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NHL Draft

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

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

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 on June 23-24. 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 Atlantic Division teams could be looking to do when they arrive in Chicago (teams listed in alphabetical order):


[RELATED: Complete NHL Draft coverage]



Top priority: Skilled center

The situation: General manager Don Sweeney struck gold when he selected defenseman Charlie McAvoy at No. 14 in the 2016 Draft. McAvoy signed a three-year entry-level contract April 10, and had three assists and was second on the Bruins in average ice time (26:11) in their six Stanley Cup Playoff games. Left-handed defenseman prospect Jakub Zboril, the 13th pick of the 2015 Draft, had 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) in 50 games with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The top forwards in the system are right wing Zach Senyshyn (2015, No. 15) and center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2015, No. 45). The Bruins have six picks in the draft.

Possible fits: Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (SWE); Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (SWE-2); Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)



Top priority: Offensive defenseman

The situation: After a 27-point improvement in 2015-16, the Sabres dropped to last in the Atlantic Division this season. Coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Tim Murray were fired April 20, and new GM Jason Botterill hired Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Housley as coach Thursday. The Sabres have seven picks in the draft, including four in the first three rounds. The future looks promising with a number of high-end prospects in the pipeline, including defensemen Brendan Guhle (2015, No. 51) and William Borgen (2015, No. 92), and forwards Alexander Nylander (2016, No. 8), Rasmus Asplund (2016, No. 33), Hudson Fasching (trade, Los Angeles Kings) and Justin Bailey (2013, No. 52). Guhle will push for a spot on the roster next season and Nylander, who had 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 65 games with Rochester of the American Hockey League, might need another season of development. Housley's specialty is helping groom young defenseman prospects, so expect the Sabres to select one of the best of this draft class.

Possible fits: Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL); Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (FIN); Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SWE)



Top priority: Offensive defenseman

The situation: The Red Wings have 11 picks in the draft, including six in the first three rounds, so they will look to load up at the skill positions. They had their streak of 25 straight seasons qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs end this season and will have a top-10 choice in the first round for the first time since 1991, when they picked forward Martin Lapointe at No. 10. The Red Wings, who pick No. 9 in the first round, likely will target puck-movers on defense. The Red Wings selected four defensemen among its first five selections in 2016, including Dennis Cholowski in the first round (No. 20). Cholowski had 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 36 games for St. Cloud State University as a freshman this season. Their top forward prospect is Evgeny Svechnikov (2015, No. 19) and their top goalie prospect is Jared Coreau (2013, free agent).

Possible fits: Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SWE); Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL); Erik Brannstrom, D, HV 71 (SWE)



Top priority: Goal scorer

The situation: The Panthers, who have five picks, are in need of secondary scoring and more depth on defense for new coach Bob Boughner. A concussion kept defenseman Aaron Ekblad from reaching top form for much of this season and the Panthers finished 20th in the League in goals-against average (2.82) after finishing seventh in last season (2.44). Forwards Vincent Trocheck, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Marchessault each scored at least 20 goals, but there wasn't enough secondary scoring to get the Panthers into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are a few good forwards in the pipeline in Henrik Borgstrom (2016, No. 23) and Jayce Hawryluk (2014, No. 32), as well as defensemen Ian McCoshen (2013, No. 31) and Michael Downing (2013, No. 97), but look for general manager Dale Tallon to target scorers and defense.

Possible fits: Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL); Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL); Martin Necas, C, Brno (CZE)



Top priority: Offensive defenseman

The situation: General manager Marc Bergevin got the goal scorer he was looking for Thursday when the Canadiens acquired forward Jonathan Drouin in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev. The Canadiens scored 11 goals in six games against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round, losing the series despite goaltender Carey Price finishing with a 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. The Canadiens have five of their six picks in the first three rounds and likely will seek defensemen and forwards. They went heavy on defense at the 2016 draft with Sergachev (No. 9), Victor Mete (No. 100), Casey Staum (No. 124), and Arvid Henrikson (No. 187) among its six choices. Defenseman Noah Juulsen (2015, No. 26) also is working his way up the prospect ladder; he served as captain for Everett in the Western Hockey League and had 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 49 games. Center Jacob De La Rose (2013, No. 34) had 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 62 games for St. John's of the AHL. Goalie Zachary Fucale (2013, No. 36) continues to make progress; he went 6-5-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 11 playoff games for Brampton of the ECHL.

Possible fits: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL); Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL); Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)



Top priority: Goal scorer

The situation: The Senators have four picks in the draft, beginning with No. 28 in the first round. They should look to groom a center who could produce on the middle two lines. The pipeline is looking especially good with centers Colin White (2015, No. 21) and Logan Brown (2016, No. 11), left wing Nick Paul (trade, Dallas Stars), and defenseman Thomas Chabot (2015, No. 18). White gained a lot of experience this season after he had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games for Boston College in Hockey East. He played three games with Binghamton of the AHL and three with the Senators late in the season, including one game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He also won a gold medal with the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Chabot won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as MVP of the QMJHL playoffs for Saint John, with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 18 games while averaging 35 minutes of ice time. The Senators may consider drafting forwards and a goalie in the early rounds.

Possible fits: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane (WHL); Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna (WHL); Aleksi Heponiemi, C, Swift Current (WHL)



Top priority: Two-way forward

The situation: The Lightning have three of their seven picks in the first two rounds. They traded forward Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev on Thursday. Sergachev (2016, No. 9) immediately becomes the top prospect in the pipeline for the Lightning and could be in the NHL next season. Five Lightning prospects played for silver-medal winning Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championship: forwards Taylor Raddysh (2016, No. 58), Anthony Cirelli (2015, No. 72), Mathieu Joseph (2015, No. 120), and Mitchell Stephens (2015, No. 33), and goalie Connor Ingram (2016, No. 88). Defenseman Libor Hajek (2016, No. 37) had 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 65 games with Saskatoon of the WHL and signed a three-year entry-level contract in March. Defenseman Slater Koekkoek (2012, No. 10) played 29 games for the Lightning this season and could be ready to take a regular spot in the lineup next season.

Possible fits: Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL); Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC); Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)



Top priority: Stay-at-home defenseman

The situation: The Maple Leafs filled their biggest need when they selected center Auston Matthews with the first pick of the 2016 Draft. Matthews is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year after he had 69 points (40 goals, 29 assists) in 82 games. Forwards Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and Connor Brown, and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev also made major contributions as rookies during a season in which the Maple Leafs took the Washington Capitals to six games in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Maple Leafs have seven picks in the draft, including No. 17 in the first round. Defense would appear to be a top priority since there are a few forwards close to earning full-time NHL spots next season, including right wing Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd pick fo the 2014 Draft who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Phil Kessel trade.

Possible fits: Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL); Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL); Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (FIN)

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