Today is the day of the NHL draft, and to complete our coverage and previews of the event, why not cap it off with a mock draft of the first round? This won’t be 100% accurate since the NHL draft is very difficult to predict as far as what teams will value which traits and players. But we’ll kind of approach it from a “what makes sense as a smart guess” type of look at the action.
#1 - New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP
Ray Shero knows how important all-world centers are. Hughes has the vision, speed, hands, pace to be a special player in the NHL, so he’s the pick.
#2 - New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (FIN)
The Rangers will be all too happy to pick Kakko here, and hope that he can be a Jack Eichel or Evgeni Malkin type of impact player at #2 overall.
#3 - Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP
Here’s where the draft gets interesting. We’ll say Chicago goes for a center instead of defense, which they easily could do. Turcotte is perhaps the most well-rounded high-end player in the draft and could be a top-line center.
#4 - Colorado Avalanche: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
The Avs are in a position to add whatever they want to an already exciting young core. The best defenseman in the draft is too much to pass up on.
#5 - Los Angeles Kings: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
A 6’4 skilled center with good vision and hockey sense and puck skills is in-line with LA’s strategy of big bodies.
#6 - Detroit Red Wings: Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP
We’ll say Steve Yzerman with his first pick goes for pure skill over some bigger options on the board.
#7 - Buffalo Sabres: Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
Cozens is a speedy 6’3 center with great hands and production ability. Buffalo can’t pass up adding to strength down the middle, as Jason Botterill also knows from his Pittsburgh days that having star centers is a recipe to win a lot of games.
#8 - Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP
Boldy challenges Zegras as one of the smartest players in the draft, has excellent hands/puck-skills and at 6’2 has good size, making him an intriguing package for Ken Holland to want to add for his new team.
#9 - Anaheim Ducks: Philip Broberg, D AIK (Sweden)
The Ducks seem to do well developing European defensemen, and they could use more now that their system has been depleted over the past couple of years.
#10 - Vancouver Canucks: Cole Caufield, RW, USNTDP
The smallest elite forward set tons of records scoring goals with the US National development team.
#11 - Philadelphia Flyers: Peyton Krebs, C, Winnipeg (WHL)
A torn Achilles recently might lead to getting shuffled down a few spots, but Krebs should make a full recovery.
#12 - Minnesota Wild: Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL)
There’s questions about his drive and consistency, but Kaliyev has the hands to score in bunches and that’s enough for Minnesota to need a player like that.
#13 - Florida Panthers: Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)
Newhook has a lot going for him, dominating the lower levels and showing enough promise to be a high-end offensive player to go in the top-half of the first round.
#14 - Arizona Coyotes: Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL)
A big, smooth-skating right handed defenseman is tough to find, and Seider’s performance in a men’s league last year and standing out positively in the World Championship helps put him on the map as a big time prospect.
#15 - Montreal Canadiens: Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA (VHL)
On talent alone, a top-five pick. But the “Russian factor” drops him in the draft with at least two seasons until he will be coming to North America.
#16 - Colorado Avalanche: Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
With their second pick of this draft, the Avs go for offense adding a big, skilled right shot winger.
#17 - Vegas Golden Knights: Spencer Knight, G, USNTDP
Vegas adds the top goalie prospect in the draft, a player with the chance to be a special one.
#18 - Dallas Stars: Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL)
At this point defense looks to be best player available for Dallas who nab the smooth skating Soderstrom who has risen a lot in the draft rankings.
#19 - Ottawa Senators: Cam York, D, USNTDP
The run on defense continues with another well-accomplished player from the US program, and many think one who could be one of the top defensemen in the draft skill wise.
#20 - Winnipeg Jets: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL)
As part of the return for Jacob Trouba the Jets switch gears and grab what could be a high-end skilled center with excellent playmaking ability and hockey IQ.
#21 - Pittsburgh Penguins: Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL)
With the way this mock draft has broken, the Pens might be best served adding defense here. Harley at 6’3 is a terrific skater and can control offense and start rushes. He’ll need to learn and improve in his own end defending a bit, but he has all the tools to be a successful player in the future. Plus, with a positive season his trade stock could improve if the Pens want to flip him in the near future like they did their 2014 first round pick Kasperi Kapanen.
#22 - LA Kings: Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (FIN)
The Kings went offense with their first pick so with this one they add to the defense with a steady but capable Finnish defender that they could use for the future.
#23 - New York Islanders: Nicholas Robertson, LW, Peterborough
The hard charging winger is one of the younger players in the draft and has a great shot and work ethic, seems like a good system fit.
#24 - Nashville Predators: Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City (USHL)
Excellent vision and playmaking but worries about a wonky skating stride and size knocks him down a bit on draft day, as it does for many.
#25 - Washington Capitals: Philip Tomasino, C/RW, Niagra (OHL)
The Caps add some speed and skill with a right handed forward.
#26 - Calgary Flames: Brayden Tracey, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Offensive minded winger with good hands, might be a bit of a reach but Calgary goes for it this deep.
#27 - Tampa Bay Lightning: Samuel Poulin, C/LW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
Tampa adds a physical player already standing 6’1, 212 pounds that can also add in the offensive end as a power forward type.
#28 - Carolina Hurricanes: Jakub Pelletier, C/LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
Carolina’s owner has said they will only draft forwards, so we’ll give them an offensively skilled player here.
#29 - Anaheim Ducks: Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgardens (SHL)
Anaheim doubles up on defense as the best player available at this point.
#30 - Boston Bruins: Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton (WHL)
Boston goes with defense too in the form of a big, steady player.
#31 - Buffalo Sabres: Nils Hoglander, RW, Rogle (SHL)
Buffalo finishes out the draft with a skilled wing prospect.