The Journey examines which rearguards make their debut in Dobber’s Top 50 Prospect Defensemen list following the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Olli Juolevi - Vancouver Canucks – 18th Overall
Vancouver had needs on both offense and defense coming into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and opted to build from the backend by selecting the London Knights Olli Juolevi.
Known for being a well-rounded, smooth-skating defenseman, Juolevi was drafted into good circumstances by Vancouver. With the Canucks in the midst of a rebuild, the Finnish blueliner will have the opportunity to showcase his talents early and often. In his short stint on North American soil, he has shown the unique ability to play a simple game, controlling the play in all three zones when he steps on the ice.
As a terrific puck-mover armed with elite hockey sense, Juolevi should be an offensive weapon relatively quickly for the Canucks both at even-strength and on the power play.
Mikhail Sergachev – Montreal Canadiens – 22nd Overall
After trading away perennial All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, Montreal drafted Windsor’s Mikhail Sergachev with the 9th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Sergachev gives a Canadiens an influx of youth on the backend, and a nice piece with the ability to replace some of the offense lost by Subban in the coming years.
Sergachev is a solid two-way prospect that possesses above-average skating ability and a hard, accurate shot that can be a weapon with the man-advantage. His passing ability will be an asset both at even-strength and on the power play where he will pile up primary and secondary assists. The shots that Sergachev unleashes from the point always have a chance of hitting the back of the net, but at worst will provide an opportunity for net-front forwards to be set up with easy rebound opportunities or deflections.
The Russian blueliner should end up being one of the more fantasy relevant defensemen taken in the 2016 draft.
Jake Bean – Carolina Hurricanes – 29th Overall
Carolina clearly drafted based on best player available when they selected Calgary Hitmen defenseman Jake Bean with their first of two first-round picks. Bean joins an already stocked defensive core in Carolina alongside Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown.
Although he may not reach the NHL as fast as some of his other peers, Bean has the ceiling to be the top offensive defenseman taken in this draft. He is a terrific skater who controls tempo with his ability to maneuver out of traffic in the defensive zone and either snap off a pass to one of his linemates or skate the puck through the neutral zone himself.
As a true power-play quarterback, the Calgary native has the ability to set up his teammates for easy scoring opportunities from the point, or sneak in to unleash his accurate one-timer for a scoring chance. If you have the opportunity to wait a couple years on a star, Bean is a defenseman to take a close look at in your prospect draft.
Jakob Chychrun – Arizona Coyotes – 32nd Overall
After sliding down draft boards prior to the draft, Chychrun was available for the Arizona Coyotes to select with the 16th overall pick in the first round, a pick that they acquired after agreeing to take on Pavel Datsyuk’s contract for next season.
Chychrun has all the tools needed to be a dominant force at the NHL level, and it’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together. Although Chychrun’s decision making has been questioned over the past seven months, he does play a good all-around game and is a candidate to eat up a bunch of minutes at the NHL level once he is ready.
He is more likely to be a distributor then a scorer due to his abilities both in transition and on the power play, where he should be an offensive factor. Arizona has a good crop of up and coming talent, which should help Chychrun’s fantasy future.
Charlie McAvoy – Boston Bruins – 33rd Overall
McAvoy is the most recent blueline product of the USNTDP taken in the first round, and a player that fantasy owners can count on to eventually be a multi-category fantasy asset. Boston selected this “safe” prospect with the 14th selection of the first round and will be able to watch his development closely at nearby Boston University.
The Long Beach, NY native is a player who will provide not only goals and assists for fantasy owners over his career, but also solid peripheral stats such as blocks, hits and plus-minus. McAvoy is a super-competitive blueliner who has already finished his freshman season at BU, and may only need one more year playing college hockey before he is ready to step into the Bruins top-four.
Down the road, we could look back at this draft class and wonder how McAvoy was still around at 14th overall.
Lucas Johansen – Washington Capitals – 34th Overall
Washington has rarely drafted in the lottery over the last decade and tended to draft European-born players who fall into the 20’s on draft day. However, the Capitals went another route this season, grabbing the Kelowna Rockets Lucas Johansen with the 28th pick of the first round.
Lucas is a good passer who prefers to distribute rather than shoot and creates scoring opportunities by setting up his teammates in high-danger areas in the offensive zone. He had a breakout season in the WHL, jumping from eight points in 2014-15 to 49 in his second WHL season.
Although his ceiling isn’t as high as some of his fellow first-round peers, Johansen will be given the opportunity to develop in Washington’s system over multiple years and could pay offensive dividends for the Capitals.
Dennis Cholowski – Detroit Red Wings – 41st Overall
Although he did not have as much exposure playing in the BCHL as the other players on this list, Detroit felt that Cholowski was worthy of a first-round pick. A two-way defensemen, Cholowski is at his best with the puck on his stick. He is an above-average skater with one of the highest ceilings of any prospect taken in the first round.
Cholowski will play his hockey at St. Cloud State this upcoming season, where he will be relied upon to play big minutes in all situations.
Although he is still raw, he does have the makings of a top-four level NHL defenseman who should rack up decent assists numbers for the Red Wings. He is a player who will need some time to develop, but has the untapped potential to be a solid fantasy asset in the future.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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