The Oilers have yet another young talented forward in Leon Draisaitl. (Ed Kaiser, Edmonton Journal)
If you’ve made it this far in our eight-part draft grade series, well, congratulations… you have no life outside hockey. That’s okay, neither do we. Today, we wrap up the Pacific Division with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks. To catch up in the series, be sure to check out the previous articles listed below.
The Oilers had six picks in 2014, but none in rounds two and three. While the lack of those picks made for a somewhat uncertain draft in the latter stages, Edmonton most definitely didn’t go wrong with the third overall pick, taking Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) forward Leon Draisaitl.
A standout in German juniors, Draisaitl scored 21 goals and 58 points in 64 games with the Raiders as a rookie in 2012-13 before blowing down the doors in his sophomore campaign with 38 goals and 105 points in 64 regular season games this past season. The 6’2″, 216-pound forward is a dynamic play-maker with excellent vision, speed and goal scoring ability. However, Draisaitl’s hockey smarts are what sets this kid apart. He’ll compliment Edmonton’s additional young forward talent quite well. We love the fact that he turned down the chance to make money playing professional hockey in Europe to play in the CHL, where he felt he’d become better prepared to be an NHLer (see video below).
The Oilers waited until the fourth round to make their next selections, taking Frolunda (Sweden – JR) defenseman William Lagesson and University of Michigan (NCAA) goaltender Zachary Nagelvoort with the 91st and 111th overall picks, respectively. Lagesson played a solid season in Swedish J20s last year, collecting eight goals and 20 points with a plus-27 rating in 44 regular season games. He’ll suit up for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints this season. Nagelvoort played just one USHL game, but was a great goaltender in two seasons in the NAHL. As a freshman, the 6’2″, 207-pound netminder had a 2.20 goals against average and a .929 save percentage in 24 regular season games.
Edmonton then took another big forward (6’3″, 185 pounds) in Vernon Vipers (BCHL) left winger Liam Coughlin. He had 18 goals and 45 points in 53 regular season games, adding seven goals and 13 points in 19 postseason games. Coughlin will play one more season with the Vipers before playing college puck with Boston University. Oil Country added another junior forward in Omaha Lancers (USHL) centre Tyler Vesel in round six. A Shattuck St. Mary’s stud alum, Vesel transitioned seamlessly into the USHL, notching 33 goals, 71 points and a plus-40 rating in 49 regular season games. The University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA) commit added three goals and four points in four postseason games.
The Oilers wrapped up their draft with a goaltender in the seventh round, selecting Keven Bouchard of the Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL). In 27 regular season games, the 18-year-old put together a 2.95 goals against average and a save percentage of .887. It certainly wasn’t a terrible draft by Edmonton, and it’s hard to argue that it could have been much better. Still, we’ll give them a B+.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings never dominate the regular season, however, they always seem to find a way to be one of the last teams standing when the going gets tough in the extra season. They’re big, they’re tough and they just don’t back down. Plus, having one of the best goaltenders in the league certainly can’t hurt. If they keep drafting as well as they did in 2014, there’s no reason why this team can’t continue to consistently produce good showings season after season.
Thanks to the penalty against the New Jersey Devils, LA was able to draft one slot earlier than most Stanley Cup championship winning teams. With the 29th pick, the Kings made Modo (Sweden) left winger Adrian Kempe their top pick in the 2014 draft. Nearly a point-per-game player through 20 games with Modo’s J20 club, Kempe added 11 points and a plus-5 rating in 45 games playing against men in the Swedish Elite League. A big, strong forward with offensive ability and a knack for being a pain in the butt to play against, Kempe will fit in well in a third line grinding role in SoCal in the not too distant future .
In the second round, the Kings added a pair of OHL defensemen, taking Roland McKeown (Kingston) and Alex Lintuniemi (Ottawa) with the 50th and 60th overall picks. McKeown is a strong, “do-it-all” minute-muncher who scored 11 goals and 43 points with a plus-38 rating in 62 regular season games, adding four points and a plus-6 rating in seven postseason games. Lintuniemi, on the other hand, struggled in his first season of North American hockey, collecting four goals, 21 points and a minus-38 rating. However, his size (6’3″, 231 pounds) and puck-handling ability make him an ideal future NHL defender — if he’ll work on improving his skating, that is.
In the mid-rounds, LA added a forward, defenseman and a goaltender in North Bay (OHL) centre Michael Amadio, Omaha (USHL) defender Steven Johnson and Victoria (BCHL) netminder Alec Dillon with the 90th, 120th and 150th overall picks, respectively. Amadio is looking for a better season after scoring 38 points in 64 regular season games with the Battalion last season. Johnson had 31 points and a plus-23 rating as a rookie in 56 regular season games with the Lancers. He’ll suit up for the University of Minnesota (NCAA) this season. A monstrous youngster at 6’6″ and 170 pounds, Dillon had a 2.76 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 33 regular season games with the Grizzlies. He’ll play a season with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm before making the leap to the collegiate ranks with RPI (NCAA).
The Kings added a pair of OHL forwards in the sixth round in Belleville centre Jake Marchment and Plymouth left winger Matthew Mistele. Marchment had 10 goals and 32 points in 57 regular season games, while Mistele had 18 goals and 37 points in 56 games. LA then wrapped up its weekend with the final two picks of the draft, taking Kingston (OHL) winger Spencer Watson and Ottawa (OHL) defenseman Jacob Middleton with the 209th and 210th overall picks. Watson was a potential second rounder who almost bottomed out of the draft entirely; he had 33 goals, 68 points and a plus-31 rating in 65 regular season games last season. Middleton collected two goals and 23 points with a minus-21 rating in 65 regular season games with the 67’s.
It was a great draft for Los Angeles. The club added size, skill, grit and scoring ability, while increasing depth at all positions. We don’t see why this team doesn’t deserve an A+ for this effort.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks find themselves in the middle of a rebuild, and there may be no better player to rebuild around than dangerous goal scorer Nikolai Goldobin. Taken with the 27th overall pick, Goldobin lit up the OHL for the Sarnia Sting, collecting 38 goals and 94 points in 67 regular season games. Unfortunately, he also added a minus-30 rating. There’s no question he’s one of the world’s best in his age group when it comes to working in the offensive zone, but he’ll need to work on his play on the other side of the puck before he makes the leap to the NHL with San Jose.
In the second round, the Sharks added a pair of Europeans, taking Frolunda (Sweden – JR.) defenseman Julius Bergman and Geneve (Swiss- JR.) right winger Noah Rod with the 46th and 53rd overall picks. Bergman is a talented righty with good size and a good shot. He scored 13 goals and 34 points with a plus-15 rating in 45 games with Frolunda’s J20 club. It’ll be interested to see how he transitions to the North American game with the OHL’s London Knights this season. Rod has made a name for himself in Swiss juniors as a tough grinder that can score with the best of them. He had 16 goals and 37 points in 31 regular season games with Geneve-Servette’s U20 squad.
San Jose collected another pair of players in round three, this time Canadian major junior forwards. Portland (WHL) right winger Alex Schoenborn and Saginaw (OHL) left winger Dylan Sadowy were welcomed into the fold with the 72nd and 81st overall picks. Schoenborn had 18 goals, 36 points, a plus-19 rating and 121 penalty minutes in 72 regular season games in his first full season with the Winterhawks, adding five points in 21 postseason games. Sadowy is a pure scorer who had 27 goals, 36 points and a plus-14 rating in 68 regular season games last season.
The Sharks added a massive specimen of a defenseman in 6’4″, 216-pound lefty Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) defender Alexis Vanier. In 61 regular season games, Vanier collected 15 goals, 36 points and a plus-11 rating. San Jose wrapped up its draft with a pair of forwards, taking Kelowna (WHL) centre Rourke Chartier and Barrie (OHL) right winger Kevin Labanc with the 149th and 171st overall picks. Chartier scored 24 goals and 58 points with a plus-26 rating in 72 games with the Rockets, while Labanc had 11 goals and 35 points in 65 regular season games with the Colts.
It was a very solid draft for San Jose, a team that added enough assets to at least restock its prospect pool. As a result, the Sharks definitely get a well-earned B.
Speaking of teams in the process of rebuilding, Vancouver finds itself in a similar situation. Fortunately, the team’s stable of prospects continues to grow and develop nicely thanks to a very solid showing in 2014. Headlining the weekend for the ‘Nucks was a pair of first round picks — Calgary (WHL) right winger Jake Virtanen (sixth overall) and Sault St. Marie (OHL) centre Jake McCann (26th overall).
A speedy forward with a keen mind for the offensive and physical side of the game, Virtanen scored a whopping 45 goals and 71 points with a plus-23 rating and 100 penalty minutes in 71 regular season games with the Hitmen. He’s currently recovering from season-ending surgery, making the 2015-15 campaign a big one for his development. McCann may be the ideal future replacement for second line centre Ryan Kesler, who was traded to the Anaheim Ducks at the draft. He’s a hard working, two-way talent and has no problems playing either side of the puck. In 64 games with the Greyhounds, McCann had 27 goals, 62 points and a plus-9 rating, adding two goals and seven points in nine postseason games. He’s still a few years away from making the Canucks lineup, though.
In round numero dos, Vancouver addressed goaltending with the selection of top draft eligible goaltender Thatcher Demko, a Boston College (NCAA) freshman widely rumoured to be going to Minnesota at the 18th overall pick. Instead, Demko went off the board at 36th overall, addressing a need in the Canucks’ system after the departures of Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. In 24 games with BC, the 6’3″, 192-pound netminder put together a 2.24 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. He’s big, athletic and not far away from making the leap to the pro ranks.
Lacking a fourth round pick, Vancouver snatched up a pair of defensemen in the third and fifth rounds, taking Yekaterinburg’s (KHL) Nikita Tryamkin and Linkoping’s (Sweden – JR.) Gustav Forsling with the 66th and 126th overall picks, respectively. In 45 games playing against men in arguably the second-best hockey league in the entire world, Tryamkin notched a goal, seven points and a plus-2 rating in 45 games, adding a goal, three points and a plus-5 rating in seven games with Russia in the 2014 U-20 World Junior Hockey Championships. Oh, did we mention he’s 6’7″ and 229 pounds? So, yeah, there’s that. Forsling had six goals, 18 points and a minus-3 rating in 44 games with Linkoping’s J20 team.
The Canucks wrapped things up with Erie Otters (OHL) centre Kyle Pettit and Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) defenseman MacKenze Stewart, taken with the 156th and 186th overall picks. Pettit is a big customer at 6’4″ and 201 pounds, but he had just five goals, 10 points, a plus-3 rating and 24 penalty minutes in 53 regular season games. He’ll be expected to bring much more to the table this season. Speaking of big customers, Stewart is 6’3″ and a sturdy 240 pounds. He’s got NHL size already, but he’ll need to put up more than the five goals, nine points and minus-7 rating he collected in 55 games with the Raiders last season.
Honestly, this was a great draft for the Canucks, who added two blue chip forward prospects and a legitimate future No. 1 NHL netminder in Demko. Then there’s the intriguing size present throughout the rest of the club’s draft class. It’s definitely worth an A+.
And — finally — we have come to the conclusion of our 2014 NHL Draft Grades series. Thanks for reading! Now, let’s drop that puck, huh?
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you think your favourite Pacific Division team fared in the draft.