NHL Draft Grades 2015: Final Report Card for Every Team

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistJune 28, 2015

NHL Draft Grades 2015: Final Report Card for Every Team

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    The NHL draft is over for another year, and it's time to begin the discussion about winners and losers. It's impossible to know of course; a reasonable time line for judgement is five years, and even then college kids and late bloomers can surprise.

    This draft was so deep that trades slowed down the process multiple times and saw teams add or subtract several selections over the two days. When the dust finally settled, there were absolute winners and losers, based on draft rankings going into the weekend.

    Here are the grades for all 30 NHL teams after the 2015 draft.

    Note: This was an historically strong draft. Some of the players chosen as poor selections are excellent prospects, just chosen too soon.

    Value, or lack of value with an early pick—something we saw a lot this year—was the primary factor in determining the overall grades, with team needs and any transactions made and the relative cost to acquire the pick also considered.

Atlantic Division

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    Boston Bruins

    Draft picks: The Boston Bruins had 10 selections, including skill winger Jake DeBrusk.

    Best and worst choices: The best pick was probably DeBrusk, a quality scorer who has soft hands around the net, similar to Edmonton Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. The worst choice was the decision to trade Dougie Hamilton, a ghastly choice that will have long-reaching impact. Dan Rosen of NHL.com has the Hamilton story.

    Grade: F

    Buffalo Sabres

    Draft picks: The Sabres had six selections in the draft, including generational talent Jack Eichel.

    Best and worst choices: Eichel might be the best draft pick in Sabres history, and that's saying something! Going back to their first pick—Gilbert Perreault—Buffalo has had success in the draft. Brendan Guhle was taken early for what he brings, and the Sabres gave up a lot in the Ryan O'Reilly trade as described by the Canadian Press (via TSN).

    Grade: C

    Detroit Red Wings

    Draft picks: The Red Wings had six picks in the draft, led by Russian winger Evgeny Svechnikov.

    Best and worst choices: Svechnikov is a brilliant offensive player who brings size and speed to his game. Small defender Vili Saarijarvi might be too small for pro hockey.

    Grade: B

    Florida Panthers

    Draft picks: The Panthers had eight picks in the 2015 draft, including rugged winger Lawson Crouse.

    Best and worst choices: Denis Malgin is a small Swiss wizard who may be a future top-six forward, and he's wildly skilled. Crouse was drafted too high based on his skill set, but he brings so much to the game, it's understandable why Florida would reach for him.

    Grade: B-

    Montreal Canadiens

    Draft picks: The Canadiens had five picks in the draft, led by defender Noah Juulsen.

    Best and worst choices: Juulsen is a fine two-way defender who takes chaos out of the game while also showing offensive acumen. Lukas Vejdemo isn't so much a bad pick as a late bloomer, but this qualifies on a day where finding poor choices is a difficult task.

    Grade: B+

    Ottawa Senators

    Draft picks: The Senators had eight picks, including defenseman Thomas Chabot. 

    Best and worst choices: Chabot has it all: size, speed and intelligence. Progress spiked during the season, and he's a quality player. Gabriel Gagne is a good prospect but was chosen one round too early, so he qualifies as the worst choice.

    Grade: A

    Tampa Bay Lightning

    Draft picks: The Lightning had nine selections in the draft. 

    Best and worst choices: Mitchell Stephens is a fine prospect who seems to have spiked late, always a good sign. Tampa Bay didn't make a bad pick, although selecting Dennis Yan was a little early.

    Grade: B

    Toronto Maple Leafs

    Draft picks: The Leafs had nine selections, led by Mitchell Marner.

    Best and worst choices:  In choosing Marner, the Leafs might have gifted themselves a talent close to Patrick Kane in style and ability. Defender Andrew Nielson has talent but was chosen too early.

    Grade: A+

Central Division

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Chicago Blackhawks

    Draft picks: The Blackhawks had seven picks in the draft, led by winger Graham Knott.

    Best and worst choices: Knott projects as a nice two-way player who might be a little shy offensively. Chicago has had success with this player-type in the past. Dennis Gilbert qualifies as the worst pick, based on chaotic defensive play in his own zone. He's a risky player. 

    Grade: C

    Colorado Avalanche

    Draft picks: The Avalanche had seven picks during the 2015 draft, including Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen.

    Best and worst choices: Rantanen could be a home run pick. He has a wide range of skills and could succeed as a scorer or a checker. Second-round pick AJ Greer is a boom-or-bust selection, and there were impressive prospects still available at the time he was chosen.   

    Grade: B

    Dallas Stars

    Draft picks: The Stars had only five selections, led by Russian winger Denis Gurianov. 

    Best and worst choices: Gurianov is a splendid prospect with enormous potential, as described by Gorab Stubb of Central Scouting. Chris Martenet is a tall-tree defender but has real skating issues, and that's a modern NHL red flag.

    Grade: C

    Minnesota Wild

    Draft picks: The Minnesota Wild had seven picks in the 2015 draft, led by Swedish center Joel Eriksson Ek.

    Best and worst choices: Eriksson Ek has a great range of skill, is tough and aggressive. He's an excellent young player. Goalie Ales Stezka is the worst choice, but that's wildly unfair, as he was chosen late enough in the draft to justify his selection.

    Grade: B

    Nashville Predators

    Draft picks: The Predators chose seven players at the 2015 draft, led by Russian forward Iakov Trenin

    Best and worst choices: Trenin took a big step forward this season and now has the look of a splendid prospect. Anthony Richard is a burner with skill, but pro coaches are going to have issues with his defensive game. 

    Grade: B+

    St. Louis Blues

    Draft picks: The Blues had six picks, led by defender Vince Dunn. 

    Best and worst choices: Dunn is a sublime talent and the perfect puck-moving defender for the modern game. Adam Musil has substantial skills but didn't deliver a strong offensive season.

    Grade: C

    Winnipeg Jets

    Draft picks: The Jets had eight selections, led by speedster Kyle Connor.

    Best and worst choices: Connor is a top-drawer talent, fast and skilled. The Jets didn't have any bad picks, and that's a fact. They are brilliant at the draft table. 

    Grade: A+

Metropolitan Division

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Carolina Hurricanes

    Draft picks: The Hurricanes had nine picks, including Noah Hanifin.

    Best and worst choices: Carolina fell into Hanifin, a sublime talent with the complete skill set. Their second selection, Finn Sebastian Aho, was taken miles too early. 

    Grade: B+

    Columbus Blue Jackets

    Draft picks: The Blue Jackets had nine picks, including defender Zachary Werenski.

    Best and worst choices: Werenski was the third of three top-flight defenders in the draft, and Columbus was lucky to grab him. Gabriel Carlsson is a talented player but was chosen too early.

    Grade: B

    New Jersey Devils

    Draft picks: The Devils took five players in the 2015 draft.

    Best and worst choices: Winger Blake Speers has real skill and was a steal at No. 67 overall. Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was chosen early enough for us to question the wisdom based on the skill left on the table.

    Grade: C

    New York Islanders

    Draft picks: The New York Islanders chose seven players in the 2015 draft.

    Best and worst choices: New York killed it, absolutely hitting a home run in this year's draft. The trade with Edmonton—sending away Griffin Reinhart—gave the Islanders extra picks, and they delivered on all of the available selections. The Reinhart story is covered here by Dan Rosen of NHL.com.

    Grade: A+

    New York Rangers

    Draft picks: The Rangers took seven players in the draft, including winger Ryan Gropp.

    Best and worst choices: Robin Kovacs is a talented and hardworking forward. Gropp is very talented but needs to be more consistent if he's going to have a long career.

    Grade: C

    Philadelphia Flyers

    Draft picks: The Flyers had nine selections in the draft, including brilliant defender Ivan Provorov.

    Best and worst choices: Provorov is a game-changer, and for the Flyers he could be NHL-ready soon. The Flyers used two early picks on goalies; that's a tad excessive.

    Grade: A

    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Draft picks: The Penguins had only four picks in the draft.

    Best and worst choices: Pittsburgh got first-round talent at No. 46 overall with sniper Daniel Sprong. They followed it up with the off-the-grid selection of Dominik Simon, a questionable decision.

    Grade: D

    Washington Capitals

    Draft picks: The Capitals had four picks in the 2015 draft.

    Best and worst choices: Washington chose Ilya Samsonov in the first round, and if he emerges as an NHL starter, that's terrific value. The club didn't have a pick that we could consider a poor one, only selections that were long shots because they were chosen deep in the draft.

    Grade: B

Pacific Division

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Anaheim Ducks

    Draft picks: The Ducks had seven picks led by No. 27 overall D Jacob Larsson.

    Best and worst choices: Julius Nattinen is terrific value in the second round and looks like the best pick for Anaheim this year. Jacob Larsson might be the worst choice, despite being skilled and fast. There's no problem with his skill, but he was chosen too early in the draft. 

    Grade: C

    Arizona Coyotes

    Draft picks: The Coyotes had an impressive nine selections, including No. 3 overall: C Dylan Strome.

    Best and worst choices: Strome is that elusive big-skill center the Coyotes have been looking for since they arrived in the desert. Kyle Capobianco has some impressive skills but was taken early for what he brings; Arizona left too much value on the table. 

    Grade: A-

    Calgary Flames

    Draft picks: The Flames had only five picks because of their massive trade with the Boston Bruins. Dan Rosen of NHL.com details the trade with the Bruins. Calgary's top selection was defender Rasmus Andersson.

    Best and worst choices: The best choice was trading for Dougie Hamilton, but among draft picks, selecting Oliver Kylington was inspired. He is a boom-or-bust selection, but the club got him at No. 60 overall, reducing the risk in a big way. The worst choice figures to be Pavel Karnaukhov, who has a nice skill set but very little buzz around him. That's a bad sign. 

    Grade: A+

    Edmonton Oilers

    Draft picks: The Oilers began the weekend with 10 picks but ended up with only six, led by No. 1 overall selection Connor McDavid.

    Best and worst choices: Connor McDavid is a franchise cornerstone, so in a real way the Oilers walked away with the draft when they won the lottery. The worst choice was Miroslav Svoboda, a 20-year old goalie who could have been signed as a free agent after the draft. Edmonton traded several draft picks and acquired important pieces for the 2015-16 season, including Cam Talbot and Griffin Reinhart. Edmonton's considerable trade activity is covered at NHL.com.

    Grade: A+

    Los Angeles Kings

    Draft picks: The Kings added six prospects at the 2015 draft, led by Slovak defender Erik Cernak.

    Best and worst choices:  The best pick was big Russian Alexander Dergachyov, who combines size, skill and strength effectively. The worst choice is probably Cernak, who brings skill but has speed issues, something NHL teams are normally wary of at the draft. 

    Grade: D

    San Jose Sharks

    Draft picks: The Sharks had nine picks in the 2015 draft, led by sniper Timo Meier. 

    Best and worst choices: Meier is a splendid prospect, one of the best offensive players available in the draft. The worst pick was Mike Robinson, a young goalie with impressive stats but a long way to go even if he makes it. Robinson was chosen at a point in the draft where more sure bets were available.

    Grade: A

    Vancouver Canucks

    Draft picks: The Canucks had seven picks in this year's draft, led by skill winger Brock Boeser.

    Best and worst choices: The selection of Boeser is Vancouver's feature item; his skills should have a positive impact when he makes the NHL. Third-round selection Guillaume Brisebois is a stay-at-home-type defender taken in an area where real skill was still available.

    Grade: D


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