One of my favourite sayings of all time is the old adage, “hindsight is 20/20”. This saying explains that it’s easier to analyze and evaluate situations when we’re looking back on them in the past than when we are in the present moment. It’s commonly brought up in conversations with your friends or family when they ask you, “what would you have done differently if you can go back in time?”
Well, I had a similar question, except mine had nothing to do with any personal existential crisis of mine, but rather, with the Vegas Golden Knights 2017 first-round draft class. The first draft of any kind for the Vegas franchise, they owned three picks in the first round. The Golden Knights possessed some of the most lucrative spots in the sixth, 13th & 15th picks in the opening round of the draft. Considering it was a predominantly weak draft, there were still some gems that popped up in later rounds. In saying that, I wanted to know what could have gone differently had we used our “20/20 hindsight” to redraft the first round for the team. So without further a due, here are my “re-picks” for that historic first-round draft.
Sixth Overall Pick: Nick Suzuki
The original sixth overall pick and first-ever player drafted by the Golden Knights, Cody Glass, sadly hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far but is slowly building his game and is starting to contribute to the lineup. As unconventional as it may be, I am sticking with another original Golden Knights draftee and electing to take him seven spots higher than originally done back in 2017. Nick Suzuki played his junior hockey for the Owen Sound Attack and the Guelph Storm, and in his final season in the OHL, he put up 94 points in 59 games, as well as 42 points in 24 playoff games. These stats were good enough to put him on the map of many NHL scouts and general managers for the 2017 draft.
Considered a first-round pick by many, Suzuki would eventually be taken in the middle of the round as the Golden Knights used their 13th overall pick on him. In Suzuki, the Golden Knights would seem to be getting their “center of the future,” as the London, Ontario native possessed a high hockey IQ and was a gritty, dynamic and talented center who possessed all the attributes successful NHLer’s held. Although it seemed like it would be a long and happy marriage, it wouldn’t turn out to be the case.
Before Suzuki had a chance to suit up for a game with the Golden Knights, he was part of the trade that saw him and Tomas Tatar sent to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Max Pacioretty. The trade would end up working out for both sides, but you kind of sit there and wonder what a Vegas squad with Suzuki occupying one of the top-2 center spots would look like.
Suzuki has been a bright star on the Canadiens roster ever since the trade. In his rookie season, he put up 41 points in 71 games, good enough to have himself named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. His sophomore season is going even better as he has quickly become one of the “go-to” guys on a young and talented Habs squad. He currently occupies the role of the second-line center and has Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson flanking him. So far, he has 20 points in 31 games and is enjoying a 13.2 % shooting percentage.
This young man is proving he has the chops to carve out a successful NHL career, making him an easy choice for our sixth overall pick.
13th Overall Pick: Maxime Comtois
Originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks with the 50th overall pick in the draft, Max Comtois is our 13th overall pick in this redraft. The Longueuil, Quebec native, has been a pleasant surprise within the Ducks organization and has quickly become a mainstay on their first line. The powerful left-winger possesses grit and simultaneous finesse that only the very best power forwards in the NHL today possess, and that is why we are selecting him.
In just his third season in the NHL this year, Comtois has quickly become a leader on a young and rebuilding Anaheim team. These leadership qualities became evident while he captained Canada to a 2019-20 gold medal in the World Juniors, and they have translated smoothly into his NHL career. Now an integral part of the Duck’s future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be named an alternate captain in the near future.
If Comtois were to be part of the Golden Knights organization, he would easily be our second-line left-winger. He could even be shuffled down and create a ridiculous third line with two other young depth pieces. It would’ve been really cool to see how the young Canadian could complement the Golden Knights’ playing style, but alas, we’ll have to settle watching him play against us instead.
Through 33 games this season, Comtois has 20 points, as well as a plus/minus rating of plus-2. The sky is the ceiling for this young and exciting NHLer who has already made waves in the league in such a short amount of time. Look for him to become an elite player in the coming years. And with that, Comtois, you are the Golden Knights’ 13th overall pick in this redraft.
15th Overall Pick: Kailer Yamamoto
The undersized Kailer Yamamoto has been enjoying great success with the Edmonton Oilers this season, as he currently has racked up 16 points in 32 games. During the 2019-20 season, Yamamoto thrived, even more, posting 26 points in 27 games, slimly close to a point-per-game basis. The 22-year-old has proven he brings a certain flexibility to an NHL roster, as he has shuffled up and down the Oilers lineup throughout the season.
Originally taken with the 22nd overall pick in the draft, Yamamoto was offering the Oilers a chance to have a “sidekick” for star forwards Leon Draisatl and Connor McDavid. In Yamamoto, the Oilers were getting a small but speedy forward who possessed great hands, a knack for finding the net and enough speed to blow past defenders on the outside. A great choice by the Alberta organization, it seems he is playing best when flanking one of their two-star centers.
The young winger has proved he can contribute when it comes to pro-hockey. Now all he needs is some more playing time under his belt to refine his game and build on his solid first seasons in Edmonton. If the Oilers do go through a rebuild in the near future, look for many teams to try and snap up the services of the young Yamamoto. Could you imagine if he was drafted by the Golden Knights and how nicely he would fit into the lineup? I could easily see him flanking either Mark Stone (yes, I know the original 15th overall pick Erik Brannstrom was used to acquire Mark Stone, but this is just for fun) or William Karlsson. His speed would be a great boost to the Golden Knights’ lineup that on some nights look a bit lethargic. Well, as they say, all one can do is dream.
And with that, the Washington, US native is our 15th overall pick in our Golden Knights’ redraft.
Here are some honourable mentions I really considered but eventually ended up being left off the list.
Alex Texier (C) Columbus Blue Jackets / 45th Overall, 2017
Robert Thomas (C) St.Louis Blues / 20th Overall, 2017
Cale Fleury (D) Montreal Canadiens / 87th Overall, 2017
What do you think? Who would you have gone with in this re-draft? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.