Who are you most excited to see at the next level?
Chris Peters, hockey prospects analyst: Obviously I’m intrigued by Rasmus Dahlin — as everyone is — but there’s no doubt that defenseman Quinn Hughes has the highest potential for excitement. I’ve just not seen anyone that plays the game quite like him before. His size (listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds) may concern some, but he’s one of the most agile skaters I’ve seen at his age, and I think the best is yet to come. I’m not sure how quickly he gets to the league, but I know when he does get there, he’s going to be a can’t-miss player.
Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: Andrei Svechnikov. I’ve seen him described as a mix of Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov. I’ve seen him described as a Jeff Carter-like player. In each description, the 18-year-old Russian winger has been lauded for his singular goal-scoring ability. The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to draft him, at No. 2. They’ve had only one winger in team history break 200 career goals while with the team (Jeff Skinner); Svechnikov looks like he has the goods to join the list.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: I’ve heard great things about Filip Zadina. The label on him is that he’s the surest 40-goal scorer in the draft. There’s a chance Montreal snags him at No. 3 — that is, if GM Marc Bergevin‘s “we are desperate for centers and defensemen” cries are a smoke screen. Chis slotted him with the Coyotes at No. 5 in his latest mock draft and I’d love to see him pair with Clayton Keller on the Yotes’ top line for years to come.
Ben Arledge, Insider NHL editor: Oliver Wahlstrom is pretty intriguing to me. The kid has a fantastic shot and a nose for the back of the net. He had 94 points, including 48 goals, in 62 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program this season alongside 2019 draft-eligible Jack Hughes (Quinn’s brother). Whoever grabs the 18-year-old is certainly getting an offensive gamebreaker. In one likely scenario, we could see Wahlstrom off the board at No. 8 to the Chicago Blackhawks and playing with the likes of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and/or Nick Schmaltz in the not-so-distant future. Fun!
Which team is the biggest wild card on draft weekend?
Peters: The Montreal Canadiens are the team that really holds the key to how the first round will go. No one really knows for sure what they’re going to do at No. 3. They could trade the third overall pick, or they could pick any one of Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk or Jesperi Kotkaniemi. They could really surprise people and take a defenseman. My guess is they take the coveted center Kotkaniemi, but no one has a great read on what Bergevin will do.
Wyshynski: I’d be surprised if the Ottawa Senators trade Erik Karlsson before making their perfunctory low-ball contract offer on July 1 that will be summarily rejected so they can tell fans ‘hey, we tried.’ Since many believe Montreal is the wild card, I’ll go in a different direction and say the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s obvious GM Jim Rutherford is to going to make a deal or two to reconfigure his team. Please recall that the 2014 draft was the place where he made his first significant move towards a championship reign with the James Neal-for-Patric Hornqvist swap. At a minimum, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary are in play. But who will he target?
Kaplan: In terms of the actual drafts and where prospects are slotted? All hinges on the Canadiens at No. 3. What Bergevin does dictates the rest of the first round. As for how we’ll remember the draft? I’d hone in on the Ottawa Senators. If Pierre Dorion orchestrates a deal for Erik Karlsson, all bets are off for the rest of the weekend. More broadly, we’ll see a tangible trickle down effect in free agency.
Arledge: Based on what our esteemed prospects insider is saying, the Canadiens seem like the logical team to slap with the wild card label, as their move at No. 3 dictates the next few picks. But I’m also interested to see what the Arizona Coyotes cook up at No. 5. Does someone like Zadina, Kotkaniemi or Tkachuk fall to the Yotes? Does GM John Chayka trade out of the pick? Does Arizona spoil the fun for Detroit and take Quinn Hughes to start the run on top-tier defensemen? What if Hughes is taken by the Coyotes, and then after another year on the road to rebuild, they ended up with the No. 1 pick and took his brother Jack next June? Oh, the possibilities! I know one thing, though: Chayka can’t afford to miss on Friday.
Which big name NHLer is most likely to be dealt in a draft-day trade?
Peters: I think Ryan O’Reilly, who was acquired by the Sabres on daft day in 2015, has a great chance of being a draft-day trade again. The Sabres are already going to making a significant impact on their rebuild of a rebuild by getting Rasmus Dahlin, and O’Reilly could potentially bring Buffalo some significant assets to continue those efforts.
Wyshynski: There’s way too much smoke surrounding Jeff Skinner to believe the Hurricanes star isn’t going to be traded despite the fact that he has a no-move clause. Skinner is entering the final year of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency. Carolina is actively shopping him, and there’s certainly interest from around the NHL.
Kaplan: Philipp Grubauer. Now that the coaching drama is (mostly) sorted out in Washington, it’s time to make decisions on the current roster. Grubauer, a restricted free agent who has showed flashes of being a dependable No. 1, has great value to any number of teams looking for a goaltender. The Capitals won’t want to pay up for Grubauer. They need to stash all the cap space they can for a potential John Carlson signing.
Arledge: It wouldn’t shock me to see Erik Karlsson moved on Friday evening, but one name I’m definitely watching is Kevin Hayes. He’s a restricted free agent with the New York Rangers, and there’s certainly a chance the 26-year-old forward is moved as part of a trade to move up in the draft or add a few more picks. Remember, in addition to that No. 9 pick, the Blueshirts have a pair of selections on the tail end of the first round, as well as a pair of second-rounders and a pair of picks in the third. Lots of options for the Rangers this weekend, and Hayes might find himself in the middle of it.
Which first-round pick of the past five years offered the best value?
Peters: David Pastrnak, selected 25th overall in 2014, is the clear-cut best value for me. He is already third in games played for his draft class and second in points, with just four fewer than No. 3 overall pick Leon Draisaitl. These last two years, Pastrnak has ascended to the top of the league scoring charts and helps give the Boston Bruins one of the deadliest lines in the NHL, skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Kaplan: Some absolute robbery that went down in the middle-to-late first round in 2015: Jake DeBrusk at No. 14, Mathew Barzal at No. 16, Kyle Connor at No. 17 and Brock Boeser at No. 23. As spectacular as Barzal was for the Islanders this year — the future looks bright should he and John Tavares form the one-two punch down the middle — I must pick Brock Boeser based off how low he was slotted. As the the Canucks embark on a total retooling, Boeser is one of the two, maybe three players they are crafting a roster around. Now that’s good value.
Wyshynski: I’ll diverge slightly from Emily in that Mathew Barzal at No. 14 would be my choice. Not only did the Bruins miss three straight chances to draft the Calder winner, but please recall the Islanders acquired that pick by trading Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers, who also missed out on Barzal.
Arledge: Pastrnak at No. 25 back in 2014 is difficult to beat. He’s posted 0.8 points per game and provided the Boston Bruins with a top-tier, first-line wing already at age 22. His teammate, Charlie McAvoy, is also looking like a steal at No. 14 in 2016, though. He’s a top-pair blueliner with some Norris Trophy nominations most likely in his future. Nick Schmaltz, Boeser, Connor and Barzal also jump off the page to me as fantastic Day 1 selections.