I enjoy a good mock draft.
Trying to guess who goes where based on needs, best players available and other factors always adds an extra layer of fun on draft day. Generally, I’ve been pretty good with my educated guessing, generally nailing down the top end of the draft and guessing who goes in the first round in general, though the ordering is much tougher as the draft goes on.
This draft, however, will be a total crap shoot. Guessing even the first pick is a challenge. Last year, I guessed 25/30 first rounders with seven bang on guesses plus Jakob Chychrun who I mocked to Arizona at seven, but went to the Coyotes at 16. This year? I’d be happy going 20/30 with five bang on guesses.
Well, let’s get to it.
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 as 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.
So, without further ado, here’s my crystal ball prediction of the 2017 NHL Draft’s top 31.
Nico Hischier – C/RW
Why: Ray Shero built the Penguins on the premise of skill, and with a Devils team starved of just that, Hischier is remedy. He should be getting terrified of the residents of Jersey as soon as next season.
Nolan Patrick – C/RW
Why: A big, steady centre is the perfect add when you already have Claude Giroux in the 1-hole at centre. A one-two punch up the middle of Giroux-Patrick is a gift from the heavens for Hextall and company. Might need another year of seasoning.
Miro Heiskanen – D
Why: A defence-starved team takes another Finnish defenceman – of which they have tons – and will likely see him graduate to the big team sooner rather than later. He and John Klingberg will provide the Stars with two elite powerplay quarterbacks to compliment the incredible talents of Seguin and Benn.
Cale Makar – D
Why: The Avs have needed defencemen for as long as I can remember, and chose Tyson Jost over a rearguard last year. Makar has shot up the rankings recently and projects as an elite offensive defenceman. Tyson Barrie and Makar could form one of the NHL’s best pairings if Joe Sakic stops fooling around and keeps Barrie.
Cody Glass – C
Why: With the two top blueliners off the board, the Canucks shift their attention to centre. Vilardi is the top skater remaining but the Canucks have fallen in love with Cody Glass. Jim Benning has gained a reputation of going with the guys he likes, and Glass – who has shot up the rankings of late – goes ahead of Vilardi. It’s a toss up between the two but I believe Benning goes with the one he likes most, and that’s Glass.
Gabriel Vilardi – C
Why: The Golden Knights have already assembled a makeshift roster, and follow it up by adding the best prospect this team has ever had (hehe). Vilardi is a legitimate bluechipper and projects as a top six centre in the near future. If it isn’t Vilardi, it’ll be Glass and it’ll be because the Canucks took Vilardi a pick before.
Owen Tippett – W
Why: Oddly enough, Tippett projects to be a very similar player to Shane Doan. Great shooter, good leadership skills and I’m sure he can round those elbows into shape in no time. Regarded as a “safe” prospect, Tippett’s quick trigger will fit in beautifully with the playmaking talents of Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome in the desert in no time.
Martin Necas – C/RW
Why: The Sabres grabbed one of the most highly skilled forwards in the draft in 2016 with Alexander Nylander, and go a similar route this year with Martin Necas. If Jason Botterill knows one thing, it’s how valuable skill is.
Elias Pettersson – C
Why: The Wings are not unfamiliar with European players, and put bat to ball with a potential home run in Pettersson. He scored at nearly a point per game pace in the Swedish Allsvenskan men’s league alongside Vancouver’s Jonathan Dahlen, and is one of many potential impact players lying around the middle of the first round.
Casey Mittelstadt – C
Why: The Panthers take advantage of the high school factor dropping Mittelstadt from the top five perch he rested on for most the season, right into their arms. Someone could – and frankly, probably will – take a shot at the highly skilled forward higher than 10, but given the other “safer” options out there, Mittelstadt is a prime candidate to take a slide on draft day.
Timothy Liljegren – D
Why: Drawing comparisons to Erik Karlsson when he’s on, it’s his play when he’s off that’s resulted in his slide outside the top five. Similar to Oliver Kylington in his draft year, Liljegren struggled this season and as a result dropped from as high as number two overall, to Los Angeles at 11. L.A. needs to rebuild the bottom half of their defence, and Liljegren is a great start.
Lias Andersson – C/LW
Why: Similar to Elias Lindholm, Andersson is a steady forward who played his draft year in the SHL. His point totals were reasonable, and he’s described as a “safe” pick, in that he’ll be an NHLer for sure, it’s just his impact at that level that is to be determined. Some see him in the mould of a Mikael Backlund, which would be a tremendous add to an already possession monster forward corp in Carolina.
Juuso Valimaki – D
Why: The Golden Knights follow up the selection of the best forward prospect in their history with their best defence prospect in their history with the fabulous Juuso Valimaki. He’s a big, fast, scoring defenceman that many feel has top pairing potential.
Eeli Tolvanen – W
Why: Tolvanen has slipped in many recent lists, possibly due to his size and that fact he mostly scores using his elite level shot. While that sounds good, Jake Virtanen is similar in that most of his goals came from distance, and has struggled mightily to beat professional goaltenders. At 5’10, Tolvanen also doesn’t have the option to drive defenders and score in tight. Still, he’s possibly the best shooter in the draft, and that Phil Kessel guy is pretty decent at scoring from a distance, too. Tampa traded Drouin and Gusev, both quality offensive guys recently, so they shore up their prospect depth with Tolvanen.
Nick Suzuki – C
Why: There’s seemingly no reason for this draft’s second leading scorer to be still available at 14, but no one seems to give Suzuki any rankings love, despite gushing compliments in every piece or radio hit I’ve read/heard. George McPhee is laughing all the way to the podium as he steals Suzuki with his third top 15 pick.
Kristian Vesalainen – W
Why: Forward depth is sorely needed in the Flames’ prospect corps, and Vesalainen is one of the draft’s most interesting prospects. The 6’3 winger spent time in both the SHL and the Liiga, struggling mightily in both, before wiping the floors with literally everyone at the U18s, finishing as the tournament’s leading scorer. It’s important to not value one tournament over a calendar of work, but Vesalainen’s dominance over his peers needs to be appreciated. He’s regarded as one of the more NHL-ready prospects in the draft given his size and pro experience, and could be a nice fit with Sam Bennett long term. It all depends on if the Flames are interested in swinging for the fences, because Vesalainen has some real boom or bust potential to him.
Erik Brannstrom – D
Why: There’s been no shortage of insufferable coverage of the Leafs’ young forward depth this past season, but what they really lack is an impact blueline prospect. Erik Brannstrom scored over a point per game in the SuperElit and then was among the shot leaders at the U18s for Sweden. The offensive defenceman is exactly the type of dynamic talent that would fit well into the Leafs’ fast pace style of play.
Michael Rasmussen – C
Why: Cam Neely loves his big ice hockey players and Rasmussen is a big ice hockey player. Problem is, his 55 points ranked seventh on the Tri-City Americans and a pile of them came on the powerplay. Some see Rasmussen as a top 10 talent but frankly, I think even 18 is a stretch.
Robert Thomas – C
Why: Thomas had a steady season in London behind some older players, and is poised for a big time breakout next season in a bigger role. As a prospect he’s solid, but his inevitable point explosion will immediately raise his stock next year. What he becomes as a pro is to be seen but on the surface, he looks like the prototypical middle six, secondary scorer. Thomas is also known for his hit single “Smooth” with Carlos Santana. With Thornton nearing retirement, centre depth will need to replenished in San Jose.
Klim Kostin – C/RW
Why: Once regarded as a potential top five pick, Kostin missed most of the season with a shoulder injury. Dubbed by many as this draft’s darkhorse, Kostin could very well turn into the second coming of Vladimir Tarasenko for the Blues.
Nic Hauge – D
Why: The Rangers’ defence is suffering from age and poor managerial decisions. Hauge is a big, rangy, mobile defenceman who could see NHL time in just a few years given his physical tools. The Rangers’ prospect pool is as deep as a puddle on the street after a brief rainfall so it’s not like they can be choosy with their pick at 21, but Hauge is a quality choice.
Ryan Poehling – C
Why: For whatever reason, Poehling is rated within the first round by everyone despite a paltry seven goals and 13 points in 35 games for NCAA’s St. Cloud State. The Oilers need some centre prospect depth and Poehling is one of my least favourite first round prospects so it’s a match made in heaven, really.
Cal Foote – D
Why: Just like last year, the Coyotes go forward with their first pick of the round, and defenceman with the second. The son of Adam Foote had an excellent season in Kelowna to go along with a heck of a bloodline.
Isaac Ratcliffe – LW
Why: The Jets have a pretty stacked prospect pool as is, and add to it with the big 6’6 winger. Though he scored well under a point per game last season, many feel Ratcliffe has star potential if he can put it all together.
Maxime Comtois – LW
Why: Comtois is skilled, but this pick is almost 100% based on “French Canadian ranked in the low first round”. Bergevin is rebuilding his cache with the Drouin trade and would really make irrational Habs fans happy with the Comtois pick. He’s not a horrible pick, but did struggle at times in the Q this year, falling from a projected top 10 pick. But he’s French-Canadian so…
Jason Robertson – LW
Why: 6’2, 42 goals and 81 points in 68 games for Kingston – Robertson has all the makings of a possible steal for the Blackhawks at 26. I wouldn’t be opposed to the Flames reaching for him at 16, or trading down for him.
Shane Bowers – C
Why: The steady, defence-first centreman isn’t what you would call a sexy pick, but his 200-foot game fits wonderfully into the Blues’ style of play. St. Louis further solidifies their prospect pool after adding big time boom or bust Klim Kostin a few picks earlier.
Conor Timmins – D
Why: The Senators have the best offensive defenceman in the NHL in Erik Karlsson, and add another point hoarder in Timmins. The blueline in Ottawa is really a mixed bag, but Karlsson’s puck moving is the straw that stirs the drink. Dorion would be wise to add a similar style (no, Timmins does not equal Karlsson) defenceman at 28.
Kailer Yamamoto – W
Why: The draft’s leading scorer falls to 29 because he’s 5’8, and that’s it. Nic Petan 2.0 will be a great addition to Dallas, and will be a devastating piece on the powerplay with Benn and Seguin in two years.
Jesper Boqvist – W
Why: An elite offensive talent, Boqvist will join the likes of Forsberg and Aberg in the Preds’ offensive-starved top six. With plenty of defenceman in the system and on the NHL club already, the Predators take the most gifted offensive talent available at 30.
Urho Vaakanainen – D
Why: Another faller, Vakanainen was ranked top 10 to start the season and fell steadily, mostly due to the play of his peers than his own. The slick, puck-moving defenceman has a high ceiling – not unlike Olli Maatta – and will solidify a Penguins prospect pool that has been pillaged in recent years.
So there you have it, my mock of one of the most uncertain and possibly worst draft since 2012. Can’t wait for it to get busted with New Jersey going off the board, right off the bat.
The Flames come away with a big, fast and skilled winger, while the best player in this draft will likely not be one of the top guys selected. It’s just one of those drafts.
Having said that, it’ll still be just as exciting and anticipated as always, and with the new Vegas wrinkle, Friday night should be one of the more exciting first rounds we’ve seen in some time.