Excluding the notable talent here like Johnny Gaudreau, Elvis Merzlikins, and even Zach Werenski, just take a look at some of the the U-25 pieces this team has…
Patrik Laine, Hunter McKown, Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, Kirill Marchenko, Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Trey Fix-Wolansky, Adam Boqvist, Tim Berni, Jake Christiansen, Nick Blankenburg, Andrew Peeke, Jake Bean, Alexandre Texier, Yegor Chinakhov, Luca del bel Belluz, Jordan Dumais, Mikael Pyyhtia, James Malatesta, Tyler Angle, Cameron Butler, David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, Stanislav Svozil, Corson Ceulemans, Samuel Knazko, Daniil Tarasov, Jet Greaves, Dmitry Voronkov…
Most of these guys have NHL games under their belt already. A good chunk of them are legitimate NHL prospects with huge upside, though admittedly some of them are a 2-3 years away. All of this doesn’t even include the upcoming picks they have at an absolutely stacked 2023 NHL Draft. They will likely add a top-5 pick to this already solid prospect pool that is undeniably one of the best in the league. As things stand right now, they have an additional first round pick, plus a high second, and two each in the third and fourth rounds.
With the way this team has drafted in recent years, these picks should catapult them into the top prospect pool in the league. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that; and this pool is going to exclude some of the top guys; like Marchenko, Johnson, Sillinger and Boqvist. They already have arguably the top defense prospect in all of hockey in Jiricek, and by early July, he probably won’t even be the top prospect in the system anymore. That’s how good this draft is lining up to be.
If they get lucky and win the ultimate draft lottery, Connor Bedard could be the added piece that launches this team into the stratosphere of perennial Cup contenders. But even if they don’t, they’re adding another future core piece – probably an eventual top line center. If this team were ever going to lay an egg over an entire season, this is the year to do it.
For all of these reasons, this rebuild is completely different than any we have seen before. This isn’t a situation where we have one prospect on the way or one talented rookie on the roster, that we’re hanging all of our hopes on. We have our best players all signed long-term, unlike the last rebuild where everyone hit the road for free agency. If even a handful of these guys hit and become core members of this team, the future is going to be really bright. And we’re already seeing that take place with guys like Boqvist, Marchenko, and Johnson. Hopefully Sillinger comes back confident and re-establishes himself as part of that core again next year.
I get the concerns and the frustration with this team’s history, but we can’t put previous management’s failures on this management regime. These guys have had some success after a partial rebuild, and this is their first go at a full rebuild. Whether having a lottery pick this year was part of the plan or not, it’s only going to cement this team’s status as one of the best examples of top U25 players in the entire NHL. Just give it some time, this pain will be well worth it if they’re able to ice a contender in a few years.