Back in December we examined the success rates of centers and defenseman drafted in the top five. The percentage of accomplished forwards were much higher than blueliners. To the point that we should all be crossing our fingers George McPhee drafts a center first. TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button published his latest rookie mock draft. Not much has changed as centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier remain his top two picks. Button slotted the Golden Knights with the third pick and selected center Gabe Vilardi. The 17 year-old is a brilliantly skilled prospect who plays for the Windsor Spitfires. Vilardi fits that franchise center we can all hope turns into talent like Anze Kopitar. After the Golden Knights select their offensive star in the first round they will have to address the backend.
There are really good players in this draft. There’s gonna be really good players that have a significant impact in the National Hockey League. The problem is, is that the last two drafts with McDavid, Eichel, Matthews, Laine were exceptional. You go back and look at the other players from those draft, they didn’t make it in their first year. It’s gonna take some time. There’s really good players here and you got to find them. I don’t think they’re depth players, I think there are really good players in the draft. -Craig Button, TSN
Button is convinced there are plenty of pro-level prospects beyond Patrick and Hischier. Especially, some under the radar defensive players. On TSN Toronto, Button was asked about teams addressing defensive needs in the offseason. The analyst suggested teams have better luck finding blueline talent in the draft as opposed to free agency.
You have to draft a defenseman that you think could be a top three guy. Number one defenseman are rare. They’re like true number one centers. And just go back and look where they are, they’re right at the top of the draft.” -Craig Button, TSN
If you look around the league, number one defenseman are mainstays. Top D-men will either stay with the team that drafted them or sign a monster free agent deal. I can’t imagine The Creator agreeing to the contract the Wild’s Ryan Suter made. Luckily, that deal was signed under the previous CBA. Although stay tuned, in 2019, players would like to throw out the term limits.
Having an elite defenseman can also determine how successful a club will be. The only issue is their availability, great blueliners are hard to come by, and for a reason. It’s why some teams like Chicago, LA and Pittsburgh have had monumental, continued, success. All three Cup winners drafted their top defenseman. And it continues from there. Check out the last ten teams that won the Stanley Cup. Half were led by homegrown talent and only two were drafted in the first round.
|Penguins (2016, 2009)||Kris Letang||2005 3rd Round (62nd Overall)|
|Blackhawks (2015, 2013, 2010)||Duncan Keith||2002 2nd Round (54th Overall)|
|Kings (2014, 2012)||Drew Doughty||2008 1st Round (2nd Overall)|
|Bruins (2011)||Zdeno Chara||Free Agent, 2006||5yr/$37.5 mil|
|Red Wings (2008, 2002)||Nicklas Lidstrom||1989 3rd Round (53rd Overall)|
|Ducks (2007)||Scott Niedermayer||Free Agent, 2005||4yr/$27 mil|
|Hurricanes (2006)||Aaron Ward||Traded from Boston||for Patrick Eaves and 4th Round Pick|
|Lightning (2004)||Dan Boyle||Traded from Florida||for 5th Round Pick|
|Devils (2003)||Scott Niedermayer||1991 1st Round (3rd Overall)|
|Avalanche (2001)||Rob Blake||Traded from Los Angeles||for two 1st Round Picks|