The first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is now done and dusted with all 31 teams having scooped up new prospects at the United Center. Read on below as we break down the winners and losers on the first night of the 2017 draft festivities in the Windy City.
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The New Jersey Devils surprised plenty of hockey observers when they selected Nico Hischier as the no. 1 overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Many were expecting Nolan Patrick to be the Devils’ top pick. But alas, it was the 18-year-old Hischier who caught New Jersey’s eye. He’s the first Swiss player to go first overall and, in the process, became the highest-drafted Switzerland-born player in NHL history. Not bad for a player who recorded 86 points in 57 games last season for the Halifax Mooseheads.
It’s great to be a Philadelphia fan nowadays. Not only did the Sixers get Markelle Fultz as the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Flyers also managed to snag Nolan Patrick as the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Patrick entered the year as the consensus No. 1 overall pick before injuries hampered his 2016-17 season and affected his value. If the Flyers can keep this 18-year-old healthy, though, look out! He showed his immense talent in the 2015-16 WHL Playoffs, scoring a league-leading 30 points in 21 games en route to a 16-5 record. Patrick won MVP honors that season as he led the Brandon Wheat Kings to the WHL Championship.
Apart from Patrick, Philadelphia also acquired veteran winger Jori Lehtera and the No. 27 pick (Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie) from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for center Brayden Schenn. Philly fans sure hope these moves will help bring back the much-maligned Flyers to the Stanley Cup picture.
Vegas Golden Knights
It has been a great week for NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights. First off, they struck gold in Wednesday’s expansion draft, with veteran forward James Neal and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury headlining their 30-man haul. Neal led the Nashville Predators to their first-ever Stanley Cup appearance last season, recording 23 goals and 18 assists last campaign. Fleury, on the other hand, will provide much-needed experience between the pipes for Vegas. The 32-year-old won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has a career .912 save percentage.
As if that wasn’t enough, Vegas also became the first expansion team to pick three times in the first round of the NHL Draft. The Golden Knights used those picks to acquire Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom. Glass is definitely the pick of the bunch among the three, racking up 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 69 regular-season games for the Portland Winterhawks last season. He’s primarily a top-line center who’s versatile enough to play wing. The 6-foot-2, 177-pound Glass is strong in all three zones and he’s expected to fit in nicely with Vegas’ veteran recruits.
So what else is new? General manager Jim Benning once again had another poor draft, selecting Swedish playmaking center Elias Petterssen as Vancouver’s No. 5 pick. What made that selection so disappointing for Canucks fans was that Cody Glass and Gabriel Vilardi were still available during that time.
We’ve already talked about Glass earlier, so let’s focus our attention on Vilardi. He was considered the next-best prospect in this year’s draft after Hischier and Patrick. The 17-year-old Canadian racked up 99 points (46 goals, 53 assists) in 111 games during his two seasons in the OHL. Still, the Canucks let that kind of talent slip by. Vancouver’s loss is definitely LA’s gain.
Chicago fans are definitely getting sick and tired with all this depressing draft-day trades. Just a day after Jimmy Butler was shockingly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago lost two more of its sporting superstars in defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and forward Artemi Panarin, who were shipped in separate deals to Arizona and Columbus, respectively.
Hjalmarsson had spent his entire 10-year career with the Blackhawks, helping Chicago to three Stanley Cup titles. The 30-year-old had five goals, 13 assists and a team-high 181 blocked shots in 73 games last season. Panarin, on the other hand, was the best rookie in the NHL two years ago and has forged a flourishing partnership with Patrick Kane. The duo’s departure is a massive blow for a Blackhawks team that’s still reeling from the news that Marian Hossa will miss the entire 2017-18 season because of a bizarre skin disorder.
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