About a week or two ago, most teams in the National Hockey League played their 41st game of 2015-16 – the iconic number that signifies the halfway point of each season. In honor of already being over the hump (and thus getting a more accurate idea of which teams will be drafting where come June), we decided to take a look at which three teams will be selecting first at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft using the NHL Lottery Simulator created by Rob Zaenglein.
Our results had Columbus picking first, Buffalo second and Toronto third, meaning that there was just a minor change in the original standings as of January 24th (Toronto and Edmonton swapped places, but all other teams remained where they originally were).
In an effort to gauge what the 2016 NHL Draft will look like, we used this draft order to see which prospect is the best fit for each team in their respective draft slots.
Note: starting this year, the draft lottery will determine the entire top-three of the draft, rather than the conventional method of solely determining who picks first.
#16 – Boston Bruins (via San Jose Sharks)
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney may have royally screwed up the 2015 NHL Draft by passing on premier talent such as Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor and instead drafting lesser-known prospects like Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn, but he proved that he does still know how to make masterful moves for the future of his club on the trade front.
In the Milan Lucic trade, Sweeney fetched quite the impressive package from the Los Angeles Kings: a first-round pick, defenseman Colin Miller and goaltending prospect Martin Jones. There’s no doubting Jones’ obvious high ceiling – the talented youngster has proven in his short NHL tenure to be quite impressive in net – but it was quite questionable on the part of the San Jose Sharks to give up an unprotected 2016 first-round pick in exchange for their arch-rivals’ former backup.
Nonetheless, it happened, and here we are, with the Bruins picking at least twice in the first round for the second straight year.
Pierre-Luc Dubois could be of much service to Boston, especially considering the fact that they have very little prospective scoring depth beyond David Pastrnak and perhaps Jake DeBrusk. The left-winger has taken the QMJHL by storm this season, scoring 30 goals and 38 assists through just 46 games. They say QMJHL scoring is the highest among the three Canadian Hockey League sub-leagues (OHL and WHL), but that’s pretty impressive for an upcoming draft prospect. He also adds an element of size and toughness, as the 6’3″ Cape Breton Screaming Eagles power forward uses his physical assets to get to the net and score timely goals.
#17 – Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild have amassed quite the impressive blue line since the acquisition of Ryan Suter in 2012, and although they have made strides in the forward department as well, it wouldn’t hurt to shore up the left-wing position organizationally.
The #1 overall pick at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Tyler Benson has dealt with injuries all throughout the 2015-16 season that have prevented him from playing a large portion of his draft year; in 28 games, he put up 26 points (8G, 18A), but he’s been out since the end of December with injury. Even before he began to appear injury-prone, though, scouts had become wary of the former record-breaking bantam star in his early major junior career with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants because he only managed 45 points in 62 games last year.
Lofty expectations and high junior draft placement often lead to prospects taking a hit in their NHL draft ranking, which then leads to an inevitable slide in the draft. Whether warranted or not, Benson is most likely going to fall, but the pure play-making forward is a great pick-up at #17 for the Wild.
#18 – Colorado Avalanche
Defense has been the Colorado Avalanche’s problem for years: it’s what derailed them in the playoffs in 2014 against the Minnesota Wild and it’s likely what has been the biggest contributor to their disappointing play in the subsequent seasons since. Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are obviously the Avs’ best defenders, but they still need a supporting cast on the blue-line.
After making a wise choice in selecting the high-scoring former WHL star defender Chris Bigras a few years ago, Joe Sakic may look to the ‘Dub’ once again for a defensive prospect.
The Calgary Hitmen’s Jake Bean is a prime option, especially considering that he is a left-handed point-producing defenseman. But, like Bigras, it’s not all about offense for the two-way defender – he’s always in the right place at the right time to break up plays, and his transition from offense to defense and vice-versa is heralded by scouts.
#19 – New Jersey Devils
Ray Shero and company probably won’t be looking to add to their already deep blue line in June, and will instead opt for more offensive additions. They already have Pavel Zacha in the pipeline, and as has been the Devils’ style for many years, they don’t really do the whole drafting junior stars thing. Instead, they tend to find obscure prospects and turn them into extremely productive NHL players, and they may choose to do so again here.
The Mississauga Steelheads’ Nathan Bastian has seen his draft stock rise tremendously this season. From an expected fifth-round pick to a top-20 ranked prospect in NHL Central Scouting’s 2016 midterm rankings, Bastian really turned around his career with his amazing breakout season. At 6’4″ / 208 lbs., the versatile forward can play either center or right-wing. The Devils can use the most help organizationally at right-wing, which Bastian has played mostly this season.
#20 – Boston Bruins
The British Columbia Hockey League is a step below the Canadian Hockey League in terms of major junior hockey circuits, but there’s no denying a BCHL player’s talent when he scores 73 points. The captain of the Penticton Vees, center Tyson Jost, has scored 28 goals and 45 assists through 36 games this season, an incredible feat even by Junior-A standards.
Boston is set for several years with both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci at the center position, but with Jost headed to North Dakota to play college hockey next season, it’ll be a while before he is ready for NHL action anyway. Four or five years down the line, he may very well be one of those two long-time Bruins’ replacements in Boston.