The 2016 NHL Draft’s biggest winners

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The dust has barely settled on the 2016 NHL Draft, so what better time to assign winners and losers?

What’s that, you say? It would be better to wait anywhere between three and 10 years to hand out assessments?

(Awkward pause.)

OK, maybe that’s true, but let’s allow hindsight to make us look silly by throwing out some hasty picks anyway. Let’s start off with a post about the winners, shall we?

Note: These “grades’ are heavily influenced by trades and other factors beyond mere picks.

Winners

AMERICA

Feel free to cue Team America’s wildly NSFW theme song while noting that the United States churned out a record 12 first-rounders in 2016. That list included Auston Matthews, the top overall pick (and the first American to go first overall since Patrick Kane).

Read more about the ‘ol red-white-and-blue’s presence here.

Finland

With 14 overall selections, maybe Finland didn’t knock it out of the park in the “quantity” category. Still, with three of the top five picks hailing from Finland, that’s a heck of a haul.

Question: when will it stop being weird that Jarmo Kekalainen, the first Finnish GM in NHL history, opted against drafting one of those guys?

Maple Leafs/Jets

Filling out the “winners by default” categories are teams like the Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, who succeed merely by following the script in grabbing Matthews and Patrik Laine respectively.

Bonus points to Toronto if Kerby Rychel pans out, too.

Calgary Flames

Brian Elliott doesn’t cost much in cap space ($2.5 million) and he didn’t cost a whole lot to acquire. The Flames scored a massive upgrade in net for the short-term and might even be wise to lock him up for a few more years.

If that wasn’t enough, Calgary adds another useful young piece in Matthew Tkachuk. Extra super bonus points for inspiring the latest great Brian Burke quote:

Arizona Coyotes

Bold moves from a remarkably young new general manager. We could look back at nabbing Jakob Chychrun as a shrewd move, yet he wasn’t the only example of the ‘Yotes loading up on defense. Anthony Deangelo is an intriguing gamble. With Alex Goligoski in tow, the Coyotes have quite the war chest at the coveted defensive position … and in general, really.

Absorbing Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract is all about the franchise’s economic realities.

Red Wings

Unloading Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit opens up plenty of possibilities for Detroit, even if dreams of Steven Stamkos end up being unfounded.

Besides, this franchise still unearths draft gems with impressive regularity.

Chicago Blackhawks

Hey, giving up Andrew Shaw hurts, but the Blackhawks landed quite a deal for his mere negotiating rights. GM Stan Bowman continues to be a salary cap Houdini. If they really do end up reuniting with Brian Campbell, look out.

Edmonton Oilers

It’s not easy to spell Jesse Puljujarvi, so let’s tweak it to “steal.”

Consider this a weaker “win” if the Oilers fail in their quest to land a defenseman.

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Time will tell if winners end up looking like losers and vice versa. Things could even change between the moment this post is published and when free agency kicks off on July 1.

For whatever it’s worth, above teams look like they’re sitting fairly pretty at the moment.