The hockey world has been spoiled the past couple of years at the top of the NHL draft. There were no-brainers at No. 1, like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. There were franchise players right behind them in Jack Eichel and Patrik Laine.
Those great players ended up pushing other really good players down a few slots so that teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets could grab a Zach Werenski at No. 8 (2015) or the Calgary Flames a Matthew Tkachuk at No. 6 overall (2016).
“There’s been prime rib and filet. Everybody was racing to finish last,” said one NHL team executive. “It’s such a credit to the crew that has come out the last couple years. There’s going to be some really good players [this year], but I don’t think there’s that zest.”
In part because of the strength of the draft class last year, only one team traded its first-round pick at the deadline -- and that was the trade that sent Andrew Ladd to the Blackhawks. Chicago could do that deal feeling pretty good about its pick not being one of real consequence in the first round. Even so, the pick the Jets got from Chicago turned out to be Windsor defenseman Logan Stanley, a player with whom the Jets organization has been thrilled so far.
This year’s draft? There just isn’t the same excitement surrounding it.