With the Stanley Cup officially over, the NHL offseason has begun. The NHL Expansion Draft picks set to be released on June 21 during the NHL Awards, and following that, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, June 23rd and 24th.
For some teams, the NHL Entry Draft gives teams the ability to find a future piece of their core, while others are able to replenish their farm system following attempted Stanley Cups runs.
This year’s draft class does not have a “franchise” player like the past two drafts. There is no Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews in this years draft, but there is some very good top end talent. Centers Patrick Nolan and Nico Hischier lead this years class that is strongest at forward position.
We take a look at how the first round can play out:
1. New Jersey Devils: C Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings
The Devils lucked into the first overall pick in the draft as they entered the draft with an 8.5% chance at obtaining the first pick. With this pick, the Devils will get an opportunity to draft this years top player, Nolan Patrick. The 6’3 power forward uses his size and exceptional speed to his advantage, scoring 46 points in 33 games this past season. While he is primarily known as a finisher, he posses a very balanced skill set, one of the best in the CHL and the draft.
2. Philadelphia Flyers: C Nico Hischier, Halifax Mooseheads
The Flyers made a huge jump in the lottery, moving from the 13th pick all the way up to the 2nd pick. The Flyers farm system is weak at the forward position, so adding a player of Hischier’s caliber is a major win for the franchise. Hischier has an elite skill set, but what scouts love most is his work ethic. According to the NHL’s head of scouting Dan Marr, “He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he’s the first player back. He’s in that category as a special player.” Teams love a player who works hard, and the Flyers will run to the podium to select him.
3. Dallas Stars:D Callan Foote, Kelowna Rockets
Another team who moved up in the lottery, the Stars have an opportunity to add to a roster that looks like it can make a playoff run next season. While rumors of a potential trade have swirled around, there are no trades in this mock draft. Here they will take a big defenseman to replace a likely loss on the blueline during the expansion draft. Ken Hitchcock loves his big defenseman, and Foote fits right in that. At 6’3, 210 lbs, Foote is a good skater for his size and posses a very high IQ, and plays a very strong, “lockdown” defensive game. Labeled by some as a safe pick, Foote can step in this season and contribute on the back end as the Stars make their playoff push.
4. Colorado Avalanche: D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK
While the Avalanche ended up losing the draft lottery by dropping to four, but while they will not end up getting Patrick or Hischier, they will be able to get very good value with their pick. Heiskanen is possibly the best defenseman in this draft, and has future elite defenseman written all over him. Standing at 6’0, 180 lbs, he is not the biggest defenseman available, but is one of the smoothest skaters and uses his creativity to give his teammates great opportunities.
5. Vancouver Canucks: C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor Spitfires
With the Sedin twins reaching the ends of their careers, the Canucks are searching for the next face of their franchise. And Vilardi might just be the person. Vilardi does everything you could want a forward to do. He is very skilled with the puck, but also posses great hockey sense and uses his 6’2 frame well. His biggest knock is his skating ability, but he overcomes that with good playmaking and finishing ability. Vilardi may be more of a high upside pick, and he isn’t the most NHL ready, but for a franchise lacking talent, this might be the perfect fit for them.
6. Vegas Golden Knights: D Cale Makar, Brooks Bandits
7. Arizona Coyotes: C Cody Glass, Portland Winterhawks
8. Buffalo Sabres: C Casey Mittelstadt, University of Minnesota
9. Detroit Red Wings: C Elias Pettersson, Tima IK
10. Florida Panthers: D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle
11. Los Angeles Kings: RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga Steelheads
12. Carolina Hurricanes: D Juuso Valimaki, Tri City Americans
13. Winnipeg Jets: LW Lias Anderson, HV71
14. Tampa Bay Lightning: C Nicholas Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack
15. New York Islanders: RW Martin Necas, BRNO
16. Calgary Flames: C Michael Rasmessen, Tri City Americans
17. Toronto Maple Leafs: D Urho Vaakanainen, Blues
18. Boston Bruins: D Erik Brannstrom, HV71
19. San Jose Sharks: RW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City Musketeers
20. St. Louis Blues: D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga Steelheads
21. New York Rangers: C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State
22. Edmonton Oilers: LW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda
23*. Arizona Coyotes: C Robert Thomas, London Knights
24. Columbus Blue Jackets: C Klim Kostin, Dynamo
25. Montreal Canadians: LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph Storm
26. Chicago Blackhawks: D Connor Timmoins, Sault Ste. Marie
27*. St Louis Blues: LW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs
28. Ottawa Senators: C Josh Norris, NTDP U18
29*. Dallas Stars: LW Jason Robertson, Kingston Frontenacs
30. Nashville Predators: LW Maxim Comtois, Victoriaville Tigers
31. Pittsburgh Penguins: C Kole Lind, Kelowna Rockets
#23: Arizona Coyotes acquires Minnesota’s 2017 1st round pick in Martin Hanzel trade
#27: St. Louis Blues acquires Washington’s 2017 1st round pick in Kevin Shattenkirk trade
#29: Dallas acquires Anaheim’s 2017 1st round pick in Patrick Eaves Trade