I have typically started these around the first of the year, so off to the races!
Before we get into the draft a quick review of the organizations strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: we have a ton of guys that can skate, handle the puck, and shoot the puck. F's and Dmen. RHers and LHers. We have a very good pipeline of young F's on the team or that will be here soon.
Weaknesses: Very little G depth and while we have several good young Dmen, most lose their waiver protection next summer and have to stay with the Wings or risk being lost. There are 2 types of players that the organization lacks completely: Front of net forwards that can screen a goalie, deflect shots, bang home rebounds and pound on the other teams D behind the net and in the corners. We also have 0 Dmen that can clear the crease and pound on the other teams F's behind our net and in the corners. We need some Dave Backes type forwards and Marc Staal type blueliners. Another G prospect in this draft is a must and if a good C is available in case one of Larkin, Sheahan, or AA don't pan out that would also be wise with Datsyuk down to his last year-next season.
Picks available: we have our 1st, 2nd, no 3rd, and then the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th. Yes there is a chance that Tor could give us the 3rd they owe us this year for signing Babcock, but most expect that to happen next season.
Standings: as of today Washington is running away with the EC at 56 points. There are 9 teams between 40 and 46 points including us in the EC. I said before the season that we would once again finish between 6th and 10th in the EC. To date nothing has changed that opinion. Add in the teams from the WC and the best guess is we will be drafting once again between 14 and 22. We will either just make the PO's or just miss making it, we are talking about a 4 point swing one way or the other. Yes it is possible we have tragic injuries and fall apart-unlikely or that we could get red-hot and make a deep run-also unlikely IMHO. So the 14th to 22nd spot seems about right-as of today.
One last thought. The last 3 1st round picks (Mantha, Larkin, and Svechnikov) are 6-4, 6-1, and 6-2 respectively. They average out to 6-2.5 inches tall.
Now for some names to watch for by round, starting with the 1st.
Julien Gauthier RW 6-3/225 from VDO. He is the perfect front of net player. Currently he has 29 goals and 8 assists in 33 games. All of his goals come from inside of 15ft. he is actually a very good skater with good speed. he just loves to play the Holmstrom type of game and is very very good at it. ISS has him as the 11th best player in their December ranking. Most mock drafts have him going from 15th to 25th. He is a RHed shooter as well. That would balance out Mantha or Svechnikov who are both LHed.
Logan Brown C 6-5/220 from Windsor. very good 2 way Cman. Think a taller version of Sheahan with slightly better offensive abilities. A future 50 point guy and solid 2/3 C in the NHL. ISS had him ranked at 8th in December, but every mock draft has him lower than that. Most in the 18th-20th range.
Nathan Bastien C 6-4/210 from Miss. Another good 2 way C but with better offensive upside than Brown. He started this season rated as a late 2nd round guy/early 3rd round. But his offensive game has shown up and he is a big riser. He was 22nd by ISS in december. Most other sites haven't updated yet and are still showing him in the second/third round.
Markus Niemelainen D 6-5/200 from Saginaw. finnish Dman who skates well and plays good D. Have yet to see a scouting site/service that doesn't have him in the top 30. 25th is the average spot of his rankings. Most Finnish defenders tend to have a physical side to their game.
I would be fine with any of those 4 guys. My hope is Gauthier. he fits our biggest need and would complete an awesome top line down the road. If taken we could have the following 2 top lines:
Svechnikov-Sheahan-AA or AA-Sheahan
That could be 2 very good lines.
I will do the second round a bit later. There are more Dmen that fit our needs better in the second than in the 1st. Most of the 1st round Dmen are smaller guys that are good puck movers. Not the crease clearing guys we need to find.