The first day of the 2016 NHL Draft is in the books, and even though we will not know the full impact of this class on the league for several more years we can still analyze what happened in Buffalo on Friday night because it was about more than just the young players that were selected.
It was also about the trades that did (and did not) happen, the impact of the draft on youth hockey because of where a lot of the top players are from, and how some teams managed to put themselves in a position to get better this offseason.
The Maple Leafs are obvious winners Friday night because they came away with Auston Matthews with the No. 1 overall pick, while the Winnipeg Jets were happy to grab Finland's Patrik Laine at No. 2 overall.
Who else did well on Friday night (and which ones did not)? We take a look here with some early winners and losers.
USA Hockey. All sorts of history was made on the first day of the 2016 NHL Draft for the United States hockey programs.
Not only were more America-born players (12) selected in the first round of the NHL Draft than ever before (the previous record was 11 in 2010), they also outnumbered the Canadian players (11) taken in the first round for the first time in the history of the draft.
What stands out about those numbers is that it wasn't just players from the traditional hockey regions in the United States (Minnesota, Buffalo, Massachusetts). They came from all over the country. It all started with the No. 1 overall pick, Auston Matthews, an Arizona native going to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Almost as impressive as the top player in the draft being from the Southwestern United States is that there were five players from the St. Louis area taken in the first round: Matthew Tkachuk (No. 6 to Calgary), Clayton Keller (No. 7 to Arizona), Logan Brown (No. 11 to Ottawa), Luke Kunin (No. 15 to Minnesota) and Trent Frederic (No. 29 to Boston).
To put that in perspective, in the history of the NHL there have only been 15 players born in St. Louis to ever play in the league.
Detroit Red Wings. It is not necessarily their pick (Dennis Cholowski) at No. 20 overall that makes them a big winner on the first night.
It is the fact they were able to dump Pavel Datsyuk's contract and clear a massive amount of salary cap space for the offseason to put them in a prime position to go after Steven Stamkos.
Not only did they dump Datsyuk's contract, they also picked up a second-round draft pick in return (as well as forward Joe Vitale) when it was initially believed that they would have to actually give up an asset to get rid of it. It was a matter of being in the right spot in the draft at the right time with Arizona having a significant interest in Jakob Chychrun. First-year general manager John Chayka said Chychrun was a player they had a difficult time passing on at No. 7 and when presented with the opportunity to move up from 20 to 16 it was worth taking on Datsyuk's contract and giving up the pick.
After the first round ended Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said they intend to spend the money they now have under the cap and are looking to add an impact forward to help replace Datsyuk.
Translation: They are probably going to make a big push for Steven Stamkos.
The combination of getting rid of Datsyuk's contract and the fact Vitale is not expected to play this season due to lingering concussion issues, the Red Wings are opening up $7.5 million in cap space. That is huge.
Even though the free-agent signing period does not officially begin until July 1, the Red Wings -- and every other team in the NHL -- are now allowed to at least begin talking to Stamkos and his agent as part of the league's free-agent interview period.
The Red Wings are almost certainly going to be one of the teams that reaches out.
Edmonton Oilers. Over the past 10 years the only time the Oilers have really been able to win anything of significance is at the NHL Draft lottery when they landed four No. 1 picks over a six-year stretch. They did not get the No. 1 pick this year, but still ended up hitting a home run by doing, well, absolutely nothing.
It all happened because the Columbus Blue Jackets went off the board with the No. 3 overall pick and selected center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
That meant that Finland forward Jesse Puljujarvi would slide down to the Oilers at No. 4 and Edmonton jumped at the chance to select him. He did not seemed completely bummed out about that.
Jesse Puljujärvi about Columbus snub: "I don't mind. Edmonton is a real hockey town."— Sami Hoffrén (@shoffren) June 25, 2016
During all of the build-up to the draft the general consensus was that there were three elite talents in this draft that stood out above everybody else -- Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi -- and that for any team outside of the top three to get one they would have to make a significant trade. As it turns out, all Edmonton had to do was just sit around and wait.
Does he satisfy their biggest organizational need of defense? No. But you simply cannot pass on a talent like that when it falls into your lap because you might have a need somewhere else.
Brian Elliott and the Calgary Flames. The Calgary Flames were the one team really making a push to add a starting goaltender, and they did that Friday night. It just wasn't the goalie anybody expected them to get (Marc-Andre Fleury or Ben Bishop). It was Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for the No. 35 overall pick in 2016 and a conditional 2018 third-round pick that is dependent on the Flames re-signing Elliott after this season.
The reason it is a win for Elliott is because now he is finally going to a team that will give him an opportunity to be the clear No. 1 starter. No matter how well Elliott played in St. Louis the Blues never really seemed to trust him to be anything more than a platoon starter along with any combination of Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller and Jake Allen.
Goaltending was clearly the biggest weakness for the Flames this past season and Elliott can probably be a significant upgrade the minute he arrives in town. The Flames finished the 2015-16 season with a team save percentage of .892, not only 30th out of 30 teams in the league, but also the only team to finish the regular season under .900.
Even if the Flames get league-average goaltending in 2016-17 and face the same number of shots on goal (29 per game) that would cut 54 goals off of their goals against total.
Teams looking to trade a goalie. Goaltending is so good across the NHL right now that just about every team in the league has at least one that they like. Some have more than one, and it could create some long-term problems, specifically when it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning (Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy) and Pittsburgh Penguins (Matt Murray and Fleury). Those problems include the salary cap (both teams are going to be tight this season) and the expansion draft next year when the yet-to-be-named Las Vegas team enters the league.
Neither team wants to lose a goalie for nothing and it stands to reason that their veteran guys are going to have to get moved at some point. The problem is that once Toronto picked up Frederik Andersen earlier in the week and the Flames picked up Elliott on Friday it pretty much eliminated the goaltending market.
The only other team that could potentially be in the market for a starter at this point might be the Dallas Stars if they decide to go away from their expensive duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, and a trade with them would likely result in the other team having to take back one of those two contracts.
Sure, putting these teams in the "loser" category is probably unfair because having two good goalies is a pretty good problem to have in the short-term. Plus, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford continues to insist his preference is to open the season with both Murray and Fleury on the roster (and there is nothing wrong with that -- both players are good!).
But again, there is going to come a point where they are going to have to do something and it only seems like that is going to get tougher to do.
Boston Bruins. For the second year in a row the Boston Bruins had multiple first-round draft picks, and the for the second year in a row they seemed to leave their fans underwhelmed with at least one of the picks.
When it comes to their first pick -- their own pick -- at No. 14 overall, Charles McAvoy, a defenseman from Boston University, the consensus seems to be that it was a strong pick to add a young, talented, mobile defenseman to an organization that has a significant need for that type of player.
But their second pick at No. 29, acquired a year ago in the trade that sent goalie Martin Jones to San Jose, they went way off the board to pick one of the American kids in Trent Frederic. It just seemed to be really high to take a player that might have been available with a later pick, that doesn't really project as a high-end player, and when there were more talented, skill players on the board.
Like this next guy ...
Teams that passed on Alex Debrincat. In recent years teams have shown more of a willingness to draft and sign players that are "undersized" if they have the skill and talent to be impact players in the NHL. But sometimes that lack of size can still seem to be emphasized, and it almost certainly was when it comes to Erie Otters forward Alex Debrincat.
Debrincat fell out of the first round Friday and it has to be because he only measures 5-feet-7, 165 pounds.
Yeah, that is small. But he was also incredibly productive in the OHL (one of the most productive players in the entire draft class) and is coming off of his second consecutive 100-point season (51 goals, 50 assists in 60 games) for Erie. He also improved his per-game production (he had 51 goals and 53 assists in 68 games a year ago).
Somebody is going to get him in the second round -- probably very early -- and end up getting one of the most talented and productive players in the draft.