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2024 NHL DRAFT WRAP UP: The best value picks plus the biggest surprise in each round

What a draft week it was! The Sphere in Vegas lived up to the hype, and then some. Perhaps, this is biased, but it was one of the most impressive spectacles that I have ever been part of. Derek Neumeier (our assistant director of scouting) and myself were blown away by the production. The feedback from fans was similar in nature; no question the live draft in Vegas was a massive success for the NHL.

But what about the actual draft action itself? Like any draft, there were things that went according to script and there were surprises.

From our Top 100 on our final draft rankings, 97 of said players were drafted. The only ones not selected were Alex Zetterberg, Daniil Ustinkov, and Tomas Galvas. Galvas was the highest of those three at 70th overall.

Let’s take a look at some of my favourite selections, some of the biggest surprises, and some of the best undrafted players.


Favourite Selection: Sam Dickinson (#11) to San Jose

Dickinson had been our favorite defender in this class nearly all season long and we really like the value San Jose got at #11 after trading up from #14 a few days prior. Dickinson is such a safe bet to a top four defender for the organization; the kind of player who can eat serious minutes for them when they’re ready to take that next step again as a playoff contender.

Favourite Selection: Stian Solberg (#23) to Anaheim

This represents one of the best fits in the draft for us. Solberg improved so much in the second half, and we saw that at the World Championships, where he was a standout playing tough minutes against NHL players with Norway. His game still needs further refinement, but he projects as the perfect partner for the likes of Olen Zellweger or Pavel Mintyukov (even though all three are left-handed shots) with his physical intense defensive presence. It’s obvious Anaheim really liked him as they traded up into this slot with Toronto.

Biggest Surprise: Terik Parascak (#17) to Washington

This one caught a lot of people by surprise on the draft floor. There was probably more talk that Parascak could be a “faller” due to concerns over pace/quickness, in combination with his average size. Even Parascak was incredibly surprised to be taken this early, with a look of bewilderment following the announcement of his name. Our Western scouts are still a bit leery of his NHL odds, but there’s no denying that he was one of the draft’s most intelligent players. Washington is banking on that, hoping that he can have a Joe Pavelski type career.

Biggest Surprise (bonus): Beckett Sennecke (#3) to Anaheim

This one wasn’t as big of a surprise to those on the floor because there was a ton of chatter about this about an hour prior to the draft. However, it’s obvious Sennecke had no idea because he was visibly shocked to hear his name, creating one of the most genuine and honest draft reactions of the weekend. Anaheim is banking on Sennecke’s athletic upside and second half improvements, which is often an intelligent thing to do.


Favourite Selection: Teddy Stiga (#55) to Nashville

Look at all the teams clamoring to sign Jake Guentzel this offseason, because of how good of a complementary offensive player he is. Stiga proved that same thing this year, playing alongside potential 2025 first overall pick James Hagens. He’s a hard worker. He’s skilled. His skating improved over the year. There’s a ton to like and we really like the fit in Nashville for him. These are the types of players Nashville had an abundance of when they were dominating the West.

Favourite Selection: Carter George (#57) to Los Angeles

Admittedly, I was a bit worried that Carter George would drop a bit because of his lack of size in a size-crazed industry (concerning goaltenders). So, it was great to see George go in the second round to Los Angeles. There’s a deep-rooted connection to Owen Sound there and George is a heck of a goaltender. He’s so polished and refined already; he’s a big game goaltender.

Biggest Surprise: Ilya Nabokov (#38) to Colorado

Speaking of goaltenders, it was a shock to see 21-year-old Ilya Nabokov as the first netminder taken…and this early. Granted, his resume spoke for itself this year as the KHL’s playoff MVP. Colorado obviously wasn’t a big fan of their goaltending this year and by selecting Nabokov, they’re taking someone who can be a potential difference maker very soon, a lot sooner than your average draft eligible netminder.


Favourite Selection: Tarin Smith (#79) to Anaheim

Anaheim has had tremendous luck drafting electric offensive defenders like Smith in recent years. Mintyukov, Zellweger and Rodwin Dionicio all fit the mold. Zellweger even came from the same Everett (WHL) program as Smith. He is very raw. However, his offensive upside from the backend is extremely high. With such a strong and deep talent pool in place, Anaheim could afford to take a chance on him.

Favourite Selection: Matvei Shuravin (#97) to Florida

We ranked Shuravin #34 in our final rankings but did realize that we were higher on him than we expected him to be selected this weekend. It would appear that his weaker second half really pushed him down some draft boards. However, that’s Florida’s gain as they selected an athletic defender who showed some terrific flashes this year at both the KHL and MHL levels.

Biggest Surprise: Henry Mews (#74) to Calgary

Personally, I had somewhat expected Mews to fall at the draft. I didn’t believe that he would be a top 40-45 pick. However, I also did not expect him to slide all the way to the mid third. He’s a fairly dynamic offensive defender. I certainly have questions about his projection, but this represents great value for Calgary, especially after they grabbed Zayne Parekh in the first.


Favourite Selection: Heikki Ruohonen (#107) to Philadelphia

We felt that Ruohonen was being massively underrated this year due to the fact that he stayed in the Finnish U20 league in order to preserve his NCAA eligibility. He’ll play in the USHL next year then head to Harvard. The physically imposing two-way power pivot is someone who could dramatically outperform his draft slot.

Favourite Selection: Hagen Burrows (#128) to Tampa Bay

We get the concerns over the feet. Burrows needs to improve his skating. But the 2024 Mr. Hockey Award winner plays a mature, pro-style game. He is a strong playmaker, and he can find his way to the net. Once he fills out his frame, he could be a terrific middle six NHL player.

Biggest Surprise: Trevor Hoskin (#106) to Calgary

As someone who covers Ontario, I just didn’t see this one coming. I thought that maybe Hoskin had a chance to go late in the draft after a strong World Junior A Challenge performance, however, this early? It’s very, very rare to see a double re-entry selected from Canadian Tier 2, let alone almost in the Top 100. We’ll see how this one works out for Calgary in the long run.

Biggest Surprise (bonus): Aron Kiviharju (#122) to Minnesota

I mean, how could we not include Kiviharju here. Yes, we expected him to fall. But, to the end of the fourth? So, what’s next for Kiviharju? Would he consider coming to the OHL next year to help recover his former top prospect status?


Favourite Selection: Luke Misa (#150) to Calgary

No question, we could have listed this as the biggest surprise of round five. Seeing Misa fall to the mid-5th round was shocking. However, this is also an excellent value pick by Calgary. Did Misa close out this past OHL season on a high note? No. But, does he have the skating ability, tenacity, and skill to be an NHL player in some capacity? Absolutely.

Favourite Selection: Justin Poirier (#156) to Carolina

At some point, a player becomes just too good to pass up, even if you have concerns over projectability. In the 5th round, Poirier is terrific value for the Hurricanes. The size, skating, and IQ components of his game are dicey. But you can’t argue with the production and the offensive upside. Bottom line, you’re not going to find many guys in round five who could be top six scorers and that’s Poirier.

Biggest Surprise: Max Graham (#139) to New Jersey

No offense intended to Graham, but when he was drafted, I turned to Derek (who also scouts the West for us) and asked him who? He was flabbergasted that Graham, a double overager, was selected. He didn’t come close to hitting the point per game mark as a 20-year-old and it certainly brings to light questions over NHL upside.


Favourite Selection: Anthony Romani (#162) to Vancouver

I get the hesitation from NHL scouts. Is his offensive skill set translatable? He’s purely a complementary guy; one of the “quietest” CHL leading scorers in recent memory. But, at some point you have to bet on players who think the game at an elite level and that’s Romani. One team used a 17th overall selection on a player with pace/strength concerns, but high-end hockey sense, and another used the 162nd overall pick. Who got the best value?

Favourite Selection: Luke Ashton (#165) to Columbus

A re-entry out of the BCHL, Ashton is a really intriguing defensive prospect. He’s big. He’s mean. He’s athletic. He flashes high end skill. How it all comes together at a higher level remains to be seen. But we really like the upside. We also really like that he’s going to Minnesota State, a program that has developed defenders like him well.

Biggest Surprise: Stevie Leskovar (#174) to Minnesota

Again, no offense meant to Leskovar, but Derek had the same reaction to him as I did Graham. If you had told me that Leskovar would be drafted ahead of Leenders, Fibigr, and Finn Harding from that same Mississauga team, I would have called you crazy. Leskovar is a big, mean, throwback on the back end. He got better this year in his first full year with the Steelheads. But an NHL draft selection?


Favourite Selection: Ryerson Leenders (#219) to Buffalo

It worked with Devon Levi. It could work again with Leenders. He’s on the smaller side, but he’s very athletic. Quick post to post and solid in scramble mode, Leenders just needs to refine his approach and improve technically. He’s capable of stealing games and he could end up being a draft steal when all is said and done, similar to the way Florida got Levi (then traded him to Buffalo).

Favourite Selection: Erik Pahlsson (#213) to Nashville

We’ve had Pahlsson ranked for a few years now, so it was great to see him finally get selected after a solid year in the USHL. Again, there are some projection concerns over the athletic profile, but he finds a way to be productive. He’s intelligent. He’s shifty. He’s probably going to produce at the college level too with Minnesota.

Biggest Surprise: Alex Zetterberg Goes Undrafted, but Mac Swanson gets selected

Again, you hit a point in the draft where players are worth selecting despite some limitations. Mac Swanson’s size and skating combination are worrisome, but he’s one heck of a smart player. If he hits, he’s going to be a home run. The same could be said of Alex Zetterberg, the Swedish equivalent, who did nothing but produce this year. If you’re taking a chance on Swanson this late, Zetterberg deserved to go too.


Tomas Galvas

The undersized defender was one of the draft’s best skaters, but it wasn’t enough for NHL teams. He’ll need to take his offensive game to another level. Would be great to see him in the CHL next year.

Daniil Ustinkov

Ustinkov started the year as a potential first round candidate and ended up not being selected. Concerns over his processing ability ultimately scared off teams. Does he come over to London next year to try to turn his career around?

Alex Zetterberg

Again, this one feels like a misstep. Yes, he’s small. Yes, there are strength concerns. But he’s ultra talented. Few players available in the 7th round would have had the upside of Zetterberg.

Nolan Roed

Our aggressive ranking of Roed came mostly from me, as he was a player I was very impressed with at the USHL and high school levels. I liked the competitive drive in his game. Next year’s Joe Connor?

Lukas Matecha

He just couldn’t recover from his poor second half. If he can put together a more consistent season next year, he’ll be back on the draft radar.

Matthew Van Blaricom

This one is shocking to me. Loved the aggressive and tenacious approach. Had a terrific WJAC. Here’s hoping that he goes somewhere next year (USHL, NCAA) where he can show that he should have been selected.

Frankie Marrelli

I get it. He’s an undersized stay at home type. But this young man is just such a smart defensive player. He competes hard and he’s going to get better at the offensive end too.

Gian Meier

A breakout performer at the U18’s with Switzerland, we figured someone would take Meier given the flashes he showed this year as a two-way defender.