This draft is deep. How deep? It could be as deep as 2003 - when the Flyers drafted both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the first round.
Only time will tell. And with that, here we go.
1. Colorado Avalanche - Nathan MacKinnon 6-0/182 - Center
Some will say defensemen don’t grow on trees, but they are harder to project as we’ve seen. This top-line pivot has great vision and he’s an above-average passer. He also can speed through the neutral zone like few others can. He’s showing more toughness and he might be able to play right away. All intriguing for the Avs - and they can build depth down the middle by placing Matt Duchene on the second line down the road. Colorado’s VP of player development told me they are exploring all options with due diligence. This pick could get traded, as well. Trading down in this draft makes sense because of its depth.
2. Florida Panthers - Seth Jones – 6-4/205 – Defenseman
This right-handed shot will be too much for the Panthers to pass up on. I know they took Jay Bouwmeester, but they need a No. 1 defenseman. Jones was tied for the longest wingspan at this year’s combine at 81.00 inches. He’s hard to beat one on one. He's a great athlete like his dad Popeye, who had a respectable NBA career. His shot is hard when he steps into it and it should get faster when he puts on more muscle.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning - Aleksander Barkov- 6-3/209 - Center
This very smart center is a flashy skater. He is an excellent passer with a pro one-timer. He can be a power-play point man. He uses his size well. He plays well on defense, too. Barkov gets to loose pucks quickly. With Vinny Lecavalier getting older, Steve Yzerman can build some depth down the middle starting with Steven Stamkos.
4. Nashville Predators Jonathan Drouin– 5-11/186 - Left Wing
He has excellent speed with top-line talent. He has good elusiveness and scorer’s touch. Nashville needs guys who can create plays and score, and Drouin can do that. He’s on the fast track to turn pro - possibly next year or the year after. His two-way game will fit in perfectly with the team-defense concept the Preds employ.
5. Carolina Hurricanes - Sean Monahan - 6-2/193 – Center
He is a slick power-play performer. He has good wheels, good vision and he can score down low. His pro wrist shot will seal the deal, and give the 'Canes another offensive piece down the road.
6. Calgary Flames - Valerie Nichushkin – 6-4/202 – Right Wing
This Russian is a terrific skater who can go end to end. Calgary has multiple first round picks so they can gamble on this talent and will have the luxury of waiting for him to play in North America some time in the future. He has a great compete level in the offensive zone. He has lots of tools in his toolbox. He can be an elite NHL player if his good all-around game becomes great. He will train in North America, and that will help him get used to North American culture.
7. Edmonton Oilers - Ryan Pulock – 6-0/211 – Defense
The Oiler have been drafting offense first for a while now and adding a plus slap shot of over 100 MPH to their second unit power play is something they need. This blueliner is a great puck distributor. He skates well and plays the corners, He does use his body and he’s close to being ready to play in the NHL. He showed off great strength at the combine.
8. Buffalo Sabres - Elias Lindholm – 6-0/192 – Center
At 17, he’s already playing against men, and he’ll fit right into the Sabres' eclectic group some day soon. He trails play well and finds open spaces. His father Mikael played 18 games with the Kings. Lindholm’s a solid two-way player who is strong on the puck. The Sabres are building something special by adding him to some other talented prospects.
9. New Jersey Devils - Rasmus Ristolainen - 6-4/207- Defenseman
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello believes in a strong blueline, and the Devils need an offensive defenseman for their future. Ristolainen moves the puck well. He plays well in all zones. He’s a bit of a fire-starter from the back end of the ice, and that could add something the Devils are currently lacking. He moves the puck well on the power play, and that he might some day be teamed with Ilya Kovalchuk on the power play is intriguing.
10. Dallas Stars - Max Domi – 5-9/197 – Center
Some day this veteran team in Dallas will fade, and they’ll need more players like Domi. He’s fast and relentless in his puck pursuit. He’ll blocks shots. This shifty skater can rifle off a fast shot on the rush. In time, he’ll get stronger on the puck and that will help him at the next level. Lots of upside here.
11. Philadelphia Flyers - Darnell Nurse - 6-5/192 - Defenseman
Drum roll please … This great athlete skates well for a big man, possessing great acceleration. He’s physical. He’ll fight to get to the puck. Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere told me the scouts like strong bloodlines. Well, he has one of the strongest in this draft. His dad Richard was a CFL wide receiver and his uncle is Donovan McNabb. His mom, Cathy, played basketball at McMaster University in Canada. He won’t take any guff. His occasional drive to the net gives hope for a greater offensive upside. He needs to be able to handle faster players better, however. At the NHL Final, he was talking to Rob Blake and towered over him - and Blake was one of the bigger defenseman of his era. He’s on the Flyers' radar and if he doesn’t sit in this position, the team might trade up for him.
12. Phoenix Coyotes - Bo Horvat - 6-0/206 - Center
This forward isn’t the fastest skater but has desire and excellent stick and puck control. He seems to score a lot of 1-on-1 goals. He had 4 game-winners this season in the OHL. He plays defense too. The Coyotes are lacking this type of player outside of the aging Shane Doan.
13. Winnipeg Jets - Adam Erne - 6-0/205 - Left Wing
This winger knows where to go on the ice in all situations. He has an excellent wrist shot that he can use to score from anywhere. He closes well on the net, and is hard to handle at that point. He can lay big hits. This Connecticut native can join Jacob Trouba on the power play, giving the Jets an American contingent.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets - Anthony Mantha - 6-4/200 - Right Wing
The new regime in Columbus had to notice this prospect's four-goal game. His long stick helps him get a lot of torque on his wrister. Has good speed gets to the corners of the net quickly. He would pair nicely with a lot of the Jackets' young talent in the future.
15. New York Islanders - Robert Hagg- 6-2/204 - Defenseman
With former captain Mark Streit off to Philadelphia, Garth Snow has to have a few offensive defensemen in the system to eventually take his place going forward. This Swede is a good skater. He will pinch and knows when to do it. He skates well and straddles the line like a pro. He has a pro shot, especially on the power play, and he’s shown some toughness.
16. Buffalo Sabres (From Minnesota) - Nikita Zadorov – 6-5/221 – Defenseman
This Russian defenseman could literally go anywhere from No. 5 until this point. He gets the puck out of the zone with safe passes, and has a lot of toughness. He’s a good enough skater to line up a hit. I’m not sure his offense will translate at the next level, but Tyler Myers can provide that. He is good defensively but not exceptional. He will be a shutdown guy if he makes it to the next level. He has excellent mobility and terrific hockey sense.
17. Ottawa Senators - Frederik Gauthier– 6-5/219 – Center
This forward has a large wing span. He plays like Keith Primeau. He has the kind of hockey sense that a lot of young Ottawa Senators players have and that’s another reason why he’d be a good fit for them.
18. Detroit Red Wings - Valentin Zykov - 6-1/215 – Right Wing
Would a future Russian star playing in Detroit shock you? He had a few hat tricks this season. He’s always around the net. He’s very slippery. What I mean is, he seems to have a “stealth” mode to get near the net in scoring chances. He’s a skilled passer. He has a pro body type. His skating needs work, though, and that’s why he’s at this spot.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (From New York Rangers) - Ian McCoshen – 6-2/207 – Defenseman
He’s a solid all-around passer and one of the safest picks in the draft to turn pro. Everybody likes his hockey sense. His solid zone coverage is his most valuable trait. He’s an excellent skater in both ends and he’ll get a lot of playing time at Boston College next year.
20. San Jose Sharks - Jason Dickinson – 6-1/170 - Center
Looking for a jewel in this next grouping? This guy could be it. He has good size and speed. You have to completely take him out of the play or else he’s going to get a scoring chance. He skates around defenders by going wide and he can close around the net. San Jose will eventually lose Joe Thornton, but this team has to restock the cupboard with offensive talent.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs - Mirco Mueller - 6-4/185 - Defenseman
He was the VO2 test winner at the combine. He’s a solid puck mover who makes an excellent first pass. He’s been climbing the charts all season and the Leafs need another future offensive defenseman to play behind Morgan Reilly on the power play. He keeps his head up while heading down the ice and he’s very disciplined. He has a frame and offensive game that can be built up over time.
22. Calgary Flames (From St. Louis) - Hunter Shinkaruk - 5-10/181 – Left Wing
This player has leadership abilities. He can pass, shoot and score in traffic. He can get behind traffic. If he were taller he could be a top 10 pick. He’s solid with his even-strength scoring and has a lot of upside.
23. Washington Capitals - Steven Santini – 6-2/207 – Defenseman – National Team Development Program
The Capitals need more defensemen in their system. Headed to BC next year, Santini knows how to get and keep position. He moves players to the outside, he has an active stick and he’ll stick up for teammates. He’s a good skater. There’s not much offense in his game, but his puck moving ability gets him drafted.
24. Vancouver Canucks - Kerby Rychel - 6-1/200 – Center
His dad is the co-owner of Windsor and a former player. He can score dirty goals and he’s a decent skater. But he can be a streaky scorer. He has great hockey sense and is one of the toughest players in the draft. Vancouver needs more of this type of player in their system.
25. Montreal Canadiens - Ryan Hartman - 6-0/187 - Left Wing
Everybody likes his attitude. Hartman plays big, and he has no problem dishing out a hit or trying to skate around his opponents. He can score goals. He plays in all situations. His hard-nosed disposition and two-way game will have his Team USA mate, Alex Galchenyuk, hoping he can join the Habs.
26. Anaheim Ducks - JT Compher - 5-10/178 - Center
This player is tenacious in the offensive zone. He’s hard to contain. He’s been a solid point producer for the National Team Development Program with USA Hockey. Has been used as a shutdown defender. In the U-18 he covered Valerie Nichushkin and Connor McDavid (future No. 1 pick). The Ducks don’t have a player like this.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (From Los Angeles) - Morgan Klimchuk - 5-11/180 - Center/Left Wing
He is a very fast point to point skater with a great one-timer. He can stay ahead of defenseman in the crease. He may be the fastest skater in this draft. The Blue Jackets can always use another goal scorer in their system.
28. Calgary Flames (From Pittsburgh) - Nick Petan - 5-9/170 - Center
If you score 120 points in a season you get 24 interviews at the combine almost assuring a first-round selection. He’s a good skater. He’s good in both ends and Calgary needs that. He’s very scrappy with a good compete level. He knows he’s short. He doesn’t care.
29. Anaheim Ducks (From Boston) - Andre Burakovsky - 6-1/178 – Left Wing/Right Wing
He was a solid point producer in the Super Elite playoffs last year. He has a plus wrist shot. He’s an excellent skater on the big ice sheet finds scoring chances pretty easily. When in motion he’s hard to get away from the puck. Anaheim has to continue to add offense.
30. Chicago Blackhawks -Zach Fucale - 6-0/166 – Goalie
This goalie lays it all out there. He can stop odd man rushes well. He anticipates well. He covers the angles well. His glove angle a bit but that can change. He can play well facing lots of shots or just a few. He has bonified #1 goalie DNA and the Hawks have to get a potential starter for the future just in case.