As the importance of drafting and developing talent takes precedence in a hard cap league, PHR takes a look at how the first five picks from the 2016 NHL Draft fared nearly a calendar year after their selection.
#1: Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
It almost seems silly writing about him since the Calder Trophy nominated center has been one of the major reasons the Leafs made the playoffs and have given the Capitals fits. Matthews had 69 points in 82 games (40-29) and was everything the Leafs could have hoped he would be. Matthews scored four goals in his debut, and though he had his share of rookie struggles, looked wise beyond his very young age on the ice. Already in the playoffs, Matthews has four points in five games in the playoffs (3-1) and will certainly lead this team to a contender status in the years to come.
#2: Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets
Hardly a consolation prize, Laine is also a Calder Trophy finalist and finished the season with 64 points (36-28) but it was individual performances that garnered attention. Laine registered three hat tricks this season, and in a strictly point-per-game glance, Laine led Matthews and every other rookie this season. Should Winnipeg improve their fortunes, Laine has the game breaking ability to take a talented team deep into the playoffs.
#3: Pierre-Luc Dubois – Columbus Blue Jackets
One of only two players in the top ten to not spend time with the big club, Dubois split time with Cape Breton and Blainville-Boisbriand in the QMJHL. He didn’t disappoint. Combined, the left winger had 55 points in 48 games (21-34) and has been dynamic in the President’s Cup playoffs, posting 14 points (5-9) in 11 games. The Armada are currently in the semi-finals against Charlottetown (trailing 1-0), and if his current performance is any indication, Dubois could find himself breaking camp with the Blue Jackets next fall.
#4: Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton Oilers
Puljujarvi was sent down in early January after making the team out of camp, and his numbers in Bakersfield were respectable: 28 points (12-16) in 39 games and the opportunity to play real minutes instead of playing limited time in Edmonton. Puljujarvi appears to be a rising star, and the extra seasoning should help. His play will continue as he was loaned to Finland’s national team to play in the World Championships.
#5: Olli Juolevi – Vancouver Canucks
Juolevi spent the season with the London Knights, racking up 42 points (10-32) in 58 games. His point total matched his 2015-16 results, with the exception of adding a goal. Juolevi scored the game winning goal in the first round of the OHL playoffs against Windsor that sent the Knights onto the second round, where they ultimately lost to Erie in seven games. During their 14 game run, Juolevi had eight points (3-5). The smooth puck moving defenseman was the first blueliner taken in the draft, and could be a candidate to make the team next year as the Canucks will be retooling their roster with more youth.