2022/2023: A look back at the 2016 Draft
This will be the first in a series of posts taking a look back at past draft classes to see how players have or have not developed. Hope you enjoy!
2016 Draft Class: The 2016 Draft, while perhaps not quite as loaded as the 2015 drafted was considered a very good draft class at the time. Now 2022, most of the guys in this draft are now 24 or 25 years-old (a few of the overagers being a bit older) and I think this is one class where we can really start to make firm opinions on how any given player has developed as many are starting to approach their prime years and guys who have not yet developed are into serviceable NHL players are probably going to be long-shots to have big-time NHL careers at this point.
First Round Recap
1. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: Still of course with Toronto, Matthews has been everything he was cracked up to be. His trophy case is already starting to fill at age 25: he has a Rocket Richard and two Selke Trophies. His best season to date was 2018/19 when he had 48 goals, 50 points and was a +49 in leading Toronto to a tough Cup Finals loss to McDavid and the Oilers. Last season (2021/22), he was limited to only 67 games but had 77 points. In 2020/21, he was limited to 46 games This recent run of injuries may be the only slight cause for concern for what otherwise looks to be shaping up as a huge career. He's signed for $9.14 million through this season after which I believe he is going to be an UFA - so things could get VERY interesting but I highly expect Toronto to re-up him to a mega deal.
2. Patrik Laine, W Winnipeg Jets: Much like Matthews, Laine has lived up to every bit of the hype. Laine is the back-to-back reigning Hart Trophy winner although somehow he won it last season while putting up 35 goals and 67 points in only 65 games. A terrific season no doubt, but a bit of a head-scratcher in terms of winning MVP. Laine has 227 goals in 452 career games which means since the moment he stepped on the ice as a teenager, he has scored at an over 40 goal per season pace. Unlike Matthews in Toronto - the Jets have already locked up Laine to a huge deal - $11.55 million per year through 2027.
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets caused quite a fuss in 2016 by selecting Dubois over the more ballyhooed Jesse Puljujarvi. Did their decision pay off? Well - you can be the judge of that. Dubois procuded a very promising rookie season in 2017/18 as a 20 year-old, scoring 52 points in 81 games with fine two-way play. Unfortunately for Columbus, that remains his best offensive season to date with the following seasons all spent in the 30's and 40s in points. He's a solid all-around contributor and a beast defensively but the offense just never took off - but there is still time for him to put up some better offensive seasons. Right now, he looks like a Sean Couturier-type defensive #2 center. Dubois makes $3.25 million and is looking for a long-term extension during the season.
4. Jesse Puljujarvi, W, Edmonton Oilers: Ok - let's get the cat out of the bag. Columbus screwed up. Big time. While Puljujarvi took an extra year to hit the NHL in a big way versus his compatriot Laine - Pulju has perhaps been just as impressive. Of course, playing with McDavid and Draisatl doesn't hurt his numbers. But after a stunted rookie year in 16/17, Pulju scored 35 goals and 70 points in 17/18 and never looked back, tacking on seasons of 84, 70, 91 and 74 points and topping 40 goals twice while always scoring 34+. What a couple of terrifying wingers the Finns can throw out there in international competitions...probably 2 of the 5 or at worst 10 best in the world. The Oilers have Pulju locked up for $10.8 million per year through 2027.
5. Olli Juolevi, D, Vancouver Canucks: Juolevi has been very impressive since making his debut in 17/18. He doesn't have the pressure of being the #1 guy in Vancouver now that the Canucks have Alex Pietrangelo but Juolevi has developed into a fine #2 defenseman. He is coming off a 40 point in 70 games season and is also a bedrock Top 4 member of the Finnish national team defensive core. Making $3.25 million and needing a contract extension.
6. Matthew Tkachuk, W, Calgary Flames: Tkachuk took many by surprise with a terrific post-draft rookie year in 2016/17 and has been an integral part of the Flames ever since with his aggressive, physical style and excellent combo of playmaking and goal scoring abilities. His best season to date was 2019/20 with 25 goals, 64 points and a +37 while his average years are more in the 20-25 goal/50-55 point range. Signed to a whopper of a deal - $10.8 million through 2028. His point total may not dazzle but he's an absolute leader on the Calgary team.
7. Clayton Keller, C, Arizona Coyotes: Slight in stature but huge on talent - Keller has had no issues developing into a prominent scoring center in the NHL. Made his full debut in 17/18 with a 54 point effot with a season best 30 goals, 65 points and +20 in 2019/20. Was on pace for another terrific season with 51 points in 61 games last year before injuries hampered the chance to beat careers bests. The best part for Arizona is that he is locked up at bargain $4.32 million through 2027.
8. Alex Nylander, W, Buffalo Sabres: With his older brother both a tremendous prospect and now a big NHL star, Alex has had some pressure to live up to sibling expectations - and things haven't always gone smoothly. Full debut in 17/18 with 20 goals and 40 points in 73 games but has topped that point total only once since then, with 43 points in 2019/20. A flashy winger with all kinds of puck skills, Nylander has never really adapted to the more physical style of the NHL and as of now, is a bit of an enigma. Making $3.55 million through 2024.
9. Mikhail Sergachyov, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: Sergachyov was originally drafted by Montreal but then deal in the summer of 2017 in the deal that sent Jonathan Drouin to the Habs with Serg the centerpiece coming back to the Bolts. Drouin has since become a true superstar and the French-Canadian icon the Habs have lusted for (last season he had 38 goals and 75 points in 69 games). So how did Tampa make out with Sergachyov? His first full season was 17/18 when he scored 34 points in 78 games from the blueline for Tampa and he's been a staple on the Tampa blueline since then. Has yet tohit the offensive heights expected but better than expected defensively. A top 4 defender who can man the PP - but perhaps not quite the desired return for Drouin. Signed at a cheap $1.76 million through 2026.
10. Tyson Jost, C, Colorado Avalanche: Jost has been a rock solid regular member of the Avs line-up since his full debut in 17/18 but has been given very limited opportunities to shine offensively - instead manning the defensive third line center spot behind MacKinnon and German Rubtsov (more on him later). A guy who will chip in 10 goals, 25 points, PK duty and with the skill to play higher up when asked to. His $2.3 million contract expires in 2024 and one can't help but wonder what kind of totals he could put up if used differently.
11. Logan Brown, C, Ottawa Senators: Brown made his NHL debut in the 18/19 season after finishing his career with Windsor in the OHL. He put up 27 points that year but in the subsequent season, he spent all year in AHL Belleville. He's been back to being a 3rd line regular for Ottawa the past couple seasons but like Jost his offensive game has just never come around. Unlike Jost, Brown has also been a little underwhelming defensively despitehis big size and reach - he was a -37 in 20/21. Making $986,000 this year.
12. Michael McLeod, C, Sibir-KHL (Rights: Los Angeles): While we've had a few underwhelming picks thus far, McLeod probably qualifies as the first real "bust" of the draft. Despite top notch acceleration, great face-off skills and good all-around attributes - McLeod has just never found his niche in the NHL. He was dealt to San Jose by New Jersey before ever appearing with the Devils and racked up 39 NHL appearances over the span of three seasons before leaving for Europe. Still young enough and talented enough to cross back over at some point for another shot; his NHL rights are now held by the Kings.
13. Jake Bean, D, No Club (Rights: Edmonton): The high-scoring Bean had a few cups of coffee in the NHL in 2018 but his real breakthrough came in 2018/19 while still in the AHL with Charlotte. That year, he torched the AHL for 73 points 80 games and won the AHL's top defenseman award. He was a regular for Carolina in the NHL the past couple seasons but his success has been somewhat limited; he had 17 points in 70 games last year. His RFA rights were traded to Edmonton this past summer but he remains unsigned with the season opener nearing. Whether he signs in Edmonton as a PP specialist or does a stint overseas is unknown at this point.
14. Charles McAvoy, D, Boston Bruins: Unlike Bean, McAvoy's bread and butter isn't simply scoring but all-around prowess. A physical defender with terrific all-around skills including sublime passing and a hard shot - McAvoy can play any which way you like and has been a top pairing defender for Boston (and Team USA regular) since his first full season in 16/17. Boston has a drool worthy young top defensive pairing with McAvoy lining up next to the sensation Ryan Merkley, with McAvoy signed to a terrific $5.55 million per year deal through 2028.
15. Luke Kunin, W, Torpedo-KHL (Rights: Vegas): Kunin's NHL career start well enough in 2017/18 where he made and was a regular member of the Wild at 20 years of age, scoring 13 goals. He continued with the Wild through the 2020 trade deadline but never found his groove and was dealt to Vegas. The following off-season he jumped over the pond - first to Mora in Sweden then to KHL powerhouse CSKA and then again this past summer to Torpedo, also in the KHL. It would not be surprising to see him resurface in the NHL at some point, with Vegas still owning his rights.
16. Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes: A surprise faller on 2016 draft day, Chychrun fell into the laps of Arizona and has been a mainstay for the Coyotes since that very same fall. Like McAvoy, he's an all-weather defender with size and all-around ability (albeit not as aggressive or flashy as McAvoy). Had his best offensive season to date in 21/22 with 8 gals and 37 points and plays significant roles on both the PP and PK in Arizona and also has lined up for Team Canada squads in the World Championships. Signed to a great $4.43 million deal through 2027.
17. Dante Fabbro, D, Vancouver Canucks: Originally a Nashville pick, the Canucks somehow (GAME BUG?) signed Fabbro as a free agent after Fabbro's sophomore year at BU after the 2017/18 season. Fabbro bounced back and forth between Utica in the AHL and the Canucks before finally becoming a third pairing regular last season in Vancouver, appearing in 69 games with 21 points and a +9. Dependable defensively with a good outlet pass, there's nothing flashy to Fabbro. Signed for $1.82 million per year through 2025.
18. Logan Stanley, D, Winnipeg Jets: The massive but somewhat plodding Stanley was a pick met with some ridicule in 2016. After finishing his OHL career in Windsor, Stanley spent three full seasons with the AHL's Manitoba Moose with nary a call-up for a cup of coffee to the NHL but he finally made his breakthrough last season, appearing in 54 games with the Jets and putting up a surprising 15 points and +9. With the Jets defensive under-going a reconstruction, he might find himself in a solid top 4 role this year and will look to earn a big raise from the $982,500 he's scheduled to make this season. A slow developer but starting to win some fans.
19. Kieffer Bellows, W, New York Islanders: Speaking of slow developers, the sniping winger Bellows may also fit that bill. After leaving a loaded BU program in the NCAA's, Bellows ended up with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks where his once season in the WHL produced a modest 28 goal, 40 point effort. He's been a huge goal scorer in the AHL since that time, wracking up seasons of 50, 42 and 33 goals at the AHL level (his 50 goal season included a paltry 8 assists - quality Cy Young numbers). Last season he finally made a breakthrough to the NHL, appearing in 22 games with 4 goals and 8 points and he's appeared to have made the Isles opening-night roster this season. Making $700,000 per year the next two seasons.
20. Dennis Cholowski, D, Detroit Red Wings: Yet another example like Stanley and Bellows where some patience by the drafting team looks to have paid off; Cholowski has put up some slick scoring seasons for a young blueliner in the AHL over the past few years but it wasn't until last season that he made his full debut in the NHL. But it was an excellent debut with 32 points in 71 games and Cholowski looks to be a first pairing PP mainstay and top 4 blueliner this year for a Wings defense in transition. Due $1.34 million per year through the end of 2024.
21. Julien Gauthier, W, Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes second 1st rounder of the 2016 draft, Gauthier - a large winger with slick scoring mits, made his full-time NHL debut in 19/20 after wrapping up his junior career with Saint John and then spending a year in the AHL with Charlotte. While a regular member of the Hurricanes the past 3 seasons, Gauthier has yet to put together the type of goal scoring year that Canes brass would like to see, with 16 goals and 23 points his best output to date, in 2020/21. Gauthier is signed at $1.27 million through the end of this season.
22. German Rubtsov, C, Colorado Avalanche: Rubtsov finished his junior career with Chicoutimi in 2017/18 and made his debut in 2018/19 with the Flyers, who drafted him. But in the middle of the season he was dealt to Colorado in the deal that sent Matt Duchene to the Flyers. Duchene left the Flyers as an UFA after the season (putting up some huge numbers in Dallas sense then) and the Flyers paid a dear price in Rubtsov who exploded for Colorado in 2020/21 with a 25 goal, 68 point, +20 season. While his last season was slightly less prolific with 53 points - he was a possession monster and put up a +31. A determined two-way player who is great in the dot and has surprising grit to go along with the skill, Rubtsov has the Avs' #2 center position behind MacKinnon on lock down and is signed at a bargain $3.06 million through 2026.
23. Henrik Borgstrom, C, Florida Panthers: The big Finnish center is an absolute marvel with the puck - a real dynamite stick handler capable of incredible players. But after a two-year college career with Denver, Borgstrom, although having appear in part or all of the past 4 seasons with Florida, is mostly flash with little substance at the NHL level. His top season to date is a meager 22 points in 65 games and for a guy who struggles with the physical and defensive side of things, that's not great. He'll need to show a lot more this year to earn a raise of the current $1.333 million he is making.
24. Max Jones, W, Anaheim Ducks: The rough and tumble former London Knight made his NHL debut in 2019/20 and has been on a slow improvement streak ever since then, becoming a valuable third line grinder and physical presence who can chip in a few goals. His 15 goals (and 25 points) last season were career highs and if he continues to improve offensively, he'll likely become that second line type power forward presence the Ducks had in mind when drafting him. Making only $950,000 this year with an extension due.
25. Riley Tufte, W, Dall Stars: A huge winger with nice offensive tools, Tufte was always going to be something of a project and after a two-year stint with Minnesota-Duluth and three full seasons in the AHL with the Texas Stars, Tufte finally became a regular with Dallas last season, chipping in 20 points in 72 games. Skating deficiencies will likely prevent him from ever becoming a top 6 type forward and he's not terribly physical or aggressive for his size but he can be a useful presence down low on the PP. He's making $1.02 million this year.
26. Tage Thompson, W, St. Louis Blues: Another towering winger who came through the NCAA ranks, Thompson spent 2 1/2 seasons in the AHL before making his debut in the NHL midway through the 2019/20 season. He's been plagued by injuries and has only appeared in 82 NHL games in the 2 1/2 seasons since that debut and has also struggled to make an impact offensively with 19 points in those 82 career games. His upside has definitely faded and he remains a project - albeit a cheap one, signed at $575,000 for two more seasons.
27. Brett Howden, C, KalPa-FIN (Rights: Tampa Bay): Howden is a tough-minded center who has developed mostly as a defensive presence after finishing an outstanding junior career in Moose Jaw. However, he found it hard to get regular ice time on a deep Tampa Bay team - his best season to date in the NHL was 19/20 with 12 points in 43 games. Unable to establish himself, Howden played last year with KalPa in Finnish Liiga and will again this season. Tampa retains his rights and could bring him back at some point.
28. Lucas Johansen, D, Washington Capitals: Lucas is the brother of star center Ryan Johansen. Unlike Ryan, Lucas, a defenseman, is far from flashy and prefers a steady defensive style at the pro level. After simmering in Hershey for a few seasons, Johansen finally cracked the Capitals defensive unit in 2021/22, putting up 7 points in 61 games. His skating has not developed to a sufficient enough level to let him be more than a third pairing type guy, for the time being at least. Due $1.02 million this season.
29. Trent Frederic, C, Boston Bruins: Frederic was an outstanding NCAA player for Wisconsin and has developed into a solid, albeit not flashy, pro. Isn't great at anything but won't hurt you anywhere either. Last season was his NHL debut and he put up 8 goals and 16 points in 74 games for the Bruins. Looks more likely to be a good third line center moving forward than a top 6 guy. His contracted at $971,000 through the end of this season.
30. Sam Steel, C, Anaheim Ducks: A hugely decorated scoring center in the WHL with Regina, Steel made his NHL debut in 18/19 and has been a regular for the Ducks since then, steadily climbing his way into more of a scoring role. His past two seasons he's had 43 and 39 points respectively and while those numbers don't wow - he's clearly got more in him as he gains more ice time and he'll battle for a key role this year behind the Ducks #1 center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With young phenom Marco Rossi wrapping up his QMJHL career and on the way up the depth chart, now would be an ideal time for Steel to stake his claim with another step forward, especially as it is a contract year - he makes $1.47 million on his current deal.
Best Players Drafted Outside the First Round
#33 - Rasmus Asplund, W, Buffalo Sabres: A super intelligent winger/center, he's been a great third liner for Buffalo the past three seasons, averaging 30-35 points per game - could easily top out as a top 6 guy with a defensive and playmaking bent.
#39 - Alex DeBrincat, W, Chicago Blackhawks: The diminutive DeBrincat has been a regular for Chicago over the last 4 1/2 seasons and while the offense has been slow to come around, seasons of 34 and 31 points the last two years indicate he may be on his way to bigger things.
#47 - Samuel Girard, D, Nashville Predators: A huge scoring junior defenseman, some questioned how Girard's game would translate to the NHL. After a couple of promising but unspectacular seasons in 19/20 and 20/21, Girard blossomed last year with a 45 point outing. Dynamic offensively and yet the latest in a long line of Nashville defensive gems.
#51 - Kale Clague, D, Los Angeles Kings: The Kings' top pick in this draft, Clague is a regular in their defensive unit and on the PP and has back-to-back 28 point season with much more, potentially, to come.
#54 - Tyler Parsons, G, Nashville Predators: By far the best looking goalie to come out of the draft, Parsons, who just turned 25, has yet to become a true #1 goalie but that should all change this year in Nashville where he looks set to be given the reigns. He was acquired in the 2021 trade that sent Mattias Ekholm to Calgary. Definitely has All-Star potential.
#58 - Taylor Raddysh, W, Tampa Bay Lightning: Raddysh is a smooth winger who has been a regular the last four seasons for Tampa; his career best season to date is 23 goals and 39 points.
Best Late Round Finds (5th Round or Later
#132 - Yegor Rykov, D, New Jersey Devils: Russian defender who plays a well-rounded game, he's really come on for the Devils the past two seasons as a dependable defender who can chip in offensively. Not a stretch to see him as a solid top 4 guy for years to come.
#135 - Joona Koppanen, W, Boston Bruins: Huge Finnish winger has been a third line regular for the Bruins the past three seasons, averaging about 20-25 points per year.
#166 - Matthew Phillips, W, Calgary Flames: Absolutely tiny but was a nice spark for Calgary last season with 8 goals and 15 points in 42 games. Plays with passion and fire that outweigh his size - don't be shocked if he's here to stick for good.
#196 - Dmitri Sokolov, W, Minnesota Wild: Sokolov was once viewed before the 2016 draft as a potential candidtae to go #1 overal - his skills were that good. But mediocre OHL seasons and a lack of commitment saw him drop - almost completely out of the draft - before the Wild caught him in the very last round. He's been a regular the past four years; his point totals looks awfully subdued (56 points in 235 games) but his shot and skill is off the charts. Even if he remains something of an engima - a 4th line/PP specialist who will dazzle with a handful of plays each year - that's still not bad for the end of the draft.