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NHL Draft

Atlantic Division team draft needs

Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings could seek skilled forwards; Panthers should look to develop young goalie

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

The 2019 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 Rogers Arena in Vancouver is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).


[RELATED: Complete NHL Draft coverage]


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



Top priority: Skilled forwards

First pick: No. 30

The situation: The Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third time since 2011 but have become increasingly over-reliant on their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to drive the offense. Each of the big three had at least 79 points, but David Krejci (73) was the only other forward with more than 45. Jack Studnicka, a 20-year-old center chosen in the second round (No. 53) of the 2017 NHL Draft, had 83 points (36 goals, 47 assists) in 60 games in the Ontario Hockey League and could compete for an NHL spot next season. They likely will look to add more young, skilled forwards with their first pick, and then maybe try to add a goalie with one of their four later picks, starting in the third round.

Possible fits: Connor McMichael, C, London (OHL); Robert Mastrosimone, C, Chicago (USHL); Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)



Top priority: More offense

First pick: No. 7

The situation: The Sabres missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight season. They were tied with the New York Rangers for 23rd in the NHL with 221 goals, the seventh straight season they've finished in the bottom third in scoring. Forwards Casey Mittelstadt, 20, and Tage Thompson, 21, were inconsistent this season but each could have a promising future. Adding more players around them and offensive leaders Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart will be vital with their two first-round picks, No. 7 and No. 31. 

Possible fits: Cole Caufield, RW, USA U-18 (USHL); Matthew Boldy, LW, USA U-18 (USHL); Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL)

Video: Highlights of USA Hockey NTDP forward Cole Caufield



Top priority: Top-six forwards

First pick: No. 6

The situation: Dylan Larkin (32) and Andreas Athanasiou (30) each scored 30 goals, and Anthony Mantha, who scored 25, likely would have gotten there if he hadn't missed 15 games with a hand injury in December. Forward Filip Zadina, the No. 6 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft who had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games as a 19-year-old with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, made his NHL debut this season and will get the chance to be a full-time player. So should forward Taro Hirose, who signed a two-year, entry-level contract March 12 and played 10 games in Detroit after his 50 points (15 goals, 35 assists) for Michigan State tied Penn State forward Alex Limoges for the NCAA scoring lead. In a draft deep with skilled forwards, the Red Wings will have the chance to add another player for their top six with their first pick. With three second-round picks and nine total on the second day, plus a solid group of prospects after making 21 selections in the previous two drafts, they can focus on the best player available with their other selections. 

Possible fits: Trevor Zegras, C, USA U-18 (NTDP); Vasili Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2); Cole Caufield, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Video: Vasili Podkolzin ranks No. 6 on Draft Prospects list



Top priority: Goalie

First pick: No. 13

The situation: The Panthers haven't taken a goalie since selecting Sam Montembeault in the third round (No. 77) of the 2015 NHL Draft. That lack of attention to the position hurt Florida this season when the Panthers allowed 273 goals, fourth-most in the NHL, and missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Roberto Luongo is 40 years old and has won fewer than 20 games three straight seasons. James Reimer, 31, also struggled with a 3.09 goals-against average that was 34th and a .900 save percentage that was 35th among 41 goalies who played at least 35 games. Montembeault made his NHL debut March 2 and had an .894 save percentage in 11 games. Drafting and developing a young goalie is imperative. They also could look for a young defenseman to add to a decent group of forward prospects.

Possible fits: Spencer Knight, G, USA U-18 (NTDP); Cameron York, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SWE)



Top priority: Defense

First pick: No. 15

The situation: Montreal was one of the surprise teams of the season because of its speedy, attacking style of play. Forwards Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin is each 24 and are parts of a foundation that likely will include increased roles next season for centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling. Kotkaniemi, the No. 3 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, was the youngest player in the NHL this season and finished ninth among rookies with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games. Poehling, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract March 31, scored a hat trick in his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 6. The Canadiens need to find defensemen to get those talented forwards the puck. Alexander Romanov (2018, No. 38) was the best defenseman at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship (eight points; one goal, seven assists in seven games) and Josh Brook (2017, No. 56) had 75 points (16 goals, 59 assists) in 59 games with Moose Jaw, which tied Dawson Davidson (Saskatoon) for most among Western Hockey League defensemen. Adding another top-end defenseman could be the goal in the first round.

Possible fits: Cameron York, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (GER); Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL)



Top priority: Center

First pick: No. 19

The situation: The Senators, who finished last in the NHL standings, traded their first-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the three-team deal for center Matt Duchene in 2017. They got a first-round pick back from the Columbus Blue Jackets when they traded Duchene on Feb. 22. Duchene's departure left the Senators thin at center with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and rookie Colin White on the top two lines. Logan Brown (2016, No. 11) had 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 56 games with Belleville of the AHL, and at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds is an intriguing prospect. But finding more help through the middle will help speed up the Senators' rebuilding plan. 

Possible fits: Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL); Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL); Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SWE)



Top priority: Defense

First pick: No. 27

The situation: Under the leadership of assistant general manager/director of amateur scouting Al Murray, the Lightning have an impressive group of prospects but are a bit thin at defenseman. Since 2010, the Lightning have selected three defensemen in the first round, but only one of them, Callan Foote (2017, No. 14), remains with the organization. The only defensemen signed beyond the 2020-21 season are Victor Hedman, 28, and Ryan McDonagh, 30. Adding defensemen now will allow them to have all the development time they'll need.

Possible fits: Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (FIN); Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgarden Jr. (SWE-JR); Alex Vlasic, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)



Top priority: Top-nine forwards

First pick: No. 53 (second round)

The situation: The present and future are set up front with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander all signed for at least five more seasons, and Mitchell Marner could be the next to get a long-term contract. The next step is finding young, skilled forwards who can play with them. But without a first-round pick, traded to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Jake Muzzin on Jan. 28, the Maple Leafs could take the best player available regardless of position when their first pick comes in the second round.

Possible fits: Alex Beaucage, RW, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL); Patrick Moynihan, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP); Ronald Attard, D, Tri-City (USHL)



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