NHL draft roundup: Flames make biggest splash among Canadian teams
Calgary once again takes the spotlight with acquisition of Hamonic from Islanders
The draft weekend splash is becoming an annual Calgary Flames tradition.
For the third straight June, Flames general manager Brad Treliving swung a big deal at the draft, this time landing 26-year-old defenceman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders.
"He moves pucks. He's a character kid. He's got some bite to him. I think he's going to fit good with us," Treliving said of Hamonic, who came at the cost of one first round pick and two seconds.
One year earlier, Treliving sent two picks to St. Louis for Brian Elliott and a year before that, three picks to Boston for defenceman Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton proved to be a big score, but Elliott fell flat as a potential No. 1 goaltender and was replaced earlier this month through another trade by Mike Smith, the long-time Coyotes netminder.
Hamonic, who hails from tiny St. Malo, Man., had a rough final season in New York. He battled injuries and struggled when he did take the ice. The Islanders were out-attempted 64-50 per-60 minutes when he was on the ice in five-on-five situations — the worst mark on the team and a far cry from earlier seasons.
His return to form would further stabilize the club's top four on defence — surely on a second pair with T.J. Brodie with Hamilton and captain Mark Giordano at the top.
"We like it on paper," Treliving said of that group, noting the "edge" Hamonic added. "At the end of the day, it's like a lot of things — paper and reality are always two different things, but we like how we look."
Also appealing to the Flames was Hamonic's contract, which has three years left with a potentially reasonable US$3.86 million cap hit.
Beyond the usual dealing, the Flames used their top pick at the draft on Juuso Valimaki, a long six foot two defender who had 61 points in 60 games for the Tri-City Americans this past season.
Here's a look at the other Canadian teams fared in Chicago:
Top pick: Elias Pettersson — 5th overall
The Canucks used their all-important top pick on Pettersson, a wiry Swedish centre who models his game after Washington Capitals ace Nicklas Backstrom. Vancouver wanted a play-making centre who might one day feed Brock Boeser, Jonathan Dahlen, Nikolay Goldobin and some of the club's other top prospects — many of whom are wingers.
"He's a guy that can get them the puck," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said.
Benning lauded Pettersson's ability to think the game and make others better and liked how quickly he fired his shot.
Pettersson is six foot one but weighs only 165 pounds. He joked that the Canucks hope he eats a lot in the coming years to fill out that long frame.
Top pick: C Ryan Poehling — 25th overall
The Habs used two of their first three picks at the draft on centres, landing on Poehling, an American attending St. Cloud State University, and Joni Ikonen, a Finn who totalled 41 points in 40 games in the Swedish junior league this past season.
"I think he's got more skill than people would give him credit for with his stats last year in the NCAA," Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens vice president of player personnel, said of Poehling, who had 13 points in 35 games. "We see a guy that has a chance to eventually play in a top-nine and help the Montreal Canadiens."
With the 199th overall pick, Montreal picked Cayden Primeau, an American goaltender and son of former NHLer Keith Primeau.
The club did not end up dealing Alex Galchenyuk, but did land defenceman David Schlemko earlier in the week from Vegas.
"This time of year, everybody's calling," Habs GM Marc Bergevin said of trade talks involving Galchenyuk, a restricted free agent on July 1.
Top pick: W Kristian Vesalainen — 24th overall
The Jets would have had the 13th overall pick, but that pick went to the Knights to protect veteran Toby Enstrom from selection in the expansion draft. Winnipeg got back the 24th selection and used it on Vesalainen, a six-foot-four Finnish winger who was named MVP of the under-18 world championships.
Already loaded with interesting young players and prospects, the Jets added eight more to the fold in this year's draft. Among them was 154-pound centre Skyler McKenzie, who tied for eighth in the WHL with 42 goals last year, and six-foot-four Swedish goaltender Arvid Holm.
"Guys that skate was definitely the theme for us," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Size too. The Jets picked three defencemen who were at least six foot three and more than 200 pounds.
Top pick: C Shane Bowers — 28th overall
Senators GM Pierre Dorion conceded that calls were coming in for Dion Phaneuf, but Ottawa ultimately held onto the 32-year-old defenceman at the draft.
The Sens, who lost defenceman Marc Methot to Vegas in the expansion draft, had only four picks in Chicago after mid-season deals for Mike Condon, Tommy Wingels and Viktor Stalberg.
A Halifax native and Sidney Crosby fan, Bowers is a six-foot-two centre who tied for 10th in USHL scoring last year and is headed for Boston University in the fall. The Sens also wanted to snatch a goaltender and used the 183rd overall pick on Jordan Hollett, a six-foot-four netminder from Port Moody, B.C.
Top pick: RW Kailer Yamamoto — 22nd overall
Edmonton had top 10 picks in each of the previous eight drafts, waiting until 22nd overall this time around following the first post-season berth since 2006. Their top pick (22nd overall) went to one of the smallest players in the draft: five-foot-eight, 146-pound right winger Kailer Yamamoto, the WHL's sixth leading scorer last season.
"I think there's a lot of role models in the league now — Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson, Mats Zuccarello — those guys that have paved the pathway for a smaller guy like me," said Yamamoto, who current plays for his hometown Spokane Chiefs.
Edmonton made its biggest move of the weekend just before arrival in Chicago with Jordan Eberle dealt (finally) to New York for Ryan Strome. The club later signed Kris Russell for four years and $16 million.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Top pick: D Timothy Liljegren — 17th overall
A Swedish defender who tries to play like Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty, Liljegren was once thought to be a top 10, maybe even top five pick at the 2017 draft. Then he got mono, missed a couple months, and had his season derailed. Ice time was inconsistent and he struggled to get settled with one team.
One of four defencemen taken by the Leafs, Liljegren thought he needed one more year of development in Sweden.
"Especially after this season being so up and down," he said. "One more year in Sweden and then I want to play in the NHL."
The Leafs added two of the largest players in the draft: six-foot-six, 214-pound Finnish defender Eemeli Rasanen and six-foot-six, 211-pound Russian Fedor Gordeev.
Toronto also selected six-foot-three, 169-pound Prince Albert goaltender Ian Scott.