This year’s NHL Entry-Level Draft takes place in Chicago from June 23-24, 2017. The biggest story is who the New Jersey Devils will select first overall, mainly because no one can come to a consensus. Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier? Might as well flip a coin. I have a post about who I think the Devils might pick (versus who I want them to pick).
As a Devils fan, I know who I want them to pick even though I’m torn over the decision. My head and my heart are essentially in the same place; both Nolan and Nico are good choices and they both have the ability to become the top line center the Devils need. Unless something drastically changes within the next couple of weeks, New Jersey is going to take one of them, and Philadelphia (unfortunately) is likely to pick the other unless they decide to trade the pick.
I’ve been working on this mock draft for weeks. The amount of times I’ve redone it is ridiculous so I thought I would wait until after the Vegas expansion draft so that I can incorporate the actual draft order. Vegas has three first-round picks, one of their own and two acquired via trades; all three picks are in the Top 15. They were very, very busy Wednesday night and yesterday.
Today was also a super busy day around the NHL; there have been multiple trades thus far and this mock draft has been updated accordingly. The draft order is current as of 1:30PM EST and won’t be updated after because this would never get posted. But let’s move on.
Here is who I think the 31 NHL teams will select in the first round of the 2017 Entry-Level Draft barring any unforeseen trades:
- New Jersey Devils – C Nico Hischier. I wrote about the Devils’ first overall pick selection yesterday and here’s a short draft profile. This was a really close decision and I’m still on the borderline but I think Nico fits into the bigger picture better. The Devils don’t currently have someone like him on the team.
- Philadelphia Flyers – C Nolan Patrick. The Flyers have an easy decision: just pick whoever New Jersey doesn’t. If the Devils could pick both Nolan and Nico, I would want them to. The decision between Nico and Nolan is made that much harder because the Flyers end up with whoever the Devils don’t select.
- Dallas Stars – C Gabe Vilardi. I really like what Vilardi brings to the table and he had a great 2016-17 season with the Windsor Spitfires, resulting in a Memorial Cup win. Dallas needs a young, fast center and Vilardi is just that. He has the ability to step in right away and have an immediate impact if he makes the team straight out of training camp.
- Colorado Avalanche – D Miro Heiskanen. The Avs need young defensemen and Heiskanen is the best defensive prospect in the draft. I don’t think they’ll pass up on him if Dallas decides not to take him.
- Vancouver Canucks – C Casey Mittelstadt. The Canucks have a ton of depth at center but young, fast, centers who are as offensive as Mittelstadt is are hard to come by. Their current centers aren’t getting any younger and Mittelstadt can help down the middle. Even if he plays this upcoming season at the Univ of Minnesota (NCAA), he’ll be better for it when he does crack the Canucks’ lineup.
- Vegas Golden Knights – C Cody Glass. As of right now, the Golden Knights have more than enough depth at every single position but their roster right now won’t be their roster in a day, or in a week, or a few weeks from now. They would be wise to just take whoever they can in the first round at a variety of positions. With their first of three first-round picks, I think they’ll go center.
- New York Rangers (from ARI) – C Elias Pettersson. With their first first-round pick since 2012 (Brady Skjei), there is no doubt in my mind that they’ll go center. They already traded center Derek Stepan so their only true centers left are Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes so unlike most other teams that have a ton of centers, the Rangers don’t have enough. Pettersson has a really good chance of cracking the lineup straight out of training camp but could use some more conditioning.
- Buffalo Sabres – RW Owen Tippett. The Sabres have plenty of defensemen, especially with the addition of Nate Beaulieu, otherwise I would suggested a blueliner but the Sabres need depth at winger and Tippett offers just that. He’s had plenty of success with the Mississauga Steelheads and could do really well with a young(ish) team like Buffalo.
- Detroit Red Wings – LW/C Klim Kostin. The Red Wings definitely need to get better up front but they have plenty of centers (otherwise I’d suggest that). This might be a pick that’s a little “out there” but I guess we’ll find out what they decide to do tonight. Kostin is a great winger who’s listed as a LW/C by the NHL Central Scouting and a RW otherwise so no matter what he plays, he’ll bring plenty of depth to Detroit.
- Florida Panthers – C Michael Rasmussen. The Panthers also really, really need more depth up front and they’re in a similar spot to the Red Wingers but I think they’ll actually pick center. The ones that they currently have in the organization are getting older, and Rasmussen brings both speed and ability to the lineup.
- Los Angeles Kings – D Cale Makar. The Kings could use a young defenseman in their lineup even though he probably won’t play with the team for a year or so unless he has a really good offseason and training camp. He’s a decent size too but he’ll put on some weight when he plays for UMass Lowell in the fall. I could see the Kings bringing him up for a few games just to see how he adjusts and how he plays.
- Carolina Hurricanes – RW Eeli Tolvanen. The Canes could really use a right-winger. They’ve been a little active with trades as of late but they haven’t found a true right winger yet; the only ones in their lineup are Sebastian Aho and Lee Stempniak. So the Canes could use a RW and I think they’ll take Tolvanen. Even if he needs some extra time, he’ll be ready to join the team soon enough.
- Vegas Golden Knights (from WPG) – D Juuso Välimäki. Välimäki is a big, strong defenseman and I think Vegas will decide to go defense with their second first-round pick. He’d be a great addition to their lineup and could be used as trade bait if they decide not to keep him around. There’s always the possibility that Välimäki might decide to return to Finland to play hockey as well.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – D Nicolas Hague. The Lightning could use depth pretty much everywhere but if Hague is still here at #14, I think they’ll take him. He’s a big, skilled defenseman who has the potential to become a top-pairing defenseman. Imagine Hague and Victor Hedman together.
- Vegas Golden Knights (from NYI) – LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen. So far, according to my mock draft, the Golden Knights have gone center and defenseman so now I think they’ll go wing and Vesalainen is just that, a superb winger. Again, there’s a possibility that he won’t immediately sign an entry-level contract but if he does, he has the potential of being an excellent winger soon.
- Calgary Flames – C Martin Necas. It’s hard to decide what position the Flames are going to take and I’m still not sure they’ll go center but if they do, Necas is a great option. He still needs to build some more muscle but he’s a great offensive player and should bring (more) energy and speed to the Flames lineup.
- Toronto Maple Leafs – D Timothy Liljegren. He’s a fantastic defenseman and while the Leafs do have depth at the blue line, Liljegren can help out tremendously. He’s had a bit of an up-and-down last few seasons but when he’s been on, he’s been on. If the Leafs do decide to trade a defenseman or two, Liljegren should be able to step up when the time comes.
- Boston Bruins – LW Jason Robertson. The Bruins need a left wing. Robertson is a left wing. It fits. Whether or not they actually do this remains to be seen. They did lose defenseman Colin Miller to Vegas so they could go that route too but I don’t know. I really don’t know. Boston is always an enigma to me.
- San Jose Sharks – D Callan Foote. The Sharks could use either a winger or a defenseman but with Foote still on the board, I think they’ll choose him. He’s a great defenseman who’s going to continue to develop with time. San Jose needs a young, quick defenseman and Foote fits that bill.
- St. Louis Blues – C Nick Suzuki. The Blues could use a center and while Suzuki may not be NHL-ready for at least another year, St. Louis needs to develop a young, fast center who could become their top line center down the road.
- New York Rangers – C Ryan Poehling. He’s smart and has great vision, and fills another glaring hole for the Rangers. Even though they hypothetically picked center already, I think they’ll pick another one.
- Edmonton Oilers – C Shane Bowers. The Oilers might trade a center (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and are open to trading another (Leon Draisaitl) so is it likely that they’ll pick a center if either one of those deals goes down? Yes. And Bowers is a great center even if he won’t play right away.
- Arizona Coyotes (from MIN) – G Jake Oettinger. I really don’t know what Arizona is doing, like, at all. They’ve made several trades and still somehow have a first-round pick. They traded away Mike Smith and received Chad Johnson in return, and they traded for Derek Stepan and Anti Raanta this morning. Both Johnson and Raanta are goalies, and Raanta will likely be their starting goaltender, barring any unforeseen changes. However, Arizona needs to develop a young goaltender who can potentially carry the franchise in the future.
- Winnipeg Jets (from CBJ via VGK) – RW Kailer Yamamoto. The Jets need a right wing and after trading away their original first-round pick to Vegas, they now pick at #24, a pick that came to them from Vegas, who had it because of Columbus. Winnipeg could really use a true right wing and if not now, in the future.
- Montréal Canadiens – C Lias Andersson. The Habs need defense and centers, and if they do end up trading Alex Galchenyuk, a center, they’ll need to draft another one and Andersson is the way to go at #25. He’s a skilled two-way forward and there’s no limit to what he could do with some more development and growth.
- Chicago Blackhawks – D Henri Jokiharju. Chicago is another organization who’s making decisions that don’t make any sense to me right now but the Blackhawks’ blue line is getting older. They traded away D Niklas Hjalmarsson this morning in exchange for a younger defenseman in Connor Murphy and if they’re focused on upgrading their blue line, they’ll pick another defenseman here too.
- St. Louis Blues (from WSH) – D Urho Vaakainen. According to my mock draft, the Blues have already picked a skilled, strong center so I think they’ll upgrade the blue line with this pick from the Capitals. Vaakainen needs some conditioning and further development but he should be able to step up when he’s called up to the big show.
- Ottawa Senators – LW Isaac Ratcliffe. He’s a big, strong, skilled forward who knows how to score and knows what’s going on on the ice. The Sens need more of that up front and their current left wings are aging. Ratcliffe brings speed and energy.
- Dallas Stars (from ANA) – D Conor Timmins. The Stars’ second first-round pick comes courtesy of the Ducks, via the Patrick Eaves trade. Dallas already picked their power forward with the third overall pick so they’ll go defense now. Timmins is a great defenseman and should be a good upgrade for Dallas’s blue line.
- Nashville Predators – RW Kole Lind. The Preds have plenty of depth across the board in a lineup that helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history but if they had to pick a position, it would be right wing. They currently have Craig Smith, P.A. Parenteau, and Miikka Salomaki as true RWs on the roster and Lind would be a great addition.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – C Robert Thomas. It’s hard to imagine the defending, back-to-back Stanley Cup Champs needing anyone or any one position but here we are. They could theoretically pick anyone; I just have a feeling that they’ll take a center to help up front when the time comes.
And there you have it, my 2017 mock draft. It took weeks to put together, and it’s been edited and changed and altered more times than I care to admit but this is it.
Don’t forget to tune in tonight to NBCSN and Sportsnet at 7PMEST to find out who the Devils take first overall (Nico or Nolan?) and who else gets picked in the first round!