The 2016 NHL entry draft has produced some of the greatest prospect classes in recent times. Fittingly, the selections made on June 23-24 lived up to those expectations of a star-studded draft class. Following the selections of Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine by Toronto and Winnipeg with the first two picks, respectively, NHL general managers made it a unique day for all prospects and fans alike.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were the first to turn heads on day one. They opted for Pierre-Luc Dubois, a dominant two-way forward with size from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. That left Kärpät’s Jesse Puljujärvi for the Edmonton Oilers’ taking with the very next pick. It was projected that the highly-rated Finn was a lock to go in top-three picks.
By the fifth selection, three Finns had already been chosen – the most Finnish draftees to be selected in the first five draft choices in NHL history.
The Vancouver Canucks established that record with their selection of Olli Juolevi as the fifth overall pick. The blue-liner became the first in his position to be drafted.
The selection of the London Knights defensive stalwart opened the floodgates for a slew of other high-rated defensemen through to the twentieth overall pick.
In retrospect, Montreal’s first-round selection will have compensated for the activity that ensued in the days leading up to free agent frenzy on July 1. The Canadiens eventually traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber on June 29.
The Habs picked high-scoring defenseman Mikhail Sergachev from Windsor, coming off a debut season in North American junior hockey during which he amassed 57 points in 67 games. Similar to Subban, Sergachev is very mobile with or without the puck, yet without the tendency to over-skate. The native of Nizhnekamsk is projected to remain in the Ontario Hockey League to hone his North American game next season.
Jake Bean’s selection at thirteenth overall will bolster the Carolina Hurricanes’ blueline, as the 2006 Stanley Cup champions may have found a suitable linemate for Noah Hanifin. The fifth overall selection of last year’s draft plays a balanced two-way game, but will benefit from Bean’s eventual NHL arrival. While the Calgary Hitmen product is a consistent point-producer, his defensive-shy game will need some work before moving up the Canes’ depth chart.
Charlie McAvoy, a slightly undersized defenseman out of Boston University, did not have to wait long to hear his name called. If he can soon crack the NHL, he will not have to travel very far either. A late-1997 birth, McAvoy was selected by the Boston Bruins at pick 14. The native of Long Beach, New York is noted for his offensive savvy, especially on the powerplay – a fitting trait considering that he patterns his game after Colorado’s Tyson Barrie.
With the announcement of Pavel Datsyuk’s retirement in the NHL on June 18th, the Detroit Red Wings traded the Russian’s rights along with the 16th pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Joe Vitale, as well as picks 20 and 53. Defenseman Jakob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting was selected with that 16th selection. A former first overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft, the American-born Canadian is noted for his well-balanced defensive game.
The Jets were amongst the teams who landed a defensive stalwart, selecting Windsor’s Logan Stanley after moving up in the draft. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff traded the 22nd and 36th picks to Philadelphia for picks 18 and 79. Stanley was selected having leapfrogged up four positions. A relatively defensive-minded defenseman, Stanley is expected to return to junior to round out his overall game before taking his sizable six-foot-seven frame to the big leagues.
A family affair
Former NHLers witnessed a new generation unfold before them, with multiple sons following their fathers’ footsteps in the 2016 draft.
The earliest selection was Matthew Tkachuk, selected sixth overall by the Calgary Flames. The London Knight product plays a similar power forward game to his father Keith, who was selected 19th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1990.
Two picks after Tkachuk, the Buffalo Sabres picked Canadian-Swede Alexander Nylander from the Swedish team AIK. The versatile winger was loaned to the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads last season, where he posted 75 points in 57 games. Nylander follows his father Michael (59th overall, 1991) and brother William (eighth overall, 2014) as the third of his family to be drafted into the NHL.
Jeff Brown’s son Logan was picked at 11th overall, and the second-generation Brown should make for an effective power forward with incredible defensive upside. Standing at six-foot-six, Brown has vast potential to become a dominant attacking-line center for the Ottawa Senators.
The second overall selection from 1982, Brian Bellows, had his son Kieffer selected at pick 19 by the New York Islanders. The younger Bellows is coming off a season which he debuted for the U.S. national developmental team and won a bronze medal at the U18 World Junior Championship.
At the 21st pick, former defenseman Denis Gauthier saw his nephew Julien of the Val-d’Or Foreurs selected by the Carolina Hurricanes. Unlike his uncle, who was a physically-oriented defenseman, Gauthier is a mammoth sharp-shooting power forward with soft hands.
Jakob Chychrun, who was taken 16th overall by the Coyotes, is the nephew of former notable defenseman Luke Richardson, a seventh overall selection in the 1987 draft.
Max Jones was selected at pick 24 by the Anaheim Ducks. His father Brad was a notable face for the University of Michigan Wolverines and represented the colors of the first generation Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings.
No love for goalies
The draft also featured the least number of goaltenders selected since 1986. Everett Silvertips standout Carter Hart was the inaugural goaltender selected by the Philadelphia Flyers at 48th overall. The surprise goalie pick came in the third round when the Chicago Blackhawks drafted Wouter Peeters, a Belgian product out of EC Salzburg II.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also focused on their goaltending in lieu of scouring other areas of the ice. Even though the reigning Stanley Cup champions captured the ultimate prize with rookie goalie sensation Matt Murray, and also possess the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury and prospect Tristan Jarry, the Pens selected top-ranked European goalie Filip Gustavsson in the second round.
Despite already having some of the best goaltending prospects in the NHL, the Jets added another stopper with their pick of Mikhail Berdin from the Russian U18 team. The native of Ufa is not unfamiliar to posting great numbers in international tournaments, yet requires experience at the senior level before transitioning to North America.
Moose Jaw Warrior Zachary Sawchenko was the most notable exclusion from the position. Despite his sixth-placed ranking amongst North American goaltenders, the native of Calgary went undrafted and needs to find other means of entering the NHL.
Jets address needs
Following the Jets’ selections of Laine and Stanley, they did not select again until round three. With the 79th pick, acquired in the trade that enabled the selection of Stanley, the Jets selected defenseman Luke Green from the St. John Sea Dogs. A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman with a quick release, Green is a North-American equivalent of 2015 Finnish draft pick Sami Niku.
At the 97th pick, the Jets selected a modern version of former NHLer Mattias Ohlund in HV71’s Jacob Cederholm. Like Ohlund, the native of Helsingborg plays an aggressive shutdown role with a wide reach and is a leader by example. Despite his large frame and potential to become an anchor on the powerplay, Cederholm tends to shy away from the offensive side of the game.
Rounding out the rest of the skaters for the Jets is versatile Manitoba native Jordy Stallord at 127th overall. The former Brandon Wheat King and current Calgary Hitman plays an effective grinding role and fulfills Winnipeg’s need for a big checking forward in their depth chart.