2018 NHL Draft grades: Sabres, Panthers, Red Wings get top marks for their picks
Running through all 31 NHL teams and issuing grades for their selections at this weekend's Entry Draft
Allare in, and besides featuring some of the most unique names in sports, this year's selection process was stocked with on-ice potential, from No. 1 pick and defensive sensation Rasmus Dahlin to a handful of apparent Day Two steals.
While we won't be able to give complete grades on every team's draft-day decisions until at least a few years from now, it's easy to see how some teams are already better positioned than they were coming into the weekend. With an eye on all 31 clubs' current lineups, impending free agency and, of course, the long-term future, here are our knee-jerk grades for every team's 2018 NHL Draft haul:
Anaheim Ducks: B
Four of their first five picks addressed the offense. Isac Lundestrom in the first round wasn't the flashiest pick, but he's the kind of safe, solid and smart addition they need. Benoit-Oliver Groulx in the second round was a similar selection in that it emphasizes smarts -- a fine focus, although the Ducks aren't guaranteed to get elite production as a result.
Arizona Coyotes: B-
Barrett Hayton at No. 5 is going to be the obvious X-factor here. He may have gone at least five picks too early because of questions about his goal-scoring skills, so we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Arizona stocked up on plenty of defensive help, most notably adding the intriguing 6-foot-6 Kevin Bahl in Round Two.
Boston Bruins: B+
If it weren't for them missing out on a first-round selection, they might deserve an A. Defenseman wasn't necessarily high on the wish list coming in, but Axel Andersson in the second isn't bad value whatsoever, and the tantalizing promise of Jakub Lauko might make for a mid-round steal.
Buffalo Sabres: A
Anything other than an A in this draft would've been a tremendous disappointment. Rasmus Dahlin was a slam dunk at No. 1 and instantly improves Buffalo's defensive prospects, and pairing him with Mattias Samuelsson at the top of the second was solid. As is the case with just about everyone's mid- to later-round picks, nothing else is guaranteed, but Dahlin should have them smiling.
Calgary Flames: C
Maybe this is mostly due to the fact they missed out on prospects in each of the first three rounds. But Flames fans need to note that fourth-rounder Martin Pospisil could bring serious energy in a few years and, most importantly, that Calgary did its real damage outside the draft on Saturday, landing defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm in a five-player trade with the Canes.
Carolina Hurricanes: A-
If you get Andrei Svechnikov, you get a good grade. The Canes are undergoing serious changes, especially after their blockbuster deal with Calgary, and while second-rounder Jack Drury may only be a bottom-six forward, this team seems to be shaking itself up for the better. Go big or go home.
Chicago Blackhawks: B+
They double dipped on defenseman in the first round and then collected a bunch of scorers later on. Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudini both still have work to do, but Chicago has to be happy about getting so much upside in the building.
Colorado Avalanche: B
The real key is Martin Kaut, their No. 16 overall right winger, and even if he might never be an elite NHL player. That said, the Avs have more young talent than we thought, and this year's haul, including third-round goalie Justus Annunen, was solid.
Columbus Blue Jackets: B-
Liam Foudy at No. 18 was probably a reach, even though the center's speed is nothing to laugh about. Still, Columbus added some more offensive firepower in the subsequent rounds, perhaps catching a potential gem in Russian winger Kirill Marchenko.
Dallas Stars: C+
There added some intriguing pieces after the first round, particularly in the form of winger Albin Eriksson and massive fourth-round center Curtis Douglas. But that first round, when they reached for Ty Dellandrea, could have been much better.
Detroit Red Wings: A+
They should be absolutely enthralled with what transpired this weekend. Even if you look just at the first round, they landed maybe the draft's second-best goal-scorer at No. 6 in Filip Zadina, then got another steal with center Joseph Veleno at No. 30.
Edmonton Oilers: B+
Evan Bouchard made for a very solid top-10 pick, and they didn't ignore the offense at the start of the second round, landing Ryan McLeod. The Oilers needed to be smart with this draft after last year's debacle of a season, and they did a fine, fine job.
Florida Panthers: A
Bob Boughner should be pumped. And the Panthers should be fun. Grigori Denisenko isn't huge, but he's an absolute highlight machine, which will make for even more offensive juice in Florida. That, plus Serron Noel in the second was a steal.
Los Angeles Kings: B
Rasmus Kupari is a solid two-way addition, although you'd always like to see a little more elite goal-scoring potential with your first-round pick. He's also been a little streaky. Otherwise, the Kings did a fair job of raking in additional forward prospects.
Minnesota Wild: C
Filip Johansson may very well be a good defenseman, but was he really worth a first-round pick? We understand the Wild weren't picking again until the third round by the time Day Two actually came around, but the reach there overshadows their C/W picks.
Montreal Canadiens: B-
The sheer quantity of their early-round picks means they may ultimately strike gold, but they had a chance to get a superior talent at No. 3 and yet appeared to reach, even if ever so slightly, for Jesper Kotkaniemi just because they need center help.
Nashville Predators: C
It's a good thing the Predators are one of the top NHL teams in terms of depth and long-term potential, because their draft haul (if you want to call it that) didn't start until the fourth round, and when it did, they began with a purely developmental center.
New Jersey Devils: B-
Ty Smith gives them a Grade-A defensive prospect, but there's a pretty obvious drop-off from him to the other prospects they landed. Good thing for the Devils that this team is still riding high off last year's draft.
New York Islanders: A-
Oliver Wahlstrom was an awesome choice for them at No. 11 overall, especially with a potential John Tavares departure looming. His goal-scoring prowess should be an asset down the road. They also got supreme value at No. 12 with D-man Noah Dobson.
New York Rangers: B
The addition of Vitali Kravtsov thrusts an immediate blend of size, speed and scoring ability into the Rangers' farm system, whereas No. 22 pick K'Andre Miller could make this B grade look a whole lot more like an A if he grazes his high ceiling.
Ottawa Senators: B-
There's a real possibility that Brady Tkachuk could be the Senators' face of the franchise down the road (and you'd think so, considering he was drafted at No. 4), but he still seems like a bit of a reach. You can debate about their second-rounder, too.
Philadelphia Flyers: B
The Flyers may have reached for their second first-round pick, Jay O'Brien, but there are some who think he might be the steal of the back half of the first. For them to come away with two quality forwards is a plus by itself.
Pittsburgh Penguins: B+
They didn't have a pick in the first round, and yet they still left with a pair of well-rounded prospects on both sides of the ice after the second. Would anyone really be surprised if both Calen Addison and Filip Hallander were postseason players one day?
St. Louis Blues: B-
Dominik Bokk has quite a bit to prove before he can make a difference with the Blues, but his skating should keep the team intrigued for a while. A couple of solid mid-round defenders were part of their Day Two collection as well.
San Jose Sharks: B-
Taking Ryan Merkley with their first pick was a clear statement: We're willing to take on character concerns if it means we get better. We'll see how that pans out down the road. Adding a pair of centers after Merkley bolsters their forward depth, too.
Tampa Bay Lighting: C+
When you've got the talent of the Lightning, you can afford a C in the draft. And their first pick, second-rounder Gabriel Fortier, isn't even a pushover with the kind of skills that could make him a top penalty killer. The haul was just so-so overall.
Toronto Maple Leafs: B+
They get bonus points for moving down in the first round and still landing their guy -- defenseman Rasmus Sandin. His skill set fits in well with what the Maple Leafs are doing. Four more blue-liners solidified their commitment to that side of the ice.
Vancouver Canucks: A
Jett Woo might have one of the coolest names of the 2018 NHL Draft, but the Canucks also got one of the best defensemen in Quintin Hughes, who should fit right in with Vancouver's blue line -- one that could desperately use his impact ability.
Vegas Golden Knights: C+
They dominated the expansion draft, so it's OK if they didn't dominate this time around. Ivan Morozov isn't a bad pick at No. 30 overall, either. He just needs time. Much like other teams, they'll be hoping for a couple late-round projects to pan out.
Washington Capitals: B
The defending Stanley Cup champions added a nice two-way piece in Alexander Alexeyev at the back end of the first round, although he'll take some time to make an impact. The back-to-back picks of Martin Fehervary and Kody Clark were solid.
Winnipeg Jets: C+
Winnipeg is in good hands (its own) as far as the NHL roster goes. But this draft was never going to be too crazy for them once they knew they'd be picking at No. 60 first. David Gustafsson could surprise some, but he needs to learn how to skate first.
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