Every year, everybody and their dog post a mock draft on their hockey blog and swear theirs is the best. Then, the NHL Draft actually starts and it all ends up looking nothing like any of the mock drafts, because the draft itself is wacky and unpredictable. Nonetheless, mock drafts are a lot of fun to read and really amp up the anticipation to the real thing.
Like every year, I made one of my own. Two years ago (2014) was my Mock Drafts coming out party. I nailed the Top 7 (woo), got 9 of the Top 10, and 26 of my projected first rounders ended up going in the Top 30, with two of them (Brendan Lemieux  and Ivan Barbashev ) being selected in the Top 33, so I was feeling good and confident going to into 2015. However, we experienced a bit of a sophomore slump, having my prediction busted as early as 5th overall. I still managed 24/30 correct first rounders but considering there’s about 15 or so that are always locks to go Top 30, it wasn’t that impressive.
I suspect I let my love for certain players (Rantanen at 5, Barzal at 6 and Kylington at 10 specifically) distort my rationality. I attempted to block out any bias and just use my research into the particular teams do the predicting this time around.
You’ve got to approach these in some way other than Best Player Available (which is the method most teams employ at the actual draft) because then it would just be a simple prospect ranking with team names attached to them.
So, I combined various scouting service rankings (including FutureConsiderations’ which I obviously hold in high regard), with some considerable research into various teams’ farm systems, team needs and any news coming out about what they may want. It’s still a total crap shoot, but it was a lot of fun to make.
To try and eliminate as much bias I could, I avoided reading any other mock drafts – because there are a ton – with the exception of mynhldraft.com because I like checking it throughout the year. When your team is struggling and being coached by Bob Hartley, there’s not much else to do.
All the scouting reports are courtesy of EliteProspects (who each player’s name is linked to) unless otherwise specified.
So, without further ado, here’s my crystal ball prediction of the 2016 NHL Draft’s Top 30.
Auston Matthews – C
Why: Auston Matthews was the best prospect for this draft when the season started and nothing has changed, no matter how hard Patrik Laine tries to convince you. Matthews is used to the pressure cooker that is Toronto and will be their number 1 centre there for years to come. Congratulations on the tank, Toronto.
Scouting Report: “A high octane dynamo that thrives under the microscope, Auston Matthews is a complete offensive forward who consistently boasts quick hands, feet, and thinking at both ends of the ice. Naturally nimble skater who accelerates to top speed very quickly. An unwavering focus on fine tuning elements of his own game facilitates confidence and competence in his young, but mature, mind. Prolific goal scoring ability and doesn’t wait for opportunities to show themselves. He makes his own luck, so to speak, maximizing the use of his body and stick to gain leverage against the toughest of opponents. All-in-all, a generational talent who has the potential to develop into a top flight franchise center.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17
Patrik Laine – RW
Why: Laine has drawn comparisons to Ovechkin as a result of his innate ability to score goals. That may be a stretch, but the second edition of the Finnish Flash will figure into Winnipeg’s Top 9 comfortably next season and I don’t doubt him when he predicts he’ll be a “star”.
Scouting Report: “A natural scorer, Laine’s greatest asset is his intimidating shot. He’s not a speedy skater, but possesses power and a long stride, and protects the puck well with his large frame and longer stick. Overall, skating has been a minor issue through Laine’s development but has improved with some help from his ability to read the game. Laine has the hunger to create chances on his own from the wing and actively looks for and creates opportunities to use his shot. His elite wrist shot is notable for its quick release and his powerful one-timer from the top of the circle is a constant threat on the man-advantage.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17
Jesse Puljujarvi – RW
Why: The next Marian Hossa, plain and simple. Big body, tremendous instincts, an all around menace. Probably settles in as a perennial 60-70 point guy who neglects not, his own end. Do I ever hope the Flames trade up to this spot.
Scouting Report: “Puljujärvi is a big winger who combines size, skating and skill. A strong skater who can blast past the opposition in full speed. Able to use his size, reach and stickhandling skills to retain the puck in speed. A smart player at both ends of the ice, both on and off the puck. Great work ethic and positive attitude. More of a playmaker than a scorer and could improve his shooting skills, although already equipped with an accurate release. Doesn’t shy away from physical play, but could use his size more to his benefit.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17
Matthew Tkachuk – LW
Why: This is the probably the most pivotal pick in the draft, because it’ll decide how picks 5-10ish are played. Oilers need help on defence BAD, but are loaded with left shooting defenceman, which just so happens be the handedness of the big 3 blueliners in this draft. If the Oil don’t deal the pick, my sense is they take the London Knights stalwart.
Scouting Report: “A multi-dimensional energy winger that plays a pro-style, adaptive game. Well-versed as a guy who can consistently put up points, but also as an agitator who plays with a little bit of bite and nastiness. Skates with excellent balance and speed, outclassing many in his age range. No lack of offensive instincts and knows how to score in many different ways. Confidence in his abilities and playing to the extent of his capabilities strengthens his work ethic and creativity. All-in-all, a unique and effective forward who defines his own limits and seeks to exceed them, along with all on-ice expectations.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17 possibly, more likely 2017/18
Olli Juolevi – D
Why: This was tough. The Canucks love Pierre-Luc Dubois, but have gaping holes at centre and on defence. With many scouts questioning Dubois’ long term future down the middle – projecting him at the wing – the Canucks go with the other prospect they absolutely love in Juolevi. This pick could honestly go either way.
Scouting Report: “A competitive spark-plug, Olli Juolevi is a complete, all-around defenceman who can hem the opposition in their own end or make things difficult for the opposition at home; either way, he puts the pressure on and lays it on thick. A strong and balanced skater, he can rush the puck through the neutral zone with ease or backcheck with haste. Uses his size to his advantage, but knows his physical limits and plays within them. Instead of playing overly physical, he makes his presence felt by exhibiting his high-end playmaking ability and puck possession play. All-in-all, a well-rounded blueliner who thrives under pressure and can be trusted in all situations.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2017/18
Why: The Flames somewhat luck into one of the most versatile players in the draft. Dubois put up stellar numbers in the QMJHL – and they were the right kind of numbers, mostly being of the evens strength and primary variety. Many consider him the best case scenario at 6 for the Flames, and the Flames are happy to grab him there.
Despite being labelled a two-way forward, some scouting services such as McKeens have expressed concern over Dubois’ defensive game. Some have also expressed concern about his compete in the QMJHL playoffs, and believe his high point totals are as a result of playing in a weak division, but the Dubois naysayers are far fewer than the Dubois praisers.
Scouting Report: “A phenomenal two-way power forward that thrives under pressure. He brings versatility, being able to play as a center or a winger, as well as elite skill and agility. His athleticism is exemplified in his strong skating that allows him to backcheck hard, explode up the ice in-transition, or propel himself up into hits that opponents won’t soon forget.
His defensive zone play is excellent; he proactively finds and takes away shooting and passing lanes, and makes it tough on opponents to pinpoint any daylight. When he is on the ice, he is uncontainable and leads the forecheck; he creates the time and space for himself to be creative with the puck and finds a way to get it to the back of the net. He makes the players around him better, serving as an example of what hard work and skill can and will be able to produce.
A similarly punishing two-way forward with size and zero deficiencies, Anze Kopitar, is the type of player Dubois will aspire to become at the next level. Pierre-Luc Dubois has the potential to develop into an elite two-way forward that excels as a positive catalyst in every facet of the roles he can play, be it the dynamic scorer, the set-up man, the intimidating power forward, or the defensive-minded shutdown guy. He is the type of player nobody likes to play against.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17 potentially, but 2017/18 is more likely
Jakob Chychrun – D
Why: The Coyotes system is screaming for an infusion of defenceman, and they choose to go steady with Chychrun. Though they’d love to grab Juolevi if he was available, Chychrun projects as a “safe” pick on the blueline and will figure into the Coyotes plans sooner rather than later.
Scouting Report: “An unyielding two-way defenceman, Jakob Chychrun is a rising star with a toolbox bursting at the seams. Consistently displays elite four-way skating ability and is not afraid to throw his weight around physically. Plays with poise and composure through high pressure situations and, with the puck on his stick, can direct the play up-ice. Exhibits a particularly potent shot that works its magic on the power play and on the forecheck. Excellent first pass and uses his vision and awareness to keep the puck moving in the direction of the opposition’s tail or to a teammate with more time and space. Defensively adept at tracking the puck and staying a step ahead of the opposition. Proactive with his stick and body, exerting pressure on the opposition and forcing them to make hurried decisions.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2017/18 or 2018/19
Why: The Sabres grab one of the most highly skilled forwards in the draft, with Alexander Nylander. With a cupboard stocked with young defence,an, they opt for the skill forward at 8.
Scouting Report: “Alexander is a dynamic skating offensive catalyst that just produces points. His skating can go from effortless to shifty as he has the ability to use his edges to deke or juke through traffic with ease. Possesses soft hands and very creative puck skills plus the ability to make his teammates better with some jaw dropping passes. He is not a one trick pony however as he can also finish off plays. Top line NHL potential.” – FutureConsiderations
NHL Arrival Time: 2017/18
This is cut-off line of relative predictability. The 8 players above will more than likely all be drafted Top 8 in some order (with the exception of Chychrun being substituted for Juolevi or Sergachyov, depending on the preference of the Coyotes). It is my opinion that two defenceman will most likely be drafted Top 8, but it’s ip to personal preference as to which two. From here on out though, all the players are so close together even the most educated of guesses may be hopeless. But here goes.
Logan Brown – C
Why: A big riser in the rankings, the Canadiens address some centre depth issues with the big, 6’6 Brown. The Canadiens will make a huge push for Dubois and it’s not out of the realm of possibility they trade up for him.
Scouting Report: “Brown is a huge center that excels at both ends of the ice. He can be dominant in the offensive zone but takes care of his own end as well. His 6’6 frame is key to his success as he uses his body to shield his puck and his reach to keep it off other players sticks. He is not overly physical for a player his size, but will finish every check and battle down low very effectively. He has a good shot with a pro like release as well as good creativity and maturity when passing the puck.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2017/18 or 2018/19
Why: The Avs still have massive problems on defence, and I assume they would’ve liked one of Hanifin, Werenski or Provorov last year, but ended up with Mikko Rantanen. Not bad. They address their defensive deficiencies this year though, with the big Russian blueliner who has drawn comparisons to Victor Hedman.
Scouting Report: “A dominant two-way defenceman whose tenacity and competitiveness characterize his style of play. Plays with a poise and confidence that facilitates his creativity with the puck as well as split-second decision making. Naturally fluid skater who is always looking to be engaged, if not the center, of each unfolding play. All-in-all, a diligent two-way defenceman who excels at finding ways to be a difference-maker in games.”
NHL Arrival Time: 2016/17 is possible, more likely 2017/18
Clayton Keller – C
Why: A personal favourite of our own Byron Bader, Clayton Keller is an electric offensive talent that the offensively parched Devils will be ecstatic to acquire. Good chance he plays wing in the NHL.
Tyson Jost – C
Why: Jost has drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews, and while putting those kinds of expectations on a kid are unreasonable, they aren’t handed out willy-nilly. He also broke McDavid’s scoring record at the U17’s for Canada, so the Senators are getting a big time prospect outside the top 10.
Kieffer Bellows – C/LW
Why: The Hurricanes system is unbalanced, drowning in promising defenceman. Adding the USNDP product will give the surging Canes that bluechip forward prospect they so desperately need. Bellows hasn’t been talked about much, but he’s another in a long line of quality American prospects produced by the USNDP, of late. 50 goal scorer, FYI.
Jake Bean – D
Why: The Bruins are desperate for defence, and add the dynamic Calgary Hitmen product to the stable. Boston has had much success with Torey Krug, and Bean comes in a similar mould – if only physically and offensively.
Luke Kunin – C
Why: Minnesota takes the high octane college prospect at 15, who promises to be NHL ready sooner than some of his peers, and will help rearm an aging forward core in Minnesota. As a young 18 year old in the NCAA, Kunin nearly scored a point per game.
Michael McLeod – C
Why: An interestingly polarizing player, there are some who love McLeod. McKeens, for instance, has had him ranked Top 5 since midseason. Guessing what the Bruins will do with their draft picks is fools play however, so who knows?
Dante Fabbro – D
Why: Nashville dealt away from their strength – defence – with the Seth Jones trade, and they replenish the cupboards a bit, so to speak, with the offensively gifted Fabbro.
Julien Gauthier – RW
Why: 41 goals in 54 games will excite anyone, but just 16 assists in those games is what drags Gauthier down. An incredible physical specimen and built like a tank, Gauthier gives the Flyers that dynamic goal scoring prospect they’ve been waiting for since Claude Giroux. If he hits his full potential, the Flyers add a 50 goal scorer. Pure and simple.
Charlie McAvoy – D
Why: The Islanders have a stocked system up and down, and after addressing forward needs last draft, they take the sturdy and offensively gifted Boston University product 19th overall.
Max Jones – LW
Why: Max Jones is a player you either love or hate. You can love that he’s a massive kid who skates like the wind, but you could hate the fact he’s simply dirty at times. Could become a premier power forward, or could become Zack Kassian. You need to be big in the Pacific, apparently.
German Rubstov – C
Why: Rubstov has been stellar in international tournaments for Russia, but didn’t do much in league play. Rubstov is committed to playing in the CHL next year though, and that might temper “the Russian Factor”. Elite talent, but that doesn’t always translate.
Alex DeBrincat – C
Why: The Jets are not afraid to pick the high scoring forward who isn’t “tall enough to ride”, as theyve proved in the past. Ehlers, Petan, De Leo, etc. DeBrincat has Top 5 numbers in this draft, the Jets recognize this, further bolstering that spectacular farm system.
Vitali Abramov – W
Why: The Panthers have a new scouting philosophy and staff. BPA based heavily on metrics. Abramov and DeBrincat are in the same boat in that their numbers and play show extremely well, but are shunned by traditionalists because they are undersized. With DeBrincat off the board, the Panthers take the most skilled forward remaining.
Rasmus Asplund – C/LW
Why: Not afraid to dip into the Swedish talent pool, the Ducks take a flyer on a high potential Swede. The Ducks can wait on Asplund too, with Getzlaf and Kesler signed long term.
Tage Thompson – C/RW
Why: Big body who put up great numbers in the NCAA on a weak team, Thompson is a guy a team could reach even higher than 25 on.
Pascal Laberge – C
Why: A high riser in this draft, Washington can afford to be patient with its prospects and takes a high skill – but raw – forward 26th.
Carl Grundstrom – RW
Why: Yzerman loves his Euros, and takes the scoring winger with two SHL seasons under his belt already. Grundstrom was regarded as a top 15 talent coming into the season by some, but didn’t show scouts what they were looking for this season.
Brett Howden – C
Why: The Blues will have a need up the middle soon, and the steady Howden is the perfect addition to their system that already features the dynamic Ivan Barbashev.
Logan Stanley – D
Why: Trying to guesswork the Bruins scouting staff is like trying to read an entire Steve Simmonds article. It’s a pointless exercise. But Stanley is big and the Bruins are trying to get back to playing BigBoiHockey. Not a first rounder in my eyes.
Riley Tufte – LW
Why: The Ducks take the raw high schooler who owns the scouting report that teams in the Pacific salivate over: big, fast, goal scorer.
With so many quality players in the Top 40-50 in this draft, we could see a number of players rise and fall at random. That’s what makes the draft so exciting, and I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out of Friday.