NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Shades of 2010?
NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Shades of 2010?
Is this 2017 NHL Draft really as down in the talent level as people are making it out to be?
Well, just take the consensus top two picks in the draft in Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. Patrick looks and plays like a No. 1 overall pick and he’s got the NHL bloodlines with a dad and an uncle that played in the league, but he also missed half of last season with injuries. In most years, that might knock a player down a spot or two if there were good enough players to rise up and take that spot.
Then there is Hischier, who wasn’t really even on most people’s radar until he came over from Switzerland and lit it up for Halifax this past season. Couple that with his performance at the World Juniors, and you have the perfect example of a player that pushed his way into high lottery consideration with a great season in his draft year.
Beyond those two players are some very good prospects, but none of them feel like an elite impact “generational” player such as Connor McDavid, or an immediate All-Star-level performer, such as Patrik Laine in Winnipeg. Perhaps this is more like the 2010 draft that boasted Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin at the top, a pair of players that have had pretty good careers but are also probably falling short of the “Taylor/Tyler” hype machine that churned up in Canada heading into the draft. Looking back on that draft now, it sure looks like the St. Louis Blues got the best player with Vladimir Tarasenko at the 16th pick in a Top 20 that had a lot of misses like Brett Connolly, Brandon Gormley and Joey Hishon (Who?).
Here’s the second edition of a mock draft for the 2017 class that will hear their names called June 23 in Chicago, regardless of the strengths and weakness of this crop of players:
1. New Jersey Devils
Nolan Patrick, center (Brandon Wheat Kings): The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder has drawn favorable comparisons to well-rounded, two-way pivots Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron, and certainly looks the part of a franchise center in a draft class that’s not exactly overflowing with explosive, surefire talent. But the injury bug (sports hernia, upper body injury) limited him to just 33 games where he posted 46 points this season and is a bit of a red flag for such a heavy investment from the Devils. Then again, he was totally healthy the year prior and racked up 102 points and could be the victim of some really lousy timing in his draft year. This would be the by-the-book pick for a New Jersey team that needs plenty of high-end forwards for their roster and an infusion of talent in general.
2. Philadelphia Flyers
Nico Hischier, center/right wing (Halifax Mooseheads): The Swiss forward exploded for Halifax in his first North American season with 38 goals and 86 points in 58 games and showed impressive offensive skills. When you add those numbers to seven goals and 15 points in 11 games at the World Juniors for Team Switzerland last season, there’s clearly an explosive offense element to his game that should fit right into the Flyers’ style, along with their stacked back end. But Hischier is still going to need to add some bulk to his 6-1, 176-pound frame if he wants to make an impact in the NHL as a high-end lottery pick.
3. Dallas Stars
Miro Heiskanen, defenseman (Liga): It’s pretty clear the Stars need help defensively. It’s why they made the change behind the bench to go with the structured leadership of Ken Hitchcock, it’s why they went out and nabbed Ben Bishop and it will be the reason behind the selection of the best overall defenseman in the draft in this Finnish D-man. The 6-foot, 170-pounder was named the best defenseman at the Under-18 World Championships with two goals and 12 points in seven games and more than held his own in the Finnish Elite League last season. A strong, no-frills two-way D-man to be sure, but that’s exactly the kind of player Dallas needs to round out a top-heavy roster with offensive players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The bottom line is that he projects to be a top-pairing defenseman and that’s what Dallas badly needs right now.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Vilardi, center (Windsor Spitfires): The Avalanche want to get younger and bigger up front after a train wreck of a season. That will be even more important if Colorado deals Gabriel Landeskog over the summer. Vilardi fits the bill on a lot of levels at 6-3, 201 pounds, with a willingness to make plays around the net. He posted 61 points in 49 games last season. His performance two years ago while helping Windsor win the Memorial Cup will also check off a box when it comes to excellence in the big moments. This feels like a good pick for an organization that needs so much right now and Vilardi can be one of those big building blocks for them moving forward.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Cody Glass, center (Portland Winterhawks): Glass finished with 94 points in 69 games for Portland and the 6-2, 178-pounder has speed and smarts to go with some impressive finishing ability (32 goals). The Canucks could certainly use somebody else under 25 with the kind of high-end ability that Bo Horvat brings to the table and Glass would be that kind of guy. I wouldn’t rule out Jim Benning moving up, however, to get the Finnish defenseman for a Canucks roster that badly needs top-shelf talent on the back end. Glass is a good player, but he doesn’t fit Vancouver’s biggest need.
6. Vegas Golden Knights
Owen Tippett, right wing (Mississauga Steelheads): The explosive Tippett scored 44 goals in 60 games in the OHL last season and boasts good skating speed and an NHL-caliber finishing shot that draws favorable comparisons to Phil Kessel. Many scouts say he’s got the best shot in the draft and that’s a truly specialized skill with value. He may not be the franchise player that Vegas really needs in building up their NHL expansion roster from scratch, but he brings explosive scoring in a draft class that doesn’t seem to be overflowing with top-end quality this year. That should count for something in a spot where they’ll get a player who can help them for years to come while looking to sell Vegas on hockey.
7. Arizona Coyotes
Michael Rasmussen, center (Tri-City Americans): The 6-6, 215-pound center brings the kind of size that you can’t teach and had 32 goals and 55 points in 50 WHL games last season. The Coyotes have their explosive undersized playmaker for the next decade in Clayton Keller drafted last June. Rasmussen gives them a totally different look in the middle in a conference where there are plenty of big, strong franchise centers to line up against every night. His willingness to make plays in tight spaces and his power-play proficiency are qualities that the Coyotes could absolutely use in great amounts.
8. Buffalo Sabres
Timothy Liljigren, defenseman (Rogle BK): A solid, two-way defender who's dropped on some draft boards after a tough season marked by injuries and underperformance, this feels like the right spot for Buffalo, which badly needs defensive help. On the other hand, just five points in 19 games last season could be the kind of thing that could cause him to drop just as Jakob Chychrun did a year ago before falling into the laps of the Arizona Coyotes. That ended up working out just fine for the Coyotes. Liljigren is an excellent skater and the fact he’s a mobile D-man always helps.
9. Detroit Red Wings
Casey Mittelstadt, center (Eden Prairie, Minn.): The center dominated at the high-school level with 21 goals and 64 points in 25 games and then continued to light it up with Green Bay in the USHL. He’s got good size at 6-foot, 201-pounds and is the kind of heady, playmaking center that the Red Wings could use with Pavel Datsyuk long gone to Russia. Truth be told, however, the Wings could move in any number of directions with their pick now that they’ve started to bottom out organizationally.
10. Florida Panthers
Cale Makar (Brooks): A 5-10, 180-pound defenseman probably wouldn’t have ever been selected this high five or 10 years ago, but the success of undersized blueline players such as Torey Krug makes this possible. The UMass-bound Makar is mobile and smart and finished with 24 goals and 75 points in 54 games last season as the kind of high-event player that the Panthers covet. He’s also rising up the ranks as teams start looking for the next Erik Karlsson who could revolutionize their back end. Makar has the kind of potential where that might happen for him.
11. Los Angeles Kings
Elias Pettersson, center (Timra): The 6-1 center is a playmaking pivot and the Kings are a team that’s sorely in need of more offense for all corners of the roster. Pettersson finished with 41 points in 43 games last season and should be headed to the Swedish Elite League next season. He won’t make an immediate impact in Los Angeles, but you won’t find many players that will at this point in the first round. Pettersson is listed at only 156 pounds, so there’s going to need to be some work done in the gym over the next couple of years before he's close to NHL-ready.
12. Carolina Hurricanes
Martin Necas, center (Brno): The 6-foot, 167-pound center is a scrappy, smart playmaker out of the Czech Republic who will still need some time to develop but should get that kind of time with the Hurricanes, who are looking to slowly, steadily build something. He certainly opened eyes at the World Junior tourney and is clearly the best Czech player in the draft. He could be a nice compliment to all of the back-end talent that Carolina is building. At some point, the Hurricanes need to find some other players up front aside from Jeff Skinner.
13. Winnipeg Jets
Nick Suzuki, center/right wing (Owen Sound Attack): Suzuki finished with 45 goals and 96 points in the WHL last season, but he’s ranked this high because he’s a speedy, two-way threat who made his mark as a hustling player at both ends of the ice. He could be a nice fit for Winnipeg, who already got plenty of pieces in place. He'll need to continue his no-fear style of play at 5-11, 183-pounds in a league where undersized players are becoming more of the norm. Suzuki is expected to contribute in all situations when he’s a fully developed NHL player, so he’d fit in nicely with some of the elite talent already in place in the Peg.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
Klim Kostin, right wing (Moscow Dynamo): The 6-3 winger had a shoulder injury that ended his KHL season and the threat of any Russian player choosing the KHL over the NHL is always a consideration. But based on talent, he’s a strong, puck-possession winger and, with his ranking as the top European skater in his draft class according to NHL.com, Kostin shouldn’t last beyond the Top 10. The fact that Kostin could play with Nikita Kucherov could be a strong drawing card for the Russian winger, but he could also drop into the 20’s given the usual questions that surround Russian players.
15. New York Islanders
Eeli Tolvanen, left wing (Sioux City Musketeers): He scored 30 goals in 52 USHL games with one of the best shots in the draft and would give John Tavares the kind of finishing winger he richly deserves on his line since Kyle Okposo left for the Buffalo Sabres. The Finnish-born Tolvanen is bound for Boston College next season where he’ll get a chance to feature his high-end scoring ability at the Heights and develop for whatever team takes the 5-10, 170-pounder in the middle of the first round.
16. Calgary Flames
Kristian Vesalainen, left wing (Frolunda): The 6-3, 207-pound winger opened eyes at the World Under-18s with six goals and 13 points for a Finland team that wasn’t tremendously strong. He has the kind of size and finishing ability that the Flames continue to need on the wing. He’s committed to play for HPK in the Finnish Elite League next season, but could develop quickly given his size and skill set. Given Brian Burke’s preference for strong players along the boards and Calgary’s strength in numbers on the back end, Vesalainen makes some sense here.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs
Callan Foote, defenseman (Kelowna Rockets): The son of Adam Foote should be a natural fit for the Maple Leafs simply because of his NHL legacy and because the Leafs could use another good player on the back end. Foote is the kind of smart, two-way defender who could have a long career in the NHL and his bloodlines will make him a low-risk pick for whichever team goes after him. Foote finished with five goals and 56 assists in 71 games for Kelowna and has ideal NHL size for a frontline defenseman at 6-3, 213-pounds.
18. Boston Bruins
Kole Lind, center (Kelowna Rockets): Lind had 30 goals and 87 points for the Rockets and is another high-scoring, up-tempo player that the Bruins can look at as they transform into that kind of team. At 6-foot, 176 pounds he just needs to get a little bigger and stronger before he might be pushing for time with the Bruins, but the offense game is there for Lind on the wing. Lind also has some versatility to play both center and the wing, which never hurts in the eyes of the Black and Gold.
19. San Jose Sharks
Shane Bowers, center (Waterloo Hawks): A good, two-way center who scored 22 goals for Waterloo this season and is committed to the Boston University hockey factory next season. This feels like the kind of pick that the Sharks would absolutely make as they’re turning over their roster the next couple of seasons. The 6-1, 178-pounder is smart, strong and hard-working, so it might not be long at all before he’s stepping in and continuing the youth movement in San Jose. You could easily see the Bruins going with Bowers at the No. 18 pick as well if they have a choice between him and Lind.
20. St. Louis Blues
Juuso Valimaki, defenseman (Tri-City Americans): The Finnish defenseman finished with 29 goals and 71 points for Tri-City and has the kind of size (6-2, 204) that NHL scouts covet. He has mobility and offensive upside in a league that requires those qualities from their back-end players and would make a nice addition to St. Louis, which lost Kevin Shattenkirk. Workhorse is the word that many use to describe Valimaki and that’s exactly the kind of player that any team could use on the back end.
21. New York Rangers
Ryan Poehling, center (St. Cloud State): A 6-3, 207-pound center who finished up a solid freshman season at St. Cloud and could be a really strong addition to the Blueshirts a year or two down the line. They need to keep getting younger on all corners of the roster and this would be a good step in that direction now that they finally have a first-round pick again. Poehling is probably more third-line center than elite forward with high-end, top-six ability, but that’s an area where a strong team like New York should be looking to augment.
22. Edmonton Oilers
Conor Timmins, defenseman (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds): Timmins went from 13 points for the Soo two years ago to 60 points in 67 games last season as a puck-moving defenseman capable of putting a charge in the offense. That is right up the alley of the Oilers now that they’ve pieced together some really big, strong players on the back end. The 6-1, 185-pounder has good NHL size and excellent hockey sense and would be a strong pick for the Oil at this point in the draft.
23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)
Nikita Popagaev, left wing (Prince George): The 6-5 winger scored 29 goals last season and brings more size and strength on the wing that the Coyotes should be looking for as a puck-possession team. Then the Coyotes can send a bouquet of flowers to the Minnesota Wild for sending this pick in exchange for Martin Hanzal in a futile deal at the deadline as the Wild made their annual short playoff push.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
Lias Andersson, center (HV71): Andersson finished as the No. 3 European skater in NHL.com’s draft rankings and packs plenty of punch in a stocky 5-11, 198-pound frame. His skating isn’t where it needs to be at this point, but he plays with a three-zone tenacity and maximum effort style that tells you he’s going to work to be up to snuff for the NHL. He’s very strong on the puck and tenacious and that’s exactly the kind of player that Columbus covets.
25. Montreal Canadiens
Kailer Yamamoto, right wing (Spokane Chiefs): The 5-8 dynamo would fill a need and roster desire that the Habs seemingly always have for undersized skill players. Yamamoto has the offensive numbers to back it up. He put up 42 goals and 99 points in the Dub last season and feels like exactly the kind of player to take a chance on late in the first round in today’s NHL that favors speed and skill over everything else.
26. Chicago Blackhawks
Robert Thomas, center (London Knights): Thomas finished with 16 goals and 66 points in 66 games for the Knights and the 5-11, 185-pounder has the versatility, smarts and resourcefulness to play different roles in a lineup. That’s exactly the kind of player the stacked Blackhawks could use to fill in the bottom-six roles up front with plenty of the top-forward spots already spoken for.
27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington)
Maxime Comtois, left wing (Victoriaville): A big 6-2 winger who's scored early and often in the Q and plays even bigger than his listed size would seem like a natural for a smallish Blues group up front and even more so given Comtois’ stock has fallen from being a Top 10 player. This is the kind of player they lost in David Backes, a guy willing to battle along the walls for puck possession and play with an edge they’ve always appreciated in St. Louis. When you’re picking at the end of the first round, it’s a good rule of thumb to take risks on talented players who have dropped for whatever reason.
28. Ottawa Senators
Jake Oettinger, goaltender (Boston University): There’s a hesitancy to draft goalies in the first round, but the 6-4, 207-pound Oettinger looks like a top-flight No. 1 franchise goalie that's exactly the kind of player Ottawa is going to need a couple of years from now. Oettinger posted a .927 save percentage as a freshman for BU and has the size, athleticism and makeup between the pipes that one would look for in a first-rounder. It may not be Ottawa, but somebody should take Oettinger among the top 31 and show that goalies are still worth the risk once in a while.
29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)
Isaac Ratcliffe, left wing (Guelph Storm): Ratcliffe posted 28 goals and 54 points in 67 games in the OHL and fits the profile for the offensively prolific Stars after they went defense earlier in the first round. The Stars need a lot of help, so anything is possible here outside of a goalie after they invested big in Ben Bishop. But a big forward with a bit of a mean streak in the 6-5, 203-pound Ratcliffe could be just what this team needs. It wouldn’t shock me at all if the Bruins would be interested in Ratcliffe as well.
30. Nashville Predators (still to be officially determined)
Henri Jokaharju, defenseman (Portland Winterhawks): The Preds continue to keep their back end strong by nabbing a D-man who posted 48 points in 71 games last season and continues their long tradition of strong blue-line prospects. The size at 6-foot, 170 pounds is pretty good and the overall game is certainly solid, but one potential red flag was a minus-8 mark in 11 playoff games for Portland in their short run toward the Memorial Cup. Still, the talent is definitely there and he has all the makings of a first-round selection.
31. Pittsburgh Penguins (still to be officially determined)
Erik Brannstrom, defenseman (HV71 Jr.): Brannstrom isn’t the biggest guy in the world (5-10, 173-pounds), but he’s got the puck-moving skills and the pedigree that any NHL team would want to see out of a Swedish prospect. He played well in 35 games in the Elite League last season and has the requisite skating, hockey IQ and competitiveness requirements to go along with the skill set. The Penguins could do a lot worse with the final pick of the first round.