There are always a few surprises at the NHL Draft.
A ranked player goes earlier than anticipated by the myriad of pundits. Sometimes NHL teams can make us all look a tad uninformed. But, we make the predictions; they make the decisions.
The "best player available" rationale can occasionally fail to address "positional needs". Or, is it the other way around? Who makes the call as to which prospect is in fact the best player available?
But through it all this past weekend in Buffalo, New York, brass from each of the 30 NHL teams got together to make some dreams come true. I published a Top 10 Ranking for the Hockey's Future website a few days before the draft. It wasn't a mock draft, but a rundown of the ten prospects from the WHL that I felt would be selected early on.
The current crop from the WHL lacked the high-end talent of past years, while players from the OHL, QMJHL, NCAA and Europe garnered plenty of attention this past season. Even Canadian Junior A hockey made a splash this past season. However, as usual, the overall depth in the WHL surfaced throughout the mid- and late-rounds.
Here's a look at what unfolded during the proceedings in Buffalo, the first two rounds at least. The focus here is on Western Hockey League prospects.
13 - Carolina...Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (HF Rank: #1; WHL: 1st)
27 - Tampa Bay...Brett Howden, C/LW, Moose Jaw Warriors (HF Rank: #2; WHL: 2nd)
29 - Washington...Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna Rockets (HF Rank: N/R; WHL: 3rd)
30 - Anaheim...Sam Steel, C, Regina Pats (HF Rank: 7; WHL: 4th)
Notes: Ranking services across the country had the gap between Bean and Howden narrowing as the Draft approached, but Bean was always the consensus number one from the WHL...I did not include Johansen in my top 10; he would have been #11 had I produced a "top 11". However, this pick still surprised me as I figured perhaps he'd be a late second rounder...Ditto the selection of Steel by Anaheim. I saw a Canadian team choosing Steel early in round two...Johansen joins his older brother, Ryan (Nashville), in the NHL...Howden joins his older brother, Quinton (Florida) in the NHL... Bean's father, John, is the Calgary Flames' C.O.O.
32 - Edmonton...Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver Giants (HF Rank: 3rd; WHL: 5th)
37 - Tampa Bay...Libor Hajek, D, Saskatoon Blades (HF Rank: 4th; WHL: 6th)
48 - Philadelphia...Carter Hart, G, Everett Silvertips (HF Rank: 6th; WHL 7th)
51 - Los Angeles...Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (HF Rank: 5th; WHL: 8th)
56 - Calgary...Dillon Dube, C, Kelowna Rockets (HF Rank: 8th: WHL: 9th)
Notes: Benson, from the Edmonton area, battled health issues all season long, which explains his drop into the second round...Hajek, from the Czech Republic, was my highest ranked defenseman, then Clague....Clague's father was once credited with scoring a goal as a goaltender in the WHL many years ago...Benson, Hart and Steel all played together and against each other during their bantam hockey days, rivalries that hockey fans in Alberta continue to talk about to this day... Hart was the first goaltender chosen overall...Dube, from Cochrane, Alberta, is effectively a local product for the Flames, although he spent his developmental years at Notre Dame College in Saskatchewan and has completed two seasons in Kelowna.
Total number of WHL players selected at the NHL Draft:
2016: 34. (1st Rd: 4)
2015: 35. (1st Rd: 5)
2014: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2013: 33. (1st Rd: 8)
2012: 32. (1st Rd: 6)
2011: 33. (1st Rd: 6)
2010: 33. (1st Rd: 5)
2009: 31. (1st Rd: 5)
2008: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2007: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2006: 24. (