Friday night’s shocking draft lottery results give us a much clearer – yet much different – picture of what will happen at June’s NHL Entry Draft.
This will be my first draft with the authentic draft order (through the lottery teams), and I will be acting as if I am each team’s GM at the time of the pick.
Also, the end of the round will be based on what I see happening throughout the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And one final catch – for the first time in my mock drafts, this will be a two-rounder. Let’s get to it!
1. New Jersey Devils – Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
After winning the lottery, the Devils will choose between Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier. Patrick is a slightly bigger and better player at this point, so if I were GM Ray Shero, this is the way I would go.
2. Philadelphia Flyers – Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Flyers jumped up a whopping 11 spots thanks to the draft lottery, and get the easiest pick to make. With Patrick off the board, Hischier is the easy choice here.
3. Dallas Stars – Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)
Taking a center here would create too much of a logjam for Dallas up the middle, so going with a defenseman would be the best choice. The Stars will have their choice among Heiskanen, Timothy Liljegren, Cale Makar and others, but Heiskanen has the most upside.
4. Colorado Avalanche – Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Colorado finished with the NHL’s worst record since the 2000 Atlanta Thrashers, and things got worse when the Avs didn’t get a top-three pick. Trading down for more assets could be smart for a team in turmoil, but if they stay at No. 4, Vilardi is the right pick. He’s a big center who plays a strong, complete game.
5. Vancouver Canucks – Casey Mittlestadt, C, Eden Prarie HS (Minnesota)
The Canucks could go in a variety of directions here, but taking a big-time center would build a solid 1-2 punch up the middle with Bo Horvat. Mittlestadt is the best center available at this point.
6. Vegas Golden Knights – Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Tippett gives the Golden Knights a flashy goal-scoring machine who will make all sorts of highlight reels. A good way to bring some spice to an expansion team.
7. Arizona Coyotes – Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)
Arizona is deep as can be on the wings and also has a pretty solid group of defensemen in the pipeline. An impact center would be the perfect fit, and Necas is certainly the way to go. He is a skilled two-way force who is excellent in the faceoff dot and can help out anywhere on the ice.
8. Buffalo Sabres – Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle BK (Sweden)
The Sabres could go in a variety of directions with this pick, but an aging blue line seems like it needs to be addressed. Liljegren’s offensive game has all sorts of upside, which would fit in well in Buffalo.
9. Detroit Red Wings – Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
A high-octane center like Glass is what Detroit could use most right now. If he is still on the board, the Red Wings should take a flyer on this goal-scoring machine, as they do not have much depth at the center position in their pipeline.
10. Florida Panthers – Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
This seems like a perfect fit. Tolvanen is an incredible finisher and the Panthers need a right wing – any right wing – in their system.
11. Los Angeles Kings – Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
There are some good centers on the board here, and Los Angeles should go with the one who can be the biggest game-breaker in Suzuki. He can also slide over to the wing if needed.
12. Carolina Hurricanes – Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Sure he may only be 5’7, but Yamamoto gives the Hurricanes a dynamic offensive weapon off the wing. With some young depth at center and on the blue line, this seems like the right direction for Carolina to go.
13. Winnipeg Jets – Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
With so much talent up front, the Jets should take a defenseman. If Makar falls this far, he is a perfect fit, as he can generate all sorts of offense. In the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season, Makar is well-above a point-per-game player.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning – Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
There aren’t any glaring needs for the Lightning, but getting a good young defenseman would be a boost to the system. Foote has tremendous hockey sense, and is probably the best defenseman (possibly the best player) on the board at this point.
15. New York Islanders – Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Rasmussen is a big, strong centerman with an offensive touch. He’s the best player on the board and also fits New York’s needs.
16. Calgary Flames – Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Kostin has dropped a bit because of his injury issues this year, but he is a big body with a scoring touch that can play both wings.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs – Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
The perfect fit for Toronto. Valimaki is a defensive-minded rearguard that is excellent in his own zone.
18. Boston Bruins – Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (Sweden)
Andersson plays with an edge and has performed well with pros in Sweden. The best-available strategy is never a bad choice, especially for a team with a fair amount of youth like Boston.
19. San Jose Sharks – Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Robertson is a points-producing machine lately, and he could certainly draw the attention from a Sharks team that needs some young scorers on the left wing side.
20. St. Louis Blues – Elias Pettersson, C, Timra IK (Sweden)
Pettersson knows how to create plays and can contribute in a number of ways offensively. He would be a nice addition up the middle during the Blues’ reboot on the fly.
21. New York Rangers – Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Hague is a big, physical defenseman who likes to throw the body in his zone and also has been working on his scoring game.
22. Montreal Canadiens -Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)
A scoring center would fit nicely with the Canadiens, and if Pettersson is still on the board, this pick shouldn’t take much thinking.
23. Anaheim Ducks – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Anaheim just misses out on the next tier of centers with Petterson and Poehling coming off of the board, but Anderson-Dolan is a scoring machine and a decent consolation prize.
24. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) – Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Arizona’s most pressing need is goaltending, but with four top goaltenders in this draft and no clear No. 1, the Coyotes can wait to pick a keeper until the next round. Instead, they should deepen their defensive group with the cool and composed Timmins.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets – Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
This pick just keeps seeming like it’s meant to happen. Ratcliffe is a physical left winger who stands nearly 6’6 – exactly what the Blue Jackets need.
26. Chicago Blackhawks – Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Most of Chicago’s youth is up front, so going with defense is a smart move for the Blackhawks. Jokiharju gets to the puck in his own zone and excels at starting rushes with his breakout passes.
27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington) – Kole Lind, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The Blues go with another center here, and a high-scoring one at that. He can also slide over to the wing if need be.
28. Ottawa Senators – Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Comtois’s production showed an alarming drop this year, but as a big, physical player who can skate smoothly, he still has quite a bit of projection.
29. Edmonton Oilers – Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYK (Finland)
As the Oilers transform into one of the league’s better teams, a shutdown defenseman is still needed. Vaakanainen won’t produce a ton of offense, but he is as good as anyone in this draft in his own zone.
30. Nashville Predators – Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Bowers is a high-floor center who could slot in nicely in the middle six of Nashville’s forward group some day.
31. Pittsburgh Penguins – Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown PEI Islanders (QMJHL)
The Penguins have some aging going on back on defense, and Joseph is a young spark plug who they could use in the near future.
END OF ROUND ONE
32. Colorado Avalanche – Kristian Vesalainen, LW, HPK (Sweden)
Vesalainen’s stock has dropped a little in the past few months, but he could be NHL-ready by next season since he’s been skating with pros in Sweden. He should be able to make Colorado’s roster given its extreme lack of depth everywhere.
33. Vancouver Canucks – Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Sweden)
After going center in the first round, the Canucks take the best defenseman available in Brannstrom. He is a good skater who is solid in his own zone, and his offensive game should improve given his hockey IQ.
34. Vegas Golden Knights – Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
The Golden Knights go with a guy from a hockey family who can add a bit of sandpaper to go along with his scoring ability. Strome should pair nicely on a line with Owen Tippett in the future.
35. Arizona Coyotes – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, HPK (Finland)
The Coyotes get their goalie here. Luukkonen has faced pro talent in Finland and has a slight edge over Michael Dipietro and Jake Oettinger as the best keeper in this draft.
36. New Jersey Devils – Mason Shaw, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
New Jersey goes all-out on offense after taking Patrick in the first round. Shaw is undersized, but he puts up points like it’s nobody’s business. Size isn’t stopping players like Johnny Gaudreau, Mitch Marner or Tyler Johnson. Why should it stop Shaw?
37. Buffalo Sabres – Alexei Lipanov, C, Balashikha (Russia)
Lipanov may come off the board before this, but if he’s available, Buffalo has to scoop him up. Sure, the Sabres could use some more depth on the wings, but Lipanov’s offensive versatility is too good to pass up.
38. Detroit Red Wings – Morgan Geekie, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Geekie is big and physical but also has a scoring touch, putting up 90 points in 72 games with Tri-City in the WHL this year. He’s a great fit with Detroit.
39. Dallas Stars – Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)
The Stars’ goaltending issues have been long-documented, and drafting a goaltender won’t solve them right now, but there is no top keeper in the system. The Stars should take a flyer on the big Oettinger, who put up impressive numbers at Boston University this year.
40. Florida Panthers – Nick Henry, RW, Regina Pats (WHL)
Florida has to go right wing again, and here they take an offensive juggernaut in Henry. He averaged more than a point per game in the WHL this season.
41. Los Angeles Kings – Nikita A. Popugaev, LW, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
The Kings would love to take a player like Popugaev here. He’s big, standing at nearly 6’6, but he moves incredibly well for his size.
42. Carolina Hurricanes – Aleksei Heponiemi, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Size is the knock on Heponiemi, who stands at about 5’9, but he’s the best center on the board for Carolina. The Hurricanes are deep throughout their pipeline, but the center position could use some help. Heponiemi is a high-octane player who can create plays and finish them.
43. Winnipeg Jets – Lukas Elvenes, RW, Rogle BK (Finland)
Winnipeg could shore up its right wing position, and Elvenes would be a nice fit. He has silky smooth hands and good skating ability.
44. Philadelphia Flyers – Jonah Gadjovich, LW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Gadjovich’s numbers may have benefitted a bit from Nick Suzuki’s offensive talent, but Gadjovich is still well over a point-per-game player this year. Philadelphia would like a wing to go with Nico Hischier, and Gadjovich is the best one available.
45. Tampa Bay Lightning – Alex Formenton, LW, London Knights (OHL)
Formenton is a speedy left winger who would throws a little bit of sandpaper into his game.
46. New York Islanders – MacKenzie Entwistle, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Grabbing Entwistle here is a reach, so trading down may be a good option, but the Islanders could use a strong right winger like him.
47. Ottawa Senators (from Calgary) – Antoine Morand, C, Acadia-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Morand is a finisher, and he racked up a ton of points around the net in the QMJHL this year.
48. Tampa Bay Lightning (from Toronto) – Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)
If the Bolts just took Formenton three picks ago, why not go for his pass-first teammate Robert Thomas? There could already be some good built-in chemistry.
49. New Jersey Devils (from Boston) – Markus Phillips, D, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Now the Devils should go for a defenseman with Patrick and Shaw coming in. Phillips is arguably the best one available, and he can create some offense from the blue line as well.
50. Toronto Maple Leafs (from San Jose) – Luke Martin, D, Michigan (NCAA)
Martin is a sizable defenseman who is smart and physical in his own zone.
51. St. Louis Blues – David Farrance, D, USA NTDP
Farrance is small, but he has quite a bit of offensive awareness and will be able to hone his craft at Boston University next year.
52. Carolina Hurricanes (from NYR) – Adam Ruzicka, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
After taking two small forwards, the Hurricanes go for a bigger one with Ruzicka.
53. Montreal Canadiens – Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Frost is a two-way forward who can make an impact no matter where he is on the ice.
54. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) – Antoine Crete-Belzile, D, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
A defenseman with offensive upside, Crete-Belzile scored goals in more than half of his QMJHL games this season.
55. Buffalo Sabres (from Minnesota) – Tyler Steenbergen, LW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Steenbergen is one of the WHL’s top scorers and can be a good third-line finisher if put next to good enough playmakers.
56. Columbus Blue Jackets – Dylan Samberg, D, Hermantown HS (Minnesota)
Samberg is the top defenseman from the Minnesota high school ranks, and he can play a two-way game that he will work on next year at the University of Minnesota at Duluth.
57. Chicago Blackhawks – Ivan Lodnia, LW, Erie Otters (OHL)
Lodnia’s Erie teammate and Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat has torn up the OHL this season. It may not be a bad choice for the Blackhawks to try to work the two Otters in together through their system.
58. Montreal Canadiens (from Washington) – Ostap Safin, RW, Praha HC Sparta (Czech Republic)
Safin is a huge 6’4 winger who skates well. He fits the new Montreal profile of size and physicality well.
59. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – Michael Dipietro, G, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Dipietro could be the top goalie in this class, but I have him just a cut behind Luukkonen and Oettinger. Another goaltending prospect could benefit the Ducks.
60. Boston Bruins (from Edmonton) – Josh Norris, C, USA NTDP
Norris could use some fine-tuning to his game, but he is a big, physical center that fits Boston’s profile.
61. Nashville Predators – Stelio Mattheos, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Nolan Patrick’s teammate possesses tremendous offensive upside and could be a steal if taken this late in the draft.
62. Carolina Hurricanes (from Pittsburgh) – Noel Hoefenmayer, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Hoefenmayer has a lot of offensive skill, but needs some work in his own zone. He is a great fit with Carolina because the Canes’ depth on the blue line can allow him to marinate in the system as long as he needs.