The NHL Draft goes on Friday and the big question is: Who will go first?
I think that Patrick is ever-so-slightly better but Ray Shero seems to like Hischier a bit more. Whoever the Devils don't take, the Flyers will be right there to snatch the other player at number 2.
A big thank you to Joey Alfieri for his help with the profiles.
1. New Jersey –Nico Hischier (C)
Hischier isn’t as big as fellow top draft prospect Nolan Patrick, but he’s sure able to produce offensively. There was a little buzz surrounding Hischier coming into the 2016-17 junior season, but he wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as Patrick until he exploded onto the scene at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, where he was dynamic for Switzerland. The 18-year-old posted seven points in five games on a mediocre Swiss team. When he was growing up, Hischier’s favorite player was former Red Wings superstar Pavel Datsyuk, and you can certainly see the influence the Russian has had on the youngster. Hischier’s skill level, puck handling ability and vision are all great. In his first season in North America, he put up 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. He has the potential to develop into a top point producer at the next level.
2. Philadelphia – Nolan Patrick (C)
Patrick was a consensus top two pick leading up to the draft and it’s easy to see why. The WHL star is a 6-foot-2, 198 pound center with high-end offensive ability. He’s averaged more than a point-per-game in in each of his three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The 18-year-old put up an outstanding 102 points in 72 games during the 2015-16 season (he was 17 at the time). The knock on Patrick coming into the draft, is that he missed so much time last year. He sat out 35 games because of an upper-body injury during Brandon’s regular season and all four games of the playoffs because of a lower-body ailment. In 33 games with Brandon, he scored 20 goals and 46 points. Even though he’s dealt with his fair share of injuries, his size, skill and vision make him an incredible young talent. Patrick has the potential to develop into a number one center in the near future.
3. Dallas – Miro Heiskanen (D)
Many scouts believe Heiskanen is the best defenseman of the 2017 draft class and it’s easy to see why. Heiskanen excels at a lot of the things teams want from their top defenseman in today’s NHL. The 17-year-old is a very good skater, he’s fully capable of carrying the puck up the ice and he’s also smart enough to be an effective player in his own end. Playing in his first professional season in Finland, Heiskanen scored five goals and five assists, while averaging almost 19 minutes of ice time in 37 games, which is pretty impressive for a teenage blue liner. He was also incredible for Finland during their silver medal run at the 2017 under-18 World Hockey Championship, as he recorded two goals and 10 assists in seven games. He has the potential to be a number one defenseman in the NHL.
4. Colorado – Gabriel Vilardi (C)
Vilardi was valuable contributor for the Windsor Spitfires team that won the 2017 Memorial Cup. The 17-year-old picked up seven assists during the tournament. He also recorded 29 goals and 61 points in 49 games during the regular season and six points in seven contests during the OHL playoffs. Vilardi has the size and skill that all NHL teams crave. It’s incredible to think that at his age he’s already 6-foot-3, 201 pounds. Although he uses his size well, some believe he still needs to work on his skating before he can make a dent at the NHL level. If everything comes together, Vilardi has the potential to develop into one of those rare power centers at the next level.
5. Vancouver – Cale Makar (D)
Makar is an incredibly skilled blue liner with plenty of offensive and skating ability. The 18-year-old had a superb year with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits, where he scored 24 goals and 75 points in 54 games. Obviously, the level of competition in the AJHL isn’t as high as it is in junior hockey, but those are tough stats to ignore. He’ll play for the University of UMass-Amherst in 2017-18. He’s a couple of years away from being a contributor at the NHL level.
6. Vegas – Owen Tippett (RW)
Many scouts have labeled Tippett as the best pure goal scorer in the 2017 draft class. After scoring 15 goals in 48 games during his first junior season with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads in 2015-16, he exploded for 44 goals in 60 contests last season. He added 10 goals and nine assists in 20 playoff games with the Steelheads this spring. On top of being a sniper, Tippett is also a very good skater, which will help him create even more offense at the next level. His play without the puck needs work, but he can develop that over time.
7. Arizona – Cody Glass (C)
Glass had a fantastic year with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. After scoring 27 points in 65 games last season, the 18-year-old put up 32 goals and 94 points in 69 contests this year. He added nine points in 11 playoff games with the ‘Hawks and three points in three games with Canada at the 2017 under-18 World Hockey Championship. The 6-foot-2, 180 pounder is an incredible playmaker with great hands, terrific vision and sound hockey IQ. He’s likely a year or two away from being a full-time NHLer, but when he arrives, there’s a good chance he’ll be an impact player.
8. Buffalo – Michael Rasmussen (C)
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds, Rasmussen is clearly one of the biggest players available in the draft. Not only is he huge, but the 18-year-old can also play the game at a high level. In his second full WHL season with the Tri-City Americans, Rasmussen put up 32 goals, 55 points and 50 penalty minutes in 50 games. He also moves pretty well for a player of his size. As good as he is, Rasmussen needs to find a way to be a more consistent with his effort on a game-in, game-out basis. Like most players with his combination of age and size, Rasmussen will need some time to develop into an NHLer.
9. Detroit- Casey Mittelstadt (C)
Mittelstadt is an incredibly gifted offensive center that has all the tools to creative in the opponent’s zone. He’s fast, he’s skilled and his playmaking ability is off the charts. The 18-year-old had 23 goals and 30 points in 24 games with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. That was good enough to lead the league with 1.25 points-per-game. The one thing that’s concerning about his point total, is that 18 of the 30 points were scored on the power play, which is pretty high. Still, there’s no denying Mittelstadt’s ability. He is likely a couple of years away from reaching the NHL. He’ll spend next season in the NCAA with University of Minnesota.
10. Florida – Kristian Vesalainen (LW)
Vesalainen split last season with Frolunda in the Swedish League and HPK in the Finnish League. His offensive totals were modest with both clubs (six points in 26 games in Sweden, one goal in nine games in Finland), but he opened everyone’s eyes with his performance at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship. The 18-year-old was named the MVP of the tournament, as he posted six goals and seven assists in 13 games. He’ll have to prove that he can contribute offensively against older competition, but he’s on the right track. The fact that he already has NHL-ready size (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) is a bonus.
11. Los Angeles – Elias Pettersson (C/LW)
Pettersson is a highly-gifted forward that racked up 19 goals and 40 points in 43 games in Sweden’s second division last season. He had a quiet World Junior Hockey Championship, as he posted just one assists in seven games, but that’s not uncommon for a player who was 17 years old at the time. Pettersson has some size (listed at 6-foot-2), but he’s also very light (165 pounds). As skilled as he might be, he’ll need to bulk up before becoming a full-time NHLer.
12. Carolina– Martin Necas (C)
The Czech forward is a great skater with solid vision and good offensive instincts. He racked up seven goals and eight assists in 41 games with Brno Kometa in the Czech League. That’s a respectable total considering he started the year as a 17-year-old in a league with a good level of competition. Necas added three points in five games at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship and three assists in five games at the Under-18 World Hockey Championship. He’ll either spend another year over in Europe or he’ll make his way to the CHL. Regardless of his decision, he’s still a couple of years away from becoming a regular in the NHL.
13. Vegas (via Winnipeg) - Nick Suzuki (C)
Suzuki is one of the most gifted offensive players available in the entire draft. After scoring 20 goals in his rookie season with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, the 17-year-old put up with 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games. The issue scouts have with his game is that he just doesn’t bring any kind of physical presence to the table. Suzuki has been able to get away with his lack of physicality at the OHL level, but he’ll need to find a way to initiate contact if he’s going to be successful at beyond that.
14. Tampa Bay – Urho Vaakanainen (D)
Vaakanainen spent the majority of last season in Finland’s top league with Jyp HT Jyvaskyla, where he put up two goals and four assists in six games. The 18-year-old then went to the under-18 World Hockey Championship. He was a big part of Finland’s silver-medal winning club, as he posted three goals and three assists in five tournament games. Vaakanainen is a solid all-around blue liner with a great shot and the ability to play in his own end. Turnovers are sometimes a problem with him, but it’s a part of his game he can iron out down the road.
15. Vegas (via New York Islanders) - Erik Brannstrom (D)
Despite being on the small side (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) Brannstrom continues to turn heads with his ability to create offense from the blue line. Last season, he picked up an incredible nine goals and 23 points in 19 games with HV71’s junior team. The fact that he won’t turn 18 until September makes last year’s performance even more impressive. Brannstrom also picked up three assists in three games at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship and five points in seven games at the under-18 World Championship. He does lack the ideal size to compete with opposing forwards in his own end, but if he continues to contribute offensively like he has been, he’ll be just fine.
16. Calgary – Juuso Valimaki (D)
Valimaki often draws comparisons to fellow Finnish blue liner Olli Juolevi, who was drafted fifth overall by the Canucks last year. The 18-year-old has very good offensive instincts, but he’s also a capable player in his own end. Valimaki is blessed with good size (6-foot-2, 201 pounds), which definitely doesn’t hurt. Valimaki put up some impressive numbers in his second season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, as he had 19 goals and 61 points in 60 games. He also notched two goals and six penalty minutes in six games with Finland at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship.
17. Toronto – Timothy Liljegren (D)
Prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, many expected Liljegren to be a top five pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, but his stock seemed to have dropped a bit after he missed the first two months of the Swedish Hockey League season because of mononucleosis. It’s impossible to ignore Liljegren’s offensive upside and skating ability, but the 18-year-old’s likely a few years away from contributing at the NHL level. He’s already confirmed that he’ll be spending at least one more season over in Sweden.
18. Boston – Robert Thomas (C)
Thomas is the definition of a two-way center. The 17-year-old (he turns 18 on July 2nd) posted 16 goals and 50 assists in 66 games with the OHL’s London Knights last season, but there’s still some question marks surrounding his offensive upside. As his numbers would indicate, he’s a pass-first center with good hands and vision. Thomas is great in the faceoff circle and terrific in his own end, which is definitely the plus part of his game. As good as he is defensively, he’ll likely need some more time in the junior hockey ranks to develop his offensive game.
19. San Jose – Eeli Tolvanen (RW)
After growing up playing hockey in Finland, Tolvanen came to North America to play in the USHL in 2015-16. He put up a respectable 38 points in 49 games as a 16-year-old with the Sioux City Musketeers, but last season, he stepped up his production by collecting 54 points in 52 USHL contests. Tolvanen isn’t the biggest prospect in the draft (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), but he doesn’t necessarily play a small game. The 18-year-old has very good speed and a quality shot that he uses a lot (he averaged 4.73 shots-per-game last season, which was tops in the USHL). He’s heading to Boston College next season.
20. St. Louis – Klim Kostin (C)
Kostin is one of the riskier top prospects in this draft. The 18-year-old has good size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and skill, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury over in Russia last year and he hasn’t played since. On top of that, whenever he has played in the professional ranks in his country, he hasn’t really been productive. Kostin had just one goal in nine games in Russia’s second division in 2016-17 and no points and 27 penalty minutes in eight games in the KHL. Kostin wore the “C” for his country during the Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he posted seven points in five games. He may be a boom-or-bust prospect, but if he pans out, he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
21. New York Rangers – Lias Andersson (C)
The 18-year-old had an impressive run in Sweden’s top league last season, as he posted nine goals and 19 points in 42 games while playing against older competition. Andersson added five points in 16 games during HV71’s championship run. He’s a very smart and capable two-way player that has good offensive instincts and the smarts to be a plus-player in his own end. Andersson doesn’t necessarily own the highest offensive ceiling, but scouts believe he has enough ability to become a second-liner. His father, Niklas, played 164 games in the NHL, while his uncle, Mikael, played 15 seasons.
22. Edmonton – Nicolas Hague (D)
Hague is one of the few defensemen in the draft that has size and offensive upside. The 18-year-old is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and as you’d expect, he comes with a big, booming shot from the point. Hague’s shot has allowed him to score 14 and 18 goals in his first two junior seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads. Last season he accumulated 46 points and 107 penalty minutes in 65 games. The downside to being so big is that he doesn’t have the quickest feet out on the ice, but there’s still plenty of positives in his game to make him an intriguing prospect.
23. Arizona (via Minnesota) - Isaac Ratcliffe (LW)
Ratcliffe is a physical specimen. Listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Ratcliffe has ideal size to be an effective power forward at the next level. Not only is the 18-year-old huge, he also has the necessary skating ability and offensive talent to develop into the kind of forward every NHL team desires. Ratcliffe didn’t produce the same numbers as other top junior prospects in this draft (28 goals and 54 points in 67 games), but none of his Guelph teammates scored more goals and only one other player had more points. Like most power-forward prospects, Ratcliffe still needs to fill out his large frame. He has the potential to develop into a top-six forward at the next level, but he’ll need a little time to reach his ceiling.
24. Winnipeg (via Columbus and Vegas) - Cal Foote (D)
Foote is the son of former Colorado Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, but their styles couldn’t be more different. Adam was more of a defense-first, bruising defenseman, while Cal is more of a puck-mover with plenty of offensive upside. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has a very good shot and great hockey sense, but he could improve his skating and overall physical play. Foote is a solid two-way defenseman that may people have referred to as a “safe” pick. He should develop into a top-four defenseman at the next level. He’s likely a few years away from being a regular in the NHL.
25. Montreal – Conor Timmins (D)
The 18-year-old missed being part of the 2016 draft by just three days. Timmins is a slick, puck-moving defenseman that has been with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the last two seasons. In his first campaign in the junior ranks, he picked up just 13 points in 60 contests, but last season he made an impressive leap. Timmins’ 61 points in 67 games helped vault him into a top prospect in the 2017 draft. Scouts are impressed by his strong shot and solid skating ability. The knock on him is that he tends to get himself into some trouble with turnovers at inopportune times.
26. Chicago – Jason Robertson (LW)
Robertson has good size (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), but he’ll never be confused with a power forward because he doesn’t initiate contact with opponents. Another knock on him is that he doesn’t take his defensive responsibilities seriously. Despite his shortcomings, the 18-year-old was very productive in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 81 points in 68 games with Kingston. He also added 18 points in 11 games during the OHL playoffs. If everything goes according to plan, Robertson should develop into a quality scoring threat with very limited defensive ability.
27. St. Louis (via Washington) - Kailer Yamamoto (RW)
Yamamoto has been relatively productive in each of his first three junior seasons. In each year he’s seen his production increase by a good amount, as he went from 57 points to 71 points to 99 points last season. Yamamoto’s been pushed down the draft board because of his size. He’s listed at just 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, which obviously isn’t seen as ideal for the NHL. Even though he’s smaller, it’s impossible to ignore his offensive flare. On top of the success he had in junior, he also led the Americans to gold at the 2016 under-18 World Hockey Championship with his tournament-leading seven goals in seven games. He’ll very likely head back to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs next season.
28. Ottawa – Ryan Poehling (C)
Poehling shows signs of having good offensive instincts, but that didn’t translate into points at the college level last season. He had seven points and six assists in 35 games at St. Cloud State in 2016-17, but scouts still believe he’s capable enough to develop into solid offensive option at the next level. On the plus side, he produced four goals and two assists in four games for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. It’ll be interesting to see how his offensive game develops over the next few seasons. Look for him to go back to St. Cloud State next year.
29. Dallas (via Anaheim) - Kole Lind (RW)
Kole is simply just a well-rounded prospect. He was productive with his junior team last season, he’s smart with and without the puck and he’s fully capable of playing in every situation. Another plus, is that Lind isn’t shy about making contact with the opposition. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound center picked up 30 goals and 87 points in 70 games with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets last season. Despite being so well-rounded, there just isn’t one particular area in which he’s outstanding. He’s the type of player that can do a lot of things well, but nothing exceptionally well.
30. Nashville – Shane Bowers (C)
Bowers is an intriguing prospect. He has great wheels, a high hockey IQ and plenty of potential, but his production just hasn’t been there during his time in the USHL. Last season, Bowers put up 22 goals and 29 assists in 60 games with Waterloo. On the surface, those aren’t bad numbers, but most top prospects tend to produce more while playing in the USHL. It’ll be interesting to see how his offensive game develops at Boston University next season. Even if he never turns into an incredible point-producer, he still has the tools to develop into a solid NHLer.
31. Pittsburgh – Grant Mismash (LW)
Mismash is an energy player that isn’t shy about throwing his weight around all over the ice. The 18-year-old scored 26 goals and 61 points in 65 games with the US National Team Development Program, but he also added 104 penalty minutes during that span. His physical style of play tends to lead to a lot of silly penalties, too. On the plus side, he’s shown that he’s capable of putting the puck in the net with regularity. He projects as more of a third-line winger that can chip in offensively.