John Tavares is the most talented player in this draft.
Victor Hedman might be a player that can offer more to a team, and Matt Duchene might well become the better all-around player that scouts and analysts say he can be. In terms of pure talent, John Tavares leaves them in the dust.
He is a pure goal scorer, a player that goes out there on every shift to do one thing: score goals. The result is a person that will help your team on and off the ice, increase the franchise's popularity and marketability and give hope to a team that probably doesn't have much right now (New York Islanders, this means you).
However, any time you have a player that is all about offense, there will be questions raised about how this player will fit in. If this player is the best player for the team. These are warranted questions. Recent history shows that offense can be instantly added to a team, and it is defense that wins championships.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been bottom feeders for years. And at every draft for many years, they have drafted defencemen. It took years for those players to come up through the system, develop the muscle mass to fill out their young frames, and to learn the defensive game at the NHL level.
When they finally had a core of solid young defencemen, they added a couple of spark plugs in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Now, nothing against either of them, they are dynamic young forwards that are huge parts of their team. But if Chicago hadn't developed that young defense first, Kane and Toews would not have been able to drag that team to the third round on their own.
Now, with that example in mind, let's look at the teams at the top of the draft order.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have gaping holes all over the lineup. If DiPetrio can stay healthy, they have a quality goalie, but after that, it is a nightmare. The one thing they do have is a European defensemen that can quarterback the powerplay and is better in his own zone than people think.
Mark Streit is a solid defensemen, and potentially, a perfect mentor for Victor Hedman. Hedman has the ability to be a No. 1 d-man, and Streit can help him learn how to play defense and when to jump in on offense, and fit in in the NHL.
A solid back end also makes sure that if DiPetrio does go down, the team doesn't self destruct from whatever combination of back-up and call-up/waiver pick ends up splitting time between the pipes. All a goal scorer will mean is that the Islanders will lose 6-4, instead of 4-2.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay also needs a defensemen. With all the firepower on that roster, and the future of Stamkos looking very bright, offense is not the problem. That is why they should trade down. That pick is worth one of Hedman, Tavares or Duchene, and that is something that is worth a lot of dough in the NHL today.
They should arrange a couple of trades if Tavares falls to them that they can pull the trigger on, and if Hedman falls to them, screw the trades and pounce on him. If Hedman is gone, trade the pick to the highest bidder that can provide young defense.
Make sure to get a first rounder out of the deal, as this is a strong draft, but don't take one of the top offensive guys when that doesn't fill a need and talent isn't lacking on the roster.
Colorado is in a great spot—they get one of the top three guys, and they should stay put. Take whoever falls to them, and leave the draft a winner. This team isn't close to winning, and has needs at forward and defense.
Someone to line up with Statsy (Tavares), or make a one-two punch with is great (Duchene), or a future No.1 d man (Hedman) are all positives. If Colorado gets blown away by a great offer from Atlanta, LA, or Phoenix, they could go for it, as Kane, Paajarvi-Svensson or Schenn are solid players, but staying the course is a definite A grade on the draft.
Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix
Atlanta, LA and Phoenix are all in the same boat - talent is needed in the organization, and taking the best talent is a solid way to go. Position isn't as big an issue, though deciding on a defenseman projected two or three picks lower isn't a wrong move.
If Atl picks Kane, LA chooses Paajarvi-Svensson and Phoenix picks Cowen (needing the defenseman more than they need another scorer) Toronto's pick becomes interesting.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has several options - Burke wants Tavares bad. And he has several ways to try and get him. He doesn't want to trade Schenn, fine. Using his cap space and taking on bad contracts from Tampa, giving up picks, making multiple moves, if anyone is not afraid to move at the draft, its Brian Burke.
What he could have up his sleeve, who knows, but expect a lot of talk coming from that draft table.
However, if it just isn't going to happen, getting Brayden Schenn at seven is a good move for the organization. The Schenn brothers are both very talented, and having family around is sure to make the off ice transitions of these young men much easier. Plus, Burke has recently won a Stanley Cup with a D, forward brother tandem.
Add to that the rumours Burke may be getting the Sedins, and there is some major brotherly love in Toronto this coming season. If Schenn isn`t around, Cowen would make for a one-two punch on the Leafs` blueline that would impress, and there are several good forwards available as well.
Dallas, Ottawa, Edmonton
This Dallas Stars pick is a gift for them. They are a much better team then how it unfolded this year, and this dip in the standings just gives them a chance to reload with some young talent before getting back into the swing of things.
Look for Dallas to pick up a D-man this year, as they would love a young, solid rear guard to patrol their end for the next decade.
Ottawa has some serious work to do, but one thing is for sure—as soon as the defense left Ottawa, so did the wins. Grab the best defensive defenseman available and watch that team improve.
The Oilers also need a defenseman to go along with their young forward group, and with this pick the run on defensemen should slow down. Look for names such as Cowen, if he hasn't been grabbed yet, Ekman-Larsson, Kulikov or Ryan Ellis to be taken by the Stars, Sens and Oil during this stretch.
One or two of these teams may trade down, if they can get good value for these picks.
By the time it gets down to Nashville, Minnesota, Florida, and Buffalo, the entire landscape could have shifted with some standard draft moves, some surprises and trades. It is safe to say that for one of these teams to move up to get Tavares would require one heck of a sweet deal.
Chances are, Tampa or New York will end up with Tavares. They will be getting an unreal talent, and no one can fault a team for having too much talent. But like the Lindros trade to Philly, a King`s ransom can be had for a player like that, and both of these teams need more than one player to turn them around.
A sniper isn`t going to do it. If New York is smart, take Hedman. If Tampa is bright, put up a for sale sign and get to work getting the most from this opportunity. Between the bounty recovered from trading Lecavalier, Tavares or both, they could build a brand new, fantastic team that can grow up together and fetch them another Cup.
However, chances are, one, two going into the draft will be selected one, two by the teams drafting one, two. There is too much pride on the line to risk being the guy that traded John Tavares.