Day one of the draft is now in the books, and wow, was it one for the ages. While a number of teams did exactly what was expected, including the Buffalo Sabres taking Owen Power first overall, there were a number of huge surprises. Some players went far earlier than expected, a number of players dropped, while others still have yet to be selected, leaving the door open for a very interesting day two today. Let’s break it all down.
It took right up to Chicago with the final pick of the first round to find our biggest riser of the night. Nolan Allan jumped up from pick 83 on TWC’s consolidated draft rankings to be chosen right at the tail end of the first round. The heavily defensive defenceman was selected from the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, and possesses strong skating and good defensive instincts.
He is joined by Tyler Boucher, moving up 45 spots to be selected at 10th by the Ottawa Senators, and Wyatt Johnston, moving up 35 spots to be selected at 23 by the Dallas Stars, as our biggest risers of the night. The American Boucher played this season in the US National Team Development Program while Johnston did not get a season this year as the OHL did not resume play.
As Newton’s third law would say, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For each pick that is picked ahead of where they are expected, it means a player who was expected to be drafted early, ended up falling down the rankings, This was especially true for Jesper Wallstedt, who was expected to go in the top-10, but instead plummeted to Minnesota at 20th overall. One of the best goalies in this generation, and projected to be a franchise cornerstone netminder, Wallstedt saw himself not only drop but be the second goalie off the board, taken after WHL netminder Sebastian Cossa.
He is joined by Fabian Lysell and Carson Lambos, who each fell 11 spots from where our Consolidated Rankings had them at. At the end of the day, it doesn’t much matter where a player is drafted, but rather how they do at the NHL level. If these players take this moment as a chip on their shoulders to prove the teams that passed on them wrong, it will only improve their careers.
Fun moments from round one
This draft had a number of very dark moments, which we will address next, but there was a lot of fun in it as well. Perhaps most fun of all was seeing the New Jersey Devils take Luke Hughes fourth overall, reuniting him with his brother Jack. While the hugs between the two brothers were full of joy, you could see the envy in the eyes of brother Quinn who plays for the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks and Devils play each other on February 28th and March 15th, and while they likely won’t feature all three brothers, they will no doubt form a great rivalry between the two sides.
There were also a number of teams who made some great gestures to allow others to make selections in the draft this year. This included the Detroit Red Wings, who allowed 10-year-old Harold Washington Jr. of their Learn, Play, Score program to announce the team’s sixth overall pick Simon Edvinsson. Here is the wholesome video for your enjoyment.
The Minnesota Wild also allowed the two children of late former Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers to make their two selections. Kurvers, a former NHL defenceman who won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens, passed away earlier this year of cancer. Allowing his children to make selections on behalf of the organization was an incredibly classy gesture by the franchise.
Some dark moments
However, the last two picks of the draft overshadowed what had been an overall fine event up to that point in the night. Let’s start with the last pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, who made a highly performative gesture about women’s inclusion in sports by having eight women standing behind a man in making the selection.
While the selection was made eventually by Meghan Hunter, Director of Hockey Administration, the gesture rang hollow by the obvious attempt to distract from the ongoing sexual assault scandal that is facing the organization. It was a publicity stunt and did absolutely nothing to help the Blackhawks’ already tarnished image. This organization has a lot of work to do and a lot of hurt to make up for. What they did on the draft floor was just another example of how tone deaf leaders in this league and sport are and how younger, more progressive leadership is so desperately needed.
However, this disappointing performance went relatively unnoticed as it followed the Montreal Canadiens making what was probably the worst pick that they could have possibly made in selecting Logan Mailloux with the 31st selection. Leaving aside the fact that he asked to not be selected and leaving aside the fact that prior to this, he was ranked 64th on our Consolidated Draft Rankings, taking a player who has been found guilty of non-consensually sharing sexual images of him with a partner is an embarrassing and pathetic choice. This is a slap in the face to the victim woman and her family whose privacy and dignity were violated, and is a slap in the face to the work being done to ensure that hockey can in fact be for everyone.
The draft is the culmination of years and years of hard work for young hockey players. It is a day that young players look to as an example of what they can achieve with hard work and dedication to their craft. And what is more, being drafted is not a right, but a privilege. In his statement on the incident, Mailloux acknowledged this privilege and asked respectfully to not be drafted, but regardless of whether that was a genuine ask or not, by selecting him, the Habs have shown that there is no consequence for actions taken by a prospect.
This season could have been an opportunity for Mailloux to work on his own maturity and develop real insights into why what he did was wrong, but selecting him in the first round, the Habs showed the league and young people watching that hockey players live in a world beyond right and wrong. The big fancy statement Mailloux released prior to the draft about how he didn’t deserve to be selected in the draft was completely thrown out the window and the Canadiens showed that actions do not in fact have consequences.
The blame does not fall solely on GM Marc Bergevin, who has been known to have pursued known domestic abuser Slava Voynov as well as openly racist Tony DeAngelo who has been bought out by the New York Rangers, but rather on the organization and league as a whole. These decisions are made by a team of people and are run through a number of key points. The fact that it received so many levels of approvals shows how little the Habs care about consequences and about victims of sexual misconduct. On top of that, the NHL has said nothing in response to this pick and likely never will. This was allowed to happen because of systemic issues in the NHL and among its member teams, issues that seem to get swept under the rug at every turn. This will likely go down as one of the darkest moments in NHL Draft history.
What to look forward to for day two
While day one may be over, day two is going to be perhaps even more enjoyable. There are a ton of exciting players available, several of who were expected to go in the first round. This group is headlined by Aatu Raty, who was expected to be the first overall selection this season one year ago. However, after a very rough year in the Finnish Liiga, Raty has seen his draft stock fall substantially, to him being at best a second round selection. It will be interesting to watch where he is eventually selected.
He is joined by Simon Robertsson, Francesco Pinelli, Logan Stankoven, Nikita Chibrikov, Daniil Chayka, and Stanislav Svozil as the players in our Consolidated Draft rankings who were expected to go in the first round but who will now fall to the second.
On top of that, Sasha Pastujov of the US National Team Development Program and Olen Zellweger both made huge strides up the standings this year and had a good chance of falling into the first round. Expect both to hear their names called bright and early tomorrow morning. We also broke down some other potential second round selections, and a number of mid-round netminders who could be of interest in later rounds.
Whatever way you slice it, day two of the draft promises a ton of intrigue and excitement. Here’s hoping your team makes smart decisions on day two.