2018 NHL Entry Draft – Central Division Team Needs

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WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - APRIL 7: Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets watches for a shot from the point in front of Jeff Glass #30 of the Chicago Blackhawks during NHL action on April 7, 2018 at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)

With the NHL entry draft on the horizon, teams are gearing up for a busy weekend in Dallas on June 22nd and 23rd. This year’s draft class is deep and a has a ton of foreign talent, three of which are the projected top 3. It also includes one player who is a generational talent and has all the makings to be an instant superstar. We will take a look at the Central Division team needs and who they will potentially pick in this year’s draft.

2018 NHL Draft – Central Division Team Needs

Chicago Blackhawks

Draft Position: 8th and 27th overall

Recent First Round Picks: Henri Jokiharju, Nick Schmaltz

Team Needs:

Three Stanley Cups later and the Blackhawks run at the top of the league is starting to come to end. The Hawks have traded away most of their picks and prospects in order to remain a contender, but now it’s time to replenish the youth in the organization. The Hawks finished 19th in scoring last season, so they could certainly use some help on offence. Also, with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook pushing 35, it’s certainly time to look for their replacements.

Projected Picks: Evan Bouchard at 8th, Liam Foudy at 27th

Bouchard is one of the players in this draft class who could potentially go straight to the NHL next season. He has elite vision and hockey sense and is an excellent playmaker. He is said to be the best passer in the draft. Bouchard also has the size in his favour as he stands at 6’2” 192 lbs. While he’s not the best skater, he tends to slow things down to his speed. Bouchard would be a top-pairing defenceman for the Blackhawks for years to come.

Looking at Foudy’s point totals from this past season doesn’t give you a true reading on how good the player actually is. Foudy started the season with a small role for a stacked London Knights team, but as they decided to become sellers and trade off their top players such as Robert Thomas, Max Jones and Cliff Pu, Foudy’s role expanded and he flourished. He’s an elite skater, one of the best in the draft. His speed is elite and can burn past defenders. You don’t want to get caught flat-footed with Foudy on the ice. He will make you pay.

Colorado Avalanche

Draft Position: 16th Overall

Recent First Round Picks: Cale Makar, Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen

Team Needs:

The Avalanche are in desperate need of secondary scoring. Outside the line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avs offence dries up. While they do have good young players like Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and Shane Bowers in the organization, they are more two-way guys. Picking up another dangerous scorer will help propel this team to the top of the division.

Projected Pick: Joel Farabee

Joel Farabee meets every aspect the Avalanche could possibly need from a player. He’s a natural goal scorer with excellent vision and playmaking ability and great speed. Not only is he great offensively, he excels on the defensive side of the ice as well. He was a key contributor on the penalty kill and is an exceptional shot blocker. Its hard to find a player who is as determined and hardworking as Farabee.

Dallas Stars

Draft Position: 13th Overall

Recent First Round Picks: Miro Heiskanen, Riley Tufte, Denis Gurianov

Team Needs:

Before the season started, the Stars were looked at as a Stanley Cup contender. They looked deep down the middle with Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Martin Hanzal as their top 3. With Spezza in his mid-thirties and Hanzal undergoing spinal-fusion surgery, the centre position isn’t as great as it was thought to be and is an area they will be looking to address this summer.

Projected Pick: Joe Veleno

With the need at centre, Veleno is the perfect fit for the Stars. He’s an elite skater with quick acceleration. Veleno is known as more of a playmaker than goal scorer, as he has high-end vision and hockey sense, and his passing ability is outstanding. With Valeri Nichushkin coming back to the NHL and Gurianov on the way up, Veleno will help fill out a potent top-six in the not-so-distant future.

Minnesota Wild

Draft Position: 24th Overall

Recent First Round Picks: Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Alex Tuch

Team Needs:

Much like Dallas, the Wild could use a centre at this year’s draft. While they have Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal as their top two right now, they both aren’t getting any younger with Koivu at 35 and Staal at 33, respectively. Joel Eriksson Ek is only 21 years old, but hasn’t yet shown he can provide the offence needed from a top-two centre with only 23 points in 90 career games. While this could obviously change, the Wild may want to use their pick to grab another scoring centre.

Projected Pick: Ryan McLeod

McLeod is an exceptional playmaker with very good vision and passing skills. He is one of the fastest skaters in the draft which is the way the game is going. McLeod can create chances off the rush using his speed and stick handling ability to burn by defenders. Not only does his speed help on offence, but he excels on the defensive side of the game as well. He uses his speed to get to loose pucks and close the gap on his opponents. He reads plays well, which helps create turnovers and transition to offence. McLeod projects as a number two centre with the potential to be a number one.

Nashville Predators

Draft Position: 89th Overall

Nashville doesn’t pick until 89th at this year’s draft as they traded their first-round pick to Chicago in exchange for Ryan HartmanThey also traded away their second-round pick the deal that brought them Kyle Turris.

Recent First Round Picks: Eeli Tolvanen, Dante Fabbro, Kevin Fiala

Team Needs: 

There aren’t many holes in the Predators line up. They have an elite defence group, a solid group of wingers and strong goaltending. The centre group is decent as well but they don’t have the elite number one centre. Ryan Johansen is a solid centre, but he hasn’t provided the offence of a top pivot that Nashville is hoping for.

Projected Pick: Carson Focht

Picking so late in the draft, it’s highly unlikely the Predators will be able to find that elite centreman they need. Whoever they draft will certainly be a project, which is the case for a player like Carson Focht. Focht found his offensive game this season after being dealt to the Calgary Hitman and was given a chance to play in an offensive role. He’s a talented playmaker who plays with a bit of an edge. He needs to bulk up a bit though if he does, there’s potential to become a more productive player on offence.

St. Louis Blues

Draft Position: 29th Overall

Recent First Round Picks: Robert Thomas, Klim Kostin, Tage Thompson

Team Needs:

With Robert Thomas being the only centre among their group of top prospects, the Blues can certainly benefit from drafting another one this year. Converting Brayden Schenn to centre worked out quite well for the Blues last season, but after trading Paul Stastny there’s a hole that needs to be filled – most likely by Thomas next season. If the Blues can manage to get another offensive centre at the draft, they could potentially move Schenn back to the wing and create a very potent top-six in the near future.

Project Pick: Ty Dellandrea

Had Dellandrea been on a better team, there’s a good chance he would be higher up on everyone’s draft boards. He’s a great skater and goal scorer. Dellandrea has a quick and accurate wrist shot, as well as exceptional hand-eye coordination to help with deflections as well as banging home rebounds. He plays a very strong two-way game as well and is relied upon in all situations. Thomas and Dellandrea would be a solid one-two punch moving forward.

Winnipeg Jets

Draft Position: 60th Overall

The Jets will not pick until 60th overall at this year’s draft as they sent their first-round pick to St. Louis in exchange for Paul Stastny.

Recent First Round Picks: Kristian Vesalainen, Patrik Laine, Logan Stanley, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic

Team Needs: 

Much like Nashville, the Jets are a team that doesn’t have a glaring hole. The depth at all positions on this team makes them a true Stanley Cup Contender for at least the next few years. They may, however, look at trying to draft another centre, as they may potentially lose Stastny to free agency. It would give them the option then to leave Roslovic on the wing if they so choose.

Projected Pick: Filip Hallander

Hallander may not be the fastest skater, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in work ethic. Hallander works for every puck. He has good instincts and high-end hockey sense. He has the ability to finish plays and plays a very strong two-way game. That will be his ticket to the NHL.

 

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