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Canes Country’s 2017 Mock Draft: Trying to Predict the Unpredictable

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Who do we think will head where tomorrow night in Chicago?

NHL: NHL Draft Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve almost made it: everyone of note in the NHL is making their way from Las Vegas to Chicago today, preparing for the start of the 2017 NHL Draft. Tomorrow night, 31 players will hear their name called, walk up on stage, shake Gary Bettman’s hand, and pose for some really odd publicity photos.

As is tradition here, our staff has done a mock draft of the first round. Kevin and Justin, who have been splitting duties profiling some of the prospects that the Carolina Hurricanes could target with the 12th pick in the draft, have put together their idea of how the first round could go tomorrow night.

We went back and forth (with the exception of the Canes, which both writers agreed on) and assumed no trades other than the ones that had been completed at the conclusion of the expansion draft last night. For players who we didn’t profile leading up to the draft, we’ve included a blurb from a draft guide to give you some information about the player.

And we’re off! New Jersey is on the clock.

1. New Jersey Devils - Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

2. Philadelphia Flyers - Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

3. Dallas Stars - Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

4. Colorado Avalanche - Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

5. Vancouver Canucks - Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)

6. Vegas Golden Knights - Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

7. Arizona Coyotes - Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

8. Buffalo Sabres - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie HS (Minnesota)

9. Detroit Red Wings - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Sweden)

10. Florida Panthers - Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)

11. Los Angeles Kings - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

13. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg Jets) - Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (Sweden)

14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (Sweden)

15. Vegas Golden Knights (from New York Islanders) - Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

16. Calgary Flames - Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Callum Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL). From McKeen’s draft guide:

Foote will never be a dynamic defenseman, but even moderate improvement in his agility would allow the remainder of his skills set – the strong point shot, the passing game, the own zone responsibility and the burgeoning physicality – to play up to the top half of an NHL defensive unit.

18. Boston Bruins - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)

19. San Jose Sharks - Jusso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL). From the Recrutes draft guide:

The largest concerns with Valimaki [are] his play away from the puck in the neutral and defensive zones, where he can get out of position in part because he runs around and tries to do too much, but also because his gap control and pivots are below par. In his favour is that he doesn’t lack strength and his stride is sound, so there is a decent chance that he’ll be able to improve his agility and pivoting with lots of offseason work in the next few years.

20. St. Louis Blues - Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (Sweden)

21. New York Rangers - Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL). From McKeen’s:

He has been able to handle the physical WHL from the get go, scoring 57 points as a rookie, 71 as a follow up, and 99 points to serve a final notice to NHL scouts before draft day. Yamamoto makes up for his size deficit with high end skating and requisite shiftiness along with an abundance of offensive skills and true game-breaking ability.

22. Edmonton Oilers - Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Sweden). From McKeen’s:

The left-shooting blueliner is simply a tremendous skater. His puck skills are also near elite, especially for a blueliner. True to his size, he can sometimes play a little bit too soft in his own zone, unnecessarily ceding ground to an opponent, but looking at his body of work, this adaptation is more a matter of consistency than lacking an ability. Brannstrom has the chance to end up as the most impactful player drafted out of this class, a minute-munching, point producing blueliner in the mold of his namesake, Erik Karlsson.

23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota Wild) - Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL). From Recrutes:

“He’s a good kid...I interviewed him yesterday,” said a scout who met with him in April. “He really came across well. He understands what his problems are...he’s working on them. He’s pretty honest about his game. He’s never gonna be a hard guy. He lets the forward get to the puck.”

24. Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus Blue Jackets via Vegas Golden Knights) - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Finland). From McKeen’s:

In a draft class bursting with fast puck rushers, Vaakanainen plays more of a well-rounded game, sometimes showing the makings of a strong defender in his own end and sometimes – as at the WU18s – a player who can help drive the offense from the point. His all-around game is not to suggest that he is not a good skater, as he is truly an excellent one. He has a long, powerful stride and moves well in all directions. He is strong with the puck as well. Although we would like him to tone down the turnovers, his hands are soft and his passes are generally sharp.

25. Montreal Canadiens - Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL). From Recrutes:

It took some scouts several months to warm up to Robertson as the skating concerns were hard to dismiss until they saw him singlehandedly win games for Kingston on many occasions. Robertson scored 24 per cent of Kingston’s goals this season, a remarkable number given that Sidney Crosby scored less than 20 per cent of Rimouski’s goals in his draft year, and Connor McDavid scored less than 13 per cent with Erie. “He’s a stud.” said one scout late in the season who earlier on had said “I have no time for him. I don’t get this guy...I must be missing the boat.”

26. Chicago Blackhawks - Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) - Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL). From McKeen’s:

Looks like a first rounder and produces like a third rounder. That is the Shane Bowers experience, summarized in one pithy statement. A strong skater with impressive hockey IQ, Bowers is often on the right side of the puck and will be a favourite of the Corsi crowd. He has strong puck possession skills and an aptitude for reading opposing coverage. These traits allow him to both perform forceful zone entries and keep the puck from his opponents once he gains the zone. His lower than expected point totals stem in part for limited time on the power play.

28. Ottawa Senators - Jake Oettinger, G, Boston College (Hockey East). From Recrutes:

“He looks like the real deal,” said a western conference scout. “I didn’t think that last year, but he’s really developed this season. Not a great athlete but he’s huge, very smart, calm and efficient. His mental game and technical game are big time. What’s nice about him is there’s no bust factor. He will be a good depth goalie at worst.” An NHL team will only need to wait three years to have a fully-developed college goalie ready to challenge for NHL duty. He may not need much AHL seasoning, if any, before he’s ready to play.

29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim Ducks) - Joshua Norris, C, USA U-18 NTDP. From Recrutes:

“For me, it’s all about his inconsistency, he’s had a very inconsistent year,” said one USHL-based scout. “He’s literally a different player depending on what night you go see him. He’s a center with size and really good skating. He has NHL feet. On his good days he’s really competitive, he’s got some bite.” What scouts have had trouble figuring out this season is whether Norris has second- or third-line center upside. Earlier on they were leaning towards him being a third-liner, but he showed the offensive skills and production in the past two months that may well vault him into the top 25 of this draft.

30. Nashville Predators - Filip Chytil, C, Zlin (Czech Republic). From McKeen’s:

Although Chytil is still lean, he has a solid frame, suggesting added strength in a few short years. Although his game is still justifiably raw, he displays the entire toolkit on the ice, rating as above average as a skater, shooter, puck handler and for his hockey IQ. He continued to impress at both the Five Nations tournament where his smarts and vision stood out, and finished his year with a very strong showing at the WU18 event, with five points in five games wearing the national colours.

31. Pittsburgh Penguins - Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL). From Recrutes:

“He’s the best CHL defenceman for me, and it’s not even a debate,” noted one Ontario-based senior scout. “He’s really smart, and moves the puck well. He’s always pretty good when I see him, he just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He distributes well on the power play, he defends well...I think he’ll fill a top-four role in the NHL.” While few scouts were anti-Timmins - with skating being the only real minor concern - as is often the case you can run into contrarians in any profession, and at least one scout has some debatable [hockey sense] issues with the first-round lock.


So...how’d we do? Check in tomorrow night to follow along what will by all accounts be one of the more unpredictable first rounds in recent memory.