense for an organization that needs help down the middle, especially following last week’s trade of Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona. Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson are two defensemen that also fill an organizational need. It seems unlikely they’ll move from three and that’s fine given the recent history of first-round draft positioning–just one pick outside the bottom-10 since 2013, and that was used on Mikhail Sergachev (9th, 2016), who was traded away last summer to Tampa.
5.) Arizona Coyotes: On the morning of last year’s draft, John Chayka decided to trade the seventh overall pick to gain established NHL bodies in Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta via the Rangers. In a much deeper class, it would appear less likely he goes back-to-back years with top-10 picks moved. Arizona, who dropped down to this spot in the lottery, will have a crack at one of the top prospects here and that’s considerable. Even if the three-year general manager already has a slight reputation for draft day dealing.
6.) Detroit Red Wings: Selecting sixth will be the lowest Detroit pick since Keith Primeau (3rd, 1990). An excellent chance for the rebuild Wings to grab a strong-potential prospect. Ken Holland might have other ideas though, saying he’s open to moving it. With 11 picks in this weekend’s draft, including seven in the first 93, there might be some flexibility for Holland and company to get creative in a potential move-down scenario.
7.) Vancouver Canucks: This pick seems to be the most attainable early-round pick. Jim Benning might have his eyes on a blueliner in this year’s draft and if the run on most of those happens before seven, then there’s reason to think Vancouver will field offers. Brock Boeser finished second in the Calder Trophy voting on Wednesday, despite being selected 24th in 2015. Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson, the team’s last two first rounders might be ready for NHL duty next seasson. A sensible move-down isn’t a bad option here.
9.) New York Rangers: The first of three first round picks for the Rangers, a team that previously went four-straight years without one. The Blueshirts could try and move up with the help of one of those first round picks.
10.) Edmonton Oilers: With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the fold, Oil Country should enter into the conversation as a contending team. They may have to sure up their blueline to do so. That might render this pick available.
11/12.) New York Islanders: Lou Lamoriello, the new, yet long-veteraned general manager of the Islanders, has a nice luxury with pick 11 and 12 (via Calgary). Questions still surround the future of captain John Tavares. Could a player be had for one or both of these picks to convince him to stay? If so, the ex-Devils and Leafs executive will consider.
13–30.) These middle of the draft picks tend to be where we see most of our swap activities. In 2017, seven of these picks were traded. With the pick value steadily declining at this point it becomes a little easier to move up and slide back. Here’s some of the teams to keep an eye on at this point.
14.) Philadelphia Flyers: Coming via the St. Louis Blues, this pick might not be as much in play as # 19, but could the two be packaged together to crack into the top 10?
17.) New Jersey Devils: The Devils enjoyed a surprisingly good season last year. They were buyers at the trade deadline getting Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon. As such, they are without a second or third round pick. They could move back some spots in pursuit of recouping picks for those rounds.
20.) Los Angeles Kings: It feels like the Kings will do something. They want to get faster and have been linked to names like Max Pacioretty and Jeff Skinner. If they do try for either of those players on Friday, this pick is likely involved.
24.) Minnesota Wild: New GM, Paul Fenton is running his first draft. The Wild own three picks in the third round. The option to move up 2–4 spots isn’t out of the question.
31.) Washington Capitals: The Kevin Shattenkirk deal in 2016-17 wasn’t a good one for the Caps–especially when you consider that it forced them to go without a first round pick in 2017, something they did just one other time dating back to 2002. Sixteen D.C. drafted players since then have gone on to play at least 250 games in the league. But the organizational M.O. is to keep the pick.