This is the final exam! No turning back now. I’m kind of glad I have the other mock drafts all up this year rather than re-doing the same page like I had done the previous 2 years, that way I can look back at how I got scared at the last second, went against my beliefs, and got burned. Had the Kings going to the final against the Rangers at the start of the playoffs and at the last second I thought “you know, I just have a gut feeling the Sharks will beat the Kings….” I hate myself…
A little info before I start up. First off, this draft is loaded with undersized, highly skilled wingers. Half of most scouting services top 30 are these players. I expect most of those types of players to go later, maybe much later, than their rankings suggest. This league is all about strength down the middle and on the blueline. You don’t win with small, skilled wingers. They’re a dime a dozen. So if you’re wondering why I have some kids much higher than others, that is likely why.
And pretty much anywhere I have one of those wingers what I am saying is that a team is in a spot where they either have to take one of those types, or it fits their needs. For example I have Sonny Milano going 22 to Pittsburgh. But what I’m really saying is that they’ll take one of the kids like Milano, who knows if he’ll be the guy out of that group that they’ll like. Maybe it’ll be Nikita Scherbak, or Jakub Vrana, or David Pastrnak, or anyone of those kids.
In the last few years I’ve become less of a believer in simply taking the best player available. So many fans scream “just take the BPA!” But the fact of the matter is that it has just become so damn hard to make a trade these days that you have to take the guy who is the best fit sometimes, and then of course you have teams like Detroit, LA, and Boston who have a specific type of kid they love and they’ll keep drafting those guys until it stops working.
I simply had to do a trade in this one as it looks like there is zero chance the Panthers are staying at 1. Who it’ll be with, I have no clue but I took a shot and guessed.
As always I haven’t seen a lot of these kids play, I just try to compile as much information on them as possible and then look at what the organizations have either on the team and in the system about 25 or 26 and under. And just before I start again I stress, the comparisons are not who I think these guys will become, just who their games are similar to. “Before we begin, we have a trade to announce….”
Sam Reinhart Kootenay WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 185 Shot: R
Comparison: Jonathan Toews
I’m not moving off the Canucks being the team that trades up for this pick, I see a lot of different things the Canucks could send the Panthers, but the fact of the matter is who knows. I just think I know the Panthers aren’t keeping their pick. They seem enamoured (don’t know if that’s the American way to spell it…what do you mean I’m Canadian?) with Willie Nylander and I honestly won’t be shocked if they took Nylander at 1 as crazy as that may seem. But Reinhart for the Canucks is perfect. He would replace Kesler, is a local kid, and would be sheltered by Henrik Sedin. Again though, so many possibilities as to whom could trade with the Panthers. I don’t buy that Tallon is “70% certain he’ll make the pick”. He seems to be telling the media a lot about how he’s getting these great offers yet he’s still wanting to pick instead….give it up man, you’re trading the pick and everyone knows it.
Sam Bennett Kingston OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Mike Richards
Same as last time. Think Richards circa 2008, not today. The Sabres really need a center and so with Reinhart off the board they take Bennett but don’t think Draisaitl isn’t possible here as well. It all depends on the type of kid Tim Murray prefers. If he wants size, he goes Draisaitl. If he wants more grit, he goes Bennett. Tough not to LOVE Bennett’s game and his intangibles. And no, the chin up BS won’t matter.
Aaron Ekblad Barrie OHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’4 Wt: 215 Shot: R
Comparison: Shea Weber
Same as last time and again this is all dependent on who trades up to 1. If it’s the Leafs for example, then I think they take Ekblad although they need a high end center as well. If it’s the Canucks like I have it, then it’s Reinhart. Still a tough choice for the Oilers if Draisaitl is still there. Don’t kid yourself, moving forward the Oilers are much more desperate for a center and center is where you need to be great to win in this league, just look at the team that has won 2 of the last 3 Cups. But Ekblad is the better prospect and would give the Oilers ridiculous depth on the blueline moving forward.
Michael Dal Colle Oshawa OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 184 Shot: L
Comparison: Patrick Sharp
Same as last time and the mystery of do they or don’t they like Leon Draisaitl continues. They didn’t have him to Calgary to show him around like they did other kids, but now rumors (I don’t believe they’re reports) are that they’ve met with Draisaitl a lot. But…maybe that is the smoke screen? I love him for the Flames but I just have a hunch they won’t take him. Instead they go with Dal Colle who should be a great sniper and will have good size once he fills out, but the last thing this team needs is another winger.
Leon Draisaitl Prince Albert WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 208 Shot: L
Comparison: Joe Thornton
I have, as you can see, no clue who the Islanders will end up trading with. But I’m guaranteeing that they trade this pick and if Draisaitl gets to 5 then I think they’ll get something real good for the pick. I mentioned last time I believe the Oilers would give up Yakupov for the chance to take Draisaitl (who they absolutely love), I’ve heard the Jets would love a center so maybe Evander Kane goes to the Isles although the Jets would likely want more than the 5th pick back. Maybe the Leafs offer Jake Gardiner for this pick. I wouldn’t sleep on the Ducks inquiring about it, the Preds, the Stars, the Sharks, lots of teams will be making offers to the Islanders. It remains to be seen what they will get, but I can’t see the team trading up passing on Draisaitl should he get to 5.
William Nylander Rogle SWE
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 169 Shot: R
Comparison: Ray Whitney
Same pick here and same trade down obviously. Nylander and Nik Ehlers are apparently the kids they love. I’ve heard Nylander a lot more often so I’ll say it’s Nylander. I would go with Nick Ritchie, but they are the Panthers for a reason. This new ownership just sounds awful, and I have my doubts that Dale Tallon will stick around to see how it plays out. One positive I will say for them however is that they could use more help up front than people think, so Nylander helps there. But Kyle Woodlief from the Redline Report called him a diva. That’s a pretty big red flag.
Haydn Fleury Red Deer WHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’3 Wt: 207 Shot: L
Comparison: Mark Giordano
Not much has changed from my previous mock drafts with this pick. Jim Rutherford has ran this organization right into the ground (and somehow lands as the GM in Pittsburgh for doing so), and so it is now up to Ronnie Franchise is save this team again. He needs to load up the back end that Rutherford completely ignored over the last 15 seasons, so Fleury is a great fit here. Don’t be shocked if they like Travis Sanheim more though, and don’t be shocked if they move back. If they could move back to 11 or 12, still get Fleury or Sanheim, and add a 2nd round pick I think it would be a shrewd move by Francis.
Nick Ritchie Peterborough OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 218 Shot: L
Comparison: Jamie Benn
It’s the same as last time, but man the more I think about it, the more I think teams are going to debate between Ritchie and Jake Virtanen. Virtanen is less of a risk, but Ritchie has a much bigger upside. But if Virtanen grows up he’ll be a pretty valuable top 6 winger. But if Ritchie gets more consistent he becomes a 1st line power forward. Such a tough choice. I do think Ritchie could go as high as 4 still, although while people want to say he’s a “Burke type”, Brian Burke’s history is that he doesn’t select many “Burke types” in the 1st round. Ritchie is inconsistent but he’s a beast who is much more suited for the pro game.
Jake Virtanen Calgary WHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 213 Shot: R
Comparison: Raffi Torres
The more thought I’ve given this….which is never good….Kevin Cheveldayoff loves size and toughness and so I am now thinking he and his staff go with Virtanen who is more of a Western conference type over Nikolaj Ehlers who is much more skilled than Virtanen or most of these kids for that matter. The good news for Jets fans is that this would be a great problem to have to choose between these two kids.
Dylan Larkin USNTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Kesler
Like Haydn Fleury to the Canes, I just refuse to move off this pick…being a center. No longer McCann though. Remains to be seen if the Ducks will still own this pick come 6:00 or so GMT on June 27th. I think they will, it’ll be the 24th pick they’ll move in a deal for a center, but they still need depth down the middle and so Larkin makes a ton of sense here. If not Larkin, maybe this pick does still end up being Jared McCann
Nikolaj Ehlers Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 162 Shot: L
Comparison: Patrik Elias
The Preds have amassed a pretty nice young blueline yet again, but they don’t have much offensive talent up front and with Peter Laviolette now behind the bench you can bet they’ll start to focus a bit more on having a team who can score. I don’t know that he falls this far, but this is just kind of where he ended up, which happens. 2 years ago, Filip Forsberg, now a Pred ironically, was going to be a top 5 pick and just happened to fall to, again ironically, the 11th pick. Same draft, Teuvo Terravainen was a late riser and was looking like a top 8 pick, he fell into the Blackhawks laps at 17 and is an early candidate for the Calder in 2015. So in other words sometimes kids don’t fall because they aren’t great prospects, they simply fall because of circumstances. Someone will, remains to be seen if it’s Ehlers.
Alex Tuch USNTDP USHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4 Wt: 213 Shot: R
Comparison: Bryan Bickell
So the West gets bigger and tougher yet again. Tuch and Travis Sanheim are two of the bigger risers this season and I love Tuch to go ahead of Brendan Perlini who has a similar skill set and size, but Tuch plays with a little bite and Perlini simply doesn’t. As I said last time, he is kind of a cross between Bickell and Blake Wheeler because he is a real good skater for a kid with this size. Who knows if the Coyotes like him or not, but I do like Tuch to go top 12.
Jared McCann Sault Ste. Marie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
I have said the Caps really need to find a legitimate 2nd line center for a few years now, yet they’ve never picked one. Well I guess we will find out if things have changed from the George McPhee era to the Brian MacLellan era (side note, when I think of MacLellan I think of Terry Crisp going ape sh*t on the bench in LA and him just standing there calm and cool as can be leaning against the bench just watching Crisp). McCann would fit so perfectly with Barry Trotz too. This is the type of center who Trotz has loved during his time as Preds coach. You damn well better play 200 feet if you’re going to be a center for Trotz and McCann does just that.
Travis Sanheim Calgary WHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’3 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Roman Josi
As I said a little earlier, Sanheim is a big riser and I believe he could go as high as 7th overall (remember, going into the 2012 draft Hampus Linholm was a riser but nobody had him ranked near 6th). All he has done all season is improve. Good size, good skater, moves the puck well, he’s what most teams covet. The Stars need to build up their blueline so this is a great fit. Remember, Jim Nill is their GM and he came from Detroit where they really coveted puck moving D-men.
Robby Fabbri Guelph OHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’10 Wt: 166 Shot: L
Comparison: Saku Koivu
Speaking of the Wings…the question is weather or not Fabbri will be able to stay at center in his career or if he’ll move to the wing. The Wings don’t have a need for yet another small, skilled player, but Fabbri has versatility and grit that they’ll covet. I think they need to take Julius Honka or Travis Sanheim if he is still on the board, but they haven’t selected a D with their top pick since Brendan Smith in 2007.
Julius Honka Swift Current WHL
Pos: D Ht: 5’11 Wt: 178 Shot: R
Comparison: Mark Streit
I think Honka is pretty close to Travis Sanheim, but as we enter draft week I would say Sanheim and Fleury are in the same category (very similar players) and Honka is just a little outside of that group. He’s a pure PP QB and while there isn’t much size, he can really mix it up. The Jackets have a nice young blueline but they could stand to add to it, they didn’t with their 3 first round picks last year.
Ivan Barbashev Moncton QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: T.J. Oshie
Bad spot now with no D-men worth taking in sight, but IF they pick I think this is one that makes a lot of sense. A player out of the Q which they love, versatile, plays with energy, he feels to me like a Flyers kind of guy. But they need to make sure they find a way to upgrade their D moving forward. Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg just are not enough. Trade down and take Roland McKeown? Trade the pick for a D prospect? Trade up? Hextall and Holmgren have to find a way.
Brendan Perlini Niagara OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk
Another team that could use a D-man, but they more so could use a guy via UFA. Dumba and Brodin are going to become good running mates for Suter. So with that being said they take Perlini who in this scenario has fallen a bit but again he’s considered pretty soft and that is a huge red flag. Unreal shot though. Great wheels, pretty good vision, as long as the organization and fans of the team who take him don’t expect him ever to be more than a finesse player they should be good.
Conner Bleackley Red Deer WHL
Pos: C/RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 192 Shot: R
Comparison: Brooks Laich
We’re talking about a kid who scouts won’t love as much as GM’s will because he doesn’t have that elite skill that scouts covet, he has all the intangibles that GM’s covet. So while who knows if he lands here, he’ll go higher than most scouts have him which is between 30-22 or so. I don’t like to call a kid a C/W but in this case most seem to think he will see time at both spots. Tampa needs D, but could use a character kid up front like this with nice size.
Kasperi Kapanen Kalpa FIN
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 172 Shot: R
Comparison: Sami Kapanen
I don’t dislike Kapanen at all, but I don’t get the hype around him that some scouts have. So I’m saying he falls and this would be a pretty big fall as some have this kid as a top 10 prospect. But having said that, what a team to fall to. The Sharks develop their kids as good as any team in the league.
John Quenneville Brandon WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: L
Comparison: Tyler Bozak
So last time I had Kamenev. I really like what I’ve been reading on Kamenev. But despite not having Quenneville in a mock draft until now, I’ve liked this kid all year as well. A friend of mine who knows his Wheat Kings hockey was telling me about how underrated he was earlier this season. The only thing here is that while I really believe the Blues need a center (even if they land Jason Spezza), Ryan MacInnis is also ranked 34th and of course Al’s kid will be heavily considered by the organization he workds for. They have the 33rd pick thanks to the David Perron deal with Edmonton. Do they wait until that pick? For either guy? I’m saying they go get their center now, and you can always shift a center to the wing if they ended up with 2 in the top 33. Might be a good move for them to trade back to make this pick and get more assets, especially since they might pay big for that front line center this summer.
Sonny Milano USNTDP USHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 183 Shot: L
Comparison: Mike Cammalleri
Get some running mates for Crosby. I don’t care if it’s Milano, or Scherbak, or Vrana, or Pastrnak, or Fiala, or any of these smaller skilled wingers, but there are a billion of them in this draft so all you have to do is take one of them. This should fit perfectly with Jim Rutherford because he’s obsessed with undersized skilled kids.
Roland McKeown Kingston OHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’1 Wt: 186 Shot: R
Comparison: Kevin Shattenkirk
Really like this pick and I know McKeown has stumbled down a lot of rankings in the 2nd half, but in a draft that doesn’t have a lot of talent on the blueline I still believe he goes a little earlier than expected. I have read too much good about this kid to think he’ll bust, a character kid who is effective at both ends.
Kevin Fiala HV71 SWE
Pos: C Ht: 5’10 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: Cliff Ronning
I would bet this won’t be their pick come selection time. So I’ll guess it’s the Canucks, although I wouldn’t deal Kesler in division. The Canucks get this pick in a Kesler deal, take Fiala who has been a riser this season but I have a tough time placing a kid who is so small. The league is moving back towards size. Maybe not the giants who were slowly patrolling around in the early 2000’s, but the smaller teams are getting killed in the West, as did most of the Eastern teams by the West this season. LA is heavy, Boston is heavy, St. Louis is heavy, Anaheim is heavy, San Jose is heavy, it’s heavy man…but heavy wins in this league. Fiala is not but we will see if I’m wrong on him. Awesome skill set and drive. Won’t lie, the comparison came to me while thinking about the Canucks, but Ronning was a really small guy that wouldn’t back down to anyone and had a very long and productive career.
Adrian Kempe Modo Jr. SWE
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Sean Bergenheim
A big winger who isn’t afraid to go to the tough area’s on the ice and play with an edge, does that sound like a Bruins type of guy? He might be Swedish, but Kempe plays a North American style and I believe would be a great fit for the B’s. The President’s trophy winners don’t have a lot of holes, so they can sit back and take the best guy on their board and Kempe fits their bill, and if their patient with Kempe he may become something special.
Brendan Lemieux Barrie OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 206 Shot: L
Comparison: Claude Lemiuex
Now, will he become the ultimate pest and clutch performer his old man was? Probably not. But he finds ways to be effective just like the old man and people forget that Claude had some toughness when things got nasty and he needed to throw down. 96 World Cup he had a great tilt with Keith Tkachuk who was far from a pushover. Anyway, the Habs could use more players like this and Claude likely still has some ties to the organization which always help in hockey. The Habs have killed it in 2 drafts thus far under Marc Bergevin.
Jakub Vrana Linkoping SWE
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: Ales Hemsky
The more I thought about this pick, the more I thought a winger might actually make sense for them. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa aren’t done, but they’re on the back 9 of their careers. The Hawks will need to supplant them probably within the next 3-4 years, which would be the right amount of time for a kid like Vrana to develop. And again, Vrana falls into that large group of smaller, highly skilled wingers who could go anywhere from 15-30 in my opinion. But having said all this, the bigger need for this organization moving forward is D and they still could use a goaltender in the system so perhaps Thatcher Demko goes here.
Vladislav Kamenev Magnitigorsk MHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 198 Shot: L
Comparison: Travis Zajac
I had them taking DeAngelo but after thinking it over I just have serious doubts that Steve Yzerman would take a kid with such questionable character. They might have to as this team simply isn’t looking good on D moving forward. But they haven’t been afraid of taking Russian players and again, I really love what I read on Kamenev. And while this isn’t the D-man the Lightning need, I don’t ever feel you can go wrong with size down the middle and smarts down the middle and Kamenev has both. They don’t end up with a D-man taking Bleackley and Kamenev, but they get bigger and pretty good defensively down the middle. They’re obviously a candidate to package up the 2 picks and move up.
Hunter Smith Oshawa OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’7 Wt: 208 Shot: R
Comparison: Brian Boyle
Man is this EVER a Kings pick! They’ve had a lot of success with kids out of the OHL (Brown, Doughty, Simmonds, Pearson, Toffoli, etc), and they love size up front and as you can read this kid has boat loads of it. Tough to compare him to anyone because I believe the only regular forward (so not John Scott) in the league who is over 6’5 is Brian Boyle. But while Boyle is a center, they do have similar games. Top 9 guy with grit, maybe develops into a top 6 guy. It is a reach I know, but he is so rare that I think he ends up going in the 1st round.
Nikita Scherbak Saskatoon WHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 172 Shot: L
Comparison: Martin Erat
I’m not getting over them being awarded this pick anytime soon and I’m guessing the league will regret doing so when the fans in Philly go ape sh*t on tonight when it’s their pick. Anyway, Scherbak is yet another guy in this draft who isn’t that big but skilled. Being a Saskatoon Blade I obviously have heard a lot of great things on this kid, didn’t see him more than about twice this season but know he’s a great playmaker. He could work on his foot speed, but nothing that isn’t fixable. I hope for the Devils sake he is a complete bust should they select him.
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