NHL

NHL Draft Day 1 Review: Key takeaways and remaining questions for the weekend

Rasmus Dahlin was the drafted first overall by the Buffalo Sabres.

On Friday Night in Dallas, the NHL held its first round of the 2018 Entry Level Draft. There were 31 players selected, all of whom hope to make it to the big leagues within the next few years.

1) Before the Buffalo Sabres were officially on the clock, the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals traded goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche for the a second round pick (47th overall). This was an unsurprising move for the Caps as they had two highly talented goaltenders on the roster. After Braden Holtby’s performance in the playoffs, he reclaimed his No. 1 status, which effectively signaled the end of Grubauer’s time in the Nation’s Capital.

Grubauer was set to become a restricted free agent July 1st. There was no way the Caps were going to afford to keep him on the roster as a back-up goalie. This move made a ton of sense because they were able to sell high on the former fourth round pick, after he recorded a 15-10-3 record with a 2.35 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in 35 games.

This deal was as much about clearing cap space as it was acquiring the second round draft choice. By including 37-year-old defenseman Brooks Orpik, the Caps were able to shed $5.5 million in average annual value through the 2018-19 season. This allows the Caps to clear much needed cap space ahead of the free agency period so they can resign top priority John Carlson, who will probably get something similar to what Arizona gave Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

For the Avs this move made a ton of sense. They are in need of a young, talented goalie with Semyon Varlamov set to become a free agent after next season. Grubauer should be able to help contribute to this team and they continue to ascend after their unexpected success last season.

As for Orpik, he may never even lace up his skates for the Avs as Colorado has already expressed their desire to trade him elsewhere or buy him out of his current deal.

2) Buffalo makes the most surp… I mean unsurprising draft choice since the Edmonton Oilers selected Connor McDavid No. 1 overall in 2015. Rasmus Dahlin has been the consensus No. 1 draft choice of the 2018 draft since the last pick was made in the 2017 draft.

Bob McKenzie compared Dahlin to Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson with the potential of the “greatest Swedish defenceman ever”, Nicklas Lidstrom.
Those are some lofty expectations, but it speaks to the fact of this guys elite potential.

3) It was a great day for American players. America had the second most players selected in the first round of any country, trailing only Canada. With three players taken inside the top 12, and five taken in the top 20, there was a lot of good young Americans selected.

4) On Saturday, Ilya Kovalchuk signed a three year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. The 35 year old has spent the last six seasons with the KHL. Last year with the SKA St. Petersburg, he recorded 63 points in 53 games. Over the course of his 11 year NHL career, Kovalchuk is a point per game player, scoring 816 points in 816 regular season games. He can’t officially sign until after July 1st, so we will have to wait and see how much money the contract is worth.

Questions remaining this weekend:

  1. Where will Jonathan Taveras end up? Taveras may be the biggest name to hit the free agent market on July 1st. Rumor has it that he may meet with other teams beginning on Sunday, June 24th. Or he could decide to return to the Islanders, who with established coach Barry Trotz now the head coach, is definitely a more attractive option than before.
  2. How long until the Caps resign John Carlson? Carlson is set to become a very rich man, and could be the second biggest name to hit the free agent market. With the trade the Caps made with Colorado to free up a ton of cap space, it seems more a matter of when and not if Washington resigns Carlson.

  1. Where does Erik Karlsson end up? The Senators couldn’t find a trade partner for Karlsson whose contract can be extended on July 1st. Will they be able to clear up enough cap space to resign him? Or will they be able to flip him to another team who will extend him before July 1st? He is set to become one of the top free agents in next years free agency class. 
  2. How does Ilya Kovalchuk fit into the the Los Angeles Kings plans? The super-talented Russian player, who has been out of the NHL for the last six years playing in Russa’s KHL, is a talented goal scorer, but at his age it will be interested in seeing how much slower he is after six years away from the NHL. Before moving to the KHL, Kovalchuk scored 816 points (417 goals, 399 assists) in 11 seasons in the NHL. Despite his age, he can still provide some high scoring talent, and could drastically improve the Kings mediocre power play, that ranked 17th last season with a 20.4 PP%.

By the end of this weekend, there will be a lot of newly selected players to the 31 NHL teams with high hopes and dreams of someday making it to the NHL. With Free Agency right around the corner it will be interesting to see where top free agents Taveras, Carlson and Eric Karlsson end up in the coming weeks.

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