2018 NHL Draft Buzz: Some surprises in first round


 

Pick-by-pick results | 2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker | Fantasy: 2018 NHL Draft trades, picks roundup]

 

Welcome to Draft Day!

NHL.com has a full staff covering the draft and all the news generated when each of the 31 NHL general managers are in the same building. Staff writers Mike Morreale and Adam Kimelman will provide analysis on prospects, and staff writers Tracey Myers and Mike Zeisberger, senior writer Dan Rosen and columnist Nick Cotsonika will be talking to GMs throughout the day.

All of our 2018 NHL Draft coverage can be found here.

11:58 p.m. ET

First round finished

That’s a wrap here from the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center.

Thirty-one players were selected across three hours, starting with defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who went No. 1 to Buffalo to defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, selected by the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals at No. 31.

It was a draft dominated by Swedes (six), defensemen (14 selected, surpassing a record 13 set in 2012) and surprises, which began with Jesperi Kotkaniemi being selected by the Montreal Canadiens at No. 3 and continued with forward Vitali Kravtsov going to the New York Rangers at No. 9 and defenseman Ryan Merkley being selected by the San Jose Sharks at No. 21.

There were two trades, each involving draft picks but no players.

And there was the return of a franchise icon; Mike Modano, a former No. 1 pick, who returned to announce the Stars’ first-round pick, Ty Dellandrea, a center from Flint of the Ontario Hockey League.

Round 2 begins at 11 a.m. Saturday (NHLN, SN, TVAS). Fireworks should be even more plentiful with the final six rounds of the draft.

Benoit Olivier Groulx, a center, and Jared McIsaac, a defenseman from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, are among the highest-rated prospects remaining. They are joined by defenseman Kevin Bahl of Ottawa (OHL), center Akil Thomas of Niagara (OHL), defenseman Mattias Samuelsson of the United States National Development Program and defenseman Jett Woo from Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League. 

 
11 p.m. ET

Swede success in first round

Six Swedes were selected in the first round on Friday, tying a record that has been accomplished three other times.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin started thinks off, selected No. 1 by the Buffalo Sabres. Defenseman Adam Boqvist went to the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 8. Center Isac Lundestrom went to the Anaheim Ducks at No. 23, and defenseman Filip Johansson went to the Minnesota Wild with the next pick.

Defenseman Nils Lundkvist went to the New York Rangers at No. 28. Defenseman Rasmus Sandin finished the run, going to the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 29.

It’s the first time six Swedes were selected in the first round since 2011.

10:35 p.m. ET

Some trades, finally

It took until pick No. 22 before there was a trade during the first round.

The New York Rangers acquired that pick from the Ottawa Senators for the second of their three first-round picks (No. 26) and a second-round selection (No. 48).

At No. 22, the Rangers selected defenseman K’Andre Miller from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

Another trade soon followed when the St. Louis Blues moved up, acquiring the No. 25 pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs for No. 29 and No. 76. 

St. Louis selected right wing Dominik Bokk at No. 25. General manager Doug Armstrong said Bokk was the final player on the Blues’ draft board that they really liked, and they did not want to gamble that he would last until No. 29. 

The Washington Capitals traded goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round pick (No. 47) in this draft, but that was before the draft.

10:15 p.m. ET

Merkley selection by Sharks raises eyebrows

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said he would go the high-risk, high-reward route at No. 21. That was the case when he selected defenseman Ryan Merkley from Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League.

Merkley had fallen 24 places in the year-end rankings by NHL Central Scouting. He was ranked No. 21 in the midterm ranking and No. 45 in the final ranking. Offensively, he is among the best defensemen in the draft; he had 67 points (13 goals, 54 assists) in 63 OHL games.

“I believe I am a high-end player and I believe in myself,” Merkley told Sportsnet after being selected.

10:05 p.m. ET

Flyers will try to sign Simmonds: report

The Philadelphia Flyers will try to sign forward Wayne Simmonds to a contract extension rather than trade him, general manager Ron Hextall told Sportsnet during the draft.

Simmonds, 29, is going into the final season of a six-year, $23.82 million contract (average annual value: $3.97 million) he signed Aug. 16, 2012. He is eligible to sign an extension July 1.

Simmonds had 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 75 games this season despite playing all of it with a torn pelvis he had surgically repaired after the Flyers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

He has scored at least 28 goals five times in seven seasons with Philadelphia, and his 86 power-play goals since 2011-12 are second in the NHL to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (131).

— Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

9:15 p.m. ET

Benn, Modano announce Stars first-round pick

Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn and retired Stars forward Mike Modano, the No. 1 pick in the 1988 NHL Draft, announced the first-round pick for the Stars, Ty Dellandrea, a center from Flint of the Ontario Hockey League, at No. 13.

Before making the announcement, Modano reflected on 30 years ago and took a dig at Benn, saying that players taken in the fifth round don’t get to stand on the stage on the draft floor. Benn was selected at No. 129 in 2007. 

Tweet from @DallasStars: The past, the present and the future. @9modano and @jamiebenn14 give Ty Dellandrea a warm Dallas welcome. #GoStars pic.twitter.com/pnVQkEkdGX

Each got a huge ovation while speaking.

After Modano, Benn stepped up to the microphone and announced Dellandrea, No. 25 among North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting.

8:50 p.m. ET

Rangers take Kravtsov

At No. 9, the New York Rangers selected Vitali Kravtsov, a right wing ranked No. 14 among International skaters by NHL Central Scouting. It was the first of three first-round selections held by the Rangers, who are scheduled to pick at No. 26 (from the Boston Bruins) and No. 28 (from the Tampa Bay Lightning). 

Kravtsov, 18, had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs. That was the most points by a junior player (younger than 20 years old) in one playoff year in KHL history, breaking the record of nine held by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who plays for the Washington Capitals, and Valeri Nichushkin, who played for the Dallas Stars.

 
8:25 p.m. ET

Surprises begin

All eyes were on the Montreal Canadiens at No. 3. They went slightly off the board by selecting center Jesperi Kotkaniemi from Assat of Liiga in Finland, the sixth-ranked International skater by NHL Central Scouting. This meant left wing Brady Tkachuk was available for the Ottawa Senators, who selected the forward from Boston University at No. 4. 

The Arizona Coyotes then also went off the board, selecting center Barrett Hayton of Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League, the 12th-ranked North American skater. At No. 6, the Detroit Red Wings selected right wing Filip Zadina from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, ranked third among North American skaters.

7:50 p.m. ET 

Humboldt Broncos receive E.J. McGuire Award

In an emotional moment before the start of the draft, the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League received the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence.

Broncos president Kevin Garinger accepted the award after making a passionate speech.

Created in 2015, the award is given annually by the NHL to the candidate who exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
 
On April 6, the Humboldt Broncos were involved in a bus accident on their way to a playoff game. Sixteen lives were lost, and 13 people were critically injured. 

Staff writer Mike Morreale has the details on the award.

7:45 p.m. ET

Grubauer traded to Avalanche

The draft got kicked off with a bit of excitement when the Washington Capitals traded goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round pick (No. 47).

Colorado wanted a goalie to join Semyon Varlamov, and Washington knew it would be difficult to hold onto Grubauer, who can be a restricted free agent July 1.

The move by the Capitals is viewed as an attempt to clear some NHL salary cap space to help the effort to re-sign defenseman John Carlson, who can be a unrestricted free agent July 1.

6:01 p.m. ET

All eyes on Canadiens

Many observers believe the intrigue in this draft will start with the No. 3 pick, which is held by the Montreal Canadiens.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is expected to go No. 1 to the Buffalo Sabres. The Carolina Hurricanes have said they will take forward Andrei Svechnikov at No. 2. The Canadiens’ pick remains a mystery.

Forward Filip Zadina, forward Brady Tkachuk and forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi are the leading candidates to go to the Canadiens. But there are rumblings they could trade the pick.

Whatever decision the Canadiens make may determine how the rest of the first round develops. The Ottawa Senators have the No. 4 pick.

Staff writer Tracey Myers talked to Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin about his dilemma on Thursday.

Crawford expected to begin training soon

Corey Crawford will start training in Chicago soon and should be ready to start Chicago Blackhawks training camp, coach Joel Quenneville said Friday. 

“I haven’t spoken to Corey. Reports are he’s doing well,” Quenneville said of the goaltender. “A lot of guys are training in Chicago, and we expect him soon. I think he’s going to be fine going into camp.”

The 33-year-old missed the second half of the season with an upper-body injury. His last game was Dec. 23, when he allowed three goals on seven shots in a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Crawford was pulled 13:22 into the game. He was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .929 save percentage last season. 

He is expected to be at the 2018 Blackhawks Convention in Chicago from July 27-29. 

Quenneville said Crawford has not been on the ice yet.

“I think there’s some progress now,” Quenneville said. “I do think when we get him into Chicago, which should be soon, we’ll give you a timetable at that time. Right now, we feel very encouraged that he’s going to be fine for the start.”

— Tracey Myers, staff writer

Red Wings in market for goalie: report

The Detroit Red Wings plan to speak with a number of pending free agent goaltenders when the negotiating window opens Monday, according to The Associated Press.

“Obviously we want to sign a goalie,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said prior to the start of the 2018 NHL Draft. “We’re going to talk to some goalies this week. I don’t know if I’ll really be trading for one, but we’re going to talk to some free agents.”

NHL teams are allowed to speak to pending free agents starting Sunday, but a player can’t sign with a new team until the start of free agency July 1.

Jimmy Howard, 34, was 22-27-9 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 60 games for Detroit this season. He’s entering the final season of a six-year contract he signed April 16, 2013.

Jared Coreau, 26, finished the season as Howard’s backup after Petr Mrazek was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 19. Coreau was 0-5-1 with a 4.26 GAA and .857 save percentage in seven games and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Among the potential unrestricted free agents are Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes, Jaroslav Halak of the New York Islanders, and Jonathan Bernier of the Colorado Avalanche. The leading potential restricted free agent is Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. 

— Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

1:30 p.m. ET

Lehner won’t be back with Sabres

Goaltender Robin Lehner will not be extended a qualifying offer by the Buffalo Sabres and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1, according to general manager Jason Botterill.

“It was a difficult decision,” Botterill said Friday.

Buffalo has the No. 1 pick in the draft and is expected to take Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

“When you finish 31st, you have to make some difficult choices and we have informed Robin that he’s not coming back next year. Part of it that was so difficult was that I know Robin is passionate about the city of Buffalo and passionate about helping this organization, but I felt we had to make some adjustments and that’s one of the areas we decided to make an adjustment in.”

Lehner, 26, was 14-26-9 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 53 games in his third season with the Sabres. He was selected in the second round (No. 46) of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators, playing five seasons with them before being traded to Buffalo on June 26, 2015.

“We weren’t comfortable with where we were at [at the goalie position] right now and I’ve talked about wanting to give Linus Ullmark and opportunity in the organization,” Botterill said, adding that signing a free agent goalie could be a possibility.

Chad Johnson, who was Lehner’s backup, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Ullmark, 24, selected in the sixth round (No. 163) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Sabres, went 21-12-10 with a 2.44 GAA and .922 save percentage in 44 games for Rochester of the American Hockey League in 2017-18. He was 1-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .935 save percentage in five games with Buffalo. 

“There’s a growing process here with everything,” Botterill said. “We think Linus is ready for the next challenge here but to hand over the No. 1 role, I think that’s unfair to any young goalie.”

The Sabres allowed 279 goals this season, third-most in the NHL.

Kunitz won’t get offer from Lightning

Chris Kunitz will not be offered a contract by the Tampa Bay Lightning, general manager Steve Yzerman said.

The 38-year-old forward had 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 82 games with the Lightning this season and one assist in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Kunitz signed a one-year contract with the Lightning on July 1, 2017, after spending parts of nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is the only active player to have won the Stanley Cup four times (2009, 2016-17, Penguins; 2007 Anaheim Ducks).

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