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Blockbuster Draft Day

by J.J. Jameson | September 22, 2018, 11:45 PM ET

Usually at this time of the year, I spend an evening figuring out exactly who legendary hockey mind Express GM Mark MacRae and his scouting staff have landed at the entry draft. This year my job was made much more difficult by a huge trade that went down just hours before the draft.  MacRae shipped out Reilly Smith, Charlie Coyle, the 6th overall pick in the draft and a 4th round pick previously acquired from Las Vegas to the Boston Colonials in exchange for young phenom David Pastrnak, and prospects Maxime Comtois, Filip Chlapik and Connor Murphy.  The deal also reported includes a conditional draft pick.

"Based on our draft planning, and the all the moves being made around us post-expansion, we felt that the best value we could get with that 6th overall pick was to trade it." said MacRae "I'd had my eye on Pasta for a few years, and I'm very pleased that we could make a deal that made sense for our team right now that included him."

Looking at last season's performance Fredericton ended up with the best player in the trade in Pastrnak (61pts in 2017-18 versus Smith's 48 and Coyle's 40).  Pastrnak is a fearless, creative speedy winger who, at just 21 years old is already a star.  Undoubtedly landing him is a huge win, but replacing two top line players with one means that the team, already short on forward depth, just got even shallower on offense. Of the young players they got, only Murphy is likely to crack the roster this year.  With the departure of Joel Edmundson via the hateful expansion draft for absolutely nothing, the Express had a hole that needed filling on the third D-pair. Murphy looks like the logical pick.

Still, this trade could work out in the long term, if other these and other prospects already in the Express system like Alex Debrincat and Pierre-Luc Dubois develop to their full potential, this could be a great team for a very long time... eventually.

Speaking of developing young talent, the Express also made six selections in the entry draft as follows:

  • Jakub Lauko - F (2nd Round, 34th overall): Lauko was the fastest skater availble in the draft. He's not necessarily much of an offensive threat, however as his puck skills and finish are only average. Most scouts project him to be an energy third-line type of guy.
  • Kevin Bahl - D (3rd Round, 63rd overall): It's not hard to figure out what there is to like about a 6-foot-6 231-pound teenage defensemen. It's unclear at this point whether he will be able to develop his game to a pro level, but as a wise man once said: "You can't teach size".
  • Alec Regula - D (4th Round, 92nd overall): Improved as his draft year progressed. Great range and movement. Not flashy but steady.
  • Aidan Dudas - F (5th Round, 121st overall): He may be a similar size, but Dudas is not the second coming of Debrincat. He's a high volume shooter with a good wrist shot and may top out as a middle-six guy someday.
  •  Filip Kral - D (6th Round, 150th overall): His biggest asset is his skating. The challenge for Kral is that his defensive game is arguably his weakness.  He did lead all WHL rookie defensemen in scoring last season, so we'll cross our fingers and hope he continues to develop, but he seems like a project.
  • Jacob Ingham - G (7th Round, 179th overall): We picked a goalie. Ingham entered the season as one of the top draft prospects among goalies and has found a way to maintain his standing despite showing critical technical flaws in his net awareness and glove-hand positioning.

Ok, so after doing my post-draft research, I feel I need to take a closer look at that trade.... because I don't see any obvious gems among those picks.

Filip Chlapik "is a Solid, two-way centre who is very smart and can play in the varying situations of the game and find ways to be a positive contributor. There is nothing flashy about his game but he finds the path to productivity with and without the puck and adds the quality of timely plays to his repertoire." Ok, sounds like Middle-six potential.

Maxime Comtois "is highly skilled and highly competitive".  Wait, what?! Ok, this sounds good. And I see this kid was one of the leading scorers in the Q' last year, just a few points ahead of somebody named Zadina. Sounds... interesting. Keep an eye on this one.

You might glean from reading my column today that I was not overly excited by Fredericton's draft day 2018. That's partly true. It's one of those wait-and-see kinda days. One of the biggest trades in club history might turn out to be one of our best or one of our worst, or anything in between.  It's too soon to tell. I would have loved to have seen us grab another top prospect with that 6th overall pick, because as of today I don't see any standouts among the crop of new prospects. Fans are going to fall in love with Pasta, there is no doubt.  I just hope the Express are able to surround him with a supporting cast that can take us back to the promised land before he retires.

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