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Canada

TRAIKOS: Grading the Canadian teams on their NHL draft picks

According to Mark Seidel, chief scout for North American Central Scouting, none of the seven Canadian teams were in the top-3 when it came to his ranking of this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

The good news?

None of them were in the bottom-3.

With two days to digest who went where — and why — here are Seidel’s grades for what the seven Canadian teams went home with:

CALGARY FLAMES, A+

26th, Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)

88th, Ilya Nikolaev, C, Yaroslavl-2 (Russia)

116th, Lucas Feuk, LW, Sodertalje Jr. (Sweden)

150th, Joshua Nodler, C, Fargo (USHL)

214th, Dustin Wolf, G, Everett (WHL)

The Flames only had five picks, but according to Seidel, they made the most of them, starting with 5-foot-9 Pelletier late in the first round.

“He’s a smallish guy who tore up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League,” Seidel said of the 26th-overall pick, who scored 89 points in 65 games. “At that spot, he was worth the value. If he can translate what he did from junior to pro, he’s going to light it up.”

The Flames continued to go for high upside in the later rounds, whether it was by selecting Russian centre Nikolaev, who had eight points in eight games at the world under-18 this year, or by getting lucky when goalie Dustin Wolf was still hanging around in Rogers Arena when the fourth-last pick was made.

“They didn’t have a lot of picks, but they hit on almost every one of them,” said Seidel. “I love the Wolf kid. He’s a guy we had rated in the third or fourth round. Even (fifth-rounder) Josh Nodler is a guy who was under the radar.”

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS, A-

53rd, Nicholas Robertson, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

84th, Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit (Finland)

115th, Mikhail Abramov, C, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

124th, Nicholas Abruzzese, C, Chicago (USHL)

146th, Michael Koster, D, Chaska (Minn. H.S.)

204th, Kalle Loponen, D, Hermes (Finland)

Speed and skill over size. That’s what the Maple Leafs were looking for at this year’s draft. And that’s what they went home with, starting with 5-foot-9 winger Robertson in the second round.

“Dubas has his philosophy and if you go by that, then they had a good weekend,” said Seidel. “Nic was phenomenal value where they got him at 53. I think I had him I think at 18. He’s a pure scorer. His brother (Jason) obviously led the OHL in scoring last year and this kid skates way better.”

None of the Leafs’ five other picks were taller than 5-foot-11.

“The whole day they went small,” said Seidel, laughing. “I know more guys on that staff than anybody and they told me all year, “I guarantee there are two things our guys will have: the ability to skate and skill. We could care less about size.’ They’re committed to it and God bless them. I don’t think you can win that way, but I’m not the general manager.”

EDMONTON OILERS, A-

8th, Philip Broberg, AIK (Sweden)

38th, Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax (QMJHL)

85th, Ilya Konovalov, G, Yaroslavl (Russia)

100th, Matej Blumel, RW, Waterloo (USHL)

162nd, Tomas Mazura, C, Kimball Union (New Hampshire H.S.)

193rd, Maxim Denezhkin, C, Yaroslavl-2 (Russia)

Ken Holland’s first draft as the Oilers new general manager was certainly an eventful one, if only because he got a taste of how impatient fans were, who had the audacity to question his decision to pass on a winger for yet another defenceman in Broberg. But Seidel liked the pick.

“Anytime you can get a 6-foot-4 defenceman who can skate that well — and this kid can fly, I’ve used the comparison to Jay Bouwmeester — then it’s a good piece,” he said. “We had him at seventh overall and they took him eighth. Obviously, Ken’s trying to rebuild that blueline and he’s a good start.”

The Oilers addressed their forward needs with the second-round pick of Lavoie, who if he finds consistency just might end up playing alongside Connor McDavid one day.

“There’s a lot of hype around him,” said Seidel. “Some nights he was a bit invisible for a big guy, but when he played well he was dominant. If he reaches his potential, he’ll show he should have been a first-rounder.”

OTTAWA SENATORS, B+

19th, Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL)

32nd, Shane Pinto, Tri-City (USHL)

37th, Mads Sogaard, G, Medicine Hat (WHL)

94th, Viktor Lodin, C, Orebro (Sweden)

125th, Mark Kastelic, C, Calgary (WHL)

187th, Maxence Guenette, D, Val-D’or (QMJHL)

The Senators picked a Finnish defenceman in the first round, but the selection that many fans will be thinking long and hard about is the No. 4 pick they traded to Colorado, which was used on defenceman Bowen Byram. Then again, given the choice, Ottawa might be happy it traded this year’s pick — and not last year’s.

“I think if you have to look back over the two years, I’d take Brady Tkachuk over Byram,” said Seidel. “I think missing Byram hurts them, but Tkachuk is a franchise-changer.”

As for Thomson, Seidel sees someone who will soon join Thomas Chabot on the backend.

“I just don’t see superstar potential in him, but when he wanted to play, Lassi Thomson really dominated in the WHL with his foot speed,” he said, adding that Danish goalie Sogaard could be the one who ends up making this draft memorable. “He’s much better than Ben Bishop was at that age. He got absolutely torched at the world juniors, but they were terrible.”

VANCOUVER CANUCKS, B

10th, Vasily Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (Russia)

40th, Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (Sweden)

122nd, Ethan Keppen, LW, Flint (OHL)

133rd, Carson Focht, C, Calgary (WHL)

156th, Arturs Silovs, G, Riga-2 (Russia)

175th, Karel Plasek, RW, Brno (Czech Republic)

180th, Jack Malone, RW, Youngstown (USHL)

195th, Aidan McDonough, LW, Cedar Rapids (USHL)

215th, Arvid Costmar, C, Linkoping Jr. (Sweden)

Jim Benning took some heat when he sent next year’s pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for JT Miller. But the bigger gamble was by selecting Russian winger Podkolzin, who has two years remaining on his KHL contract, at 10th overall.

“I really think Vancouver swung for the fences and said we’re going to take the best player and Podkolzin, by a skill standpoint, was the best player for them,” said Seidel. “He’s either the next Evgeny Kuznetsov or the next Mikhail Grigorenko and doesn’t play at all.

With eight more picks, the team literally went all over the map. The 5-foot-8 Hoglander will make Elias Pettersson look huge, while the 6-foot-2 and 222-pound Keppen could be the guy who protects both players.

“Nils Hoglander’s a real skilled kid, but undersized, who put up some decent numbers,” said Seidel. “Ethan Keppen is a hard-nosed kid. He’s kind of like Tom Wilson.”

WINNIPEG JETS, B-

20th, Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (Finland)

51st, Simon Lundmark, D, Linkoping Jr. (Sweden)

113th, Henri Nikkanen, C, Jukurit Jr. (Finland)

134th, Harrison Blaisdell, C, Chilliwack (BCHL)

144th, Logan Neaton, G, Prince George (BCHL)

Seidel said he usually loves what Winnipeg’s scouts manage to unearth at the draft. Not this year. With only five picks, the Jets played it a bit too safe, taking players who might play in the NHL one day but won’t wow anyone with their skill.

“Ville Heinola is probably not going to be a star,” said Seidel. “He’s not the next Miro Heiskanen. He’s not the biggest kid or the most physical kid. He’s kind of a safe pick. And that seemed to be where they went with their entire draft.”

Like Heinola, who is already playing against men in the Finnish league, Lundmark is also playing professionally in Sweden. That’s a sign that he’ll be able to make the leap to the NHL. But as for his game, nothing leaps off the page from the second-rounder.

“Lundmark is probably a No. 6 defenceman at best,” said Seidel. “The Leafs got Nic Robertson two spots later. That’s a potential impact guy, where Lundmark is much more safe. There’s not a lot of pizzazz to their draft.”

MONTREAL CANADIENS, C+

15th, Cole Caufield, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

46th, Jayden Struble, D, St. Sebastians School (Mass. H.S.)

64th, Mattias Norlinder, D, Modo Jr. (Sweden)

77th, Gianni Fairbrother, D, Everett (WHL)

126th, Jacob Leguerrier, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

131st, Rhett Pitlick, LW, Chaska (Minn. H.S.)

138th, Frederik Nissen Dichow, G, Vojens (Denmark)

170th, Arsen Khisamutdinov, C, Nizhnekamsk-2 (Russia)

201st, Raphael Harvey-Pinard, LW, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)

206th, Kieran Ruscheinski, D, Salmon Arm (BCHL)

Habs fans were more than happy that they left the draft with what some were calling the steal of the first round in Caufield, who smashed the goal-scoring record at the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he skated on a line with No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes.

The only reason he fell to 15th was because he is 5-foot-7.

“If he becomes Alex DeBrincat then Montreal is obviously ecstatic,” Seidel said of the Blackhawks winger, who scored 41 goals this year.

If Caufield represented a home-run swing, then Montreal spent the rest of the draft choking up on their bat and looking for contact.

“That’s the thing,” said Seidel. “They kind of went safe all around. We took Fairbrother off our list, Leguerrier we had on our list around 160. They didn’t swing for the fences.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

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