OTTAWA — If you’re a top 10 pick in the NHL Entry Draft, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be playing in the “show” someday. Make it into the top five and there’s money abound. And if you’re lucky to get picked number one overall, you’re name will forever be associated with your draft year.
The top 10 certainly is a special place in the NHL Draft and because of that, we’re going to break down how this year’s opening couple of hours of the NHL Entry Draft (Friday, June 20, 7 p.m. ET; Versus, TSN) may shake out.
#1 Overall Selection — Tampa Bay Lightning
Needs: We can cut to the chase with this one. Tampa Bay has struggled to score goals for the past few seasons, so offense is the number one priority. Thankfully, the ping pong balls bounced correctly in the Stamkos err, I mean draft lottery and the Lightning will retain the top overall pick.
Best fit: Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
#2 Overall Selection — Los Angeles Kings
Needs: Los Angeles has long sought help in keeping the puck out of its net. A goaltender is something that the Kings have never consistently had while depth on the blueline is something that plagued last year’s club. While strong goaltending isn’t going to be found early in this year’s draft, there are plenty of top notch defenders including Zach Bogasian, Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo.
Best fit: Zach Bogasian, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
#3 Overall Selection — Atlanta Thrashers
Needs: Similar to Los Angeles, Atlanta is quite fortunate in its positioning as it searches for a solid blueliner in this year’s draft. The club bolstered its offense at the trade deadline moving Marian Hossa and acquiring Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong and Angelo Esposito. Thus, look for the Thrashers and GM Don Waddell to be targeting one of the aforementioned talented defenseman at the top of this year’s class.
Best fit: Drew Doughty, Guelph Storm (OHL)
#4 Overall Selection — St. Louis Blues
Needs: Similar to Tampa Bay, St. Louis continues to struggle putting pucks in the back of the net, thus finding a proven scorer the number one priority heading into the draft. This would be the perfect spot for Colin Wilson from Boston University, but the issue facing Wilson is whether or not he’s ready to leave college. He says that if the right opportunity comes along, he’s heading to the NHL, but is St. Louis that “right” opportunity? I’m not sure.
Best fit: Nikita Filatov, Central Army (RUS)
#5 Overall Selection — New York Islanders
Needs: Islanders GM Garth Snow is ready for just about anything this draft year. He needs talented blueliners. He’s desperate to score more goals. Their only position with any depth is goal, which isn’t a problem in this netminding-light draft. If Pietrangelo is available at this spot, be confident Snow will snatch him, if not this might be the perfect spot for Wilson.
Best fit: Alex Pietrangelo, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
#6 Overall Selection — Columbus Blue Jackets
Needs: Assuming that Columbus hangs onto the sixth pick amidst a slew of rumors they’re willing to trade it away, you may see the Blue Jackets opt for a talented forward over a budding blueliner. Assuming Wilson is available, this is the proper slot for him. If not, it’s a wild card for Columbus and a trade possibility becomes highly likely.
Best fit: Colin Wilson, Boston University Terrier (Hockey East)
#7 Overall Selection — Toronto Maple Leafs
Needs: It’s been three years since the Maple Leafs made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that’s something that proves this team is in need at each and every position. It’s hard to believe that they Leafs want to take the chance on a college player who may need developing, so look for them to tap a major junior prospect such as defenseman Luke Schenn or center Cody Hodgson.
Best fit: Luke Schenn, Kewlona Rockets (WHL)
#8 Overall Selection — Phoenix Coyotes
Needs: The Coyotes are in search of a little more offense to complement a decent core group that over-produced for GM Wayne Gretzky. Truly this is a team that would love to have the top pick and grab Stamkos, but there’s simply not enough meat on the Coyotes bones to pry it away from Tampa Bay.
Best fit: Cody Hodgson, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
#9 Overall Selection — Nashville Predators (from Florida)
Needs: Nashville has one of the more solid bluelines among the top selectors in this year’s draft, thus it seems sensible that the Preds will seek a talented forward. Selecting in the ninth position, thanks to a trade with the Florida Panthers, there should be one or two options available, though it’s difficult to tell if any of these players will be ready to step in to the NHL next season.
Best fit: Kyle Beach, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
#10 Overall Selection — Vancouver Canucks
Needs: The one position that Vancouver is desperate to fill is center. The club’s only true top-line center is Henrik Sedin, leaving an opening for a second liner who can produce top line numbers. If Hodgson or Beach are still available, either is a slam dunk but it’s hard to believe someone wouldn’t have grabbed them by the 10th position.
Best fit: Zach Boychuk, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)