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Let’s talk about the 2020 NHL entry draft! And do you feel better or worse about the Kapanen trade this morning?
The first round of the NHL draft last night was fairly quiet and went off about as expected. There were no major trades during the event, outside of Calgary twice moving back in the first round and collecting some extra draft capital.
Today at 11:30 the NHL will get Rounds 2-7 going, with the Penguins finally scheduled for their first pick at No. 77 overall, barring any trade moves they pull. Pittsburgh picks in rounds 3, 4, 5 and 6 this year, with various trades taking away their picks.
Last night, the Pens would have had pick 15, had they not traded it for Kasperi Kapanen. The Toronto Maple Leafs used said pick to draft Russian winger Rodion Amirov there. Here’s what Pension Plan Puppets said of the move:
He’s a Russian winger who does a bit of everything well, including defense. In that sense he seems to be a perfect fit for what the Leafs need, especially after some better options were off the board at that point.
Amirov plays for his hometown team in Slavat, Russia. He’s grown up in the club and has already played part of one season in the KHL. He had two assists last year in 21 games, playing a very limited role as a designated junior (he wouldn’t count against the roster limits).
This year, he’s already played 10 games, and had three goals and two assists with a nice, healthy 15 minutes per game.
He’s spent some time in the VHL (second division below the KHL) in both last season and the season that has already begun. While last year, his main job was on the junior team, this year, he looks like he might be sticking in the KHL. His VHL games came early in the season, and he’s been on the KHL roster since late September.
Amirov has been praised for his hands and offensive ability and has been called a very smooth player. He’s shown out well against lower competition and against his age group and has advanced into playing up into higher levels like the KHL at a young age. He’s also listed at 167 pounds and while there are reports his NHL readiness could be fairly quick, and he was one of the older players in his draft class, I’m still a bit skeptical that Amirov would be an instant top-six forward in the NHL in quick fashion.
We also have no idea if the Penguins would have drafted Amirov. They could have selected a player still on the board at that point like Dawson Mercer, Conor Zary, Kaiden Guhle or Hendrix Lapierre. Some of those named are likely to be NHL contributors. Some could be minimal to no impact players.
At this point though, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone feels better or worse for acquiring Kapanen. While Fillip Hallander is a decent prospect, he projects at this point as a bottom-six forward and could be considered fairly vanilla or replaceable. The true meat and value of the TOR/PIT trade was the first round pick going for Kapanen.
Kapanen, 24, already has a 20 goal and 44 point NHL season under his belt. We will see what the future holds for Amiron, but there is a strong possibility that, generally speaking, mid-first picks aren’t guaranteed to have 20 goal, 44 point seasons at any point of their careers.
For the Penguins, a team that needs help now, they think Kapanen will add speed and some finishing ability on their first or second line and be a productive option with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Amirov or Zary or Mercer or anyone else picked last night probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the very near future.
All in all, while fans and scouts and hockey people assign mythical value to items like “15th overall pick” it’s always interesting when that turns into an actual player aside from just a faceless asset, that sometimes possibly even carries more value and weight than it deserves. So I’ll be interested to see what your feeling towards the whole trade and 2020 draft is so far.