Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: August 25, 2017.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Kirill Nizhikov, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
- The 6-1 190 lb Kirill Nizhikov struggled as a rookie. He may do better on a second line behind Andrei Svechnikov. He can play reckless sometimes.
Detroit Red Wings: Adam Ginning, D, Linkopings HC (Elitserien)
- Detroit gets a defenseman here to develop after returning to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 6-3 192 lb Adam Ginning is the top defenseman on the board at this point. Ginning ended last year with 2 assists in 12 SHL games in the Elitserien league.
Dallas Stars: Benoit-Olivier Groulx, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- The Dallas Stars have had an awesome off-season so far. The Stars re-hired Ken Hitchcock who led them to their only Stanley Cup Finals win in 1998-1999 before Dallas got back to the Stanley Cup in 1999-2000 to lose to the New Jersey Devils. Dallas won the Presidents Trophy the year before their first Stanley Cup in 1997-1998. Hitchcock's success in Dallas speaks for itself.
- Dallas also traded for veterans like goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Mark Methot. In addition to that Dallas drafted the top defenseman in the 2017 NHL Draft in Miro Heiskanen and the top goalie in Jake Oettinger who has a great future in Dallas with Bishop turning 31 later this year and Kari Lehtonen being 33-years-old.
- Dallas will have John Klingberg and Esa Lindell on their top line of defense which did well down the stretch as a effective first line. The problem is Dallas had no defenders on their second or third lines, The Stars will likely have Mark Methot and Dan Hamhuls on the second line. Julius Honka will likely play on the third line with Stephen Jones while their third overall pick Miro Heiskanen develops by returning to Helsingfors IFK also known as HIFK in Finland where he played before Dallas drafted him.
- Dallas has both the offense and defense. The additions of Alexander Radulov as a line 1 right winger with Martin Hanzel as a line 2 center with Spezza moving to right wing give Dallas the luxury to take the best player on their board.
- The 6-1 176 lb Benoit-Olivier Groulx had 17 goals, 14 assists, 31 points, and a -18 +/- ratio in 62 games. Benoit-Olivier Groulx had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a +3 +/- ratio in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Playoffs where he improved defensively. The top pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft is a player Dallas can get at 17.
- Benoit-Olivier Groulx has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, vision, and offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ to thrive in the NHL down the road. You'd like to see him develop more as a passer in the QMJHL, but he was a great passer on his midget team where he was an alternate captain with 30 assists before Halifax took him first overall in the 2016 QMJHL draft. You'd also like to see Benoit-Olivier Groulx show the versatility to play left wing or right wing with his size.
- I wouldn't call Benoit-Olivier Groulx a complete player yet as a prospect. I want to see how he does on the top line now that Nico Hischier is gonna be on the Devils plus there are a few tweaks he can make to his game. Plus, if he makes those tweaks he has a chance to sneak into the top 10.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea HF (Elitserien)
- Columbus takes the best player available at 17. At this point, I believe that's Isac Lundestrom of Lulea HF. He's versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing in the NHL at 6-0 185 lbs.
- Isac Lundestrom had 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, and a -5 +/- ratio in 45 games in the SHL. Lundestrom has the skating, deking, stick handling, vision, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, versatility, and offensive awareness to be a good player.
- Lundstrom has things he needs to improve on. Lundestrom needs to develop a slap shot. He also needs to develop power and accuracy on that slap shot. Improving by getting more assists and developing as a passer is another area Lundestrom needs to work on. You'd like to him win more face offs. Defensive awareness and hockey IQ are also things Lundestrom needs to work on.
- At this point, I'd say Lundestrom is a boom or bust prospect. He has 8 pros to his game, but also has 7 cons in his game as well. Luckily for Lundestrom he has a full season to turn any of those seven weaknesses in to strengths.
St. Louis Blues: Connor Roberts, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
- The 6-3 214 lb Connor Roberts ws a team captain of his midget hockey team. That leadership allowed him to go third overall in the 2016 OHL Draft.
- Roberts disappointed as a rookie with only 8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points, and a -7 +/- ratio in 63 games during the regular season. Roberts had 1 goal for Hamilton in a 7 game playoff series in the 2017 OHL Playoffs.
- Roberts had more penalty minutes than points. A lack of production is certainly there with Connor Roberts, but he has the size to be a top 20 pick. St. Louis is a team that is known for drafting for size.
New York Islanders: Oliver Wahlstrom, C, USNTDP (USHL)
- Oliver Wahlstrom is a top 10 talent tape wise which is why the Islanders take him here with Calgary's pick at 21. At the same time, everyone we had in our top 20 could push for a spot on an NHL roster right away. This is the deepest draft in terms of being top heavy since the 2015 NHL Draft with McDavid and Eichel even though there isn't a player with that kind of skill in this class.
- The 6-1 198 lb Wahlstrom can play left wing, center, or right wing with his versatility. Wahlstrom had 9 goals, 4 assists, 13 points, and a -13 +/- ratio in 29 USHL games. He did well on the USA Under 17 and USA Under 18 teams, but he struggled some once arriving in the USHL where he was a line 2 center behind Brady Tkachuk.
- The slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, vision, offensive awareness, hockey IQ, and ability to win face offs is all there on tape. He needs to develop as a passer and improve his defensive awareness. He will get more exposure on the first line in the USHL.
- This is a smart kid who is gonna find a way to make it into the NHL at some point, but he's also going to honor his commitment to Harvard where he is expected to play in the NCAA at following the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Wahlstrom would be a top 10 pick if he jumped straight to the NHL and would have been a top 15 pick in 2017 had he been eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. I have Wahlstrom at 21 for a reason right now, but he could be very good down the road.
Minnesota Wild: Quinton Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL)
- I really like Minnesota and think they have one of the leagues more complete rosters. Bruce Beaudreau does not win in the playoffs though and Minnesota always has problems with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs even if the Wild are now the more deeper team defensively.
- Some consider Quinton Hughes a top 10 player because of his ability on offense believing he can be a quarterback on the power play. That's a valid argument, but the 5-9 168 lb defender isn't making an immediate jump to the NHL or a guy who will compete for a roster spot right away like everyone in our top 20. He's going to Michigan for a year and the Wild can keep Hughes at Michigan as long as they want which is why I love this fit here. Hughes is sound offensively, but is a project defensively which is why Minnesota is the perfect team to develop him.
Montreal Canadiens: Xavier Bouchard, D, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
- Montreal can take the best player available since they are the last team I have losing in the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs if I had to make a projection at this point. Xavier Bouchard is probably that player at this point. He was drafted by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar fifth overall in the 2016 QMJHL Draft.
- The 6-2 172 lb Bouchard had 4 goals, 30 assists, 34 points, and a -4 +/- ratio in his rookie season. He had no points and a -6 +/- ratio in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Playoffs.
- Bouchard has the slap shot power and passing that you look for in a defender. He needs to develop more power on his wrist shot. Shooting accuracy is an issue with Bouchard on both his slap shot and wrist shot.
- Awareness is an issue for him on both ends. He passes the puck towards defenders despite having 30 assists so offensive awareness is an issue. Defensive awareness is also an issue. The hockey IQ is probably a question mark as well.
- There a few players that are boom or bust guys in the first round. The one player who most scouts had a second round grade on in my first round was Xavier Bouchard. Bouchard only had two pros and six cons after watching his tape which means I dislike him more than any other first round prospect at this point so he may move out of my first round in my second mock. If you think there is a name I left off this mock, go ahead and post someone for me to watch in the comment section below.
Chicago Blackhawks: Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP (USHL)
- Chicago adds a future defneseman to develop along with their 2017 first round pick Henri Jokiharju. Bode Wilde is 6-2 194 lbs and struggled last year with only 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, and a -20 +/- ratio in 34 games. He had the hockey IQ and GPA to get into Harvard so he can develop with Oliver Wahlstrom at Harvard. Scouts have a higher grade on Bode Wilde than Matias Samuellson, but I like Samuelsson better based on the tape of both players.
Ottawa Senators: Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
- Ottawa has Thomas Chabot replacing Mark Methot. The problem is their defense is only two lines deep rather than three lines deep.
- Serron Noel had 8 goals, 13 assists, 21 points, and 52 penalty minutes. Noel has a first round grade at the moment, but I think he's a guy that is a future bust that could drop to the second round.
Anaheim Ducks: Jakub Lauko, C, Pirati Chomutov (Extraliga)
- Jakub Lauto only had 2 goals last year. He's a late first round talent, but he underperformed.
Washington Capitals: Jesse Ylonen, RW, Espoo Blues (SM Liiga)
- Washington takes the top right winger available. The only thing working against Jesse Ylonen is he's 6-0 159 lbs. He dekes well and has the stick handling, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, vision, and offensive awareness to be a first round pick. The rest of his game is a project though.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Matias Samuelsson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
- Pittsburgh makes it to a third straight Eastern Conference Finals. Without guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, and Trevor Daley one team that is loaded on the blue line is Boston. I think the Bruins can beat Pittsburgh and keep them from returning to the Stanley Cup.
- The 6-3 205 lb Matias Samuelsson can certainly make a case for going ahead of Bode Wilde. Samuelsson had more points than Wilde with 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 poitns, and a 0 +/- ratio in 30 games.
- Samuelsson has the slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ you want in a skater. Teams want to see him skate faster and play more aggressive as far as shot blocking and checking other players goes. Bode Wilde is more complete in that category and Wilde may only need one year to develop at Harvard where as Samuelsson is gonna need at least two years at Michigan to pair up with Quinton Hughes.
Nashville Predators: Grigori Denisenko, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
- Nashville lost Colin Wilson as their third line center. They got Nick Bonino though from Pittsburgh.
- Grigori Denisenko is our top prospect currently playing in Russia in the KHL. Denisenko has the deking, stick handling, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, and passing, vision, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and hockey IQ you look for.
- His three big issues are he's undersized at 5-10 163 lbs. The second issue is he needs to improve his slap shot as well with both power and accuracy. The third issue is his 9 goals, 13 assists, 22 points, +16 +/- ratio in 28 games was terrible last year when you consider that his 59 penalty minutes nearly tripled his point total.
- Denisenko has some good skills. Nashville can take a flyer on him here at 29.
Boston Bruins: Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
- I love the Boston Bruins blue line. Brandon Carlo is now the #1 defenseman on this roster with the teams long-time #1 defenseman Zdeno Chara being the #2 defenseman, but both line 1 defenders can anchor a defense. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug are both line 2 defenders, but until Carlo emerged both had to play on the first line. Kevan Miller is a decent third line defenseman, but he never had anyone to compliment him. Boston University's Charlie McAvoy the Bruins 2016 first round pick will play with Boston on the third line.
- With that much defensive depth and with Pittsburgh not having Nick Bonino or Trevor Daley, I think Boston has enough defensive depth to knock out a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins so they are my Eastern Conference Champions for now unless something changes in my 2017 NHL Season Previews later this year. Boston loses the Cup to a Canadian team in the Western Conference though in 7 games.
- Joel Farabee has first round talent on tape with 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points, and a 0 +/- ratio. The reason he's ranked so low is he's still a project and needs two years at Boston University in 2018-2019 as well as 2019-2020. The fact that Farabee needs two years in the NCAA before making the jump to the NHL is why this top 15 talent slides to 30.
Edmonton Oilers: Milos Roman, C, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
- Edmonton is my early favorite to win the 2018 Stanley Cup. Connor McDavid turns 21 that year plus lots of legends including Crosby and Toews won their first cup at 21. Edmonton can take the best player available. He played for HC Ocelan Trinec in Extraliga last year, but the Vancouver Giants took him sixth overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft. Roman was once considered a top 7 player for the 2018 NHL Draft back in 2015, but has slipped to late first round territory. That's why Edmonton cannot go wrong by taking the best player on the board here to wrap up the first round.