As we approach a month since the NHL Entry Draft took place, teams have started to lock up their newest talents to lucrative deals and will soon begin the process of determining where they’ll play next season (if they haven’t already). For some, the contract seemed a mere formality and was signed within days of the draft; for others, their continuing negotiations are like torture for the fans that have already put in a pre-order for a dozen jerseys, and promised to name their next child Auston, Clayton, or Tyson.
Here is the current status of each of the top ten picks of the 2016 NHL draft:
(Annual average value (AAV) includes potential performance bonuses.)
- Auston Matthews (TOR) – Unsigned – Matthews continues to negotiate with the Maple Leafs on his entry-level deal, though all signs point to an amiable discussion so far. With GM Lou Lamoriello’s known opposition to incentive-laden contracts, perhaps the Maple Leafs and first-overall pick are working out something a little more creative to reward Matthews.
- Patrik Laine (WPG) – Signed, July 3rd: Three years, $3.575MM AAV – After moving up four spots in the draft lottery, Winnipeg was given the chance to draft a potential franchise-altering player in Laine, and they didn’t take long to lock him up. The Finnish winger is an elite goal scoring talent that should step into the NHL right away and be a threat for the Calder trophy. He came in just $200K under the maximum allowed for players signing their ELC.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois (CBJ) – Signed, June 29th: Three years, $3.425MM AAV – The Blue Jackets also moved up after winning a lottery spot, and were expected by many to pick Jesse Puljujarvi, the other Finnish winger who had long been a top choice by scouts. Instead, the team looked down the middle and took the second ranked center in Dubois. Though he’ll probably head back to the QMJHL for another season, Dubois has an extremely high ceiling capable of being a number one center – Columbus will give him every chance to reach it.
- Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM) – Signed, July 13th: Three years, $3.425MM AAV – Even with the glut of young forwards Edmonton already had, they couldn’t pass up a chance at Puljujarvi after he fell to four. They tried to trade the pick but couldn’t find fair value for it, and so added the young Finn to their group. Perhaps that led them to the decision that Taylor Hall was expendable, as they have another elite talent on the wing (though he and Hall normally play opposite sides) that could jump to the NHL right away.
- Olli Juolevi (VAN) – Unsigned – The first defenseman taken in this year’s draft, Juolevi was a rising talent after his Memorial Cup victory with the London Knights. Capable of playing in any situation, Juolevi is as good of a defensive prospect as you can expect to get with the fifth overall pick. Perhaps not a franchise player, he’ll be a big part of Vancouver’s blueline for years to come – that is, whenever he signs his first contract.
- Matthew Tkachuk (CGY) – Signed, July 7th: Three years, $1.775MM AAV – The Flames’ front office must have been ecstatic when Tkachuk was still available when their turn came, as he’s exactly the type of player that President Brian Burke loves. Tkachuck, son of former NHL great Keith, agreed to a deal that will max-out under $2MM even if he hits all of his bonuses. If he turns into the player many believe him to be, at some point skating alongside new Flames’ right-winger Troy Brouwer would be an imposing sight to be sure.
- Clayton Keller (ARZ) – Unsigned – The Arizona Coyotes followed Columbus’ lead and took a center with their first pick of the round (they would later trade for the 16th overall pick to select D Jakob Chychrun) but haven’t signed the USA standout. As we reported yesterday, Keller is standing by his commitment to head to Boston University next season, though the Windsor Spitfires are doing everything they can to bring him to the OHL. He likely won’t sign with the Coyotes until he’s ready to make the jump from the NCAA.
- Alexander Nylander (BUF) – Signed, July 15th: Three years, $1.775MM AAV – The younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs center William and son of former NHLer Michael, Nylander is expected to play a big part in the re-build for Buffalo over the next few seasons. With the team hitting rock bottom last year, they are on a steady climb upwards and have perhaps turned a corner with the huge signing of Kyle Okposo this summer. Nylander has impressed many at camp with his blend of skating ability and hard shot.
- Mikhail Sergachev (MTL) – Signed, July 1st: Three years, $1.775MM AAV – Sergachev is an interesting case, as he came over in the OHL’s import draft and made an impact in his rookie season, winning the Max Kaminsky trophy as the league’s top blueliner. Many think he’ll head back to Windsor for another season, but there has been rumbling that he could crack the Canadiens roster as soon as this year. The left-handed shooting Russian is a born powerplay quarterback, and may eventually slide in next to Shea Weber on the top unit.
- Tyson Jost (COL) – Unsigned – Colorado reached into the BCHL to select Jost, an elite offensive talent out of Penticton, if a little undersized. He’ll be heading to the NCAA this year as well, as he’s committed to the University of North Dakota for 2016-17. This is the usual route for players out of Penticton, as since the CHL is deemed a professional league by the NCAA, the BCHL is the highest level of hockey in North America allowed before heading to college. Like Keller, don’t expect Jost to sign anytime soon.
For the other twenty picks of the first round, only Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier have signed as of yet. Many of the players selected here won’t sign a contract until their 2016-17 assignment/league has been decided. Keep an eye on PHR and Roster Resource to track when they sign and where they’re headed next season.