NHL Mock Draft 1.0: Does Bruins old hand still have touch?
Does Bruins' old hand still have touch?
With the Stanley Cup playoffs winding to a close and the Bruins fully in offseason mode, the NHL scouting combine and the draft become the next big-ticket items on the NHL agenda. The Bruins will be picking in the middle of the first round again, but this will be the first draft in the past handful of years without Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky, who did a really nice job helping the Black and Gold stockpile prospects the past three years with a treasure trove of first- and second-round picks.Will the Bruins have the same kind of success at this draft with assistant GM Scott Bradley again running it as he did back in the days when Boston drafted David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Phil Kessel? Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s the first edition of a mock draft for the players who will hear their names called June 23 in Chicago:
1. New Jersey Devils
Nolan Patrick, center (Brandon Wheat Kings): The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder has drawn comparisons to two-way pivots like Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron and certainly looks the part of a franchise center in a draft class that’s not overflowing with explosive, surefire talent. But the injury bug limited him to just 33 games where he posted 46 points this season and is a bit of a red flag for such a heavy investment from the Devils. This would be the by-the-book pick for a New Jersey team that needs plenty of high-end forwards for their NHL roster.
2. Philadelphia Flyers
Nico Hischier, center/right wing (Halifax Mooseheads): The Swiss forward exploded for Halifax in his first North American season this year with 38 goals and 86 points in 58 games. When you add those numbers to seven goals and 15 points in 11 games at the World Junior level for Team Switzerland, there’s clearly an explosive offense element to his game that fits right into the Flyers’ style. But Hischier is going to need to add some bulk to his 6-foot-1, 176-pound frame if he wants to make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later as a high-end lottery pick.
3. Dallas Stars
Miro Heiskanen, defenseman (Liga): It’s pretty clear the Stars need help defensively. It’s why they made the change behind the bench to go with the structured Ken Hitchcock, and it’s the reason behind the selection of the best overall defenseman in the draft class in the Finnish D-man. The 6-foot, 170-pounder was named the best defenseman at the Under-18 World Championships with two goals and 12 points in seven games, and more than held his own in the Finnish Elite League last season as well. A strong, no-frills, two-way D-man to be sure, but that’s exactly the kind of player Dallas needs to round out a top-heavy roster with offensive players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Casey Mittelstadt, center (Eden Prairie, Minn.): The Minnesota high school center dominated at the high school level with 21 goals and 64 points in 25 games, and then continued to light it up with Green Bay in the USHL. He’s got good size at 6-foot, 201-pounds and is the kind of playmaking center that Colorado could use if they’re ready to move on from Matt Duchene at the NHL level. Truth be told, however, the Avalanche in any number of different directions with their pick given how dreadful the NHL roster was last season and the house-cleaning trades that may be coming this summer.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Gabriel Vilardi, center (Windsor Spitfires): If we know anything about where Vancouver is headed here, it’s that Canucks GM Jim Benning likes size and strength up front at his forward positions. Vilardi fits the bill at 6-foot-3, 201-pounds with a willingness to make plays around the net and posted 61 points in 49 games last season. Vancouver missed out on their guy in Pierre-Luc Dubois last season, so history won’t repeat itself this season when they step to the podium with the No. 5 overall pick.
6. Vegas Golden Knights
Owen Tippett, right wing (Mississauga Steelheads): The explosive Tippett scored 44 goals in 60 games in the OH last season, and boasts good skating speed and an NHL-caliber finishing shot that draws favorable comparisons to a player like Phil Kessel. He may not be the franchise player that Vegas really needs in building up their expansion roster from scratch, but he brings explosive scoring in a draft class that doesn’t seem to be overflowing with that quality this year. That should count for something in a spot where they’ll get a player that can help them for years to come.
7. Arizona Coyotes
Michael Rasmussen, center (Tri-City Americans): The 6-foot-6, 215-pound center brings the kind of size that you can’t teach and had 32 goals and 55 points in 50 WHL games last season. The Coyotes have their explosive undersized playmaker for the next decade in Clayton Keller drafted last June, and Rasmussen gives them a totally different look in the middle in a conference where there are plenty of big, strong franchise centers to line up against every night.
8. Buffalo Sabres
Timothy Liljigren, defenseman (Rogle BK): He's a solid, two-way defender that’s dropped on some draft boards after a tough season marked by injuries and underperformance. This feels like the right spot with a Buffalo team that badly needs defensive help. On the other hand, just five points in 19 games last season could be the kind of thing that could cause him to fall just as Jakob Chychrun did a year ago before dropping directly into the laps of the Arizona Coyotes.
9. Detroit Red Wings
Cody Glass, center (Portland Winterhawks): Glass finished with 94 points in 69 games for Portland, and the 6-foot-2, 178-pounder has speed and smarts in good amounts to go with the 32 goals he scored to show some impressive finishing ability. The Red Wings could use somebody else under 25 years old with the kind of high-end ability that Dylan Larkin brings to the table, and Glass would certainly be that kind of guy.
10. Florida Panthers
Cale Makar (Brooks): A 5-foot-10, 180-pound defenseman probably wouldn’t have ever been selected this high five or 10 years ago, but the success of undersized players such as Torey Krug makes this possible. The UMass-bound is mobile, smart and finished with 24 goals and 75 points in 54 games last season as the kind of high-event player that the Panthers covet.
11. Los Angeles Kings
Klim Kostin, right wing (Moscow Dynamo): The 6-foot-3 winger suffered a shoulder injury that ended his KHL season, and the threat of any Russian player choosing the KHL over the NHL is always a consideration. But based on the talent, he’s a strong, puck-possession winger and his ranking as the top European skater in his draft class according to NHL.com, Kostin shouldn’t last much beyond the top-10. A puck-possession team like the Kings makes all kinds of sense for him.
12. Carolina Hurricanes
Elias Pettersson, center (Timra): The 6-foot-1 center is a playmaking pivot and the Hurricanes are a team that’s sorely in need of more high-end talent up front with an impressive array of D-men. Pettersson finished with 41 points in 43 games last season and should be headed to the Swedish Elite League next season. He won’t make an immediate impact in Carolina, but you won’t find many players that will at this point in the first round of the draft.
13. Winnipeg Jets
Nick Suzuki, center/right wing (Owen Sound Attack): Suzuki finished with 45 goals and 96 points in the WHL last season, but he’s ranked this high because he’s a speedy, two-way threat that’s made his mark as a hustling player at both ends of the ice. He could be a nice fit for a Winnipeg team that’s already got plenty of pieces in place and will need to continue his no fear style of play at 5-foot-11, 183-pounds in a league where undersized players are becoming more of the norm.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin Necas, center (Brno): The 6-foot, 167-pound center is a scrappy, smart playmaker out of the Czech Republic that will still need some time to develop but should get that kind of time with a Lightning team that’s got a roster chock full of talent. The Bolts may lose an explosive forward or two this summer, however, so drafting potential down-the-line replacements in guys like Necas is a necessity for Steve Yzerman and Co. He certainly opened eyes at the World Junior tourney and is clearly the best Czech import in the draft.
15. New York Islanders
Eeli Tolvanen, left wing (Sioux City Musketeers): He scored 30 goals in 52 USHL games last season with one of the best shots in the draft class and would give John Tavares the kind of finishing winger he richly deserves on his line. The Finnish-born Tolvanen is bound for Boston College next season where he’ll get a chance to feature high-end scoring ability and develop for whatever team takes him in the middle of the first round.
16. Calgary Flames
Juuso Valimaki, defenseman (Tri-City Americans): The Finnish defenseman finished with 29 goals and 71 points for Tri-City last season and has the kind of 6-foot-2, 204-pound size that NHL scouts covet. He has mobility and offensive upside in a league that requires those qualities from their back-end players and would make a nice addition to an extremely talented group of D-men in Calgary.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs
Callan Foote, defenseman (Kelowna Rockets): The son of Adam Foote should be a natural fit for the Maple Leafs because of his legacy, and because the Leafs could use another good player on the back end. Foote is the kind of smart, two-way defender that could have a long career in the NHL and his bloodlines will make him a low-risk pick for whichever team goes after him. Foote finished with five goals and 56 assists in 71 games for Kelowna this season.
18. Boston Bruins
Kristian Vesalainen, left wing (Frolunda): The 6-foot-3 winger opened eyes in the World Under-18’s with six goals and 13 points for a Finland team that wasn’t tremendously strong and has the kind of size and finishing ability that the Bruins could sorely use on the wing. He’s committed to play for HPK in the Finnish Elite League next season but could develop quickly given his size and skill set.
19. San Jose Sharks
Shane Bowers, center (Waterloo Hawks): A good, two-way center that scored 22 goals for Waterloo this season and is committed to the Boston University hockey factory beginning next season. This feels like the kind of pick that the Sharks would make as they’re turning over their roster a bit the next couple of seasons.
20. St. Louis Blues
Maxime Comtois, left wing (Victoriaville): A big 6-foot-2 winger that’s scored in the Q and plays even bigger than his listed size would seem like a natural for a small-ish Blues group up front, and even more so given that Comtois’ stock has fallen from being a top-10 player. This is the kind of player they lost in David Backes, a guy willing to battle along the walls for puck possession and playing with an edge they’ve always appreciated in St. Louis.
21. New York Rangers
Ryan Poehling, center (St. Cloud State): A 6-foot-3, 207-pound center that finished up a solid freshman season at St. Cloud, and could be a really strong addition to the Blueshirts a year or two down the line. They need to keep getting younger on all corners of the roster and this would be a good step in the right direction now that they finally have a first round pick again.
22. Edmonton Oilers
Conor Timmins, defenseman (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds): Timmins went from 13 points for the Soo two years ago to 60 points in 67 games last season as a puck-moving defenseman capable of putting a charge in the offense. That is right up the alley of the Oilers now that they’ve pieced together some really big, strong players on the back end to fortify things.
23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)
Nikita Popagaev, left wing (Prince George): The 6-foot-5 winger scored 29 goals last season and brings more size and strength on the wing that the Coyotes should be looking for as a puck-possession team. Then the Coyotes can send a bouquet of flowers to the Minnesota Wild for sending this pick in exchange for Martin Hanzal in a futile deal at the deadline.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
Lias Andersson, center (HV71): Andersson finished as the No. 3 European skater in NHL.com’s draft rankings and packs plenty of punch in a stocky 5-foot-11, 198-pound frame. His skating isn’t where it needs to be at this point, but he plays with a three-zone tenacity and maximum effort style that tells you he’s going to work to be up to snuff for NHL levels. He’s very strong on the puck and tenacious, and that’s exactly the kind of player that Columbus covets.
25. Montreal Canadiens
Kailer Yamamoto, right wing (Spokane Indians): The 5-foot-8 dynamo would fill a need that the Habs seemingly always have for undersized skill players. Yamamoto has the numbers to back it up. He put up 42 goals and 99 points in the Dub last season and feels like the right kind of player to take a chance on in the first round in today’s NHL that favors speed and skill over everything else.
26. Chicago Blackhawks
Kole Lind, center (Kelowna Rockets): Lind had 30 goals and 87 points for the Rockets this season and is another high-scoring, up-tempo kind of player that Chicago hopes can hang with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Artemi Panarin. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger before he might be pushing for time in the Windy City.
27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington)
Nicolas Hague, defenseman (Mississauga Steelheads): Hague posted 46 points in 65 games for the Steelheads, and eventually helps replace the puck-moving, offensive defenseman void created when they traded Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington for this first-rounder. Hague doesn’t have quite that high-end ceiling, but you can never have enough talented young D-men.
28. Ottawa Senators
Jason Robertson, left wing (Kingston Frontenacs): Robertson posted 42 goals this season for Kingston and has good size to go along with the offensive instincts. The Senators could go anywhere with this pick given that they have decent, but not spectacular, depth at all their positions, and Robertson feels like a high-upside attempt at the end of the first round. That’s the way it should be done.
29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)
Isaac Ratcliffe, left wing (Guelph Storm): Ratcliffe posted 28 goals and 54 points in 67 games in the OHL this season and fits the profile for the Stars after they went defense earlier in the first round. The Stars need a lot of help, so anything is possible here…even a goaltender. But a big forward with a bit of a mean streak in Ratcliffe could be just what this team needs.
30. Nashville Predators (still to be officially determined)
Henri Jokaharju, defenseman (Portland Winterhawks): The Preds continue to keep their back end strong by nabbing a D-man that posted 48 points in 71 games last season for the Winterhawks. It continues their long tradition of strong blue-line prospects.
31. Pittsburgh Penguins (still to be officially determined)
Pierre-Olivier Joseph, defenseman (Charlottetown): The defenseman is raw and talented with plenty of upside and the Penguins can afford to take a chance on that kind of player with a group that’s gone to the Stanley Cup Final two years in a row.