The seven rounds of the NHL draft are over, and teams used the two days to stock their organizational depth and make moves to get their rosters in shape for the start of the July 13 free signing agency period.
The host Montreal Canadiens had the No. 1 overall pick and used it to select Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky, who plays for TPS Turku of the Finnish league. The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, who had only two picks in the draft, chose Sherbrooke (Quebec) goaltender Ivan Zhigalov with the last overall selection.
Here are the winners and losers from the draft:
SCOUTING REPORTS:Sizing up the first round picks
Winner: Montreal Canadiens
A year ago, then-general manager Marc Bergevin drew groans by using the 31st overall pick on Logan Mailloux, who asked teams not to choose him after an earlier offense came to light. This year, new GM Kent Hughes created a pleasant surprise by picking Slafkovsky over Kingston (Ontario) Frontenacs center Shane Wright. Slafkovsky is 6-4 and had seven goals at the Olympics to earn a bronze medal and tournament MVP honors. Montreal later got a center by acquiring Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks in a three-team trade involving the New York Islanders.
Going fourth overall isn’t bad but hearing another name being called three times before yours must have been tough when you were expected to go first overall. It wasn’t Wright’s fault because teams were addressing specific needs, but he said he would use the drop as motivation. “Definitely going to have a little chip on my shoulder,” he told reporters.
Winner: Seattle Kraken
The Kraken are fortunate that Wright — who had had 94 points in 63 games last season — fell to them. He’s considered the most complete all-around player in the draft and his style has been compared to Patrice Bergeron. You build an offense down the middle and the Kraken are set for the future with 2021 No. 2 overall pick Matty Beniers and Wright.
Loser: Chicago Blackhawks
It will be tough to manufacture goals next season. The Alex DeBrincat trade was perplexing, even if landed the Blackhawks a first-round pick that they had been lacking. He’s 24 and already has two 40-goal seasons. Dach, 21, hasn’t had a lot of production, but part of that has been because of injuries. This team also had dealt two-time 20-goal scorer Brandon Hagel, 23, at the deadline. The Blackhawks, who ended up getting three first-round picks on Thursday, are rebuilding a year after they had made a big move at the 2021 draft by acquiring defenseman Seth Jones. How will stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane feel about this?
Winner: Ottawa Senators
DeBrincat joins a team that’s filled with rising stars and will help improve their 26th-ranked offense. He has another year left on his contract and the Senators will still hold his rights as a restricted free agent. They still need more improvements, but they have $20 million in cap space heading into free agency.
Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs
To get out of Petr Mrazek’s contract, they gave up their first-round pick in a trade to the Blackhawks. They still need to sign a goalie because Jack Campbell is an unrestricted free agent.
Winner: Slovakian hockey
No Slovakian player had been taken first overall until Thursday night. Then defenseman Simon Nemec went second overall to the New Jersey Devils. “Last year was really good for Slovakia,” Nemec told reporters. “We won (Olympics) bronze medal. We were second in Hlinka (Cup) and now first and second overall. Amazing year.”
Winner: Buffalo Sabres
First-round picks Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund and Jiri Kulich are all offensive forwards who will help the team down the road.
Loser: Darcy Kuemper
The goaltender won’t get a chance to help the Avalanche defend their championship. Instead, he’ll head to free agency after Colorado acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers to join Pavel Francouz. The Avalanche don’t have the cap space to re-sign all of their free agents. This is the second year in a row that the Avalanche’s No. 1 goalie has left in free agency.