2016 NHL Draft Team Grades and Top Prospects: Atlantic Division

by Eldon MacDonald (edited by @ChrisRalphYQ)


The Atlantic Division

The Atlantic Division: Draft and Prospect Table

Boston Buffalo Detroit Florida Montreal Ottawa Tampa Toronto
Draft Grade
B- A B- B- A A B A+
Prospects Grade
B- B+ A- B- B A B- A
3 Impact Prospects
McAvoy Nylander Mantha Matheson Sergachev Brown Howden Matthews
Carlo Vesey* Svechnikov Crouse McCarron White Koekkoek Marner
Senyshyn Fasching Cholowski Borgstrom Lehkonen Chabot Hajek Nylander
Sleeper Impacts
Lindgren Pu Hronek Mascherin Mete Dahlen Ingram Greenway


2016 NHL Draft Team Grades

Boston: B-

The Top Two Picks: OK, Bruins fans, last year I (and I suspect most of you) did not like the three Bruins off the board picks in the first round (Debrusk debatable if off the board). After one year, the verdict has not really changed although Zach Senyshyn had a strong year with 45 goals. This year, Bruins’ management stayed on the board and got a good offensive defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, at 14th overall. He has shown a real offensive flair. His defense may not be yet up to NHL standard but he will still have a chance to bring up that side of his game at Boston University. At 29th, the Bruins again went off the board and selected Trent Frederic from the USA U18 team. Trent has good size and decent skating but has not shown a flair for the offensive side of the game to date. Like last year it is a case where there were better players available. From my perspective, the cause of this off the board drafting strategy in the first round is likely to be management as the Bruins have shown a flair for higher than average picks in the second round.

  • 2015 – Brandon Carlo and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson
  • 2016 – Ryan Lindgren

For the record, I am a big fan of Ryan Lindgren and suspect he may end up being the best pick of the last two drafts five years from now. Even though he doesn’t have more than average size and has good but not elite skills offensive skills, he finds ways to positively impact the game on and off the ice. He is a winner.

Here are my thoughts on the other draftees:

Joona Koppanen – 135th: Anyone who is 6’5”, can skate, can play defense, can cover the PK and can take defensive zone faceoffs has potential in my books. However, most of the potential is on defense not on offense. I had him 4th round.

Cameron Clarke – 136th: Average-sized, double-overager from a league (NAHL) not known for producing prospects other than the odd goalie. I am not expecting much so anything will be a surprise.

Oskar Steen – 165th: Short but stocky with a low centre of gravity. Oskar is a prospect that I had 4th round who has just as much potential as most of the prospects picked after the second round. He brings good value to a pick in the 6th round.


Buffalo: A

The Top Pick: Any time a team gets a pick who will likely end up as a first line forward or a top defenseman, I give them an A. Alexander Nylander is a prospect who likely end up on the first line as he has elite offensive skills in just about every category. He still needs to bulk up to be NHL ready but since his brother (Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander) found a way to do it I have no doubt Alexander will find a way as well (yes, there is sibling rivalry at play here). His play without the pucks still needs refinement but hey we have to give the coaches something to do.

Here are my thoughts on some of the other draftees:

Rasmus Asplund – 33rd: First round skills; 4th round or later size. He can be a big time pick or fall victim to the NHL cruelty to under-sized lanky centres. It is very difficult for short, lanky centres to make it due to the physicality and defensive skills required.

Cliff Pu – 69th: Love this pick (I had him in the 30s). Size, skill, skating, defense – gets me every time. His offensive game has yet to produce to his skill level as he played behind a lot of star players on the Memorial Cup winning London Knights. Next year will tell the tale as Cliff Pu gets much higher quality ice time and maybe linemates as well.

Casey Fitzgerald – 86th: Undersized overage defenseman who put in a good year, offensively and defensively, at Boston College.  The odds are against him but his skill level could be enough to overcome them. He is the son of Tom Fitzgerald who had over 1,000 games in the NHL.

Brett Murray – 99th: A 6’5 project pick headed to Penn State. Close to a point a game guy in the CCHL. He has the size to be a power forward which is why he got drafted. His skills including skating are OK but not exceptional. As a 4th round pick, it is all about the development from here. He will get plenty of development time at Penn State over the next four years.


Detroit: B-

The Top Pick: Is it me or do all Detroit picks look like project picks that are only likely to succeed because of Detroit’s excellent development system. Dennis Cholowski was everyone’s late riser. They loved his skating, passing and stickhandling abilities. He is still very much a project because he is built like a wet noodle and will need a lot of gym work to bring up to NHL ready. However, at 6’1”, he has the frame to make it happen.

Among the others are:

Givani Smith – 46th: A power forward, who loves to create havoc around the net and loves to get in the face of the opponents. If he improves his skating to NHL levels, he could be that impact third line power forward that all teams would love to have.

Filip Hronek – 53rd: Hronek is a Czech d-man who looked good against men in the top Czech pro league and even better against the world’s opposition in tournaments. Unfortunately, he is also hockey’s ultimate wet noodle. Detroit’s strength and conditioning coach could have his work cut out for him but I believe there is an NHL hockey player in there just awaiting the Detroit development strategy to come out.

Alfons Malmstom – 107th: Hakan Andersson, Detroit scout on Alfons Malmstrom, “ I think he’s a Mattias Ekholm kind of player. The kind of category of player is a big defensive defenseman that has good compete level, and he blocks shots, and he plays physical.”

Jordan Sambrook – 137th: Played down in the lineup on a powerhouse Erie team. However, when he played he looked good. He should be considered a major project since he is still quite raw compared to most but the size and basic skills are there. Good value for the 5th round.


Florida: B-

The Top Pick: Henrik Borgstrom (6’3”, 176 lbs) is an interesting pick at 23rd. As an overager, he is a late bloomer. He has good size at 6’3”, good skills, and impressive results (1.4 points per game in Finnish junior). He has not played much internationally and he has not played in Finnish professional hockey. His game has not yet reached the level of accomplishment that his physical skills might warrant because he does not appear to have fully committed to the game of hockey, like Sean Day. He will attend the University of Denver next year so there is still plenty of time for him to get his act together. If he does, other teams will be wondering why they missed out on this guy.

Other Florida picks include:

Adam Mascherin – 38th: Mascherin (5’9”, 193 lbs) is one of my favourite picks in the draft. He has NHL offensive skills, shot and passing in particular. He should end up as a top six winger. He still needs to pick up his defensive game but once he does that his offense will take him to the NHL. For my Adam Mascherin story – Link here.

Linus Nassen – 89th: Nassen (6’0”, 167 lbs) is a prospect who wasn’t even sure that he was even going to be drafted so you would think it would be safe to say that Florida could have waited a few more rounds to select him. However, he did have 14 NHL clubs contact him before the draft so there was interest in him. He is a classic pick of drafting a player with potential (mainly because of his skating) but who is just starting down the development road. He is still quite weak which is probably due to the fact that many Europeans do not get into heavy strength training until a later age than North Americans.

Jonathan Ang – 94th:  Ang (5’11”, 162 lbs) was a smaller player that I wasn’t too high early on last season. However, a move to wing during the season seemed to amplify his top skills, speed, stickhandling and hockey sense and he was a point a game player going down the stretch. He is still far from the strength territory needed to succeed in the NHL but with a little gym work that should come.

Riley Stillman – 104th: Stillman (6’1”, 180 lbs) provides real value in the 4th round (I had him ranked in 2nd round). He is not a sexy pick as he does not provide high-end offense. However, he provides the leadership and defensive skills far above the usual 4th round suspects. He also has NHL bloodlines as son of Cory.


Montreal: A

The Top Pick: Mikhail Sergachev (6’2’’, 221) was my highest rated defenseman in the draft at number 9, the same draft slot the Canadiens used to select him. He already provides a high-end level of offense with the promise of much more to come. What makes him special is his all-out drive to the net with the vision to pick the lanes. In addition, he has a big league shot and passing ability. He is also special because he can drive a game much like Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, and that PK Subban fellow who now finds himself in Nashville. His defense is very good but not quite as mature as Olli Juolevi who was the first d-man to go in the draft. However, he shows much more physicality so I think his defensive upside is very high as well.

Montreal also had a few more of promising picks:

Will Bitten – 70th: Bitten (5’10”, 167 lbs) endured a tough year on and off the ice in Flint where major off ice issues (ownership absurdities and city drinking water problems) often overshadowed the difficulties the team had on the ice. Will endured and produced almost a point a game in Flint, mainly at centre. He seemed to prosper even more at wing at the U18’s. He has the speed and other offensive skills that could bring him success at wing in spite of his 5’10, 167 lb. stature. Centres of Will’s size rarely prosper in the NHL (unless you are truly an exceptional player) but players of his size have often done well at wing.

Victor Mete – 100th: If Mete was even 6’0”, he would have been a first round pick in the NHL. His skating and skills are that good. His plus minus was +53. Yet at 5’10”, 174 lbs, Victor Mete is a maybe yes and a maybe not to be a success in the NHL. My prediction is that if it is a yes, it will be a big, big yes.

Casey Staum – 124th: What do we know about CStaum? He is an excellent skater, he skates just about as effortlessly as anyone you have ever seen. What else do we know about Casey Staum? He is slightly under sized at 5’11”, 174 lbs and played a few games of high school in Minnesota last season, 15 in all. So Staum is pretty much a clean slate but a slate that coaches will be excited to work with because of that elite skating ability.


Ottawa: A

The Top Pick: All the Canadian teams were ecstatic with their 2016 draft selections. No one was happier than Ottawa when they traded up to get the number eleven selection, Logan Brown (6’6”, 220 lbs). I had him at number six and I suspect it was still too low. Brown had two seasons – the big, bad Brown, highly talented but unmotivated, no urgency to his game. After Christmas, the new and improved Brown began to emerge – a much more motivated and much more urgent player. By the time the U18’s rolled around, he was the fourth highest scorer in the tournament. I am particularly high on Brown because he is just starting his development curve compared to most others so he has so much more room to grow. Here is my story on Logan’s growth potential – Link here.

Jonathan Dahlen – 42nd: Dahlen is a prospect I really, really like. I had him in the 1st round at 30th.  I like him in spite of the fact he is under-sized (5’11”, 176 lbs), his skating is only very good and not elite, at least in the top speed category.  He has that something special, the It Factor, the will to be a winner and the ability to be a winner because of his hockey sense and vision. Jonathan is the son of Ulf Dahlen, a 301 goal scorer in the NHL. He is exceptional on the mental side of the game – creativity, vision, hockey sense, work ethic, intelligence. Here is my editor’s (Chris Ralph) vision of Jonathan Dahlen (MacGyver on Ice) – Link here.

Todd Burgess – 103rd:  Burgess (6’2”, 178 lbs) is a late bloomer who had a tremendous season as a double overager in the NAHL – 95 points in 60 games. He is known for his strong net presence, stickhandling at speed and offensive vision. He is not known, however, for his skating ability and that is something he will have to work at RPI next season.

Max Lajoie – 133rd: Lajoie (6’1”, 180 lbs) was a possible high-end draft pick coming into the season who just didn’t have the results to back up that early season promise. Sometimes these free falling picks turn out to be the best because the player rebounds the following season and you end up eventually getting the player that you thought he was going to be at the start of the season. Max still has that excellent skating and passing ability so a turnaround is a strong possibility. I had him ranked 3rd round because I still like his potential.

Markus Nurmi – 163rd: Nurmi (6’4, 176 lbs) is the type of player that you always hope to get in the 6th round. He was the size, the finish, the compete and the willingness to battle expected of players in the higher rounds. He is missing the acceleration and high-end puck sills that would have resulted in a higher draft selection. Overall, good potential for a 6th round pick. I had him 5th round.


Tampa Bay: B

The Top Pick: The Lightning selected Brett Howden (6’2”, 190) as the first pick at 27th. Brett is a player that I vacillated on all season moving him back and forth between the first and second round. My chief question was “Does Brett Howden have enough offensive skill to be selected in the first round?” In the end, Brett’s excellent U18 Tournament tipped the scales to the first round where I ended up ranking him at 24th. Brett has the size, the NHL bloodlines (brother of the Panthers’ Quenton Howden), the 200 foot game, NHL passing, and a high level understanding of the game. On a team as talented as the Lightning, he would like most likely play as a third line centre with the versatility to move up to the second at centre or wing  should conditions warrant it.

Tampa Bay also had three second round picks plus Connor Ingram at 88th, a player I am particularly fond of. Two of the second round picks were under 45 so they have almost the same value as a late first round pick:

Libor Hajek – 37th: Hajek (6’2”, 196 lbs) is really a player that should have gone in the first round but didn’t because he wasn’t been able to show the high-end offensive results (26 points in 69 games) that most teams expect to get in a first round selection (OK, you got me, I confess, I had him in the 2nd round too at 33rd). I like Libor because he has good size and is not afraid to use it and excels at getting the puck out of the defensive zone through passing or skating. He is a pick that is going to find its way into the Tampa Bay lineup in the near future.

Boris Katchouk – 44th: Katchouk (6’1”, 190 lbs) is a pick Lightning fans are going to love. He possesses that energy, that drive and that all out compete level that only brings smiles to the hometown fans. Most analysts believe that his skill level will likely to put him on the third line in the NHL. Players with his compete level are the ones to more likely to surprise on the upside. I had him at 37th.

Taylor Raddysh – 58th: Raddysh (6’2”, 203 lbs) is a player who plays a heavy game and has excellent passing skills. His top end skating is good but he could use some work on his acceleration. I had him at 57th.

Connor Ingram – 88th: Ingram (6’1”, 212 lbs) is not the biggest goaltender out there and he may not have the best style. What he does do very well, however, is stop pucks. I like that in a goaltender. Last year he had a .922 save percentage during the regular WHL season and .938 in the playoffs. I had him at 92nd.


Toronto: A+

The Top Pick: It isn’t every day that you can draft a number one centre for your team. Toronto Maple Leafs did that this year when they drafted Auston Matthews (6’2”, 216 lbs) at number one. In fact, the last time they were able to draft a number one centre was 30 years ago in 1986 when they drafted Vincent Damphousse at number 6. Mats Sundin was a Quebec Nordiques draft choice in case you are wondering. I am not going to write forever about Auston other than to say that he is in the same league as Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the two at the top of the class from last year. Many franchise rebuilds like the one the Maple Leafs are undergoing now fail because they are missing the essential and hardest to get element, the number one centre. Toronto now seems to have the top two successful elements of a successful rebuild, high-end management and a number one centre.

The Leafs had 11 picks in all. Here are the top 4 of the others:

Yegor Korshkov – 31st: 6’4”, 180 lbs. Katye Knappe from PensionPlanPuppets.com “By drafting Korshkov so high, by drafting him at all, the Leafs are betting that he’s going to keep developing into a player that can move into the NHL someday. They have the flexibility to bring him to Toronto and play him in the AHL whenever they think he’s ready—which his KHL contract would likely allow—or they have the luxury of letting him stay in Russia for as long as four years without losing his rights”. I had him at 71st.

Carl Grundstrom – 57th: Grundstrom (6’0”, 195 lbs) plays a NHL style of game. He shoots a lot, likes to go straight line, plays a pro style defensive game, and can play the role of the irritant. He does not bring much of a dangle to his game and his offense has yet to develop. Unless his offense comes along, Carl will most likely provide the role of defensive third line winger in the NHL. I had him at 39th.

Joseph Woll – 62nd: Mark Hunter, Director of Player Personnel of the Toronto Maple Leafs, at Pension PlanPuppets.com, “He’s big, he’s 6-3 (201), he’s going to a good program to play in Boston and we like him. We think he’s athletic and he’s very strong mentally.” I had him at 88th.

James Greenway – 72nd: Greenway (6’4”, 212 lbs) has spectacular physical skills, some would say first round. He has the size, the shot, the skating and the stickhandling that can at times leave you breathless. Watch the goal he scored at the IIHF U18 Tournament (link here). However, the mental skills to be a top NHL defenseman are sometimes lacking – the consistency, the defensive vision, the compete level. This is a Detroit style project pick. How will the project turn out? It will probably take 3 to 5 years to know the answer. I had him at 70th.


2016 NHL Draft Results By Pick, By Team

Plus: Top Prospects by Team

Focus: Atlantic Division

Note: This is a massive spreadsheet. Click on the various worksheets to sort picks and prospects by team.

How did you feel about your team’s draft?