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2017 NHL Mock Draft: Edition II (May 2017)

2017 NHL Mock Draft: Edition II (May)

*Order of last four picks not yet determined 

The 2017 NHL Draft has gotten an unfair shake. Just because it pales in comparison to the high level talent of the 2015 and 2016 drafts, it should not be looked upon as a throwaway draft. 

At the top, Nolan and Nico are two very, very good players. They are not on the same stature as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but that is not a slight by any means at the two young players. Rather, it serves as a testament to how brilliant and unique McDavid and Matthews are. 

Making a mock draft for this year is incredibly difficult. After the first two picks, it is a total guessing game. There are players that could go as high as the top ten or as low as the bottom five of the first round. From pick five and onward, the draft is a cluster of talent that has not separated enough to make an accurate read. 

Furthermore, the expansion draft plays a large role in this entry draft. Many first round picks may be in play, specifically dealt for players who may be otherwise exposed by his current team. There is no way to predict who and which picks go where, so rather a probability of a pick being traded was added here. 

So, without further ado, here is a 2017 NHL Mock (Entry) Draft: 

1. New Jersey: Nico Hischier (F)

Chance pick is traded: very low 

Analysis: Personally, I believe New Jersey is one of the few teams that fits Nolan Patrick better than Nico Nischier, however I still think they go with Hischier. The dynamic Swiss forward, who made his name primarily at the 2016 World Juniors, will add a necessary speed to the middle of New Jersey’s lineup. 

2. Philadelphia: Nolan Patrick (F)

Chance pick is traded: very low 

Analysis: The Flyers were the big winners of the draft, moving up over ten spots to the #2 selection. No matter who falls, be it Patrick or Hischier, the Flyers are getting a fantastic player. Patrick has had injury concerns, but this is not the first time a top prospect has had these concerns. Patrick should find a home nicely in the middle six of Philadelphia for the upcoming years. 

3. Dallas: Casey Mittlestadt (F)

Chance pick is traded: high 

Analysis: Rumors are already swirling that Dallas is looking to trade the #3 pick, which in all reality makes sense. Aside from Heiskanen, all the top prospects in the drafts are centers. That does not fill a need for Dallas, even though it’s a bad idea to draft based on immediate team need (see Dubois and Columbus in 2016). Dallas moving this pick would surely be down a few spots for Heiskanen, Makar, or Liljegren, or for an NHL-ready defenseman. A trade with this pick could come before the expansion draft as well if a team cannot protect a high-end defender. Options include Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Sami Vatanen, Jacob Trouba, and Olli Maatta among others. 

4. Colorado: Miro Heiskanen (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: The Avalanche got hit hard by the draft lottery, but it may not all be for naught. If three centers go in the top three, which is highly likely depending the teams selecting there, Miro Heiskanen could fall right into Joe Sakic’s (or Kyle Dubas’) lap. The Finnish defenseman shined at the Under-18 Championships. 

5. Vancouver: Gabriel Vilardi (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The Canucks are picking at #5 for the second straight year and are expected to keep their draft pick. Vilardi is an above-average sized center that can do it all. 

6. Vegas: Cody Glass (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: For Vegas’ first ever selection in an NHL draft, a lot of factors will be put into place. The primary one is the expansion draft which will take place a few days prior to the entry draft. How the team shakes out will have a large impact on who Vegas decided to take on June 23. But, judging off of projections, they will likely need forwards instead of defenseman. Glass averaged just under 1.5 points per game for the Portland Winterhawks last season and would be a welcomed addition to Vegas’ center pipeline.  

7. Arizona: Cale Makar (D)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: After a few years of drafting forwards high (Strome and Keller), it appears it is time that Arizona takes a (much needed) defenseman in the top-ten. Makar, a right-handed defenseman, still needs time to round out his defensive game, however he is strong offensively. Despite the growing pains that would be involved, Makar would be a great investment for John Chayka. 

8. Buffalo: Timothy Liljegren (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Liljegren was once slated to be a top-two pick with Nolan Patrick in this year’s draft, however he has fallen out of favor for multiple reasons. One of the main causes is that early in the season, he underwent a case of mono which took him out of action for a few weeks. Due to inactivity, his strength and conditioning dropped off and may have scared some teams away. Liljegren, though, still remains an enticing defenseman for the top-ten. As a good puck mover, he could slide in to Buffalo’s defensive core within three years. He would provide a lot of help for a seriously depleted group. 

9. Detroit: Nicolas Hague (D)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The Red Wings took place in the lottery for the first time in a quarter of a century this year and wound up with the ninth overall selection. They have a bunch of options available, as the draft board gets pretty clustered at this point. Hague, 6’5/216, is a big and bruising defenseman. Adding an elite prospect from early in the draft is something out of the ordinary for Detroit, but it will be highly difficult to screw up this pick — Hague or not. 

10. Florida: Michael Rasmussen (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium

Analysis: Florida flopped this year under new management, so Dave Tallon and company are back at the helm. Rasmussen is a typical forward for this group, as he possesses size and a scoring touch. His 5v5 scoring has been put into question, but it is unlikely that that alone will turn teams away. 

11. Los Angeles: Elias Pettersson (F)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: The Kings need to get younger and quicker, and the 11th overall selection helps them do just that. Pettersson can play all facets of the game and would a slot in nicely behind Anze Kopitar and/or Jeff Carter in the future. 

12. Carolina: Owen Tippett (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The dynamic scoring winger Tippett is exactly what Carolina needs up front. Few players in this draft can match Tippett’s natural scoring ability, as he potted 44 goals in 60 games this season for the Mississauga Steelheads. 

13. Winnipeg: Callan Foote (F)

Chance pick is traded: low

Analysis: An assist machine in the WHL, Foote, son of Adam, is slated to go high in the draft this year. The offensive nature of Foote’s game may not translate completely to the NHL, but regardless he is slated to be a NHL mainstay and solid two-way guy. The addition of Foote would complement the strong forward prospect core of Winnipeg nicely. 

14. Tampa Bay: Nick Suzuki (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Although his smaller stature may deter teams away, Suzuki is one of the most complete players in the draft. He can play on all special teams and excels at even strength as well. 

15. New York (I): Eeli Tolvanen (F) 

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Tolvanen, coming out of the USHL, has above-average shot and offensive instincts for his age. His defensive game needs work, but it is nothing that cannot be rounded out. The Isles have had some good picks in the mid-first round in the past, but whether they keep the pick remains to be seen. 

16. Calgary: Kristian Vesalainen (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Veslainen is a young and large forward that broke out this past season in Finland. His all around ability will help bolster Calgary’s subpar forward pipeline. 

17. Toronto: Juuso Valimaki (D) 

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Valimaki was above point-per-game this past season for Tri-City in the WHL. Toronto may trade this pick before the expansion draft (hello, Anaheim), but if they keep it, Valimaki is a good addition to their farm system. 

18. Boston: Kailer Yamamoto (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Yamamoto dropping to this spot would be a blessing to Boston. Although a dynamic scoring forward, he strays from the Big Bad Bruins model as he sits at 5’9/160. 

19. San Jose: Shane Bowers (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Bowers is good at a lot of things but not overly great at one thing. Not that that’s a bad notion. He’s a nice center for San Jose to cope for when Joe Thornton eventually leaves or retires. 

20. St. Louis: Martin Necas (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Necas has a lot of ability to slide up and down the draft board. He could go as high as the top-ten or slide down to near this position with St. Louis. The Czech center is brilliant offensively and brings to the table exactly what the Blues need. 

21. New York (R): Connor Timmins (D) 

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: A bit of a jump for Timmins, however he would be a good addition to the Rangers defensive core. He could make an immediate impact if Staal, Girardi, and/or Holden need to be replaced. 

22. Edmonton: Robert Thomas (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Edmonton is picking outside of the first 14 in a long time in this draft. Thomas is a do-it-all kind of guy. 

23. Arizona (via MIN): Erik Brannstrom (D)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Arizona could move this pick for immediate help, but Brannstrom is a safe bet if they keep it. A quick and offensive defenseman, he’d add to their blueline prospects nicely. 

24. Columbus: Klim Kostin (F) 

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: From the KHL, Kostin brings skill and talent to the ice every single night. Columbus isn’t afraid to pick Russians, either. But the questions that begs is: when is he planning to come (if at all) to North America? 

25. Montreal: Ryan Poehling (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Similar to Robert Thomas, the 6’2 Poehling can play in all areas of the rink. Being a natural center helps Montreal as well. 

26. Chicago: Lias Andersson (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Although not immediately ready for the NHL, Andersson has a high ceiling. His defensive game stands out, but he can put up a good amount of points as well. 

27. St. Louis (via WSH): Pierre-Oliver Joseph (D)

Chance pick is traded: high 

Analysis: It is likely that Doug Armstrong moves this pick for offensive help before the expansion draft. However, for purposes of this mock draft, if he keeps it Joseph is a solid bet. He broke out in the QMJHL this season with 39 points in 63 games.

28. Ottawa: Uhro Vaakanainen (D)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: The smooth-skating Finnish defenseman has the ability to play on all special teams and in all 5v5 situations. 

29. Dallas (via ANA): Isaac Ratcliffe (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Dallas got this pick from Anaheim in the Patrick Eaves trade. Ratcliffe is a big power forward listed at 6’6/195. He potted 28 goals in 67 games with OHL’s Guelph this past year. 

30. Nashville: Kole Lind (F)

Chance pick is traded: medium 

Analysis: Lind has the potential to be a good penalty killer and middle-six scorer in the future. Nashville could go with a more dynamic presence here though. 

31. Pittsburgh: Maxime Comtois (F)

Chance pick is traded: low 

Analysis: Comtois is an energy player who brings a lot of offense to the table. He’s the type of guy that could be able to slot into Pittsburgh’s lineup sooner rather than later. 

Other notable names that could go in Round 1: Jonah Gadjovich (F), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (F), Grant Mismash (F), Jake Oettinger (G), Nikita Popugaev (F), Morgan Frost (F), Dylan Samberg (D), Jason Robertson (F)

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

The outcome of the NHL draft lottery complicates roster decisions for Hextall, Nill 

The NHL draft lottery has come and gone for yet another year. This time around, however, it was quite controversial and unexpected amongst many fans and league management alike. 

Colorado, Vancouver, and Arizona, who were the three worst teams in the league, all do not have top-three picks this year. Instead, New Jersey moved up from 5 to 1, Philadelphia moved up from 13 to 2, and Dallas moved up from 8 to 3. 

The NHL lottery system is designed to prevent tanking, and that is exactly what it did last night. Colorado, Arizona, and Vancouver were all trying to ice competitive teams at the start of the season, but it did not work out. It just so happened that these three teams became casualties of a system that was put in place after the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel draft. 

As for who won the lottery, it will have a significant impact on certain players being on the market come draft day. The top prospects in the draft — Patrick, Hischier, and Mittlestadt — happen to all be centers. 

To be fair, New Jersey does not so much fit into this category as well as Philadelphia and Dallas do. The Devils need a bonafide center desperately as they lack star power down the middle. Whichever road they go of the three aforementioned prospects, they will be in good shape. Adding one of them to Taylor Hall (and potentially Ilya Kovalchuk) puts them in a solid place moving forward with their rebuild. 

As for Philadelphia and Dallas, things are not as simple. Both teams already had a logjam of centers heading into this offseason and the outcome of the draft lottery does not make it any easier. Albeit, Hextall and Nill likely aren’t complaining. 

For the Flyers, down the middle they previously had Giroux, Filppula, Couturier, with a combination of other players including Bellemare, Vecchione, Cousins, and Weal playing on the fourth line. Along with the group of previously mentioned fourth liners, Boyd Gordon and Scott Laughton can also play in that role. Travis Konecny is a natural center as well but saw a large majority of his time on the wing last season and will likely continue to see so moving forward. 

In the end, the Flyers have some choices to make over the summer if they want to bring one of Patrick, Hischier, or Middlestadt on to the team next season. 

The player that could be in limbo throughout this whole situation is Sean Couturier. The 24-year-old center was already in trade speculation following the Filppula acquisition at the trade deadline, but now things are even more complicated. Couturier posted 14 goals and 34 points in 66 games last season and is more regarded as a defensive center. 

A handful of teams would love to get their hands on Couturier. It would be a tough sell for the Flyers and Hextall, but they made be forced into a move due to the outcome of the draft lottery. Regardless, the price on Couturier would not be cheap. 

In fairness, however, the Flyers could keep one of Hischier/Patrick/Mittlestadt or Couturier on the fourth line and work things out from there. Or, they could return their second overall pick to Juniors/the USHL. The latter is a lot more unlikely but not out of the question. 

The Dallas Stars are in a similar situation. The original plan heading into next season, according to Stars reporter Mike Heika, was to have Seguin, Spezza, and Faksa play at center. Devin Shore or Mark McNeill could fill in at fourth line center. 

This plan leaves out Cody Eakin, who Heika speculated could be traded before the expansion draft. Much like Couturier, Eakin is a defensive oriented middle-six center that a lot of teams would have serious interest in. 

Moving forward after the expansion draft, a lot of questions need to be answered for the Stars. They did not want to drop Radek Faksa down the depth chart for Cody Eakin, but will they think the same way for a bonafide center prospect? Only time will tell, but it is certainly up in the air. 

This situation with Dallas may unfold differently than people expect. Due to their already quality center core, they could look to trade down in the draft. A team like Colorado, Las Vegas or Vancouver would definitely be interested in one of Patrick, Hischier, or Mittlestadt. 

The Stars could go the root of taking a defenseman too. Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen are both slated to go in or near the top-five of the draft. 

Also set to go high are Gabriel Vilardi and Michael Rasmussen, both of whom play center. 

There will rightfully be a lot of speculation in the upcoming months on behalf of the teams selecting within the top-three in June. The stunning outcome of the draft lottery has changed the outlook of the league and will show its true effects very soon. 

Stay tuned for more draft coverage coming soon. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles