If ever there was a year to tear it down and look to the future, this is it. Regardless of one’s stance on the tank as an organizational strategy, I think we can all agree that an approach to building a team that produces one of this year’s top talents is worth pursuing.
Of course, there’s Conor Bedard. Even the most casual hockey fans know his story by now. The slightest chance of bringing him into the next decade is enough to get fans of the struggling franchise excited. What makes this class unique, however, is the host of consolation prizes, at least two or three of which would be first overall picks in almost any other year.
Adam Fantilly has cooled off a bit (it’s all relative) as Michigan has gone through the toughest part of their schedule, but he’s still producing offense on a history rink as a true freshman. Leo Karlsson is currently in a bit of a slump, and all it’s doing is dropping his per-game rate at nearly the same rate as Nicklas Backstrom’s this time a month ago. A pace to match the Sedi twins and Peter Forsberg. Long considered Bedard’s challenger for the first overall spot, Matvey Michkov has struggled to find consistent playing time in the KHL this season, but still looks like a future NHL star.
As brutal as the NHL Draft Lottery process is, and the NHL has loosened its grip recently, there is no scenario where you finish in the bottom two or three spots in the league standings and leave the next draft without a franchise-building block-type player, if not : future superstar.
Let’s just hope your favorite team isn’t looking for that franchise-defining player at quarterback. That might be more difficult in this year’s draft. You’ll notice we don’t even put one on our board until the 11th overall pick, at which point there’s a bit of a run on quarterbacks.
Likewise, there are some solid goaltenders (Michael Hrabal, Trey Augustin and Jacob Fowler foremost among them), but none we’d rate as first-round talents. Not yet, anyway.
Now that this year’s draft is set, let’s take a look at some of the players who are ready to walk in Nashville this coming June.