Each year, when the Stanley Cup Playoffs end, only one team can really be happy, right?
OK, this year, maybe two. The expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights and the perennially cursed Washington Capitals merely making the Stanley Cup Final marked a historical achievement.
For everybody else, elimination meant turning attention to the NHL draft — being held tomorrow in Dallas. And it’s a good year to do that.
Despite Rasmus Dahlin’s near-certain status as the No. 1 overall pick and similar projections for Andrei Svechnikov at No. 2, this is widely considered a deep draft. Yet, while there might be “first-round talent” available midway through the second round, fans everywhere will concentrate on what their club does among the first 31 picks.
Here’s a look at some of the names you’ll likely be hearing early tomorrow night. After the first two, they’re in alphabetical order because, who knows?
Rasmus Dahlin (D) 6-2, 181. Frolunda, SHL. The Swedish Bobby Orr? Enough said. The Buffalo Sabres have the top pick and hosted the NHL combine — and will surprise no one when they take him.
Andrei Svechnikov (RW) 6-2, 188. Barrie, OHL. OHL Rookie of the Year despite playing roughly two-thirds of the season, after winning USHL ROY the year before. Goal scorer has drawn comparisons to Alex Ovechkin.
Adam Boqvist (D) 5-11, 168. Brynas Jr., Sweden. Offensive-minded defenseman. Super-fast.
Evan Bouchard (D) 6-2, 193. London, OHL. Heavy shot, physically a beast, great ice awareness. Rising on many lists, though he is not fast.
Noah Dobson (D) 6-3, 180. Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL. Smart, quick and already a great one-on-one defender.
Joel Farabee (LW) 5-11, 164. USNTDP. Will have to add strength and weight, but his work ethic suggests he will. Team USA captain.
Barrett Hayton (C) 6-1, 190. Sault Ste. Marie, OHL. The best of a weak center crop? Maybe, but the Greyhounds were so good they might have made him look better.
Quinn Hughes (D) 5-10, 170. University of Michigan. As a freshman, was perhaps the most dynamic defenseman in the NCAA. Elite skills with the puck. This draft is probably deepest at defense, and Hughes might be the No. 2 D-man behind Dahlin.
Rasmus Kupari (C) 6-1, 183. Karpat, SM-Liiga. Maybe the best Finn in this year’s draft, and that designation is worth something. Very slick offensive player.
Serron Noel (RW) 6-5, 205. Oshawa, OHL. Raw, but has all the tools to be a power forward in the NHL.
Ty Smith (D) 5-11, 175. Spokane, WHL. Canada’s U-18 captain. Among the best skaters in the draft. Agile and smoothly decisive with the puck, he’ll help anybody’s power play.
Brady Tkachuk (LW) 6-3, 196. Boston University. Keith’s son, Matthew’s brother. Quicker and less likely to brawl than either. Soft hands and sees the ice as well as anybody in the draft. He’ll go high.
Joe Veleno (C) 6-1, 195. Drummondville, QMJHL. Good size, characterized as a leader. Quick, and noted for his vision.
Oliver Wahlstrom (RW) 6-0, 205. USNTDP. U-18 performance shows he can score. After Svechnikov, might be the best scorer in the draft.
Bode Wilde (D) 6-2, 195. USNTDP. Big shot. Crazy fast. Great size. Played a ton of minutes for the developmental program.
Filip Zadina (RW) 6-0, 195. Halifox, QMJHL. His father was a player and now coaches in the Czech Republic’s highest pro league. The younger Zadina displays the ice sense and skating you’d expect from a coach’s son. He’s a natural scorer whose explosive shot is his greatest of many assets. He’ll go near the top.