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BUFFALO, NY – The 2016 NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo has come to a close. There were some surprises, some strange decisions, some glorious moments and, of course, plenty of boos for Gary Bettman.
Who won? Who lost?
Here’s how we saw the weekend play out in Buffalo:
WINNER: Brian Elliott
The veteran goalie told the St. Louis Blues that he was done platooning with Jake Allen and wanted to be “the guy” somewhere in the final year of his contract. That somewhere is Calgary, where the Flames will give him plenty of starts and a contract extension. Great fit between Elliott’s work-ethic/character and a Flames team that didn’t need a seven-year commitment to someone like Ben Bishop.
LOSER: Kevin Shattenkirk
According to his agent, the Blues defenseman expected to be traded at the draft given their conversations with the team. Instead, he remains twisting in the wind as two potential trading partners – the Coyotes and Sabres – may have moved on
WINNER: Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings cut the anchor that was Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit, and all it cost them was four spots in the first round and taking on Joe Vitale’s contract – much less than the expected pain and suffering for Ken Holland, who can now target Steven Stamkos.
LOSER: Jim Benning
The Vancouver Canucks GM will be fined by the NHL for tampering after discussing his desire to acquire P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos while both were under contract.
WINNER: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs snagged the only true franchise player in the draft in Auston Matthews, whom many scouts compare to Anze Kopitar as far as skillset. Overall, they had 11 picks and made some bold ones. If someone like No. 31 overall Yegor Korshkov, who’s 6-4, pans out, this draft will be memorable beyond Matthews. Also, they got Kerby Rychel from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a guy they were going to waive.
LOSER: Montreal Canadiens
When GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t busy considering giving RFA acquisition Andrew Shaw a contract of five-to-seven years, he was holding press conferences to sorta kinda explain that he wasn’t trading P.K. Subban.
WINNER: Falling Forward
Alex DeBrincat and Jakob Chychryn were two players who saw their stock fall at the NHL Draft, but ended up falling into great spots. The Coyotes passed on Chychryn at No. 7 but then doubled back to snag him at No. 16 after the Datsyuk trade. DeBrincat, who attended school just outside of Chicago, was drafted by the Blackhawks. He’s 5-7, but thrived playing with high-end offensive talent like Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome.
LOSER: Zach Sawchenko
The first-team WHL goalie for Moose Jaw and Canadian junior team candidate went undrafted over the weekend, in a draft that wasn’t kind to goaltenders. Some called it a shock.
WINNER: USA Hockey
There were 12 U.S. born first-rounders drafted, including nine from the U.S. National Team Development Program. Five of them were from the St. Louis area, including top 10 picks Clayton Keller and Matthew Tkachuk. Oh, and some kid from Arizona named Matthews. He was drafted too.
Sweden only had 25 players in the draft, and Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News said the nation had one of its “worst first rounds in recent memory.”
WINNER: Philadelphia Flyers
Philly keeps quietly building a strong collection of prospects. They had five picks in the top 82 picks, and overall took seven forwards during the draft. The Flyers made some deals to move around the board, made smart picks. Good job from Ron Hextall.
No goaltenders were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft for the third time in the past four years.
WINNER: Pierre-Luc Dubois
Dubois was the stunner of the first round, going third overall to Columbus, who selected him over Jesse Puljujarvi of Finland. But other teams said he had the talent to go top three, and the Jackets are counting on him being a solution at center.
LOSER: Columbus Blue Jackets
Still stuck in salary cap hell, the Jackets were unable to leverage their No. 3 pick into a way to send some toxic contracts to another team. And what if Dubois’s short-term success at center doesn’t translate to the NHL?
WINNER: Edmonton Oilers
Puljujarvi fell into their laps at No. 4. They snagged three solid defensive prospects in the third round as well. Now if they could just land a puck-moving defenseman already playing in the NHL like Cam Fowler.
LOSER: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings signed Trevor Lewis. The $2 million cap hit? Sure. Four years? Ummmm….
WINNER: Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres were awesome hosts for the NHL Draft, with the weekend’s activities centralized near the waterfront and the fans filling the building for a great first night. Terry Pegula’s vision for the Buffalo hockey community has transformed the area into a beautiful, entertaining destination for fans.
LOSER: Buffalo Sabres
GM Tim Murray loves Dmitry Kulikov a bit more than we do, and sending possession darling Mark Pysyk to the Florida Panthers didn’t win this deal a lot of fans. But luckily Murray didn’t have to dwell too long on this trade, spending a good portion of his post-draft press conference on the police investigation into Sabres forward Evander Kane. Ugh.
WINNER: Boston University
BU had six players taken in the draft and now have 11 drafted players for next season. So, uh, they’re loaded.
LOSER: Bruins Draft D’ohs
WINNER: John Chayka
The 27-year-old GM of the Coyotes stunned the draft by taking Clayton Keller at No. 7, but the pick was brilliant. The player we all thought he was taking at No. 7, Jakob Chychryn, went to the Coyotes at 16th overall as Chayka made a smart move for Pavel Datsyuk’s cap space. Later, he flipped a second-rounder for troubled but talented defenseman Anthony DeAngelo of the Lightning. Smashing debut.
LOSER: Fans Of Blockbuster Trades
When the Brian Elliott trade was arguably the biggest move of the weekend, it’s safe to say the expansion draft and salary cap driven chaos that was predicted didn’t materialize.
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