While there are only four teams left in the NHL playing hockey, the rest are playing golf, I’m going to look at which team is picking where in next month’s draft and tell you who they’re going to pick with almost everything that follows the top three selections being highly inaccurate.
For arguments sake I’ll list the bottom four teams (St. Louis, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay) in order of how they finished in the regular season standings, the team with the lowest points of the four will get back 27 for example and the highest will get pick 30.
I released a mock draft of the first 14 selections after the NHL Draft Lottery a few weeks back so you can check that out as well to see how much my selections have changed.
Here we go, the Toronto Maple Leafs are on the clock.
- Toronto Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews (C) ZSC Lions – Switzerland
Leafs fans rejoiced when they found out they had won the first overall pick after years of turmoil, and now they should be excited when they officially announce Auston Matthews as their guy when they make the first pick in the draft. He’s a huge talent, possibly even the second generational talent to go in as many years, there’s a big buzz around this guy for a reason and when he becomes the leafs elite first line centre in a couple of years you’ll understand why.
- Winnipeg Jets – Patrik Laine (LW) Tappara Tampere – Finland
The only guy who could challenge Matthews to go first overall, Laine has the skill to go one spot above in most drafts but not this year. Centre man are more valuable so I don’t think the Leafs would take Laine over the American Matthews. What Laine does bring is a huge shot that saw him rack up the most goals by a rookie in the SM-Liiga this year and he’s an NHL ready talent who’ll be a huge addition to the Winnipeg Jets line-up who were third last in the league in scoring this year.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – Jesse Puljujarvi (LW) Karpat Oulu – Finland
Another NHL ready prospect coming into the draft, Puljujarvi is a solid two-way winger who can recover the puck in his zone just as well as he can bury it past your goalie. At 6’3” and 201lbs the Finnish teenager put up 28 points in 50 games for Karpat Oulu this season as well as taking him two-gold medals at the World Juniors and World Under-18s.
- Edmonton Oilers – Olli Juolevi (D) London Knights – OHL
The third of the top rated Finnish talent coming into the draft, Olli Juolevi is a calm and mature defenseman who plays a solid 200-foot game. He’s great in his own zone but can contribute offensively, something the Oilers would relish if they keep this pick (which I fully expect they don’t)
- Vancouver Canucks – Pierre-Luc Dubois (LW) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – QMJHL
The top rated player coming out of the QMJHL this year, Pierre-Luc Dubois is a potential future elite playmaker who fell just shy of a 100-point season with 42 goals and 99 assists. He’ll need extra time to develop into a top six winger but he’ll be a solid guy once he becomes an NHL ready talent.
- Calgary Flames – Matthew Tkachuk (LW) London Knights – OHL
Matthew Tkachuk is a gritty winger coming from a strong London Knights team, a year after nearly posting 100 points in the USHL in 2014-15, he put up 107 points which wasn’t even enough for the most on the team. Now the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk should be a lock for a top 10 selection with a mix of high end playmaking and nastiness in the corners, the Flames will be happy if they pick up this kid.
- Arizona Coyotes – Jakob Chychrun (D) Sarnia Sting – OHL
Coming into the season, Chychrun was ranked as the best defenseman in the draft, now he’s slipped a little but the son of former NHLer Jeff Chychrun is still a strong prospect despite a relatively disappointing year. He’ll take some time to refine his game but when Chychrun makes the show he’ll be a solid top-four defenseman who has excellent vision and is great at moving the puck up the ice from his own end.
- Buffalo Sabres – Alexander Nylander (LW/RW) Mississauga Steelheads – OHL
There might not be any bragging rights if Alex Nylander goes eighth like his big brother William did to the Leafs in 2013, but the youngest son of Michael Nylander had a stellar first year in the OHL with 75 points for the Steelheads. He was big for Sweden at the World Juniors and World Under-18s and in a few seasons when he cracks the show he’ll show his calm and composed skill that’ll make him a solid second liner for years to come.
- Montreal Canadiens – Logan Brown (C) (Windsor Spitfires – OHL
This year’s draft class has a few famous dad’s and here’s another former NHLers son in Logan Brown whose dad Jeff played 747 games in the NHL. Now his 6’6” son has the chance to go in the top 10 after a solid season for the Windsor Spitfires with 74 points. At his size he can out battle opponents, be a great net-front guy but don’t underestimate his puck handling that’ll make him a top playmaker coming out of this draft.
- Colorado Avalanche – Mikhail Sergachev (D) Windsor Spitfires – OHL
The third defenseman to go in this year’s draft, Mikhail Sergachev was the best defenseman in the OHL in his rookie season after showcasing his poise and high-end two-way play that’ll make him a good second pairing guy for the Avalanche in a few seasons.
- New Jersey Devils – Clayton Keller (C) USA U-18 – USHL
He’s not the biggest guy but there’s been plenty of guys in the NHL who’ve proven you don’t need to be big to go far. He’s only 5’9” but he’s got great speed and high-end skill and playmaking abilities. He led the USA Under-18’s team with 107 points and 70 assists. While he’s committed to Boston University for next year but he’ll be a slippery centre for years to come when he makes the jump to the next level.
- Ottawa Senators – Jake Bean (D) Calgary Hitmen – WHL
A lot of people have Jake Bean rated a little outside the top 15, but he’s shown that in two seasons in the WHL he’s got all the skills necessary to be an established defenseman, he’s tremendous without the puck and can see plays before they happen, but he’s also gifted with the puck on his stick shown by his 24 goals and 40 assists this year.
- Carolina Hurricanes – Michael McLeod (C) Mississauga Steelheads – OHL
McLeod is a solid forward for the Mississauga Steelheads and really saw his production rise in his sophomore OHL season. Following a 29-point rookie campaign he had an A on his sweater as he went onto register 61 points this season. He’s hard to defend through his physical play and should be a solid fit for the Hurricanes in around two to three seasons ones he’s developed his game enough to jump up to the NHL level.
- Boston Bruins Kieffer Bellows (LW) USA U-18 – USHL
It’s been a good few years for US prospects, led by Jack Eichel last year and now Auston Matthews looking like the real deal, the USA are producing some great prospects lately and Kieffer Bellows joins that company. The 17-year old forward is a highly skilled forward with a sweet shot that led him to a 50 goal season for the USA U-18 team this season. He’s committed to Boston University for next season which will only give him more time to grow into a competitive pro, and if the Bruins draft him they won’t have far to go to check up on their latest prospect.
- Minnesota Wild – Tyson Jost (C) Pentiction Vees – BCHL
Despite never playing in the WHL, Tyson Jost is an exceptional talent shown by a 42 goal and 104-point season in the BCHL which was the most by an under 18 player in the league. He’ll be at the University of North Dakota next season where he’ll look to showcase his natural goal scoring abilities again as he paves way to a solid pro career and given the Wild’s prospect pool and the way they develop young talent, both parties could benefit from this pick.
- Detroit Red Wings – Charles McAvoy (D) Boston University – NCAA
Another kid from America likely to go high in the first round, Charles McAvoy is a solid defenseman who was also part of the US World Junior team this year that won Bronze in Finland. A right handed blueliner, McAvoy isn’t a much of a point scoring defenseman but he can contribute in that area but his defensive game is what makes him such a top prospect coming into next months’ draft and the Red Wings will be happy if they can pick this kid up at 16.
- Nashville Predators – Max Jones (LW) London Knights – OHL
Another London Knight player to go in the first round, Max Jones is one of the most hard working players available this year, he uses his size to his advantage to outwork opponents in all areas of the ice and also has great vision. While he won’t go on to become a top line player, he’ll be a great compliment player on the second or even third line but his contribution each shift is where his real value is as he never quits on a play and with 28 goals this year, he also knows how to find the back of the net.
- Philadelphia Flyers – Dante Fabbro (D) Penticton Vees – BCHL
Another player out of the BCHL, Dante Fabbro was big for the Penticton Vee’s this season with 67 points from the blue line. He’s a very reliable two-way guy who works well under pressure and can become a power play quarterback for the Flyers if they take him. He’ll be at Boston University next season where he’ll continue to grow into a skilful NHL blueliner in a few years’ time.
- New York Islanders – Julien Gauthier (RW) Val-d’Or Foreurs – QMJHL
If you draw comparisons to Rick Nash, you must be doing something right. Now that might not do much for Islanders fans but if they get Julien Gauthier they’ll pay attention. He’s a big physical guy who uses that to his advantage in battles and just like the guy they compare him to, Gauthier can find the back of the net with ease, and for a big guy he skates exceptionally well. This season for Val-d’Or he put up 41 goals, and despite his numbers dropping from his rookie year, he’s a forward with huge potential and should go on to a great NHL career.
- Arizona Coyotes (from NY Rangers)1 – Brett Howden (C) Moose Jaw Warriors – WHL
Getting into the final 10 and the first of the traded picks, the Arizona Coyotes will be back on the board at pick number 20, and if they take Jakob Chychrun with their first pick, they’ll probably look to offense with this pick and Brett Howden could be their guy. The brother of Panthers prospect Quinton Howden, the younger sibling has great vision to set up his teammates shown by 40 assists this year, but he also knows how to bury the puck, but the Coyotes could get a solid 2nd/3rd line centre in Howden in a few years’ time.
- Carolina Hurricanes (from LA Kings)2 – Logan Stanley (D) Windsor Spitfires
Similar to the above pick, the Hurricanes get their second pick this round and if they go forward maybe they go defence here and take Logan Stanley. Realistically teams will take the best player available and Stanley might be that guy. He’s huge, he’s 6’6” and 209lbs and a true shutdown defenseman. Don’t try and screen the goalie when this guys on the ice because he’ll quickly clear you out, while you won’t get much offense out of this guy, you’ll get a nasty competitor who I’m sure the depth of Hurricanes goaltending prospects (Alex Nedeljkovic & Daniel Atlshuller to name just two) will love when they make the NHL.
- Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago)3 – Samuel Girard (D) Shawinigan Cataractes – QMJHL
Samuel Girard needs time to develop, he’s a bit on the small size for a blueliner but that hasn’t stopped him from doing well in the Q, especially as he’s a completely different player to Logan Stanley who I’ve listed above. At 5’10 and 161lbs, Girard is a fantastic offensive defenseman who put up 74 points this season for Shawinigan. He’s a flashy player and isn’t afraid despite his size, and despite all his offensive prospects don’t underestimate this guy’s ability to shut down plays.
- Florida Panthers – German Rubtsov (C) Vitaz Podolsk HC – KHL
Time to head back to Europe for the 23rd pick as German Rubtsov is up for the Panthers. He’s a very solid centre man who may take a while to come across to the NHL but plying his trade in his home country worked well for Capitals forward Evgeni Kuznetsov didn’t it? Panthers fans may have to wait on him but his all-round consistent play will make him worth the wait.
- Anaheim Ducks – Markus Niemelainen (D) Saginaw Spirit – OHL
Finland are producing some fantastic talents lately, and don’t be fooled by his late first round projection, Markus Niemelainen is one of them. While he didn’t exactly dazzle in his first year in North America, he put up 27 points for Saginaw but also helped Finland to a gold at the World Under 18s along with Jesse Puljujarvi. He’s a smooth skater and a strong defenseman who will be a great addition to any team. He’s cool and calm on the puck and able to quickly read plays to start them or break them up, he’ll need a few years yet to really crack the NHL, but when he can get the chance he’ll likely take it and prove why he’s got the makings of a solid 2nd pairing guy.
- Dallas Stars – Dennis Chlolowski (D) Chilliwack Chiefs – BCHL
Back to the BCHL, since 1975 only six players have been drafted in the first round directly out of the league and this year they could add three more with Tyson Jost, Dante Fabrro and now Dennis Cholowski. He’s got the height at 6’1” but he needs to get bigger at just 165lbs, but with the Chilliwack Chiefs blueliner committed to St. Cloud State University for the 2017-18 season he’s got plenty of time to fill out and also establish his dominant two-way play that makes him a potential first round target this year.
- Washington Capitals – Rasmus Asplund (C) Farjestad – Sweden
Believe it or not, this pick isn’t because the Capitals seem to like Swedes (Backstrom, Burakovsky, Johansson have all been great first round additions by the Caps) but more Asplund might be the best guy available to Washington at pick 26. There’s not much the Capitals really need to do to their line-up right now other than prepare for the future, and getting Asplund, a strong playmaking centre to wait in the wings could be a solid move for a few years’ time. He’s getting experience playing against men in the SHL and when he does make the move over to North America likely for an AHL stint he’ll be a nice depth guy for the Capitals to add.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – Will Bitten (C) Flint Firebirds – OHL
Now to the first of the undecided picks, the Lightning finished with the lowest points of the final four teams left in the playoffs so let’s say they pick 27th, they could do pretty well by picking Flint Firebirds centre William Bitten after his 65-point season. He gives 100% each shift and for all his offensive upside there’s just as much to his defensive game that makes him a potential first rounder. He’s likely a future 2nd line centre at best but he can kill penalties as well as continue to grow on the 30-point season he just had.
- Boston Bruins (from San Jose)4 – Cam Dineen (D) North Bay Battalion – OHL
We’re going back to Boston at pick 28 after they acquire this pick from the Sharks, it’s the second year in a row the Bruins have multiple first round selections (hopefully they do better with them this year) If they do pick Kieffer Bellows at 14, Cam Dineen wouldn’t be bad guy to go after with their second pick. He just come off a 59-point rookie season as a defenseman and the Bruins need to start stockpiling youth in all areas with an aging line-up. Taking Dineen would be a good addition to their already impressive defensive prospect pool.
- Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh)5 – Taylor Raddysh (RW) Erie Otters – OHL
As a capitals fan it’ll be good to see the Leafs second pick in the first round be anything other than the 30th overall because that means the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t win the cup, but them picking 29th is just based on their points (for the most part). The Leafs could really get a solid second guy in this round if they took winger Taylor Raddysh of the Erie Otters. He put up 27 points in his rookie OHL year and came back to prove he won’t have a sophomore slump after posting 73 points this year. The Leafs have some exciting prospects who are on a heck of a Calder Cup run right now, and with the rebuild well and truly underway, Raddysh and his playmaking abilities will be a great acquisition as the Leafs look to restore some hope in Toronto.
- Louis Blues – Alex DeBrincat (RW) Erie Otters – OHL
Admittedly even without my points based predictions for the final four picks, I think the Blues pick 30th anyway. Alex DeBrincat to me could go a bit higher than this but because it’s my mock and I’m going to wrong about 75% of the picks anyway, may as well send him to St. Louis. It’s hard to knock a guy who put up back-to-back 100+ point seasons in the OHL, which is what DeBrincat has done, but at 5’7 and 161lbs that might put some teams off. That’s not to say he won’t become anything, he’s got an elite skillset that will serve him well in his pro-career, but he’ll need to prove he can keep up physically which is why he’ll likely slip down compared to where his points would see people take him higher.
So that’s it, my full first-round mock draft ahead of the draft next month. On June 24th we’ll get to see just how wrong I am and you’ll get to see which players your team is putting their faith in going into the future.
Let’s just all agree my top three is pretty solid.
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- The Arizona Coyotes get the New York Rangers first round pick this year as part of a trade on March 1 2015. The Coyotes traded Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth round pick to the Rangers for John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a 2015 second round pick (originally from the Tampa Bay Lightning) and this conditional pick. The Coyotes received the first round selection as a result of the New York Rangers making the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
- The Carolina Hurricanes received the Los Angeles Kings first round selection as a result of a trade on February 25th The Hurricanes traded Andrej Sekera to the Kings and received Roland McKeown and this pick (conditional at the time) as part of the deal. With the Kings making the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs the condition of the pick was converted and the Hurricanes receive the Kings first round pick this year.
- The Winnipeg Jets received the Chicago Blackhawks first round selection as part of a trade on February 25th 2016 that saw the Jets trade Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser to the Blackhawks for Marko Dano, a conditional third round pick in 2018 and this first round selection.
- The Boston Bruins receive the San Jose Sharks first round pick as a result of a trade on June 30th The Bruins traded goaltender Martin Jones for this first round pick and Sean Kuraly.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs receive the Pittsburgh Penguins first overall selection as a result of the Phil Kessel trade. On July 1st 2015 the Leafs traded Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a conditional second round pick in 2016 to the Penguins in exchange for Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a third round pick in 2016 (originally from New Jersey) and this conditional pick. The condition on the pick was converted when the Pittsburgh Penguins made it to the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.