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NHL Draft: Eastern Conference Draft Grades

Dennis MacInnis
Director of Scouting

Florida Panthers: A

Dale Tallon certainly put his mark on the Panthers and he did so with gusto. The Panthers have conceivably had their best draft ever, one that could change an organization along the lines of what the Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlaf combo did for Anaheim. Erik Gudbranson is a franchise defender, Nick Bjugstad is easily a top two center and Quinton Howden is a Mr. Everything type of player that never quits. Those three players make a very strong backbone for a franchise looking to move forward. With such a good first round, the Panthers were able to gamble on both John McFarland and Alex Petrovic, who are both first-round talents who slipped. Goaltender Sam Brittain is one who will develop into a very strong option behind top prospect Jacob Markstrom. The Panthers were very strong in the late rounds of the draft as well, adding budding forward Zach Hyman and the highly underrated Finnish prospect Joonas Donskoi. This was a very strong draft from beginning to end for the Florida Panthers.

New York Islanders: A-

The Islanders were able to add to their offensive depth by selecting Nino Niedereitter and Kiril Kabanov. Niedereitter is extremely close to being able to step right into the lineup and will be an excellent scoring option with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Kirill Kabanov is a little bit more of a gamble but certainly one who was worth the risk 65th overall. A player who was once mentioned in the same breath as Taylor Hall and other of the most elite of this draft class, Kabanov has the potential to be a diamond in the rough, if the Islanders can tame him and polish him before they get fed up with him.

Boston Bruins: B+

The Bruins managed to turn Phil Kessel into Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight, which will already look like a deal that Leafs fans will want back. The boldness of the Bruins to select Knight was one of the best picks of the draft and they will not look back from that pick. Landing Seguin gives them a plethora of talent in the middle and also gives them the ability to move farther away from the cap ceiling by unloading some veterans moving forward. Also, adding Ryan Spooner and Craig Cunningham will increase the B's offensive depth. The only real knock on Boston's draft was its inability to address the teamís issues with a lack of defensive depth any farther than selecting Maxim Chudinov with a very good steal in the middle of the final round.

Washington Capitals: B

Somehow the Caps managed to improve their overall depth and skill once again. Washington did a very good job at finding and selecting the best player available at certain points of the draft. Their third-round selection Stanislav Galiev could prove to be a very shrewd pick. Evgeni Kuznetsov, selected 26th overall, is another exciting game-breaking talent who helps push the Caps into the category of the rich getting richer when it comes to exciting offensive players. Philip Grubauer is another good pick, especially in the fourth round, and gives the Caps some added depth between the pipes. He already knows the taste of victory.

Buffalo Sabres: B-minus

The Sabres have one of the best scouting staffs in the entire sport and it shows with how well they managed and utilized their picks in this draft. With their first-round selection of Mark Pysyk, the Sabres managed to land perhaps the most mobile defender in the draft. That combined with his very good hockey IQ will make people wonder how a team got this kid at pick 23. The Sabres didn't stop there, adding some fantastic quality depth players, a strength of this draft. Buffalo's trio of players chosen in the third round all have exceptional potential and were players that were noted to have all gotten a lot better through this past season. The Sabres really did their homework.

Tampa Bay Lightning: B-

Tampa Bay quietly had a very good draft. It didn't come without drama or questions, as first-rounder Brett Connolly certainly brought enough of that. A gifted and dynamic offensive talent, Connolly could end up being another Steven Stamkos for the Bolts. The pick that stood out the most was the third-round selection of Czech-born defender Radko Gudas. Gudas is a warrior and does anything to win. The tough-as-nails defender is very difficult to play against and will become the type of heart-and-soul player that fans rarely notice but his teammates can't get enough of.

Atlanta Thrashers: C+

The Thrashers had a very average draft for a team that had consistent opportunities to select players that dropped. They seemed to select players slotted at or around their position but with so much talent slipping to their position they failed at recognizing and acting on those opportunities. The selection of Alex Burmistrov does give them a strong offensive threat for years to come and it's obvious they got their man, but this draft will likely go on to be looked at as a failed opportunity.

Carolina Hurricanes: C+

The Hurricanes did their homework on Jeff Skinner and realize that his potential is off the charts. The smaller center is a pure scorer and will fit very well in an organization that really needs someone to step up in that category. The rest of Carolina's draft could be considered very average, but one pick that really stood out was the third-round selection of Danny Biega. Biega is intelligent beyond his years and has really impressed and improved at a very rapid pace. Mark him down as a steal at that place.

Pittsburgh Penguins: C+

The Penguins did a very good job at focusing on their needs in this draft but look to have missed the mark on a couple of occasions. The selection of Beau Bennett gives them the talented point-producing winger they desired coming into the draft, but there were other options that seemed a better fit at that point. Bryan Rust was a good pick at number 80 and the kid looks to have some potential to match the skills of Chris Kunitz, but Pittsburgh's best pick might have been the fourth-round selection of Tom Kuhnhackl, a player who is known for his poise on and off the ice and who has the pedigree to be a real star. Kuhnhackl may be the player the Pens have been seeking to develop next to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and if he can improve his speed, is a sure bet to at least get a shot in the not-too-distant future.

Toronto Maple Leafs: C+

It was a tough weekend to be a Leafs fan, but Brad Ross will soften that blow a bit. A very good agitator with good offensive upside, Ross is a Steve Ott-like player and will be a guy Leafs fans love and every other team's fans detest. Ross will develop with the very good and well-coached Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and bring great confidence out of his junior career. Greg McKegg was another solid selection who will be a good NHL-level role player one day. Sondre Olden has a lot of potential and just might develop into another big rangy offensive forward that will complement Toronto's young corps well. Although the Leafs failed to deliver an elite player, they did the best with what they had.

Montreal Canadiens: C

The Habsí selection of Jared Tinordi in the first round made sense. Passing on a 6-6 defender with a mean streak would not have been advisable for a team that is always considered too soft and too small. However, apart from the selection of Tinordi, the Canadiens really did not manage to improve in any area. Even with Tinordi, Montreal looks to have had a draft that will likely be one to forget.

New Jersey Devils: C

The only real thing that stands out from the Devilsí draft is Jonathon Merrill falling to them in the second round. Merrill is a player who has gotten a bad reputation in the past few months but on the ice he looks to be a gem. Merrill is likely the next great blueliner to fall into the Devilsí tradition of developing such players. As he grows up and matures, he will likely prove all the teams who passed on him wrong.

Philadelphia Flyers: C

The Flyers had a slightly below to average draft but likely aren't too broken up about it as it was their willingness to move picks that allowed them to add players like Chris Pronger and make a very good run at the Stanley Cup. With that being said, the Flyers still missed the mark with most of their selections and their last pick could be considered their best when they used the second-last pick of the draft to select Brendan Ranford, a small but quick and energetic forward from the WHL's Kamloops Blazers.

New York Rangers: C-

Dylan McIlrath was not a top-10 prospect in almost everyone's mind but the Rangers. A defensive-minded blueliner who plays a tough and rugged game, McIlrath is now in the unenviable position of having to live up to his draft position, one that he just doesnít appear to be capable of. The Rangers also gambled on diminutive sniper Christian Thomas, who looks to have the heart to make people forget about his size -- not to mention the talent -- but could also be considered a stretch at 40th overall. The Rangersí best pick was 100th overall with their choice of Andrew Yogan, who looks like he may be another Ryan Callahan for the Blueshirts.

Ottawa Senators: C-

With only four selections in this year's draft for the Sens, the move that will likely always be looked back upon is their trading of their first-round pick for David Rundblad. The pick ultimately was used on Vladimir Tarasenko, who will likely end up being a player the Senators really wish they took. The best selection for Ottawa was the sixth-round selection of Mark Stone, who will be a serviceable role player at best. Not a great draft weekend for the Sens this year.