By Tom Hunter (@)
When it comes to the NHL draft, it is nearly impossible to predict anything. Auston Matthews will be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and after that everything is up in the air. That being said, here are ten things that I think could – but probably won’t – happen during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
1. Even though they currently own 12 draft picks, the Toronto Maple Leafs will leave the draft having only selected in the single digits.
The Leafs have spent 18 months amassing as many draft picks as possible and as of right now have a record number for this weekend’s draft. That said, 12 new prospects is an incredibly large number to add to the organization and very unrealistic.
My bet is that the Leafs trade up once, package a pick or two with a roster player in exchange for an RFA and likely move a pick or two for ones in 2017. I think the Leafs will leave Buffalo with 8 newly drafted prospects.
2. The Colorado Avalanche will trade for Rick Nash
With reports this week that the Rangers are going to go all out in an effort to sign Steven Stamkos on July 1, speculation has come up that they are looking to jettison a big contract. Rick Nash and his $7.8 million dollar cap hit would definitely be the first on GM Jeff Gorton’s list of players to dump. But no team is dumb enough to take on Nash with the way he’s been playing the past three years right?
Not so fast.
The Colorado Avalanche seem to think they’re a good team – they’re not. The Aves think they should be making moves to bring in players that fit the Roy mold – they shouldn’t. The Colorado avalanche think +/- is still a relevant stat – it’s not.
Patrick Roy wants to add + players and Rich Nash is that. I could see Colorado making a pitch for the former 1st overall pick thinking he’s exactly the kind of player that would put them over the top.
3. Charlie McAvoy will be the third defender drafted in 2016
When you look at most draft boards you see a ‘big-3’ in terms of defensemen. Almost every ranking that matters has Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev as the top three defenders in some order.
Charlie McAvoy, however, could end up being the best of the lot. He seems to be somewhat underrated – and unknown by the public – but the buzz around him is starting to build. I wouldn’t be surprised if one team in the top-12 loves McAvoy and selects him higher than many expect.
4. The Maple Leafs will trade away Leo Komarov.
Uncle Leo has become a fan favourite in Toronto. The Finnish winger is coming off a career season that saw him playing lights out in the first half but then came crashing back to earth as the season went on.
Komarov is a very good bottom-6 winger that would be coveted by a number of teams, but his nearly $3m cap hit is one that the Maple Leafs would do well to get off the books. Moving Leo would free up some money to play with in free agency while also opening up a wing spot on the third line for one of Hyman, Leivo, Leipsic or Brown.
5. Vancouver will trade the 5th overall pick for Matt Dumba
The Canucks will trade the pick, Jim Benning just can’t help himself. With the Sedins still around, the Canucks organization is not able to rebuild and the team looks like they will be stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future. The Gudbranson trade signaled to the league and their fans that the Canucks are looking to add NHL talent in order to contend for the playoffs this season. Vancouver clearly still needs help in on the blueline and Dumba seems like the kind of player Benning would love.
From a Minnesota perspective, this deal makes sense in that Dumba is an RFA and the Wild do not have much cap space. Moving Dumba for a high pick would allow the team to save on the cap while alleviating the worry that they’ll lose him for nothing in the expansion draft next June.
The 5th overall pick is a great return for the Wild who could use it to select a forward like Pierre-Luc Dubois who is not far from being NHL ready.
6. The Oilers and Blues will pull off a blockbuster Hall for Pietrangelo trade
The rumblings that Taylor Hall will be the odd man out in Edmonton have been around for a while now. The fact that he and Connor McDavid have the potential to create the best line in hockey for the next decade seems like something Peter Chiarelli is willing to overlook.
Hall is one of the best young wingers in the league, so trading him would see ill-advised. That said, if the return is Alex Pietrangelo, it might not be as bad as many expect for the Oilers.
Pietrangelo is a young right-handed top-pairing defender that is under club control until 2020. It would be hard to stomach moving him, but if the Blues are able to get Taylor Hall in return, the deal makes far too much sense. It would give them the top line forward to replace David Backes while at the same time freeing up a little bit of cap room that could contribute to re-signing Kevin Shattenkirk.
7. Max Jones will be drafted in the top-15
After a season in which Jones saw his draft stock fall – largely due to an extended suspension – the London Knights winger will be drafted higher than many think. Jones is a bit of the forgotten man in London since his teammates – Tkachuk and Juolevi – are virtual locks to be top-10 picks.
Jones is big, skilled and will see a spike in his production with a bigger role next season. Someone will be enamored with his unique skill set and select him in the top half of the first round.
8. Kale Clague will sneak into the end of the first round and will have the best suit of anyone in the building.
Kale Clague is a boom or bust prospect that someone will hope to hit a home run with late in the 1st round. He has the talent to be a top pairing puck mover that was viewed as a top-10 prospect before the season started.
Also, the dude just knows how to dress.
9. The Islanders acquire James van Riemsdyk for a package centered around Calvin de Haan
This offseason, the goal of the New York Islanders is going to be finding a replacement for Kyle Okposo who is set to leave as an unrestricted free agent. In James van Riemsdyk, Garth Snow would have found exactly that. A big winger that would look incredible skating next to John Tavares.
After missing out on Taylor Hall, the Islanders move on to JVR who has a good contract and will provide the added offensive firepower they need.
In return, the Leafs get Calvin de Haan, a steady and underrated young defender that I personally believe would be a perfect compliment to Jake Gardiner as a high-end second pairing. At only 25, de Haan fits in perfectly with the timeframe for the Leafs. He is a solid do-everything defender that is yet to max out his potential.
On top of de Haan, the package would have to consist of another decent piece, maybe the Islanders 2017 first round pick or a prospect like Anthony Beauvillier.
10. The LA Kings will announce an extension for Milan Lucic only hours after inexplicable trading Tyler Toffoli to the Montreal Canadiens for the ninth overall pick.
Ok, this one seems way out there but don’t underestimate an NHL GM’s unwarranted love for Milan Lucic. Dean Lombardi traded for Lucic last season with the hopes that he wouldn’t be a rental. Both parties want an extension signed but the Kings cap situation stands in the way.
Toffoli just seems like a guy that bad GMs don’t appreciate and Lombardi will trade him away to create space for Lucic. After being destroyed for his handling of the coaching situation in Montreal for the past few months, Marc Bergevin will pull this rabbit out of his hat and add the scoring winger he needs.