Here are a few random thoughts on the Canadian teams in the aftermath of Saturday’s Round 2 of the NHL draft, in order of where they picked in Round 1 (excluding Montreal, who I’ve addressed in a separate article):
1. Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers went heavy on Canadian junior talent early with their first four picks all from either the OHL, WHL or BCHL. Obviously Nail Yakupov is getting most of the headlines, but their next three picks were all big forwards – including another Russian in Daniil Zharkov who slipped down and finally went at the end of the third round.
And he sounds like a bit of a character.
“It’s my goal to be better than Yakupov,” Zharkov said.
As has been the trend with a few Russian players of late, he tried to distance himself from his homeland due to all the concerns over the KHL.
“I don’t want to play in Russia,” he said. “I don’t want to do something like Russian guys. I just live like a Canadian. … I don’t even like [borsch]. I really like salmon and hamburgers. That’s me.”
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs kept picking defencemen despite an apparent need up front. After taking Morgan Rielly at fifth overall on Friday, they selected Matthew Finn from the Guelph Storm with the 35th overall pick on Saturday.
An all-around defenceman who logged big minutes in the OHL, he’s from Toronto and was ranked just outside the top 20 by the Leafs.
I’ll have more on the Leafs weekend a little later, but things were rather thin beyond the top two given they didn’t have a third or fourth round pick.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Here comes another Sutter. The Jets took Rich Sutter’s son, Lukas, with their second pick, making him the fifth Sutter son to be taken in the draft. He’s a big, nasty centre in the WHL who has a bit of scoring touch.
They then took two netminders in the later rounds in Connor Hellebuyck and Jamie Phillips to add to veteran Jonas Gustavsson, who they acquired in a trade with Toronto earlier in the day and will try to sign as a backup for next year.
15. Ottawa Senators: Ottawa had a huge scouting contingent at the draft and ultimately took players at every position and from all over the world on Day 2. They wound up with two goaltenders (Chris Dreidger and Francois Brassard) from the Canadian junior system, three defencemen (Cody Ceci, Tim Boyle and Mikael Wikstrand) and two forwards (Jarrod Maidens and Robert Baillargeon).
Boyle is an interesting case as the younger brother of behemoth New York Rangers centre Brian, although he remains years and years away and is committed to Union College. He also doesn’t appear to have gotten his brother’s height as he’s only 6 foot 1 and 185 pounds.
21. Calgary Flames: The Flames weren’t afraid to be a bit unconventional in the draft, as they dropped down to select Mark Jankowski out of a high school prep program in the first round then made three of their six remaining picks out of the USHL.
Of the prospects, 6-foot-5 netminder Jon Gillies, who they took in the third round, looks like an interesting one, although he’s already committed to a few years in U.S. college hockey with Providence.
He had the option to play in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts but ultimately turned Patrick Roy down. (Which can’t be an easy thing for a young goalie.)
“One of my biggest weaknesses right now is my physical strength,” Gillies said. “Going to college, the shorter schedule, there’s more time to allot to training. That was a big sell for me.”
Their other picks were relatively small Canadian junior players – two defencemen (Brett Kulak and Ryan Culkin) and a winger (Coda Gordon) – who need to fill out.
26. Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver only had five picks total in the draft, but their first two were interesting ones. Brendan Gaunce is someone they had rated quite a bit higher than 26th and were hoping would fall and who can eventually likely be a really effective third-line centre.
Their second-rounder, meanwhile, was a 20-year-old winger named Alexandre Mallet from the Quebec league who went from 19 points in 2010-11 to 81 this season. The Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman said they see a late bloomer who likes to hit and play physical but didn’t get much of a chance in his first few seasons.
Mallet was at the draft but wasn’t expecting to go higher than the fifth or sixth round so as you can imagine the smile on his face was hard to miss in Pittsburgh.
“It’s really nice,” Mallet said. “I can’t describe the feeling.”