The NHL Draft is officially over, which means it's time to take an early look at how each team in the Central Division fared. Rather than breaking down and projecting how each player will turn out, we took each team's circumstance under consideration and based our grades by looking at the big picture.
Chicago Blackhawks: C
The Blackhawks cashed in their 2015 first-round pick for Antoine Vermette — who scored three game-winning goals in the final two rounds of the postseason — meaning they had to wait until pick No. 54 to make their first selection of the draft. It's difficult to make a big splash when you don't have a first-rounder, which general manager Stan Bowman would have liked to acquire, and are handcuffed due to salary cap restraints, so it was a quiet weekend for the Blackhawks. The most important part about it was, Bowman didn't make any impulse decisions, and rarely ever does, knowing he has the rest of the summer to shed salary. Second-round pick Graham Knott, a physical, skilled defensive player, highlights the class.
Colorado Avalanche: B-
The Avalanche traded away center Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo minutes after the NHL Draft began on Friday, gaining an extra second round pick (which eventually turned into pick No. 39) and three other young players in return. While you'd rather have a guy like O'Reilly on a team looking to take the next step, the Avalanche feared the two sides wouldn't have been able to reach a long-term agreement when his contract expires next season so they got what they could for him before it was too late. The Avalanche quickly shifted their attention to the No. 10 overall pick, where they selected one of the more intriguing prospects in 18-year-old Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen, the best European skater in the draft. He may get a chance to compete for a roster spot as early as next season, adding to the collection of young studs developing in Colorado.
Dallas Stars: C+
The Stars only had five draft picks, but wisely sacrificed their seventh-rounder for the negotiating rights to goaltender Antti Niemi. That alone addresses a gaping hole. The problem is, the Stars may be spending close to $10 million on their goaltenders alone — assuming Niemi signs — with Kari Lehtonen already carrying a $5.9 million cap hit for three more years, so it certainly comes at a steep price. But the Stars are also excited about their No. 12 overall pick, Denis Guryanov, a talented Russian forward who may need a year to develop.
Minnesota Wild: B-
The best news over the weekend for the Wild was the six-year contract extension goaltender Devan Dubnyk signed to stay in Minnesota. It solidifies they can officially move forward with their long-term plan rather than approach free agency trying to stay above water by looking to replace a goaltender who played his way into the Hart Trophy discussion last season. The Wild strengthened their roster by selecting center Joel Eriksson EK, a highly-touted European player, at No. 20 overall and snagged a couple decent value picks in the later rounds.
Nashville Predators: C+
Like the Blackhawks, the Predators didn't have a first-round selection after they traded it to Toronto for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli before the trade deadline last year. And they could've used one this year to continue adding young talent with 2012 first-round pick Filip Forsberg, who led the team in scoring. The Predators are looking to prove that last year wasn't a fluke and the only way to build a consistent winner is through the draft. It's no secret they're also looking to improve up the middle, and they addressed that by taking three centers with their first three picks. But they'll need time to develop.
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St. Louis Blues: D
Entering the 2014-15 season, the Blues, on paper, looked like a complete team from top to bottom. But after another early playoff exit, rumors have swirled all offseason about the possibility of the Blues moving a big name such as David Backes or T.J. Oshie, making it difficult to assess their draft without having a clear sense of direction. Are the Blues looking to sacrifice picks for a chance to go all-in next season or stockpile them to plan for the future? If it's the latter, they're not off to a good start considering they only had one selection in the first three rounds, which didn't include a first.
Winnipeg Jets: A
The Jets easily had the best draft out of any team in the Central Division. While the Blackhawks, Predators, and Blues watched the first round pass without making a pick, the Jets made two of them: winger Kyle Connor at No. 17 and center Jack Roslovic at No. 25. The one Winnipeg has to be excited about is Connor, who fell into their laps. The 18-year-old who was named MVP of the United States Hockey League will give the Jets a much-needed boost on offense whenever they feel he's ready to be on their NHL roster full-time, which may take a year or two. Great value pick as the Jets continue their rise.