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NHL Draft

Central Division team draft needs

Wahlstrom could be fit at forward for Blackhawks; defenseman Samuelsson may be on Predators' radar

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

The 2018 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 American Airlines Center in Dallas is June 22 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 23 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).

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



Top priority: Young skilled forwards

The situation: The Blackhawks need an infusion of youth up front. They focused on defense last year, selecting defensemen Henri Jokiharju in the first round (No. 29) and Ian Mitchell in the second round (No. 57). The 2018 draft could provide them two chances to add skill to their forward group. Recent drafts have seen the Blackhawks focus on NCAA forwards who were given time to develop, among them Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza and Dylan Sikura. But more skill is needed to support veterans Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and at No. 8 they could find a player close to ready to step into the lineup. At No. 27, acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators for forward Ryan Hartman, Chicago could select another forward or look at a defenseman, in what appears to be a rich crop at the position. The Blackhawks have eight picks in all, including two in the third round.

Possible fits: Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USA U-18 (USHL); Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (FIN); Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)



Top priority: Top-six forward

The situation: The Avalanche drafted and developed a formidable first line of Nathan MacKinnon (2013, No. 1), Gabriel Landeskog (2011, No. 2) and Mikko Rantanen (2015, No. 10). Now they need to find supporting talent. Tyson Jost (2016, No. 10) and Alexander Kerfoot (signed as free agent after four years at Harvard) were part of a skilled second line, but Colorado lacks a player in their system who projects to be a big offensive contributor. Last year, it used its first two selections on defensemen, Cale Makar in the first round (No. 4) and Conor Timmins in the second round (No. 32), and Timmins could compete for an NHL job next season. The Avalanche could use No. 16, the first of their eight picks, to add some skill up front.

Possible fits: Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (FIN), Joel Farabee, LW, USA U-18 (USHL); Grigori Denisenko, LW, Yaroslavl 2 (RUS-JR)

Video: Mike G. Morreale 1-on-1



Top priority: Center depth

The situation: Among the Stars' bigger needs is a second-line center to take some of the pressure off Tyler Seguin. Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza filled that role last season, and Faksa had an NHL career-best 17 goals. But the No. 13 pick provides them a chance to draft and develop a bigger offensive producer at that spot. With eight picks in all, including two in the fourth round, Dallas also could try to find goaltending prospect depth behind Jake Oettinger, the No. 26 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Possible fits: Joseph Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL); Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (FIN); Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)



Top priority: Top-nine forward

The situation: The Wild were led in scoring this season by center Eric Staal, 33; defenseman Ryan Suter, 33, was fourth. Minnesota has a solid corps of forwards who each should be entering his prime, including Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker, each 25. But more is needed, especially through the middle, where the top three centers for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round were Staal, Mikko Koivu, 34, and Matt Cullen, 41. With eight picks, including No. 24 and three third-round picks, the Wild also could look to find a top-four defenseman. General manager Paul Fenton, during his tenure as assistant GM of the Predators, made building a solid defense corps a priority.

Possible fits: Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint (OHL); Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo Jr. (SWE-JR); K'Andre Miller, D, USA U-18 (USHL)



Top priority: Defenseman depth

The situation: The Predators won't make their first pick until the third round. They traded their first-round pick to the Blackhawks for Hartman and their second-round pick belongs to the Avalanche from the three-way trade with the Ottawa Senators that brought forward Kyle Turris to Nashville. The Predators, who won the Presidents' Trophy this season, also have a fertile prospect group led by forward Eeli Tolvanen, the No. 30 pick of the 2017 draft who made his NHL debut March 31 and is expected to play a top-nine role next season. If there's an area Nashville could add depth, it's on defense, where Ryan Ellis can become an unrestricted free agent after next season and Roman Josi after 2019-20. But the Predators will have the luxury of taking whoever the best player is on their board, regardless of position.

Possible fits: Adam Samuelsson, D, USA U-18 (USHL); Kevin Mandolese, G, Cape Breton (QMJHL); Nando Eggenberger, LW, Davos (SUI)



Top priority: Top-four defenseman

The situation: The Blues rely heavily on defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, and must develop players to complement them. In the 30 games to end the regular season, Pietrangelo averaged 26:14 of ice time per game and Parayko 22:29; the other St. Louis defenseman to average at least 21 minutes per game was Jay Bouwmeester, 34. The Blues have seven picks, including No. 29, which was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in the trade for forward Paul Stastny.

Possible fits: Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL); Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer (WHL); Calen Addison, D, Lethbridge (WHL)



Top priority: Top-six defenseman

The situation: The Jets are stocked with young, talented players. The only player older than 25 to finish among their top five in goals or points was forward Blake Wheeler, 31; he led Winnipeg with 91 points and was tied for fourth with 23 goals. Looking down the road, one area the Jets could use help is on defense, where Dustin Byfuglien, 33, led them in ice time at 24:20 per game, and Tyler Myers, 28, was third at 21:26. Winnipeg has six picks, including two in the fifth round, but won't make its first pick until the second round. The Jets' first-round pick was traded to the Blues for Stastny.

Possible fits: Adam Ginning, D, Linkoping (SWE); Filip Johansson, D, Leksand Jr. (SWE-JR); Alec Regula, D, London (OHL)

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