I guess it’s about time I publish my first NHL Mock Draft of the year following last months NHL Draft Lottery.
We know who’s picking where for most of the picks this year, but in this list I’ll be going through picks 1 – 15, and while you all know who’s going number one you may want to start at pick two.
1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frölunda (SWE)
When the NHL Draft Lottery took place on April 28th, the Buffalo Sabres must have been scared of losing out on a potential franchise defenceman. Despite not winning a lot since the season began in October however, April 28th saw them get their most important win of the season as they retained the first overall selection and will take Rasmus Dahlin first overall, make him the first Swede to go number one since Mats in 1989 who until June 22nd 2018 will be the only Swede taken first so far. Dahlin has been in the SHL over the past two seasons and has already shown his elite puck movement ability and impressive offensive touch. I just bet the Ottawa Senators wish they could’ve moved up to get him if their current super Swede leaves soon.
He’s banned for two games in next years World Juniors for that ridiculous IIHF ban they put on several Swedish players following their loss in last years final, but he’ll be on the Sabres roster next year and they won’t be loaning him to the tournament so I highly doubt he cares.
2. Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts.
Carolina were one of two teams to move up following the draft lottery, despite just a 3.3% chance at moving up in the draft they managed it, going from 11th to second.
With this luck for the side who are going through immense amounts of change with Don Waddle coming in as the teams new President and GM. They have some good young talent like Sebastian Aho (who was a second round steal back in 2015), Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm while Jeff Skinner is still a serviceable player.
Bringing in Svechnikov should bring a lift to the organisation, and that coupled with a solid draft beyond the second pick, and a good off season should start propelling the Hurricanes onto better things.
Svechnikov is a huge talent who would have mounted more of a challenge to go first overall in some other drafts, and has a lethal shot that helped him to a 40 goal rookie campaign in the OHL.
He’s effective over every inch of the ice so expect him to produce almost immediately for the Canes.
3. Montreal Canadiens – Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax Mooseheads
The other team to move up on April 28th were the Montreal Canadiens who only moved up from fourth but that’ll help them if they decide to go with Halifax Mooseheads winger Filip Zadina.
The argument between Svechnikov and Zadina going one and two is close, but many expect the Czech to be available for the Canadiens to potentially take.
He’s just completed his first year in the QMJHL, putting up 82 points in just 57 appearances.
He seems to have found his feet in North America after leaving his home country, and while he has one of the best shots in the draft, he may take a season or two to get going in the pros but once he finds his footing he’ll be a dynamic force on the Canadiens wing.
4. Ottawa Senators – Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University
Bragging rights in the Tkachuk household will go to the youngest son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk. His older son Matthew went sixth to the Flames in 2016, and if Tkachuk doesn’t get snapped up by the Sens at four I can’t see him slipping past Arizona at five. In 40 games for BU he put up 31 points in his first year, being named to the NCAA (Hockey East) All-Rookie team as well as helping his side to the Championship. He’s not going to anger you like his brother Matthew, but he still plays a physical game with that scoring touch the Sens could use after scoring 221 goals last season, not far off the worst in the league.
5. Arizona Coyotes – Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan
The Coyotes picked up a solid young blue liner with the 16th pick back in 2016 with Jakob Chychrun, and with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in their defensive unit, they could really bolster it this year if they take Quinn Hughes from the University of Michigan.
He’s the first of three brothers who could all be high draft picks in the NHL. He plays a very calm and composed defensive game, distributing the puck well as shown by 24 of his 29 points this year coming as assists. He sees the ice well and will step into a power play quarterback role after a bit of development and getting used to the league, and the Coyotes can use a player like Hughes as they look to get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season, and the first time since ceasing to be called the Phoenix Coyotes.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst
The second player to be called from the QMJHL will without a doubt be Acadie-Bathurst defenseman Noah Dobson, who some might believe is actually the best defenseman in the draft if you removed Rasmus Dahlin.
He was over a point per game with 17 goals and 52 assists in 67 games this year, and while he’ll take a year or two extra in junior before he comes to fruition, with the ageing Red Wings players they need to stockpile good talent to come in when the likes of Kronwall and Ericsson call it a day soon, and while they’re not exactly short of replacements, Dobson would immediately jump up the depth chart when he makes it to the show.
7. Vancouver Canucks – Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights
The third straight defenseman taken could well be the first out of these three to go. Evan Bouchard put up a superb 87 points in 67 games for London, serving as team captain and taking his OHL point totals to 148 in 178 games since making his debut in 2015/16. A sure member of Canada’s World Junior side this winter, Bouchard has all the ability to become a great top four defenseman in the NHL, and with the forwards the Canucks have got in their system, bringing in Bouchard alongside Olli Juolevi could be a dynamic pairing for the future.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Oliver Wahlstrom, LW, USA NDTP
At 13-years-old Oliver Wahlstrom verbally committed to the University of Maine, but withdrew his commitment last summer and will spend next year with Harvard University.
Before he was tearing up the USHL, he was an internet star at just nine-years-old but now going into his draft year he’s one of the best young scorers in the world, shown by his 39 goals in 51 games for the USA NDTP.
The Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and while it’s unlikely that this is the start of a rebuild phase and just simply a bad year for the Original Six franchise, Wahlstrom will still be a huge addition in a few years time.
9. New York Rangers – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (SWE)
A strong defensively top 10 should mean that Adam Boqvist is the fifth D-Man to go in the top 10 when the New York Rangers are on the clock. It’s looking like it could be a tough few years for the blue shirts, and while it’s not likely they’ll be consistently missing the playoffs, they need to start looking towards life without Henrik Lundqvist and retool going forward.
One guy that could fit in is Adam Boqvist who plays a similar style game as Quinn Hughes. A highly intelligent defenseman both on and off the puck, Boqvist is creative with the puck. He’ll develop his game back home for a year or two, but that’ll mean when he finally suits up in the NHL, he’ll be bigger and more mature which will only benefit the Rangers.
10. Edmonton Oilers – Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs
Let’s face it, the Oilers can’t have a year like this again can they? It was all meant to be sorted and the Oilers resurgence complete. Perhaps not though as they’re back out of the playoffs.
Bring in a guy like Ty Smith to solidify you’re bottom pair in a season or two and let him grow into a top four guy in the future and the Oilers will have no problem returning to the playoffs.
They have some elite offensive talent in the obvious choices of McDavid and Draisaitl, but they need to tidy up the defence a little going forward. Smith isn’t an immediate fix but in this draft, it’s unlikely to find an immediate impact outside the top 3.
11. New York Islanders – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Ässät (FIN)
The first pick outside the top ten, and the first of back to back picks so picks 11 and 12 don’t really matter what order because unless the Islanders trade one (or both) they 11th and 12th picks will both head to Brooklyn (or whenever the Islanders end up playing soon).
First up for me though is the first centre on this list in Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
At 6’2” and 188lbs he’s already a big frame and could still grow, he had a great rookie campaign in the Finnish men’s league with 29 points in 57 games which was third best among league rookies. He’s a highly intelligent player on the puck and his intelligence will only grow with experience so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn big second line money after his initial rookie deal comes to and end. After such a good year in the SM Liiga this year, the Islanders will happily send him back to Finland for a year or two before bringing him into the fold.
12. New York Islanders – Bode Wilde, D, USA NTDP
After going with a forward at 11 then the Islanders can look to address the defence with Bode Wilde still on the board.
He’s committed to the University of Michigan for 2018/19 but again the Islanders don’t have an immediate need to rush guys in, and it’s not like they have a dry prospect pool.
Wilde is highly competitive at both ends of the ice, not wanting to lose puck battles in the corner and also wanting to find the net himself or set up a teammate as shown by his 36 points last season. He’ll pester the puck carrier and use his big body to punish guys in the corner. A no nonsense blue liner he’ll be a solid guy in a few years time.
13. Dallas Stars – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville
At the start of the year I thought Veleno could challenge for a top five spot, and it’s not that he had a bad year, I just don’t think he showed enough progression compared to those I’ve predicted to go before him.
Starting the year at a point per game pace for the St John Sea Dogs, he was traded midsession to the Drummondville Voltigeurs where he improved his names, finishing with 79 points in 64 games across both teams.
He needs to be more consistent going forward but his second half of the season showed that’s not likely to be an issue when he goes pro. He’s a well-rounded player who contributes just as well on defense as he does when his teams on the puck, so it’ll be interesting to see where Veleno actually goes, and if he slides out of the top 15 all together.
14. Philadelphia Flyers – Joel Farabee, LW, USA NTDP
The Flyers made the playoffs but following trade with the Blues they actually had a slim shot at Dahlin (which the Blues could have deferred the pick until next year) but it does give Philly the chance to add another piece to the puzzle.
Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s incredibly unlikely anyone outside the top 3 makes the NHL next year unless they have an incredible training camp, and Farabee is no exception. Philadelphia will be a middle of the pack side for a couple more years, but once they have some big prospects come in (most notably goalie Carter Hart) then they’ll start coming good of the promise they occasionally show.
Farabee could go in the top 10 if the right team wants him. He skates really well and while he’s not the biggest guy right now he’ll certainly add a few pounds to his frame before he even gets a sniff at the NHL.
Playing at Boston University next year should give him a great chance to work on all aspects of his game and even allow him to show he’s a comfortable player in all forward positions. After a 60 point season, he’ll probably go higher than 14.
15. Florida Panthers – Barrett Hayton, C, S.S.M Greyhounds
The Panthers are a playoff team next year to me, so what they do with this pick doesn’t matter too much. It’ll be more about maybe filling gaps in their prospect pool that they can identify (which I’m not going to attempt to do).
But if it’s a case of taking the next best player off the board then it’s likely going to be Barrett Hayton of the Soo Greyounds.
He plays a complete 200 foot game that will translate well into the pro game in about two years time. Coming off the back of a 60 points in 63 games, he’s going to be a dominant force in the OHL next season, and it’ll likely be three or four years until we see him in an NHL Jersey full time.
Other players to watch for.
Martin Kaut – RW, HC Dynamo Pardubice (CZE)
Rasmus Kupari – C, Kärpät (FIN)
Isac Lundeström – C, Luleå (SWE)
Jared McIsaac – D, Halifax Mooseheads
Ryan McLeod – C, Mississauga Steelheads
Benoit-Olivier Groulx – C, Halifax Mooseheads
So that’s my list right now that is completely and 100% wrong and I’m sure if anyone reads this you’ll either let me know or judge me silently (hopefully the latter)
With a month to go until the draft I’ll be looking to bring even more draft related posts to this site, with a full first round mock coming closer to draft day.