By Allan Muir
A look at the buzz surrounding Eastern Conference teams heading into Sunday’s NHL Draft in New Jersey:
Boston Bruins: Nothing like giving up a first rounder in the deepest draft in a decade for a player who goes the entire playoffs without scoring one lousy goal. Barring a trade, Boston’s first selection will be 60th overall. They’re unlikely to move up from that spot.
Buffalo Sabres: GM Darcy Regier holds two first rounders (his own at 8 and Minnesota’s at 16) and is hoping to make a big splash on Sunday, but says it will be “extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Sabres to move up in the draft. There are some quiet whispers that they might consider Zachary Fucale at 16.
Carolina Hurricanes: Amid rumors that the Canes might swap the fifth-overall pick comes talk that they are intrigued by Valeri Nichuschkin. “We will have a very good dialogue with the player,” GM Jim Rutherford said.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Aaron Portzline calls it very unlikely that the Jackets will use all three of their first rounders on Sunday. He says Columbus would like to come out of the draft with at least one player who can help the team immediately, so trading one or two of their selections is a strong bet.
Detroit Red Wings: Standing at 18, the Wings will be making their highest pick since 1991 (!). They’re looking for “a decent-size forward with skill,” according to director of amateur scouting, Joe McDonell.
Florida Panthers: Dale Tallon will listen to all offers for the second pick, or lay back and wait for Colorado’s leftovers. Either way, the Panthers can’t help but come out a winner in this year’s draft.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have five picks in the second and third rounds, including 34th and 36th overall. Look for them to either package them to move back into the first, or leverage them into a high pick next summer if there’s no one on the board that they can’t live without.
New Jersey Devils: Rich Chere believes the draft-host Devils are looking at Max Domi, Alexander Wennberg or Hunter Shinkaruk with the ninth overall pick. Tom Gulitti reports that Shinkaruk said he has spoken to the Devils “multiple times.”
New York Islanders: For the first time in eight years, the Islanders will not be making a top-10 pick, so you’ll have to forgive Garth Snow if he starts getting a little antsy around the seventh pick. Snow’s decision to take a defenseman with all seven of his picks in 2012 raised a few eyebrows, but choosing 15th overall may lead him to take another blueliner this year. Samuel Morin and Ryan Pulock seem like the most likely choices.
New York Rangers: After trading away their first two picks, the Rangers’ staff might be sitting on their hands until the third round rolls around … unless they can come up with a package involving their trio of third rounders to move up into the second. I think they stand pat.
Ottawa Senators: The Sens are in BPA mode, but would ideally like to add a player who projects as a top-six scorer. A little grit would just sweeten the pot. QMJHL 50-goal man Anthony Mantha is thought to be a target.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers hold the 11th overall pick, but you never know what a team that traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on draft day might do. Paul Holmgren has said he’d like to move up, but if he stays where he is, expect a defenseman like Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen or Ryan Pulock to get the orange jersey. Also in the mix: goaltender Zachary Fucale. “There’s probably a point in the draft where we would look at a goalie, and it may very well be at 11. I don’t know,” Holmgren said.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens made a splash at last year’s draft with their Jordan Staal trade. Could they try to top that with a Kris Letang deal in New Jersey? It’s a possibility. The Pens dealt their first and second rounders at the deadline and might like to get a seat at the table when the high-end picks are still available. “At this time last year, I didn’t think we were going to get [an extra] first-round pick,” GM Ray Shero said. “So you just never know. That’s why you have to be prepared for whatever.”
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts will sit back at three and gladly take whatever’s left after the first two picks are off the table. Assuming that means Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones are gone, Steve Yzerman is said to be leaning toward Jonathan Drouin. Damien Christodero reported that of the big four, only Drouin has an interview scheduled with the Lightning this weekend.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs posted a poll on their Facebook page asking fans who they should draft. The overwhelming winner was Max Domi, but he’ll be long gone by the time Toronto picks at 21. Look for the Leafs to take a forward, preferably one with a mix of skill and grit.
Washington Capitals: Not much buzz around the Caps’ pick at 23, although GM George McPhee said earlier this week that he’s willing to listen if other teams want to discuss moving up or down in the draft. Edge-of-your-seat stuff, eh?