The first round of the NHL draft has come and gone, and while it was a generally shock-free night, there were still enough moves and picks to determine that some teams scored, while others whiffed badly. Here’s the winners and losers of the 2018 NHL Draft.


New York Islanders

— Drafted Oliver Wahlstrom 11th overall and Noah Dobson 12th overall.

New Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello wasted little time in getting things done, drafting two legit prospects in American YouTube phenom Oliver Wahlstrom 11th overall and consensus top-five pick (who slipped) in Acadie-Bathurst defenseman Noah Dobson 12th overall. Both players have tremendous upside and add two A-prospects to an organization desperate for them. Lamoriello got maximum value out of his two selections.

The picks won’t help UFA John Tavares re-sign with New York, but it should inspire confidence further confidence (after bringing in new coach Barry Trotz) that Lamiorello is putting the organization on the right track.

Colorado Avalanche

— Traded a second-round pick to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Phillip Grubauer and Brooks Orpik. Drafted Martin Kaut 16th overall.

Colorado needed a goalie with Jonathan Bernier’s pending unrestricted free agent status and got a good one in Grubauer at the small cost of taking on Brooks Orpik’s bad deal and a second-rounder. The 26-year-old was dynamite with the Caps, posting a 15-10-3 record, a 2.35 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Grubauer played so well that he stole longtime starting goalie Braden Holtby’s job before Hotlby took it back in the playoffs. For a team with tons of cap room, Colorado could afford to take on one-year of Orpik’s $5.5 million cap hit.

Grubauer has proven he’s capable of being a starter. In Colorado, he’ll get his chance.

Getting Kaut, a talented winger out of the Czech Republic who’s fast and can score was also solid value – although earlier health concerns leave a small question mark.

Brian Burke on the Sportsnet draft panel

Brian Burke joined Sportsnet’s draft coverage and was an absolute delight. In vintage Burke fashion, he was honest, grumpy, and provided interesting insights and tidbits throughout the night. On a panel that’s often too neutral, Burke’s refreshing candor – whether he was advocating that teams shouldn’t draft on positional needs, calling out reaches in the draft, or ranting about players wearing hats on stage – was entirely welcome. If Burke’s management career is over, he’d be a natural fit as a regular on Sportsnet or as Don Cherry’s eventual replacement.


Montreal Canadiens

— Drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall.

I have no issue with the Canadiens reaching a bit for Kotkaniemi, a 17-year-old center was a consensus top-10 pick while spending last season playing against men for Ässät of the Finnish Liiga. But, reach aside, the Canadiens’ logic is why I find the pick somewhat problematic. Montreal is desperate for immediate help at the center position and chose Kotkaniemi with their positional need in mind instead of potentially drafting the best player (like Halifax right winger Filip Zadina) available. Kotkaniemi has a great shot at being a really good pro, but drafting a center just because the current big league roster lacks one is the exact asset mismanagement that’s hampered GM Marc Bervegin’s decision-making. Not a horrible pick, but a misguided one.

Jim Benning’s hair

The Vancouver Canucks GM made a solid selection with Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes seventh overall, but the real story here was his horrible, obvious dye-job. Why the eyebrows too? Benning looked like Dracula. I get embracing the youth movement, but there’s no need to try to fit in and do this. Keep the grey.



No big trades

The NHL Draft borrowed a page from the NBA Draft as there wasn’t a single star player traded for a first-round pick. Usually, it would just be a small note, but analysts and reporters hyped up big trades to the point where it was expected something would go down. Nothing did, besides the usual trading down of picks. Bummer.

About Liam McGuire

Social +Staff writer for The Comeback & Awful Announcing.