The NHL Draft is a great time for the kids who get selected to play for any of the 30 NHL teams and getting to live that dream where your name is called and you get to throw on the team sweater is a huge thrill. Of course, not every team makes the pick that turns out to be the big winner and sometimes kids (they are kids after all) don’t turn out the way a team hopes they will. When you’re right, you’re a genius but when you’re wrong you’re on the unemployment line as a scout or general manager.
With all that said, there are five teams who we looked at in the draft who came away looking like big winners for one reason or another. Making the right picks is a tough thing to do at the draft but these five teams stood out above all others for what they were able to pull off.
1. Detroit Red Wings
They traded out of the first round swapping their first round pick for a pair of second rounders from Ottawa and managed to land super skilled forward Thomas Jurco and defenseman Xavier Ouellet. Defense was a key point in this draft for the Wings as they also took defenseman Ryan Sproul with their own second round pick. Overall Detroit grabbed five defensemen with the nine selections they had in the draft. Perhaps Nicklas Lidstrom’s eventual retirement finally set in on their thinking.
In Jurco they land a puckhandling wizard the likes we haven’t seen since… Oh right, Detroit already has Pavel Datsyuk to do silly things with the puck. That said, if we see Datsyuk doing the kinds of things we’ve seen Jurco do in highlight reels on YouTube, the NHL world might implode.
They also landed forward Philippe Hudon in the fifth round. The NHL Central Scouting bureau had Hudon ranked 31st at their midseason rankings but when the final list came out, Hudon dropped to 74th. Could the Wings have tripped and fallen into another late-round success story? Time will tell, but Hudon is worth keeping an eye on at Cornell next season in the NCAA.
2. Florida Panthers
Aside from the Panthers swinging a draft day deal with Chicago that landed them Brian Campbell to play defense for them in exchange for Rostislav Olesz, GM Dale Tallon did pretty well at the top half of the draft as well. With the third overall selection they grabbed potential goal scoring machine Jonathan Huberdeau and in the second round they took diminutive spark plug forward Rocco Grimaldi.
Grimaldi’s skills at North Dakota and with the Team USA World Junior Championship teams has people thinking of Brian Gionta when they see him. Those kinds of comparisons are nice to have as Gionta made a killing in college hockey and carried it on to the pros in a big way. If Grimaldi can develop like that, the Panthers all of a sudden have some great skill on the wings.
A handful of other picks could turn out nicely as well for them including what they did in the third round grabbing center Vincent Trocheck, right wing Logan Shaw, defenseman Jonathan Racine, and center Kyle Rau. Four third round picks give Florida a nicer shot at landing someone else who could pan out in the NHL.
3. Minnesota Wild
What the Wild lacked in the number of picks they made up for it by having the prototypical great Round 1 for the hometown fans. While their first pick of Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin may or may not have been a great pick for them as a reach at tenth overall, the Wild helped keep things exciting for the fans that didn’t go streaming for the exits immediately after that selection.
Minnesota swung the huge deal with San Jose that sent Brent Burns to the Sharks and Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota. That deal also gave the Wild a second first round pick which they used to take centerman Zack Phillips out of Saint John in the QMJHL. Phillips was Jonathan Huberdeau’s linemate on that Memorial Cup winning team and he’s got a ton of upside as a potential set up man in the NHL. Trading up to add Minnesota boy Mario Lucia late in the second round was another great thing to make the fans get excited as there’s nothing they love more than having guys from Minnesota play there.
4. New Jersey Devils
Full confession, the Devils making this list is based solely upon what happens when you hit the lottery both literally and figuratively. When the Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery that allowed them to move up to fourth overall, they had their fingers crossed that maybe Swedish stud defenseman Adam Larsson could fall their way. With how unpredictable things would be with the three teams ahead of them, it was a toss-up how things could go.
Lucky Lou Lamoriello proved to get things to go his way once again as the Oilers took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado grabbed Gabriel Landeskog, and Florida took Huberdeau. Hello future career stud defenseman. Larsson’s skills on the blue line have people making all kinds of lofty comparisons, but the one we’re thinking of here is Scott Niedermayer. Larsson is going to be very good and there’s a distinct chance he’ll be playing in New Jersey right away next season. It’s good to be Lou Lamoriello.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers weren’t set to have much to do at the NHL Draft before they cleaned house sending Jeff Carter and Mike Richards out of town. The Carter deal, while it’s got him in hiding feeling upset about the whole thing, landed the Flyers the eighth pick overall in the draft. There they lucked out in a big way after Winnipeg went off the board somewhat and took center Mark Scheifele ahead of them. That left the Flyers to take big centerman Sean Couturier from Drummondville of the QMJHL.
At 6’3″ 197, Couturier is set to be a big, physical and well-rounded center with the skills to defend and dish it out on offense as well. He plays well physically and can score with the best of them (96 points in 58 games last season, including 36 goals). Sounds like the ideal kind of guy to play in Philadelphia, wouldn’t you say? Their third round pick, center Nick Cousins, could turn out to be a nice complimentary player in the future as a playmaker type but for the Flyers, their culture change moves helped them land one of the five guys that was slated to be one of the best talents in the draft. Not a bad deal at all.