Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: June 23, 2017.
New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) A+ Grade
- NHL Teams are completely torn on whether Nolan Patrick or Nico Hishier will be the first overall pick. Regardless of what the Devils do it feels like left winger Taylor Hall is the only franchise player on the Devils so New Jersey needs to hit on this pick and get the right player to build around him because the Devils feel like a two-year rebuilding team where you get forwards this year and defenseman in 2018. By that point, you can call MacKenzie Blackwood up and have a competitive team by 2019 if you are patient with the Devils. I believe the top player is Nolan Patrick even with his history of injuries this season. Matthews missed a few games last year, but scouts looked past that. At the end of the day, scouts may look past that again.
- The New Jersey Devils interviewed both Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier at the 2017 NHL Combine. Based on the body language cues I saw the Devils give Patrick and Hischier in the interview process, I'd say the Devils have a clear preference towards Hischier at this point. New Jersey said they are keeping this pick and have narrowed it down to Patrick and Hischier, but its a toss up as to who they get at 1. I like Patrick better, but believe the Devils are leaning towards Hischier.
- The New Jersey Devils take the 6-0 174 lb Nico Hischier who was named the second team captain of the 2017 CHL Prospects Game for Team Orr. I think Patrick will be the better NHL player, but I think the Devils end up taking Hischier now.
- Hischier had 1 goal, 2 assists, and 3 points in the loss to Team Orr. He also went 8/16 on face offs in the 2017 CHL Prospects game. One could argue that Hischier's speed and vision should make him the top pick rather than Nolan Patrick. Hischier won't win face offs like Patrick does plus Patrick's leadership still gives him a slight edge, but Hischier is really making a strong case to jump Nolan Patrick because Hischier has the speed, agility, burst, vision, and deking that you wish Nolan Patrick would display more often. Hischier only gave up two of Team Cherry's 7 goals. Hischier got first star in the 2017 CHL Prospects game despite being on the losing team.
- Nico Hischier had 38 goals, 48 assists, and 86 points in 57 games this season along with 3 goals, 4 assists, and 7 points in the 2017 QMJHL Playoffs. Hischier is NHL ready and could play on the Devils first line next season. Hischier would be the first player on the Halifax Mooseheads to go first overall since Nate MacKinnon who the Colorado Avalanche took first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) A+ Grade
- The Philadelphia Flyers take the best player available at 2 which happens to be Nolan Patrick. Even if Patrick falls to 2, I still think he's the best overall player in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
- The fourth overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft has the experience and leadership you covet. He won 2014 WHL Rookie of the year despite having very limited experience.
- The 6-3 198 lb Nolan Patrick entered the 2017 NHL Draft as the clear cut first overall pick in similar fashion as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but not highly as touted. Patrick has better size than both McDavid and Matthews though. Patrick came back from an injury only to be named team captain of Team Cherry in the 2017 CHL Prospects Game. Patrick isn't a lock though with Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads making a case to be the top pick as well though.
- Nolan Patrick had 41 goals, 61 assists, and 102 points in 2015-2016 as an alternate captain. This season he got named team captain and has 8 goals, 9 assists, and 17 points in 11 games this season. Patrick has 4 points in his past three WHL games since recovering from a WHL injury with 2 goals and 2 assists over those 3 games. Patrick only had 20 goals, 26 assists, and 46 points in 33 games this year due to injuries, but is still the best player in the draft.
- Nolan Patrick is one of three or four players in a pretty weak 2017 NHL Draft that is NHL ready. Philadelphia will take Patrick or Hischier at 2 depending on what the Devils do at 1.
- Nolan Patrick did an awesome job winning face offs against Nico Hischier going 12/16 on face offs in the CHL Prospects. Patrick set up two assists despite being double teamed, but also was on the ice when Team Orr scored four of their five goals. Patrick showcased his playmaking and leadership and despite not having a great CHL Prospects game, he still played well enough to be the top pick narrowly edging out Nico Hischier and Gabriel Vilardi as my top prospect. In this mock Patrick dropped to 2 though and will be a huge asset on the Flyers third line behind Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen, D, Helsingfors IFK (SM Liiga) A+ Grade
- The Dallas Stars have the luxury of ignoring a need and taking the best player available at 3 now thanks to getting the Anaheim Ducks first round pick which they can use on defense. In many ways the Stars are like the San Francisco 49ers of the NHL Draft and what they do at 3 will dictate how the rest of the first round plays out. With Ken Hitchcock at head coach, Ben Bishop at goalie, and two first round picks, like the Flyers this team will be able to rebuild their squad pretty quickly.
- Dallas General Manager Jim Nill is looking at a few specific players. Gabe Vilardi of the Windsor Spitfires who he's watched 4 games of during the 2017 Memorial Cup with the Spitfires won all 4 games and Vilardi had 7 assists in all 4 games. Cale Maker of the Brooks Bandits is another player Nill saw. The two players that Dallas spoke with from interviews at the 2017 NHL Combine are Owen Tippett and Miro Heiskanen. I believe Heiskanen is third on Dallas's draft board behind Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier because those three seem to be the three that stand out the most.
- Multiple teams including the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Anaheim Ducks have contacted Dallas about moving up to 3. I think with all those teams making offers one will offer the Stars a deal appetizing enough involving a top 4 defenseman who can help Dallas win now in exchange for the third pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
- If Dallas keeps this pick, I think they go defense and take Miro Heiskanen or Cale Makar at 3 because Makar is their next best player after Heiskanen with Dallas debating between those two defenders at 3 if they keep the pick. I don't think Dallas goes Vilardi after watching him at the Memorial Cup, and outside of Heiskanen or Makar the only other player who I could see them taking is Owen Tippett. I would take Vilardi here, but I feel like Nill will trade the pick or pass on him at 3 for Heiskanen who many consider to be the top defender in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
- The 6-0 174 lb Miro Heiskanen was the top SM Liiga prospect back in the preseason. He did well enough to win SM Liiga rookie of the year and improved this season getting a 9 seed Helsingors IFK team to the Semifinals of the SM Liiga league. Unlike Timothy Liljegren who came one spot shy of a roster spot on Sweden's World Junior Championship team, Heiskanen has been a line 1 defender for Finland in each of the last two years in the World Junior Championships and this year Heiskanen led defenseman with assists so Heiskanen may be consistent enough to warrant a top 5 pick and be the first defender drafted at 3. Dallas can continue to develop him in the SM Liiga league while he gets bigger and stronger. I think Heiskanen would be on Dallas though by 2018 at the very latest following the 2017-2018 NHL Season.
- Dallas scouts compared Heiskanen to Niklas Lidstrom. If they are that high on him and he plays as a rookie then this could be an excellent pick.
Colorado Avalanche: Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL) A- Grade
- The 5-11 179 lb Cale Makar has been a cornerstone player for the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. While the AJHL does not produce talent like the CHL, Makar is an exceptional talent the same way Tyson Jost was an exceptional talent coming out of the British Columbia Hockey League in last years draft which is why Makar should go top 10.
- Cale Makar led the Brooks Bandits to back-to-back AJHL Championships. Makar had 10 goals, 45 assists, and 55 points in the 2015-2016 AJHL Regular Season. In the 2016 AJHL Playoffs, Makar had 3 goals, 11 assists, and 14 points when leading the Brooks Bandits to their first AJHL Championship.
- Cale Makar had 24 goals, 51 assists, and 75 points in 2016-2017. Makar had 3 goals, 13 assists, and 16 points in the 2017 AJHL Playoffs when leading Brooks to repeat.
- Cale Makar will go to Massachusetts where he will skate with the Minutemen for a year. Once he's ready, he can come up to Buffalo and give Nate MacKinnon a quarterback on the power play which may be something Colorado desperately needs.
Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson, C, Timra IK (Allsvenskan) D Grade
- Elias Pettersson is a consensus top 10 pick by most with the versatility to play left wing, center, or right wing. Pettersson will play for the Vaxjo Lakers in the Elitserien league in Sweden next season. He can develop in Vaxjo before being a future forward on the Vancouver Canucks.
- There are better centers available. That's why I dislike this pick.
Vegas Golden Knights: Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) A Grade
- The 6-2 179 lb Cody Glass is a top prospect. Glass had 32 goals, 62 assists, 94 points, and a +31 +/- ratio during the regular season and had 4 goals, 5 assists, and 9 points in 11 games in the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
New York Rangers: Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (Elitserien) F Grade
- The 5-11 198 lb Lias Anderson has done well at center with HV71. Andersson is the top skater available at this point with most scouts having a consensus top 20 grade on him as his stock continues to rise.
- Andersson is a top 15 player. He's not a top 10 player and that's why the Rangers got an F grade for giving up so much only to get so little in return.
Buffalo Sabres: Casey Mittelstadt, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) A- Grade
- The 6-1 202 lb Casey Mittelstadt is versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing. He entered the season as my second best USHL prospect, but is now considered a consensus top 5 prospect despite me having a mid first round grade on him. Mittelstadt did no pull ups at the 2017 NHL Combine yet is still considered the third best player by Central Scouting so someone will take him in the top 5 or top 10 just based on that alone.
- Mittelstadt was the team captain of Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota where he had 21 goals, 43 assists, and 64 points as well as 5 points 2 High School Playoff games. Mittelstadt also had 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points, and a +3 +/- ratio with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL this season.
- Mittelstadt is someone who is going to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fall. He won't make the jump to the NHL right away, but will give Buffalo a future player to build their offense around.
Detroit Red Wings: Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL) A+ Grade
- I would take Rasmussen at 5 or 6 if I was making a board. The thing with Rasmusen is he's a wild card. He could go anywhere between 4 and 15. Tri-City Americans GM Bob Tory came on our podcast and called Rasmussen a special player.
- The 6-5 203 lb Michael Rasmussen had 32 goals, 23 assists, and 55 points in 50 games. Rasmussen is the best center at winning face offs in the entire draft among CHL prospects. Rasmussen has 50 penalty minutes along with a -13 +/- ratio. Rasmussen had a -1 +/- ratio despite scoring in the CHL Prospects game so that should tell you that Rasmussen is a defensive liability even though he went 4/4 on face offs in that game.
- You can easily make a case that Rasmussen has everything you want from a line 1 center in terms of size, winning face offs, and making plays on offense goes. He was on the ice when Tri-City gave up goals, but he did well defensively down the stretch despite struggling early in the season in that area and has ability to play offense or defense. Outside of my top 5 prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hishier, Gabriel Vilardi, Owen Tippett, and Cody Glass, this is the only player in the top 10 who I believe has a shot to play right away in 2017-2018. Detroit can develop him behind Zetterberg and Larkin as a line 3 center or send him back to Tri-City where he will be team captain next year so I love this pick by the Red Wings.
Florida Panthers: Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) A Grade
- The 6-2 203 lb Owen Tippett had 44 goals, 31 assists, and 75 points in 2017. Tippett had 10 goals, 9 assists, and 19 points in 20 OHL Playoff games. Tippett has the size Dale Tallon covets and natural goal scoring despite his poor showing defensively in the 2017 CHL Prospects Game.
Los Angeles Kings: Gabriel Vilardi, RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) A+ Grade
- The 6-3 203 lb Gabriel Vilardi has good ability on both offense and defense. The second overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection is ready to play in the NHL. Vilardi shot a hockey puck in between tires when he was 11-years-old plus he's versatile enough to play left wing, center, or right wing making him a top 3 prospect and a very complete forward in my eyes after dominating the 2017 CHL Prospects Game. Vilardi has the speed, deking, vision, quick reaction, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy. Vilardi is a very complete player on tape despite what the stats say and he led the Windsor Spitfires to the 2017 Memorial Cup posting 7 assists in all 4 games of the 2017 Memorial Cup with Windsor.
Carolina Hurricanes: Martin Necas, C, HC Kometa Brno (Extraliga) A Grade
- There are a lot of different directions the Carolina Hurricanes could take here at 12. Necas wins face offs has a good hockey IQ and is a safe pick.
Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) A Grade
- The Vegas Golden Knights get the 5-11 183 lb Nick Suzuki. Suzuki had 45 goals, 51 assists, and 96 points in 65 games this season. Suzuki had 8 goals, 15 assists, and 23 points in 17 OHL Playoff games during the 2017 OHL Playoffs. Suzuki's defense has improved despite being undersized. Suzuki is an excellent skater with the offensive awareness and vision that you look for. Suzuki also has an excellent hockey IQ.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) A+ Grade
- Tampa Bay takes a defenseman here. The 6-4 219 lb Callan Foote is the top defenseman available.
- The son of Adam Foote had 6 goals, 51 assists, and 57 points in 2017. Foote has the offensive and defensive awareness to play in the NHL and dominated the 2017 CHL Prospects Game.
Vegas Golden Knights: Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Elitserien) B Grade
- Unlike Timothy Liljegren, Erik Brannstrom made Sweden's team in the 2017 World Junior Championships. Luckily for the Vegas Golden Knights they have their pick of the litter between the two Swedish defenders at 15.
- Liljegren had 1 goal, 4 assists, and 5 points on Rogle B.K.'s Elitserien team in the SHL in 16 games in 2016-2017. Brannstrom had 1 goal, 5 assists, and 6 points on HV71. I think Brannstrom has the edge between those two defenders offensively and defensively.