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NHL Draft

Atlantic Division team draft needs takes a look at which players would best fit into specific styles, dynamics

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The 2016 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.

The first round of the draft at First Niagara Center in Buffalo is June 24 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports); Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports 2, SN).

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


Top priority: Offensive defenseman

The situation: The Bruins have two of their seven draft picks in the first round, No. 14 and No. 29, acquired from the San Jose Sharks for goaltender Martin Jones. General manager Don Sweeney picked six players in the first two rounds at the 2015 draft, including first-round picks defenseman Jakub Zboril (No. 13), left wing Jake DeBrusk (No. 14) and right wing Zach Senyshyn (No. 15). The Bruins also found talent outside the draft, topped by forward Frank Vatrano, 22, who signed an entry-level contract March 13, 2015. This season he had eight goals and 11 points in 39 games with the Bruins, and an American Hockey League-best 36 goals in 36 games for Providence, the Bruins' AHL affiliate. More reinforcements are needed on defense and this draft could provide a good opportunity to fulfill those needs.

Possible fits: Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL); Charles McAvoy, D, Boston University (H-EAST); Logan Stanley, D, Windsor (OHL)


Top priority: Defenseman

The situation: The Sabres improved last season by 27 points in the standings in part because they scored 46 more goals and allowed 54 fewer than they did in 2014-15. Center Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick of the 2015 draft, was second among NHL rookies and on the Sabres with 56 points, and he led the Sabres with 24 goals. Forward Sam Reinhart, the second pick of the 2014 draft, was second with 23 goals, and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, the eighth pick in the 2013 draft, was fourth on the Sabres with 41 points. They have 12 picks in the 2016 draft, including six in the first three rounds. The future looks bright with the number of high-end prospects, including defensemen Brendan Guhle (2015, No. 51) and William Borgen (2015, No. 92), and forwards Hudson Fasching (trade, Los Angeles Kings, 2014) and Justin Bailey (2013, No. 52). They also have four picks in the third round which could serve as ammunition if general manager Tim Murray wants to make a big splash at the draft as the host team. In addition to the needs on defense, they could draft a goaltender at some point to establish some depth in that area.

Possible fits: Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia (OHL); Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL); Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)


Top priority: Offensive defenseman

The situation: The Red Wings hit the jackpot with forward Dylan Larkin, the 15th pick of the 2014 draft. As a 19-year-old rookie, he led the Red Wings with 23 goals and was third with 45 points. "He's got a real special makeup as a person," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He doesn't see a ceiling for himself and he's got a real inner drive to be as good as he can be." Left wing Anthony Mantha, the 20th pick of the 2013 draft, had two goals and three points in 10 games and is beginning to figure out what it's going to take to succeed in the NHL. Left wings Evgeny Svechnikov (2015, No. 19) and Tyler Bertuzzi (2013, No. 58), and defensemen Xavier Ouellet (2011, No. 48) and Ryan Sproul (2011, No. 55) waiting for their opportunity. The Red Wings have six picks in the 2016 draft; they traded their third-round selection to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Marek Zidlicky on March 2, 2015.

Possible fits: Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL); Charles McAvoy, D, Boston University (H-EAST); Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton (BCHL)


Top priority: Playmaking forward

The situation: The Panthers gained valuable experience during their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in four seasons. Ten players made their postseason debuts: Forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Garrett Wilson, Vincent Trocheck, Greg McKegg and Rocco Grimaldi, and defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic and Michael Matheson. The Panthers have a number of young players looking to join them in the NHL next season, including left wing Lawson Crouse (2015, No. 11), defenseman Ian McCoshen (2013, No. 31) and center Jayce Hawryluk (2014, No. 32). The Panthers have goaltender Samuel Montembeault (2015, No. 77) among their prospects but it wouldn't hurt to bolster that position. They could do so with one of their two fourth-round picks. The Panthers have six picks in the draft but none in the third, fifth and seventh rounds.

Possible fits: Luke Kunin, C, University of Wisconsin (BIG10); Kieffer Bellows, LW, USA U-18 (USHL); Max Jones, LW, London (OHL)


Top priority: Power forward

The situation: The Canadiens slowly are building toward a better future. They have seven picks at the draft, including two in the second round, and will look to add to a solid base of prospects. Forward Nikita Scherbak, chosen in the first round (No. 26) of the 2014 draft, can play center or right wing. He had seven goals and 23 points in 48 games for St. John's of the AHL this season and could be ready for an NHL promotion. Forward Michael McCarron (2013, No. 25) had a productive season in St. John's with 38 points in 58 games and also played his first 20 NHL games. Center Jacob De La Rose (2013, No. 34) has played 55 NHL games and is projected as a shut-down forward who can play in the bottom six. Defenseman Noah Juulsen (2015, No. 26) had seven goals and 28 points in 63 games for Everett in the Western Hockey League. Goalie Zachary Fucale (2013, No. 36) continues to make progress; he went 16-19-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 42 games for St. John's. 

Possible fits: Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL); Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d'Or (QMJHL); Max Jones, LW, London (OHL)

Video: Chatting with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Nylander


Top priority: Center

The situation: The Senators have six picks at the draft, starting with No. 12 in the first round. They should look to add a center who could play on the top two lines. The prospect pool already looks good with center Colin White (2015, No. 21), defenseman Thomas Chabot (2015, No. 18), left wing Nick Paul (trade, 2014, Dallas Stars) and left wing Matt Puempel (2011, No. 24) at the top. White was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team after he had 43 points in 37 games. Chabot had 11 goals and 34 assists in 47 games for Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Paul, who was acquired in the Jason Spezza trade and made his NHL debut this season, has shown promise as a prototypical power forward. Puempel had 17 goals and 30 points in 34 games for Binghamton of the AHL, and two goals and one assist in 26 games for the Senators. 

Possible fits: Tyson Jost, C, Penticton (BCHL); Clayton Keller, C, USA U-18 (USHL); Luke Kunin, C, University of Wisconsin (BIG10)


Top priority: Defense

The situation: Forward Jonathan Drouin, the third pick of the 2013 draft, had a breakout performance during the playoffs and proved he could be a full-time NHL player. Center Brayden Point (2014, No. 79), right wing Mitchell Stephens (2015, No. 33) and left wing Adam Erne (2013, No. 33) are considered their top three forward prospects. The Lightning have an abundance of mobile defensemen currently in their lineup, and their prospects at the position are quality skaters: Anthony DeAngelo (2014, No. 19), Dominik Masin (2014, No. 35) and Slater Koekkoek (2012, No. 10). Koekkoek played 19 regular-season and playoff games for the Lightning, and had five goals and 15 points in 60 games for the Syracuse of the AHL. The Lightning could use another physical presence on defense. 

Possible fits: Dennis Cholowski, D, Chilliwack (BCHL); Logan Stanley, D, Windsor (OHL); Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna (WHL)


Top priority: Center

The situation: The Maple Leafs haven't had an elite center since Mats Sundin in 2007-08, so selecting center Auston Matthews from Zurich in Switzerland with the No. 1 pick will help facilitate that need. The Maple Leafs ranked 28th in the NHL in goals per game (2.34) and 25th in goals-against per game (2.93) this season, although there was an improvement defensively from 2014-15, when they allowed 3.13 goals per game. The Maple Leafs have 12 picks, including two in each of the first four rounds. The youth movement started late this season when forwards William Nylander (2014, No. 8) and Kasperi Kapanen (2015, trade, Pittsburgh Penguins) made their NHL debuts. Forward Mitchell Marner, the fourth pick of the 2015 draft, could join them next season.

Possible fits: Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (SUI); Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara (FIN); Logan Brown, C, Windsor (OHL)

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