Top 100-or-higher pick: G Connor Hellebuyck, 130th overall, Winnipeg Jets
I think Athanasiou will be the winner of this honor in the future, but it’s Hellebuyck for now. Hellebuyck made the most of a rough situation in Winnipeg this season and made his bid for the starting netminder post moving forward, which is a pretty lemonade-out-of-lemons moment.
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Hellebuyck secured 13 wins in 26 starts in his first NHL action, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average. He also earned a spot on Team North America in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
He was inexplicably sent down when Ondrej Pavelec got healthy, but he should be strongly considered for an NHL spot next season out of training camp. Athanasiou is going to be a star in the league, in my opinion, so he may supplant Hellebuyck in this spot soon.
Top 100-or-higher pick: C Tyler Motte, 121st overall, Chicago Blackhawks
The last three classes are a lot more difficult to determine this for, as most of the guys who were drafted at No. 100 or later have not yet cracked the NHL. Motte is among that group, having recently finished up at the University of Michigan before seeing eight games’ worth of action in the AHL this season. Motte posted seven points in those games.
The 21-year-old also was part of the United States team in the IIHF World Championships, posting a goal and two assists in 10 games. He’s going to get a chance to compete for a Blackhawks roster spot in this year’s training camp, but he’ll need some more AHL seasoning. Still, the kid looks like an extremely promising pick at No. 121.
Top 100-or-higher pick: LW Viktor Arvidsson, 112th overall, Nashville Predators
Honorable mention: LW Oskar Lindblom, 138th overall, Philadelphia Flyers
Fun fact: Devon Toews, the brother of Jonathan Toews, was selected by the New York Islanders four picks before the one used on Arvidsson. Unfortunately for Captain Serious’ brother, he hasn’t had as much of an impact on his NHL organization as Arvidsson has had on the Preds.
Arvidsson has become a useful bottom-six player for Nashville. After a short stint with the team last season, he spent 56 regular-season games with the club this year, potting 8 goals and adding 8 assists. He also contributed a Western Conference semifinal series-extending overtime goal against San Jose in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Top 100-or-higher pick: LW Kirill Kaprizov, 135th overall, Minnesota Wild
Honorable mention: None
It’s almost too early to make this pick, but I’m going with Kaprizov because he has already made a nice impact on the international scene. He was part of Team Russia’s IIHF U-18 team in 2014 and its World Junior Ice Hockey Championships squad this year. He has 14 points across 15 international tournament games.