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June 24, 2017 | 1:05pm ET
DB's Draft Nuggets

CHICAGO, IL -- The final days of the 2016-17 season are upon us; the NHL Draft will dovetail into Free Agent Frenzy and then we’ll all take a much-needed breather from an eventful and exciting campaign.

Draft weekend is a favorite as it marks both a culmination of a nine-month chase for the Stanley Cup and the birth of a professional career for baby-faced teenagers.

From a writer’s standpoint, it’s a time where you get a higher proportion of intelligence than any time of year -- team managers, executives and agents are within arm’s reach and seem more generous discussing the paths their teams are taking and giving evaluation of the new talent about to embark on their professional journey.

In no particular order, here are some nuggets I’ve extracted from the floor of the United Center over the past two days from team sources who requested anonymity:

On the general strength of the Draft and the market place for defense:

From a scout: “I know critics have banged on the talent of this draft but there are some really good players in the second round that will be better than the guys in the first round, mark my words... The problem is no one is giving up young defense, an example is Ottawa -- Thomas Chabot, he’ll be on their blue line next season. Why did the Islanders protect five defensemen? Young defensemen are like starting pitchers in baseball, not enough to go around.”

On the Kings 1st round selection, Gabriel Vilardi:

From all accounts, a huge win, literally and figuratively, in Rob Blake’s first turn at the Draft Podium. Vilardi is one of the largest forwards in the Draft at 6’3” and 201 lbs. and many had him pegged in the top three selections. One scout gave me chapter and verse on the Windsor OHL prospect:

“I can tell you LA got a potential 30-goal scorer. He will be a right wing who can score and has size. I draw a comparable to Tyler Toffoli. Given the Kings scoring woes he may be able to make the team in the season after next. The optics on him aren’t the greatest because he has a knock-kneed skating style. It’s like a Moneyball thing, the scouts don’t like it, but he can skate, it’s just not pretty. He will be a top-6 right winger for Los Angeles for a long time.”

On the possibility of Jonny Brodzinski helping the Kings’ offense this season:

From a scout who covered the AHL extensively this past season: “He can contribute as a complimentary player, I see him as a third line right winger he just needs to be given the chance, he’s better than Trevor Lewis. You get 15 goals and 35 points from him for not much salary, that’s a win for LA.”

On two fronts for the Buffalo Sabres - Evander Kane trade talks and 1st round pick Casey Mittelstadt:

One team exec with some damning words about the Sabres left winger for potential suitors: “Stay away.

“He’s the guy everyone in the locker room hates. As much as he is skilled, you’re talking about issues, maybe if you have a strong room, but I would not move a significant asset for him because he will stir the pot with his teammates. He’s the Jeremy Giambi of hockey; I wouldn’t give more than a third-round pick for him... I suppose they got a gift with Mittlestadt at 8, but I’ve heard how that kid can be checked into the ground.”

On Montreal’s first round pick Ryan Poehling:

One take from a scout that saw him multiple times at St. Cloud State: “An excellent sneaky pick. His coach messed with him in college and it didn’t help him, but when he was against his own age he was a real standout. He’s a second line, secondary scoring center, so Montreal was a winner in that sense. I think he’s a lefty version of Charlie Coyle except you use him at center and not move him around like Minnesota has done with Coyle.”

On the Rangers first two picks and the Derek Stepan trade:

From the draft floor: “Remember, the Rangers have restricted free agents to deal with, so it opens up more money for them and possible unrestricted free agent plays. I wouldn’t have traded Stepan, he’s still a quality center and (Antti) Raanta was great this year, as well.

“Lias Andersson is a solid pick, he’s a Frans Nielsen type, but he’s just not that flashy, he should be a second line center in all three zones. The one to watch is Filip Chytil, he’s a high skill player who played in an obscure location for scouts to access. That could be their home run because he’s extremely talented. They got two future top-6 forwards, so good moves for the Rangers.

On Eeli Tolvanen plummeting to Nashville at 30 after being projected in the top dozen picks:

One scout’s theory on the drop: “Tolvanen is a perimeter player, think Mikkel Boedker. He could go 59 minutes and do nothing in an USHL game and then get a goal off a one timer. He will play in the NHL, but there is a timidity to his game.”

On Toronto’s 1st rounder Timothy Liljegren:

Leafs fans should temper their expectations off this note: “He can’t play defense and his offense isn’t superb, he does more damage with the puck than you can imagine. Think Tyson Barrie without the offense and you get an AHL defenseman. Erik Brannstrom is far, far superior to Liljegren.”

On Detroit’s 1st rounder Michael Rasmussen:

One scout take: “Certainly there was a top-10 buzz on him, but there are better players picked behind him. He’s a net front guy not skilled but does the dirty work in front like a Dave Andreychuk or to use a current day comparable, Martin Hanzal.”

On the Vladimir Tarasenko trade chatter:

One team exec: “I don’t buy it for a second. Never say never, but I think Tarasenko is immovable from St. Louis.”

On the Vegas Golden Knights:

A clear-cut winner from one exec on the draft floor. “They hit three home runs in the first round. Erik Brannstrom is the one to watch, he’s Tory Krug with a Darius Kasparaitis edge. He’s 5 feet 9, but played against men and did the job. Nick Suzuki will wind up playing on right wing and will be an excellent complement to Cody Glass, Suzuki is a bit of a Sam Gagner/Jordan Eberle type, a good pick cerebral skill player. It will be interesting to see what George McPhee will do, he’s admitted he has too many defensemen, but it’s a good problem to have. I think if he wanted Matt Duchene, he could probably get him for Shea Theodore and a second round pick -- a Jonathan Drouin type of deal.”

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.




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