Not all of these players are first rounders. These are players taken at different points in the draft who may have an opening this fall. With a strong summer of training, they all could battle for a spot. For me, this is a reason I pay attention to the preseason. I want to see these players.
1) Emil Bemstrom – 5-10, 181 – RW – Taken 117th overall in 2017. He was the SHL rookie of the year. The Blue Jackets lost some notable goal scorers and he had 23 goals in 47 games in the SHL and had 5 goals and 10 points in 19 playoff games. He had six points in five games in the U20 World Junior Championships where he walked away with a Top 3 Player on his team mention. If he gets some power play time, he could be a Calder Finalist this season. He has a fast release on his wrist shot and one-timer. Already pro quality.
2) Jesper Boqvist – 6-0, 181 – RW – Taken 36th overall in 2017. The Devils have a need for more forwards and Boqvist could have something close to a Jesper Bratt kind of impact. He’s an excellent player with good skill. He’s versatile, he gains the zone quickly and he’s defensively responsible. He had 35 points in 51 games for Brynas. I think it’s very possible the Devils won’t want to kick him out of training camp.
3) Aleksi Heponiemi – 5-11, 154 – C/W – Taken 40th overall in 2017. This guy is a playmaker. He has puck skills and speed. His passing is way above average and I have a feeling that a new coaching staff will see him and want him to play a part with the big club this year. He’s heading over to North America and I haven’t seen him overmatched in any situation including international competition. He had 46 points in 50 games with Karpat. He can play the wing and that’s where I think he’d have the best chance of catching on at the age of 20.
4) Logan Stanley – 6-7, 231 – D – He’s the lone first-rounder in the list who was drafted in 2016. He won’t replace Tyler Myers spot on the defense but as far as size goes, he takes up just as much on the ice, if not more. He can get up the ice and make an occasional offensive play but he’s a defensive defenseman who has a mean streak but has cut down on his PIMS. If he keeps his game simple with that long reach, he has a real chance to quiet his critics.
5) Otto Koivula – 6-4, 218 – He was taken 120th overall in 2016. He could be the Islanders 4C when the season starts this fall. He gets from point a to point b, it’s not quick but once he’s in the offensive zone he battles. He can make smart passes and he has a nice wrist shot. His long stick does seem to give the opposition trouble getting the puck away from him. He had 21 goals as a rookie in Bridgeport last season. His strength and skating training this summer is very important.