Yesterday, we profiled Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick and Miro Heiskanen as we prepare for the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23 and 24 in Chicago. Hischier and Patrick are in a class of their own, almost certain to be the first two players off the board, but Heiskanen belongs to a second tier of players who will likely go between third and sixth in some order. Who ends up where is still up in the air.
Could one of them end up with the Hurricanes? Potentially, and there’s one who would fit in great should the Canes decide to trade up.
Gabriel Vilardi – C, Windsor Spitfires, OHL - 6’3” 200 lbs - 8/16/99
If there was a player who I wish the Hurricanes would have a better shot at, it’s Vilardi. He seems to fit the organization both in style and need, but unfortunately won’t last long enough barring a trade to reach Carolina on draft day. Dallas is sitting at third overall due to some overwhelming luck in the draft lottery, and could potentially be looking to deal out, however that may be less likely now that they have signed goaltender Ben Bishop. Still, I wouldn’t bet on a trade up, as using assets to acquire a young, established roster player is far more likely.
The Windsor center is an all around, two-way forward who is a monster in possession in the offensive zone. He has the ability to distribute to his linemates, routinely making high-percentage passes to unlock the defense and open up scoring opportunities. At 6’3” and over 200 pounds, he has the size to play down the middle in the NHL. He’s the prototypical draft story that would be talked about in an even higher regard if he were a better skater. He is one of the youngest players in the draft, and if and when his skating improves, look out.
Projection: Top-two center
Likely Fits: Dallas, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Detroit
Casey Mittelstadt - C, Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School - 6’1” 200 lbs - 11/22/98
Mittelstadt’s draft year has been often debated the season, as the top US born prospect opted to return to Minnesota high school hockey to challenge for a state title with his Eden Prairie teammates. Given the level of competition he faced, Mittelstadt put up video game numbers with 64 points in 25 games. His USHL stats were still admirable, as he posted a 1.44 points-per-game rate for the Green Bay Gamblers.
The Minnesota commitment is an offensive force capable of creating for both himself and his linemates. He oozes talent, and has the smarts to match. If things go right, Mittelstadt could end up being the most talented player to emerge from this draft. However, there are some reasons to be skeptical, given the level of competition and being one of the older players in his draft class. He is also much better with the puck than without it.
Projection: Top-six playmaker, and power play dynamo
Likely Fits: Dallas, Colorado, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Detroit
Owen Tippett – RW, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL - 6’1” 200 - 2/16/99
The first thing that you notice about Tippett is his pure skating talent and his ability to absolutely wire the puck. Arguably the best pure winger in the draft, the Peterborough native plays a north-south game, utilizing his speed to gain the zone on the rush and back off defenders, allowing himself more room to operate. He finished in the top-10 in the Ontario Hockey League in both goals (44) and shots (284) this past season, joining Kingston’s Jason Robertson as the only other 2017 draft eligible to do so. He is continuing to improve his abilities as a playmaker and will need to become more consistent in the defensive zone, but there’s no questioning his ability as a sniper.
Projection: Top-six winger with a top line ceiling
Likely Fits: Colorado, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Arizona
Next week: we begin a series of in-depth profiles of players who could be available for the Hurricanes to select with the twelfth pick.