When it comes to gaining immediate impact, the teams picking near the top of the first round have a leg up, obviously. Outside of the top 10 picks, it's rare to get a player who is NHL-ready.
Last year, Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly, a second-round selection, was the only player picked outside the top 10 who played in the NHL. As we take a knee-jerk look at this year's draft, the winners are the ones who may have had the most success finding those quick-impact gems outside of the first few picks.
Florida Panthers: New general manager Dale Tallon had himself a great weekend in Los Angeles, bulking up the forward population with a number of big kids who will add muscle to the Panthers' lineup in a few years. Along with getting huge defenseman Erik Gudbranson with the third overall pick, Tallon added two forwards later in the first, getting Minnesota high school star Nick Bjugstad and Canadian Quinton Howden. Bjugstad will head to the University of Minnesota for at least a year or two, while Howden will play at least one more year in the WHL before moving into the Panthers' organization.
Talented forward John McFarland and defenseman Alex Petrovic -- both thought to be potential first-round picks -- went early in the second to Florida.
This might be a longer process than frustrated Panthers fans have the patience to put up with, but Tallon took huge steps toward getting the franchise back on track with his haul from this draft.
Getting Michael Grabner from Vancouver in the Keith Ballard trade certainly helped.
Anaheim Ducks: For whatever reason, defenseman Cam Fowler, who once looked like a lock for the top three in the draft, was available to the Ducks at No. 12. Unlike teams ahead of them, the Ducks weren't going to ignore the chance to add an NHL-ready talent, so they pounced.
Fowler provides the potential for the Ducks to replace Scott Niedermayer. Obviously, Fowler won't do that immediately, but he has a chance to be a very good puck-moving defenseman in the NHL. It doesn't hurt that he'll have Niedermayer's mentorship right out of the chute.
The Ducks opted for California-born forward Emerson Etem with the pick they got from Philadelphia in the Chris Pronger trade last year. Etem was a crowd favorite at the draft, and his offensive flash could make him a crowd favorite at the Honda Center very soon.
New York Islanders: The Islanders get a bit of a pass for not taking Fowler at fifth overall, as they have some impressive young defensemen in their minor-league system. Instead, they took Swiss forward Nino Niederreiter, who became a star at the World Junior Championships and rode that momentum all the way to the draft. At the end of the round, New York traded up to grab another big forward, Minnesota high-schooler Brock Nelson. While Niederreiter could make general manager Garth Snow have to make a really tough decision during training camp, the Islanders can let Nelson develop in college at the University of North Dakota.
The big splash came in the third round, on the Islanders' next pick. They took Russian star Kirill Kabanov, once a top-five prospect but a player whose stock rapidly fell since January. Kabanov will try to resurrect his image with the Islanders, a team that could really use more players with his type of talent. In the third round, it's very difficult to argue with a pick like this. In fact, this is a great pick by Snow, because there is no risk involved, and if Kabanov ends up being a home run, he'll have a huge impact on this franchise's resurrection.
Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes: I wasn't terribly impressed with neither team's whole draft, but it's not often that a playoff team adds an NHL-ready player in the draft. This year, two of them did. The Bruins took advantage of Toronto's dreadful season -- and acquisition of Phil Kessel -- to nab the No. 2 player in the draft, center Tyler Seguin.
Phoenix had the No. 13 pick in the first round, sent to them last year by Calgary in the trade for Olli Jokinen (the gift that keeps on giving, it seems). The Coyotes wasted no time nabbing Brandon Gormley, the "other" free-falling first-round defenseman after Fowler. It's not a lock Gormley will play in the NHL this fall, but it seems to be a much better possibility than many of the players drafted ahead of him.
Colorado Avalanche: As draft analysts always are pointing out, it only takes one team. If just one team likes a particular player, that's good enough make that player a first-rounder.
With all due respect to Avalanche management, who hit a home run with their top two picks last year (Matt Duchene and O'Reilly), Joey Hishon isn't a first-rounder. TSN analysts were so perplexed by the pick that they had to stutter on the air to kill time and find their notes.
Hishon is a fine talent, and would likely have been no worse than a mid-second round pick. But going at No. 17 overall is just crazy. He's undersized, has health concerns (largely because of that lack of size), and now has to find a way to make himself a viable pro against bigger and stronger players.
TSN's comparison of Pierre-Marc Bouchard was a fitting one. Hishon is similar in body frame and playing style. His job will be to build a bit more bulk and show he can stay healthy for a long season despite not having a lot of size. It's easier said than done for many.
Give the Avalanche credit, though, because they did do well to get Canadian goalie Calvin Pickard halfway through the second round.
New York Rangers: It's not that Dylan McIlrath can't play in the NHL. "The Undertaker" loves the physical side of the game, and his hits will leave plenty of marks in the NHL.
However, the Rangers whiffed by taking him over two better all-around players in Fowler and Gormley. McIlrath is probably a year or two away from the NHL, while Fowler and Gormley could both play in the league this fall. Also, McIlrath doesn't have nearly the upside of the other two.
It's a questionable pick, and one that could haunt the Rangers, who are starving for offense from players not named Marian Gaborik.
That said, at least Philadelphia was a late comer to the draft for good reason. Last year, they dealt their first-round pick to Anaheim in the Pronger trade, and that seemed to work out pretty well for them. The Flames lost their first rounder in that aforementioned Jokinen deal, and it was a near-disaster for them.
Carolina Hurricanes: They took quite a risk with Jeff Skinner in the top ten. The forward has a knack for scoring goals, but there were major questions about his commitment level, and his flaws as a two-way player are tough to overlook when you're trying to make a pick this high in the draft.
The Hurricanes did try to make up for it later, grabbing three promising young defensemen in Justin Faulk, Mark Alt, and Danny Biega. But none of them are less than three years from the NHL, and the Hurricanes missed a chance to impact their defensive corps much faster.