The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is still about five months away, but it’s getting to be the time of year where the top prospects are making their final pitches to be top picks.
I will post a mock draft each month leading up to the draft to track changes. Also, the lottery order will be randomized using the lottery simulator from tankathon.com (http://www.tankathon.com/nhl)
Here is my first mock draft of the year.
1. Vegas Golden Knights – Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
He may not be Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, but Nolan Patrick is pretty damn good. Despite his injury issues, Patrick is still the clear No. 1 prospect in this year’s crop. He has been unstoppable since his recent return, potting eight goals and adding nine assists in just 11 games since coming off of injured reserve.
2. Buffalo Sabres – Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
If they stay where they are right now, it would take a miracle for the Sabres to nab the No. 2 pick in the draft. In order to do this, Buffalo would move up 10 spots. The simulator, however, shows us that it could happen.
Hischier may even be good enough to go first in the draft. His stock has risen more than anyone else so far this season, and his speed, offensive awareness and hands make him a scary offensive threat.
3. Arizona Coyotes – Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
It’s pretty unclear right now who is next in line behind Patrick and Hischier, but at this point, Gabriel Vilardi gets the nod. He’s one of those players who seems to be a step ahead of everyone else on the ice and has a natural hockey sense. He scores goals and adds assists consistently, and would look great in a Coyotes system that boasts plenty more young talent up front.
4. Colorado Avalanche – Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
If Colorado doesn’t land one of the top two picks, it needs to go with a defenseman. Nicolas Hague is making a case of being the best blueliner in this year’s class. At 6’5, Hague has already established himself as a solid shutdown defenseman, but this year he has improved his offensive game as well. He has 14 goals and 19 assists in 44 games.
5. Winnipeg Jets – Casey Mittelstadt, C, Edan Prairie HS (Minnesota)
Mittelstadt made a name for himself at last year’s Minnesota high school hockey championships. As a speedy center who is willing to pass and shoot, he would be a perfect complement to star Jets winger Patrik Laine.
6. Dallas Stars – Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Tippett is an incredible offensive talent with a great set of hands and a quick release. His skill could get him drafted higher than sixth, and if he continues his solid season in Mississauga, he may work his way into the top three conversation.
7. Detroit Red Wings – Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
As a team possibly on the cusp of a rebuild, Detroit would love to build around a center like Patrick, Hischier, Vilardi or Mittlestadt. With those four off the board, however, the Wings have to go with Rasmussen. Rasmussen is tough to knock around at 6’5, and he skates exceptionally well for his size.
8. New Jersey Devils – Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
The Devils need offensive help on the wing, and Tolvanen is a slam dunk. He may be the most talented offensive player in this draft, with a shot that rivals Patrik Laine’s. Tolvanen and the Devils are a match made in Heaven…or Hell.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning – Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle BK (Sweden)
After trading Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona, Tampa needs a young offensive defenseman. Liljegren was once projected a top two pick, and he could still find his way back into the conversation, but he has struggled since coming back from injury. Still, his offensive talent is eye-opening for a defenseman, even if he needs to work on his game in his own zone.
10. Calgary Flames – Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Calgary has a pretty well-rounded system, so the Flames should go with the best-available player here. That player may be 6’3 Russian winger Klim Kostin, who could be an effective power forward good for an offensive spark.
11. Florida Panthers – Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Players like Tyler Johnson and Mitch Marner have proven to us that size may not matter as much as we thought. Yamamoto looks to be next in line. He will probably be drafted lower than 11th due to his small stature, but don’t be surprised if he ends up being a steal in this draft with his fantastic offensive ability. Florida could use a winger in the pipeline, and Yamamoto would be a great fit.
12. Los Angeles Kings – Elias Pettersson, C, Timra IK (Sweden)
Easy pick here for the Kings. Los Angeles needs a center and Pettersson may be the best player available on the board. He’s a talented kid with great hands and offensive awareness.
13. Carolina Hurricanes – Kristian Vesalainen, RW, Frolunda (Sweden)
Carolina definitely goes forward here with a stacked young blue line. Right wing is the most pressing need for the Hurricanes, so the strong and skilled Vesalainen fits nicely.
14. Boston Bruins – Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Glass is an offensive machine, which is exactly what Boston needs in a center prospect. He can fill the role of either a playmaker or the go-to guy, as he excels in both setting up plays and finishing them off.
15. New York Islanders – Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The Islanders have a great, well-rounded group of prospects and should go for a high-ceiling guy here. Callan Foote, the son of former star defenseman Adam Foote, is exactly that guy. He is a strong, physical, shutdown defenseman whose offensive game is improving.
16. Vancouver Canucks – Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Valimaki’s defensive game could use a little fine-tuning, but he has been a point-per-game offensive threat from the blue line this year in the Western Hockey League. He could certainly help a young Vancouver team rebuild its blue line next to last year’s fourth-overall pick Olli Juolevi.
17. Philadelphia Flyers – Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigers (QMJHL)
Comtois, once a projected top-five pick, has seen his stock fall drastically in an underwhelming season. Still, the Flyers are in a good position to take a high-risk, high-reward forward, especially a left winger. If he pans out, Philadelphia’s prospect pool improves greatly. If he doesn’t, the Flyers can still bank on having a great group of young defensemen.
18. St. Louis Blues – Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (Sweden)
Behind Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis’s group of center prospects is weak. Andersson can be a leader on and off the ice, and plays a two-way game with quite a knack for scoring.
19. Nashville Predators – Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)
Nashville could take a high-scoring center here, and Ryan Poehling certainly fits the bill. He is an intelligent hockey player in all areas with room to improve his game.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs – Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)
Toronto needs to go with a defenseman here, and Heiskanen fits every need. He will make smart decisions in his own zone and can also start a rush with Toronto’s incredible group of young forwards.
21. Anaheim Ducks – Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)
Anaheim may very well be the first team to take a goalie in this year’s draft. Behind John Gibson, Anaheim’s goaltending crop is very weak, and the Ducks don’t have any pressing needs other than depth at any other prospect positions. Oettinger, who tended the net for the United States during their gold medal-winning run at the World Junior Championships, is the best netminder in this year’s class.
22. Ottawa Senators – Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
Ottawa does not have any glaring needs in its prospect pool, so the Senators can go with a high-risk, high-reward player. Makar has lit it up in the AJHL, but we will find out more about his game when he plays tougher competition next year when he suits up for UMass-Amherst.
23. Edmonton Oilers – Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYK (Finland)
After years of drafting forwards at the top of the draft, Edmonton will finally take a defenseman. The Oilers would be ecstatic if Vaakanainen, a two-way defenseman who can quarterback the power play, is still on the board at this point.
24. New York Rangers – Nicholas Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Suzuki could make a case to go in the top 20. He kills penalties very well, and he has boosted his stock with a terrific offensive season as a part of the Owen Sound Attack.
25. Chicago Blackhawks – Nikita A. Popugaev, LW/RW, Moose Jaw Warriors
Chicago could shore up its wing prospects, and Popugaev would make sense since he is a talented player who can play both wings. A strong right-handed shot, Popugaev isn’t afraid of going into the corner and can produce goals well.
26. San Jose Sharks – Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)
Necas may drop because of his size, but he possesses solid skating skill and can contribute as an intelligent playmaker from the center ice position.
27. Montreal Canadiens – Shane Bowers, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
He won’t make the highlight reels, but Shane Bowers does all the little things right and is a low-risk player, who could fit perfectly in a Montreal system that needs a center.
28. Pittsburgh Penguins – Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
The scary thing about Pittsburgh is that the Penguins may have one of the league’s deepest prospect pools while still being arguably the best team in the NHL. Strome has a hockey bloodline as his brothers Ryan and Dylan are already in NHL systems, but he has struggled a bit this year. Still, he has a good set of skills and could get some valuable experience if the Penguins bring him up to the NHL early in his career like they are known to do with young players.
29. Minnesota Wild – Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)
The London Knights have done quite a job producing NHL talent lately, and Robert Thomas may be next in line. Thomas is small, like former Knights forward Mitch Marner, but he possesses a scoring touch that the Wild could use up the middle.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets – Isaac Ratcliffe, RW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
At 6’5, Ratcliffe is a big, strong, physical power winger – exactly what Columbus needs in its pipeline. His offensive game has also improved vastly this season, as he has 40 points through 46 games. Last year, Ratcliffe played 46 games and scored a total of 13 points.
31. Washington Capitals – Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Jokiharju is a low-risk player, but his size may hinder him from becoming a true high-reward defenseman. Still, he fits Washington’s needs and is a solid skater. He also excels at starting zone breakouts.
That’s it for this month’s mock draft! Check back next month to see what changes and what stays the same.