The SBNation NHL mock draft continued yesterday with picks eight through eleven. Over the next week, the network of NHL sites here at SBN will run through the first round deciding who they think their teams should pick. The Lightning don’t have a first round pick this year, so we won’t be included. Even so, we’ll be keeping an eye on the proceedings so that you know what to expect come Friday, June 22nd when the draft starts.
At this point, we have a clear best player on the board: Evan Bouchard. And unsurprisingly, he goes 9th to the New York Rangers. But after that, we get back to a place where anything can happen.
From a Lighting perspective, picks ten through twelve are interesting. The Edmonton Oilers pick tenth and the New York Islanders have picks eleven and twelve. Both teams represent potential trade partners for the Lightning if they are looking to shop J.T. Miller for a first round pick.
The Oilers have been active in the trade market and rumored to be looking for a scoring winger. The Islanders are looking to revamp their roster with a new front office and exchanging one of their first round picks for a player like Miller would help bolster their top six immediately as they try to build a team that will keep John Tavares in New York.
The crew at Lighthouse Hockey apparently agrees that the Isles could potentially trade one of their picks because they did trade the eleventh pick to the Washington Capitals via Japers’s Rink. The Rangers made the ninth pick via Blueshirt Banter and the Oilers made the tenth pick via Copper n’ Blue.
The Ninth Pick - Evan Bouchard
In their scouting report on Bouchard, BSB wrote:
In a draft loaded with high-upside offensive defensemen, Evan Bouchard is unique. Unlike the others, he does not particularly stand out at first glance. He’s a perfectly average skater. He doesn’t possess fancy stickhandling skills. He’s a robust 6’2, 192 pound player, but hardly a behemoth on the ice.
Bouchard scored 87 points in 67 games while captaining the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. That kind of production from a defender is impossible to ignore. While his raw skills may not pop in the way some other prospects’ do, his results certainly do. The scouting report from BSB summed up Bouchard by saying:
Bouchard is not flashy and can’t singlehandedly break games open, and as one of the older players in the draft he doesn’t have as much boom potential as players ranked ahead of him. At the end of the day, though, he makes an impact in all areas. He creates goals for his team, and isn’t too shabby in the defensive end, either. It’s extremely hard to make dramatic improvements in skating ability, but if he can improve even from a C+ skater to a B- skater, then that will make a major difference. His defending also needs work, though as I said he’s already earned London Head Coach Dale Hunter’s trust in tough minutes. He projects as someone who will play all situations in the NHL, and he probably is not far off, either. I imagine whichever NHL team lands him will give him a shot in training camp, with the 2019-2020 season as a more realistic starting point for his NHL career.
The Tenth Pick - Martin Kaut
This is the first pick that qualifies as a reach. In our Raw Charge consolidated rankings, we have Kaut ranked 25th. For him to go tenth ahead of a slew of good players including Jesperi Kotkaniemi who is in some scouts’ top five is a questionable move. This is an example of where, if a team really likes Kaut, the smart move is to trade back in the draft because they’ll likely still be able to get him later and they can acquire some additional picks.
Kaut has been a bit of a late riser. Copper n’ Blue covered what’s led to his ascension up draft boards this spring.
It all began at the World Juniors.
Unheralded Kaut showed up and ended up getting 7 points in 7 games. That is a tremendous showing for a player in his draft year. If you look closer he was also a member of the Gold Medal winning Czech team at the Ivan Hlinka Tourney where he had 4 points in 5 games. He took that World Junior success back to the Extraliga (Czech pro league where he played against men as an 18 year old) where he started scoring much more consistently and turning heads. He kept that streak going to the Playoffs where he got 5 points in 7 playoff games (noticing a trend yet in clutch games?).
All this translated to Kaut getting an invite to tryout for the Czech National team at the World Championships in Denmark this Spring. Kaut was a point per game player for his first few games there as well. He really impressed people with his ‘professional approach’ to the game and how he played a very balanced two way game. Kaut initially made the Czech squad. Do you know who didn’t? Filip Zadina (who went 3rd overall in this mock draft to Montreal). When the coach was asked, he said Zadina still played a bit like a junior player and his game wasn’t polished enough yet. So the Czech Senior National team just took Kaut over Filip Zadina less than a month ago.
Kaut scored 16 points in 38 games in the Czech league. That’s impressive for a player his age and twice what Filip Chytil who went 21st to the Rangers last year produced. The issue with this pick isn’t the quality of the player. It’s the price paid and the decision to not maximize the value of the pick.
The Eleventh Pick - Jesperi Kotkaniemi
At the eleventh pick, we get our first trade of the draft. And it’s a big one. The Islanders trade pick 11 to the Washington Capitals for the Caps’ first-round pick (either 30 or 31) and goaltender Philip Grubauer.
The motivation for the Isles is obvious. They gave up a ton of goals last year and they’re desperate for a way to stop the bleeding. This is a steep price to pay to try to address that. Especially considering how unpredictable goalie performance is. But Grubauer was great this season so I can understand why the crew at Lighthouse Hockey would make this bet.
For the Caps, this is a great move. They turn their late first round pick and their backup goaltender into one of the highest upside players in the draft. Kotkaniemi has been climbing draft boards all season and has found his way to the top five of some lists.
The crew at Mile High Hockey wrote this in their profile of Kotkaniemi:
The Finnish player is a goal-scorer, a playmaker, a powerplay quarterback and a penalty killer. We say all the time that players can perform in “all situations”, but that is particularly true about Kotkaniemi. When it comes to scoring goals, his quick release is his greatest attribute.
He is a skilled puck-handler and he uses his stickhandling to buy himself time while looking for teammates. When playing internationally against guys his own age, he has show the strength necessary to carry the puck through traffic, particularly through the neutral zone.
His strengths go well beyond his play with the puck. Kotkaniemi is a very strong two-way player. With his pro team, he played mostly on the wing and didn’t get a lot of shorthanded time - this is almost certainly because of his age and lack of physical maturity. When he plays internationally with Finland, Kotkaniemi has filled the role as the 1C as well as the lynch-pin of the first penalty-kill unit.
For me, this is the best pick of the draft so far. The Caps are a good team and it’s hard for good teams to keep their prospect pipeline stocked. This is a perfect example of how to maximize a return for a player by finding the team that needs him most.
If the Lightning could replicate this move with J.T. Miller in the place of Grubauer and the Caps pick, that would be the dream scenario. Turning a player they can’t sign into a high end prospect is a perfect way to keep themselves prepared for the future.
And with that, we’re through the top eleven picks of the draft. We’re starting to see some movement and surprises and that will continue through the rest of the draft.
SBNation NHL Mock Draft Recap:
- Buffalo Sabres - Rasmus Dahlin
- Carolina Hurricanes - Andrei Svechnikov
- Montreal Canadiens - Filip Zadina
- Ottawa Senators - Quinn Hughes
- Arizona Coyotes - Brady Tkachuk
- Detroit Red Wings - Adam Boqvist
- Vancouver Canucks - Noah Dobson
- Chicago - Oliver Wahlstrom
- New York Rangers - Evan Bouchard
- Edmonton Oilers - Martin Kaut
- Washington Capitals (via New York Islanders) - Jesperi Kotkaniemi