While the 2017 NHL Draft does not have the sizzle of what we’ve witnessed in each of the last two years, it will still produce a solid crop of successful NHL players.
Adding to the excitement of the proceedings is the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, which will put a number of picks into play. This year’s first round features a collection of players from high school, college, major junior, Tier II as well as representation from several European countries.
There’s Nolan vs Nico, Kailer and Cale, Miro and Jusso, Elias and Lias. Keep in mind, things will change once we confirm all of Vegas‘ deals.
1. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Nico Hischier, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): The Swiss Mister has it all. He can play both ends of the ice, with offensive flair. He’s not quite as dynamic as Ehlers, Drouin or MacKinnon, but at this age, he’s more well-rounded.
2. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): There are no deficiencies in his game and he can be relied on to play in any situation. Marry the skill with size and include being a right shot, and all the pieces come together.
3. DALLAS STARS
Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland): As a two-way defenceman, he processes and executes the game in mistake-free fashion. A growth spurt moved him from the 20-something crowd into top-five territory.
4. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Cale Makar, Brooks Bandits (AJHL): Could be considered the most dynamic player in the draft. Makar has elite skating ability and can handle the puck at top speed. Forget the competition, but look closer at his international play and back-to-back national championship appearances and consider he was arguably the best player in the 2017 WJAC and RBC Cup.
5. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2): Effective in every offensive situation with a skill set that’s off the charts. Height isn’t the problem, but his slight frame leaves little room to pack on a few more pounds.
6. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Cody Glass, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Has treated several potential mountains as mole hills along his path to becoming an NHL player. Highly motivated with a skill set to match, Glass was amongst the highest risers from the start of the season.
7. ARIZONA COYOTES
Gabe Vilardi, Windsor Spitfires (OHL). Few players can control the puck on the wall and down low like Vilardi. He’s got an NHL ready shot and release with a good frame. Vilardi takes to coaching well and has great desire to improve on a daily.
8. BUFFALO SABRES
Martin Necas, Brno (CZE): Great skating ability with good stick skills, Necas held his own against men, rarely backing down as a result of a Rolls Royce motor.
9. DETROIT RED WINGS
Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City Americans (WHL): He could be mistaken for Captain Serious, but it is that pro mentality that has put him in the conversation as a top-10 pick. Net front presence and sniping ability are omnipresent. Stats are tilted heavily on the power play side of things, however.
10. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Owen Tippett, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): No one in this draft class has the skating and goal scoring combination Tippett possesses.
11. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack (OHL): Almost a year younger than Patrick, Suzuki progressed amazingly well in his second OHL season. He’s an analytics darling, a coach’s dream and brings it every shift.
12. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (MIN-HS): Take away the decision to play high school hockey, take away the sub-par performance at the NHL Combine and take whatever you want from the interview process before answering this quesiton: can he play? The answer is a resounding yes.
13. WINNIPEG JETS
Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (SWE): A difficult year marred by mono, scouts are hoping this past season was an outlier and not the norm. Hockey IQ has come into question, but his skating and offensive abilities have never been an issue.
14. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Klim Kostin, Dynamo (RUS): Injuries limited his play this season, but when healthy, Kostin displayed skilled, power-forward attributes. There is some concern he’ll take the Nichuskin, Radulov path and that has some teams turned off.
15. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City Americans (WHL): Great character, with big offensive upside, Valimaki comes to the rink with a smile on his face everyday.
16. CALGARY FLAMES
Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (SWE): Without a doubt the best player at the U-18’s. Vesalainen lead the tournament in scoring with 13 points in 7 games. He fit in better with his age group than he did playing with men in Sweden.
17. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL): A slick skilled, smallish forward whose shot packs a punch. He will shoot it from anywhere and at anytime, he is reminiscent of Sebastian Aho.
18. BOSTON BRUINS
Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (SWE): His game adjusted well depending on the situation. Free wheeling when up against his age group, a little more safe and responsible when playing against men. He’s as gifted as their is in this draft and if he were three inches taller, he’d be a single digits pick.
19. SAN JOSE SHARKS
Robert Thomas, London Knights (OHL): Might be the most underrated player in this draft class. Thomas is a Bo Horvat clone, even in looks. Has already won a Mastercard Memorial Cup and a U-17 title.
20. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Lias Andersson, HV 71 (SWE): Another Alexander Steen? A safe pick, Andersson won’t dazzle in any particular area of the game, but he’s as reliable as a metronome. NHL bloodlines add insurance to this pick.
21. NEW YORK RANGERS
Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud St. (NCAA): Another safe pick, whose draft stock may be undervalued based on the fact he was the youngest player in the NCAA this season. Many scouts believe that may have cost him some first round placement.
22. EDMONTON OILERS
Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): A gifted goal scorer who plays fearlessly, with a fun-loving attitude, Yamamoto will find a way to play and make those around him better.
23. ARIZONA COYOTES
Cal Foote, Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Once he grows into his body and adds lower body strength, skating will not be an issue. One of the best pure defenders available, Foote possesses a big yet under utilized shot that will play in the NHL.
24. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph Storm (OHL): A steep developmental curve that hasn’t slowed in two years, and isn’t expected to slow on his way to the show. Ratcliffe was recognized by coaches around the OHL as being one of the most improved players in the league. Twenty of his 28 goals were scored at even strength.
25. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The style of play in Sault Ste. Marie lends itself to how the game is played in the NHL. Puck possession, quick zone exits and getting it to the forwards in an efficient manner allowed Timmins to put up big points, but don’t sleep on his defence.
26. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Josh Norris, USNTDP: This high riser may not get this far down, but between his U-18 performance and his outstanding NHL Combine, Norris cemented himself in the first round. His father Dwayne played in the NHL, in Europe and was a product of Michigan State.
27. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Urho Vaakanainen, JYP, (FIN): Is a no-nonsense defenceman who got plenty of looks paired next to Heiskanen at the U-18’s. There is limited offensive potential, but he skates well and moves pucks efficiently.
28. OTTAWA SENATORS
Nic Hague, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Book smart as can be, Hague has great character and is well liked by his mates. His skating needs work, particularly his pivots, but Hague will not shy away from that. He has a nasty physical edge to him and a big league shot.
29. DALLAS STARS
Jake Oettinger, Boston University (NCAA): Absolutely stood out in the interview process as a player who has presence with an air of confidence not exuding cockiness. He fits the size bill of every NHL team. A true freshman that was not going to be denied the nets played well down the stretch.
30. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Kole Lind, Kelowna Rockets (WHL): It’s not easy to put up big numbers in the WHL, but Lind found a way to score 30 goals and 87 points and not always as Kelowna’s top scoring option.
31. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL): This talented centre makes magic happen with the puck on his stick. He’s a real shifty skater, who’s not afraid to play in traffic.