Ideal Landing Spots for Projected Top 10 Picks in the 2016 Draft
The 2016 NHL draft is just over one month away—June 24 and 25 in Buffalo—and the excitement is growing. What looked like a slam dunk at the top of the draft appears to have turned into a two-player race. American power center Auston Matthews and Finnish winger Patrik Laine have now emerged as the best options in the draft.
The draft lottery rewarded the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets, while offering setbacks to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. The new slotting of teams may offer more opportunities for trades, and that could blow the top of the 2016 draft wide-open in June.
This is not a mock draft and is not meant to predict the draft order in any way. This is an exercise in finding a perfect fit for each team and player inside the top 10 overall.
Here are the perfect landing spots for 2016's best prospects.
10. Colorado Avalanche: Clayton Keller, C, US National Development Team (USHL)
What Does He Bring? Keller is a super-talented forward who can take over a game. Elusive and creative, his passing ability is top flight and he has a scorer's sense for offensive opportunities.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Colorado Avalanche thrive with brilliant offensive players like Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon. A player like Keller could offer the team a different look and might ignite the power play—ranked No. 19 last season according to NHL.com—when he arrives in the NHL. The Avalanche have also tended to draft size and skill in recent years and may be uniquely situated to draft a smaller impact prospect like Keller.
9. Montreal Canadiens: Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Where Is He Ranked? Logan Brown of the Windsor Spitfires is ranked No. 7 among North American prospects on the Central Scouting list. He jumped from No. 14 in midseason and is a trending prospect for 2016.
What Does He Bring? Brown is a giant center—6' 6'', 218 pounds—and has very good speed. In addition to that impressive foundation, he can also deliver offense and has good defensive habits.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Montreal Canadiens are famous for rostering skilled and undersized forwards and are often found pursuing size in free agency and at the draft table. Brown certainly brings size and the club may not sacrifice much in terms of skill—he will be a perfect fit if available at No. 9 overall.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)
What Does He Bring? Juolevi displays the complete range of skills and an exceptional skating ability. Although he is not an overly physical player, positioning and intelligence guide him and help his effectiveness.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Buffalo Sabres are cobbling together a run of stunning drafts, with first-round gems that include Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen. An effective two-way defender like Juolevi would continue an outstanding prospect build that boasts talent and balance across all positions. Buffalo is in an excellent spot, and Juolevi is the best fit.
7. Arizona Coyotes: Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
What Does He Bring? He is a similar player to brother William Nylander, an outstanding prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs system. He is a wizard with the puck, highly creative, and dangerous in all game states. His showing in international competitions suggests he has impact potential.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Arizona Coyotes are building a strong offensive team around Max Domi, Anthony DuClair and the soon to graduate Dylan Strome. Adding another exceptional piece like Nylander would give the Coyotes one of the most impressive clusters of young talent in the NHL.
6. Calgary Flames: Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
What Does He Bring? Chychrun is a strong two-way defender who brings a lot to both ends of the ice. Although more of his career value is likely to be defensive, there is no doubt he can help in the offensive end. He is one of the best skaters in this year's draft.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Calgary Flames are rebuilding their defense on the fly, and Chychrun would be a welcome addition. Calgary hasn't missed a beat—the club boasts top quality in T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton—and a player like Chychrun could be mentored and brought along as quickly as his skills demand. This would be a great landing spot for both team and player.
5. Vancouver Canucks: Matt Tkachuk, LW, London Knights (OHL)
What Does He Bring? He is a very productive winger with top-end offensive ability. Although not as physical as his father Keith Tkachuk, he has size and grit along with all that skill.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Vancouver Canucks are an aging team who badly need an infusion of young talent. Tkachuk's numbers in the OHL suggest he would be the best available offensive player on the board when the Canucks pick, and therefore he would fit perfectly. Vancouver's needs are so severe, there is a chance Tkachuk could make the team in the fall.
4. Edmonton Oilers: Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
What Does He Bring? Dubois has a power forward's size and skill—he projects as a quality offensive player should he bring his abilities to the NHL level intact. He also played center at times this season, giving him extra value for a team looking for a big skilled forward.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Edmonton Oilers have so many skilled forwards that adding another might seem like overkill. Dubois brings a unique set of abilities, with size, grit and versatility in impressive quantities—but most importantly he has enough skill to ply his trade on a scoring line. The Oilers need defensemen but none of the available blueliners can be inserted into their lineup immediately. Dubois is unique to Edmonton's current youth and therefore a perfect fit at the 2016 draft.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Sm-Liiga)
What Does He Bring? Puljujarvi is a big, fast winger who can impact the game in most areas. His speed is useful at both ends of the ice, his size is intimidating, and he delivers enough offense to be considered a quality prospect.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Columbus Blue Jackets are an ideal match for a few reasons. Puljujarvi is the third of three prospects available in the draft who can be considered impact talents. No player ranked below No. 3 overall is of the same quality. A lesser connection comes from Blue Jackets' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen being Finnish and having the opportunity to draft a talent from his homeland who can help his NHL team.
2. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine, W, Tappara (Sm-Liiga)
What Does He Bring? Laine is a pure scorer—but the key is that he brings it in a power forward's package. His shot is a big part of his game and his release is lightning quick. Laine is also an expert passer and a fantastic power-play option.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Winnipeg Jets have been devotees of building through the draft since arriving in Canada from Atlanta, where they were the Thrashers. The club has been building toward a contender over several years, and Laine would be a perfect fit as a sniper on the wing. It also doesn't hurt that he is from Finland—perhaps the best player to ever skate for Winnipeg was Teemu Selanne, also from Finland.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, C, ZSC Lions (NLA)
Where Is He Ranked? Auston Matthews is the No. 1 ranked European skater in the 2016 Entry Draft. Central Scouting ranks players based on the leagues they play in, and Matthews played the 2015-16 season in Switzerland.
What Does He Bring? Matthews is a phenomenal prospect with the complete range of ability. He brings size, speed and substantial skill to every shift. Tremendous vision and a goal-scorers sense of offense make him an elite prospect.
What Is His Ideal Team? The Toronto Maple Leafs have been drafting skill over the past several years, but are not strong at center and much of the skill comes from small forwards. At 6' 2'', 194 pounds—and not turning 20 until September of 2017—Matthews represents the ideal fit for Toronto at the 2016 draft.