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NHL Draft

Central Division team draft needs

NHL.com looks at which players would best fit into specific styles, dynamics

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.

The draft will be held at United Center in Chicago. The first round is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Here is what Central Division teams could be looking to do when they arrive in Chicago (teams listed in alphabetical order):

 

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Top priority: Young defensemen

The situation: The backbone of the Blackhawks' three Stanley Cup championships between 2010 and 2015 were defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. But they're each over 30 and are three of the four players in the League with more than 700 combined regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games since 2009-10; Seabrook, 32, has played 715 games, Keith (33) and Hjalmarsson (30) each have played 700 (San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau has played 707). Six rookie forwards played more than 30 games this season, and John Hayden (2013, No. 74) became a regular after he signed an entry-level contract March 12. They've taken a forward with their first pick in each of the past seven years. With 10 selections, starting with No. 26 in the first round, now is the time to start finding some young defensemen.

Possible fits: Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (FIN); Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SWE); Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

 

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Top priority: Skilled defensemen

The situation: The Avalanche have an enviable roster of talented young forwards, including Nathan MacKinnon, 21, Mikko Rantanen, 20, Matt Duchene, 26, and Gabriel Landeskog, 24, with 19-year-old Tyson Jost (2016, No. 10) likely to join them next season. But one of the reasons they were 30th in the League standings this season was a lack of quality defensemen. Of the 11 defensemen who played this season, none had a positive plus/minus rating. Colorado's top defense prospect at San Antonio of the American Hockey League, Chris Bigras (2013, No. 32) had 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 45 games but was minus-16. Finding some young defensemen who can help their skilled forwards is a must, starting with the fourth pick in the first round.

Possible fits: Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (FIN); Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL); Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL)

 

DALLAS STARS

Top priority: Top-six forward

The situation: Goaltending was an obvious issue this season, but the Stars' lack of offensive support behind star forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin also needs to be addressed. They've tried with veterans Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky, but need to develop from within. Devin Shore had a solid rookie season with 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists), and recent first-round picks Riley Tufte (2016, No. 25) and Denis Gurianov (2015, No. 12) show promise, but more is needed. With two first-round picks (No. 3 and No. 29) among their eight choices, the Stars also could look to add a defenseman.

Possible fits: Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (HIGH-MN), Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL); Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (FIN)

 

MINNESOTA WILD

Top priority: Goaltender

The situation: The Wild have one of the deepest prospect pipelines but appear thinnest at goaltender. Steve Michalek (2011, No. 161) gained experience with Iowa in the American Hockey League this season, and Kaapo Kahkonen (2014, No. 109) and Ales Stezka (2015, No. 111) are in the early stages of their professional development. No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk is 31, so there isn't an overwhelming rush to find his replacement. But adding another goalie to the mix could be an option. The Wild's first pick will be in the third round (No. 85). They traded their first-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes as part of the package used to acquire forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White on Feb. 26, and their second-round pick was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2015 for forward Chris Stewart.

Possible fits: Stuart Skinner, G, Lethbridge (WHL); Cayden Primeau, G, Lincoln (USHL); Lane Zablocki, RW, Red Deer (WHL)

 
NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Top priority: Middle-six forward

The situation: Much like at the NHL level, the Predators are well-stocked with top-end defense prospects, including Dante Fabbro (2016, No. 17), Jack Dougherty (2014, No. 51), Frederik Allard (2016, No. 78) and Samuel Girard (2016, No. 47). Adding some skilled depth to their forward group is the best way to utilize their seven picks, starting with No. 30 in the first round. 

Possible fits: Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph (OHL); Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL); Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)

 

ST. LOUIS BLUES

Top priority: Top-six forward

The situation: Forward Vladimir Tarasenko has scored 79 goals during the past two seasons, by far the most on the Blues and fourth-most in the NHL. Second on the Blues are centers Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund with 33 each. Finding someone to share the scoring load is imperative. Center Tage Thompson (2016, No. 26), scored 33 goals in two seasons at the University of Connecticut and two goals in 10 AHL playoff games this season, and center Jordan Kyrou (2016, No. 35) was sixth in the Ontario Hockey League with 94 points (30 goals, 64 assists) in 66 games with Sarnia. With the 20th and 27th picks in the first round, along with No. 51 in the second round, the Blues should be able to find some high-end offensive skill.

Possible fits: Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (SWE); Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL); Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston (OHL)

 

WINNIPEG JETS

Top priority: Defenseman

The situation: Two of the Jets' top-four defensemen in terms of ice time and offensive production this season were Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom; however, each is 32. Finding young complements to go along with Jacob Trouba (23), Josh Morrissey (22) and 19-year-old Logan Stanley (2016, No. 18), should be the focus with some of their eight picks, starting with No. 13 in the first round. 

Possible fits: Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL); Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SWE); Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland (WHL)

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