2017 NHL Draft: Good & Gross

I said this on Twitter Saturday morning, but I’ll say it again here.  James Duthie was bragging up Bob McKenzie going 27 for 31 on Friday night.  Elliotte Friedman was bragging up Sam Cosentino going 27 for 31 on Friday night.  Those two are terrific, so please don’t get me wrong here.  But I went 28 for 31.  Seven of the picks were right on the money, 18 of them I had the right position, and I think it was another five or six of them I at least mention in the write up that they could go the way they ended up going.  I’m bragging, absolutely.  And I don’t like people who do that.  But I also got nobody who is going to do it for me.  I’m not talking about friends of mine or family or anything along those lines needing to do it.  But I’m not about to put in as much work as I do every year and be humble when hit on things better than anyone else did.

 

Now that I’ve done my little rant, on with the show…

 

I thought about calling this “likes and dislikes”, but that’s been done.  So the least I can do is change up the wording.  I start this piece off every year by stating that this is done mainly for fun.  Sure, it’s a bit of an overview of what went down in the draft.  Some of the moves I rip on are going to be great, some of the moves I love are going to bust, but it’s fun to look back at these in a few years and see how right or wrong a guy was.

 

Good

Carolina: Ronnie Franchise is so underrated as a GM in this league.  I guess it remains to be seen at how good he is at wheeling and dealing because they need to address their top six, but at the draft table since he took over from Jim Rutherford, the Canes have just crushed it.  They desperately needed a centre, and Martin Necas was the kid.  Has some filling out to do, needs to work on his game away from the puck, but a massive upside.  And Ron Francis said “Necas isn’t a sure thing, so we better land some insurance down the middle”.

Eetu Luostarinen is a big lanky Fin centre whom they took at 42.  He has talent, needs time to fill out much like Necas, is an overager but only by 13 days, and again addresses that need down the middle.  Morgan Geekie at 67, RH shooting centre who put up terrific numbers in the WHL this season.  Only true knock was that just like Luostarinen, he was an overager.  He is only two months older than Kailer Yamamoto while putting up numbers that weren’t far off that of the Edmonton Oilers first rounder.  Stelio Mattheos at 73, RH shooting centre with good wheels, good size and is known for being a kid who can play in any situation and is pretty versatile.  Doesn’t have the offensive upside the other three have, but he’s a kid who’ll likely play in the league for a number of years in a bottom six role.  Oh, and then the cherry on the cake was that they took a tendy in the fourth round, 104th overall.  Don’t know much about Eetu Makiniemi, but it’s a goaltender in the middle of the draft, love that.

The Hurricanes man, watch out for them.  May have been one of the worst teams in the last decade in the league, but they’re about to get REAL good for a very long time.

 

Gross

Buffalo: Not a good start Mr. Botterill.  I like Jason Botterill, seems like a great dude in all the interviews I’ve seen with him.  He needed to do something to really help his system on D.  At the 8th pick…he didn’t.  Not the biggest fan of Casey Mittelstadt with that pick as I felt there were better players on the board and he in no way helps out the roster.  Would they have had to of reached on a D-man there?  Yep.  Did they need to rather than take Mittelstadt?  Yep.  Down the line when they’re looking to trade Mittelstadt or Reinhart for a D-man and they can’t, they’ll probably look back at this draft and kick themselves.

But it wasn’t just in the first round.  They went with another centre in the second round!  Marcus Davidson, nice prospect, awful pick for them!  Josh Brook, Filip Westerlund, Robin Salo, Ian Mitchell, Luke Martin, there were so many quality D-men on the board in that spot and they passed for yet ANOTHER centre.  D-men have probably never been more valuable in this league then they are right now, and an organization who needs them maybe worse than any other team opted to not take one until the 89th pick in the draft, taking only two D-men total.  That’s just awful.

Maybe Botterill believes he can trade his way out of this mess, but it’s a very “2014 Oilers-like” mess right now.  Maybe they win the Rasmus Dahlin like sweeps just like the Oilers won Connor McDavid, but I wouldn’t be putting any eggs in that basket.

 

Good

Los Angeles: Later, I’ll hit on who made the biggest mistake passing on Gabe Vilardi.  But for now, I’ll rave about how the Kings stole him at the 11th pick.  Is it going to be a steal long term?  We’ll see.  But as far as value, Vilardi was very worthy of being the 3rd pick in the draft, and he falls to 11.  Couldn’t fit the Kings needs or type any better.

If you checked out my top 62 list, you’ll know what a big believer I am in Jaret Anderson-Dolan.  I really believe that kid is going to play in the league, and is capable of being a Nick Bonino/Tyler Bozak type in that he’ll play a complete game and be skilled enough to be a terrific compliment to a winger who can drive offence (much like the kid he played on a line with in Spokane).  So for the Kings to land him at 41 was great for them.

Matthew Villalta with the 72nd pick was probably a little early, but they walked away with a goaltender on the second day and I always like that.  Mikey Anderson was a D-man a lot of people liked, and Markus Phillips at 118 was ridiculous!  Drake Rymsha with their last pick (138th) was again a pick I really liked. Brock Otten who covers the OHL kids exclusively had Rymsha as his top overage kid available from the OHL.

Three D-men, three centres and a goaltender.  Wow, that was about as perfect of a draft for the Kings as they could have hoped for.

 

Gross

Detroit: How in the fuck do you pass on Gabe Vilardi?!?!  I had a tough time figuring out how the Rangers and Sabres did it, but for the Detroit Red Wings to pass on Vilardi, who couldn’t have been a better fit for their team, and playing his junior hockey in their freaking backyard, and you pass on that kid for one who did an alarming amount of his offensive damage in junior on the PP, and is a shoot first centre, something that rarely ever creates good results.  I’m going to say it right now, I was expecting Rasmussen to be a bust before the draft, taking him over Vilardi for the Wings just sets him up to be a disaster there.

The whole draft wasn’t all that bad.  Their four 3rd rounders all were pretty solid picks in my opinion, they did continue to address the need on D taking five defencemen total, two in the top 71.  But that 9th pick is just unforgivable.  Maybe I’ll look like a jackass saying that, wouldn’t be the first time, but I’ve seen these scenarios play out before and they never turn out well.

I wonder if the end isn’t near for Ken Holland.  He does a lot of stuff these days that is really head scratching.  Us as fans and the media as well tend to overrate lucky things that happen to teams and give far too much credit to the GM when it happens, such as hitting a home run on both Datsyuk and Zetterberg.  As the Wings have fallen off, and the UFA’s don’t flock to Detroit on discount deals, Holland shows more and more flaws in what he does.  I’m not saying he should be fired, but I’m just wondering if that sentiment is going to pick up steam in the next few years?

 

Good

Nashville: The Preds are coming off their best season in franchise history and David Poile, whom I’ve ripped on a lot in the past but acknowledge that in the last three or four years he has really gone to another level, continued to do some of the best work in the leauge.  The story of there draft was insane value picks.  I did not like Eeli Tolvanen in this draft, had him ranked lower than most.  But he was very worthy of being a first round pick, and for Poile to get him at 30 was tremendous.  And they’re a team who can afford a guy who is really one dimensional as Tolvanen is.

Then they got Grant Mismash at 61.  There are 50 kids who could have gone in the first round, so I won’t use that cliche, but he was definitely in that group of 50 for just about everyone.  So to land him at 61 is awesome!  David Farrance at 93.  He’s small, but one of the most skilled D-men in the draft and he’s off to BU this fall so he’ll have some extra development time with a great program.  They took a tendy in the 4th.  Tomas Vomacka.  Know very little about him, but they took a tendy in the mid-late rounds and that’s always a good move.  Then in the 7th they got D-man Jacob Paquette who if he wasn’t in top 100 lists, he wasn’t far off it and it’s probably fair to say he fell 75-100 spots further than most expected him to go.

A damn good organization got even better this weekend, and all while selecting at the bottom of every round.

 

Gross

Edmonton:  This is the hill I’m going to die on, because I believe I’m the only one in “Oilerland” who feels this way.  Calling their draft “gross” in this case probably doesn’t accurately describe how I feel about their draft, but I didn’t like it.  Kailer Yamamoto, with who was left on the board, I was ok with him as the pick.  He’ll play, he’s a driver offensively, and he’s going to be a massive favourite of the fans and the media.

They got some great value with Ostap Safin at 115 and Kirill Maksimov at 146.  Safin is the type of kid we saw a ton of in the early 2000’s.  A massive, old school power forward who has all the ability to dominate, but the motor isn’t there.  I would have been willing to take a chance on a kid like this at pick 50, and they got him at 115.  In Maksimov, all the OHL guys adore that pick.  His game really took off after his trade from Saginaw to Niagara, had a real good U18, nice size (6’2, 192) and real good speed and skill.

So why do I hate this draft for the Oilers?  Well, they didn’t take a damn centre until the 6th freaking round!!  The draft is about what’s needed in the system, especially after the first round!  Yamamoto over Ryan Poehling at 22, I was cool with, but they then needed to go get a centre.  After 66 picks, there was only one centre who would have been a great fit for the Oilers off the board (Jake Leschyshyn).  They traded up to get local kid, goaltender Stuart Skinner.  I have zero against Skinner at all.  They didn’t reach on him, he came on late in the season and in the playoffs, I really like that pick if they had addressed a much bigger need.  But they didn’t, despite Bob Stauffer trying to convince us that a goaltender was the big need at that point.  You take a goaltender in the 4th, 5th or 6th round, not there.  I have a tough time believing that by the start of the 3rd round the Oilers couldn’t have done something similar to what they did for Skinner to jump up and take a kid like Morgan Geekie, Stelio Mattheos, or Alexei Lipanov.

Going into the second day I maintained that the Oilers needed to stockpile centres, and they did the opposite.  Nugent-Hopkins likely will need to be moved within the next 13 months, Letestu is a UFA after next season, and this club has literally nothing in the pipeline at CENTRE.  That’s a damn vital position to be bare at, I don’t care how great your top two guys are.

Oh yeah, and they sold Jordan Eberle for pennies on the dollar instead of packaging Eberle and getting Travis Hamonic, a guy who fit the Oilers needs on the blueline perfectly.  I could care less that the Flames got him as an Oilers fan, anytime you’re looking over your shoulder at what your rival is doing probably means that they’re better than you.  But I care a ton that the Oilers could have got that guy who not only fit on the ice, but he has one of the best non ELC contracts in the league.  Instead, they settled for Ryan Strome and re-signed Kris Russell to a likely unmovable contract.  Fucking piss poor management.

This team should be loading up to take a big run at the Cup this season before McDavid’s new contract kicks in, and instead they appear to be content just being good instead of great.  As an Oilers fan, I’ve quickly lost a ton of faith in Peter Chiarelli.  The man’s track record proves that the Kessel trade was an outlier, and that he badly undervalues his top assets.

 

Good

Toronto: Having Timothy Liljegren fall to them at 17 was in no way a shock.  It was dumb, but it wasn’t anything of a shock.  I had said it in the weeks leading up to the draft that there was no way he was getting past the 17th pick.  The Leafs had too much of a need and he was too perfect of a fit to drop any further, and his season can be chalked up to having mono.  “But but but he played terrible in this game, and that game, and his decision making went from phenomenal to terrible…”  The kid had mono.  Is he a sure thing?  Hell no.  Is he any more of a bust risk than Heiskanen or Makar?  Not in my books.

They took a home run swing with the 59th pick selecting the hulking Fin Eemeli Rasanen.  RH shooting D-man who had similar point totals to Pierre-Olivier Joseph.  He’s a project without a doubt, but at the 59th pick in the draft I have no problem risking a pick on a kid with ridiculous potential like Rasanen has.  Then they got Ian Scott the 110th pick, and while I wouldn’t say that was insane value (no reach either), what I would say is that Scott has been on the scene for a few years now as a top goaltending prospect and has the talent to be an starter in the show someday.  He played behind a horrendous team this season in P.A.  Again, a gamble worth taking at that pick.

The Leafs came into this draft needing RH shooting D and to add a goaltending prospect to the system.  They got two RH shooting D (four D-men in total) and that tendy and did it all while getting good value.  That’s a pretty good draft I’d say.

 

Gross

New Jersey: You know…maybe the Pens were right about Ray Shero.  It’s amazing that Shero takes no heat whatsoever in the hockey world for the Taylor Hall trade.  Congrats on winning the value of a deal, your reward was your team being a whole lot worse, and so far it doesn’t appear as though he knows how to get out of this hole.

I had zero issue with the Hischier pick, 100% get that one and don’t think you could go wrong with him at number one.  Where Shero completely dropped the ball was in rounds two through six where he only picked one defenceman.  WHAT?!?  How do you only take one freaking D-man through the first six rounds!!!?  This is why the “BPA” approach is so flawed.  You have a league where centres are going to cost a ton of assets or cap, and defencemen are essentially unavailable.  So if you don’t understand what little value wingers have, then you could end up with very few centres and defencemen.   You need to have a strategy in the draft, and the Devils showed at pick 36 in taking Jesper Boqvist that they had no plan.  Even if the D-man you take at 36 isn’t as good as a kid like Boqvist, it’s funny in the NHL how when GM’s actually do trade their defencemen that they want DEFENCEMEN back in the trade.  You have to take a lot of swings on D in this league now!  The Ducks don’t hit on all of their’s, but they’ve taken a lot of swings on D over the last ten years and it’s resulted in them drafting ten D who either have established themselves in the league or look like damn fine prospects.  “But they took three D in the 7th round”.  Too little too late.  Shero went three picks until he finally took a D-man, and then didn’t do it again until the 7th round.  If an owner actually realized what a mistake that is Shero would be fired on the spot.

The Devils are a major mess right now.  They have some good pieces, but they have so many big holes and until they start taking those holes seriously they are going absolutely nowhere.

 

Good

Vegas: Of course you should have a real good draft if you have three picks in the top 15.  But they killed it with those picks, and then had some real good choices later on.  Cody Glass at six, a RH shooting centre with size and his only true flaw being that he needs time to fill out.  Nick Suzuki at 13, I was a massive Suzuki fan all season and they got him a little later than I and most people suspected he would go.  So they did exactly what I had figured they’d look to do after the expansion draft which was load up on the position they couldn’t fill in that draft.  And then Erik Brannstrom at 15 was great for their blueline.  He’s short, but he has a stocky build, so I doubt the size will be much of an issue for him, and as Red Line Report said earlier in the year there wasn’t much difference between Cale Makar and Brannstrom.

Then you had day two for the Golden Knights.  Nicolas Hague at 34, great value and adds to their blueline again.  Jake Leschyshyn at 62, great value and adds to their much needed haul of centres.  I don’t think it’s far fetched to say in five years or so that Glass, Suzuki and Leschyshyn could be their second, third and fourth line centres.  They followed the “one tendy per draft” rule and also got good value with Maksim Zhukov at the 96th pick, and Ben Jones was a centre out of the OHL I was really intrigued by going into the draft and they managed to snag him in the 7th round, 189th overall.

So I felt George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon, Scott Luce and company absolutely crushed it in their first draft.

 

Good

Winnipeg: I didn’t have another “gross” draft which I could find, and I couldn’t not rave about what Kevin Cheveldayoff did yet again.  You know, one of these years, the Jets might fire Chevy.  And the media is going to say “yep, he refused to make the moves he had to do to get the Jets over the hump”.  Maybe that’ll be the case.  But when has he not done what’s needed to be done?  And all he’s done is draft insanely well since becoming the GM in Winnipeg, and he did it again this weekend.

Kristian Vesalainen fits with them perfectly.  No, they didn’t need another winger.  But at 6’3, highly skilled and a good set of wheels, he fits their mold and I’m never going to rip on a team that gets tremendous value like he was at the 24th pick and fits how they want to build.  Dylan Samberg wasn’t amazing value, he went about where he should have gone.  But holy shit is he ever the type of guy they love!  6’3, good skater and a mean S.O.B.!  They took two RH shooting D-men at 74 and 136th respectively which addresses a hole I felt they had entering the draft, took four D-men total.  I felt like they got awesome value with Skyler McKenzie at 198.  An overager and an undersized kid (5’8, 154).  But he had 84 points with Portland this season and is a total prick out on the ice.  Finally as seems to be the theme with most teams who’s draft I like, they took a goaltender in the mid-late rounds…in this case Arvid Holm in the 6th round.  I don’t know him, but I know I love teams taking a goalie in that range.

The Jets get high grades from most every year.  One of these years it has to start paying off big.  I admit, Kevin Cheveldayoff might be too conservative.  David Poile was like that for a long time too.  If Chevy can ever figure out to just take a little more risk like Poile did, the Jets could get scary good in a hurry.

 

As for some of the other teams, there was a lot of stuff I liked.

 

Chicago finally going with a D-man in the first round was good, and also getting Ian Mitchell with their second round pick was solid too.  Two RH shooting D-men with your first two picks, I’d say that’s a good haul.

Dallas taking Heiskanen I wasn’t the biggest fan of (zero shock to me that a trade never got done for the pick, so can we please shut up in the future about how a top five pick is going to be dealt?)  But having said that, you can’t ever have too many D-men so it isn’t as if I hated the pick by any stretch.  What I did love though was trading up to ensure they got Jake Oettinger who was the best tendy in the draft.  I don’t like going with a goalie in the first round, but if any team was in a spot to do it and any goaltender was worth a first rounder, it was the Stars and it was Oettinger.  And then to get Jason Robertson at 39 was good value.  I don’t know how the kid interviewed, but if he’s willing to put in the work off the ice he could be another stud winger who the Stars have had great success finding over the years.

Minnesota didn’t have a pick until the 85th in the draft, yet they got awesome value with their first two picks in Ivan Lodnia and Mason Shaw.  If you read my top 62 rankings, I personally had Shaw 29th, and as much as some make think it’s a homer bias it just isn’t.  I’m sky high on the kids character, IQ, and five on five production.  Lodnia was a key cog for the Erie Otters run to the Memorial Cup final, and while I didn’t rank him in my top 62, he was heavily considered.  At the 85th pick, he was a kid well worth taking.

Calgary didn’t do a lot I was over the moon about at the draft table this year as they have in years past under Brad Treliving.  But the Travis Hamonic trade was a steal.  It’s amazing with Trevliving that he not only gets what he needs, but always gets great value on top of that.  Does this put the Flames on par with the Oilers?  I hope I’m not being a homer here, but I don’t think it does because while the Flames now probably have the second best blueline in the West, they don’t have a D-man who is going to give teams big problems.  I guess it remains to be seen how well guys may fit with each other and there for possibly elevate each others games.  And Dougie Hamilton is capable of taking another step still I believe, but the other three are what they are.  And they’re damn good!  But I think there is still a gap between the Oilers and Flames, although Peter Chiarelli might close it before Treliving does…

Vancouver just missed my list of teams to rave about too.  I probably would have taken Glass over Pettersson, but again I’ll say Pettersson has the bigger ceiling of the two kids so I completely understand.  Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Mike DiPietro, really liked all those kids where the Canucks were able to land them.  Again, I don’t believe the Canucks are in near as bad of shape as some make it out to be.

 

Again, I’ll state the obvious.  We won’t know how much of this was right or wrong for probably ten years!  I’m going to look like an ass with some of what I said, I have little doubt of that.  I’m going to look right on a few things too.  The big payoff isn’t what I said today, it’s in five years or so, if this blog even exists, and seeing how right or wrong any of this was.  And when that day comes, be sure to never let me hear the end of it….ok, maybe don’t do that, but you can beak me about it a max of two times.  Deal?

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Mock Draft 5.0

Finally, it’s here.  Draft day.  For huge geeks like myself, this is Christmas day.  A lot of people watch the draft for the first five or ten picks and the trades.  For me, I’m heavily intrigued by pick 30, and can’t wait for rounds two through seven the next day.

 

It really is shaping up to be an intriguing draft.  I don’t think it’s as weak as I once feared it was, although it’s still not near as strong as any of the last four have been.  I would say it’s a lot like 2011.  That had four kids in the top tier of the draft, this one has just two, but I believe it’ll be a bit scattered throughout.  The top tier of the 2011 draft hasn’t been as good as expected, picks six through nine have been just as good if not better than the top four, and from pick 21 on in that draft it’s become clear that a lot of talent was on the board, but it was tough to put it in the proper order at the time for most teams.

 

So here is the deal: This one has gone up at 8:00 AM MST, but I’ll be updating it throughout the day should I hear anything solid or actual moves go down leading up to the draft.

 

As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have age 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past four or five drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re big on Europeans?  Do they not like taking defencemen high?  Do they value size?  Skill?  Speed?  There are just a ton of things to take into consideration.  I noticed in THN’s latest draft preview they did this with each team too, although they just said CHL instead of looking at specific leagues.  Still, a nice add.

 

The number on the right side of the players name is the ranking I have on the player in my top 62 list which you can check out right here: http://soupsonsports.com/2017/06/23/2017-nhl-draft-top-62-prospects-june-23rd/

 

1. Nico Hischier (2)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

Again, and for the final time, it’s Hischier to the Devils.  It is a total toss up though, and it is amazing that it’s this close to the draft and still nobody seems to know…or frankly care…who the Devils are taking first overall.  All the stuff about a D-man going here is false according to Andrew Gross their top beat writer.  So we can crush that idea, though I don’t believe that means the possibility for a trade down is gone, though again we need to be honest…it hasn’t happened in the top five since 2008.  For me, as indicated in my rankings, I would take Nolan Patrick.  But I completely understand and believe the Devils will go with the safer kid which is Hischier.  I do think that legitimately nobody will know which way they’re going until Ray Shero steps to the podium.  The Devils didn’t win this lottery, Philly did.  Jersey has to make the choice, Philly just has to sit back and pick the other guy.

Other Options: Nolan Patrick

 

2. Nolan Patrick (1)  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

Now we have rumblings that the Golden Knights are going to use their extra picks to move up to this point.  I heard this about a week ago and rolled my eyes.  Now, apparently it has legs.  But again, a pick in the top five dealt…I’ll believe it when I see it.  What I do believe is that this is the scenario the Flyers are hoping for.  Patrick being a Brandon kid, Hextall being a Brandon guy, of the two kids at the top it’s Patrick who plays more of a “Flyers” brand of hockey, I just think he’d be their guy.  We all know Patrick has had his fair share of injury problems (not just this season, although this was the worst), but I don’t see any of these injuries having a long term impact on him.  Even if he tops out as a great 2nd line centre in the show, he’s still going to be an extremely valuable player with what he brings to the table.

Other Options: None

 

3. Miro Heiskanen (7)  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

Stars beat writer Mike Heika has said he believes this is where they’re going with the pick.  Don’t like it for the Stars.  In the draft, you pick for three or four years down the road, not today.  In three or four years….well, sooner than that…the Stars need someone who can replace Jason Spezza.  Their blueline moving forward looks fine!  I understand the need today on the blueline, but with the talent they have already on the roster and on the way, and Hitchcock being the man in charge, that D will be fine.  Having said this, you can never have too many D, and it’s the one commodity that if you have then you can make a trade.  The big question is whether or not this pick will still be owned by the Stars by the time the third pick is to be made.  It sure doesn’t sound like it, but as I said with the Devils…this gets rumoured every year and yet there has only been one deal in the top five since 2002, and it was a simple trade back from five to seven.

Other Options: Cody Glass, Gabe Vilardi

 

4. Cale Makar (8)  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

According to Adrian Dater (probably the most connected Avs writer there is), they love Makar.  The way I seen him put it is that they’re praying he’s still on the   And now with Heiskanen off the board and the belief is that they’re going to start really loading up on the blueline as they should have done years ago…but better late than never.  It’s interesting though, because Makar plays a lot like Tyson Barrie, and it sounds like Barrie is going to be dealt this offseason, so I hope they do more to the D than swap out one undersized puck mover for another who is at least two years away from playing the league.

Other Options: None

 

5. Elias Pettersson (6)  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

I 100% credit my buddy Peter Loubardias for this pick.  He said during their mock on Sportsnet 960 the other night that he has word from a source that Pettersson will be their pick.  I trust Pete, so I’m going with what he says.  Call me nuts, but I actually believe the Canucks aren’t an ocean away from competing for a playoff spot like most do.  And what I like in taking Pettersson, is that while the Canucks won’t have that absolute stud down the middle, they’ll be able to matchup with just about any team.  Horvat, Pettersson, Sutter, moving forward that could be a bitch to handle.  But that is being conservative about it, because Pettersson does have star ability and the highest ceiling of himself, Cody Glass and Gabe Vilardi.  I’m not sure if I like this pick better than Glass, but I completely get it and don’t think you can go wrong between the two kids.

Other Options: Cody Glass

 

6. Cody Glass (4)  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

The problem with stealing that piece of info from Pete about the Canucks pick is now my mock draft is the exact same as their’s was through six picks.  That won’t stay the same after this one, but the Golden Knights have to take one of Glass or Vilardi here and I believe Glass is the safer choice in that he’s a sure thing to play the middle.  Vilardi might, but there are some questions.  Having said this, don’t rule out Casey Mittelstadt here, or even Michael Rasmussen.  Both kids who I’m down on a bit more than others but I personally have to keep in mind that NHL scouts seem to like them both a lot despite a lot of their production coming in PP situations.

Other Options: Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt

 

UPDATE*** Rangers trade up, Brannstrom changed to Vilardi

7. Gabe Vilardi (5)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Nathan Horton

Pick acquired this morning (MST) by the Rangers from the Coyotes.  Well, so much for my off the board pick of Brannstrom here.  They’re going centre, so they either want Vilardi or Necas here in my opinion.  Both RH shooting guys, Vilardi is the power forward, Necas is the finesse, and I’d say a safer bet to play the middle.  I really don’t know which one it’ll be, but I’m going to guess Vilardi here.  The reason for this is that A) the Rangers have gone a lot more CHL heavy with their drafting the last few years, especially with their top picks (no firsts, but the last three drafts they’ve gone with a CHL kid on their top pick), and they would have watched Vilardi a ton this season playing with their top pick from last season Sean Day.  So I’m saying Vilardi, just as easily could be Necas, or perhaps Casey Mittelstadt.

Other Options: Martin Necas, Casey Mittelstadt

 

UPDATE*** Vilardi now gone, pick changed to Tippett

8. Owen Tippett (17)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

Now with the trade and everything, I’m having to do this very quickly on the fly!  Vilardi gone could open up the possibility of a whole new order now.  I get the sense that the Sabres aren’t going to look D here like they should.  I do believe a trade down is possible, and with the way the Hawks are wheeling and dealing today, a move with them seems possible…although who the hell knows what the return would be?  For now, the Sabres stay at eight because I don’t do trades in my mocks.  I hate the idea of Tippett for the Sabres, but I believe that’s where they’ll go.  This team desperately needs defencemen.  I’d take Liljegren or Brannstrom in this spot, but I don’t think they will.  Tippett will be a sniper, but he won’t do anything else.  He better score A TON…

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki

 

9. Martin Necas (9)  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

I feel like Ken Holland believes he can find and develop D-men.  Sure, last year he finally pulled the trigger and took Dennis Cholowski (first D taken by the Wings in the first round since Brendan Smith in 07), but they were in a position where they HAD to do it.  This year, I still suggest they have to, but I’m going to bet that they believe centre is the play.  Without going back and checking (but I’m not…what can I say, I’m lazy) I believe I had this in my second mock and am now back to it.  I really love the idea.  Necas problem is his play away from the puck.  The Wings have crushed it taking kids like this and turning them into dependable two way players without hurting their offensive ability.  Take the centre with the high ceiling here, and maybe look to add a Conor Timmins, Markus Phillips, David Farrance, Josh Brook, someone like that at 38.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Casey Mittelstadt

 

UPDATE*** Tippett now gone, taken by Buffalo

10. Michael Rasmussen (21)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Nik Antropov

With Tippett now gone, the Panthers have to re-adjust.  I’ve had a tough time believing they wouldn’t take Michael Rasmussen in this spot.  Dale Tallon, now that he’s back in control, has built this team with size.  Gudbranson, Bjugstad, Barkov, Ekblad, Crouse, he drafted a lot of kids who were big and mobile.  That’s Rasmussen.  The other thing Rasmussen might do is free them up to move a guy like Bjugstad who had a very disappointing season.  The other thing with Rasmussen as I’ve maintained is that he’s probably better suited for the wing in the pro’s as opposed to centre.  Anyway, I think Rasmussen is their guy now that the scenario has changed, but keep your eye on Suzuki especially with this pick as they may prefer a RH shot.

Other Options: Nick Suzuki, Kristian Vesalainen

 

11. Nick Suzuki (12)  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

I’ve maintained the whole way through that they need a centre.  I’ve maintained the whole way through that the Kings love taking kids out of the OHL.  And I just don’t see any reason to change this line of thinking now.  They can use D-men too (they can use just about everything), but that isn’t an immediate need.  I have to believe that a little bit of reason for this pick is that Suzuki could probably step onto the Kings third line by 2019, and let’s be honest that while this team is in transition, they still have Kopitar, Doughty and Quick who are win now guys.  So with the lack of depth down the middle in the organization (and Carter likely now on the back nine of his career), Suzuki makes perfect sense.

Other Options: Casey Mittelstadt, Robert Thomas

 

12. Casey Mittelstadt (10)  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Their scouting staff has loved taking U.S. kids over the years, and with great success in doing so.  It’s not as if they’re gun shy to go elsewhere, but I have to believe that with their need for high end top six players that Mittelstadt fits the bill for them.  He’s dropped down mine and a lot of other rankings due to a lot of his production coming on the PP.  Having said that, the potential is there with Mittelstadt to be a high end centre in the league, and that is a piece the Hurricanes could really use in their organization.  They’re loaded on D, they have a lot of skilled guys who can play in their top six, but they lack a high end centre who can be their catalyst up front.

Other Options: Lias Andersson, Robert Thomas

 

UPDATE*** Rangers trade influences a different pick in this spot

13. Lias Andersson (11)  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Samuel Pahlsson

This is the pick the Golden Knights received from their trade with Winnipeg.  With the Rangers picking so high and changing the order I believe will happen, the centres are running out.  I really believe McPhee has to load up with centres in this draft, and he’s had great success drafting out of Sweden while GM of the Caps.  Andersson would be a perfect compliment down the line to Cody Glass.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Kristian Vesalainen

 

UPDATE*** Andersson now gone, taken by Vegas

14. Timothy Liljegren (3)  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

Lots of ways Steve Yzerman could go here now that the Jonathan Drouin/Mikhail Sergachev deal is done.  I know some like Cal Foote here, but I can’t see it.  I’m not sure they’d view Foote as a kid who would be able to play with the pace they like to play with.  I liked Andersson here early this morning and really for the last little while.  But now the Rangers moving up has changed things and Andersson is gone.  So I’ll do what I figured Tampa would do should Liljegren get here and that’s pick him.  They have quite a few D in the system, but both in the system and on the current team, they really lack a RH shooting D-man.  Liljegren and Sergachev with Hedman in a few seasons could really open up the Lightning’s window.  Plus, Tampa is in a situation where they’ve crushed it in the draft over the years.  The system is stocked, so they can take a big swing here and Liljegren could be that swing.

Other Options: Kristian Vesalainen

 

UPDATE*** Rasmussen now gone, taken by Florida

15. Erik Brannstrom (14)  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

This is the pick the Golden Knights acquired from the Islanders.  Again I’m going back to the “George McPhee loves Swedes” narrative.  But they do have a lot of WHL influences in that front office, namely Kelly McCrimmon.  So Cal Foote makes sense, so does Juuso Valimaki.  But I can’t get past the McPhee/Swedes thing, and I can’t get past my belief that someone is going to take Brannstrom earlier than a lot of others believe he’ll go.  But let’s be honest, myself and anyone else are grasping at straws with what Vegas might do, we have no clue.  If it’s me, I’m loading up on as many centres as I can, and if no centre is in sight then take a D-man which they’ve done here.

Other Options: Kristian Vesalainen, Cal Foote

 

16. Kristian Vesalainen (16)  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

Again, I’m taking what Peter Loubardias said in his mock draft as he knows the Flames better than I do.  So full credit to him, and I’ll say Vesalainen is the pick.  Now I’ve thought all season that a RH shot forward is the way for the Flames to go here.  But Vesalainen can play the right side, and has a lot of size which the Flames…they aren’t small, but they aren’t overly big in their top six so he can improve that, plus he has the speed to play with the Flames top guys.  And as I’ve brought up a few times now, something Brad Treliving said two weeks ago though definitely got my attention: “There’s opportunity to take a swing at people with high ceiling.  There’s some risk/reward picks we’re playing with.”  Translation: “We feel like we can take a home run swing here on the biggest talent available”.  Klim Kostin?  I highly doubt it as they’ve drafted one Russian since 2002 and it was in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.  But it was an interesting comment.

Other Options: Kailer Yamamoto, Eeli Tolvanen

 

17. Callan Foote (18)  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

They’ve got a lot of puck movers already, but they don’t have a guy with good size who plays a more cerebral/composed game and (this might sound odd) has big potential to be a shutdown defenceman.  I’d say the ceiling on Foote would be what Brent Seabrook was (notice I said “was” as unfortunately he looks shot) for the Blackhawks all these years.  What a perfect fit a guy like that would be with a Morgan Rielly on the Leafs top pair somewhere down the line.  I have very little doubt here that the pick is going to be a defenceman.  Would be shocked if it wasn’t as long as guys like Foote and Valimaki are still on the board.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Hague

 

18. Juuso Valimaki (15)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

So I’ve had them taking a centre here all season, and I still think that’s very possible.  But they lost Colin Miller in the expansion draft, and Jakob Zbroil has been a bit of a disappointment to this point in his development, so they don’t look as hot on D as they did.  Don’t confuse that with being weak on young D, they definitely aren’t that thanks to getting Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo in the last two drafts.  But you can never have too many D.  If Zbroil starts panning out, awesome!  You can always move a D-man.  And if he continues to disappoint, well then now they have someone on the left side to compliment McAvoy and Carlo.  Something else to keep in mind, they likely saw Valimaki a lot last season as he played with Carlo in Tri-City.

Other Options: Ryan Poehling, Kailer Yamamoto

 

19. Robert Thomas (13)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

They now REALLY need to stockpile D-men in this draft.  They had to move out Mirco Mueller prior to the expansion draft to ensure they didn’t lose him for nothing, but now all they got is Jeremy Roy and he has struggled since being drafted.  But in this scenario with Foote and Valimaki having just gone, I have a tough time finding them someone that I believe they’d love.  So perhaps you look to do this throughout the remainder of the draft.  They have a need in the system down the middle as well, though not as big.  Thornton and Marleau are going to be done, possibly as early as July 1st, and Doug Wilson has always been big on having a lot of centres in the lineup.  So Thomas is the guy I’m saying they grab.  Right handed shot, pure playmaker, he just feels like their type of player to me.

Other Options: Eeli Tolvanen, Urho Vaakanainen

 

20. Ryan Poehling (20)  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

In my opinion, the Blues need a centre in the system.  With some of the Blues fans I’ve talked to about it, they believe they need a centre in the system.  So I’m going to have them taking a centre, the tough part is asking who that centre is?  Could they package the 20th pick with the 27th pick and move up to get that guy?  How’s this scenario: Doug Armstrong has a real tight relationship with Steve Yzerman.  The Lightning are always willing to trade back, the Blues could stand to move up, 20 and 27 for 14 and 76 which would re-coup the third rounder the Blues lost in the Nail Yakupov deal.  But if they stand pat they should land a pretty good centre here.  Some guys absolutely love Poehling and believe he’d be a top five guy had he played against a little lighter competition this season.  Look great at the Hlinka, and real good at the U18’s.  He’d be a great fit for the Blues.

Other Options: Josh Norris, Shane Bowers

 

21. Eeli Tolvanen (23)  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

To me, they’re just like the Sharks and in a BPA situation.  They have virtually nothing coming in the organization, so they should be just grabbing the player they deem to be the best on the board.  I’m not as high on Tolvanen as a lot of people seem to be.  He is a one shot scorer, but the problem with Tolvanen is he brings nothing else to the table.  Still, he’s fallen in the eyes of many should he get to this point, and the Rangers just need to focus on getting anything in their system right now.  I believe this is a big reason they want to move Derek Stepan.  Sure, his 6.5 million off the cap would help a lot, but so would landing a package of a first round pick and good prospect or two.

Other Options: Kailer Yamamoto, Klim Kostin

 

22. Josh Norris (27)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

I’m saying they’re trading back.  I think a trade back with the Blackhawks is possible, the Stars, Vegas now that they own half the draft, Buffalo, lots of possibilities.  But I don’t do trades in my mock draft, so they pick here.  Peter Chiarelli talked yesterday about them liking “a cluster of four” kids and they believe they’ll get one of them at 22.  I’m GUESSING…that the four kids are Thomas, Rasmussen, Poehling and Norris.  Yamamoto is still on the board in this scenario, and he’s the guy the Edmonton media have fallen in love with.  I wouldn’t HATE that, but I just don’t believe this team can afford to take a swing on a pure winger.  How many more young wingers do you want with Puljujarvi, Caggiula, Slepyshev, Khaira, Benson, Gambardella, and possibly/hopefully Spencer Foo on the way?  You really feel the need to load up on a position that is always available in free agency and at the trade deadline?  Keith Gretzky has talked about how they have addressed their size issue and can now go after more skill.  But I can’t for the life of me imagine they don’t notice the enormous hole they have at centre in the system, not to mention the hole on the big club which could come next summer should they need to shed the Nugent-Hopkins contract.  Norris would be such a perfect player down the road to play a third line complimentary role to a kid like Puljujarvi.  Think of how Horcoff and Hemsky played together with Hemsky as the driver.  He can play in all situations.  But I do believe they can move back to 26-35 or so and still get a pretty good centre.

Other Options: Kailer Yamamoto, Jaret Anderson-Dolan

 

23. Kailer Yamamoto (22)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

What a 24 hours it’s been for this shit show!!!  Ditching the very good head coach, after ditching the two faces of the franchise, and then adding two nice pieces this morning.  Different discussion for a different day.  I guess they’re going pretty small in this draft!  They have a hole on the right side up front, so while I suggest they reach on Erik Brannstrom, I do worry that they’ll simply play it safe and take Vilardi.  But should they do what I suggest, then Yamamoto probably makes a lot of sense with this pick.  Tiny, but he should be a kid who is a driver offensively and while I’m not big on wingers, that is a trait I look for in any kind of forward.  They have a lot of young LW’s on the roster and throughout the organization, but Jason Robertson is another kid who I could see John Chayka really liking here.  Still another theory I’d watch out for here though is Jake Oettinger.  They have nothing coming between the pipes and would have seen him a lot at BU playing with Clayton Keller last season, plus I believe a run on goaltenders will start around pick 27 or 28 so they might want to jump the gun.

Other Options: Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger

 

24. Henri Jokiharju (25)  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

This was formally owned by Columbus, who dealt it to Vegas, who flipped it with Winnipeg for the 13th pick.  So I don’t think this scenario will hurt the Jets at all.  I do hesitate putting Jokiharju here and was REALLY tempted to mock Vaakanainen to them or maybe Pierre-Olivier Joseph because again my friend Peter Loubardias said that he understands that they want a LH shot D-man.  But I can’t help but look at their roster and what is coming and think that a RH shot guy is the bigger need moving forward.  Byfuglien getting on in years, Myers having injury problems, Trouba still likely wanting out, and only Tucker Poolman on the way.  So I still really love the idea of Jokiharju to the Jets should he get to 24.

Other Options: Urho Vaakanainen, Conor Timmins

 

25. Pierre-Olivier Joseph (24)  Charlottetown  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 163  Shot: L

Comparison: Calvin de Haan

I wonder if they’ll still have this pick later tonight.  Because this team is going for it, I have little doubt about that.  If you look at the landscape in the East, the Pens are going to gas out next season, the Caps are falling back, the Leafs are coming on strong but still might be a year away, so as of now the biggest threat looks like a team that didn’t even make the playoffs in the Tampa Bay Lightning.  A lot of people have them going after a D-man with Alex Galchenyuk, but I wonder if they won’t look to package him with perhaps this pick and look to land a centre like Matt Duchene or Derek Stepan.  If they want to try Jonathan Drouin at centre, cool.  But they better not go into the season depending on that happening, because I don’t think he’s committed enough to playing a 200 foot game to work in the middle.  ANYWAY, this is supposed to be talking about who they may pick here.  Centre is still a very real possibility, but after losing Sergachev and…let’s be honest…a very highly touted and popular kid out of the Q on the board, Joseph makes a lot of sense here.

Other Options: Alexei Lipanov, Morgan Frost

 

UPDATE*** New thoughts on what they might do thanks to trades

26. Klim Kostin (58)  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

WOW!  This pick isn’t an update, but I had to update the paragraph after the changes they’ve made thus far today.  And I still believe they’re definitely going to move up tonight.  Is Kostin still possible now that Panarin is gone?  Tough to say, but if they can’t get up past this pick for whatever reason, then a home run swing makes a lot of sense.  Kostin would also give them some size along with skill that this team really lacks up front.  It’s also not at all far fetched to think the Hawks trade up to get him.  As much  as I don’t like the idea of taking Kostin in the first round, it sure sounds like others believe he’ll be a top 20 pick.  I am going to change the belief that there is any chance they go D here.  Since Stan Bowman took over, the Hawks haven’t picked a D-man with a first rounder.  Of course, now that I’ve said that, it’s exactly what they’ll do.

Other Options: Filip Chytil, Joni Ikonen

 

27. Jason Robertson (30)  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

This is the pick the Blues acquired from the Caps in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.  With centre already taken care of and this team pretty flush with D-men throughout the system, I believe the play here is to simply add a guy who fits.  Perhaps with Ken Hitchcock now out of the picture Doug Armstrong will move away from a heavy team.  But I can’t see it.  Robertson is their kind of guy and would be a great fit.  I think a goalie is possible here, but with Jake Allen still only 28 and locked up, and Ville Husso being a nice looking prospect, it’s likely not a big concern for the Blues…at least not at 27.

Other Options: Jake Oettinger, U.P. Luukkonen

 

28. Jake Oettinger (33)  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

They’ve got a sneaky big problem between the pipes moving forward.  Craig Anderson is now 36, Mike Condon is a UFA, Matt O’Connor hasn’t met expectations.  Who else you got?  Chris Dreidger?  Marcus Hogberg?  Joey Daccord?  It’s an ugly situation for the Sens moving forward.  So at this point in the draft, you got the best goaltender still on the board, he’s got all the tools to be a front line guy someday, and the rest of the system is so rich that you can afford to do something like this early in the draft.  I don’t care which goaltender they like quite frankly, Pierre Dorian had better address it though in this draft.  And he might want to invest more than just one pick in the position.

Other Options: U.P. Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro

 

29. Urho Vaakanainen (31)  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

This pick was acquired in the Patrick Eaves deal, upgraded to a first once the Ducks made the Western Conference final.  So a lot this will hinge on what the Stars do with that third pick.  I’m going to say they keep it because GM’s are a lot of talk and no action.  It can’t be forgotten at 29 that they have another pick coming up at 38, so perhaps they’ll feel like they can get a goaltender there, maybe Luukkonen.  The more I gave this thought, the more I figured that while there blueline looks solid moving forward, it’s not spectacular.  They gave certainly grab a goaltender at 39, perhaps still Luukkonen.  So I’ll have them taking Vaakanainen who would fit perfectly in a Ken Hitchcock system and they’ve also had good success with Finnish D-men in the past five seasons or so with Lindell and Honka.

Other Options: U.P. Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro

 

30. Jaret Anderson-Dolan (26)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bonino

Last years draft couldn’t have fallen much more perfect for them.  The one thing they kind of had a need for in the system was a RH shot D-man after moving Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, and that’s exactly what fell into their lap with Dante Fabbro.  So with that task completed, this season it looks to me like a forward of some sort is the need here and I just think one of the three centres I have ranked from 26th-28th will be the pick.  I would probably take Anderson-Dolan at 22 for the Oilers ahead of Norris, but I get that Norris is the hottest prospect of those three centres.  Anyone of them would fit the Nashville style and culture perfectly.  Keep an eye on Kole Lind here too.  Obviously at this point in the draft there are about 15 possibilities.  But the Preds really like the B.C. area, whether it be the BCHL, or the B.C. based WHL teams, and the American WHL teams in the Pacific Northwest.  I have to assume they have a scout in that region who’s opinion is really valued by David Poile.  Anderson-Dolan falls into this category, but so does Lind.

Other Options: Shane Bowers, Kole Lind

 

31. Nicolas Hague (19)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

Lots of different D-men in this area of the draft that fit the bill, but I believe most would agree that barring someone great falling, D is the way to go for the Pens.  Unless they still haven’t given up on Derrick Pouliot, it appears the Pens have absolutely nobody on the way, and they have to be at least a little concerned with how Kris Letang will bounce back from his neck surgery.  I believe Hague is going to fall because D-men of his size and abilities aren’t trendy right now.  And the Pens could use some size on the back end.  If Hague can improve his lateral movement, he’d fit right into the Pens style and be a real key player for them in a few years.

Other Options: Connor Timmins, Dylan Samberg

 

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2017 NHL Draft Top 62 Prospects: June 23rd

Here we go!  My final list of 62.  Not a lot of changes from the last list two weeks ago, but a few.  Some fine tuning I guess you could call it.  I’m sure there will be some rankings which I kick myself over in about 24 hours when I see teams take certain guys, and see their logic for loving that kid and going “yes, why the f*** didn’t I think of that?!”  Oh well, can’t win’em all…or even that many when it comes to ranking 18 and 19 year old kids.

 

As for what I look for?  The main thing I look to do is view it as if I were a GM.  So I like guys who have the most value above all else, not necessarily how I believe they’ll pan out.  You start getting into the late first/early second round and it just makes more sense for some teams to take a big swing at that point rather than on a kid with a low ceiling.  I really look at trends, so I put risers higher than most, and guys falling lower than most (unless of course I feel the rise or fall is unwarranted).  I also like rare, so I might value things like elite speed, elite size or right handed shooting centres and D more than most.  I’m starting to put more and more stock into birth dates.  So for this draft in particular, late 1998 birth dates I tend to pay more attention to their numbers from last season, and I also put stock into guys who are near the youngest among the draft class.  Five on five points scoring is a big deal to me and something that can get overlooked so I try to find those stats.  I’m also really into building a team not just compiling talent, so I put a big premium on centres and D-men over wingers.  Finally, I tier my prospects.  I’m not sure why more lists aren’t done this way (a few are), it makes much more sense to me and I have been told that this is how most NHL teams tend to look at things as well.  So pay more attention to the tier a guy is in and less as to what the number is beside his name.

 

Also did my final mock draft today so if you’re interested on how the pieces may fit: http://soupsonsports.com/2017/06/23/2017-nhl-mock-draft-5-0/

 

I think I’ve tied up all the loose ends, so let’s get going.

 

Tier One

1. Nolan Patrick  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

I’m surprised.  Last time out I projected most to be falling in love with Hischier as their top guy, but for the most part I’m still mostly seeing Patrick as the top guy coming in.  The injuries are a concern no doubt, but we aren’t talking knee or back injuries, so I don’t believe the groin and collarbone stuff should be a long term concern.  A lot of scouts, for some insane reason, think that if a guy’s skill level isn’t off the charts that he can’t produce big numbers.  He does all the little things that’ll help him produce big numbers.  He’s a kid who’ll be a coaches dream.  He’ll be a cornerstone piece for whichever franchise gets him.  Even if that’s only as a real solid 2nd line centre, he will still be a vital piece to any teams puzzle.

 

hischier2. Nico Hischier  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

One thing I noticed watching him first at the World Junior’s and then in the top prospects game, he’s bigger than I thought.  It turns out, that observation was accurate as he measured at a very respectable 6’1.5 at the combine.  Of course he’s slender right now, but being 6’1 he could get up close to 200 pounds without it hurting his wheels.  Great vision, great shot, can pick teams apart on the PP.  The big thing you’re hearing now is how good his 200 foot game is which if we’re talking about a potential first line centre is an absolute must.  Neither of these top two guys are locks to be first line centres in the league, but as I said with Patrick which will be true here with Hischier, both are going to be vital pieces to any teams puzzle.

 

Tier Two

timothy-liljegren-rogle3. Timothy Liljegren  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

I managed to stand my ground all season!  Liljegren isn’t moving down my list.  The reason he didn’t is because I believe the reason everyone else was knocking him down (for having mono) was just ridiculous.  As a friend said to me “he’s probably lost 20 pounds!”  If his weight at the start of the season was to be believed, he for sure lost 11 pounds.  Scouts did the same thing with Sean Couturier and Colin White.  I understand if that makes teams hesitant, but it wouldn’t scare me off, especially in a draft that is so weak at the top, and I still believe long term this kid is going to be a star.  He plays really smooth, really mobile, terrific in the offensive zone especially running a pp, some question his decision making in his own zone yet you never heard that pre mono.  He’s exactly what a lot of teams lack.  With how difficult it is to find a high end RH shot D-man, I’d hope front offices wouldn’t be SO stupid to let a prospect like this slide to the 10-20 range, but it seems likely.

 

4. Cody Glass  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

Glass makes the jump ahead of Vilardi for me.  I believe Vilardi is the better player currently, but once Glass fills out I have to believe he ends up as the better player because of skating ability of both players.  Glass is a very good skater, once he fills out to 200-205 pounds he’ll be a very nice size, and from everything I can find he’s a very intelligent kid.  His interview with Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino at the combine was awesome too, seems like a terrific kid.  Wasn’t just giving standard answers, very engaging.  I don’t see him having first line centre capabilities, but I do see him being that elite second line centre which no team can win a Cup without.  Back in January when I did my top 32 list, I had him ninth which was higher than anyone, and I kept asking myself what the big flaw is?  Hell, he’s even a right handed shot which is a tougher find around the league.  Guess I got that one right, because this kid has shot up everyone’s list

 

vilardi5. Gabe Vilardi  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Nathan Horton

A new comparison for Vilardi here and it’s pretty spot on I must say.  In his draft year, Horton’s numbers were extremely similar to what Vilardi did this season.  Horton was drafted as a centre, but ended up on the wing.  Vilardi is listed as a centre, but spent most of the season on the wing and some think he’s better suited for the wing.  Size is very similar between the two, both are righties, and the elite puck protection abilities are very similar.  The only difference is that Horton never felt like he had the vision to play the middle in my mind.  It’s not as if I’ve watched Vilardi a ton, but when I have, he seems to be a guy who can equally create for himself or his linemates.  You definitely draft him to be a centre.

 

6. Elias Pettersson  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

There was some question whether or not he was a centre, but that seems to be put to rest, although long term he could end up being a better fit on the wing much like Vilardi.  But his talent and IQ are tremendous, and he really plays a solid 200 foot game.  The other thing is that even if he does end up a winger, like Vilardi, is his game is to be a driver offensively.  Right now he’s rail thin obviously, but a lot of scouts are in love with this kids upside because of that.  His numbers this season were off the charts good.  0.95 PPG this season.  At the same age, Filip Forsberg was 0.87 PPG.  David Pastrnak was 0.67 PPG.  Those are pretty damn good players he’s out scoring!!  I’ve seen some question his toughness.  Tough to say when he’s this slight if he’ll get more brave so to speak once he’s up to 185-195 pounds.

 

7. Miro Heiskanen  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

Top D-man on the board for probably everyone but myself.  Heiskanen saw pretty big minutes for HIFK which is pretty rare for a kid in his draft year.  He might have the best stick defensively out of any kid in this draft, and engages physically though at his size he tends to lose a lot more of those battles than he wins.  He provides everything you would expect a D-man ranked this high and at this size to have.  Speed, escapability, great passer, great vision, the only flaw other than his size for me is he doesn’t have a big shot.  He likes using a wrist or snap shot on the point, which can work just fine as it has for the player I compare him to.  Get the shot through and let your forwards to the rest.  I’m not sure he will put up the numbers Giordano does, but a very similar skill set and game.

 

Tier Three

8. Cale Makar  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

Makar is as flashy of a defenceman as there is.  He needs to prove he can play without the puck though.  That’s a vital trait for centre’s and wingers let alone D-men!  If he’s a coachable kid, and that’s where the interview process really comes into play, then that would alleviate a lot of my concern.  He will likely need in my opinion either two years at UMass or a year at UMass and at least a bit of time in the AHL, but if he goes top five, which at this point it sure looks that way, he easily could be rushed.    A right handed shooting D who can fly and has the confidence with the puck that this kid has is very intriguing.  It’s one of the toughest pieces to find in the NHL.  He isn’t afraid to mix it up physically either.  I’ve seen him play a lot, and understand the intrigue.  But I have my concerns with what may happen with his development.

 

9. Martin Necas  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

I fully admit, this has just been a miss by me having him as low as I have the last go around based off bad information I had seen/read.  This is why I’m not a pro!  The guys who actually do the scouting, while I disagree with some of the ways they look at things, they know all these kids extremely well.  Anyway, my bad.  Necas, while I never HATED him by any means, deserves to be ranked a lot higher than I had him.  I compare him to Hemsky simply because no matter where he plays, he has that same level of confidence with the puck and is much more of a playmaker than a shooter.  Obviously Hemsky has never been a centre, but if you’ve seen Hemsky play you know what I’m talking about.  He might need a year or two to pack on the pounds, but he has the frame to do so.  So if you assume he’s going to be 6’1 and around 190-200 pounds and a RH shot centre…I feel ridiculous for having him ranked so low the last time around, don’t know what I was thinking honestly.

 

mittelstadt10. Casey Mittelstadt  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

If you don’t follow Zac Urback on Twitter and you’re a draft fan, do it now.  The guy does tremendous work!  He pointed out that Mittelstadt is feasting off five on four play.  Sam Gagner did that, and Gagner has never become the player he was expected to be.  It’s tough, because you try to juggle how a kid’s skill set will translate, their numbers this season, their past numbers, upside, bust potential, etc.  For Mittelstadt, even though he has that black eye on his resume, I have a tough time putting him lower than this thanks to the toolkit he possesses.  Speed, skill, willingness to play 200 feet, real good down low.  In time I do believe he can learn to play five on five and become a complete player because he really does have all the tools to become that player.

 

lias-andersson11. Lias Andersson  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Samuel Pahlsson

Andersson is a pretty safe bet to play in the league someday soon.  Independent scouts and fans won’t like him as much as GM’s and coaches will.  He’s good at everything, and his elite skill is likely his hockey sense, which is why I believe he’s not higher on lists for some people.  There is some concern about his upside, but when I think of all around centres like this who aren’t the sexiest of prospects.  My comparison of Pahlsson doesn’t help that image.  But I gave a lot of thought to using guys like Bo Horvat and Patrice Bergeron as the comparison.  Maybe it’s just because he’s a centre who has a similar build to those two guys, but I can’t help but think of Andersson as that kind of player.  Extremely low bust potential.  Close to a sure thing as a third line centre, upside I’d say is to be a high end second line centre.  He’s the type of kid teams win with.

 

12. Nick Suzuki  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Put up awesome numbers (96 points in 65 games, 21 points in 14 playoff games), but this kid is going to play in the show because he’s always engaged.  Has a tremendous motor.  I can see him being a guy who’ll do whatever it takes to play in the league someday.  The big concern is with how his game will translate, because he’s a bit undersized (for a centre) and doesn’t have bad wheels but not the type of speed you’d like a player his size to have.  In limited viewings, I really believe it’s just a matter of gaining lower body strength.  Top end speed looks good, just doesn’t seem to have the strength yet needed for those first few steps to be explosive.  But he can play in any situation (five short handed goals this season), has a good shot, good vision, I mentioned the motor and he’s always willing to engage physically.  He said at the combine he tries to model his game after Patrice Bergeron.  If he can do that, I’ll love him even more.  To me, the worst case scenario with him is that he can’t play the middle in the pro’s.  So I see Suzuki as a very safe pick.

 

13. Robert Thomas  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

I watch the kid and he just looks like he has everything it takes to excel in the NHL.  Great wheels, obviously not big but his size is fine, has that right handed shot which I never shut up about, high IQ, and he’s a tremendous playmaker who can change his pace of play.  He’s so damn smooth out there and makes the game look easy.  The more ice he’s seen this season, the better he’s been.  PPG player this season, and stayed pretty close to that clip in the playoffs with 12 points in 14 games.  Another great stat for him, only 14 of 66 points on the PP.  Obviously not near the numbers that Nick Suzuki had, but Thomas didn’t see that kind of ice time and likely has the higher ceiling of the two.  I seen Craig Button be critical of his goal totals.  No doubt, he needs to shoot more (like Gomez) as is the case with so many pure playmakers.  But I wouldn’t confuse “didn’t score” with “can’t score”.

 

14. Erik Brannstrom  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

His numbers and size aren’t much different from what Erik Karlsson had in 08, and we all saw the show he just put on.  Not a chance I’m going to say he can be that good, but the kid can really deal.  He has the speed, smarts and quickness to makeup for his lack of size.  As high as I now have him, I’m betting he goes even higher in the draft.  With how vital puck moving D have been this spring, and how great an undersized guy like Karlsson was in the playoffs, guaranteed teams picking high will be looking to scoop up all the top D.  For all the love I give Brannstrom and Makar though, tough to see either as a franchise D-man due to their size.  There’s only one Erik Karlsson.

 

juusovlimkitricityamericansvkelownabtjfhmygp2_l15. Juuso Valimaki  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

What I really like about Valimaki is what I read about his play in his own zone.  The headliner with him will be his 61 points in 60 games played.  But he will get his nose dirty with the physical stuff, has a great stick in his own zone, and he already has the thick frame to hold up to the punishment.  His point totals suggest he’s flashy, but he really isn’t, which is where the comparison to Klefbom comes in.  This kid is just very solid at both ends of the ice and doesn’t really have a flaw in his game.  He has a bit of swagger out there which I really like as well.

 

kristian_vesalainen116. Kristian Vesalainen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

At midseason I had read that his skating wasn’t very good.  As the season has gone on though, I hear and read more and more that his skating is either fine, or pretty good!  I do subscribe to the theory that he’s struggled a lot of the season due to changing leagues.  The ice size is different in Sweden and Finland, so it becomes an adjustment and making that adjustment in season can’t be easy.  His U18’s however suggested he’s still one of the top wingers in this draft.  So if the skating ability checks out, and he has this kind of size, and a legit reason for his inconsistency this season, I like him up in this range.

 

Tier Four

tippett17. Owen Tippett  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

I just don’t understand the love in for Tippett, and am starting to see more scouts see it this way.  Don’t in anyway confuse that for me not liking him, but I prefer mutli dimensional players and he in no way projects to be that.  He’s a lot like Kieffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did.  Speed, top two shot with Eeli Tolvanen in the draft, and decent size.  For the right team, I think he’d be a great addition.  But I’ve made this point the last few years and I’ll make it again.  Snipers are a luxury, not a necessity.  Teams picking high in the draft are building a house and they need to make sure they have the foundation poured and a roof on over their heads before they start building the kick ass man cave.

 

foote18. Callan Foote  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

I’ve said it before, but saying he “isn’t his dad” is probably premature because Adam put up similar numbers in junior and became a stay at home shutdown defender.  Make no mistake, Cal moves the puck real well and is pretty effective on the PP.  His skating is awkward, but he can get there.  Having said this, I don’t see Cal as a kid who’ll put up great offensive numbers.  I do see him as a kid who can be a shutdown defender, much like his old man was.  If he can put up points as well, great!  That’ll likely depend largely on the PP time he can get.  But if you want different comparisons, I see him as a Jake Muzzin, Adam Larsson, Marc Methot type of guy.  All these guys CAN put up numbers (Muzzin in particular has had a good offensive season), but first and foremost they’re shutdown guys.  Maybe his ceiling is a Brent Seabrook type who gets it done at both ends of the ice.

 

hague19. Nicolas Hague  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

He’s a little like Liljegren in that I believe in that scouts are picking him apart rather than asking themselves what Hague brings to the table.  He should be shooting back up boards after a fantastic playoffs by all accounts, yet he’s still dropping on most lists and I frankly just don’t get it.  You see a kid who is 6’5, 208 and you think defensive D-man who is basically a coke machine.  Hague is actually very active offensively, and it’s his defensive game which needs the work.  A lot of the Parayko comparison (other than his similar size) comes from his bomb of a point shot and how much he utilizes it.  So what’s the problem?  Do scouts think he’s dumb?  Scholastic player of the year last season, so I don’t think he’s out and out dumb.  One thing I know is he needs to clean up his skating.  Top speed he’s fine, first step and lateral movement needs to improve though.  All of his shortcomings however are things that can be fixed, so the potential for Hague to be a top pairing D-man is definitely there.

 

poehling20. Ryan Poehling  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

Unless I got my numbers confused, he weighed in WAY less than what he had been listed at during the season (202).  But he’s 18 going on 30!  If you can find his media scrum from the combine, I’d never buy that this kid is 18 years old the way he handled it.  Had a great Ivan Hlinka this summer, one of the best players in the tournament, but then struggled making the jump to the NCAA this season, and then finished his season with a real strong U18’s.  So was the NCAA season just a product of limited ice time and being so young while playing against more developed kids?  Real good size, seems to be committed to learning a 200 foot game, good hands, good vision, high end speed is good, the foot speed is really the only concern but foot speed can be fixed.  There is no real reason to believe this kid can’t be at least a 3rd line centre in the NHL and definitely has the upside to be a solid 2nd line centre.

 

rasmussen21. Michael Rasmussen  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Nik Antropov

Normally I’m a total homer for a kid with this kid of size and skating ability.  Last year we had Logan Brown, but Brown is a pure playmaker.  I’m not a big fan of centres who are shoot first guys.  Add to that,  while he had 55 points in 50 games this season, a lot of that damage was done on the PP.  Their is still a lot of intrigue with Rasmussen without a doubt, can’t ignore the combination of size and speed, but I can’t put him so high knowing nearly half his points are coming five on four.  He has shown to be committed to playing a 200 foot game, but I won’t be at all surprised if he ends up being a winger in the show.   I believe GM’s are going to have him higher than I do, but then again Logan Brown was expected to go in the top five or six last year and ended up going 11th.

 

22. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

He’s tiny (his weight at the combine as you can read was even less than what it had been listed at, and it was already far too light), and I likely wouldn’t have him as a first rounder most seasons.  But this season, he’s worth using a first round pick on.  99 points in 65 games, he’s got a high motor, obviously a ton of speed and skill, and despite his stature is pretty willing to go anywhere on the ice.  Obviously he’s not going to dish out the punishment, but he doesn’t shy away from the corners or front of the net.   You have to keep in mind with him though that he’s only a few weeks younger in a few cases than last year’s picks (9/29/98).  His numbers, while great, weren’t really eye popping for an 18 year old season.  But he’s an offensive driver though, and I believe he can continue to be that in the NHL someday.

 

Tier Five

tolvanen23. Eeli Tolvanen  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

A winger who if he isn’t scoring isn’t contributing anything, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, I just see a player of this ilk as an easy piece to acquire.  A pure sniper with a tremendous shot, it’s a sexy type of player.  But something that I try to consider in a draft is a players stock value.  Tolvanen could easily end up having better career point totals than some, maybe even a lot of the forwards I have ahead of him.  A 5’10, one dimensional winger isn’t exactly a tough find in the NHL.  You can find this type of player for cheap in free agency, and they’re always available at the trade deadline.  Centres, defencemen, wingers with size, these guys are difficult to find.  So while the bust rate might be lower on a guy like Tolvanen, the impact they actually have on a team is limited and should things go South they have virtually zero trade value.  At least when considering a player like Tippett, he has decent size and great speed to go with that big shot.  Something else I’ve read on Tolvanen is that he didn’t interview well at the combine.

 

24. Pierre-Olivier Joseph  Charlottetown  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 163  Shot: L

Comparison: Calvin de Haan

The more I gave this thought, the more I found myself saying “he had similar numbers to Jokiharju, has four inches on him (HEIGHT…head out of the gutter), skates just as well and perhaps better, and is better defensively…why do I have him six spots lower?!”  Joseph feels like a kid who is going to go much higher than expected.  I can see a team looking at him and saying “worst case scenario he takes a regular shift, with proper development he’s a top pairing kid”.  It’s a fair way to look at it.  One guy who immediately sprung to mind is T.J. Brodie.  Similar height, similar size once Joseph fills out, and similar numbers in their draft years.  But I went with de Haan as the comparison, mainly because I see a kid who is great in his own zone and does a lot of the dirty work that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, yet can really skate and move the puck.  But he definitely has the offensive upside to take his game to another level.

 

25. Henri Jokiharju  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

It’s crazy the amount of talent that Finland has produced of late, which makes it even more puzzling why they were so horrendous at the WJC this year.  Jokiharju feels like he’s becoming a forgotten man in this years draft crop, but his tools and numbers matchup with all the other top D-men.  He’s just a pure puck mover.  Great skater, passes the puck very well whether it be with zone exits or on the PP, and maybe his best attribute is how good of a stick he has defensively.  He isn’t real flashy, but he is very effective.

 

26. Jaret Anderson-Dolan  Spokane  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bonino

One of my favourite comparisons, and this kicks off a group of three guys who I see as potentially very undervalued centres who can become second line centres, but most likely are high end third line centres.  Anderson-Dolan’s best trait is that he has one of the best motors in this draft.  He’s also one of the youngest players in this draft (9/12/99) and was over a PPG player this season for the Chiefs.  Great skater (better than Bonino) with a great 200 foot game who can be abrasive out there too.  Last time I said I was tempted to have him up higher, and this time around I couldn’t resist.  The numbers, the birthdate, motor, I just think this kid has the makeup to be an overachiever.  I might have him ranked higher than anyone and I frankly don’t understand why.  I’ve seen some be critical of his skill level, but I can think of a lot more centres who don’t have that elite skill level, are never going to dangle and toe drag defenders, but have great success in the league and better than a lot of guys who can.  I think of a kid I was higher on than most last year in Michael McLeod and said that same thing all year.  At the moment, the scouting community is raving about McLeod.  Right.  Because he’s just a complete player.  You don’t get any extra goals thanks to how pretty it was.

 

27. Josh Norris  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

The star of the fitness testing, which basically means nothing.  John McFarland tested tremendous at the combine in 2010.  All that stuff is for is to find red flags.  It’s not to separate a guy who tests real good from a guy who doesn’t test good.  The most important part of the combine is the interview process.  Anyway, I’m seeing conflicting scouting reports on his skating ability, which for me, with this type of player, is huge.  If the skating checks out then this is a good spot for him.  Can easily be one of those third line centres who makes his way into the top six often because of how many things he does so well (much like Horcoff did, Tyler Bozak does).  If it doesn’t though, I don’t think I’d consider him until the third round.  Most of his offensive damage was done five on five so I really like that.  He’s going to Michigan in the fall.

 

28. Shane Bowers  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love this comparison.  I should point out, Bowers is a Canadian kid despite playing in the USHL, so don’t think I just compared a 6’1 American centre to another 6’1 American centre.  But if you think of the way Dubinsky plays, it is extremely similar to the way Bowers plays.  He’ll be in a guys face all night, and as we’ve seen this season with Nazem Kadri, that is the type of centre all teams would love to have on their team.  Much like Mittelstadt and Rasmussen though, Bowers is a big producer five on four, and weak numbers five on five, so for that reason he falls a bit in my rankings.  Having said that, I don’t see why he can’t develop into a perfect third line centre.  Going to Boston University in the fall.

 

29. Mason Shaw  Medicine Hat  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8.5  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Arvidsson

I’m always going to have a little bit of bias towards a kid who is local and played a lot of high end hockey in Lloyd.  But I’m even more bias towards a kid who plays this style.  Shaw plays gritty, has a really high IQ, and is completely fearless on the ice.  Arvidsson was who I finally settled on for the comparison (not as good of a skater), but another I gave thought to was Brad Marchand.  I wouldn’t ever expect a career year like Marchand just had, but his second and third year major junior numbers are pretty similar to what Marchand’s were.  One of the knocks I’ve read on Shaw is he’s not “dynamic” enough.  Well was Marchand ever that dynamic?  Is Brendan Gallagher?  Dynamic is one of those words that people can get too wrapped up in, much like “game breaker”.  It’s the same thing I said in my write up on Anderson-Dolan.  If I’m running a team, I could care less if a guy scores highlight reel goals, it means nothing.  Shaw also had tremendous numbers five on five this season.  Better than Yamamoto (73-64), better than Glass (73-72).  He won’t go in the first round, and might not even go until the third (he was only an honourable mention on McKenzie’s list which meant he was between 94-100).  But these are my rankings, and I believe the kid is going to be a flat out steal for somebody.

 

30. Jason Robertson  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

I am extremely worried about the speed, be lying if I wasn’t.  One thing that I heard pointed out (I believe I heard Mark Edwards from hockeyprospect.com) was that his skating might have been hurt in large part due to his conditioning.  He did not test well at the combine, and that actually could be a bonus.  He’s this good now, imagine what he’ll do once he’s in good shape!  But even if that isn’t the case, I feel much like how you can have a few small guys in the lineup, you can afford to have two or three slower guys in your lineup…as long as they can play with pace.  Robertson can because he’s so intelligent.  He DOMINATED the OHL like few others in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.  Brock Otten had a stat where in his final 25 games of the season (including playoffs) he nearly averaged two points a game.  That is unreal for a kid who was draft eligible and didn’t have much talent surrounding him.  Hockey sense is off the charts and he’s extremely difficult to knock off the puck.  A candidate to go much earlier than expected.

 

31. Filip Chytil  Zlin  CZE-Jr

Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rickard Rakell

Has become a big time riser as this season has wore on.  Looked great at the U18’s.  Great speed, vision, good shot, willing to go to any area on the ice, has some grit, plays a 200 foot game, really the only knock on him is going to be that he needs more time.  Watch for this kid to go late first round on draft day, as he really doesn’t have much of a flaw, just wasn’t showcased as often as others and maybe viewed as a bit of a project.  Might be viewed as a winger as opposed to playing the middle in the pros.

 

32. Urho Vaakanainen  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

It gets a little redundant after a while, but Vaakanainen is much like most other smallish puck moving D-men.  Great skater, moves the puck well (obviously), decision making is suspect at times, keeps a good gap defensively, good stick.  He’s a safe pick, I’d say the big question mark with him right now is how much can his offensive game grow because at his size you expect a guy who can put up at least 30-40 points from the back end.

 

33. Conor Timmins  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 184  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I love that he’s not your standard puck moving, won’t get his nose dirty type D-man.  He plays with aggression in the D zone, in addition to putting up good numbers, being a right handed shot (there it is again), and being a kid who can play in any situation.  Late birthday has him just a bit behind Jokiharju for me, but I see him as being right there and maybe a bit of a safer pick.

 

Tier Six

oettinger_horizontal34. Jake Oettinger  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

This tier might as well be called “the boom or bust” tier, because with these five guys I see big time potential, but they’re risky.  As weak as this draft is shaping up to be, the one that looks stronger than most years is goaltending.  Oettinger, Mike DiPietro, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ian Scott, Cayden Primeau, Keith Petruzzelli, Maxim Zuhkov, there are a LOT of goaltenders in everyone’s top 50-75.  Now, perhaps that’s great goaltending, or that’s a product of a weak draft so the attention tends to go more in that direction (it did in 2012).  Oettinger is worthy of this ranking though.  The kid has the size, has the athleticism, very technically sound and smooth, has phenomenal numbers, he’s everything you look for a goaltender to be.  Now, that’s physically.  Mental toughness is the most important component for a tendy which is why they are the biggest wild card’s to draft, which is why I dropped him to borderline 1st round status (for me anyway).  He was the 3rd goaltender for the States at the World Junior’s this year, though he never got a chance to play with Tyler Parsons and Joseph Woll both playing so well.

 

35. Michael DiPietro  Windsor  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Glove: L

Comparison: Marty Turco

I have railed against people who basically champion for the undersized kids in the draft.  It’s clear to me that they’re A) pulling for who they view as the underdogs, B) they don’t pay close enough attention to how GM’s need to build a team as opposed to just simply compiling talent, and C) pulling for all GM’s to move in this direction because it’s much more fun to watch.  It isn’t as if I disagree with the latter, but I also try to keep in mind what has been much more successful over the last 100 years in the NHL, which is size.  But in THIS scenario, I just believe DiPietro is getting drastically undervalued and it’s obviously because of his size.  Something that he had working for him this season though is Juuse Saros was exceptional, and he was a kid who the Preds debated drafting in the 4th round because of his size.  DiPietro had ridiculous numbers when I did my first list with a 2.15 G.A.A. and a .925 Sv%.  He slipped a bit afterwards, finishing with a 2.48 G.A.A. and a .917 Sv%, and then was tremendous in leading the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup .  He won’t go in the 1st round, might not go in the 2nd round, but this is my list and I like him in the 30-40 range.

 

36. Morgan Geekie  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Bryan Smolinski

Massive jump up the rankings for me from just two weeks ago as I’ve dug deeper on him and really respect those scouts who are high on him.  He’s in his second year of eligibility for the draft, but he’s actually only a little over two months older than Yamamoto, and Geekie’s point totals weren’t far off his.  The size is good, the numbers are good, it’s the skating that needs work.  But his IQ and playmaking are tremendous.  There are a few rumours out there that he could be a first round pick.

 

37. Isaac Ratcliffe  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Dustin Penner

As is the case with a lot of big players, Ratcliffe needs to work on his first step.  But at 6’5 and only 196 pounds, you could likely chalk that up to being a lanky kid who doesn’t have the strength to match his frame.  At top speed his skating is great for a player his size.  Hasn’t shown a nasty streak to this point, so doubtful that’ll ever come.  Was the leading goal scorer and second in points on a weak Storm team this season.

 

38. Aleksi Heponiemi  Swift Current  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 149  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

Obviously has a lot filling out to do, and didn’t have a great playoffs for the Broncos (0 goals, 8 assists in 14 GP).  In fairness to that though, he is a pure playmaker.  Look at guys like Joe Thornton, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Getzlaf, etc.  The one thing you’ll always hear about their game is the question “why don’t they shoot more?”  Heponiemi is the same way and will hang onto the puck sometimes too long looking for that seam.  His speed for his size is ok but not great, he has to improve it.  But despite that and despite the size, I find myself really intrigued at how good this kid could be in a few years.  The weight is shocking, and worrisome that he won’t be able to get up to 175-185 that he needs to get to.  If he does, he should play in the league, though I would guess he ends up on the wing.

 

39. Kole Lind  WHL  Kelowna

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Killorn

I’ll start off with a negative, and that is he’s rail thin.  Looks smaller than what he’s listed at.  But the good news there is that he excels at the size he is currently, and will only get bigger.  Good speed, good shot, and plays with a bit of grit despite the lack of weight.  Probably not shocking that these are the qualities a Saskatchewan kid possesses, I know.  But there is always a spot for a kid like this in the show.  I see him as a very safe pick.  Top nine guy who can move up and down your lineup, a lot like the other wingers I have in the 38-47 range.

 

40. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen  HPK  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 198  Glove: L

Comparison: Pekka Rinne

Size, athleticism, a Fin, I honestly try to stay away from the stereotypical comparisons.  I can’t in this case.  He just reminds me exactly of Rinne.  Unlike Rinne however, he’s not a raw talent.  He already has shown that he’s pretty technically sound for his age and plays a composed style with great rebound control.  Sometimes you see guys with a lot of athleticism like Jonas Gustavsson or Anders Lindback who just can never get away from depending solely on that.

 

Tier Seven

41. Alex Formenton  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 166  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Stafford

The biggest draw with Formenton is that he is going to be one of the youngest (the youngest I’ve come across who should go in the top 100) player in this draft.  9/13/99.  Age aside though, he’s very raw.  So the belief here is that in another two seasons playing for Dale Hunter, Formenton will develop into a very effective top nine winger.  He has awesome wheels and a great work ethic, so if you’re going to gamble on a bit of a project, he’d be a good one to bet on.

 

42. Stelio Mattheos  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Fisher

He’s dropped a bit this season, but I really like the kid in this early-mid 2nd round range.  Decent size, natural centre, right handed shot, good wheels, everyone raves about the way he forechecks, I think he’s got a great shot at being a pretty valuable top nine forward in the league whether it be at centre or on the wing.  The ability is there and I believe a season back in Brandon with it being “his team” could do big things for his development.

 

43. Jake Leschyshyn  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Dave Bolland

Such a shame that he had that knee injury and couldn’t have gone on the playoff run with the Pats.  With the Pats hosting the Memorial Cup next season he’ll obviously get that chance, but who knows what a great playoff run could have done for his draft stock.  From what we got to see though, tough not to like the player.  Good (not great) speed, high IQ, gritty, has some skill but more importantly knows how to manufacture goals.

 

44. Scott Reedy  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: David Perron

His U18 didn’t go too well, seeing he got benched.  But I’m still a fan.  He’s a lot like Jason Robertson.  Better skater (but his own skating isn’t great), probably not as good of a shot (but he has a good shot).  His stick skills are his big claim to fame, but I also like what I’m hearing on his grit and playmaking abilities.  From what I’ve seen in highlights, he loves going to the tough area’s and playing a little greasy.

 

comtois45. Maxime Comtois  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Benoit Pouliot

One of the drafts big time fallers from the start of the season.  I tried to resist back in February, but he’s just had a brutal season production wise and I can’t help but drop him into this range.  Still though, I can’t help but think back to 2013 and Anthony Duclair was basically an afterthought heading into the draft after being a top ranked kid heading into the season.  So for me personally, I would take a chance on Comtois in this range simply because it could have simply been a case of a kid putting far too much pressure on himself in his draft year.  When you just look at the skill set of size, grit, speed, and a great shot, you have to think he’ll still find his way into the league.

 

46. Grant Mismash  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jason Zucker

Fast and skilled kid who is a bit inconsistent, but when on he is active all over the ice.  Willing to get his nose dirty, of course this becomes a question mark once he gets to the AHL and NHL.  Is he going to start to shy away from it when facing bigger and tougher guys, or is he going to embrace it?  Tough to say how that mental part of the game will ever go for a player, but Mismash definitely has the skill set to be a very effective top nine winger in the league.  Potentially a guy who you can move up and down your lineup.

 

47. Ostap Safin  Sparta  CZE-Jr

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Isbister

First, an explanation on the comparison.  If I said Todd Bertuzzi or David Backes, it would be ridiculous expectations.  Isbister had that same talent, just didn’t have the drive.  These types of players are few and far between and the ones who pan out end up dominating, so it’s tough to find a middle of the road guy to compare Safin to.  If he were a Canadian kid I really wonder how much higher he would be in most rankings.  Massive upside.  He loves to throw his weight around.  Would that change once over in North America, or would he then become more comfortable and excel even playing in a league that has more guys who play that style?  Foot speed needs work, but his high end speed is real good and has some good skill with a great shot.  The ceiling is really high with Safin and because of that it won’t surprise me if in this particular draft (viewed as weaker) he managed to sneak into the first round.

 

Tier Eight

48. Alexei Lipanov  Balashikha  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 169  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

There is another Russian who you’re probably wondering how I could have Lipanov ahead of him.  Well Lipanov still has a lot of filling out to do, and is a centre which goes a long way in my books.  He’s pure offence.  The 200 foot game needs a lot of work, but this is a kid who has a boat load of skill.  Really similar to Heponiemi (hence them back to back and in the same tier).  The Fin gets the nod because of less risk, Lipanov might be the more talented of the two.

 

49. Sasha Chmelevski  Ottawa  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Marcus Kruger

Congratulations to the 2017 CHL scholastic player of the year, Sasha Chmelevski.  I’m a sucker for kids who show a high IQ.  Of course that doesn’t mean it will translate to hockey sense, but I do believe it shows work ethic and maturity on top of intelligence.  Great wheels, good skill, his 200 foot game has shown a lot of improvement as the seasons progressed, and he’s a right handed shot.  He had consistency issues this season, but the kid really does have all the talent to not only make the NHL, but be a significant contributor.

 

50. Morgan Frost  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Spooner

Another one of these kids who I simply made a mistake on the last time around.  For me personally though, the skill set that Chmelevski possesses still has him a spot ahead though for those wondering how I could have him ahead of Frost.  But again, pay more attention to the tierings when looking at my rankings.  I love the comparison of Spooner, as they’re extremely similar players from stature, skating ability, both pure playmakers who can leave coaches frustrated by not shooting as often as they’d like.  I see Grant McCagg has tweeted that he was told the Habs like him a lot at 25.  Makes sense, as I’ve been mocking a centre to the Habs all season, and all the high end ones will likely be off the board.

 

51. Marcus Davidsson  Djurgardens  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikael Backlund

It is so rare that you find a Swedish kid who doesn’t play a 200 foot game, it’s unreal the job they do developing their kids.  Like the Luukkonen/Rinne comparison, I just couldn’t not think of Backlund when talking about Davidsson, and I’m guessing this is the comparison most will have.  Needs to keep developing his lower body strength which will help his skating out a lot (not a bad stride, just a little weak) and isn’t very physical.  But he plays a very complete game.

 

52. Joni Ikonen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Vincent Trocheck

I can’t see him being a centre at the next level.  He’s a dangler with a tremendous shot, and if you try to keep a guy like that in the middle then it can be difficult to find him linemates.  He worked well at the U18’s with Vesalainen because Vesalainen is a kid who can create and tilt the ice.  But either in the middle or on the wing, Ikonen has a chance to be a real good sniper.

 

53. Josh Brook  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Jason Demers

I cannot find a consensus on his skating!  Redline Report say “his fluid skating with light edging allows him to play effectively in all three zones”.  Future Considerations say his “overall speed game isn’t flattering”.  And I found some more and again, opinions were split.  I don’t get how that happens, but even with some of the negative things I read I still like the overall package.  Big frame, righty shot, high IQ, plays gritty in his own zone, even without great wheels I’m intrigued at this point in the draft.  If Redline is right and his wheels are as good as they claim, this kid has a chance to be a massive steal.

 

54. Ian Mitchell  Spruce Grove  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Thomas Hickey

He’s a very understated D-man who is a bit of a project, but any team who drafts him is going to have time to let him grow while he attends Denver beginning next season.  Mobile, solid in his own zone, and untapped offensive potential.

 

55. Dylan Samberg  Hermantown  USHSW

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Manson

As the comparison is intended to imply, Samberg is a great skater who is a miserable SOB to play against.  Tough to imagine him as a big point producer, but I personally believe every team still needs that guy on the blueline who makes life miserable for the opposition and Samberg is that kind of player.

 

56. David Farrance  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Troy Stecher

He’s so small.  He has ridiculous talent though.  Great speed, great puck mover, he’s a kid who wouldn’t even get consideration for the NHL draft 13 years ago.  He’d be headed for a nice career in Europe.  But now, he has a chance.  And going to BU in the fall, whoever drafts him will get a bit of extra time before needing to sign him to his ELC.  That’ll be great for his development, because he really needs time to work on his defensive play.  Some might wonder why I would have him down this far, but the fact of the matter is that he had very disappointing numbers this season.  Talent is there, no doubt, but that’s the risk.

 

57. Markus Phillips  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Martin

Phillips is what I’d call a new age defensive defenceman.  He’s got offensive skill, but he’s tremendous in his own zone with his positioning, angling, and first pass.  Just plays a very safe and dependable game.  Could be a sneaky good prospect because he’s the type of kid who has had to think the game, not simply overwhelm the OHL with his elite talent.

 

kostin58. Klim Kostin  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I’m going for “lowest you’ll see him ranked”, and I was very tempted to not have him on my list, but at some point it’s ok to take the home run swing.  The big, and/or skilled, “unstoppable” Russian winger seems to bust more than any other type of player, and they’ve burnt their bridge with me.  Filatov, Burmistrov, Yakupov, Grigorenko, Nichushkin, I’m just done with these guys as first round picks.  You will likely point out Tarasenko and Kuznetsov, of course there are always exceptions to the rule.  Added to the bust factor, and the flight risk, Kostin missed half the season.  Put on top of all this, now he says he won’t come to the CHL.  What is with so many of these kids?!  Let’s not sugar coat it, so many of these kids are total divas and for me personally I’m sick of it and I have to think most NHL teams are sick of it too.  I’m not touching him anywhere in the top 30 where most have him.  Late 2nd round though, I’d maybe take a swing.

 

59. Jonah Gadjovich  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Marcus Foligno

This kid is a little bit of an old school power forward.  He’s a solid skater for his size, and looks like he has the frame to put on another 15-20 pounds.  17 of 46 goals on the PP is a bit of a concern for me,  as is the late 98 birth date.  But no doubt he has the talent to be a top nine guy in the NHL.

 

60. Nick Henry  Regina  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Gionta

Henry isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with his speed and skill.  Both are solid, but he’s the type of kid who just really understands his role.  This season playing on the top line with the Pats, he understood not to try and do too much and it led to incredible results.  He’s very willing to get his nose dirty too.  Just a perfect complimentary player.  A lot of his damage done five on four though, as I’ve stated throughout this list I’m not a fan of that.

 

61. Matthew Strome  Hamilton  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Jimmy Hayes

I have a tough time liking Strome to be honest.  But then again, if I got the 57th pick in the draft, don’t you have to take a highly skilled 6’4 kid?  His skating isn’t good, but it’s probably better than Jason Robertson’s, and he’s bigger than Robertson, and he’s as skilled.  I give the IQ edge to Robertson (big time), but still I think you have to take a swing on Strome by now, and a team likely will long before this spot.

 

Tier Nine

62. Jesper Boqvist  Brynas  SHL J20

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Robert Nilsson

A pretty talented kid, but he is a bit of a mess in his own zone and tends to shy away from the dirty area’s.  So I have trouble liking him.  Still, you can’t knock the kids talent.  He can always be coached up on the defensive end of the ice, and he can always learn to get his nose a little dirty.  His draft combine interview would have been a big deal if I were the GM of a team.  If it checks out, you probably have him in your top 35.  Has high end speed, and the upside is definitely there.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Mock Draft 4.0

Apologies for the one day delay.  I had everything ready to go for Monday morning, and then I thought “I’ll have all day to study Bob McKenzie’s list, and I might find out more info on what the Golden Knights might do for trades, so why not just wait one day?”

 

Either way, I’m sure none of you suffered, and it’s draft week combined with what has become expansion week, so there is no shortage of material to read!  I think the mock on Friday will look a lot different than this one.  We’ve heard about the picks the Golden Knights have acquired already and I’m sure there are more on the way.  Questions are: how many are this year?  And how many are in the first round?

 

It really is shaping up to be an intriguing draft.  I don’t think it’s as weak as I once feared it was, although it’s still not near as strong as any of the last four have been.  I would say it’s a lot like 2011.  That had four kids in the top tier of the draft, this one has just two, but I believe it’ll be a bit scattered throughout.  The top tier of the 2011 draft hasn’t been as good as expected, picks six through nine have been just as good if not better than the top four, and from pick 21 on in that draft it’s become clear that a lot of talent was on the board, but it was tough to put it in the proper order at the time for most teams.

 

As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have age 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past four or five drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re big on Europeans?  Do they not like taking defencemen high?  Do they value size?  Skill?  Speed?  There are just a ton of things to take into consideration.  I noticed in THN’s latest draft preview they did this with each team too, although they just said CHL instead of looking at specific leagues.  Still, a nice add.

 

The number on the right side of the players name is the ranking I have on the player in my top 62 list.  I have been updating that list, but won’t release the latest until Friday, so in case you’re wondering why some of the rankings aren’t matching up with the latest list I did, that’ll be the reason.  Also I should say, expect even more spelling mistakes than normal, as I really didn’t have much time to proof read!  I apologize in advance.

 

1. Nico Hischier (2)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

For the third straight time, it’s Hischier to the Devils.  Now, there are rumours (reputable rumours, Elliotte Friedman rumours) that they might take a D-man in this spot, or trade back to take one.  Not the dumbest thing I’ve heard, as Shero has made their blueline a mess thanks to the Larsson/Hall swap.  But I’ll believe a trade in the top five when I see it.  These always get rumoured and never happen.  Reaching for a D-man here?  Maybe.  Trading down or out of the pick?  Doubt it.  And we saw them acquire Mirco Mueller over the weekend who isn’t an insignificant pickup, and they have cap space to do something else so I’d be pretty surprised if that (which Grant McCagg has been mocking for a month now) happened.  For me, as indicated in my rankings, I would take Nolan Patrick.  But I completely understand and believe the Devils will go with the safer kid which is Hischier.  I do think that legitimately nobody will know which way they’re going until Ray Shero steps to the podium.  You ask me though, the Devils didn’t win this lottery, Philly did.  Jersey has to make the choice, Philly just has to sit back and pick the other guy.

Other Options: Nolan Patrick

 

2. Nolan Patrick (1)  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

I believe this is the scenario the Flyers are hoping for.  Patrick being a Brandon kid, Hextall being a Brandon guy, of the two kids at the top it’s Patrick who plays more of a “Flyers” brand of hockey, I just think he’d be their guy.  We all know Patrick has had his fair share of injury problems (not just this season, although this was the worst), but I don’t see any of these injuries having a long term impact on him.  Even if he tops out as a great 2nd line centre in the show, he’s still going to be an extremely valuable player with what he brings to the table.

Other Options: None

 

3. Miro Heiskanen (7)  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

So a lot of people have this as their pick, and now I’m joining the party.  Stars beat writer Mike Heika has said he believes this is where they’re going with the pick.  Don’t like it for the Stars.  In the draft, you pick for three or four years down the road, not today.  In three or four years….well, sooner than that…the Stars need someone who can replace Jason Spezza.  Their blueline moving forward looks fine!  I understand the need today on the blueline, but with the talent they have already on the roster and on the way, and Hitchcock being the man in charge, that D will be fine.  Having said this, you can never have too many D, and it’s the one commodity that if you have then you can make a trade.  The big question is whether or not this pick will still be owned by the Stars by the time the third pick is to be made.  It sure doesn’t sound like it, but as I said with the Devils…this gets rumoured every year and yet there has only been one deal in the top five since 2002, and it was a simple trade back from five to seven.

Other Options: Cody Glass, Gabe Vilardi

 

4. Cale Makar (8)  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

So this is new too.  But this is one of the reasons I figured it might be good to hold off for another day on things.  According to Adrian Dater (probably the most connected Avs writer there is), they love Makar.  And now with Heiskanen off the board and the belief is that they’re going to start really loading up on the blueline as they should have done years ago…but better late than never.  It’s interesting though, because Makar plays a lot like Tyson Barrie, and it sounds like Barrie is going to be dealt this offseason (perhaps for Jordan Eberle), so I hope they do more to the D than swap out one undersized puck mover for another who is at least two years away from playing the league.

Other Options: None

 

5. Cody Glass (4)  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

Call me nuts, but I actually believe the Canucks aren’t an ocean away from competing for a playoff spot like most do.  And what I like in taking Glass, or perhaps Gabe Vilardi, or perhaps Elias Pettersson, is that while the Canucks won’t have a star down the middle they’ll be able to matchup with just about any team.  Horvat, Glass/Vilardi/Pettersson, Sutter, moving forward that could be a bitch to handle.  But I really believe that a centre is the pick here.  I believe they could make a big push to get the top pick if in fact it is available, but as I’ve stated many times before we hear these rumours every year of trades in the top five and they NEVER materialize, just like on Saturday when everyone assumed a flood of deals were about to commence and like always in the NHL…crickets.

Other Options: Gabe Vilardi, Elias Pettersson

 

6. Elias Pettersson (6)  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

Ending up picking 6th might be best for the Golden Knights in their initial entry draft.  Now the pressure is off to find “the face of the franchise”.  Just take the BPA, and don’t rush him.  George McPhee while in Washington loved taking Swedes with his top pick.  Between 2006 and 2013 the Caps selected a Swedish kid with their top pick in five of eight drafts, and didn’t have a first in 2011.  I really believe they need to take either a D-man or centre with this pick, and I do have Petterson listed as a centre, but I’ve had trouble finding out whether that is legit or not because I’ve also seen him listed as a winger.  If he’s a legit centre, he’s in my top six guys and should be snagged by the G-Knights if he’s still on the board.  If not, I believe they should look elsewhere.  But what also makes this pick interesting is it’s now looking like it won’t be the only pick they own.  24 looks like a guarantee (as you’ll see later), and others are coming as most insiders suggest they have three picks already added to this one (though we don’t know how many of those are in this draft).

Other Options: Martin Necas, Casey Mittelstadt

 

7. Gabe Vilardi (5)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Nathan Horton

Last time around I had Suzuki here, and up until yesterday I was going to go back to Makar here.  But Makar went to the Avs, and I feel like Benning will prefer Glass (the more certain centre), and McPhee will prefer the Swede (as I just wrote about).  So Vilardi gets to the Coyotes at seven, though I wouldn’t say this is a sure thing either.  Vilardi played the wing all year, and his game might be better suited for the wing.  And then you have the analytics angle to it.  So I wouldn’t say it’s a sure thing, but they need some insurance down the middle, they could use a RW, so Vilardi does fit that mold.  So I think the fit is here, but fully admit I’m hesitant.

Other Options: Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom

 

8. Erik Brannstrom (14)  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

After Erik Karlsson’s amazing playoffs and the Preds having so much success this spring with their loaded blueline, D-men are at a premium and the Sabres have one of the worst blueline’s in the league.  So I don’t have much doubt that they’re going D in this spot, and likely throughout this draft.  They have a kid to build around in Rasmus Ristolainen, but they need more even though they’ve used half their picks in the last two drafts on defencemen.  Brannstrom would be a pretty big reach according to a lot of rankings, but for some reason I see him going in the top 10.  He’s tiny, but he has a chance to be that electric puck mover that really enhances their big guns up front.  They’ll need to do more in the offseason than just take a few quality D-men in the draft, Brannstrom or any D they get here aren’t playing in the league for another year or two, but it would be a great start.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki

 

9. Martin Necas (9)  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

I’ve been adamant for a while now that the Wings must take a D-man here.  But let’s be honest…Ken Holland believes he can find and develop D-men.  Sure, last year he finally pulled the trigger and took Dennis Cholowski (first D taken by the Wings in the first round since Brendan Smith in 07), but they were in a position where they HAD to do it.  This year, I still suggest they have to, but I’m going to bet that they believe centre is the play.  Without going back and checking (but I’m not…what can I say, I’m lazy) I believe I had this in my second mock and am now back to it.  I really love the idea.  Necas problem is his play away from the puck.  The Wings have crushed it taking kids like this and turning them into dependable two way players without hurting their offensive ability.  Take the centre with the high ceiling here, and maybe look to add a Conor Timmins, Markus Phillips, David Farrance, Josh Brook, someone like that at 38.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Lias Andersson

 

10. Owen Tippett (17)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

I’m not near as high on Tippett as some are (as the final lists are coming out, more and more scouts seeing it the way I do), but I really do like the fit of him with the Panthers.  A team that had a shitty season from an injury standpoint and with off ice drama.  But they’re setup great moving forward.  Barkov, Trocheck, Bjugstad already on the roster and Borgstrom in the system, so they look real good down the middle.  Ekblad obviously is anchoring their blueline and they have Matheson, McCoshen, Petrovic and possibly Pysyk once the expansion draft dust has settled, so there isn’t a big need on the blueline.  So they can afford to go add that man cave in the basement with the house completely built A.K.A. add a top end sniper.  Having said this, Nick Suzuki is still on the board and is maybe better suited for the wing than centre, and the same with Michael Rasmussen who also has that tremendous size that Dale Tallon has loved as he’s pieced together this team.

Other Options: Nick Suzuki, Michael Rasmussen

 

11. Nick Suzuki (12)  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

It’s funny how things can go from looking so great to so terrible, so quickly.  Going into the 2014 draft, the Kings had just won their second Cup in three seasons, they had so many picks that they hit on and yet here we are just three years later and they’ve only won one playoff game in three seasons and seemingly have nothing coming.  So this is an important pick for Rob Blake.  This is the same story as the last few mock drafts.  But I shouldn’t be as confident as I’ve been that they’ll simply take a centre here, nor should .  It feels like that’ll be the pick, but they easily could take a defenceman here as they really don’t have much coming on D either.  If it were me, I’d take the centre here and then stockpile D the rest of the draft.  The need for a centre is immediate, their blueline problems are long term, not immediate.  I have Suzuki as the centre with how well and often they’ve drafted out of the OHL, but Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Rasmussen and Robert Thomas all probably have higher ceilings.

Other Options: Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Rasmussen

 

12. Casey Mittelstadt (10)  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Their scouting staff has loved taking U.S. kids over the years, and with great success in doing so.  It’s not as if they’re gun shy to go elsewhere, but I have to believe that with their need for high end top six players that Mittelstadt fits the bill for them.  He’s dropped down mine and a lot of other rankings due to a lot of his production coming on the PP.  Having said that, the potential is there with Mittelstadt to be a high end centre in the league, and that is a piece the Hurricanes could really use in their organization.  They’re loaded on D, they have a lot of skilled guys who can play in their top six, but they lack a high end centre who can be their catalyst up front.

Other Options: Robert Thomas, Michael Rasmussen

 

13. Henri Jokiharju (25)  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

Little bit of a reach here, but I’ve got some pretty well thought out reasons for it.  In talking to a few Jets fans about the last mock draft I made the point that I could see Kevin Cheveldayoff wanting to add a little more skill rather than size this time around.  I’ve also said a few times now that a very sneaky need for the Jets is a RH shooting D-man.  Dustin Byfuglien is now 32, Tyler Myers continually has injury problems, I’m guessing the Jacob Trouba trade request is likely still out there, and they only have one kid in the system (Tucker Poolman) coming on the right side.  They’ve used 14 picks in Cheveldayoff’s six drafts on WHL kids, most of any league they’ve picked from.  So with that being said, Jokiharju is the best RH shooting D-man in the WHL, and has a lot more skill than a kid like Juuso Valimaki does.  In 2013 they took Josh Morrissey in this same spot, and Morrissey was ranked around the same area most have Jokiharju (Bob McKenzie had Morrissey 28th in 2013, has Jokiharju 34th this year).  So that’s who I’m saying right now, but there are other kids they could take here for sure.  I really believe that D is the play, but Michael Rasmussen seems destined to go much earlier than I have him.  The Jets love WHL kids and they love size.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Michael Rasmussen

 

14. Lias Andersson (11)  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Lots of ways Steve Yzerman could go here now that the Jonathan Drouin/Mikhail Sergachev deal is done.  I still wouldn’t sleep on Timothy Liljegren here because they still have a big need for a RH shooting D-man.  They now have holes up front, especially down the middle with Val Filppula and Brian Boyle now gone and really only Brett Howden on the way.  I guess they have Brayden Point, but if it’s me, with his size, I’d prefer to put him on the wing.  With Drouin now dealt, maybe Kristian Vesalainen is a possibility?  Or Kailer Yamamoto?  Lot’s of possibilities, but Andersson is close to NHL ready now and can play just about anywhere in your lineup and will be a kid who a coach will be able to play in any situation.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Kristian Vesalainen

 

15. Timothy Liljegren (3)  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

So I don’t officially know whether or not if the Golden Knights have this pick.  But reports are that the Islanders are dealing it to Vegas to take on Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski (remember when they were going to change the Islanders analytics fans?)  I don’t do trades in my mocks, but I’ll make an exception here.  And with George McPhee having secured his centre, he goes back to Sweden to snag who in my mind is still a potential franchise D-man.  Liljegren is a real wildcard in this draft.  I’d say he could go anywhere from 7th-22nd.  Again though with McPhee, he’s had great success taking kids out of Sweden, and I believe with one of his (at least) three picks in the first round he’ll want to take a D-man.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Cal Foote

 

16. Robert Thomas (13)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

The pick changes yet again, and now I’ve got them taking one of my favourites in the draft!  Maybe I’m secretly a Flames fan?!  No, that’s not it.  But man, if the Flames get one of Thomas or maybe a Necas or Suzuki should they fall here, they’re going to be laughing!  Couldn’t fit the Flames any better, if I had to guess Thomas would eventually allow them to slide Bennett to the wing.  And as I brought up last time around, something Brad Treliving said ten days ago though definitely got my attention: “There’s opportunity to take a swing at people with high ceiling.  There’s some risk/reward picks we’re playing with.”  Translation: “We feel like we can take a home run swing here on the biggest talent available”.  Klim Kostin?  I highly doubt it as they’ve drafted one Russian since 2002 and it was in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.  But it was an interesting comment.

Other Options: Michael Rasmussen, Kailer Yamamoto

 

17. Callan Foote (18)  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

Last time around I had Liljegren going here, and if he’s still on the board I’d still guess he is the pick.  But he’s gone, so they have to look elsewhere and I love the idea just as much of them getting Cal Foote.  They’ve got a lot of puck movers already, but they don’t have a guy with good size who plays a more cerebral/composed game and (this might sound odd) has big potential to be a shutdown defenceman.  I’d say the ceiling on Foote would be what Brent Seabrook was (notice I said “was” as unfortunately he looks shot) for the Blackhawks all these years.  What a perfect fit a guy like that would be with a Morgan Rielly on the Leafs top pair somewhere down the line.  I have very little doubt here that the pick is going to be a defenceman.  Would be shocked if it wasn’t as long as guys like Foote and Valimaki are still on the board.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Hague

 

18. Michael Rasmussen (20)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Berglund

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Despite the shit show that has been the Boston Bruins front office the last few seasons, their system is looking pretty solid.  Not nearly as solid as it should look, but solid nonetheless.  The need here I believe is a centre.  I know they took Travis Frederic at 29 last year, they have Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson on the way, but I’m not sure you can put your eggs in that basket.  I feel like Rasmussen is going to be gone by this point, but I can’t figure out who would take him!  Florida?  LA?  Carolina?  Winnipeg?  All are candidates, but in selecting for them I had a guy on the board I felt like they would like better.  I would certainly hope that teams notice this kid doesn’t produce much five on five which is the massive concern for me.

Other Options: Ryan Poehling, Kailer Yamamoto

 

19. Kristian Vesalainen (16)  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

I believe they’re basically in a BPA position here.  Vesalainen feels like a Doug Wilson type of player.  He has great size, skates well, protects the puck well, and has a lot of skill.  That’s how he’s built that team since he became GM.  There are a lot of different ways he can go though.  D is never a bad play, and you have a good one on the board (in my mind) in Valimaki.  You have the highly skilled Kailer Yamamoto still there too.  But I just can’t see Wilson passing on Vesalainen should he get here.  I believe they’re a candidate to do a deal with the Hawks and move back.  They don’t have their 2nd rounder this season, so a trade down to 26 to grab one makes a lot of sense.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Kailer Yamamoto

 

20. Ryan Poehling (21)  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

In my opinion, the Blues need a centre in the system.  With some of the Blues fans I’ve talked to about it, they believe they need a centre in the system.  So I’m going to have them taking a centre, the tough part is asking who that centre is?  Could they package the 20th pick with the 27th pick and move up to get that guy?  How’s this scenario: Doug Armstrong has a real tight relationship with Steve Yzerman.  The Lightning are always willing to trade back, the Blues could stand to move up, 20 and 27 for 14 and 76 which would re-coup the third rounder the Blues lost in the Nail Yakupov deal.  But if they stand pat they should land a pretty good centre here.  Some guys absolutely love Poehling and believe he’d be a top five guy had he played against a little lighter competition this season.  Look great at the Hlinka, and real good at the U18’s.  He’d be a great fit for the Blues.

Other Options: Shane Bowers, Josh Norris

 

21. Kailer Yamamoto (22)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

To me, they’re just like the Sharks and in a BPA situation.  They have virtually nothing coming in the organization, so they should be just grabbing the player they deem to be the best on the board.  They can use a D-man, centre and high end winger.  In this scenario, it’s the winger who falls to them (though not according to my rankings, according to others).  Yamamoto feels like a great fit to me with how the Rangers have been built too.  He’s got some of the best wheels in the draft, and of course we know the Rangers are one of the fastest teams in the league.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Eeli Tolvanen

 

22. Eeli Tolvanen (23)  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

I don’t care what the Edmonton media says, I’d be stunned if the Oilers brass didn’t feel like they really need a centre in this draft.  And if this is how things shake down, as I said last time, I’m trading back.  The Blackhawks reportedly want to move up to make a splash for the hometown crowd, so maybe 26 and 57 for 22 (should they not strike a deal with the Sharks)?  Perhaps Dallas would do 29 and 39 for 22 and 84?  Should be some options available to them.  For me, I counted 16 kids, with two more who I’d consider borderline, who I’d want on the board for the Oilers before I traded back.  All 16 and the two others have gone in this scenario.  Now having said all this, I would completely understand the lure of Tolvanen for them.  He’s a pure sniper.  Putting him with McDavid you would at least think would be a lethal pairing.  But as an Oilers fan, I hope this isn’t what goes down.  Trade back, get a centre who can anchor a good third line somewhere down the line behind McDavid and Draisaitl.

Other Options: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Shane Bowers

 

23. Juuso Valimaki (15)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

I’m much higher on Valimaki than most seem to be.  The kid just has a swagger he plays with that could help him become a top pairing guy at some point.  I, along with others, probably get too concerned over righty and lefty shot D-men.  I see that as a big need for the Coyotes, but who knows if they do?  They have a lot of young LW’s on the roster and throughout the organization, but Jason Robertson is a kid who I could see John Chayka really liking.  Another theory I’d watch out for here though is Jake Oettinger.  They have nothing coming between the pipes and would have seen him a lot at BU playing with Clayton Keller last season, plus I believe a run on goaltenders will start around pick 27 or 28 so they might want to jump the gun.

Other Options: Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger

 

24. Josh Norris (28)  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

This is a pick which is about to be acquired from the Blue Jackets in exchange for…I’m not exactly sure!  Essentially so that Vegas will take on the David Clarkson contract, but as of now we don’t know the details.  Regardless, the Golden Knights get a first rounder (reportedly) for taking a big cap hit that really won’t ever impact them other than in the offseason.  With this pick I’d like them to go back to the middle, although it could go a lot of different ways.  I’ve spoken to George McPhee liking Swedes so much, but don’t forget he’s had great success with Russian kids too.  Before Ovechkin, he had Sergei Gonchar, he drafted Alex Semin, Semyon Varlamov, Dimitri Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, he’s had a lot of success with them.  So Klim Kostin I’m sure will get consideration.  But Josh Norris would be the safe pick, and in my opinion the right pick.  Get a centre long term who can play behind Pettersson and do a lot of the dirty work.  I also think a goaltender is possible here, but then again they may have their goaltender of the future thanks to the Avs exposing Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft.

Other Options: Jake Oettinger, Klim Kostin

 

25. Pierre-Olivier Joseph (24)  Charlottetown  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 163  Shot: L

Comparison: Calvin de Haan

Well this pick sure got a lot more interesting!  I wonder if they’ll still have this pick come Friday night, because this team is going for it, I have little doubt about that.  If you look at the landscape in the East, the Pens are going to gas out next season, the Caps are falling back, the Leafs are coming on strong but still might be a year away, so as of now the biggest threat looks like a team that didn’t even make the playoffs in the Tampa Bay Lightning.  A lot of people have them going after a D-man with Alex Galchenyuk, but I wonder if they won’t look to package him with perhaps this pick and look to land a centre like Matt Duchene or Derek Stepan.  If they want to try Jonathan Drouin at centre, cool.  But they better not go into the season depending on that happening, because I don’t think he’s committed enough to playing a 200 foot game to work in the middle.  ANYWAY, this is supposed to be talking about who they may pick here.  Centre is still a very real possibility, but after losing Sergachev and…let’s be honest…a very highly touted and popular kid out of the Q on the board, Joseph makes a lot of sense here.

Other Options: Alexei Lipanov, Morgan Frost

 

26. Klim Kostin (58)  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

The need here is defence.  That blueline is getting old pretty quickly and there is no sure thing on the way.  Maybe Gustav Forsling, but notice I used the word maybe there.  But the problem is that Stan Bowman has never used a first round pick on a D-man, it’s been all forwards since he took the reigns from Dale Tallon.  There are a few teams who I believe would be willing to take a home run swing on Kostin, and at the moment I’m willing to bet that the Hawks are who ends up taking the swing.  I don’t like him at all with the Russian bust factor, Russian diva factor, and the Russian flight risk.  But at 26 and for the Hawks in particular, this would be completely justified.  Having said this, Elliotte Friedman has said a few times now that they’ll look to move up, as most teams hosting the draft do.  That’s one trade rumour so to speak that I would buy, so expect them to have selected before the 26th pick.

Other Options: Nicolas Hague, Urho Vaakanainen

 

27. Jason Robertson (30)  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

This is the pick the Blues acquired from the Caps in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.  With centre already taken care of and this team pretty flush with D-men throughout the system, I believe the play here is to simply add a guy who fits.  Perhaps with Ken Hitchcock now out of the picture Doug Armstrong will move away from a heavy team.  But I can’t see it.  Robertson is their kind of guy and would be a great fit.  I think a goalie is possible here, but with Jake Allen still only 28 and locked up, and Ville Husso being a nice looking prospect, it’s likely not a big concern for the Blues…at least not at 27.

Other Options: Jake Oettinger, U.P. Luukkonen

 

28. Jake Oettinger (33)  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

They’ve got a sneaky big problem between the pipes moving forward.  Craig Anderson is now 36, Mike Condon is a UFA, Matt O’Connor hasn’t met expectations.  Who else you got?  Chris Dreidger?  Marcus Hogberg?  Joey Daccord?  It’s an ugly situation for the Sens moving forward.  So at this point in the draft, you got the best goaltender still on the board, he’s got all the tools to be a front line guy someday, and the rest of the system is so rich that you can afford to do something like this early in the draft.  I don’t care which goaltender they like quite frankly, Pierre Dorian had better address it though in this draft.  And he might want to invest more than just one pick in the position.

Other Options: U.P. Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro

 

29. Urho Vaakanainen (31)  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

This pick was acquired in the Patrick Eaves deal, upgraded to a first once the Ducks made the Western Conference final.  So a lot this will hinge on what the Stars do with that third pick.  I’m going to say they keep it because GM’s are a lot of talk and no action.  It can’t be forgotten at 29 that they have another pick coming up at 38, so perhaps they’ll feel like they can get a goaltender there, maybe Luukkonen.  The more I gave this thought, the more I figured that while there blueline looks solid moving forward, it’s not spectacular.  They gave certainly grab a goaltender at 39, perhaps still Luukkonen.  So I’ll have them taking Vaakanainen who would fit perfectly in a Ken Hitchcock system and they’ve also had good success with Finnish D-men in the past five seasons or so with Lindell and Honka.

Other Options: U.P. Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro

 

30. Shane Bowers (27)  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Last years draft couldn’t have fallen much more perfect for them.  The one thing they kind of had a need for in the system was a RH shot D-man after moving Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, and that’s exactly what fell into their lap with Dante Fabbro.  So with that task completed, this season it looks to me like a forward of some sort is the need here and I just think one of the three centres I have ranked from 26th-28th will be the pick.  The concern with Bowers is his five on five point production, but overall he did put up real nice numbers.  They seem to be one of the teams who subscribe to my theory of “why bother taking a winger over a centre?”

Other Options: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Josh Norris

 

31. Nicolas Hague (19)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

Lots of different D-men in this area of the draft that fit the bill, but I believe most would agree that barring someone great falling, D is the way to go for the Pens.  Unless they still haven’t given up on Derrick Pouliot, it appears the Pens have absolutely nobody on the way, and they have to be at least a little concerned with how Kris Letang will bounce back from his neck surgery.  I believe Hague is going to fall because D-men of his size and abilities aren’t trendy right now.  And the Pens could use some size on the back end.  If Hague can improve his lateral movement, he’d fit right into the Pens style and be a real key player for them in a few years.

Other Options: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Connor Timmins

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Chasing Greatness

Lucky Man by the Verve for the closing montage.  These openings and montages have been trash when compared to the ones that Tim Thompson did for HNIC.  But having said that, this one was worthy of being in that category without a doubt.

 

What a playoffs.  It had it’s bad, no doubt.  The league got blatantly caught with how awfully it’s run with how inconsistent and terribly the game is officiated, and how tone deaf they are about it with their “rules committee” doing absolutely nothing about it, but that’s a story for another day.  Where the league did thrive though was with how exciting the playoffs were, culminating with maybe as perfect of a final as they could have asked for.  Sure, the ratings probably aren’t as good as they would have been had it been the Blackhawks there instead of the Preds.  But the ratings were still great, all the country music stars getting involved was huge to draw eyeballs from the entertainment community, and the game will no doubt grow throughout Tennessee with how much of a spectacle the games in Nashville became.

 

But in the end, the story is the Penguins going back to back.  First team to do so in 19 years.  Sidney Crosby now has three Stanley Cups, and two Conn Smythe trophies.  He’s moving into elite company as he has moved past Joe Sakic and Mario Lemieux, now tied with Steve Yzerman, and only one behind Wayne Gretzky in Stanley Cups won (tied with Wayne in Conn Smythe’s).

 

Now, in the NHL this isn’t anywhere near the deal that it is in the NBA.  The Stanley Cup is one of the toughest pro sports trophies to win, and it’s rarely mentioned in the media unless an elite player has never won one.  Of course it’s all the talk in the media right now in the States on whether or not Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan (and those with debate shows abuse the absolute shit out of the topic), and whether or not this Warriors team is one of the greatest of all time.  The NBA has struggled to get back to the level it was at throughout the 90’s with Michael Jordan leading the way, so the media is REALLY grasping on to these narratives seeing how they both involve Michael Jordan and his name still has a big impact on the league.

 

Anyway, now Sid is chasing Wayne, and it should become a story.  When he entered the league in 2005, we all knew that while he was labelled as a “once in a generation” talent, he’d never come close to most of Gretzky’s records.  But now, this is something to watch for.  If Sid leads the Pens to one more Stanley Cup….what does that say?  If he lead them to two more Cups…what then?  Is Sid better?

 

Now, being an Oilers die hard and one of Wayne’s biggest fans, I wouldn’t say that.  But when you give it thought, he’d be leading teams to Cups that aren’t near the level that Wayne’s teams were.  He definitely has his Messier in Malkin, and MAYBE you could make a massive stretch and say Letang is Sid’s Coffey?  Like I say, a massive stretch, and he just won a Cup without his “Coffey”.  But the point being that it’s an interesting narrative.

 

And it’s not just that.  I don’t think the Pens have any shot to win three in a row considering how insanely difficult it is to win back to back.  BUT…three in four years?  I think that’s definitely on the table if Jim Rutherford (I can’t believe I’m saying this considering how big of a detractor I’ve been of the man) can maintain something close to this roster through the 2019 season.  And if that were to happen…are they a dynasty?  Three in four years, in a cap era, that’s pretty incredible.

 

As livid as I get with how awfully how this league is run, I can’t not love this sport.  And it’s so very rare that we get to see true greatness, or at least on the verge of greatness, like Crosby now is and the Pens now are.  Instead of hating on it like we so often tend to do and pull for the plucky underdog, do yourself a favour and enjoy it while we can.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Mock Draft 3.0

The third of five.  So I got this one today, I’ll do the fourth for Monday, June 19th, and then the fifth and final mock will come out either Friday morning on June 23rd, or later that day.  I’m hopeful that not a lot will change my mind between now and the draft as to where I believe the picks are going, but rumours always mess with me even though I know better!

 

Historically, this is the mock draft where I’ll knock it out of the park.  In 2014 and 2016, my third mock draft, my first one of June, has been spot on.  Hit on seven of the top nine, and eleven total in 2014.  http://soupsonsports.com/2014/06/06/2014-nhl-mock-draft-3-0/

Last year, I went five of six to start things off, and had six right overall. http://soupsonsports.com/2016/06/06/2016-nhl-mock-draft-3-0/

Before you say I’m bragging, the point here is that while I’ve been real good on these ones, I failed MISERABLY with my final mock in 2014 (one right), and last year had I just stuck to my guns on “never believe draft pick trade rumours” I would have been spot on about the Puljujarvi thing and really crushed it (would have got eight right).  Close, but no cigar.  Not that I’m big on cigar’s, but I’d still like one for getting a lot of my mock drafts right.

 

As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have age 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past four or five drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re big on Europeans?  Do they not like taking defencemen high?  Do they value size?  Skill?  Speed?  There are just a ton of things to take into consideration.  I noticed in THN’s latest draft preview they did this with each team too, although they just said CHL instead of looking at specific leagues.  Still, a nice add.

 

The number on the right side of the players name is the ranking I have on the player in my top 62 list which you can read here: http://soupsonsports.com/2017/06/09/2017-nhl-draft-top-62-prospects-june-9th/

 

 

1. Nico Hischier (2)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

Same as last time.  For me, as indicated in my rankings, I would take Nolan Patrick.  But I completely understand and believe the Devils will go with the safer kid which is Hischier.  I do think that legitimately nobody will know which way they’re going until Ray Shero steps to the podium.  You ask me though, the Devils didn’t win this lottery, Philly did.  Jersey has to make the choice, Philly just has to sit back and pick the other guy.

Other Options: Nolan Patrick

 

2. Nolan Patrick (1)  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

It got odd this week, as Tim Panaccio put out on Twitter that the Flyers aren’t bringing in Hischier.  They brought in Patrick to “satisfy club’s questions on his health”, but not Hischier.  Do they know the Devils are taking him, or are they looking elsewhere should the Devils take Patrick?  Or is it just simply a matter of there being no injury concerns with Hischier?  I’d guess it’s the latter, but nonetheless it’s something to watch.  We all know Patrick has had his fair share of injury problems (not just this season, although this was the worst), but I don’t see any of these injuries having a long term impact on him.  Even if he tops out as a great 2nd line centre in the show, he’s still going to be an extremely valuable player with what he brings to the table.

Other Options: None

 

3. Gabe Vilardi (5)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

The big question now is whether or not this pick will still be owned by the Stars by the time the third pick is to be made.  It sure doesn’t sound like it, but A LOT of teams over the years have threatened to trade out of the top five and never have.  Teams outside of the top of the draft don’t put the value on these picks that they should.  Anyway, Craig Button had them going with Miro Heiskanen here.  A lot of people seem to like that idea.  But the Stars situation reminds me a lot of the Oilers in that everyone says they need D, and they do, but not in the draft.  They have a ton of great young D-men either on the roster or in the organization.  Meanwhile Jason Spezza is 34 years old, 35 in February, you can’t pass up a chance to get a prospect like Vilardi to step into that role in a few seasons.

Other Options: Cody Glass

 

4. Miro Heiskanen (7)  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

It’s not like the Avs couldn’t have used Hischier or Patrick.  It would have made a Matt Duchene deal much easier to do.  But in this spot they should be able to get the top D-man in the draft, and then focus on perhaps getting a centre for Duchene instead.  I personally don’t have Heiskanen as the top D-man in this draft, but he’s far and away the consensus top D-man, and makes him a perfect fit for the Avs.  Prefers the right side, but I’m certain he won’t have an issue playing his proper side if need be.

Other Options: Cale Makar

 

5. Cody Glass (4)  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

Call me nuts, but I actually believe the Canucks aren’t an ocean away from competing for a playoff spot like most do.  And what I like in taking Glass, or perhaps Vilardi should Glass be the preference of the Stars, is that while the Canucks won’t have a star down the middle they’ll be able to matchup with just about any team.  Horvat, Glass/Vilardi, Sutter, moving forward that’s a bitch to handle.  But with Glass it’s buyer beware in that you better not rush him, definitely needs some time.

Other Options: Elias Pettersson, Casey Mittelstadt

 

6. Elias Pettersson (6)  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

Ending up picking 6th might be best for the Golden Knights in their initial entry draft.  Now the pressure is off to find “the face of the franchise”.  Just take the BPA, and don’t rush him.  George McPhee while in Washington loved taking Swedes with his top pick.  Between 2006 and 2013 the Caps selected a Swedish kid with their top pick in five of eight drafts, and didn’t have a first in 2011.  I really believe they need to take either a D-man or centre with this pick, and I do have Petterson listed as a centre, but I’ve had trouble finding out whether that is legit or not because I’ve also seen him listed as a winger.  If he’s a legit centre, he’s in my top six guys and should be snagged by the G-Knights if he’s still on the board.  If not, I believe they should look elsewhere.

Other Options: Cale Makar, Lias Andersson

 

7. Nick Suzuki (11)  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Do they have a big need for a centre?  I believe they do.  I’m not a big fan of Dylan Strome, and I’m not a big fan of Clayton Keller playing the middle instead of the wing where I believe he could do more damage.  The other end of the spectrum is that Suzuki can play the wing, and they could use someone on the right side.  So the more I gave this thought, the more I start to feel like they’ll go with a centre here.  But full disclosure, I’m having a tough time figuring out where they might go with this pick.

Other Options: Cale Makar, Owen Tippett

 

8. Cale Makar (8)  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

I really believe this will be between Makar and Erik Brannstrom for the Sabres.  I like Valimaki too, but the undersized, speedy, puck moving D-man is trending right now in the NHL.  After Erik Karlsson’s amazing playoffs and the Preds having so much success this spring with their loaded blueline, D-men are at a premium and the Sabres have one of the worst blueline’s in the league.  They have a kid to build around in Rasmus Ristolainen, but they need more.  Makar would be a great start…but so would Brannstrom!  I’d suggest just to take a D-man here no matter what, and I believe new GM Jason Botterill will do just that.

Other Options: Erik Brannstrom

 

9. Lias Andersson (10)  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

I’ve been adamant for a while now that the Wings must take a D-man here.  But let’s be honest…Ken Holland believes he can find and develop D-men.  Sure, last year he finally pulled the trigger and took Dennis Cholowski (first D taken by the Wings in the first round since Brendan Smith in 07), but they were in a position where they HAD to do it.  This year, I still suggest they have to, but I’m going to bet that they believe centre is the play.  It’s a need too for sure, as they really don’t have much quality moving forward after Dylan Larkin.  We all know the success they’ve had drafting Swedes, and Andersson would really fit well behind Larkin in a few seasons.

Other Options: Erik Brannstrom, Henri Jokiharju

 

10. Owen Tippett (16)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

I’m not near as high on Tippett as most are, but I really do like the fit of him with the Panthers.  A team that had a shitty season from an injury standpoint and with off ice drama.  But they’re setup great moving forward and can afford to go add that man cave in the basement with the house completely built A.K.A. they can add a top end sniper.

Other Options: Michael Rasmussen, Eeli Tolvanen

 

11. Robert Thomas (12)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

It’s funny how things can go from looking so great to so terrible, so quickly.  Going into the 2014 draft, the Kings had just won their second Cup in three seasons, they had so many picks that they hit on and yet here we are just three years later and they’ve only won one playoff game in three seasons and seemingly have nothing coming.  So this is an important pick for Rob Blake.  My thinking here is he’s a centre which is a big need for the Kings, Thomas is out of the OHL, and the Kings have loved taking kids out of the OHL.  Thomas over Mittelstadt for most of this season would have seemed insane.  Now, it’s starting to look like a legit possibility.

Other Options: Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Rasmussen

 

12. Casey Mittelstadt (9)  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Their scouting staff has loved taking U.S. kids over the years, and with great success in doing so.  It’s not as if they’re gun shy to go elsewhere, but I have to believe that with their need for high end top six players that Mittelstadt fits the bill for them.  He’s dropped down mine and a lot of other rankings due to a lot of his production coming on the PP.  Having said that, the potential is there with Mittelstadt to be a high end centre in the league, and that is a piece the Hurricanes could really use in their organization.  They’re loaded on D, they have a lot of skilled guys who can play in their top six, but they lack a high end centre who can be their catalyst up front.

Other Options: Martin Necas, Michael Rasmussen

 

13. Callan Foote (17)  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

I said it in the last mock draft and I’ll say it again: a very sneaky need for the Jets is a RH shooting D-man.  Dustin Byfuglien is now 32, Tyler Myers continually has injury problems, I’m guessing the Jacob Trouba trade request is likely still out there, and they only have one kid in the system (Tucker Poolman) coming on the right side.  The combination of this maybe being the biggest need in the system and Foote having the size the Jets love has me believing we have a perfect fit here.  Then again, perhaps the Jets will feel the need to get someone a little more mobile.  Anyone of Foote, Timothy Liljegren, Erik Brannstrom, or Juuso Valimaki makes sense here.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki

 

14. Erik Brannstrom (13)  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

There wouldn’t be many more better scenario’s than this one for the Lightning.  They land a D-man who fits their system to a tee.  Brannstrom is really undersized, but has all the skill to make up for that.  I badly wanted to put P.O. Joseph here as I truly believe they’ll give him big consideration with this pick, but I can’t see them passing on Brannstrom.  Also, don’t sleep on another need which is centre with Tyler Johnson an RFA, Val Filppula now gone, and not a lot on the way.  Brayden Point played well in the middle for them but can always be moved to the wing.  Brett Howden was taken last year, but doesn’t have a high offensive ceiling.

Other Options: Martin Necas, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

 

15. Eeli Tolvanen (23)  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

This is a total hunch, but watch for them to push hard to get into the top ten, if not the top five of the draft.  They could be desperate to keep John Tavares happy, and moving up in the draft to take Owen Tippett makes some sense for them.  But should they stay at 15, there isn’t much difference between Tolvanen and Tippett.  He’s not a righty shot, but make no mistake he’s going to play his off wing with his shot.  I’m not as big on him as most are, but for the Islanders I really believe he’d be a terrific fit.

Other Options: Martin Necas, Kailer Yamamoto

 

16. Martin Necas (19)  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

I’m back to Necas here.  Man, I’ve given this so much thought lately, and it scares me a little because I think I have it pegged what they’re going to do, which is draft Necas.  They have a bit of a need down the middle (depends on how high they still are on Sam Bennett, how high they are on Mark Jankowski), and they have a big need in the organization on RW.  Necas can fill either of those holes, and his style fits great with how they play.  Something Brad Treliving said yesterday though definitely got my attention: “There’s opportunity to take a swing at people with high ceiling.  There’s some risk/reward picks we’re playing with.”  Translation: “We feel like we can take a home run swing here on the biggest talent available”.  Liljegren?  Klim Kostin?  It was an interesting comment.

Other Options: Timothy Liljegren, Kailer Yamamoto

 

17. Timothy Liljegren (3)  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

The fall ends here.  If it doesn’t, Oilers fans should get excited because I believe the possibility of him falling to 22 would get real.  Brock Otten who does great work with the OHL prospects http://ohlprospects.blogspot.ca/ had Liljegren falling to the Oilers in his mock.  But I just don’t see how the Leafs could let him get past them.  He fits perfectly for what they need in the system and on the big club.  If he’s off the board as he should be, obviously it would then depend on who would fall to them, but with the way things seem to be shaking down it sure looks like Liljegren will fall to this point and possibly beyond.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Hague

 

18. Michael Rasmussen (20)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Berglund

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Despite the shit show that has been the Boston Bruins front office the last few seasons, their system is looking pretty solid.  Not nearly as solid as it should look, but solid nonetheless.  The need here I believe is a centre.  I know they took Travis Frederic at 29 last year, they have Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson on the way, but I’m not sure you can put your eggs in that basket.  I feel like Rasmussen is going to be gone by this point, but I can’t figure out who would take him!  Florida?  LA?  Carolina?  All are candidates, but in selecting for them I had a guy on the board I felt like they would like better.  I would certainly hope that teams notice this kid doesn’t produce much five on five which is the massive concern for me.

Other Options: Ryan Poehling, Kailer Yamamoto

 

19. Kristian Vesalainen (15)  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

I believe they’re basically in a BPA position here.  Vesalainen feels like a Doug Wilson type of player.  He has great size, skates well, protects the puck well, and has a lot of skill.  That’s how he’s built that team since he became GM.  There are a lot of different ways he can go though.  D is never a bad play, and you have a good one on the board (in my mind) in Valimaki.  You have the highly skilled Kailer Yamamoto still there too.  But I just can’t see Wilson passing on Vesalainen should he get here.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Kailer Yamamoto

 

20. Ryan Poehling (21)  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

In my opinion, the Blues need a centre in the system.  With some of the Blues fans I’ve talked to about it, they believe they need a centre in the system.  So I’m going to have them taking a centre, the tough part is asking who that centre is?  Could they package the 20th pick with the 27th pick and move up to get that guy?  How’s this scenario: Doug Armstrong has a real tight relationship with Steve Yzerman.  The Lightning are always willing to trade back, the Blues could stand to move up, 20 and 27 for 14 and 76 which would re-coup the third rounder the Blues lost in the Nail Yakupov deal.  But if they stand pat they should land a pretty good centre here.  Some guys absolutely love Poehling and believe he’d be a top five guy had he played against a little lighter competition this season.  Look great at the Hlinka, and real good at the U18’s.  He’d be a great fit for the Blues.

Other Options: Shane Bowers, Josh Norris

 

21. Kailer Yamamoto (22)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

To me, they’re just like the Sharks and in a BPA situation.  They have virtually nothing coming in the organization, so they should be just grabbing the player they deem to be the best on the board.  They can use a D-man, centre and high end winger.  In this scenario, it’s the winger who falls to them (though not according to my rankings, according to others).  Yamamoto feels like a great fit to me with how the Rangers have been built too.  He’s got some of the best wheels in the draft, and of course we know the Rangers are one of the fastest teams in the league.

Other Options: Juuso Valimaki, Henri Jokiharju

 

22. Henri Jokiharju (24)  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

Some of those who cover the Oilers believe the play is to get a winger here.  Some believe that the position of centre is the strongest position in the organization.  For those of you who I’m talking about and perhaps stumbled upon this mock draft…how MOTHER F****** STUPID ARE YOU?!?!?  They have two studs, I get that, but look deeper at the situation and save yourself the embarrassment, would you?  This team doesn’t have a centre worthwhile in the system and give your head a shake if you say “Joe Gambardella”.  Looks like a nice signing, he’s not going to play the middle in the show.  You give me Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but they’re likely going to have to move RNH after next season for cap purposes.  This team is desperate for a centre.  Oh, and by the way you knobs do realize you can move a centre to the wing don’t you?!  Unreal.  Anyway, in this scenario….I’d be looking to trade back.  I like Jokiharju, and another RH shot D-man in the system wouldn’t in anyway be a bad thing.  But as I said, the big need to me is a centre and moving back for one of Anderson-Dolan, Bowers or Norris or even some of the kids I have below them would be a great move in my opinion.  Perhaps Dallas would do 29 and 39 for this pick and 84?  Maybe Jersey looks to package 36 and 49 to get up here?  Should be some options available to them.

Other Options: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Shane Bowers

 

23. Juuso Valimaki (14)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

This is the pick the Coyotes acquired from the Wild in the Martin Hanzal deal.  What they really need in the system is a RH shot D-man, which is why I’m really wondering if they won’t grab Makar while they have the chance to do so.  But I said they take Suzuki, so they go with the D here and since Jokiharju just went to Edmonton, Valimaki has to be the guy (in my opinion).  I’m much higher on Valimaki than most seem to be.  The kid just has a swagger he plays with that could help him become a top pairing guy at some point.  I, along with others probably get too concerned over righty and lefty shot D-men.  Another theory I’d watch out for here though is Jake Oettinger.  They have nothing coming between the pipes and would have seen him a lot at BU playing with Clayton Keller last season, plus I believe a run on goaltenders will start around pick 27 or 28 so they might want to jump the gun.

Other Options: Jake Oettinger, Aleksi Heponiemi

 

24. Urho Vaakanainen (31)  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

I’m a big Valimaki fan, but others aren’t as high on him as I am.  Well with Vaakanainen it’s kind of the opposite.  I don’t hate him or anything, but I see others with him in their top 20 and I just frankly don’t get it.  And no, this pick is not because he’s a Fin and Jarmo Kekelainen is a Fin (hope you all learned that lesson with Puljujarvi last year, I said all through June he wasn’t going to take him), but rather that I believe they’ll view him as the BPA and they need to continue stockpiling the blueline.  Obviously their blueline is one of the best in the league, and they aren’t weak in the system but I wouldn’t say they’re loaded either.  Lots of different ways they could go here, but I would love this pick for the Jackets.

Other Options: Nicolas Hague, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

 

25. Alexei Lipanov (49)  Balashikha  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 169  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

I screwed this one up last time.  Of course the Habs will be lower than the Wild (Coyotes pick) and Blue Jackets in the draft, they won their division.  The massive need is a centre, and I just can’t imagine that Marc Bergevin wouldn’t walk out of the first round without one.  In this scenario though, all the high end guys are taken, so what does he do?  My theory is that he’s not afraid and has had good success bringing in Russian players.  Lipanov is down in my rankings in part due to the fact that he’s Russian (I’m not going to sugar coat it).  But this kid has the high end ability that Bergevin could be looking for here.

Other Options: Filip Chytil, Aleksi Heponiemi

 

26. Klim Kostin (56)  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

The need here is defence.  That blueline is getting old pretty quickly and there is no sure thing on the way.  Maybe Gustav Forsling, but notice I used the word maybe there.  But the problem is that Stan Bowman has never used a first round pick on a D-man, it’s been all forwards since he took the reigns from Dale Tallon.  There are a few teams who I believe would be willing to take a home run swing on Kostin, and at the moment I’m willing to bet that the Hawks are who ends up taking the swing.  I don’t like him at all with the Russian bust factor, Russian diva factor, and the Russian flight risk.  But at 26 and for the Hawks in particular, this would be completely justified.

Other Options: Nicolas Hague, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

 

27. Jason Robertson (29)  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

This is the pick the Blues acquired from the Caps in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.  The more I gave it thought, the more I figured it wasn’t like Doug Armstrong to go with a netminder in the first round as I had in the last mock.  Plus, they have Ville Husso coming who I mentioned the last time, so it isn’t as if that cupboard is bare.  Still possible they strengthen it with the second of their first rounders, but I’ll say they go elsewhere.  With centre already taken care of and this team pretty flush with D-men throughout the system, I believe the play here is to simply add a guy who fits.  Perhaps with Ken Hitchcock now out of the picture Doug Armstrong will move away from a heavy team.  But I can’t see it.  Robertson is their kind of guy and would be a great fit.

Other Options: Jake Oettinger, U.P. Luukkonen

 

28. Jake Oettinger (33)  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

They’ve got a sneaky big problem between the pipes moving forward.  Craig Anderson is now 36, Mike Condon is a UFA, Matt O’Connor hasn’t met expectations.  Who else you got?  Chris Dreidger?  Marcus Hogberg?  Joey Daccord?  It’s an ugly situation for the Sens moving forward.  So at this point in the draft, you got the best goaltender still on the board, he’s got all the tools to be a front line guy someday, and the rest of the system is so rich that you can afford to do something like this early in the draft.  I don’t care which goaltender they like quite frankly, Pierre Dorian had better address it though in this draft.  And he might want to invest more than just one pick in the position.

Other Options: U.P. Luukkonen, Michael DiPietro

 

29. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (34)  HPK  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 198  Glove: L

Comparison: Pekka Rinne

This pick was acquired in the Patrick Eaves deal, upgraded to a first once the Ducks made the Western Conference final.  So a lot this will hinge on what the Stars do with that third pick.  I’m going to say they keep it because GM’s are a lot of talk and no action.  It can’t be forgotten at 29 that they have another pick coming up at 38, so perhaps they’ll feel like they can get a goaltender there, maybe Luukkonen.  But if one of the top two guys are gone, and in this scenario Oettinger just did, I believe Jim Nill will feel like he better get his guy in this spot.  Forget Ben Bishop for a second, the Stars have nothing on the way between the pipes and they absolutely must address that in this draft.

Other Options: Michael DiPietro

 

30. Shane Bowers (26)  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Last years draft couldn’t have fallen much more perfect for them.  The one thing they kind of had a need for in the system was a RH shot D-man after moving Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, and that’s exactly what fell into their lap with Dante Fabbro.  So with that task completed, this season it looks to me like a forward of some sort is the need here and I just think one of the three centres I have ranked from 25th-27th will be the pick.  I believe of those three, Bowers maybe has the biggest upside offensively.  The concern is his five on five point production, but overall he did put up real nice numbers.  They seem to be one of the teams who subscribe to my theory of “why bother taking a winger over a centre?”

Other Options: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Josh Norris

 

31. Nicolas Hague (17)  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

Lots of different D-men in this area of the draft that fit the bill, but I believe most would agree that barring someone great falling, D is the way to go for the Pens.  Unless they still haven’t given up on Derrick Pouliot, it appears the Pens have absolutely nobody on the way, and they have to be at least a little concerned with how Kris Letang will bounce back from his neck surgery.  I believe Hague is going to fall because D-men of his size and abilities aren’t trendy right now.  And the Pens could use some size on the back end.  If Hague can improve his lateral movement, he’d fit right into the Pens style and be a real key player for them in a few years.

Other Options: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Connor Timmins

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Draft Top 62 Prospects: June 9th

I’ve been working on this list for about three weeks if you can believe it.  As much work as it is, I just have a blast digging up information on these kids and trying to piece together this puzzle, even though I know full well I won’t come close to making it all fit!  As per request by a few people I decided to expand it to 62 for this go around.  This will be as many as I put down as from here on out I feel good about that number.  Adjustments will still be made.  Not sure if I’ll put another one out until the night before or perhaps the day of the draft, or if I’ll go with another one on Monday the 19th (which is when my 4th mock draft will come out).  But it’s all tinkering from here on.  Some rankings will still be tweaked, a few names might fall and be added to it, but for the most part this will be the list.  The hill I die on as the NHL likes to say when negotiating…

 

As for what I look for?  The main thing I look to do is view it as if I were a GM.  So I like guys who have the most value above all else, not necessarily how I believe they’ll pan out.  You start getting into the late first/early second round and it just makes more sense for some teams to take a big swing at that point rather than on a kid with a low ceiling.  I really look at trends, so I put risers higher than most, and guys falling lower than most (unless of course I feel the rise or fall is unwarranted).  I also like rare, so I might value things like elite speed, elite size or right handed shooting centres and D more than most.  I’m starting to put more and more stock into birth dates.  So for this draft in particular, late 1998 birth dates I tend to pay more attention to their numbers from last season, and I also put stock into guys who are near the youngest among the draft class.  Five on five points scoring is a big deal to me and something that can get overlooked so I try to find those stats.  I’m also really into building a team not just compiling talent, so I put a big premium on centres and D-men over wingers.  Finally, I tier my prospects.  I’m not sure why more lists aren’t done this way (a few are), it makes much more sense to me and I have been told that this is how most NHL teams tend to look at things as well.  So pay more attention to the tier a guy is in and less as to what the number is beside his name.

 

Also did my mock draft today so if you’re interested on how the pieces may fit: http://soupsonsports.com/2017/06/09/2017-nhl-mock-draft-3-0/

 

I think I’ve tied up all the loose ends, so let’s get going.

 

Tier One

1. Nolan Patrick  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 199  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

I’m surprised.  Last time out I projected most to be falling in love with Hischier as their top guy, but for the most part I’m still mostly seeing Patrick as the top guy coming in.  The injuries are a concern no doubt, but we aren’t talking knee or back injuries, so I don’t believe the groin and collarbone stuff should be a long term concern.  A lot of scouts, for some insane reason, think that if a guy’s skill level isn’t off the charts that he can’t produce big numbers.  He does all the little things that’ll help him produce big numbers.  He’s a kid who’ll be a coaches dream.  He’ll be a cornerstone piece for whichever franchise gets him.  Even if that’s only as a real solid 2nd line centre, he will still be a vital piece to any teams puzzle.

 

hischier2. Nico Hischier  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Turris

One thing I noticed watching him first at the World Junior’s and then in the top prospects game, he’s bigger than I thought.  It turns out, that observation was accurate as he measured at a very respectable 6’1.5 at the combine.  Of course he’s slender right now, but being 6’1 he could get up close to 200 pounds without it hurting his wheels.  Great vision, great shot, can pick teams apart on the PP.  The big thing you’re hearing now is how good his 200 foot game is which if we’re talking about a potential first line centre is an absolute must.  Neither of these top two guys are locks to be first line centres in the league, but as I said with Patrick which will be true here with Hischier, both are going to be vital pieces to any teams puzzle.

 

Tier Two

timothy-liljegren-rogle3. Timothy Liljegren  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

I believe I’m officially alone on this island, and I don’t care.  Liljegren isn’t moving down my list.  The reason he’s not is because I believe the reason they’re knocking him down (for having mono) is just ridiculous.  As a friend said to me “he’s probably lost 20 pounds!”  If his weight at the start of the season was to be believed, he for sure lost 11 pounds.  Scouts did the same thing with Sean Couturier and Colin White.  I understand if that makes teams hesitant, but it wouldn’t scare me off, especially in a draft that is so weak at the top, and I still believe long term this kid is going to be a star.  Everyone will have their own comparisons, and they will seldom differ.  But I don’t know if I like a comparison I make in the rest of this piece more than Liljegren to Letang.  He plays really smooth, really mobile, terrific in the offensive zone especially running a pp, and ok in his own zone, but not necessarily going to be used in a shutdown role, of course that can change as his game develops.  Add in, size is similar, as is the hand he shoots.  He’s exactly what a lot of teams lack.  With how difficult it is to find a high end RH shot D-man, I’d hope front offices wouldn’t be SO stupid to let a prospect like this slide to the 10-20 range, but it seems likely.

 

4. Cody Glass  Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

Glass makes the jump ahead of Vilardi for me.  I believe Vilardi is the better player currently, but once Glass fills out I have to believe he ends up as the better player because of skating ability of both players.  Glass is a very good skater, once he fills out to 200-205 pounds he’ll be a very nice size, and from everything I can find he’s a very intelligent kid.  His interview with Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino at the combine was awesome too, seems like a terrific kid.  Wasn’t just giving standard answers, very engaging.  I don’t see him having first line centre capabilities, but I do see him being that elite second line centre which no team can win a Cup without.  Back in January when I did my top 32 list I kept asking myself what the big flaw is?  Hell, he’s even a right handed shot which is a tougher find around the league.  Now, everyone seems to have finally noticed this kid is a really solid prospect.

 

vilardi5. Gabe Vilardi  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2.75  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

Dropping to five isn’t any knock against Vilardi.  He’s still in my second tier of guys, just that for me personally I believe I’d go with Glass over him if I had the choice, but it’s neck and neck.  I know the calling card on Vilardi is his playmaking, and everyone loves Johansen’s shot, so why the comparison?  Well, obviously the size, the right handed shot, to me the skating ability is very similar, but also Johansen has been much more of a playmaker since that 33 goal 2014 campaign.  And it isn’t as if Vilardi has a muffin of a shot.  So I believe this is a very fair comparison.  A RH shooting centre with real good size who isn’t afraid to mix it up physically…he’s going to be a great add for someone.

 

6. Elias Pettersson  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Galchenyuk

Here’s the deal: As you’ve likely seen with my rankings before, I put a premium on centres and don’t put much stock into wingers.  With Pettersson, Craig Button was listing him as a LW.  Because of this, I had him as a LW all year.  But everywhere else I look he is listed as a centre….which doesn’t mean a ton.  I was going to gamble here though and suggest he is a centre because his talent and IQ is tremendous, and he really plays a solid 200 foot game.  But now Craig Button also has him as a centre.  So he makes a big jump up my rankings.  The other thing is that even if he does end up a winger, he’s the type of winger who is going to really drive the play.  Right now he’s rail thin obviously, but a lot of scouts are in love with this kids upside because of that.  His numbers this season were off the charts good.  0.95 PPG this season.  At the same age, Filip Forsberg was 0.87 PPG.  David Pastrnak was 0.67 PPG.  Those are pretty damn good players he’s out scoring!!  I’ve seen some question his toughness.  Tough to say when he’s this slight if he’ll get more brave so to speak once he’s up to 185-195 pounds.

 

7. Miro Heiskanen  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Giordano

Stays at seven, but I bumped him up a tier which is a deal for my rankings, especially talking about one of the top tiers.  He was maybe the best player for Finland at the WJC this year, which means a lot less in 2017 than it did in 2016.  Last year they won it all, this year they humiliated themselves.  Still, it’s something, and far from the only impressive thing he’s done this season.  The kid is seeing pretty big minutes for HIFK which is pretty rare for a kid in his draft year.  He might have the best stick defensively out of any kid in this draft, and engages physically though at his size he tends to lose a lot more of those battles than he wins.  He provides everything you would expect a D-man ranked this high and at this size to have.  Speed, escapability, great passer, great vision, the only flaw other than his size for me is he doesn’t have a big shot.  He likes using a wrist or snap shot on the point, which can work just fine as it has for the player I compare him to.  Get the shot through and let your forwards to the rest.  I’m not sure he can put up the numbers Giordano does, but a very similar skill set and game.

 

Tier Three

8. Cale Makar  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Campbell

Back in February I actually had him two spots higher than this while everyone was still slow on him.  After so many years of following and quite frankly studying the draft, you can see these things developing.  But now I’m starting to get worried that the hype is going too far.  He plays in the AJ.  Remember people going nuts over Joe Colborne and Dylan Olsen?  It isn’t exactly the toughest competition.  Makar is as flashy of a defenceman as there is.  He needs to prove he can play without the puck though.  That’s a vital trait for centre’s and wingers let alone D-men!  He will likely need in my opinion either two years at UMASS or a year at UMASS and at least a bit of time in the AHL, but if he goes top five, which at this point it sure looks that way, he easily could be rushed.    A right handed shooting D who can fly and has the confidence with the puck that this kid has is very intriguing.  It’s one of the toughest pieces to find in the NHL.  I’ve seen him play a lot, and understand the intrigue.  But I have my concerns with what may happen with his development.

 

mittelstadt9. Casey Mittelstadt  Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Derick Brassard

“Two big things could hurt him in some of the rankings over the next two months.  He’s a late 98 birth date and those guys normally drop as the process goes on (you’ll see I talk about this a lot throughout this list).  Also going back to Eden Prairie won’t help.  He started the season in Green Bay of the USHL, and decided he wanted to go home.  Riley Tufte did this last year and while it’s far too early in his development, a lot of people have soured on him”.  That’s what I said the last time around, and that is exactly what has happened.  But he drops all the way to 9th in my rankings because of his five on five production.  If you don’t follow Zac Urback on Twitter and you’re a draft fan, do it now.  The guy does tremendous work!  He pointed out that Mittelstadt is feasting off five on four play.  Sam Gagner did that, and Gagner has never become the player he was expected to be.  It’s tough, because you try to juggle how a kid’s skill set will translate, their numbers this season, their past numbers, upside, bust potential, etc.  For Mittelstadt, even though he has that black eye on his resume, I have a tough time putting him lower than this thanks to the toolkit he possesses.  Speed, skill, willingness to play 200 feet, real good down low.  In time I do believe he can learn to play five on five and become a complete player.

 

lias-andersson10. Lias Andersson  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Another kid who I just had to move up after giving more and more thought to it, because I just truly believe that guys like Andersson and Suzuki are guys you win with.  Owen Tippett, Eeli Tolvanen, these are guys who might put up better offensive numbers.  But I believe Suzuki and Andersson are guys who’ll have a bigger impact on a team.  Versatility is what this kid is all about.  I list him as a centre, but he plays all three forward positions and looks at home no matter where he’s placed.  And while that isn’t a very sexy attribute for fans or media to discuss, coaches adore these guys.  On that alone Andersson is a pretty safe bet to play in the league someday soon.  I do worry about his upside, not that being a 3rd line centre isn’t a need, I probably value it more than most!  But if that’s all he becomes, those aren’t the most difficult guys to find.

 

11. Nick Suzuki  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Craig Button had him 10th on his latest list.  Last time around I said I couldn’t go that high, but the more I think about it, the more I love him and here we are, I got him now 11th!  Others are getting in on this party too.  Put up awesome numbers (96 points in 65 games, 21 points in 14 playoff games), but this kid is going to play in the show because he’s always engaged.  Has a tremendous motor.  I can see him being a guy who’ll do whatever it takes to play in the league someday.  The big concern is with how his game will translate, because he’s a bit undersized (for a centre) and doesn’t have bad wheels but not the type of speed you’d like a player his size to have.  In limited viewings, I really believe it’s just a matter of gaining lower body strength.  Top end speed looks good, just doesn’t seem to have the strength yet needed for those first few steps to be explosive.  But he can play in any situation (five short handed goals this season), has a good shot, good vision, I mentioned the motor and he’s always willing to engage physically.  He said at the combine he tries to model his game after Patrice Bergeron.  If he can do that, I’ll love him even more.  To me, the worst case scenario with him is that he can’t play the middle in the pro’s.  So I see Suzuki as a very safe pick.

 

12. Robert Thomas  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Gomez

I have him higher than most at this point, though it still feels like he’s not done rising.  I watch the kid and he just looks like he has everything it takes to excel in the NHL.  Great wheels, obviously not big but his size is fine, has that right handed shot which I never shut up about, high IQ, and he’s a tremendous playmaker who can change his pace of play.  He’s so damn smooth out there and makes the game look easy.  The more ice he’s seen this season, the better he’s been.  PPG player this season, and stayed pretty close to that clip in the playoffs with 12 points in 14 games.  Another great stat for him, only 14 of 66 points on the PP.  Obviously not near the numbers that Nick Suzuki had, but Thomas didn’t see that kind of ice time and likely has the higher ceiling of the two.

 

13. Erik Brannstrom  HV71  SWE J20

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

Something Redline Report said about Brannstrom was a great point.  Why is it that Cale Makar is being touted as this amazing prospect, yet for some people Brannstrom gets looked at as a 2nd round guy?  There for I’m grabbing some balls and he makes a massive jump in my rankings all the way up to 13.  Mainly because they’re right, there isn’t a big difference between the two players.  I said the last time around that if there was anyone who was a threat to jump up my rankings it was him.  His numbers and size aren’t much different from what Erik Karlsson had in 08, and we all saw the show he just put on.  Not a chance I’m going to say he can be that good, but the kid can really deal.  He has the speed, smarts and quickness to makeup for his lack of size.  As high as I now have him, I’m betting he goes even higher in the draft.  With how vital puck moving D have been this spring, and how great an undersized guy like Karlsson was in the playoffs, guaranteed teams picking high will be looking to scoop up all the top D.  For all the love I give Brannstrom and Makar though, tough to see either as a franchise D-man due to their size.  There’s only one Erik Karlsson.

 

juusovlimkitricityamericansvkelownabtjfhmygp2_l14. Juuso Valimaki  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1.25  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

Little bit of a fall in my rankings, but more so just guys jumping up to join him in this tier.  What I really like about Valimaki is what I read about his play in his own zone.  The headliner with him will be his 61 points in 60 games played.  But he will get his nose dirty with the physical stuff, has a great stick in his own zone, and he already has the thick frame to hold up to the punishment.  His point totals suggest he’s flashy, but he really isn’t, which is where the comparison to Klefbom comes in.  This kid is just very solid at both ends of the ice and doesn’t really have a flaw in his game.  He has a bit of swagger out there which I really like as well.  Again something I’ll harp on to keep in mind throughout this list….late 98 birthdate.

 

Tier Four

kristian_vesalainen115. Kristian Vesalainen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

At midseason I had read that his skating wasn’t very good.  As the season has gone on though, I hear and read more and more that his skating is either fine, or pretty good!  I do subscribe to the theory that he’s struggled a lot of the season due to changing leagues.  The ice size is different in Sweden and Finland, so it becomes an adjustment and making that adjustment in season can’t be easy.  His U18’s however suggested he’s still one of the top wingers in this draft.  So if the skating ability checks out, and he has this kind of size, and a legit reason for his inconsistency this season, I like him up in this range.

 

tippett16. Owen Tippett  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 203  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

I just don’t understand the love in for Tippett.  Don’t in anyway confuse that for me not liking him, but I prefer mutli dimensional players and he in no way projects to be that.  He’s a lot like Kieffer Bellows in last year’s draft, who lots of scouts seemingly loved more than NHL teams did.  Speed, top two shot with Eeli Tolvanen in the draft, and decent size.  For the right team, I think he’d be a great addition.  But I’ve made this point the last few years and I’ll make it again.  Snipers are a luxury, not a necessity.  Teams picking high in the draft are building a house and they need to make sure they have the foundation poured and a roof on over their heads before they start building the kick ass man cave.

 

foote17. Callan Foote  Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 215  Shot: R

Comparison: Jake Muzzin

I can’t remember if I read it or heard it recently, but someone came out and said “he’s NOTHING like his dad was…”  That’s all I’ve ever seen on Cal Foote is that he plays mostly like his old man.  Even though I can’t remember who said that (I believe it was Craig Button), the main reason they were saying that is because Cal Foote put up points.  57 points in 71 games this season for Cal.  Out of curiosity I thought I’d look up what Adam had in his second year of major junior.  55 points in 61 games.  So by THAT logic, Adam was a better offensive defenceman at this point.  Point is that you can’t get too wrapped up in what their numbers are in junior, you have to ask yourself how will his game translate.  I don’t see Cal as a guy who’ll put up great offensive numbers (doesn’t have those kind of wheels or that kind of shot).  I do see Cal as a guy who can be a shutdown defender, much like his old man was.  If he can put up points as well, great!  But if you want different comparisons, I see him as a Jake Muzzin, Adam Larsson, Marc Methot type of guy.  All these guys CAN put up numbers (Muzzin in particular has had a good offensive season), but first and foremost they’re shutdown guys.  Late 98 birthdate, I’m sorry you’re sick of that already.

 

hague18. Nicolas Hague  Mississauga  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

He’s a little like Liljegren in that I believe in that scouts are picking him apart rather than asking themselves what Hague brings to the table.  He should be shooting back up boards after a fantastic playoffs by all accounts, yet he’s still dropping on most lists and I frankly just don’t get it.  You see a kid who is 6’5, 208 and you think defensive D-man who is basically a coke machine.  Hague is actually very active offensively, and it’s his defensive game which needs the work.  A lot of the Parayko comparison (other than his similar size) comes from his bomb of a point shot and how much he utilizes it.  So what’s the problem?  Do scouts think he’s dumb?  Scholastic player of the year last season, so I don’t think he’s out and out dumb.  One thing I know is he needs to clean up his skating.  Top speed he’s fine, first step and lateral movement needs to improve though.  Also as I said earlier If he cleans up the play in his own zone this kid is going to be a heck of a pick.

 

necas19. Martin Necas  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

A kid with a ton of skill who plays really inconsistent and doesn’t have good size, he’s just not my kind of guy.  Sometimes I get caught up in trying to keep guys in range of where others like them and not asking myself where I’d take them if I were a GM.  I compare him to Hemsky simply because no matter where he plays, he has that same level of confidence with the puck and is much more of a playmaker than a shooter.  He might need a year or two to pack on the pounds.  Having said all of this, I’m not suggesting I hate him at all, just view him as more risky.  He easily could be an elite point producer in the show someday.

 

Tier Five

rasmussen20. Michael Rasmussen  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5.5  Wt: 221  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Berglund

Last time I had him 7th, but he takes a big fall in the rankings for me and it was the discovery that he wasn’t anything too great five on five.  55 points in 50 games this season, but a lot of that damage was done the on PP.  Their is still a lot of intrigue with Rasmussen without a doubt, can’t ignore the combination of size and speed, but I can’t put him so high knowing nearly half his points are coming five on four.  Won’t be at all surprised if he ends up being a winger in the show.

 

poehling21. Ryan Poehling  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 177  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Rask

Unless I got my numbers confused, he weighed in WAY less than what he had been listed at during the season (202).  But he’s 18 going on 30!  If you can find his media scrum from the combine, I’d never buy that this kid is 18 years old the way he handled it.  Had a great Ivan Hlinka this summer, one of the best players in the tournament, but then struggled making the jump to the NCAA this season, and then finished his season with a real strong U18’s.  So was the NCAA season just a product of limited ice time and being so young while playing against more developed kids?  Real good size, seems to be committed to learning a 200 foot game, good hands, good vision, high end speed is good, the foot speed is really the only concern but foot speed can be fixed.  There is no real reason to believe this kid can’t be at least a 3rd line centre in the NHL and definitely has the upside to be a solid 2nd line centre.

 

22. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7.5  Wt: 146  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

He’s tiny (his weight at the combine as you can read was even less than what it had been listed at, and it was already far too light), and I likely wouldn’t have him as a first rounder most seasons.  But this season, he’s worth using a first round pick on.  99 points in 65 games, he’s got a high motor, obviously a ton of speed and skill, and despite his stature is pretty willing to go anywhere on the ice.  Obviously he’s not going to dish out the punishment, but he doesn’t shy away from the corners or front of the net.   You have to keep in mind with him though that he’s only a few weeks younger in a few cases than last year’s picks (9/29/98).  His numbers, while great, weren’t really eye popping for an 18 year old season.  I’m seeing now some guys ranking him in the top 15.  To me that’s going overboard because even though it’s a down year for the draft, there are still kids who play more vital positions who bring more to the table.  Higher now than Tolvanen, and my reasoning for it is that I believe despite the fact he’s smaller than Tolvanen, they’re both small.  So then I look to what kind of player each is and Yamamoto is a kid who’ll be a driver.

 

tolvanen23. Eeli Tolvanen  Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9.25  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

I got him lower than anyone I’m certain, and I’m not wearing that as a badge of honour, but just hear me out.  A winger who if he isn’t scoring isn’t contributing anything, I am by no means suggesting he can’t play or produce in the NHL, I just see a player of this ilk as an easy piece to acquire.  A pure sniper with a tremendous shot, it’s a sexy type of player.  But something that I try to consider in a draft is a players stock value.  Tolvanen could easily end up having better career point totals than some, maybe even a lot of the forwards I have ahead of him.  A 5’10, one dimensional winger isn’t exactly a tough find in the NHL.  You can find this type of player for cheap in free agency, and they’re always available at the trade deadline.  Centres, defencemen, wingers with size, these guys are difficult to find.  So while the bust rate might be lower on a guy like Tolvanen, the impact they actually have on a team is limited and should things go South they have virtually zero trade value.  At least when considering a player like Tippett, he has decent size and great speed to go with that big shot.

 

Tier Six

24. Henri Jokiharju  Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 188  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

It’s crazy the amount of talent that Finland has produced of late, which makes it even more puzzling why they were so horrendous at the WJC this year.  Jokiharju feels like he’s becoming a forgotten man in this years draft crop, but his tools and numbers matchup with all the other top D-men.  He’s just a pure puck mover.  Great skater, passes the puck very well whether it be with zone exits or on the PP, and maybe his best attribute is how good of a stick he has defensively.  He isn’t real flashy, but he is very effective.

 

25. Jaret Anderson-Dolan  Spokane  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Bonino

One of my favourite comparisons, and this kicks off a group of three guys who I see as potentially very undervalued centres who can become second line centres, but most likely are high end third line centres.  Anderson-Dolan’s best trait is that he has one of the best motors in this draft.  He’s also one of the youngest players in this draft (9/12/99) and was over a PPG player this season for the Chiefs.  Great skater (better than Bonino) with a great 200 foot game who can be abrasive out there too.  Last time I said I was tempted to have him up higher, and this time around I couldn’t resist.  The numbers, the birthdate, motor, I just think this kid has the makeup to be an overachiever.  I might have him ranked higher than anyone and I frankly don’t understand why.  I’ve seen some be critical of his skill level, but I can think of a lot more centres who don’t have that elite skill level, are never going to dangle and toe drag defenders, but have great success in the league and better than a lot of guys who can.  I think of a kid I was higher on than most last year in Michael McLeod and said that same thing all year.  At the moment, the scouting community is raving about McLeod.  Right.  Because he’s just a complete player.  You don’t get any extra goals thanks to how pretty it was.

 

26. Shane Bowers  Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love this comparison.  I should point out, Bowers is a Canadian kid despite playing in the USHL, so don’t think I just compared a 6’1 American centre to another 6’1 American centre.  But if you think of the way Dubinsky plays, it is extremely similar to the way Bowers plays.  He’ll be in a guys face all night, and as we’ve seen this season with Nazem Kadri, that is the type of centre all teams would love to have on their team.  Much like Mittelstadt and Rasmussen though, Bowers is a big producer five on four, and weak numbers five on five, so for that reason he falls a bit in my rankings.  Having said that, I don’t see why he can’t develop into a perfect third line centre.  Going to Boston University in the fall.

 

27. Josh Norris  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Shawn Horcoff

The star of the fitness testing, which basically means nothing.  John McFarland tested tremendous at the combine in 2010.  All that stuff is for is to find red flags.  It’s not to separate a guy who tests real good from a guy who doesn’t test good.  The most important part of the combine is the interview process.  Anyway, I’m seeing conflicting scouting reports on his skating ability, which for me, with this type of player, is huge.  If the skating checks out then this is a good spot for him.  Can easily be one of those third line centres who makes his way into the top six often because of how many things he does so well (much like Horcoff did, Tyler Bozak does).  If it doesn’t though, I don’t think I’d consider him until the third round.  Most of his offensive damage was done five on five so I really like that.  He’s going to Michigan in the fall.

 

28. Mason Shaw  Medicine Hat  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8.5  Wt: 173  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Arvidsson

I’m always going to have a little bit of bias towards a kid who is local and played a lot of high end hockey in Lloyd.  But I’m even more bias towards a kid who plays this style.  Shaw plays gritty, has a really high IQ, and is completely fearless on the ice.  Arvidsson was who I finally settled on for the comparison (not as good of a skater), but another I gave thought to was Brad Marchand.  I wouldn’t ever expect a career year like Marchand just had, but his second and third year major junior numbers are pretty similar to what Marchand’s were.  One of the knocks I’ve read on Shaw is he’s not “dynamic” enough.  Well was Marchand ever that dynamic?  Is Brendan Gallagher?  Dynamic is one of those words that people can get too wrapped up in, much like “game breaker”.  It’s the same thing I said in my write up on Anderson-Dolan.  If I’m running a team, I could care less if a guy scores highlight reel goals, it means nothing.  Shaw also had tremendous numbers five on five this season.  Better than Yamamoto (73-64), better than Glass (73-72).

 

29. Jason Robertson  Kingston  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Maroon

Last time I didn’t even have him ranked and now I find myself getting sky high on the kid.  What can I say?  It was a mistake and the more information I gathered the more I liked.  He’s definitely gaining traction in the scouting community, with a lot of people now having him inside their top 30 also.  I am extremely worried about the speed, be lying if I wasn’t.  But for me I feel much like you can have a few small guys in the lineup, you can afford to have two or three slower guys in your lineup…as long as they can play with pace and Robertson can because he’s so intelligent.  He DOMINATED the OHL like few others in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.  Brock Otten had a stat where in his final 25 games of the season (including playoffs) he nearly averaged two points a game.  That is unreal for a kid who was draft eligible and didn’t have much talent surrounding him.  Hockey sense is off the charts and he’s extremely difficult to knock off the puck.  And on the off chance he cleaned up his skating, then you have a star on your hands.

 

30. Pierre-Olivier Joseph  Charlottetown  QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2.25  Wt: 163  Shot: L

Comparison: Dan Girardi

Same as Robertson.  Last time I hadn’t heard and read much on him, and now I’ve got him in my first round.  After giving it a lot of thought, I’m willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake and quite frankly I don’t know how I could not only have him out of the top 50, but not in this grouping of D-men.  One guy who immediately sprung to mind is T.J. Brodie.  Similar height, similar size once Joseph fills out, and similar numbers in their draft years.  But I went with Girardi as the comparison, mainly because I see a kid who is great in his own zone and does a lot of the dirty work that doesn’t show up on the score sheet.  Great skater who can really play in his own zone and still has offensive upside to take his game to another level.  Project is a term we use for bigger players, but I’d consider Joseph a bit of a project.

 

31. Urho Vaakanainen  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0.5  Wt: 188  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

It gets a little redundant after a while, but Vaakanainen is much like most other smallish puck moving D-men.  Great skater, moves the puck well (obviously), decision making is suspect at times, keeps a good gap defensively, good stick.  He’s a safe pick, I’d say the big question mark with him right now is how much can his offensive game grow because at his size you expect a guy who can put up at least 30-40 points from the back end.

 

32. Conor Timmins  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 184  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I love that he’s not your standard puck moving, won’t get his nose dirty type D-man.  He plays with aggression in the D zone, in addition to putting up good numbers, being a right handed shot (there it is again), and being a kid who can play in any situation.  Late birthday has him just a bit behind Jokiharju for me, but I see him as being right there and maybe a bit of a safer pick.

 

Tier Seven

oettinger_horizontal33. Jake Oettinger  Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 218  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

This tier might as well be called “the boom or bust” tier, because with these five guys I see big time potential, but they’re risky.  As weak as this draft is shaping up to be, the one that looks stronger than most years is goaltending.  Oettinger, Mike DiPietro, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Ian Scott, Cayden Primeau, Keith Petruzzelli, Maxim Zuhkov, there are a LOT of goaltenders in everyone’s top 50-75.  Now, perhaps that’s great goaltending, or that’s a product of a weak draft so the attention tends to go more in that direction (it did in 2012).  Oettinger is worthy of this ranking though.  The kid has the size, has the athleticism, very technically sound and smooth, has phenomenal numbers, he’s everything you look for a goaltender to be.  Now, that’s physically.  Mental toughness is the most important component for a tendy which is why they are the biggest wild card’s to draft, which is why I dropped him to borderline 1st round status (for me anyway).  He was the 3rd goaltender for the States at the World Junior’s this year, though he never got a chance to play with Tyler Parsons and Joseph Woll both playing so well.

 

34. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen  HPK  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4.25  Wt: 198  Glove: L

Comparison: Pekka Rinne

Size, athleticism, a Fin, I honestly try to stay away from the stereotypical comparisons.  I can’t in this case.  He just reminds me exactly of Rinne.  Unlike Rinne however, he’s not a raw talent.  He already has shown that he’s pretty technically sound for his age and plays a composed style with great rebound control.  Sometimes you see guys with a lot of athleticism like Jonas Gustavsson or Anders Lindback who just can never get away from depending solely on that.

 

35. Michael DiPietro  Windsor  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Glove: L

Comparison: Marty Turco

I have railed against people who basically champion for the undersized kids in the draft.  It’s clear to me that they’re A) pulling for who they view as the underdogs, B) they don’t pay close enough attention to how GM’s need to build a team as opposed to just simply compiling talent, and C) pulling for all GM’s to move in this direction because it’s much more fun to watch.  It isn’t as if I disagree with the latter, but I also try to keep in mind what has been much more successful over the last 100 years in the NHL, which is size.  But in THIS scenario, I just believe DiPietro is getting drastically undervalued and it’s obviously because of his size.  Something that he had working for him this season though is Juuse Saros was exceptional, and he was a kid who the Preds debated drafting in the 4th round because of his size.  DiPietro had ridiculous numbers when I did my first list with a 2.15 G.A.A. and a .925 Sv%.  He slipped a bit afterwards, finishing with a 2.48 G.A.A. and a .917 Sv%, and then was tremendous in leading the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup .  He won’t go in the 1st round, might not go in the 2nd round, but this is my list and I like him in the 30-40 range.

 

36. Filip Chytil  Zlin  CZE-Jr

Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rickard Rakell

Has become a big time riser as this season has wore on.  Looked great at the U18’s.  Great speed, vision, good shot, willing to go to any area on the ice, has some grit, plays a 200 foot game, really the only knock on him is going to be that he needs more time.  Watch for this kid to go late first round on draft day, as he really doesn’t have much of a flaw.

 

37. Isaac Ratcliffe  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Comparison: Dustin Penner

As is the case with a lot of big players, Ratcliffe needs to work on his first step.  But at 6’5 and only 196 pounds, you could likely chalk that up to being a lanky kid who doesn’t have the strength to match his frame.  At top speed his skating is great for a player his size.  Hasn’t shown a nasty streak to this point, so doubtful that’ll ever come.  Was the leading goal scorer and second in points on a weak Storm team this season.

 

Tier Eight

38. Aleksi Heponiemi  Swift Current  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 149  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

Obviously has a lot filling out to do, and didn’t have a great playoffs for the Broncos (0 goals, 8 assists in 14 GP).  In fairness to that though, he is a pure playmaker.  Look at guys like Joe Thornton, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Getzlaf, etc.  The one thing you’ll always hear about their game is the question “why don’t they shoot more?”  Heponiemi is the same way and will hang onto the puck sometimes too long looking for that seam.  His speed for his size is ok but not great, he has to improve it.  But despite that and despite the size, I find myself really intrigued at how good this kid could be in a few years.  The weight is shocking, and worrisome that he won’t be able to get up to 175-185 that he needs to get to.  If he does, he should play in the league.

 

39. Kole Lind  WHL  Kelowna

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Killorn

I’ll start off with a negative, and that is he’s rail thin.  Looks smaller than what he’s listed at.  But the good news there is that he excels at the size he is currently, and will only get bigger.  Good speed, good shot, and plays with a bit of grit despite the lack of weight.  Probably not shocking that these are the qualities a Saskatchewan kid possesses, I know.  But there is always a spot for a kid like this in the show.  I see him as a very safe pick.  Top nine guy who can move up and down your lineup, a lot like the other wingers I have in the 38-45 range.

 

40. Alex Formenton  London  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.5  Wt: 166  Shot: L

Comparison: Drew Stafford

The biggest draw with Formenton is that he is going to be one of the youngest (the youngest I’ve come across) player in this draft.  9/13/99.  Even age aside though, he’s very raw so the belief here is that in another two seasons playing for Dale Hunter, Formenton will develop into a very effective top nine winger.  He has awesome wheels and a great work ethic, so if you’re going to gamble on a bit of a project, he’d be a good one to bet on.

 

41. Marcus Davidsson  Djurgardens  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: L

Comparison: Mikael Backlund

It is so rare that you find a Swedish kid who doesn’t play a 200 foot game, it’s unreal the job they do developing their kids.  Like the Luukkonen/Rinne comparison, I just couldn’t not think of Backlund when talking about Davidsson, and I’m guessing this is the comparison most will have.  Needs to keep developing his lower body strength which will help his skating out a lot (not a bad stride, just a little weak) and isn’t very physical.  But he plays a very complete game.

 

42. Stelio Mattheos  Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 189  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Fisher

He’s dropped a bit this season, but I really like the kid in this early-mid 2nd round range.  Good size, natural centre, right handed shot, good wheels, everyone raves about the way he forechecks, I think he’s got a great shot at being a pretty valuable top nine forward in the league whether it be at centre or on the wing.  The ability is there and I believe a season back in Brandon with it being his team could do big things for his development.

 

43. Scott Reedy  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: R

Comparison: David Perron

His U18 didn’t go too well, seeing he got benched.  But I’m still a fan.  He’s a lot like Jason Robertson.  Better skater (but his own skating isn’t great), probably not as good of a shot (but he has a good shot).  His stick skills are his big claim to fame, but I also like what I’m hearing on his grit and playmaking abilities.  From what I’ve seen in highlights, he loves going to the tough area’s and playing a little greasy.  He’s a guy who I’ll be paying close attention to with how his combine interviews go.

 

comtois44. Maxime Comtois  Victoriaville  QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1.75  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Benoit Pouliot

One of the drafts big time fallers from the start of the season.  I tried to resist back in February, but he’s just had a brutal season production wise and I can’t help but drop him into this range.  Still though, I can’t help but think back to 2013 and Anthony Duclair was basically an afterthought heading into the draft after being a top ranked kid heading into the season.  So for me personally, I would take a chance on Comtois in this range simply because it could have simply been a case of a kid putting far too much pressure on himself in his draft year.  When you just look at the skill set of size, grit, speed, and a great shot, you have to think he’ll still find his way into the league.

 

45. Grant Mismash  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jason Zucker

Fast and skilled kid who is a bit inconsistent, but when on he is active all over the ice.  Willing to get his nose dirty, of course this becomes a question mark once he gets to the AHL and NHL.  Is he going to start to shy away from it when facing bigger and tougher guys, or is he going to embrace it?  Tough to say how that mental part of the game will ever go for a player, but Mismash definitely has the skill set to be a very effective top nine winger in the league.  Potentially a guy who you can move up and down your lineup.

 

46. Ostap Safin  Sparta  CZE-Jr

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4.5  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Brad Isbister

First, an explanation on the comparison.  If I said Todd Bertuzzi or Milan Lucic, it would be ridiculous expectations.  Isbister had that same talent, just didn’t have the drive.  These types of players are few and far between and the ones who pan out end up dominating, so it’s tough to find a middle of the road guy to compare Safin to.  If he were a Canadian kid I really wonder how much higher he would be in most rankings.  He loves to throw his weight around.  Would that change once over in North America, or would he then become more comfortable playing that style the rougher the game gets?  Foot speed needs work, but his high end speed is real good and has some good skill with a great shot.  The ceiling is really high with Safin.

 

Tier Nine

47. Sasha Chmelevski  Ottawa  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Marcus Kruger

Congratulations to the 2017 CHL scholastic player of the year, Sasha Chmelevski.  I’m a sucker for kids who show a high IQ.  Of course that doesn’t mean it will translate to hockey sense, but I do believe it shows work ethic and maturity on top of intelligence.  Great wheels, good skill, his 200 foot game has shown a lot of improvement as the seasons progressed, and he’s a right handed shot.  He had consistency issues this season, but the kid really does have all the talent to not only make the NHL, but be a significant contributor.

 

48. Joni Ikonen  Frolunda  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 177  Shot: R

Comparison: Vincent Trocheck

I can’t see him being a centre at the next level.  He’s a dangler with a tremendous shot, and if you try to keep a guy like that in the middle then it can be difficult to find him linemates.  He worked well at the U18’s with Vesalainen because Vesalainen is a kid who can create and tilt the ice.  But either in the middle or on the wing, Ikonen has a chance to be a real good sniper.

 

49. Alexei Lipanov  Balashikha  MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0.25  Wt: 169  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Riberio

There is another Russian who you’re probably wondering how I could have Lipanov ahead of him.  Well Lipanov still has a lot of filling out to do, and is a centre which goes a long way in my books.  He’s pure offence.  The 200 foot game needs a lot of work, but this is a kid who has a boat load of skill.  Really similar to Heponiemi (hence them back to back and in the same tier).  The Fin gets the nod because of less risk, Lipanov might be the more talented of the two.

 

50. Josh Brook  Moose Jaw  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Jason Demers

I cannot find a consensus on his skating!  Redline Report say “his fluid skating with light edging allows him to play effectively in all three zones”.  Future Considerations say his “overall speed game isn’t flattering”.  And I found some more and again, opinions were split.  I don’t get how that happens, but even with some of the negative things I read I still like the overall package.  Big frame, righty shot, high IQ, plays gritty in his own zone, even without great wheels I’m intrigued at this point in the draft.  If Redline is right and his wheels are as good as they claim, this kid has a chance to be a massive steal.

 

51. Ian Mitchell  Spruce Grove  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 173  Shot: R

Comparison: Thomas Hickey

He’s a very understated D-man who is a bit of a project, but any team who drafts him is going to have time to let him grow while he attends Denver beginning next season.  Mobile, solid in his own zone, and untapped offensive potential.

 

52. Dylan Samberg  Hermantown  USHSW

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 211  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Manson

As the comparison is intended to imply, Samberg is a great skater who is a miserable SOB to play against.  Tough to imagine him as a big point producer, but I personally believe every team still needs that guy on the blueline who makes life miserable for the opposition and Samberg is that kind of player.

 

53. David Farrance  USA NTDP  USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 195  Shot: L

Comparison: Troy Stecher

He’s so small.  He has ridiculous talent though.  Great speed, great puck mover, he’s a kid who wouldn’t even get consideration for the NHL draft 13 years ago.  He’d be headed for a nice career in Europe.  But now, he has a chance.  And going to BU in the fall, whoever drafts him will get a bit of extra time before needing to sign him to his ELC.  That’ll be great for his development, because he really needs time to work on his defensive play.  Some might wonder why I would have him down this far, but the fact of the matter is that he had very disappointing numbers this season.  Talent is there, no doubt, but that’s the risk.

 

54. Markus Phillips  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Martin

Just a real solid puck moving defencemen who is equally effective in his own zone.  Not a lot of flash, but plays a very safe and dependable game.  Could be a sneaky good prospect because he’s the type of kid who has had to think the game, not simply overwhelm the OHL with his elite talent.

 

55. Morgan Geekie  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Bryan Smolinski

He’s in his second year of eligibility for the draft, but he’s actually only a little over two months older than Yamamoto, and Geekie’s point totals weren’t far off his.  The size is good, the numbers are good, it’s the skating that needs work.  But his IQ and playmaking are tremendous.  There are a few rumours out there that he could be a shock pick in the first round.  For now, I’m going to stay away from that idea in my mock draft, but I have to admit I’m really tempted to fit him in somewhere.

 

kostin56. Klim Kostin  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I’m going for “lowest you’ll see him ranked”, and I was very tempted to not have him on my list, but at some point it’s ok to take the home run swing.  The big, and/or skilled, “unstoppable” Russian winger seems to bust more than any other type of player, and they’ve burnt their bridge with me.  Filatov, Burmistrov, Yakupov, Grigorenko, Nichushkin, I’m just done with these guys as first round picks.  You will likely point out Tarasenko and Kuznetsov, of course there are always exceptions to the rule.  Added to the bust factor, and the flight risk, Kostin missed half the season.  Put on top of all this, now he says he won’t come to the CHL.  What is with so many of these kids?!  Let’s not sugar coat it, so many of these kids are total divas and for me personally I’m sick of it and I have to think most NHL teams are sick of it too.  I’m not touching him anywhere in the top 30 where most have him.  Late 2nd round though, I’d maybe take a swing.

 

57. Jonah Gadjovich  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 199  Shot: L

Comparison: Marcus Foligno

This kid is a little bit of an old school power forward.  He’s a solid skater for his size, and looks like he has the frame to put on another 15-20 pounds.  17 of 46 goals on the PP is a bit of a concern for me,  as is the late 98 birth date.  But no doubt he has the talent to be a top nine guy in the NHL.

 

58. Nick Henry  Regina  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Brian Gionta

Henry isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with his speed and skill.  Both are solid, but he’s the type of kid who just really understands his role.  This season playing on the top line with the Pats, he understood not to try and do too much and it led to incredible results.  He’s very willing to get his nose dirty too.  Just a perfect complimentary player.

 

59. Jake Leschyshyn  Regina  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10.75  Wt: 189  Shot: L

Comparison: Dave Bolland

Such a shame that he had that knee injury and couldn’t have gone on the playoff run with the Pats.  With the Pats hosting the Memorial Cup next season he’ll obviously get that chance, but who knows what a great playoff run could have done for his draft stock.  From what we saw though, tough not to like the player.  Good (not great) speed, high IQ, gritty, has some skill but more importantly knows how to manufacture goals.

 

60. Matthew Strome  Hamilton  OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: Jimmy Hayes

I have a tough time liking Strome to be honest.  But then again, if I got the 57th pick in the draft, don’t you have to take a highly skilled 6’4 kid?  His skating isn’t good, but it’s probably better than Jason Robertson’s, and he’s bigger than Robertson, and he’s as skilled.  I give the IQ edge to Robertson (big time), but still I think you have to take a swing on Strome by now, and a team likely will long before this spot.

 

Tier Ten

61. Jesper Boqvist  Brynas  SHL J20

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.25  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Robert Nilsson

A pretty talented kid, but he is a bit of a mess in his own zone and tends to shy away from the dirty area’s.  So I have trouble liking him.  Still, you can’t knock the kids talent.  He can always be coached up on the defensive end of the ice, and he can always learn to get his nose a little dirty.  His draft combine interview would have been a big deal if I were the GM of a team.  If it checks out, you probably have him in your top 35.  Upside is definitely there.

 

62. Eemeli Rasanen  Kingston  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’6.75  Wt: 214  Shot: R

Comparison: Jonathan Ericsson

I understand that these types of European defencemen have a high bust rate, but at the same time how can you ignore a kid who plays nasty like Rasanen does and will become a better skater simply with time as he grows more into his body?  Virtually the same numbers as Pierre-Olivier Joseph this season.  He has some upside offensively, and isn’t just a banger in his own zone but really does a great job controlling his gaps and angles.  At this point in the draft, you can definitely look at taking a home run swing like this.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

It All Started in the 2014 Offseason

Had the day off work on Friday, so I’m just sitting around the house and I’ve got in the habit of going through YouTube when I get up and have nothing to do.  I have a tendency to find old sports video’s, games, just shit that a sports geek like myself loves.  Lately, I love finding and putting on the old drafts.  As of writing  this I’ve let last year’s draft play.  Brett Howden just got picked.  Friday morning, I tried to look up the 1999 draft.  Didn’t find it, but I did find a video of a guy (mid 30’s-mid 40’s) in Red Wings gear and a Canucks banner in the background talking about the 2000 draft and spitting standard media clichés the entire time such as “you can find guys if you draft right”.  Ok bud, and what is your philosophy on how you “draft right”?  I do this blog because A) I can’t give up on a dream, B) it’s a passion project, and C) I feel like I can give you different perspectives on this shit instead of just the standard media B.S. or the “only my numbers that I find matter” agenda that a lot of the analytics crowd seems to have.  I’m not wearing a jersey, or a team hat, or have any cheap memorabilia on my wall just so you know.  My long winded point here is that I really hope/pray nobody looks at me and this blog the way I looked at that total zilch!

 

Wow, Sam Steel’s sister (I think) is such a babe!  In saying that, I’m very hopeful she’s at least over 18.  She looks over 18, so I think I’m safe.  Also Steph, if you’re reading this, I’m totally kidding…

 

Anyway, the Stanley Cup Final starts tomorrow night.  And as my title suggests, the road to this final started in the 2014 offseason.  And it was a trade ironically enough between David Poile, whom at the time was looking to breakaway from the way he had always done things, and Jim Rutherford, whom was looking to re-tool a team that had gone from potential dynasty to the league’s biggest disappointment, that was part of it all.  The swap was James Neal to Nashville, for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.  The players in this deal aren’t the reason either team is here, but the direction and statement both organizations were looking to make in doing the deal is.

 

Sometimes in life, it all starts falling into place.  David Poile has been an extremely competent GM in the league now for over 30 years.  He was the guy who always made the most of what he had, but didn’t do anything to push his luck so to speak.  Take 2012 for example.  Didn’t have a 1st round pick, yet I personally figured he had made the most of it, which as we now know…he did:

Nashville – They didn’t have a 1st round pick, yet they walk out of the 2nd round with 2 kids that easily could have been 1st round picks.  Of course they got Colten Sissons….they ALWAYS get these kind of players.  He will play in the league, maybe only as an effective 3rd line guy but none the less.  Pontus Aberg should be just a real nice, reliable 2nd line winger.  Then they get Portland Winterhawk Brendan Leipsic who is undersized but has BIG talent and was a huge contributer to their run to game 7 of the WHL finals.

 

Maybe went overboard with my thoughts on Leipsic…anyway…Until this season however, Poile had never been past the second round of the playoffs.  Conservative guy all through his tenure in Washington and for the first 15 years or so in Nashville, he had to do a couple of moves that were completely out of his wheelhouse.    Obviously bringing in James Neal was an indication that he wanted to add more scoring, but as I stated, it wasn’t THE move that would transform things for the Preds.  It was one of three which would.

 

Prior to the deal, Barry Trotz was let go as Predators head coach.  Trotz was the only coach in Predators history at the time, and widely regarded as one of the top coaches in the game.  But it was time for a change, and time for  Poile to bring in someone who perhaps saw things a little differently from himself, and Peter Laviolette was definitely that guy.  How underrated is Laviolette?!  Three teams to three finals, none of which were loaded rosters or heavy Cup favourites entering the playoffs (correct, the Hurricanes weren’t viewed as big threats despite being the second seed in the East in 06).  He has a shelf life everywhere he’s gone, if the over/under on his time in Nashville is three more years then I’m taking the under, but you can’t deny this guy is a hell of a coach.

 

You could see a big improvement under Laviolette through his first year and a half behind their bench, but it still didn’t look like they were going anywhere as a franchise.

 

On January 6th, 2016 they finally took a much needed step.  Loaded on D, not much up front, same way they’d been for the previous 12 seasons or so.  It was status quo for a Poile team.  But he FINALLY took the swing he always needed to when he moved Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen.  Poile could afford to part with Jones, he needed a big first line centre, and he pulled the trigger.  Granted, Johansen wasn’t quite the franchise centre teams crave, but he had that upside and was already a big points producer.

http://soupsonsports.com/2016/01/07/jones-vs-johansen-who-wins/

 

Don’t get me wrong, you need to draft well (as they’ve always done), and you need to make smart signings (as they’ve always done), but those three moves have likely had the biggest impact on taking the Predators from plucky underdog who always made the playoffs to being a legit threat in the West.

 

Notice I didn’t mention the biggest trade they’ve made?  Look, the Preds got the better of that deal without a doubt.  The Habs clearly had an issue with Subban and wanted to get him out of their room.  But having said that, analytics guys can stop celebrating as if this was some big win for them.  Shea Weber in that spot would have made them that much worse would he?  Come on.  The impact of that deal will be felt in the years to come as the already not great skating Weber gets even slower, but to claim it’s made this massive difference to the Preds success in 2017 is a bit ridiculous and speaks to you having a large bias if you’re trying to make that case.

 

Perhaps the most impressive thing in all of this for the Predators though is that they didn’t ever sink back to the bottom to build a contender.  I’ve been on the Preds to at least make the final four all season.  Most were.  Don’t confuse second wildcard team/8th seed in the West for playoff afterthought.  If you know hockey, I’m not about to criticize anyone for picking the Blackhawks in the first round, but you could see how the Preds could and should contend.

 

Of course we know this story is completely different for the Pens.  It’s been a tale of two teams for the Pens during Sidney Crosby’s tenure.  You had the Ray Shero teams, and now we are seeing the Jim Rutherford teams.  I think that fans and media maybe forget just how bad things had eroded under Ray Shero by the 2014 offseason.

http://soupsonsports.com/2014/06/23/these-penguins-cant-fly/

 

The trades I suggested in that piece aren’t that bad!  Giving up Sutter and then Letang for O’Reilly I’d take out, but considering how massive and league changing they were….I’ve made worse suggestions!

 

I won’t say I was wrong about the Jim Rutherford hiring, because the man had Crosby, Malkin and Letang to build around right from the jump.  But in fairness, you still have to make it work which Ray Shero had stopped doing.  And after a year and a half of running them even further into the ground with decisions such as trading a 1st round pick for David Perron and hiring Mike Johnston, Jim Rutherford began to figure it out.

http://soupsonsports.com/2015/12/14/crosby-was-under-better-management-this-summer-at-tim-hortons/

 

Since I wrote that piece, this organization has become the best in hockey, it’s not even close as the head to their second straight Cup final.  Mike Sullivan was smart enough to figure out how best to utilize Crosby/Malkin/Kessel which looked like a disaster under Johnston.  They moved Perron who couldn’t keep up with their pace, for Carl Hagelin who fit it perfectly.  They understood Trevor Daly was still very useful despite that Joel Quennville and Stan Bowman had given up on him.  They were smart enough to realize Justin Schultz could be a valuable piece if put into the right role.  They’ve simply made all the right moves.

http://soupsonsports.com/2016/06/14/remember-when-sid-was-done/

 

So here we are.  The loveable Preds playing the role of David, vs the behemoth Pens playing the role of goliath.

 

The big story for me in this series though is this team and Crosby in particular are chasing greatness now.  Three Cups for Sid moves him ahead of his owner Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic, and ties him with Steve Yzerman and Jonathan Toews.  For the Pens as a group, they have a chance to be the first back to back Cup champs in 19 years, and set themselves up to be called a legitimate dynasty by winning one more in either 2018 or 19.  I get that the Preds story is much more enduring to fans.  They’re the underdog, they definitely have much more of a cool factor going on between how loud the crowd is and all the country music stars they’ve trotted out to sing the national anthem.  But it’s so rare in sports today that we get greatness that is what I would call authentic (unlike a certain round ball league where all the stars just look to team up with each other).

 

As for the matchup, it’s interesting.  Two teams that are really beat up coming in.  It feels like the Pens have been through much more of a grind, but it’s actually only been an extra game in each round (three more total for those of you who don’t have your grade one math).  I’d say it’s the top 1-2 combo down the middle in the league against the best blueline in the league.  The scary thing for the Pens entering this series is that the Preds can match their speed, and play with the physicality that could wear down the Pens over seven games.  The scary thing for the Preds is that they haven’t seen a team who can not only match their speed, but likely exceed it.

 

I’ve been an asshole on Twitter pointing out how I had this matchup when I did my All-Star break look at all 30 teams.  While true, I also had the Preds losing to the Kings…yes the Kings…in the Western Conference final at the start of the year, and the Pens losing to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference final.  Obviously both missed the playoffs and I’m actually an idiot.  I also had Preds losing to the Ducks in the Conference final in my playoff preview, and the Pens losing to the Ducks in the Cup final.  So trust me, I don’t think I know it all, or even partially know it all!  But the long winded point I’m looking to make here is that I’ve liked both teams all season and can truly see either winning this series.

 

In the end I have to stick to what I believe, and what I believe is that strength down the middle trumps strength on the blueline.  Just barely, but it does.  Without Ryan Johansen and a beat up Mike Fisher, I just believe it’s going to be too much for the Preds to overcome in a seven game series.  Also, despite going seven games in the Eastern final, having the weekend off will help the Pens a ton.  The Preds will be on more rest obviously, but the Pens will have enough.  Pens in seven.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Oilers Top 10 Prospects

I was listening to Oilers Now yesterday.  Full disclosure, I don’t normally listen when Bob doesn’t host, but I wanted to hear some of the fan feedback after the game seven loss.  No doubt it hurts, but that was likely as easy of a game seven loss as a franchise will ever suffer!  I was expecting fans to be disappointed, but all pretty pumped.  NOPE!  Callers to radio shows are always going to be a bit off.  But every caller?!  It really makes me question if fans aren’t so scared from what’s gone on here the last decade that they can’t comprehend what this team is on the verge of becoming.

 

I’m certain most of you reading this understand it though.  And it’s not to be a fan boy about it, and it’s not to discount that there is still work to be done.  But this team is going to be picked to win the Cup starting this fall.  Not by all, but by some, and it’s not going to be any kind of hot take.  They’re now a contender, and they’re setup to last a long time.

 

Obviously I’m hyped about what’s on the roster and the fact that this team is loaded with kids 24 and under, a lot of whom aren’t just on the team, but are leading this team.  And with the team taking that massive turn we had all been eagerly awaiting since the 2010 draft, what has flown under the radar is how well this team is all of a sudden drafting and developing.  Obviously we know why this has flown under the radar, but unfortunately it is now the offseason and we need to start looking to the future.

 

Being a big draft guy, I’d like to focus for a minute on the 22nd pick.  The way I’m looking at it, you either go centre or defence there.  Even if the Oilers don’t manage to land Spencer Foo in free agency, you can always put a centre on the wing.  I’m getting to the point now where, at least for me, where the winger has to knock me on my ass with his skill set to like him over a centre.  Now, who am I right?  But I’m certain there are NHL GM’s who see this the same way.

 

The kid I’ve loved for months now is Owen Sound centre Nick Suzuki.  In February that looked possible at 22.  Now, not a chance if you ask me as he has rocketed up a lot of lists.  In my latest mock draft I had London Knights centre Robert Thomas.  5’11, 185 pounds, right handed shot, great wheels, already real good in the dot and a point per game player this season.  Another one I really like is Jaret Anderson-Dolan out of Spokane.  He’d be a BIT of a reach at 22 the way most lists currently look, but the same size as Thomas with better point totals and just as good of speed.  Was held off the board at the U18’s for Canada, but was named captain of the team which is always a positive.

 

If you’re thinking a blueliner is the way to go, Henri Jokiharju is the kid I like.  6’0, 176 pounds with a right handed shot.  He’s a great skater, needs work in his own zone but what I really like about the kid is he’s always playing on his toes and does not lack aggression both in terms of taking chances and willingness to battle.  The one thing about taking a D-man in the draft, even though the Oil are pretty stocked with them right now, is that they always have great trade value.  Trades are nearly impossible to make these days, but defencemen are at an all time high as the Hall/Larsson swap proved, so you really can’t go wrong taking a defencemen.  Especially a right handed shooting puck mover.

 

But enough draft talk for now, onto the top 10.

 

Before I get started on the list, let’s make one thing very clear.  While I go glass half full with all these kids, it’s all hypothetical.  I’d say if four of these guys become SOMETHING, then it’s a massive win.  Also should mention, the ages are as of September 1st, 2017, so some guys aren’t as old currently as they’re listed (i.e. Ethan Bear).  I also put their team as who they played for the majority of this season rather than who they’ll be with to start 17-18.  Hopefully that puts to rest any misunderstandings of how I did this.

 

Honourable mentions:

 

Ryan Mantha  Niagara  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  Age: 21

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

One of the latest additions to the Oilers stable.  Mantha was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, but they chose not to sign him.  I have a tough time at this point ranking him.  That size and those numbers this season say he’s a hell of a prospect, but he was an overager this season for Niagara.  Intriguing package, but the jury will still be very much out on him for now.  I’m guessing he’ll start the season in Bakersfield, likely part of the agreement when he chose the Oilers.

 

Filip Berglund  Skelleftea  SHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

This kid has me personally really intrigued.  He was originally set back with a knee injury in his draft year, hence not being taken until last June.  Seems to get pretty positive reviews at both ends of the ice.  His skating isn’t poor at all, but what I will say is that if he can make a subtle improvement with it that it’ll go a very long way.  Some really like the skill he will flash on occasion.  A long shot, no doubt, but it feels like they might have a diamond in the rough here.

 

William Lagesson  UMass-Amherst  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L  Age: 21

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

When I’ve seen and when I read up on Lagesson, everything points towards a Darius Kasparaitis type.  Bigger offensive numbers would without a doubt be nice to see, but he skates real well, and he’s simply miserable to play against.  As a prospect he reminds me a lot of Brandon Davidson, not at all in style of play, but in the sense that every time I watched and read something on Davidson, I liked it.  Same deal with Lagesson.  I love that he’s going back to Sweden next season, I believe it’ll really help his development.

 

Bogdan Yakimov  Nizhnekamsk  KHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 232  Shot: L  Age: 22

Acquired: 3rd Round, 83rd Overall, 2013 Draft

Full disclosure, I’m not sure how it works with his rights.  I don’t see why he wouldn’t be under team control next season, but he is listed as an RFA this summer so I’d assume he needs qualifying?  For now, I’m listing him here.  He’s still got a very intriguing skill set.  I would never get overly excited about what he can bring to the table should he come back over, but I do believe he’s capable of being a Brian Boyle type with the upside to be more Michal Handzus…which of course is code for “a 3rd or 4th line centre”.  I’m definitely not holding my breathe on him, but until they officially don’t own his rights I believe he is still worth mentioning.

 

10. Nick Ellis  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 7th, 2016

Ellis had a Sv% in the AHL this season that was 10 percentage points higher than Laurent Brossoit’s.  The size is a concern though, as he is very small by today’s goaltending standards.  He plays a very composed style, very similar to Cam Talbot.  At his size I fear he’ll have to go above and beyond proving himself to earn a shot with the Oilers, but so far he’s off to a good start.

 

9. John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 6th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 Draft

In the 6th round of the draft, I feel like you have to stick to a few rules.  If it’s me, I’m looking for kids who have decent size, skates real well, and a high IQ.  Marino checks all those boxes.  Obviously he’ll go back to Harvard for at least another season in 2018, and likely 2019 as well, so we’re talking about a kid who is still a long ways away.  But he took a pretty big step in his development in his freshman season at Harvard and should see an increased role next season, although he does have Calgary 2016 3rd rounder Adam Fox to contend with.

 

8. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 200  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

I really didn’t understand this pick.  It was great value, as most had Niemelainen as a late first/early second round pick.  But he was just more of what the Oilers had.  Adam Fox (getting mentioned twice in an Oilers piece, impressive) was taken two picks later by the Flames, and I personally felt Fox was a lot better fit for the Oilers in the organization.  Of course this is where I explain that as years have gone on I’ve become much more of a pick for need guy than a BPA guy because of the difficulty making trades has become.  Having said all this, he is similar to Adam Larsson in that he will not wow you in anyway, but can completely shut down the other teams top line.  He’ll be around 215-220 once he fills out, has great mobility for his size, and despite low offensive numbers he moves the puck very well.  Like William Lagesson, I’m a big fan of the fact that he’s headed back to Finland to play pro next season.  Should help his development a lot.

 

7. Ziyat Paigin  Kazan Ak-Bars  KHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 209  Shot: L  Age: 22

Acquired: 7th Round, 209th Overall, 2015 Draft

Man, it’s still ridiculously early, but the hope is very much alive that Peter Chiarelli knocked it out of the park with the D-men he selected post McDavid in the 2015 draft.  Paigin’s calling card is his bomb from the point.  But he has a long way to go in his development.  He has the skill set you want (size, mobility, willingness to engage physically), but he still needs a season in Bakersfield.  I can’t find and didn’t hear anything about how he played in his five games after coming over, although I wouldn’t put much stock into those games having just come over from Russia to what is a vastly different league and style.

 

6. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Two brutal seasons from an injury standpoint.  The other scary thing about Benson is he isn’t the most fleet of foot player, definitely needs to work on his first step.  Having said this, there are too many positives in his game to quit on him as a prospect.  First and foremost, look at what he was doing while healthy this season (42 points in 33 games).  I’d be lying my ass off if I said the groin/pubic bone injury reoccurrence didn’t worry me.  Absolutely does.  But, should he play 60-70 games next season, he likely plays in the WJC, and he’ll likely dealt to a contender before January 10th.  At this point I’m definitely not writing him off, and still think there is a good chance he’s a steal.  It’s just going to take a bit longer than some thought.

 

5. Dylan Wells  Peterborough  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

I first got hyped about Wells right after the Oilers drafted him last June.  A few OHL scouts I follow on Twitter were raving about the pick moments after the pick was made, as they both firmly believed that Wells had all the tools to be a steal, he just hadn’t put it together to that point.  Fast forward 10 months, and he’s really started to put it together.  Wells has had a great season, but his play went to another level around midseason, and continued to be incredible during the Petes playoff run. Through his first 11 playoff games, Wells had a Sv% of .941.  That did dip thanks to Peterborough getting destroyed in their final playoff game, but it was still a 2.51 G.A.A. and a .930 Sv%.  Size wise he isn’t much bigger than Nick Ellis, but with Wells only being 19 he is more likely to pack on the 20-30 pounds both netminders need to play in the league.  Goaltenders are a crap shoot, but I will say that had the Oilers taken Wells with a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, we’d all be raving about Wells right now.  It’s still so very early in his development.  BUT…so far, the pick has been a home run.

 

4. Griffin Reinhart  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 208  Shot: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Trade, June 24th, 2015

As bitter as you are about this trade…I’m a whole lot more bitter about it than you are!  I immediately hated the deal, and could not be talked out of it no matter how hard some of my buddies tried.  Had they not done it and simply selected who they liked (sounds like Joel Eriksson Ek would have gone 16th, Brandon Carlo would have gone 33rd) they’d have one of the best prospect pools in the league right now.  But, it’s done and we all need to get over.  We also all need to understand that just because that trade was awful that it doesn’t mean Reinhart can’t play in the NHL.  From all reports, he came on real strong around January in Bakersfield.  It was only one game, but in his 13 minutes of play in game six, he did look solid.  It’s the same old story with Reinhart.  If he can get a chip on his shoulder and play with an edge (and I’m not just talking about throwing hits once in a while, but learning to play on his toes), he still has a chance to become a real solid top four defenceman.  I’m hopeful he’s not about to be snagged by Vegas in the expansion draft, but I also have a feeling the reason the return was low on Brandon Davidson was because Peter Chiarelli knows that George McPhee will take one of Pouliot (likely) or Fayne, perhaps thanks to Peter greasing the wheels a bit.  There for it was viewed as not only getting Desharnais, but shedding over 5 mil off the cap for 2018.

 

3. Ethan Bear  Seattle  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft

It’s tough with Bear, because on one hand you can’t help but get giddy about the numbers he’s put up in the WHL the last two seasons and the fact that he was named the WHL defenceman of the year.  But on the other hand, that foot speed just simply isn’t good enough right now.  It’s not an easy thing to improve, but man, if he can get it to the level he needs to, this kid is going to be a huge steal.  The fact that he’s playing in the WHL finals with what is suspected to be a broken hand really speaks to this kids character and toughness.  And he’s not just a big shot on the PP.  That PP runs through Bear just as much, if not more so (when I’ve seen them play) than it does through Matt Barzal.  I really believe the upside on this kid is that he can be a Ryan Ellis type.  But even if his skating doesn’t improve to that level, I still believe he can play in the league as a number six guy who is sheltered five on five but sees a ton of minutes on the PP and PK.

 

2. Caleb Jones  Portland  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 20

Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft

I’m not the only one noticing that he could be pushing for ice time next season am I?  I’m not saying out of camp, but I could see him start getting looks on the big club around midseason or so, and by the 2018 offseason I could see a scenario where they’re looking for a way to get Sekera’s deal off the books to not only create cap space but also fit Jones onto the big club (depending on how Nurse’s development continues to go).  62 points in 63 games for Portland this season and was used on the top D pairing for the U.S. at the WJC this year in more of a shutdown role.  He’s been a hell of a find.  Some will scream that Bear should be ahead of Jones, but with Jones there is zero concern about his skating ability.

 

1. Jesse Puljujarvi  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 208  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

I’ve heard some people get worried about Puljujarvi.  Guys, R-E-L-A-X.  He just turned 19 five days ago.  He was great in the AHL.  He has nowhere near the strength to match his body size right now, you can see it with how he skates.  He’s going to be an offensive driver.  I believe his explosiveness will improve as he gains strength, and with that big frame and big ass he will be able to dominate defenders below the hash marks much like Jagr and Hossa can (not saying he’s going to be either of those guys, just in terms of how he protects the puck).  He’s also going to live off McDavid feeds on the power play with that righty one timer he has.  The Oilers have an absolute stud here.  I could see a scenario in a few seasons where McDavid, Draisaitl and Puljujarvi are each anchoring their own line much the way Mike Sullivan used Crosby, Malkin and Kessel last season.

 

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What an Oppurtunity

I have to admit, I’m getting a little fatigued with the ref talk.  We all know how horribly they have screwed the Oilers in the last two games with two of the worst blown calls (everything considered) in the last 17 years (hope Sabres fans notice I didn’t say 18 years).  And while nobody wants to get over it, you have to get over it because there is still a series to win here.  There is an opening here to get to the Cup final and everyone (fans included) have to keep that in mind.

 

The team and yes, the fans, have to keep this positive.  I’m not the most positive guy, more of a realist.  But I’ve found myself saying since the end of game five “what a chance they have here”.

 

First of all, I believe the team and the fans need a way to look and get past the officiating.  That way?  Well the way I’m trying to look at it is that Dana White always says with fights in the UFC “don’t leave it in the hands of the judges”.  So many awful decisions have come from fights going to the judges score cards.  And really, that’s what happened with all these awful calls against the Oilers.  They’ve left these games in the hands of the refs.  Yes they were screwed, and if you don’t think so you’re just attempting to troll Oilers fans.  But they left it in the hands of the judges so to speak and you can’t do that.

 

The one concern going into tonight without a doubt is that the Ducks confidence couldn’t be any higher now.  You may have heard Bob Stauffer say earlier in the series, part of Ryan Getzlaf’s confidence is coming from nothing being called against him (not to whine about the officiating, but it’s just been a fact).  Well now this team has gotten away with two blatant goaltender interference calls, combined with a dramatic comeback has to have them believing nothing is going to go wrong.

 

But don’t sleep on the stat Jack Michaels tossed out on Twitter after game five though:

Two of the last three years, it’s followed this exact same pattern.  Lose first two games at home, win the next three.

 

I’m sure many are expecting the Oilers to fold in this one after all that’s gone on.  I’d be shocked if the Oilers folded tonight.

 

If they were going to fold, they would have done so in game five against San Jose, they didn’t.  They would have done so down 3-0 in game three of this series, nope.  Would have done so in the third period of game four, another no.  Would have done so in game five, wrong again.  Would have done so in the first OT in game five, ONCE AGAIN they did not.  So if you’re expecting that tonight, I can’t help but think it’s your pessimistic attitude, because this team, while frustrating at times, has given none of us any reason to believe they’ll fold their hand.

 

Fold their hand…remember hearing that non stop last year?  I’d say it’s been a lesson learned.

 

One of the most resilient teams I’ve ever seen in sports was the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.  Twice in the 2001 World Series they were an out away from grabbing that series by the throat, and twice their closer Byun-Hun Kim gave up a game tying home run and eventually the Yankees won both games in extra’s.  Similarities?  The D-Backs won the first two games.  The D-Backs were also down 3-2 with game six at home.  They dismantled the Yankees in game six.  You kept thinking as that series went on “this HAS to of killed them”, and nothing did.  The end of that series was them down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the mound, who at that time hadn’t blown a postseason save in 23 straight appearances (his career postseason E.R.A. was 0.73 entering that game).

 

Goes without saying but the Oilers have to get another two or three nothing lead.  You may emphatically say “DUH!!” , or “the Ducks will be fine just like they were the last two games”, and that could be the case.  But I’m certain at least some of those Ducks wouldn’t be fine.  I’m certain some of them would be flashing back to what’s happened in anyone of the last four seasons.  If it’s only happened once or even twice it’s probably just a coincidence.  Four straight years?  It’s a mental thing.  In 2015 there was no way they should have lost to the Blackhawks.  They were the better team in all of the first five games, and they flat out choked in games six and seven.  And I have little doubt that’s what went on last year against Nashville.  So it’s vital the Oilers get them on the ropes again.

 

That D-Backs World Series win is one of the best sports stories I’ve ever seen play out in my life, and here are the 2017 Oilers with a chance to do the same.  Absolutely every reason to fold up shop and call it a year.  Bet they don’t.  And if the Ducks don’t finish them tonight, they’ll be questioning themselves.  Not just from what’s happened in the past, but they’ll be asking themselves “why won’t this team just die?”  After outplaying the Oilers for the majority of the series, keeping McDavid in check for the most part, by my count five what would be at best questionable goals in the series, and two what should have been absolute back breaking/crushing and crucial goals which should have been called back and weren’t…that momentum all goes the other way with an Oilers win tonight.

 

Think about how sweet winning this series would now be.  Think about what that would mean for this team once they become serious Cup contenders and what a brick jaw they’d collectively have thanks to having gone through this.  Hell, think about what it’d do for the team moving forward in THESE playoffs!

 

What a story this team has a chance to write.

 

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