Draft winners and losers (cont.)
The Sabres have needed some size and skill in the middle since the end of the Gilbert Perreault era. They might have solved the problem in the span of three picks on Friday night.
The book on Mikhail Grigorenko (12th) has been well read: an unbeatable combo of size and the sort of world-class offensive skills that might be the best in show, coupled with prolonged bouts of inconsistent play and the flight risk that goes along with drafting any high-skill/low-effort Russian. Maybe he's Alexei Yashin. Maybe he's Evgeni Malkin. He can be an incredibly frustrating player, but at the 12 spot, this was a pick that Darcy Regier had to make.
What really impressed was the way Regier immediately hedged his bet, trading the 21st and 42nd picks to Calgary to move up to pick 14 where he grabbed Latvian center Zemgus Girgensons. He's more of a No. 2 center in terms of his offensive upside, but you'll never hear anyone question this kid's compete level. He'd just as soon go through you as around you to get the puck, and he plays a true 200-foot game. Regier then tabbed Justin Kea (73rd), another jumbo pivot who plays like Paul Gaustad with a serious chip on his shoulder.
For the third straight year, the Oilers come away with the consensus BPA, No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov. He should play a top-six role in Edmonton next season. Mitch Moroz was a reach at 32, but he projects as a Dwight King-type power forward who contributes in ways you won't see on the score sheet. Still ... way too early to take him. I really like Daniil Zharkov at 91. He may have been born in Russia, but he considers himself Canadian after just a year in Belleville. He definitely plays like one -- think of him as a Milan Lucic-type ... with even more of the consistency issues.
New York Islanders
The first win of the day for these sadsackers? When the Blue Jackets spared them great embarrassment by rejecting an offer that reportedly would have sent New York's complete slate of picks -- 4, 34, 65, 103, 125, 155 and 185 -- to Columbus for the second overall choice. You hear stories like that and you have to be impressed that the Isles remember to put the ice in their old barn before the start of the season.
GALLERY: Islanders Follies
After dodging the bullets they had aimed directly at their own feet, the Isles braintrust managed two large steps toward respectability with the acquisition of veteran defender Lubomir Visnovsky from Anaheim and the drafting of Griffin Reinhart at fourth overall. Even at 36, the former Duck will can play 20-plus minutes and should be a reliable weapon on the power play. His cap hit will also ensure that the Isles are above the floor (at least, as it is set now). Reinhart -- who might have been the player the Isles had targeted at No. 2 -- is a high-end, two-way defense prospect, exactly what they needed after taking forwards with their previous nine first round picks. More than a few scouts suggested that he might mature into the best player in the class. It's all hype at this point, but the consensus is that Reinhart has the potential to become a No. 1 defenseman. Having vets like Visnovsky and Mark Streit to lean on will help him learn the ropes.
Detroit Red Wings
Trading away a first rounder for Kyle Quincey -- even in a weak draft -- seems like an egregious misuse of an asset. So after sitting on their hands through Day 1, the Wings spent Day 2 swinging for the fences trying to make up for that early deficit.
That strategy may pay off in the end, and to give them their due, the Wings have certainly done better than most teams at mining gems from deep in the draft mine. So maybe seventh-rounder Rasmus Bodin, a 6-6 winger out of Sweden, ends up being a supersized Tomas Holmstrom five years down the road.
More likely though, these kids are never heard from again. Second-rounder Martin Frk is a pure goal scorer with high-end hands and low-end feet. Consistency is a big issue, as is his inattention to defense. Jake Paterson? Maybe changing his goalie coach addressed his technical problems, but he still projects as a third-stringer. Andreas Athanasiou? All skill, no will. Kid has amazing tools, but settles for the easy play far too often. Lots of areas you can work on with a prospect, but you can't teach courage.
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts made just four selections over the weekend, limiting their chances to make any appreciable impact. Brady Skjei (28th) is off the charts in terms of sheer skating ability, but beyond that opinions varied widely on his potential. Some see him as a Brett Hedican-type, a second-pairing defender who can reliably kick start the offense from the back end. Others wonder if he has the hockey sense necessary to advance his game when size and speed no longer give him a natural advantage.
High school center Boo Nieves (59th) attracted a lot of attention for his size (6-3, 184) and skating ability, but like Athanasiou, he didn't show a lot of willingness to work down low ... and if he didn't have the jam to compete against high schoolers, you have to wonder what would happen if he saw Shea Weber between him and the net?
Nothing wrong with their first rounder Brendan Gaunce -- if you feel like intangibles are reason enough to draft a kid in the top-30. After that though, the Canucks made four selections ... and all were overagers who had been passed on in previous drafts. You can argue, as the Canucks did, that players like 20-year-old Alexandre Mallet (57th) are closer to being pro-ready than those who are freshly draft eligible. And in some cases, like L.A. pick Tanner Pearson, a prospect really can blossom after his being rejected the first 210 times. But Mallet, who wasn't even rated by Central Scouting, and Ben Hutton (147th) and Wesley Myron (177th) didn't have the kind of breakout seasons that Pearson did. They got a little bigger, maybe scored a little more ... but that's what older, bigger kids do against younger, smaller competition. These picks feel like a restocking of the Chicago Wolves, not a legitimate bid to improve the Canucks down the road.
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