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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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