They say you can't really judge a draft until years later, but we're going to try and get a head start on it anyway. Mainly because the actual picks are only a part of the equation when it comes to analyzing how a team does in the draft.
It's also about the thought process behind each pick. Are you picking players with high ceilings or are you going for safer picks that project as depth players? Are you picking forwards early in the draft or are you doing something crazy like picking a goalie or a stay-at-home defenseman that can't skate?
Oh, and there's also the trades.
All of that plays into our grades for day one of the NHL Draft.
You know what, forget the draft for a second. Friday was all about the Ducks' ability to get some much-needed help at their No. 2 center position and getting Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks. Not only did they get an instant upgrade to their NHL roster, they did it without giving up their highest pick in the first round (No. 10 overall) and without giving up any of their best young NHL players, including Emerson Etem, Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri or Hampus Lindholm.
First round pick Brendan Perlini seemed to shoot up draft boards as the draft approached and he will add some size and goal-scoring ability to the Coyotes' prospect pool. Also on Friday, Phoenix corrected what turned out to be a pretty big mistake last summer by buying out the remaining three years of Mike Ribeiro's contract. At some point this offseason adding a center has to become a priority.
David Pastrnak brings some speed and skill to the Bruins' farm system, and he seems to already have a role model in the organization to look up to.
David Pastrnak's idol is fellow Czech Rep. native David Krejci. "I think that's the right guy for me to look up to" ^CS #NHLBruins— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 28, 2014
The Sabres get some bonus points for the matter-of-fact way general manager Tim Murray marched up to the podium, skipped the 10 minute thank you speech that every general manage has, and announced his pick. And it was a pretty good pick, too, to get Sam Reinhart.
When you're picking at the top of the draft, potential impact forwards are always the way to go. Defenseman are risky and goalies require an insane amount of luck. Bennett could have very easily been the No. 1 pick in the draft and the Flames were able to get him at No. 4 without having to do anything except stay where they were.
Even though I just mentioned that defensemen can be risky, I still like the selection of Fleury in Carolina. He was perhaps the second-best defenseman in the draft and scored enough in his draft year (46 points in 70 games) to justify the pick. They also figured out a way to make Flyers fans stop booing by sending Rod Brind'Amour up to announce the pick. Other than the Flyers' own pick it was the only thing all night they didn't seem to hate.
They created a bit of excitement when it was clear they were making a trade with the San Jose Sharks, but it didn't involve any players. It was simply to move up seven spots to draft Nick Schmaltz.
Connor Bleackley doesn't score a ton and seems to be more of an energy, depth guy than a potential top-line scorer, and I'm just not a fan of that sort of pick in the first round. Or any round. Go big or go home.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are quietly building a pretty impressive hockey team and the rest of the Metropolitan Division better take notice. They added a big-time offensive player in the first round with Sonny Milano, a highly skilled forward that just put up 86 points in 57 games with the U.S. National Under-18 team.
If you're going to take a defenseman early in the draft it better be a guy that has proven he can score, and Julius Honka certainly fits the bill with 56 points in 62 games for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.
Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin seems like a solid prospect for the Red Wings' farm system, and with the way they bring their players along slowly and allow them to mature in the minors we might see him in the NHL in about six years.
Say this for the Oilers, they're committed to a talented forward every single year with their top picks, and they did it again on Friday with Leon Draisaitl. No. 3 may have been a bit higher than some expected, but he has a ton of skill and brings what might be the best nickname from this draft class into the NHL: The Deutschland Dangler.
Despite a ton of rumors that they might deal the No. 1 pick, the Panthers ended up holding on to it and selecting defenseman Aaron Ekblad. He's a highly touted prospect, and with the number of young forwards Florida has stockpiled in recent years it makes some level of sense to go in this direction, but defenseman don't go No. 1 overall very often and when they do their success rate doesn't seem to be as high as forwards. He's a nice addition, but my only reservation is the fact that with no consensus No. 1 overall pick and there being so little separating the top prospects I would have preferred to see them go with the forward in this spot.
Los Angeles Kings
Adrian Kempe had a solid showing as a teenager playing in the top league in Sweden, scoring five goals to go with six assists in 45 games. He's touted as a two-way center that does everything well, whether he has the puck or not.
Size can be overrated. Size without skill doesn't accomplish anything. But when you can get a guy with size that can also play, well, that's a pretty good combination, and the Minnesota Wild may have found that with Alex Tuch.
After putting up rather pedestrian numbers in the Russian Junior Hockey League in 2012-13, Nikita Scherbak absolutely erupted offensively this past season and did so while getting his first taste of North American hockey.
The Nashville Predators have never had a player like James Neal. A top-notch NHL goal-scorer still in the prime of his career, and they were able to get him for very little cost. Patric Hornqvist is the only important asset they gave up, and Neal is an obvious upgrade. They didn't even have to give up the No. 11 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select left winger Kevin Fiala. With Peter Laviolette behind the bench, it's a new era for the Predators, and it has the look of one that's going to be a little more offensive than their fans are used to.
New Jersey Devils
The fact that New Jersey even had a first-round pick this year was a win. The Devils were supposed to lose this pick as part of their punishment for the cap circumvention with Ilya Kovalchuk's contract, but the NHL allowed them to pick 30th. New Jersey used that pick to select John Quenneville, the second cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
New York Islanders
The Islanders picked up an additional first-round pick by making a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning and used it to select the electrifying, and somewhat controversial, Josh Ho-Sang. The best part of that sequence was general manager Garth Snow defending the pick by saying, "he'll fit right in, they shit on me too." Along with Tim Murray's no-nonsense approach to the selection process, general managers stole the show.
New York Rangers
Their first-round pick belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the Martin St. Louis trade. They were also quiet on the trade front.
The Senators had no first round pick this year (it belonged to Anaheim) so they really can't be graded on anything. The one thing that was expected was a Jason Spezza trade, especially since it may have created the opportunity to move back into the first round, but nothing materialized on that front on the first day. And if the offers don't improve, Spezza may just have to play out the final year of his deal in Ottawa.
5 teams made offers for Spezza. 3 were serious but B. Murray felt it was not enough. If he can't trade him, Spezza will have to play in Ott.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 28, 2014
Travis Sanheim is touted as a two-way defenseman, but only 29 points in 67 games for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in his draft year raises a few concerns when it comes to the offensive side of his game. But, on the other hand, he wasn't really used in power play situations, which no doubt put a dent in his point totals.
Sanheim had 20 even strength points last year, same as Ekblad, tied for 6th among all D. His 1.2 ES points/60 were same as Ekblad's too— Bob Roberts (@BobRbrts) June 28, 2014
That, on the other hand, is encouraging. It's a bit of an off the-board-pick, but that's not always a bad thing.
The good news for the Penguins is they took a much-needed forward, Kasperi Kapanen, with their pick at No. 22, and perhaps one that probably should have gone a little higher in the draft. The Penguins' forward depth at both the NHL and prospect level is ugly, and Kapanen is the exact type of player they needed to add.
The bad news is they traded their best NHL winger for a clear downgrade, getting no salary cap relief and no additional draft pick. Patric Hornqvist is a fine hockey player, but he's not enough of a return for Neal. Nick Spaling is more of the same in Pittsburgh's bottom-six. Bad start to the Jim Rutherford era.
San Jose Sharks
General manager Doug Wilson is always active when it comes to moving draft picks, and he did it again on Friday by moving back seven spots and still coming away with a player that has upside in Nikita Goldobin. How productive was he this season for the Sarnia Sting? Well ... very.
Number of draft-eligible CHLers who scored more even-strength points than Goldobin this season: zero.— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) June 28, 2014
St. Louis Blues
The biggest knock on Blues first round pick Robby Fabbri is that he's a bit undersized, but that's starting to matter less and less in the modern day NHL. He's a two-way center that had a huge year for the Guelph storm, scoring 45 goals in 58 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Anthony DeAngelo comes with some off-ice baggage, but he's a solid prospect on the ice. Tampa took their second first-round pick, which they acquired in the Martin St. Louis trade, and moved back seven spots in a deal with the New York Islanders. The other big move they made was picking up Jason Garrison from the Vancouver Canucks for a second-round draft pick (No. 50). Garrison will provide an immediate boost to their defense and their trade with the Islanders on Friday night put them right back in the same general area.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Give the Maple Leafs credit, they didn't take a grinder, or a guy whose ceiling was comparable to Colby Armstrong, or give up the farm to move up in the draft. They stayed were they were and came away with William Nylander at No. 8 overall.
So, what exactly is the plan in Vancouver right now? The return for Ryan Kesler was underwhelming. They traded Jason Garrison for a glorified lottery ticket. And then they traded a third-round pick for Derek Dorsett. Their first pick, Jake Virtanen, has some good tools but doesn't seem to have the type of upside you would want with a pick that high in the draft. They selected Jared McCann with the pick they received in the Kesler trade.
Brian MacLellan's first pick as Washington Capitals general manager brought another skilled European player into the organization. Jakub Vrana is very young, already has an impressive international resume, and has a ton of offensive upside.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has put the future of the Jets' franchise in the hands of the scouts that handle the draft. They don't make trades. They don't sign free agents. Any and all improvement will have to come from within and be a product of their farm system. So that's why it's probably a good thing that they went with a high-upside, skilled winger like Nikolaj Ehlers with the No. 9 overall pick. If you're only going to build through the draft, you better shoot for the moon.