2. Florida- D Seth Jones
The Panthers are in a good position going into the draft. Having prospect depth at all positions, they are able to take the best player available. Florida may opt to draft a winger (Jonathan Drouin) to compliment Jonathan Huberdeau on the Panthers first line. They also may opt for Finnish center Alexander Barkov, an excellent addition to start on the second line immediately. However, Seth Jones may be the Panthers best bet at number two. Jones has the size and skating ability on the back end the Panthers need to further build their defense. Scouts are convinced Jones is a franchise player, a defender the Panthers can rely on for star play for years to come. His combination of size, skill, and speed will be tough for Dale Tallon to pass on. He is likely the best choice for the Panthers here.
3. Tampa Bay- LW Jonathan Drouin
This is an obvious choice. With MacKinnon and Jones off the board, the Lightning will go with the best player available. This player is Drouin. The player with the best hands, hand-eye coordination, and puck control in the draft, Drouin will be a perfect complement to Stamkos and a great future replacement for Martin St. Louis. A slam-dunk pick at number three.
4. Nashville- C Aleksander Barkov
Nashville will be happy to see Barkov fall in their lap at number four. A big, strong, NHL ready center, Barkov is exactly what the Predators have been missing. A future number one center, Barkov will be a player the Predators can build on as they rebuild their roster from within.
5. Carolina- D Darnell Nurse
Determining who Carolina picks at number five is much more difficult than the top four picks. Outside the top four, there is a small drop off in talent. The Hurricanes come in at a position where they can use upgrading at all positions. Since 2001, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has used his first round pick on a North American born player. He will likely do so again, leaving out Elias Lindholm and Valeri Nichuskin. Carolina could opt for a center at this position. However, they currently have some depth at this position with the Staal brothers. The Hurricanes could use size at the defense position. At 6’5, Nurse brings a great all around game that the Hurricanes can really use from the backend. Nurse is physical and plays well offensively and defensively. The Hurricanes will have a tough time passing up on this prospect.
6. Calgary- C Sean Monahan
Let’s face it, the Flames need upgrading at every position badly. This puts them in a great position picking at number 6, as they can take the best player available. This year, that player is Sean Monahan. Possessing excellent size and all around offensive ability, Monahan has the making of a number one center, a piece the flames have been missing for forever it seems. Monahan will help the Flames in their rebuild going forward.
7. Edmonton-W Valeri Nichushkin
The last few drafts have been good to the Oilers. It is for this reason, the Oilers may choose to trade this pick to update their roster immediately. That being said, if the Oilers do pick at seven, they have a multitude of options. They may choose to go with a defender here, with the likes of Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen being good fits. They could also go with a two-way forward like Elias Lindholm or Bo Horvat. The most intriguing option here may be Valeri Nichushkin. Not only would Nichuhskin be the best player available at this point in the draft, he would be an excellent compliment to Nail Yakupov. Yakupov’s presence could convince Nichushkin to stay long term in Edmonton, and vice versa. Nichushkin is also a future power forward, a commodity the Oilers could use immediately.
8. Buffalo-C/W Elias Lindholm
Buffalo is a similar position to many teams in this year’s draft. Their prospect pool needs upgrading at almost every position. Therefore, they will likely go with the best player available. That player is Sweden’s Elias Lindholm. Lindholm is a tremendous talent and two-way player. Able to play both center and the wing, Lindoholm will be an excellent compliment to future Buffalo forwards Grigorenko, Girgensons, and Armia.
9. New Jersey- C Bo Horvat
Everyone knows Lou Lamoriello loves two-way forwards. If there is a player that fits that mold this year, it’s Bo Horvat. The OHL playoff MVP, Horvat shows up in big games. Horvat is both offensively skilled and defensively conscious. Horvat’s stock continued to rise as the season progressed. It would not be surprising to see him crack the top ten and be a life-long New Jersey Devil.
10. Dallas- C Alexander Wennberg
Jim Nill knows what he likes in a player. All one has to do is observe the Red Wings roster to see what his preferences are. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see the Stars pick Alex Wennberg with the number ten pick. Blessed with good size and excellent hockey sense, Wennberg fits the Jim Nill mold. He will be another great step towards a Dallas rebuild.
11. Philadelphia –D Nikita Zadorov
A team rumored to be moving their pick as well (possibly to Anaheim as part of a package for Bobby Ryan), the Flyers need to add desperately to their pool of prospects. The most pressing position is at defense. Nikita Zadorov seems like a good fit here. Zadorov is huge and has a ton of upside. It may take a few years for him to develop, but scouts believe it will be worth the wait. Philadelphia would be wise to draft Zadorov here.
12. Phoenix-C Curtis Lazar
Phoenix has opted to draft defensemen in previous drafts. Their prospect pool is extremely weak at the forward position, particularly at center. Enter Curtis Lazar. Lazar has the ability to score, as well as play well defensively. He is not afraid to stand up for his teammates or mix it up physically if needed. Lazar plays much bigger than his 5’11 frame suggests. He would be a good fit for the Coyotes here.
13. Winnipeg- D Ryan Pulock
It is tough to determine who the Jets may draft at number 13. Center Max Domi is a possibility. However, in recent years, the Jets have drafted the likes of Mark Schiefele and Alex Burmistrov (though he may be moving on) at the center position. The Jets hit a home run with defender Jacob Trouba last season. They may look to continue upgrading their defense. The Jets could go with Finnish defender Rasmus Ristolainen. However, they would be smart to pick from their own back yard and draft Manitoba native and Brandon Wheat King Ryan Pulock. Like the Oilers, the Jets will likely have a hard time resigning players once they reach free agency stage. Drafting home grown talent helps eliminate this problem. Enter Pulock. The What King’s captain, Pulock is known for his offensive ability. Scouts believe that he is a solid all around defensemen. He could be a staple on the Jets blue line for years to come.
14. Columbus-D Rasmus Ristolainen
Columbus is in a unique position of having three first round picks in this year’s draft. A likely first pick at number fourteen is Finnish defender Rasmus Ristolainen. Having spent the last few seasons working as a general manager in Finland, Columbus’s new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen may choose to draft a player right from his homeland. Ristolainen is a solid two-way defender, and Kekalainen likely witnessed his talents first hand time and time again. He would be a great fit on a Columbus blue line already stocked with talent such as Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray.
15. New York Islanders- C/W Hunter Shinkaruk
Having taken all defenders in last year’s draft, the Islanders may need to draft a forward here at number fifteen. Stacked at the center position, and with Ryan Strome ready to make an impact next season, the Islanders need the most help at the wing position. Enter Hunter Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk can play both the center and wing position. He has excellent offensive ability, and would be an excellent complement to the likes of John Tavares or Strome. He would be an excellent pick here.
16. Buffalo-D Robert Hagg
With their second pick in the first round, Buffalo will compliment Lindholm with a fellow Swede in defender Robert Hagg. Possessing great size and versatility, Hagg has the makings of a long-time solid and steady defender in the Nik Hjalmarsson mold.
17. Ottawa-LW Kerby Rychel
Ottawa is looking for players to compliment an already excellent roster. They are need of a future power forward, and Kerby Rychel is a player that fits the bill. Scoring over 40 goals in his last two OHL seasons, Rychel plays a game scouts love. Not afraid to mix it up like his father, Rychel will fit in well with a developing dominant Senators roster.
18. Detroit-RW Ryan Hartman
A unique position for the Red Wings to be drafting from, it is difficult to predict who they may take. The Wings may opt to move down in such a deep draft (a move all to familiar to Wings fans). The Wings have a multitude of options here, with the London Knight’s Max Domi available, as well as Swede Andrew Burakowsky. However, the Wings may look to address their need for a physical forward in Ryan Hartman. A player teams hate to play against, Hartman can both score and throw star players off their game. Hartman had over 100 penalty minutes and can effectively shut down other team’s star players. Hartman would fit in well on the Red Wings roster.
19. Columbus- C Max Domi
Columbus would be surprised to see Domi drop to number nineteen. Highly skilled and effective offensively, Domi would fit in well on the Blue Jacket’s roster. Small in stature like his father, Domi has a big heart and plays well above his size limitations. Columbus would love to grab Domi here.
20. San Jose- RW Adam Erne
Erne is a player similar to the Sharks own Joe Pavelski. He could also effectively replace recently departed Ryan Clowe in a few seasons. Blessed with decent size, Erne isn’t spectacular in any area of his game. However, he is well rounded and effective. Erne would fit well in the Sharks system .
21. Toronto-C Frederik Gauthier
In constant need of a number one center, the Leafs may not find their future savior here at number twenty one. However, they may upgrade their depth by taking QMJHL stand out Frederik Gauther. At 6’5, Gauthier is a huge well rounded player. Unlikely to become an offensive star, Gauthier may mold into an excellent number two pivot in the mold of a Jordan Staal or Martin Hanzal.
22. Calgary- D Joshua Morrissey
After shoring up their center position with their first pick, the Flames will look to Calgary native Joshua Morrissey to help build their defensive depth. Morrissey’s size is a bit of a concern for some teams. His offense is not however. With two seasons of 10 plus goals in the WHL, Morrissey could be the power play quarter back of the future for the Flames.
23. Washington- D Samuel Morin
Washington’s General Manager George McPhee likes big defensemen. Enter Samuel Morin. At 6’7, Morin is dominant physically. Viewed by many as a long term project, Morin may never turn into the player scouts hope he can be. McPhee has been unafraid in the past to draft players like Morin (see Sasha Poluck and Jeff Schultz). If Morin’s game comes together, the Captials could have a real stud on their hands.
24. Vancouver-LW Andre Burakowsky
The Canucks have almost no promising prospects in their system. Considered to be a great prospect who had a tough season, Burakowsky may be a good fit for the Canucks at twenty four. Scouts say Burakowsky’s calling card is his speed, and he can change an entire game with this ability. The Canucks could use this and his size in the future.
25. Montreal-LW Anthony Mantha
Montreal doesn’t need to look very far to help them take the next step in their rebuild. A player with excellent size (6’4) and who scored 50 goals in the QMJHL last season, Mantha is an excellent skater and puck handler. In fact, looking at his size and statistics, one can’t help but wonder why he isn’t rated to be taken in the first round. His lack of intensity is what scares some scouts, as does his work ethic. If Mantha can learn to get his game together, he could be a big impact scorer and a perfect complement to Alex Galchenyuk.
26. Anaheim- C JT Compher
It’s really a toss-up as to who the Ducks will take at twenty six. JT Copher seems as good a bet as any to be taken late in the first round. A player with strong two-way play, Compher will do anything necessary to help his team. He has a tireless work ethic and could be a solid and steady number two or number three center, an area the Ducks need upgrading at.
27. Columbus- LW Valentin Zykov
After getting slam dunks with their previous two picks, the Blue Jacket’s can take a chance on a project in Valentin Zykov. Blessed with pure offensive talent and a great work ethic, Zykov can blow past you with his strength, or use his deking ability to make you look silly. He is a risk worth taking at number twenty seven.
28. Calgary- C Nic Petan
Just like Columbus, Calgary has already drafted superb talents. This means they can take a risk on Nic Petan. An extremely small player, Petan led the WHL in points this season. Not exceptional at any particular skill, Petan always finds a way to put the puck in the net. Calgary will need scorers going forward and may take a chance on Petan.
29. Dallas- D Madison Bowey
After taking Wennberg with the tenth pick, Dallas will look to take the best player available with their second pick in the first round. They will look no further than Madison Bowey. An excellent skater who can put up points and shut down top scorers, Bowey has excellent upside. He would be a great addition to Dallas’s already deep prospect pool.
30. Chicago- G Zachary Fucale
The Blackhawks need to shore up their goaltending department long term. Fucale would be an excellent candidate to eventually take over number one duties in the windy city. Fucale already has a plethora of experience playing in front of a star studded roster and is used to inconsistent shots coming his way. This preparedness mentally and physically makes him a perfect candidate to be a number one goalie on an NHL powerhouse. He would be a perfect fit for the Hawks.