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NHL Top 5 Picks Graded: Who Came Out On Top?

Hockey article at Knup Sports

After the NHL draft, I needed some time to think. After giving my No. 1 pick in a previous article, I needed to assess the picks and watch some more film.

I just couldn’t shake the same question; Why did the Canadiens draft Slafkovsky? I mean, it wasn’t a bad pick in any regard, and he is definitely one of the best players in the draft pool. But still, with such a secure prospect in Shane Wright.

During my time the last couple of weeks watching more tape, I became infatuated with these kinds of questions. Then, I realized the only way to settle my thoughts was to put together everything I feel about the top five players and make a list with pros and cons. Having this right in front of me would help me manage my ideas.

Then, after two weeks of work, I decided to grade the picks. Using the resources I forced myself to make and watching hours of film that weren’t necessary, I’m here to break down the top five overall draft selections and how they can benefit their teams.

1. Montreal Canadiens, Juraj Slafkovsky, LW (A-)

The more I looked into the Slafkovsky pick, the more I understood. Although there are questions about his lack of regular season success and the lower level of competition, Slafkovsky is still a safe pick. His dominance in the Olympics and natural size put him at a substantial advantage over many already established wings in the NHL.

Seeing as he has so much natural ability and raw power, Slafkovsky feels like a slightly lower floor, much higher ceiling type of guy. With good development and playing time, he will take over and dominate with the Canadiens organization.

2. New Jersey Devils, Simon Nemec, D (A)

The Devils, along with me, probably thought Wright was going first. However, this was no matter, because the Devils stayed their course and found a player suitable to their needs.

I commend the Devils for not biting the Wright bait. They have two established centers and would have preferred a wing like Slafkovsky to fall to them. But with what they were given, the soft-handed and quick-footed Nemec is a great selection. He has great skates, can make the hard passes down the ice, and clears very well.

3. Arizona Coyotes, Logan Cooley, C (B-)

I don’t like to be a critic in situations like these, but sometimes it needs to be said. Cooley is an amazing player and was a perfect No. 3 pick in this draft if Wright had gone first. However, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe the Coyotes missed out.

Cooley is great, no doubt about it. He knows the game and plays scrappy on both ends of the ice but lacks the playmaking and shooting flashes that Wright displayed last season. It’s not a bad pick, just not my favorite.

4. Seattle Kraken, Shane Wright, C (A+)

Although a center isn’t a starved positional need for the Kraken, they followed what I believe to be the greatest draft rule in sports history: draft the best player available. Undoubtedly, Wright is exactly that.

Seeing him fall this far was a bit disappointing, but landing another two-way center that controls all facets of the game, like 2021 first-rounder Matty Beniers, is incredible for the Kraken. They need playmaking, and Wright can handle that. I see him making an immediate impact on the organization.

5. Philadelphia Flyers, Cutter Gauthier, LW (A-)

Not much to say about this pick other than it meets the Flyers’ needs. Gauthier is a big boy, standing at 6’3” and 200 lbs. He’s physical and knows his size and battles for the puck, making him an underrated offensive threat. Actually, he’s underrated as a whole. This guy can skate with the best of them, get the puck moving, and knock some heads off in the process.

Like what you read? Check out Chris Roberts’ three most underrated NHL free-agent signings.

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