16 of the picks stay the same. 16. I shouldn’t tell you this stuff right off the top, but I just REALLY don’t see a reason to change a lot of them. And actually, I have the large majority of the changes in my top 15. It’s the bottom 15 where I feel real comfortable with what I have.
HOWEVER…Bob McKenzie’s rankings come out tonight. And as I’ve said for years, I would be a complete moron to not take what Bob has to say as the gospel. So while not much has changed, his list will have an impact and so the one I do on Friday could be and likely will be a whole lot different.
As always, a little insight to how I look at things. I’m looking at what teams have 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 4 or 5 drafts. Do they go CHL heavy? Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids? Maybe they’re head over heals for Europeans?
Remember, just because McKenzie or Redline report or ISS or CSS have one guy ranked higher than another doesn’t mean that he is the BPA for that particular team. This is why they have their own scouting staffs people. Also, I put where I personally rank these kids off to the right side of their name and team in brackets, in case you are wondering what that means. Where I have the player ranked in my top 50 rankings is in brackets next to the players name. Here we go…
Pos: C Ht: 6’2.25 Wt: 216 Shot: L
Comparison: Anze Kopitar
Nothing will change here obviously. The Leafs get the elite number 1 centre they need to build around, and I really believe Matthews and Marner are the next Toews and Kane. Marner will get a ton of love, but he’ll be able to do his thing because of Matthews. And as you can see, Matthews measured in at the combine much bigger than he was listed at all season. Now they just have to work on the blueline and maybe get a few heavier wingers, but they’re on the right path now. Hope you can stomach the Toronto media hyping them the next 2 or 3 years, and I hope Leaf fans can look past the Toronto media trying to crush them now that they’ve built them up.
Other Options: None
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3.75 Wt: 201 Shot: R
Comparison: Ilya Kovalchuk
Nothing will change here either. Laine is a sniper, but as my Kovalchuk comparsion suggests he’s more of a power forward, bomb of a one timer type sniper. Fits this team PERFECTLY, especially for a prospect like Kyle Connor. Everyone is excited about Laine and Scheifele, but Connor and Laine could be the Jets version of Backstrom and Ovechkin. Please, I’m not saying Laine is Ovy like other knobs are going overboard saying, but just that Connor is an elite playmaker and Laine will be an elite finisher.
Other Options: None
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3.5 Wt: 203 Shot: R
Comparison: Jakub Voracek
Back to Puljujarvi here, but with a catch. I 100% believe the right move for the Jackets is to stay here and take Dubois. I believe Dubois is going to be the 1st line centre this organization needs moving forward. I believe they realize they have to walk out of this draft with the best centre they can snag, but it is sounding like they think Brown is that guy, not Dubois. I completely disagree, but it’s their team. So what I THINK will happen is a trade down to 6 with the Flames. This has been floated by a few people and I believe it makes the most sense. The Jackets move back to 6 to take Brown, which I don’t like but I believe it’s better than taking Puljujarvi for them, and the Flames move up and get a big finesse winger who would fit perfectly with Sam Bennett giving them two lines nearly impossible to deal with. As for the trade, I think it could be the 6th, 35th and 126th pick, along with a roster player (who, I can see a number of possibilities) for this pick and Scott Hartnell which would help the Jackets out for next year’s expansion draft by getting a player with an NTC off the books. The Jackets owe the Canucks a 2nd for hiring Torts, and they only have five picks in this draft so they need to recoup a few picks.
Other Options: Logan Brown
Pos: LW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: L
Comparison: Corey Perry
I don’t think it’s very likely at this point that they move back. Mind you, by the week of last year’s draft I didn’t see 16 being moved for anyone and it ended up going. But I’m going to say they stay here, and while the head says Dubois, the heart says Tkachuk. Dubois is better. I really believe that. But you hear about all the intangibles with Tkachuk, the IQ, the passion, the level of grit, he brings so much of what this hockey club has lacked since 2006. The skating isn’t great, but Connor McDavid gels better with slower players anyway. He feels like the perfect fit to play with McDavid. Of course they need defencemen, we all know that. But look at the LH shot D-men in the organization under 25. This team needs RH shot guys who are established top four defencemen, not an 18 year old LH shot D-man who won’t make a major impact for 3-4 years. As I wrote a week ago, don’t confuse immediate and future needs. Tkachuk is the pick, leaving the Canucks ecstatic.
Other Options: Pierre-Luc Dubois
Pos: C Ht: 6’2.25 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: Shane Doan
The Canucks get their man. The word is that they’ve been looking at Dubois hard all year and my belief is that this is why they were willing to pay the price they did for Erik Gudbranson. They gave up the 2nd knowing the Blue Jackets owe them one down the road, and they gave up the centre (McCann) knowing they are going after Dubois at the draft. Some question if he’s a centre, but his game got better once he made the move to the middle. I really believe if they give him another year in Cape Breton where he can play centre all season, he’ll get more comfortable and he’ll be ready. Likely that he starts his career back on the wing, but I really believe they’re drafting him to be their franchise centre and I think it’ll be a home run pick for Jim Benning. If they were to go elsewhere or trade down, as I’ve said in the past, the blueline still needs a lot of work moving forward.
Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun
Pos: C Ht: 6’6.25 Wt: 220 Shot: L
Comparison: Viktor Kozlov
As I said at the 3rd pick, I believe this is going to be a deal between the Flames and the Jackets. But let’s assume they don’t find common ground on a deal, Brown would still make a ton of sense for the Flames. They don’t have much size in the top 6, they don’t have much size on the way, and as has been proved you need size down the middle to win in the West. Brown would give them that, and he has the speed to skate with this team, one of the fastest in the league. But should they go in another direction, remember that while this team has an impressive group of defencemen on the big club, they don’t have much coming. And while Brad Treliving is the GM, Brian Burke has maintained with all of his clubs that the blueline be stocked and remain stocked.
Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun
Pos: D Ht: 6’2.5 Wt: 179 Shot: L
Comparison: Jonas Brodin
You know, I’ve had Juolevi compared to Ekman-Larsson all season, but that’s really wrong. Skating ability, size, and physicality (or lack there of) yes. But offensively they aren’t the same. Juolevi, while a great passer, I feel like he’ll be more like Jonas Brodin at the next level, at least at this time. Brodin is a difficult guy for fans to “get with” so to speak. Talk about bringing nothing flashy to the table, he is definitely that guy! But this is the type of guy that Dave Tippett has really liked. He likes his hockey teams to be great positionally, non physical, and essentially play in a train track. Juolevi fits this mold. The offensive ability is there, and I expect he’ll put up better numbers than Brodin (career high of 19 points), but I don’t honestly think they’ll take him expecting this. If he does tap into it, then it’s a bonus for the Coyotes.
Other Options: Mikhail Sergachev, Jakob Chychrun
Pos: D Ht: 6’2.25 Wt: 221 Shot: L
Comparison: Dougie Hamilton
I don’t think it’s close between Juolevi and either Sergachev or Chychrun. I have Chychrun as the top D-man, but absolutely get the love for Sergachev. I have heard the Sabres really love Sergachev, and in this scenario they land him. The Sabres really need a lot of help on the blueline. They likely have a number 1 guy in Ristolainen, but after him there are a lot of question marks moving forward. Sergachev would fit perfectly with Ristolainen as a top pairing in a few years, and he really has the ability to be a stud number 1 D-man.
Other Options: Jakob Chychrun
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Claude Giroux
It’s amazing how this time around, things seem to be falling more into place the way I have it on my rankings this time around, because I’m really not looking to do that. At this point and time, I kind of feel like this is where the draft will open up, because I can make an argument for the Habs needing several different things. But the Habs really can use a centre. What worries me about Jost is that some don’t think he’ll play the middle in the pro’s. I do, because I believe he’s a kid who thrives off playing in all situations, but outside of the U18’s I haven’t seen Jost play. Those who have seem to like him on the wing. Well, the Habs don’t need ANOTHER undersized winger. The organization is loaded with them. So it’ll be up to them, and if they decide he’s a centre then I believe they’ll take him and if they decide he isn’t then I don’t think this pick will happen. Defence is very possible here, because the organization isn’t by any means stocked on D. Also Michael McLeod is probably who I would go with here, being a pure centre, having the size, and having the speed. I do believe a trade up with the Canucks here would make a whole lot of sense for both teams. Canadiens could get Dubois, Canucks could slide back and take Chychrun. But it doesn’t seem at this point like the Canucks are interested in doing that.
Other Options: Jakob Chychrun, Michael McLeod
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 200 Shot: L
Comparison: Rob Blake
Finally, my guy Chychrun goes, and to an organization that REALLY needs him. I’ve harped on it for years now, the Avs need to build up their blueline. Jeff Marek was adamant before last year’s draft that he was told the Avs were taking a D-man with the 10th pick no matter what (had the 10th pick last year as well). Then they didn’t, and Nikita Zadorov is a project. I did like taking Nicolas Meloche in the 2nd round, but it’s not enough. Chychrun might not be enough, but I’ll feel a lot better about the situation if they snag Chychrun with this pick. I believe he’s going to be the best defencemen out of the big three and make a lot of people who jumped off his bandwagon this season look pretty ridiculous.
Other Options: Jake Bean
Pos: RW Ht: 6’0.5 Wt: 178 Shot: R
Comparison: Ales Hemsky
This is another team that might want to snag a D-man. And for a few years now I’ve heard and read about how people love the talent they had on the back end and I always scratched my head. Well, Eric Gelinas was ditched, people soured on Damon Severson this season, and Adam Larsson looks as though he’ll just be ok. But the problem with the 11th pick is that the three best D-men are gone now. So I went with the winger and what I love about this idea is that neither Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac or incoming Pavel Zacha are guys who need the puck on their stick all the time. Nylander does, which is one reason I’m not as high on him as most are, but he would likely fit perfectly with this squad. Also, go on hockey’s future and look at the Devils depth chart on the right side. 1 guy, in the whole system. And that one guy is someone I’ve never heard of, nor are any of the centre’s who might move to the wing.
Other Options: Jake Bean, Clayton Keller
Pos: C Ht: 5’10 Wt: 164 Shot: L
Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau
This team under Bryan Murray invested a lot of recent 1st round picks in centres. Mika Zibanejad, Curtis Lazar, Colin White, not to mention Kyle Turris is still only 27, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is still only 23 (24 early into next season). So this club is set down the middle, and they look pretty good on D. If they were to go D, I could see Dante Fabbro or Charlie McAvoy being higher on their list than Jake Bean due to being RH shot guys. But this team could really use someone dynamic on the wing. I’ve said lots in the past that Keller probably won’t play centre in the pro’s like he has coming up. This is no issue for the Sens. They have a lot of bigger, heavier wingers and nobody with the speed and playmaking ability Keller has.
Other Options: Jake Bean, Dante Fabbro
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Kesler
I’ve had one of the dynamic wingers going in this spot for a long time. But something I should remember is who their GM is. Ron Francis is a guy who understands how valuable strength down the middle is. This is the guy who has done a great job at re-stocking their blueline, and understanding what will win in this league. Add to this, with a kid like McLeod, kids like Sebastian Aho and Aleksi Saarela to the wings when or if they make the Hurricanes. This is a kid who can do a ton of the heavy lifting for a hockey club. As for the offensive ability, scouts need to get over that. He plays a pro style game, where nobody is going to “out dangle” anyone anyway. Scouts made this same mistake with Boone Jenner, and when Kesler was drafted Bob McKenzie even said on TSN’s broadcast that day that Kesler wasn’t going to be anything more than a 3rd line centre. A player like McLeod isn’t flashy, but he’s going to be a very valuable piece moving forward, which is why I’ve liked him so much.
Other Options: Max Jones, Kieffer Bellows
Pos: D Ht: 6’0.75 Wt: 173 Shot: L
Comparison: Tyson Barrie
I’ve dismissed the notion of them taking a D-man here like everyone else seems to think they need to do. They took three in the top 52 last season. And I love the belief that this pick is going to be Charlie McAvoy because he went to BU so they would want to take him. What a great way to run an organization. That’s why the Blue Jackets “have to take Puljujarvi” is because Jarmo Kekelainen is a Fin, and why Kieffer Bellows is going to Minny because he’s from there, right? Maybe those things all happen, but I would want to run my organization properly rather than pick the fan favourite. Anyway, this is kind of a BPA situation. Bruins aren’t so stocked on D that they can’t take a kid like Bean should he fall to them. As I’ve stressed in the past, this draft lacks RH shot D-men, so perhaps Fabbro or McAvoy do in fact make sense should they go the D route. But most believe Bean is in another class above those two, and last year they went with three WHL kids after only taking two WHL kids in the previous seven drafts under Peter Chiarelli.
Other Options: Dante Fabbro, Charlie McAvoy
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: Boone Jenner
This team is in no man’s land. Hiring Bruce Boudreau was great, but he isn’t working with Ovechkin and Backstrom here. He isn’t working with Getzlaf and Perry here. Koivu and Parise aren’t those guys. I do think he’ll improve the team, but the combination of moving a ton of assets at trade deadline’s and other prospects not panning out likely means this organization is in the midst of their peak. Anyway as they currently stand they could use some more help up front in the organization so they take Jones, who is a local kid but I could care less about that. He’s a raw talent, who could be better than his teammate Matt Tkachuk down the line. Better skater, better shot, has more of a mean streak, but the hockey sense is the question mark. He’ll play, just a matter of whether he’ll be a top 9 guy or top 6.
Other Options: Julien Gauthier
Pos: D Ht: 6’0.5 Wt: 192 Shot: R
Comparison: Zach Bogosian
I prefer Fabbro to McAvoy, but there isn’t much separating those 2 prospects right now. The Wings need one of them and look at this time to be a perfect spot to snag one of them. It blows my mind how little they’ve invested in their blueline the last 4 or 5 years. This HAS to be the draft where they turn that around. I’d without a doubt take Fabbro or McAvoy here, and then I’d go with another D-man with the 46th pick.
Other Options: Charlie McAvoy
Pos: D Ht: 6’0.25 Wt: 199 Shot: R
Comparison: Keith Yandle
McAvoy won’t jump into the NHL right away. By the time he does, the Preds can ease him in. Let’s say that’s in 2019. McAvoy is a 3rd pairing guy who gets a bit of pp time. By 2020 Shea Weber will be 35, and this team doesn’t have much coming on the blueline. I’d do the Seth Jones deal again and again, but it still left a bit of a hole for the Preds down the line on D. McAvoy can fill that hole.
Other Options: Kale Clague
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 231 Shot: R
Comparison: James Neal
As you can see, I’ve switched Jones and Gauthier. But I’m not sure the Flyers would mind. Gauthier is a Q kid, and this organization in the past has loved kids out of the Q. Nine of their top two picks over 10 drafts were used on kids in the Q. So their scouts are big on the Q, and this team can use some help on the wing and some size up front. Gauthier brings both those elements. Added to that, Gauthier has a terrific shot, hence the James Neal comparison. The skating needs a bit of work, but he can still get around good enough.
Other Options: Luke Kunin
Pos: C Ht: 5’11.25 Wt: 193 Shot: R
Comparison: Derek Stepan
If you look at the Islanders organizational depth chart, they are thin on the right side. Now, some of this depends on the situation with Ryan Strome who had an awful season and currently looks like a disappointment. Even so, they could use something on the right side. I believe Kunin will end up playing the middle in the pro’s, but if they did draft him then obviously one of him or Barzal could move to the right side. You can never have too many centre’s.
Other Options: Kieffer Bellows
Pos: D Ht: 5’11.75 Wt: 184 Shot: L
Comparison: Matt Niskanen
This pick was acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade. I think this is a prime spot where a team in the bottom third of this round could move up. The Coyotes I expect will take another D here, and could easily move back as far as the end of the 1st round to get one whether it be Clague, Stanley, Johansen, Hijaek, Niemelainen, etc. They could more so use a RH shot D-man, so perhaps moving up to 16 or 17 should Fabbro and/or McAvoy still be available could be done? If they walk out of this draft with two D-men in the first round I believe Tippett and new GM John Chayka would be thrilled. Clague has shot up my rankings, and add to that there isn’t the depth of puck moving defencemen in this draft that last year’s draft had. So teams may reach a bit on them when they can, though with the playoff run Clague had I sure don’t see it as a reach, he was awesome.
Other Options: Logan Stanley, Lucas Johansen
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 197 Shot: L
Comparison: Brian Bellows
This pick was acquired from the Kings in the Andrej Sekera trade. I don’t like Bellows as much as a lot of people seem to. I see this kid as a soft, one dimensional player. His dad had a bit of that same reputation, yet he still played a lot of years in the league putting up a lot of big numbers. I could see a very similar career for Kieffer, but that is why I have him going in the 20’s, where a lot of people seem to think he’s more in the 13-17 range. If the Canes land him though, to go with McLeod and go with what they have on D, this team is looking damn good moving forward.
Other Options: Pascal Laberge, Riley Tufte
Pos: D Ht: 6’7 Wt: 224 Shot: L
Comparison: Brooks Orpik
This pick was acquired from the Blackhawks in the Andrew Ladd trade. It is insane how loaded this organization currently is. Everyone mocked Kevin Cheveldayoff for never making trades. This is the result. This organization has everything, and they’re the next big thing in the Central division, if not the league. The one thing I thought they could use is available in this spot and that is a big LH shot D-man, so Logan Stanley goes to them. Stanley can slot right behind Morrissey on the left side, Trouba, or perhaps what they trade Trouba for, and they’re simply loaded for years to come. Stanley is the type of player the Jets love. Big and tough.
Other Options: Lucas Johansen, Libor Hajek
Pos: RW Ht: 6’1 Wt: 174 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Strome
The lack of skill on this team got exposed in the playoffs. They’re built exactly how I would build a team, but you still need at least a couple of high end skill players to finish plays. Jonathan Huberdeau isn’t enough, so I like them taking Laberge in this spot. He isn’t their type of guy, but again they need to mix in some more skill to get to that next level. This organization though is very much so on the right path. It is tough to get a read on what this team will do here though. Dale Talon is still running the show, but they do seem to be much more analytics driven now. Scott Luce had a big influence on their drafts in the past, and he’s now gone.
Other Options: Riley Tufte
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Shawn Horcoff
This is a reach, so perhaps they move back. But then again they are likely going to go after more draft picks. In a Facebook chat with fans over the weekend, shortly after the Vatanen deal was done, Bob Murray said that he would like to add more draft picks to ensure the system is stocked. Still the point here is that they really need centres and while German Rubtsov has fallen to them, Bob Murray doesn’t take Russians. Howden or Pu makes the most sense to me.
Other Options: Cliff Pu
Pos: G Ht: 6’1.5 Wt: 190 Glove: L
Comparison: Tuukka Rask
I really don’t feel an urge to move off this prediction. It is tough to find many holes in their system. They don’t pick D-men high very often, yet all of a sudden thanks to Klingberg and Johns emerging and Esa Lindell developing nicely, they don’t have a need on the blueline. So I went with the organizational weakness which is in net. No, this has nothing to do with the Stars awful goaltending currently on the big club, it is horrible throughout the system. Jack Campbell is a bust, he’s done. Played this season in the ECHL. And they have nothing else, so this is something which I’m sure will be addressed at some point in this draft, so why not snag the best tendy in the draft?
Other Options: German Rubtsov
Pos: C Ht: 6’0.5 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Tomas Plekanec
They don’t have much down the middle on the team or in the system. Rubtsov falls into their lap in my opinion because of the scandal he was involved in with the Russian U18 team. Some teams take Russians off the board because of the scare they won’t come to North America for a long time, some take them off the board because historically their kids are complete crapshoots, well put on top of that a drug scandal and I can’t see how Rubtsov doesn’t fall. But we all know the Caps with Ovechkin have an ability to draw them like they did with Kuznetsov and Orlov. Rubtsov would be a steal for them.
Other Options: Lucas Johansen, Libor Hajek
Pos: LW Ht: 6’5 Wt: 211 Shot: L
Comparison: Chris Kreider
In a perfect world, they land Rubtsov. They have never hesitated to grab a Russian during the Yzerman era, and even if they are to re-sign Stamkos (which for them makes no sense), the one weaker area in the organization is down the middle. But Rubtsov just went to the Caps so I basically have them taking the best talent left on the board. If Tufte goes to a team like Tampa, who can develop kids with the best of them, and play in the East which is better suited for a kid like Tufte, this project might turn out to be a freaking steal.
Other Options: Rasmus Asplund, Carl Grundstrom
Pos: C Ht: 6’1.5 Wt: 192 Shot: R
Comparison: Frans Nielsen
I think they need to grab a centre with this pick. If you look at what is in the organization, they don’t have much down the middle. Hockey’s Future has Ivan Barbashev as their top centre in organization, and I’m not even sure he’ll end up as a centre on the big club. But even if he does, that’s it. The rest of what they have are real long shots. And if David Backes leaves, I BELIEVE that leaves them with no RH shot centre’s throughout the organization. So Pu in this spot makes a lot of sense to me.
Other Options: Carl Grundstrom, Boris Katchouk
Pos: C Ht: 5’10.25 Wt: 176 Shot: L
Comparison: Mikkael Granlund
This pick was acquired from the Sharks in the Martin Jones trade. So here is a change I’ll go with in the last half of this mock. I’ve had them taking Will Bitten here for a long time, even when I thought Bitten would be a massive reach, I just felt like he’s the type of kid they’ll love. They probably do. But I’ll change this one to Asplund. I don’t see a big difference in Asplund and Sam Steel, but I’ll say they like Asplund a little more, just because most do. They also don’t have much down the middle in the organization, so this pick is a bit about need, but it isn’t as though Asplund is a reach here. There is also a good chance that one of Howden or Pu is still around, and those are two guys I believe most teams will like better than a kid like Asplund (obviously because of the size). Bottom line though is should they go D with their top pick, I’d watch for this pick to be a centre.
Other Options: Will Bitten, Dillon Dube
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11.5 Wt: 195 Shot: L
Comparison: Patric Hornqvist
This pick was acquired from the Penguins in the Phil Kessel trade, and then has been acquired from the Leafs in the Frederik Andersen trade. The Ducks have done such a great job at keeping the system stacked, especially on D. But while they continue to churn out quality D-men, up front they are getting a little thin. I had them taking Howden at 24, for 30 I have them going to Sweden where they’ve had a lot of recent success and taking Grundstrom. He plays that in your face style that Bob Murray has always loved in his players, so I think he’s a perfect fit. But let’s be honest, at this point in the draft there are about 5-10 possibilities.
Other Options: Sam Steel, Nathan Bastian
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