2017 NHL Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers of Round 1
Most of the real action at Friday's NHL draft took place away from the podium at the United Center in Chicago.
Earlier in the day, the host Chicago Blackhawks shocked the hockey world with two major trades, each of which left many Blackhawks fans fuming on Twitter. Those trades will be further assessed in our annual Winners and Losers slideshow from the first round of the draft.
Otherwise, things went mostly as expected regarding the order of the players chosen Friday, though there were a couple of minor surprises. This draft class wasn't as well-regarded as recent ones, but it's tougher to impress when there are no Connor McDavids or Auston Matthews available.
Rounds 2-7 happen Saturday, and the later rounds always contain hidden gems. For now, though, these are the teams that did the best and worst on Day 1.
Winner: Nico Hischier and All of Switzerland
The highest-drafted player to come out of Switzerland previous to Friday night was Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter, fifth overall to the New York Islanders in 2010.
Nico Hischier topped that by becoming the first No. 1 pick in the country's history, with the New Jersey Devils taking him at the United Center. Hischier wasn't even in the top 15 in the rankings of TSN draft guru Bob McKenzie at the halfway mark of the NHL season. He zoomed all the way to No. 1, which McKenzie said was an unprecedented jump in the time he's done the rankings.
Hischier told NBCSN's Kathryn Tappen "I can't put this into words" after making history.
By all accounts, there is little chance Hischier will go down in history as the "Swiss miss." He should challenge for a Devils roster spot right off the hop.
BOTTOM LINE: Hischier has elite skill and hasn't been spoiled in his hockey upbringing. He seems hungry to prove he was worthy of the first pick, and he should look great on a line with Taylor Hall.
Loser: Colorado Avalanche Fans Hungry for Big Trades
As other teams such as Chicago and the Columbus Blue Jackets made big trades Friday, and teams such as the New York Islanders the day before, the team many expected to be the biggest wheeler-dealer of the draft did nothing.
Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has said most everyone on his roster is available at the right offer, and that especially is the case with forward Matt Duchene. But Friday came and went with Duchene still on the Avs roster.
What happened? Well, as Sakic told BSNDenver, none of the offers for Duchene were to his liking. So Duchene stays, and Sakic said he will stay into the season if none of the offers improve.
Awkward? You bet. But that's life with the Avalanche these days.
BOTTOM LINE: The Avalanche was a 48-point team last season. Changes are needed. But they haven't happened, and fans are impatient.
Winner: Arizona Coyotes
If there were a team we had pegged for the "loser" category entering Friday, it was the Arizona Coyotes.
The week to that point saw the Coyotes jettison longtime captain Shane Doan in an awkward exit and saw their parting with longtime coach Dave Tippett. Things seemed chaotic under new owner Andrew Barroway.
But young GM John Chayka stepped up and made the Coyotes a better team with his moves Friday. He turned young, unproven defenseman Connor Murphy into elite, proven D-man Niklas Hjalmarsson in a trade with Chicago that involved other parts. He also parlayed the No. 7 overall pick and youngster Anthony DeAngelo into a deal with the New York Rangers that got veteran forward Derek Stepan and promising goalie Antti Raanta in return.
While the Coyotes are a long way from being a serious playoff contender, they are an improved team thanks to Chayka's moves. Arizona also got a nice prospect with their first-round pick at No. 23, Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
BOTTOM LINE: The Coyotes need to figure out who will replace Tippett and stabilize things overall with their ever-turbulent arena situation.
Loser: Chicago Blackhawks
There is no way anyone can say with a straight face that the Chicago Blackhawks aren't a worse team than they were a few days ago.
First, they lose Marian Hossa for the coming season, and maybe for good, because of a skin disorder. Then, on Friday, general manager Stan Bowman shocked the hockey world by trading Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin in separate deals to Arizona and Columbus, respectively.
The big piece coming back from Columbus for the supremely skilled Panarin? That would be Brandon Saad, who was part of two Cup-winning Chicago teams before being dealt by Bowman to the Blue Jackets in a salary dump. Saad is a fine player, so why did Chicago get rid of him in the first place? They should have worked harder to keep him if they never wanted him to leave. Now they are minus Panarin.
There has been some sentiment expressed by Blackhawks apologists that the team wasn't tough enough with Panarin. Being a tough guy isn't Panarin's role. He's a goal scorer—and a great one.
Hjalmarsson is a definite loss. He rarely makes mistakes in his own end and can log major minutes. While the Blackhawks did get a talented young D-man Murphy back in return, he is a big step down from the Swede.
BOTTOM LINE: Bowman has overreacted to a first-round loss to the Nashville Predators. You can't win the Cup every year. Getting rid of premier talent like Panarin and Hjalmarsson was too much.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers
By definition, the Philadelphia Flyers came into the draft already winners, having moved up to the No. 2 spot despite having more points than teams that picked behind them, such as Colorado, the Buffalo Sabres, the Dallas Stars, Arizona and the Vancouver Canucks.
With the second pick, the Flyers did right by themselves in taking center Nolan Patrick. He was the favorite to go No. 1 for most of the year until Hischier went on a tear and shot up the rankings.
Patrick, many feel, still might prove to be the best player in this draft. Based on the odds, Philadelphia should have gotten only a pick outside the top seven. Instead, they get the big, rangy Patrick, who should be ready to make the leap to the NHL this fall.
BOTTOM LINE: Patrick may not prove to be a superstar, but the Flyers are fortunate to have gotten what should be a reliable top-six forward for many years to come.
Loser: Gabe Vilardi
Windsor Spitfires center Gabe Vilardi was projected to go fifth overall in McKenzie's TSN pre-draft rankings. But Vilardi fell to No. 11, where the Los Angeles Kings took him.
Hey, going 11th overall in an NHL draft makes for a winning life already. But the fact is this was a disappointment for Vilardi, as questions arose about his skating. Vilardi has good size, though, at 6'2" and 202 pounds, and maybe this "snub" at the draft will make him work that much harder to prove the other 10 teams wrong.
BOTTOM LINE: The Kings need more scorers, so they might be the winners here in the long run. But for now, they have a player with a bit of a downgrade from the experts on his ability.
Winner: Dallas Stars
Probably no team was a bigger disappointment in 2016-17 than the Dallas Stars, who went from Western Conference regular-season points leaders the year before to well out of the playoffs, costing coach Lindy Ruff his job.
General manager Jim Nill made some questionable moves along the way, such as overpaying for veteran goalies Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, but this offseason has been a winner for him and his team. He acquired Ben Bishop from Los Angeles, and Friday, the Stars got the top-ranked defenseman (Miro Heiskanen) and the top-ranked goalie (Jake Oettinger) in the draft.
Heiskanen, the big Finnish product, should be ready to play this coming season. Oettinger has shown to be an outstanding college player so far with Boston University.
BOTTOM LINE: The Stars needed help on defense, and they got it with Heiskanen. He's already shown he can play with pros in the Swedish League, while Oettinger is the heir apparent to Bishop.
Loser: Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks had the chance to take Portland Winterhawks center Cody Glass with the fifth pick. That was clearly what the pundits expected would happen when the Canucks were on the clock after Colorado took defender Cale Makar at No. 4.
But the Canucks went with Swedish forward Elias Pettersson instead, and the Vegas Golden Knights wasted little time in nabbing Glass with the sixth selection.
Pettersson was projected to go high in the draft, but not this high. It's tough to project NHL prospects, but Glass should be a better player than Pettersson. Maybe that will be proved otherwise, but Pettersson seems to be a ways from becoming a legitimate NHL player. That might be true with Glass too, but the betting here is it won't be as long.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canucks just don't make much of a buzz anymore. It's hard to believe this is the same franchise that was one win away from a Stanley Cup as recently as 2011.