The NHL Draft isn’t built for instant reaction. Just look at Teddy Blueger, drafted in 2012 and only finally making the NHL as a rookie in 2018-19. That’s an extreme example, but hockey is a patient process of young players slowly growing and developing.
With that in mind though, some teams are looking pretty good the morning after the 2019 NHL Draft. And some, well, they have us scratching our heads. Let’s take a look at both:
Winners: New York and New Jersey
It’s been a formality and we’ve known since the lottery draft announcement that this was going to unfold. The Devils bucked the odds to get the number one pick, followed by the Rangers doing the same to get number two. Still, they did add the two best players they did in a potentially special year with Jack Hughes going to Jersey and Kaapo Kakko going to NYR. Both of these guys have Art Ross potential in the future. The Metropolitan division — already filled with star players and elite talents — just got even better and will be for a long time to come.
It was shocking to see German defender Moritz Seider — which most places had ranked in the mid-teens — drafted sixth overall to the Red Wings. Even the player was visibly surprised when his name was called.
That doesn’t necessarily mean this is a bad pick, or will end up not paying off, but it certainly was the first huge shock of the night and unexpected twist in the draft.
The Ducks did well with their two first round picks. At number nine they drafted US forward Trevor Zegras, who potentially has as much puck skills and vision of anyone drafted this side of Hughes/Kakko. Really liked that value for them at that point. Then at 29th overall, Anaheim added emerging WHL forward Brayden Tracey, who again has great hands and production ability. The Ducks needed to add to their team and walked away from day one with a couple of great skilled pieces,
Florida drafted a goalie 13th overall in Spencer Knight. That’s the highest a goalie has been taken since Jack Campbell went eleventh overall in 2010. Campbell didn’t pan out, and it’s just so tough to take a goalie so high. Many believe Knight is such a good athlete that this could work out, but given how goalies develop I remain nonplussed with this bold decision to put so much faith in a position that can always be a great unknown. It’s fairly common to find all-star players in the mid rounds or undrafted altogether, so value-wise using such a high pick feels off to me.
The Canadiens were able to add the best goal scorer in the draft at 15th overall, with a shot quality and release compared favorably to Alex Ovechkin. Great get for the Habs at that point in the draft as potentially one of the best picks of the first round.
Headscratcher: teams letting Caufield fall
Just as now people look back and say “how in the world did Alex Debrincat fall to 39th overall” in a few years the question could be “why were teams drafting mid-level ceiling defensemen and a goalie over such a great goal scorer”. In addition to Seider, Oilers fans’ panned taking Philip Broberg eighth overall as an uninspired high pick.
And, hopefully the future is filled with pain and regret for Flyers’ fans who saw their team come into the draft with pick 11, pass on Caufield to trade down to 14, and pass on him again to take US teammate Cam York.
As mentioned, this process is long and today’s head-scratcher could tomorrow's sure thing if Spencer Knight is the next Carey Price or Moritz Seider turns into a Brandon Carlo clone. Similarly, all teams think they’re a winner coming out of the night, and only time will tell if they’re right to feel that way. But reactions are instant and the morning after some teams did well and some we’re left wondering what was going on.