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MHH Roundtable Part 2: Grading the draft and cheering for the demise of the Ottawa Senators

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This year’s draft was exciting for Avalanche fans, next year’s could be franchise changing

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Earlier today, we brought you part one of the MHH mailbag, in which we graded the offseason moves for the Colorado Avalanche. Now, in part two we talk about our favorite draft picks as well as what we can look forward to at next year’s draft.

How would you grade the 2018 draft class for the Avalanche and favorite selection?

Jackie: The class itself gets a B from me. The eight selections are more than a typical Avalanche draft class and there is clear priority to get more skill in the prospect pool. Mining the MHL in Russia for late round lottery tickets and picking up an extra pick for only trading back six spots were good strategies. Using both second round picks essentially to address a position of desperate need (goaltending) hurts the NHL viability of the draft class but the Avalanche did well to still find skill and upside in most of their choices.

The Martin Kaut selection pleased me quite a bit and he is going to be a great fit in Colorado with his strong two-way game and playmaking ability. The fact that he wants to play in North America and has already signed his ELC is just the icing on top of the cake. My under the radar favorite selection was Nikolai Kovalenko in the sixth round. His skill level far surpasses where he fell in the draft and despite having only played in Russia he was in attendance at the draft and joined the Avalanche for their development camp. There he showed a tenacious, crafty and at times mature game to go along with some nifty hands and dynamic offensive ability. Even if it takes him a few years to play in North America, the selection of Kovalenko will likely pay dividends down the road.

Tom: I’m going to have to give a B- grade. This draft class had a lot of highs and lows for me. Martin Kaut is a very good, close to NHL ready prospect that could be viewed by some as a safe pick. There are a couple higher ceiling guys that I would have selected ahead of him - Ty Smith in particular - but Kaut is a really good prospect that should have a big impact on the Avalanche.

After that, I have a big problem with the Annunen pick. With high-end guys like Cam Hillis, Alec Regula and Jake Wise still on the board, taking the first of two goalies that high stings.

Like Jackie, I am a big fan of the Kovalenko pick. He may never come over to play in North America, but that late in the draft, a kid with that kind of skill is more than worth the risk. Sampo Ranta is fine, he could be an NHLer one day if everything works out perfectly and Brandon Saigon is clearly just depth for the Eagles.

My favorite pick though, was Tyler Weiss. The young forward has a lot of scoring to do, but he could be something special one day. He doesn’t have the most outstanding numbers last season, but that was because he was buried on an incredibly deep U18 team. With big minutes next season at Omaha, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s among the highest scoring freshmen in the NCAA. Give this kid time, he could be a good one.

Hayden: I’ll give them a B. I would’ve liked to see some higher upside picks in the first couple rounds, but it’s too soon to tell (how Kaut turns out in pro drastically affects this grade). The Ranta pick shows that, for good or bad, they aren’t done taking shots of power-forwards with raw talent but lots of rounding out to do (hopefully he turns out more promising than Greer or Morrison). My favorite picks value-wise were Saigeon and Kovalenko - I think both have the potential to be steals, which is exactly what you want out of late-round picks. As “safe” as Kaut was to pick at the time, it’s hard not to love his excitement for the game, I think at the very least he will be a perfect fit for the team culture.

Isaac: I don’t necessarily like grading drafts immediately after, because no one truly knows its success until often many years later. However, since I have to I’ll give Sakic’s draft a B-. I think both goalie picks will turn out to be nothing, but that’s no shock there. I liked a lot of the “boom-or-bust” picks, the prospect of stealing high-end potential late in the draft is something I’m a fan of, especially considering how much of a potshot the draft is after the first round anyways.

Boringly enough, first-rounder Martin Kaut is my favorite selection, though I was initially a bit shocked. I like his goal-scoring potential, ability to play against men in the Czech league, good defensive game, as well as his willingness to play in the AHL immediately. I think his name will likely be on more than a few Avalanche sweaters at the Pepsi center in a couple of years.

Hardev: Liked the first pick. Liked drafting down and getting two assets in the middle round. In terms of evaluating those players: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Skyler: My grade is incomplete. Sorry to be that guy.

I don’t watch enough U18 tournaments in Europe to know which of the late round draft picks could turn out to be hidden gems. Weiss has insane dangles. He seems like a steal in the fourth round, but we’ll see if he rounds out his board play and bulks up.

I loved Martin Kaut from what I’ve seen. He’s built from that classic, big-bodied. possession-heavy mold of a winger that is rough to move off the puck and just keeps the opposing defense hemmed into their own zone. He clicked a lot with Makar during Development Camp, which is exciting.

Cat: Love the Martin Kaut pick. Didn’t love where they took Justus Annunen, but I both understand why the team looked at him and have some confidence that he’ll continue to improve. I hate grading drafts this early though, and I totally refuse to do it.

**editor’s note; Cat gets an F for refusing to participate in the exercise

How much fun is it going to be watching the Ottawa Senators this upcoming season while holding their first and third round picks?

Tom: It’s going to be really fun. What makes it even better is the fact that they are in a division to get beat up on by Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston all season.

Here’s the thing though, Avalanche fans should know better than anyone that putting stock in pre-season prognostications is a dangerous thing. Colorado, New Jersey and Vegas were universally believed to finish near the bottom of the league last season, each of them made the playoffs. Ottawa should be really bad next season - especially when they finally trade Karlsson - but far too may people are assuming that pick is going to be top-3.

Jackie: I agree with Tom that there’s never any guarantees in sports and the first round pick from Ottawa could still be anything. Plus I’m still a bit nervous the Avalanche will find a way to spend one of their first round picks since they have a hard time keeping excess picks and using them. Still, it will be fun watching a team all year with a vested interest in their performance.

Hayden: Watching the standings will be exciting, watching the Sens will not. As perfect as it is for Colorado to be able to aim for the playoffs without sacrificing your draft position, I feel more bad for Sens players than I feel good for Avs management. I legitimately hope that most of the drama in that organization can go away this season so they can focus on hockey again.

Isaac: The key to the unexpected success of Vegas, Colorado, and New Jersey was the breakout of one or more players who many had written off or simply not expected. Who in Ottawa has that potential to do what Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall, William Karlsson, and others did? Thomas Chabot? What rookies can come in that immediately make Ottawa a non-lottery team? Perhaps Brady Tkachuck? The Senators seem extremely slim on options here.

With that being accounted for, Ottawa is absolutely going to be one of the biggest dumpster fires in the league next season. They’ll most certainly be a lottery team. However, there is another factor to take into account: what teams have the potential to be worse than the Senators? The New York Rangers? Maybe the Buffalo Sabres or the Montreal Canadiens? Plus the lottery itself is one heck of a monkey wrench that could mess things up for the Avalanche.

Not that all of that will make things less exciting though. In fact it will only make it more so. Therefore the fun level for me will be absolutely off the charts.


Skyler: I, for one, am looking forward to a season of rooting for the futility of Pierre Dorion’s Ottawa Senators.

Why are we so excited about the potential of the Senator’s pick being first overall? This is Jack Hughes as a 16-year old against players two to four years older than him: