So normally I don’t start doing these until February, right after the CHL top prospects game. But I wanted to do more than just a season preview this year. So, out comes a top 32 list, and out comes the first mock draft of the season. Obviously this is a ridiculous amount of time away from going down, and things will change dramatically. But I like to discuss team needs, I like to discuss where and why I believe teams will finish where they do, and really it’s just a fun exercise and hopefully an entertaining read.
At this point and time, I don’t have any more of an intro than that. I’ve worked hard on the season preview, top 32 list and now this mock draft the last week or so, and I’m spent. So let’s get to the picks.
1. Rasmus Dahlin (1) Frolunda SHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Drew Doughty
You could not ask for a better fit. The Avs aren’t just awful on the blueline, they’re specifically awful on the left side. How that’s possible, I’m not sure. One of the toughest things to acquire in the league are RH shooting D-men, yet they have two serviceable top four RH shooting D, and another stud prospect on the way. LH shooting D, I’m not going to suggest they’re a dime a dozen, but much easier to acquire. Yet the Avs have a project in Zadorov, and nothing else. So Dahlin would be absolutely perfect for this dreadful organization. The Doughty comparison is very real, this kid is that good.
2. Adam Boqvist (3) Brynas SWE-U20
Pos: RD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 170 Shot: R
Comparison: Brian Leetch
If the Wings get a high pick in this draft, and pass on one of these D-men, I might go insane. I’m not even a Wings fan, but I’ve just had it with some of the decisions that have been made by this organization the past few seasons. Boqvist would fit their needs so perfectly it’s insane. RH shooting D-man, and a Swede no less. It would be odd should D-men go with the first two picks in the draft, let alone two Swedish D-men. But it is a massive year for D, and the Swedes are leading that parade. Boqvist is already the big riser in this draft to start this season, so I expect his stock to keep on rising for the time being.
3. Andrei Svechnikov (5) Muskegon USHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Vladmir Tarasenko
What a fit from a marketing standpoint this would be for the G-Knights. I’m not near as high on Svechnikov as others are, but there is no denying that this kid is going to be fun to watch, and no team needs an entertaining product more than Vegas does. I could try to talk about their needs, but let’s be honest….at this point, they have too many to list.
4. Quinn Hughes (9) Michigan NCAA
Pos: LD Ht: 5’9 Wt: 168 Shot: L
Comparison: Sami Vatanen
Much like the Wings with Boqvist, if the Devils were to pass on one of these D-men, I might lose it. And I don’t think I’ve ever pulled for the Devils in my life!! But man, this team so badly needs a D-man ever since ridiculously giving up Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall. You don’t give up the need for the luxury!! It’s like a person in Lloyd trading their F-250 truck with 4 wheel drive for a Ferrari, when you can’t afford to buy another vehicle. What a steal of a trade, but now how are you getting to work for seven months out of the year schmuck? I could come up with analogies on how awful that trade was for Jersey all day long. Anyway, here is their chance to somewhat makeup for it. They’re loaded up front moving forward, so this top pick, especially in this draft, HAS to be a D-man and a kid like Hughes would fit well. For me, I’d probably take Wilde as it would give them a RH shot which is a bigger need for them, and I see Wilde as a kid who’ll be able to play in any situation where because of his stature I doubt Hughes can. But as long as they take a D-man…that’s all I ask. Will Butcher and Damon Severson are FAR from enough.
5. Joe Veleno (2) St. John QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Brad Richards
In this scenario, Veleno falls into their laps as the Canucks for the third year in a row would have the fifth pick. Veleno could be that big piece up front this organization really needs. I always rave about Bo Horvat, and I was really big on the Elias Pettersson pick last June. But I’m also really big on Veleno and the good news for Canucks fans is that A) they should be in range to get him this June, and B) it’s likely that more teams near the top of this draft will be looking to take the D-men, which could allow a kid like Veleno to drop if need be.
6. Brady Tkachuk (4) Boston U NCAA
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Keith Tkachuk
As I said in my write up about the Isles in the season preview, I believe they’ll hover around a playoff spot until the trade deadline, and if Garth Snow doesn’t have John Tavares locked up and they look more likely to miss than make it, then I’m sure he’ll come to his senses and make the right decision to move JT. With that will likely come a plummet in the standings, and there we have the Islanders picking 6th. I don’t know if there is a need for a kid like Tkachuk, but he kind of fits the mold of a Garth Snow and Doug Weight type player. Don’t forget, Weight played a lot with his dad throughout his career and will know Brady VERY well. Could factor into a decision should he be on the board for the Islanders.
7. Bode Wilde (8) USNTDP USHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 194 Shot: R
Comparison: Aaron Ekblad
I felt as though Jason Botterill butchered his first draft. Maybe it’s not him though, maybe it’s the scouting that’s really hurting this organization? Either way, man they HAVE to start getting after addressing their blueline. No excuse not to this season with how deep this draft is with defenders. Wilde has a great chance to be an all world defenceman. Not an area of the game he can’t excel in, just a matter of putting it all together.
8. Filip Zadina (10) Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 198 Shot: L
Comparison: Nikita Kucherov
I always talk about John Chayka being an analytics guy and wonder how much that factors into their pick. I believe with Keller and Chychrun in 2016 it did. Joseph though was interesting. I loved the pick, but didn’t think he’d be “their type of kid”. Zadina I believe would be simply because he’s a high end offensive talent. I’d watch for him to be valued a little less by NHL organizations than fans, media and independent scouts have him come June (maybe not, but let’s be honest I’m trying to forecast literally everything in this one!) but the Coyotes are a team that wouldn’t care where he plays just as long as his underlying numbers are there.
9. Ty Smith (11) Spokane WHL
Pos: LD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 176 Shot: L
Comparison: Jared Spurgeon
I was big on them stockpiling D-men in this past draft, and so that doesn’t change seeing they selected Kristian Vesalainen with the 24th pick (and the right pick, he was the clear cut best player left on the board). They took four D-men in total when all was said and done, including Dylan Samberg who I really like, especially for the Jets. But they need more sure bets and Smith would be just that. Don’t forget too, they love Western Canada, probably have picked more kids out of the West than anywhere else since they moved back to Winnipeg.
10. Oliver Wahlstrom (13) USNTDP USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shot: R
Comparison: Nick Schmaltz
They better start shoring up centre moving forward. They appear to have done a good job taking Trent Frederic (despite the skepticism I and a few others had about the pick), but they need a lot more than that. Bergeron, Krejci, and Backes are all on the back nine now of their careers. The B’s desperately need to start drafting centres who can possibly take over those roles in a few seasons. Otherwise, they could be looking at a longer rebuild than it’ll need to be. Walhstrom is about perfect for the Bruins. Highly skilled, right handed shot, good size, and a Massachusetts kid on top of all that. A few years ago I scoffed at everyone saying they would take Charlie McAvoy just because he was playing at BC. That was the only reason everyone had him going to the Bruins. Well…they were right, and it’s been a home run pick to this point! So if Wahlstrom is in their range, I like the odds that they take him.
11. Jared McIsaac (12) Halifax QMJHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: Oscar Klefbom
They used to be so predictable under Paul Holmgren. Their scouting staff was obsessed with the Q. At the 2013 draft, they needed a defenceman, so it was the easiest pick to mock outside of the top five that they would take Samuel Morin because he was the clear cut top D-man out of the Q. Well the clear cut top D-man out of the Q right now is Jared McIsaac. That easily could change, and there is a strong possibility that McIsaac rises up the boards and won’t be around for the Flyers when they pick. But I believe they’re going to look to re-stock the shelves on D at this draft now that they look pretty solid up front, and if they’re looking on D then I can see their scouts loving McIsaac.
12. Rasmus Kupari (7) Karpat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 168 Shot: R
Comparison: Matt Duchene
Not a mistake here. This pick was formerly property of the Blues, traded to the Flyers in the Brayden Schenn deal, although the Blues can defer to 2019 should it be in the top 10. Seeing how I have them in the 12 hole, it belongs to Philly. I’m higher on Kupari than most are at this point (save Craig Button who has him 5th in his rankings), and I did just say that I believe Philly will look to re-stock on D in this draft. But if they do end up with two picks, they still own the rest of there draft picks at this time as well as an extra fifth and two extra sevens, so it’s not like you have to strictly load up on D-men high in the draft just because you may want to add to your depth on the backend. As for Kupari, he’s another centre like Patrick and Rubtsov, not to mention they still have Claude Giroux. But you can never have too many centres and I strongly believe this kid is going to shoot up others rankings.
13. Ryan Merkley (19) Guelph OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 165 Shot: R
Comparison: Keith Yandle
Could Doughty be gone soon? At this point…it’s possible. I’d assume they get him locked up, but he can’t sign an extension until July 1st, and they probably won’t talk extension until sometime next spring. But even if Doughty stays, this team can stand to add to their blueline. They got some good value on some D-men in last June’s draft, but you can’t expect kids like Markus Phillips and Mikey Anderson to turn into studs. Not that Merkley is a lock to be one by any means, but he has a ton of upside and the Kings can really develop their kids. Also, if Doughty were to stick around, what a perfect mentor for Merkley being a former Storm defenceman himself. Finally, I harped on it all last season and I’ll do it again this season….the Kings LOVE them some OHL! Four more kids out of the OHL last June, at this point I just have a tough time imagining them going anywhere other than with an OHL defenceman in the first round.
14. Jet Woo (18) Moose Jaw WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 205 Shot: R
Comparison: Travis Hamonic
They addressed this in the draft last June by taking RH shooting D with their top two picks. But I feel as though it’s such a vital piece to a teams puzzle that you need to ensure that hole is filled. You can always trade D-men, especially RH shooting D-men. I’m not saying they MUST take one in the first round this season, but I like the fit of Woo should they draft in this range.
15. Joel Farabee (17) USNTDP USHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 152 Shot: L
Comparison: David Pastrnak
They haven’t taken a winger in the first round since the 2011 draft when they took two. But that’s actually why I believe a winger is now feasible in the first round. I’d probably look at a D-man first if I were Pierre Dorian, but in this scenario and at this time I’m not seeing a defenceman available. But a kid like Farabee could be a perfect fit for guys like Colin White and Logan Brown moving forward. Centres who are really good, but maybe aren’t centres who’ll elevate their wingers much.
16. Evan Bouchard (20) London OHL
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: R
Comparison: Jeff Petry
Here will be an interesting strategy to follow in the 2018 draft. Do you look to scoop up defencemen early because there are so many good ones? Or do you go after a centre or winger early on because the draft is so flush with D-men and you can load up on them in rounds 2-7? The Rangers are a team that may face this dilemma, mainly because their system is still so weak, but they did get a couple of good additions in June with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. So maybe they feel good about how they are up front moving forward (no pun intended)? Bouchard is just a safe and solid pick. Upside is questionable, but at minimum he should play in the league for a long time.
17. Barrett Hayton (12) S.S. Marie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 186 Shot: L
Comparison: Bo Horvat
Yet another team that will likely look to re-stock the cupboard on the blueline in their organization, but in this scenario, looking at things at this time, no way Hayton can fall any further. Plus, the Sharks have historically loved their OHL kids.
18. Jacob Olafsson (21) Timra SHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: David Krejci
Tough to say where the Caps will want to go in this draft. They have kept the shelves pretty well stocked on defence over the years, and haven’t been shy to simply go out and get the top offensive talent. And I for one have bitched a lot in recent years about this team failing to address the problem I believe they have down the middle. Olafsson would do just that. Yes, they have some talented guys at centre on the team, but when you have to see the Pens five times a season and likely in the playoffs also, you need to be elite in the middle, not just solid.
19. Jack McBain (6) Toronto OJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 196 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Johansen
I can’t see this happening, because as you may have read or can see now, I’m sky high on McBain. But it’s October, and I’ve never done a mock this early, so I don’t know if I should predict McBain ends up where I got him, or mock as if the draft was happening tomorrow. I obviously picked the latter since McBain is here. I’m guessing you’ll know the story here. The Jackets are really desperate to find a number one centre, and McBain, especially this late in the draft, would be the closest thing to it. But again, I really believe McBain is going to be a top ten pick come June.
20. Ryan McLeod (15) Mississauga OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Sean Monahan
The Ducks have needed some help at centre in the system for a while. Rakell can play the middle, but is probably better suited to the wing. Sam Steel looks like a stud, but I don’t believe they should put all their eggs in that basket. Getzlaf and Kesler are on the back nine of their careers and they really don’t have any other needs, so I’d look centre in this first round and Ryan McLeod would be a very safe pick. Perhaps getting underrated much like his brother did in 2016.
21. Isac Lundestrom (22) Lulea SHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 178 Shot: L
Comparison: Sam Reinhart
Lundestrom would be a terrific fit for the Preds as of writing this. The team doesn’t have any glaring holes either on the big club or in the system. David Poile has maybe been the best GM in the league over the last three years. Everything he has done has seemingly been a home run. Getting a kid like Lundestrom who can pretty much play anywhere in your lineup would be another one of those.
22. Benoit-Olivier Groulx (16) Halifax QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 192 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly
This pick formerly belonged to the Calgary Flames, going to the Islanders in the Travis Hamonic deal. I really believe the Islanders are going to be rebuilding come this draft, and they already took Tkachuk in this scenario, so naturally they have to take a defenceman here right? Well…remember what I said earlier about how teams may hold off on D with this draft being so flush with them. Plus, Garth Snow has shown he doesn’t like to take D-men in the first round. Two through seven, he’ll load up, but early on he looks for guys up front. Groulx won’t replace Tavares by ANY means! But, he along with Barzal and perhaps a solid veteran (Nugent-Hopkins?), it could be very solid down the line and mitigate how long it may take them to get back to the playoffs.
23. Jesperi Kotaniemi (23) Assat Liiga
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: L
Comparison: Victor Rask
Dale Tallon has loved building down the middle, and loved building with size since taking over as Panthers GM (the first time) in 2010. And it’s worked. I feel like most people have slept on the Panthers to rebound this season after and injury plagued season in part because they’re so big and skilled down the middle. Kotaniemi would only add to that, plus in this scenario he has fallen a bit if you go by most rankings (obviously not by mine).
24. Rasmus Sandin (NR) Rogle SWE-J20
Pos: LD Ht: 5’11 Wt: 183 Shot: L
Comparison: Dimtry Orlov
I REALLY doubt the Habs are going to own this pick come draft day. But if they do, then I believe the aim will be to replace the hole in the system left behind by the Mikhail Sergachev trade. Sandin at this time falls into a pretty large group of blueliners who could end up going late in the first round. Solid two way kid who has real good speed north/south, just needs to improve his edge work to go to the next level.
Pos: RD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 176 Shot: R
Comparison: Alec Martinez
They by no means have an aging blueline. After Suter, who really isn’t that old himself, they have guys like Dumba, Brodin and Mike Reilly all under 25. But in the system, it gets pretty bare, and if I’m a GM I’m not leaving positions which are tough to fill like centre and defence bare in the system. Bouchard has some filling out to do, but definitely has the talent to be a solid top four D-man.
26. Alexander Khovanov (27) Moncton QMJHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Man, they love centres! And good on them, that’s my way to build a hockey team up front. Wingers be damned, centres can do it all…that’s why they play the middle. Jim Nill has also shown he’s not afraid to take a Russian kid after selecting Val Nichushkin and Denis Gurianov in the 13 and 15 first rounds respectively. Khovanov is the type of Russian kid I really have nothing against as he isn’t the “unstoppable” winger, just a solid, intelligent, two way centre.
27. Calen Addison (30) Lethbridge WHL
Pos: RD Ht: 5’10 Wt: 179 Shot: R
Comparison: Alex Goligoski
You know who Alex Goligoski was drafted by? The Pittsburgh Penguins. If I’m Jim Rutherford, I just look to take the best talent on the board at this point. Crosby is 30, Malkin is 31, so the objective here is just to get them as much help as you possibly can. Addison would fit the Pens perfectly being a highly active and great skating defenceman.
28. Ty Dellandrea (24) Flint OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 181 Shot: R
Comparison: Alexander Wennberg
I’m a fan of Dellandrea, and feel he’s getting a bit underrated by some in the scouting community due to a lack of flash. But he’d be a perfect fit for what the Oilers need. I harped on this for a lot of last season, and throughout the draft. This team DESPERATELY needs some centres in the system! I can’t see the Oilers owning this pick by the time the draft rolls around, but whether they do or don’t this team must address this gaping hole in this draft. They’ve done a terrific job drafting since Peter Chiarelli took over. Get some centres because there is going to be one, and maybe two centre spots on this team that’ll need to be filled by cheap contracts in a few seasons.
29. Milos Roman (29) Vancouver WHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 194 Shot: L
Comparison: Bryan Little
Not a lot of mystery to this pick. Ron Francis wasn’t messing around in the 2017 draft going after a boat load of centres in hopes of addressing that hole. I believe he’ll look to continue to load up with centres in this draft until it becomes a strength of the team, just like he did with the defence, and look how deep they are on defence now. Roman is stocky and can really fly. An added bonus is the time he’s spent playing with Canes 2017 first round pick Martin Necas.
30. Anderson McDonald (28) Sherbrooke QMJHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 203 Shot: L
Comparison: James Neal
The Lightning have loved taking kids out of the Q under Steve Yzerman. I believe they’ve taken more kids out of the OHL, but they’ve had a big presence in the Q as well. McDonald is a big forward, and a skilled forward. He’s not a power forward though. If you know that and are good with that, then he’ll be high on a teams list. I believe he fits the Bolts great, and they could use a little more size up front, but size that can skate and contribute offensively.
31. Akil Thomas (26) Niagara OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’11 Wt: 165 Shot: R
Comparison: Vincent Trocheck
In this scenario, which in no way will happen come June, I believe the Hawks will be looking to go back to taking the top offensive talent on the board. Last year, they did a great job adding two RH shooting D-men in Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell with their top two picks. Thomas would fit the Hawks perfectly.
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