2019 NHL Draft: 3 First Round Takeaways

The first round of the 2019 NHL Draft has come and gone. The night started with an American going first overall. The night ended with an American capping off the first round. And in-between, there were plenty of interesting things that happened.

What three things did we learn on night one? We have to start with the trades or lack thereof.

Where Were the Trades?

There was a lot of chatter but not much action on Friday night. Just one trade went down during the draft when the Arizona Coyotes traded up from 14th to 11th to draft Victor Soderstrom. The Phiadelphia Flyers acquired an extra second-round pick to trade back three spots. They landed defenseman Cam York.

Cam York of the U.S. National Development Program
The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Cam York after trading back. (Hickling Images)

The question on the minds of many is what happened here with the lack of trades? There’s several factors in play. It starts with the unknown salary cap.

We do know based on reports that the salary cap is expected to land at either $81.5 million or $82 million. Even knowing that put a freeze on potential moves. When you have a situation where teams need to know exactly what they’re working with, they can’t act on an unknown. That $500,000 is a big deal.

An announcement on the salary cap is expected to come some time on Saturday. Once known, that could open the flood gates. With rounds 2-7 starting at 1 P.M. eastern, more trades could be in the works especially involving teams with multiple draft picks.

In addition, we could see an influx of trades as we approach July 1. Multiple GM’s have said there is a lot of chatter. Cap crunched teams are looking for ways to find relief. Other teams are looking to take advantage of situations. Plus potential UFA’s in Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene could be keeping some teams in a holding pattern until it is known what their plans are.

What’s the overall takeaway? Trades are coming and potentially big ones. But we might have to wait past the draft to see the fireworks.

Panarin Bobrovsky Blue Jackets
The uncertainty of the big UFAs helped stall some trades to this point. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

First Round Winners

The biggest winners of the first round are the New Jersey Devils, the New York Rangers and their rivalry renewed. Jack Hughes is now a Devil. Kaapo Kakko is now a Ranger. And hockey in the tri-state area is going to be must see for the next decade as these two players will forever be linked.

Who else won on Friday night? You have to start with the Colorado Avalanche. They landed the best defenseman available in Bowen Byram. He now joins Cale Makar and Samuel Girard on the Avalanche blue line. If that wasn’t enough, they landed a potential second-line center in Alex Newhook with the 16th pick. Joe Sakic’s patience in trading Matt Duchene has opened a world of possibilities in Denver. Good times are coming to Pepsi Center.

The Buffalo Sabres did a nice job with two first rounders. They landed a potential impact forward in Dylan Cozens. He’s not far away from making the NHL and vaults to the top of their prospect chart. He’s a perfect fit to what the Sabres want to do. They then drafted a mobile defenseman in Ryan Johnson to end the round. They addressed two needs that will help them in future seasons. That’s a win.

If Vasili Podkolzin gets to his high potential, the Vancouver Canucks landed a steal at 10th. They have to wait two years, but the talent is undeniable. They landed the best available player who potentially has top-five upside. That’s a win.

The Montreal Canadiens landed Cole Caufield after he slipped to 15th overall. When you land the best goal scorer in the draft in the middle of round one, that’s a win. Yes he’s 5-foot-7. Yes his skating needs some work. But you did see he scored 76 goals, right?

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Peyton Krebs was going to fall because of the injury. That wasn’t a surprise. But him landing with the Vegas Golden Knights was a surprise in the sense that he fell further than I thought he would. Without the injury, he’s a top-10 player. Now Krebs jumps to the top of the prospect pool in Vegas right behind Cody Glass. Given how thin the system was, this was an important pick and a great one.

The Dallas Stars are a winner by landing one of the best defenseman available in Thomas Harley. John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen and now Harley make for an intriguing trio on the Stars’ blue line. Offense from the back won’t be a problem for this team.

The Carolina Hurricanes reunited Ryan Suzuki with Andrei Svechnikov. The former Barrie Colts will look to help continue the momentum started in Raleigh. The fact Suzuki was available 28th is simply not fair.

And finally for winners, the Anaheim Ducks needed offense in a bad way. Landing a creative center in Trevor Zegras and a scorer in Brayden Tracey in round one is a job well done by Bob Murray. Both need a year or two of development but there’s reason to be excited about this duo.

Trevor Zegras of the U.S. National Development Program
Trevor Zegras fell to the Ducks and they couldn’t be happier about it. (Hickling Images)

Biggest Surprises of the Night

  • Chicago ultimately decided on Kirby Dach. While all the talk was on Byram, Turcotte and Zegras, the Blackhawks valued Dach’s tools. I think they left better players on the board, but only in time will we know if this was the right pick by Stan Bowman.
  • Detroit was able to get a collective reaction out of the crowd at Rogers Arena when they drafted German defenseman Moritz Seider. The Red Wings must have felt other teams had him in the top-10. They explored trading down but didn’t find anything they liked so they took their guy. Given Steve Yzerman’s track record, this could be a great pick but again I felt better options were available in this spot.
  • I thought the Edmonton Oilers would go after an impact forward, but they settled on mobile defenseman Philip Broberg. A lot more defensemen went higher than I expected. These kind of players are hard to find outside the draft so it seems teams needed to address that need. This was Ken Holland’s first draft with the Oilers so it was interesting to see how he handled it. That’s consecutive years that the Oilers drafted a defenseman in round one with Evan Bouchard going in 2018. They still need forwards though so we’ll see what moves could be coming next.
  • And somehow, Arthur Kaliyev fell out of round one. Shame on all of you, NHL teams. I get the concerns but in watching him the last two years, I think they are overblown and certainly correctable. Many teams will regret this decision. As much as falling out of round one hurts, He will land in a great situation and get his revenge on the ice. Don’t be surprised if teams call Ottawa to see about trading up given he and others like Bobby Brink are still on the board.

Rounds 2-7 get underway Saturday. After a tame first round, will we finally see some fireworks? Sure sounds like we will. Stay with the Hockey Writers for full coverage of day two of the draft.