Bob and I decided it would be fun to each do a first-round mock draft so that everyone can weigh in on our thoughts and compare and contrast what we come up with. Bob's will be up in the coming days. Last year, I had 25 of the 30 first-round picks who went in the first round (including seven drafted at the spot predicted, although some went to a different team). I will also have a Canes Country Draft Board — created from a formula that uses several sources and rankings — some time next week.
For now, here's an educated guess at how I see Round 1 shaking down.
1. Edmonton Oilers — Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor (OHL): The Hall and Seguin debate has raged all year, but Edmonton will put an end to it by drafting the guy everyone has been waiting on for years. Plainly put, Hall’s a winner and the Oilers need to win again.
2. Boston Bruins (via Toronto) — Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth (OHL): Quite the consolation prize for the B’s, Seguin joins an already stacked group of centers in Beantown. Could Boston move down if the price is right?
3. Florida Panthers — Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL): The Panthers’ choice may be the hardest of the top three teams. Fowler, Gundbranson and Gormley all bring different things to the blueline, but it’s the American-born Fowler that has the most upside.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets — Erik Gundbranson, D, Kingston (OHL): Gundbranson will add grit and leadership to the Columbus defense, but he also has talent and size to go along with his intangibles. He may not have the offensive upside of Fowler or Gormley, but he makes up for it elsewhere.
5. New York Islanders — Nino Neiderreiter, RW, Portland (WHL): Outside of Kyle Okposo, the Isles are lacking physicality in their lineup. With Gundranson gone, New York decides that the Swiss power forward is their best bet to add some jam.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning — Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton (QMJHL): Gormley doesn’t stand out when watching him play, but his solid, all-around game will be an asset to any team, regardless of style. He played this season with QMJHL defenseman of the year David Savard, and could play with Victor Hedman down the road — scary for the rest of the Southeast.
7. Carolina Hurricanes — Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George (WHL): Yes, there have been injuries. But Connolly’s combination of size, scoring ability and smarts make him too good to pass up here. He would seemingly be a perfect fit next to Eric Staal, as both are not only scorers, but capable distributors of the puck.
8. Atlanta Thrashers — Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK (Finland): In size, Granlund is reminiscent of Thrashers forward Bryan Little. As far as skill, give Granlund the edge. He’s perhaps the most exciting player in the draft and would complement 2009 first rounder Evander Kane very well in Blueland.
9. Minnesota Wild — Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL): A linemate of Neiderreiter, Johnasen would be a great addition to an otherwise shallow pool of centers in Minnesota. Several have compared him to a poor man’s Eric Staal.
10. New York Rangers — Derek Forbort, D, U.S. NTDP: A little bit of a project, but Forbert would add size to a Rangers prospects pool that leans more toward skill on defense. Not only is Forbert a physical force, but he has some offensive upside.
11. Dallas Stars — Jack Campbell, G, U.S. NTDP: They acquired and signed Kari Lehtonen to be Marty Turco’s replacement, but the cupboards are still pretty bare in net for the Stars. Enter Campbell, who has already proven to be a big-game goalie.
12.Anaheim Ducks — Emerson Etem, RW, Medicine Hat (WHL): The Ducks go with the in-state talent by selecting Long Beach native Etem. Committed and hard-working, Etem led all WHL rookies is scoring this past season.
13.Phoenix Coyotes (via Calgary) —Alexander Burmistrov, C, Barrie (OHL): He may not even be the best Russian-born forward in this year’s class, but the fact that he spent the entire season in North America gives him the nod as the first selected. He's immensely talented, but is only around 160 pounds when holding a five-pound weight.
14. St. Louis Blues — Jeff Skinner, RW, Kitchener (OHL): Skinner is an undersized but a lethal scorer. There are varied opinions about where he should be ranked in this year’s class: some have him in the top 10, others outside of the first round altogether. With Brad Boyes’ drop in production, the Blues lack an elite goal scorer, so Skinner makes sense here.
15. Boston Bruins — Austin Watson, LW, Peterborough (OHL): After going with Seguin at No. 2, the Bruins get all-around talent in Watson. A skilled penalty killer and hard worker, Watson gives Boston another character guy.
16. Ottawa Senators — Nick Bjugstad, C, Blaine H.S. (Minn.): Some have Bjugstad cracking the top 10, and the Senators would be thrilled to see him fall here. A bit of a project, Bjugstad — who is bound for the University of Minnesota — is big, talented and hard-working.
17. Colorado Avalanche — Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Novosibirsk (KHL): If Tarasenko wasn’t playing in Russia — and signed for another year there — we’d be mentioning him much sooner. While not tall, he’s already stocky enough to play and compete with men in the KHL. He’s a dangerous offensive player that could be a steal here if he comes to North America.
18. Nashville Predators — Riley Sheahan, C, Notre Dame (CCHA): Sheahan’s small run-in with the law this spring could hurt his status, but the Predators would be wise to select him with their pick. He’s an all-around player who is sure to take care of his own end first, but is also creative offensively. Don't rule out Mark Pysyk here, since the Preds rarely pass on a defenseman they like.
19. Los Angeles Kings — Tyler Pitlick, C, Minnesota State (WCHA): Pitlick is actually somewhat reminiscent of the Kings’ first-round pick last year, Brayden Schenn. Both can play a skilled or power game and have the skills to put up points, but most importantly Pitlick shares Schenn’s compete level.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins — Mark Pysyk, D, Edmonton (WHL): Pysyk slide ends in Pittsburgh, where he’ll join Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski as part of the long-term solution to replace Sergei Gonchar. The Edmonton native is an elite skater and puck mover who is reliable in his own end.
21. Detroit Red Wings — Quinton Howden, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL): It's been a long time since the Wings chose this high. Howden fits the Detroit mold well. He’s a two-way forward who puts the team first and contributes in all three zones.
22.Phoenix Coyotes — Jon Merrill, D, U.S. NTDP: Merrill is pretty far along in his development considering he’s a defenseman. With Burmistrov chosen earlier, the Coyotes take the best defenseman left on the board and continue their recent history of drafting or acquiring University of Michigan — where Merrill is headed — products.
23. Buffalo Sabres — Brock Nelson, C, Warroad H.S. (Minn.): Maybe a bit of a reach here, but the Sabres need and want to add size at center and Nelson fills that need. With last year’s top pick Zach Kassian facing character questions, Buffalo goes with a solid player and citizen who is headed to North Dakota.
24. Atlanta Thrashers — Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw (WHL): With Granlund already in the fold, the Thrashers could be the first round’s big winner by getting McIlrath here. McIlrath is probably the most feared player in the draft and could be a fantastic complement to Zach Bogosian for years to come.
25. Vancouver Canucks — Jarred Tinordi, D, U.S. NTDP: Tinordi makes it back-to-back tough, physical defensemen. Tinordi, who is headed to Notre Dame, is a monster at 6-6, 200-plus pounds and can control a game in his own end.
26. Washington Capitals — Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Chelyabinsk (KHL): The Capitals — we’ll call them Russia West — add even more talent by taking a chance on the talented center. A leader on the ice and a threat to score at all times, Kuznetsov would add even more top-end skill to Washington’s lineup.
27. Montreal Canadiens — Stanislav Galiev, RW, Saint John (QMJHL): The Moscow-born winger stays in Quebec by going to Montreal. He’s very skilled in the offensive zone but needs work in his own end.
28. San Jose Sharks — Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW, Brynas Jr. (Sweden): The Sharks have had past success with big forwards, and Rensfeldt is the latest. He’s a deadly shooter on the wing — who would thrive with, say, Joe Thornton centering him — and his size and will takes him to all areas of the offensive zone.
29. Anaheim Ducks (via Philadelphia) — John McFarland, LW, Sudbury (OHL): The Ducks expected this pick to be a lot higher. With Etem selected earlier, the Ducks can roll the dice on McFarland, who has had his character questioned by some. He’s an great skater who plays with an edge, but commitment and consistency are big red flags.
30. Chicago Blackhawks — Kirill Kabanov, LW, Moncton (QMJHL) Kabanov joining the Wildcats was a huge plus heading into last season, but the fact he left Moncton, then was kicked off the Russian under-18 team. On talent alone, he’s a top-five guy, but the erratic season and Russian factor give Chicago the opportunity to take a chance on him.
Some names (of many!) to consider for Carolina's three second-round picks and beyond:
- Jason Zucker, LW, U.S. NTDP: Zucker is a forechecking machine who was part of the Team USA's shocking upset of Canada at the U20 World Championships this past winter. Oh, and he played midget hockey for the Detroit-based Compuware team owned by Peter Karmanos.
- Beau Bennett, RW, Penticon (BCHL): Bennett comes from the same team that brought Zac Dalpe into the Carolina fold. A skilled winger, Bennett — as well as Zucker — is poised to join the University of Denver next season.
- Patrik Nemeth, D, AIK (Sweden): A strong blueliner from Sweden, Nemeth could max out as a shutdown defender.
- Stephen Silas, D, Bellville (OHL): Silas is a steady defenseman in the Glen Wesley (Carolina, not Boston, version) mold.
- Brad Ross, LW, Portland (WHL): Ross is perhaps the best agitator in the draft, the kind of player Carolina could use to get under the skin of opponents. He also has some offensive ability and played with Neiderreiter and Johansen with the Winter Hawks.
- Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Jokerit (Finland): Pulkkinen could be the latest Finn to join the Carolina organization. He's a gifted scorer and also willing to engage physically despite being just 5-10.
- Patrick McNally, D, Milton H.S. (Mass.): A raw defenseman — like last year's second rounder Brian Dumoulin, though with a different skill set — who is set to go to Harvard in the fall.