Maven’s Ravin’: Caught In The Draft, NHL Style

Did the Maple Leafs extract the next Wayne Gretzky, or Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby on opening night of the Entry Draft in Buffalo?

Or did Toronto pluck a combination of those aces when Lou Lamoriello chose Auston Matthews at the First Niagara Center?

Based on all the hullabaloo, you might think that Matthews can be equated with the first Leafs Stanley Cup win since 1967 — but that remains to be seen.

What we do know is that in second drafting place, Winnipeg also did splendidly choosing Finn forward Patrik Laine.

And while just about everyone thought Jesse Puljujarvi would be chosen by Columbus with the third pick, the Blue Jackets stunned the crowd by going for left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois who figured to be slotted no higher than fifth.

What’s more, each of them could — like Matthews — move right onto the NHL varsity.

As for our two locals with first-round picks, it’s more of a hopeful story rather than anyone making a leap to The Show this fall.

Originally picking 11th, the Devils traded with Ottawa and moved into the 12th spot while the Senators took over 11. New Jersey also received the 80th pick from the Sens.

Choosing at 12, general manager Ray Shero decided on critically acclaimed center Michael McLeod. (By no small coincidence, The Maven had predicted that the Mississauga, Ontario product would be New Jersey’s first selection.)

Just about every analyst in Buffalo raved about Shero’s selection.

“McLeod’s work ethic is elite,” offers Bob McKenzie. “Nobody plays the game harder than this guy. He’s relentless — very competitive. He doesn’t care about points but about team.”

“Michael has disruptive speed to create advantages and a real will to win,” Craig Button said.

Standing 6-foot-2,185 pounds, McLeod has been described as a “latter-day Ryan Kesler,” Anaheim’s relentless pivot.  “That kid wants to make a difference,” adds commentator Pierre McGuire.

It’s no secret that the Devils need offense; a fact that Shero asserted before leaving Newark for Buffalo.

Reflecting his idol, the late Gordie Howe, McLeod has been wearing Mister Hockey’s Number Nine. New Jersey’s head coach John Hynes has other reasons to be tickled with the pick.

“Michael has a very good skill set,” explains Hynes. “He plays the game at a high pace and is a sure power play guy.”

Meanwhile, in 19th position, Isles GM Garth Snow chose left wing Kieffer Bellows, son of ex-NHLer Brian Bellows. (I had Kieffer as my “Secondary Choice” in The Maven’s Draft Preview.)

“I love to score goals,” allows Bellows, “and I don’t mind playing in the ‘dirty’ areas.”

Dad Brian, who played a significant part in Kieffer’s development, admits that both were pleased with the Isles’ pick. “I was at Barclays for a playoff game,” Brian recalls, “and I loved the atmosphere in Brooklyn.”

According to McKenzie, “Bellows is the second-best pure goal scorer in the Draft. Kieffer is hungry to score and will pay the price to do so,” says McKenzie.  “He needs two years before he’ll be ready for the NHL.”

Lacking a first rounder, the Rangers had to wait until Saturday’s round three before their picking time will come.


1. TEAMS MOST INTERESTED IN DEALING: Columbus and Edmonton are eager to make moves, GM Jarmo Kekalainen of the Blue Jackets reportedly is looking to peddle ex-Ranger defenseman Fedor Tyutin and forward Scott Hartnell. Desperate for defensemen, the Oilers are seeking Montreal’s controversial P.K. Subban. So far, Habs GM Marc Bergevin insists that it’s N.G. when it comes to P.K.

2. WHO GETS NEW ROCHELLE’S KEVIN SHATTENKIRK?: The St. Louis defender wants a new pact and right now Keith Yandle’s massive seven-year, $44.45 million Panthers deal sets a standard for the Blues. As a result, St. Louis may say bye-bye and move Kevin to an Eastern suitor such as Boston or Buffalo.

3. A GM FOR LAS VEGAS: There are plenty of possibilities starting with George McPhee, Don Maloney, Eddie Olczyk and Paul Fenton. What beats me is why ex-Ranger and Cup-winning boss Neil Smith keeps getting overlooked.

4. GOALTENDERS, ANYONE? Among the experienced puck stoppers on the market, there’s Jimmy Howard in Detroit near the top of the list, not to mention Marc-Andre Fleury and James Reimer.

5. WHICH OILERS FORWARD IS MOST LIKELY TO GO?: Ever since Edmonton plunged out of the playoff race last winter, a number of Oilers forwards were mentioned as trade bait and continue to do so. The most prominent are winger Taylor Hall or center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If neither of them go, there’s always winger Jordan Eberle and the ever disappointing forward Nail Yakupov.

6. FIRST DRAFT TRADE: Montreal dealt defenseman Lars Eller to Washington for a pair of future draft picks. No question, the Caps win this exchange because coach Barry Trotz gains a versatile skater who can play both wing and center. He’s a good bottom six forward who can replace free agent Jason Chimera.

7. BEST PLAYOFF LETTER: Long Island native — now based in Hollywood — Joe Dionisio writes that nobody talks about the most underrated Penguin who didn’t play: “My money is on assistant coach Jacques Martin. This guy worked defensive miracles. Kris Letang aside, this was the most no-name blue line corps in years. Even with Trevor Daley injured, Martin’s defensive prowess never faltered. Let’s not forget Martin’s epic upsets when his Canadiens toppled both Washington and Pittsburgh in 2010.”

8. ILLOGIC PICK OF THE TOP FOURS: Edmonton, starved for defense, instead opted for Puljujarvi. “As long as the Oilers keep drafting forwards,” says sage analyst Button, “they won’t make the playoffs.”

9. BEST SON OF A FORMER STAR PICKED HIGH: Keith Tkachuk’s son, Matthew, was taken in the sixth position by Calgary. Button compares Tkachuk’s size and style to NFL ace Rob Gronkowski. “My kid has put a lot of work in and has a good head on his shoulders,” enthuses Keith.

10. THE NEXT PATRICK KANE: Arizona surprised the experts by utilizing their seventh spot to select center Clayton Keller who had been pegged by The Hockey News and International Scouting Services at the twelfth position. But analyst McKenzie — among other seers — likens Keller to Hart Trophy-winner Kane in size and style.

11. SECOND DRAFT TRADE: Goalie Brian Elliott is dealt by St. Louis to Calgary for the Flames’ 35th pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2018 in the Draft. Calgary wins because it desperately needed a Number One puck-stopper.

12. SECOND-BEST SON OF A FORMER PLAYER PICKED HIGH: Florida-trained defenseman Jakob Chychrun, son of ex-NHL defender Jeff, was picked 16th by Arizona. Sunshine State ice-analyst Steve Horowitz labels Jakob one of the best young blue line talents he’s seen in a long time. Buffalo-based analysts forecast that he could be a third or fourth slot NHL blue liner. “I circled the Coyotes on my list of teams I might go to,” admits the Boca Raton, Florida product.

13. BEST LONG ISLAND PRODUCT PICKED HIGH: Long Beach’s pride and joy, Charlie McAvoy was picked 14th by the Bruins. Heading for Boston University, defenseman McAvoy makes no bones about the fact that he patterns his game after Norris Trophy-winner Drew Doughty.

14. UNCLE SAM AS TALENT-PRODUCER KING: No less than six American-born players were chosen out of the first fifteen available stick handlers. Canada was represented by only four out of 15.

15. ANOTHER DRAFT TRADE: Montreal gets right wing Andrew Shaw from Chicago for two Draft picks, 39th and 45th.The Habs win it because Shaw can play virtually anywhere and have impact.

16. WHY STEVEN STAMKOS COULD BE A RED WING: Detroit freed up a lot of Cap room by trading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona. Expect GM Ken Holland to open his pot of gold to lure Stamkos from Tampa Bay.