In this mock, I will pick players for slots -- because you can’t predict who’ll trade up or trade down. I still look for team tendencies, as well.
There’s a lot of talk that trades could play a big part in this draft, but only time will tell. In my estimation, there are a few prospects in this draft who are NHL ready, but not too many.
1. Aaron Ekblad - 6-4/216 - D - Florida Panthers
Who couldn’t use a big, two-way defenseman who can log a lot of minutes and has a right-handed shot? Ekblad doesn’t make many mistakes, and if the Panthers use him on the second pairing to start, he can ease into the NHL next season. He can play the penalty kill, but in his rookie season they’ll gauge if he’s up to the task. He is a franchise defenseman, and ownership in Florida seems to be leaning on keeping the pick. He can provide some immediate help for veteran goalie Roberto Luongo.
2. Sam Reinhart - 6-1/185, C - Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres can use everything, and this second-generation player will give them a terrific offensive boost when he’s ready to make the jump in a few years. Since the team is rebuilding, there won’t be any pressure to have him make the jump right away, and ideally he could develop along with some of their other top prospects at his own pace. Top defensemen like Ekblad have had trouble containing him. His pro shot and nose for the net set him apart.
3. Sam Bennett - 6-0/178 - C - Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton is looking for everything. Many fans will say they should draft defense, but this may not be the draft for that. Bennett is the best player on the board, and the fact that he has such a high hockey I.Q. makes him savvy -- and that’s something that GM Craig MacTavish is looking for.
4. Michael Dal Colle - 6-2/182 - LW - Calgary Flames
The puck is always on his stick and he’s very smart. His size and speed could really compliment Sean Monahan in a year or two. Calgary has to rebuild their team, and his scoring ability can give the Flames a real formidable duo in the future.
5. Leon Draisaitl - 6-2/204 - C - New York Islanders
The “German Gretzky” will be too much for the Islanders to pass on. He can continue to have them build depth up the middle, and he could play in a second- or third-line role next year in the NHL based on his performance in the World Championships. He has a pro body, and his play in transition will have him fitting right in on the island. His solid defense won’t make him a liability at all. He could be a Calder Trophy candidate.
6. Nikolaj Ehlers - 5-11/162 - LW - Vancouver Canucks
This son of a hockey coach could really lead the next generation of stars in Vancouver in two or three years. His offense is already terrific, his stretch passes are pro-quality, but he’ll need to add some muscle and round out his game a bit more. His aggressive offensive game makes up for his lack of size in this spot.
7. Nick Ritchie 6-2/226 - LW - Carolina Hurricanes
This power forward could be a great compliment to any of Carolina’s centers. He’s already a horse and the way he muscles his way to net and shielding the puck with his body works at any level. He’s still a few years away from playing in the NHL.
8. William Nylander - 5-11/169 - C/RW - Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs could use some additional skill on the wing or down the middle. This extremely skilled player has a great bloodline, and he’s already playing against men in Sweden. His wide-open game will be a welcomed sight in Toronto in the next year or two.
9. Jared McCann- 6-0/179 - C - Winnipeg Jets
Looking towards the future, the Jets will need some more talent up the middle, and this pivot can score or dish off the puck. His pro shot and consistent scoring make him a great fit. Winnipeg will promote him when he’s ready in a year or two.
10. Jake Virtanen - 6-1/208 - RW- Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks need some restocking on the wing, and this fast, offensively gifted player will be a good fit in the next year or two. He’s a pesky defensive player, another Ducks trait. His shoulder injury will keep him out of action until October, so he’s guaranteed to be back playing for the Hitmen again next year.
11. Kasperi Kapanen - 6-0/181 - RW - Nashville Predators
Nashville’s had some mixed success within their player development model. They’ve always had good success with European players, and this second-generation Finn is very close to being NHL ready. He’s a solid two-way player and he has great hockey speed when closing in on the puck.
12. Haydn Fleury - 6-3/203 - D - Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes are always about taking the best player on the board, and this strong, fast defenseman could fit right in down the road. His toughness and play in all situations make him a very intriguing player.
13. Julius Honka - 5-11/180 - D - Washington Capitals
Mike Green isn’t getting any younger, and this Finn has some slick power play moves. He skates well and he’s already NHL tough. He could be ready in a year.
14. Tony DeAngelo - 5-11/175 - D - Dallas Stars
The Stars need a future power play quarterback in the system. He’s a very gifted passer. He stickhandles well. He sometimes has a turnover in bad spot, but over time he’ll fix that. His excellent first pass is among the best in this draft.
15. Brendan Perlini - 6-3/205 - LW - Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings need some more offensive powerhouses in the cupboard. Perlini wins puck battles and can score down low. Detroit likes these kinds of players, and he’s only a few years away from playing in the NHL.
16. Ivan Barbashev - 6-0/180 - C/LW - Columbus Blue Jackets
The new regime in Columbus is fearless and won’t worry about the “Russian factor” and Barbashev's possibly being courted by the KHL. He is an exciting player who never gives up on a play and he’s smart without the puck. He’ll get physical and that will get him to the NHL in a few years.
17. Alex Tuch - 6-4/213 - RW - Philadelphia Flyers
This power forward is committed to BC coming off some solid seasons with the NTDP. He plays defense, checks hard and has great dekes, which leads to goals. He’s hard to muscle off the puck, and he played on a highly skilled line in Ann Arbor. He shared the USHL Scholar-Athlete award this year. In a few years he could be an impact player for the Orange and Black.
18. Dylan Larkin - 6-1/190 - C - Minnesota Wild
As the Wild continue to move up the ladder, there’s always a need for a highly skilled center. He’s an excellent skater and stickhandler. The University of Michigan will turn him into an NHLer in two or three seasons.
19. Adrian Kempe - 6-2/187 - LW - Tampa Bay Lightning
If Tampa is patient with this winger they could have a very special player some day. He’s a pass-first kind of player, and he can make some special ones. He can lead the rush and finish. He’s playing against men in Sweden and will take two more years to get ready.
20. Sonny Milano - 6-0/183 - LW - San Jose Sharks
This NTDP star had some big-time numbers this season. He’s good in the dirty areas, very tenacious on offense and very coachable. He’s committed to BC, and his hands are his best asset on offense and defense. He’s a Sharks kind of player.
21. Thatcher Demko - 6-4/192 - G - St. Louis Blues
Ryan Miller isn’t getting any younger, and I don’t think they have another franchise goalie in their system. Demko has that pedigree. He did show some nerves in the Frozen Four, but he was a freshman and BC is lucky to have a big goalie who can make the sprawling save -- and he’s good with his stick. He could take advantage of the new, bigger NHL trapezoid three or four years down the line.
22. Nikolay Goldobin - 6-0/178, RW - Pittsburgh Penguins
What young Russian wouldn’t want to potentially play with Evgeni Malkin down the road? This could keep him out of the KHL and in Pittsburgh in two or three years. He thinks the game very fast, and his acceleration is something Pittsburgh hasn’t seen in a few years now from their prospects. He looks to score and the Penguins like scorers.
23. Roland McKeown - 6-1/195 - D - Colorado Avalanche
Head coach Patrick Roy looks for safe, simple, defensemen, and McKeown fits the bill. This athlete gets out in open ice and keeps puck ahead of him with his long stick. His skating can improve, and he has a right-handed shot. Roy can improve his defense, and the organization likes players who can grow with them.
24. Josh Jacobs - 6-2/193 - D - Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks need to keep stocking defensemen the way that they play, and this emerging blueliner battles hard. He knows how to play a simple game. His Indiana Ice team went from last place to winning the USHL’s Clark Cup. He’s a solid-two way defenseman with a right-handed shot. The Michigan product has committed to Michigan State. He’s at least two or three years away.
25. Nick Schmaltz - 6-0/172 - C - Boston Bruins
This swift skating center is committed to University of North Dakota. The Bruins have drafted a lot of college players over the years. He’s a good playmaker. His pro wrist shot is a weapon. His previous coaches rave about him. Give him two to four years to hit the NHL.
26. Kevin Fiala - 5-10/180 - LW - Montreal Canadiens
This Swiss forward showed very well in the World Championships, and U-18’s and U-20’s. He has great wheels, gets into scoring areas quickly and has a patient shot. The puck seems to be glued to his stick until he passes it with pretty solid accuracy. If he was bigger, he’d be higher up. Still a few years away from the NHL, but he fits into the Habs' type of offense.
27. Travis Sanheim - 6-3/181 - D - Chicago Blackhawks
This defenseman has rocketed up the charts with a strong second half with the Calgary Hitmen and in the U-18’s for Team Canada. This smooth skating defenseman with smooth hands has some room to get stronger, but already has great instincts, an accurate shot and he can straddle the line to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
28. Connor Bleackley - 6-0/192 - C -Tampa Bay Lightning
This center stood out for Red Deer this year as a captain and a goal scorer. He skates and passes well and could really add to Tampa’s future scoring that already looks bright.
29. David Pastrnak - 6-0/167 - RW - Los Angeles Kings
This excellent skating, right-hand shooting Czech could fit right in Los Angeles in a few years. He can be dangerous with the puck on the penalty kill, and that’s a Kings trait for sure. Their loaded system will give this forward plenty of time to develop overseas first.
30. Ryan MacInnis - 6-3/183 - C - New Jersey Devils
This second generation player skates well for a big guy. He has terrific puck pursuit. The Devils like strong bloodlines, and his doesn’t get much better. He’s been developing nicely the past few years and the Devils are a patient organization.