2017 NHL Draft

Mock Draft: Picks 1-31 (May)

Explosive Brooks Bandits defenseman Cale Makar is expected to be a lottery pick at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

Steve Kournianos  |  5/17/2017 |  New York  |  

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Another month, another mock draft. Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick remains the first player chosen in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, but there has to be some skepticism, possible apprehension when you consider his lengthy injury history. The Devils, who are picking first, are in dire need of a franchise center, so expect them to roll the dice — yes, gamble — on Patrick with the first overall pick. In Patrick goes where most expect him to go, the next pick with Philadelphia is all but guaranteed to be Swiss center Nico Hischier, although Flyers general manager Ron Hextall’s love for Western Canadian kids could result in swiping Portland center Cody Glass earlier than anticipated.

Other players who may go within the first three picks and why:

1. Casey Mittelstadt: The native Minnesotan has as good of a pre-draft resume as anyone — top scoring finish at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka, top player at the 2016 USA Hockey All American Top Prospects Game, leading scorer in Minnesota’s Section 2AA and the USHL’s leader in points per game. Concerns over his even strength production int he USHL are somewhat overstated, as 49 of his 62 points in 26 high school games were at 5v5 or shorthanded. Discrediting a kid because he was more of an assassin on the power play than at even strength comes across as nitpicking, especially when you consider he was a rookie. He’s the definition of a gamebreaker.

2. Cale Makar: You can’t help but fall in love with this kid’s skill set — power, speed, smarts. He’s a gazelle on skates with an absolute bomb for a shot. No, he hasn’t faced the best amateur or European hockey had to offer, but keep his dominance of the WJAC and RBC Cup in mind. Nobody was able to stop this kid, and in a draft thin of explosive talent, I wouldn’t be shocked if he went first overall.

3. Miro Heiskanen: Recency bias is a heck of a drug. One great late-season tournament can do wonders for your draft stock, and hats off to Heiskanen for being the best defenseman at the under-18 world championships. But anybody watching his regular season play in the Finnish league will tell you just how smooth, clam and collected he his. Logging a regular shift on a good team — a good team in an European elite league — is significant and should not be overlooked.

4. Gabe Vilardi: The Memorial Cup is just a few days away, and Vilardi will have hundreds of scouts, front office types and analysts watching how he does against the best of major junior hockey. That shouldn’t be a problem for a kid who is barely old enough to qualify for 2017 draft eligibility. He’s big and a joy to watch, and I think playing on a deep Spits’ team plus an early-season knee injury prevented him from separating himself from all CHL eligibles, including Hischier and possibly Patrick.

5. Cody Glass: Glass didn’t start the season on a great note, as he was cut from Canada’s Ivan Hlinka squad that failed pretty miserably. He took the rejection in stride, torching the WHL and looking every bit of the top line center he was for Portland. Glass did everything for the Winterhawks — power play, penalty kill, clutch goals, big draws, snazzy plays — and he clearly was the go-to guy on a veteran team.

Round 1
Team Pick Player Notes
1 C Nolan Patrick

Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL

6’2, 198 | 9/18/98

Seems like a tough choice, but the Devils overlook Patrick’s injury history and draft their first franchise center since Kirk Muller 33 years prior. His blend of skill and power is unmatched among draft eligibles, and he was dominant for an understrength Brandon squad.
2 C Nico Hischier

Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

6’1, 176 | 1/4/99

The team with the NHL’s deepest prospect pool grabs the player with the highest star potential. Hischier makes everyone playing with him better while those opposing him shiver in their skates. He’s also a fierce competitor who at the drop of a hat can turn your basic puck battle into a quality scoring chance.
3 C Casey Mittelstadt

Green Bay Gamblers, USHL

6’1, 201 | 11/22/98

The top U.S.-born player for 2017 might turn out to be the best player from this draft. Mittelstadt torched both the USHL and Minnesota’s competitive high school circuit, and has an outstanding resume in international play. His vision and ability to make something out of nothing are on par with Hischier and Patrick, and he can wire a heavy wrister with accuracy from just about anywhere in the offensive zone.
4 LHD Miro Heiskanen

HIFK, Liiga

6’0, 170 | 7/18/99

It might be a blessing in disguise that Colorado — the NHL’s worst team in the regular season — got bumped down out of skill forward-range, but this heady Finn is no consolation prize. Heiskanen is a very good skater who logged close to 20 minutes per game on a very good team in Finland’s elite league. His dominance at the under-18 world championships earned him top defenseman honors.
5 C Gabe Vilardi

Windsor Spitfires, OHL

6’3, 201 | 8/16/99

The Canucks need playmakers, and one could argue that Vilardi’s keen vision and high hockey IQ rank up there with the Patricks and Hischiers of the world. And he’s an excpetional stickhandler with incredibly soft hands. He’s got a great attitude towards the game and can either play the role of a sniper on the wing or a playmaking, pass-first center.
6 C/W Elias Pettersson

Timra IK, Allsvenskan

6’1, 160 | 11/12/98

The Golden Knights are playing with house money, but GM George McPhee is as seriousas they comes when it comes to drafting in the first round. Pettersson is a budding star with phenomenal offensive skills who can put on quite a show. Dangles, dekes and spin-o-ramas have long been commonplace in his lauded junior career, and he was one of the top teenage scorers in Sweden’s version of the AHL.
7 RW Owen Tippett

Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

6’0, 200 | 2/16/99

Arizona is loaded with talent, but they could use an elite finisher with a powerful shot. Enter Tippett, a power forward with excellent speed and a laser for a shot. He was among the OHL leaders in goals (44) and shots (284), but don’t sleep on his playmaking ability — Tippett is an accurate passer who can freeze a goalie before slipping a backdoor pass for a better scoring chance.
8 RHD Tim Liljegren

Rogle, SHL

6’0, 191 | 4/30/99

No prospect fell victim to the analysis paralysis phase of a draft year more than this smooth-skating Swede, who never seemed to dust off the cobwebs from an early-season bout with mononucleosis. Liljegren still owns an absolute howitzer but his defensive-zone issues regarding decision making need to be fixed. From an upside point of view, Liljegren has the potential to be a star for many years to come.
9 C Martin Necas

Kometa Brno, Extraliga

6’1, 167 | 1/15/99

A lackluster under-18 world championship slowed down a hype train that picked up steam after his strong postseason in the Czech Extraliga. But Necas remains one of the draft’s best offensive talents. He’s a cerebral puck magnet who can beat you in a variety of ways and is deadly once he gets below the circles.
10 LW Eeli Tolvanen

Sioux City Musketeers, USHL

5’10, 170 | 4/22/99

No draft-eligible forward can wire the puck the way this Finnish import can. The Boston College-bound sniper tore up the USHL for a second straight season, scoring 30 goals in 52 games and pumping out a league-best 246 shots. He can score on breaks, clappers from the circles and has a sweet backhander.
11 C Cody Glass

Portland Winterhawks

6’2, 180 | 4/1/99

The Kings could use some excitement after two relatively pedestrian seasons in both the standings and at the draft table. Glass is an excellent offensive pivot and scorer who thinks while he plays. He can also kill penalties and has a nonstop motor for extended shifts.
12 C/W Lias Andersson

HV71, SHL

5’11, 198 | 10/13/98

One of the few forward prospects who played consistent minutes for a contending adult team, Andersson showcased more creativity and puck skills at several best-on-best tournaments while manning one of Sweden’s top two lines. He’s a 200-foot battler with soft hands and makes smart decisons while motoring up ice. Andersson is a virtual lock for a lengthy NHL career, and his style of play can fit any system.
13 RHD Cale Makar

Brooks Bandits, AJHL

5’11, 180 | 10/30/98

Explosive and exceptionally gifted, Makar from a pure skill standpoint is the best draft-eligible defenseman. Playing in lesser-known league like the AJHL afforded him to opportunity to consistently showcase his abilities, but he’s done quite well in tournaments against stiffer competiiton. A serious candidate for the top three or four picks of the draft, Makar has a commitment to UMass-Amherst.
14 LHD Erik Brannstrom

HV71, SHL

5’10, 173 | 9/2/99

One or two inches is what keeps this Swedish dynamo out of the first four or five draft slots, but the overall package is undeniably good. Brannstrom is an on-ice general with an advanced brain and howitzer for a shot who can also skate and keep the puck out of his zone. He’s quite strong for his size and has no problem knocking bigger players off the puck.
15 LHD Urho Vaakanainen

JyP, Liiga

6’0, 185 | 1/1/99

The Islanders had a nice second-half run to close out an otherwise disappointing season, and this Finnish blueliner is a worthy prize for missing the playoffs. He can skate, quarterback a power play and play poised in the face of a relentless forecheck. Vaakanainen as a teenager had the best possession stats of any defender on his adult team, and his game is similar to that of Olli Juolevi, who went fifth overall last season.
16 RW Klim Kostin

Dynamo Moscow, KHL

6’3, 196 | 5/5/99

A season-ending shoulder injury curtailed what was supposed to be a promising draft year for this Russian bulldozer on skates, who was the top pick in last year’s CHL Import Draft. Kostin is a quick power winger who hits hard but is also blessed with soft hands and offensive-zone flair.
17 LHD Juuso Valimaki

Tri-City Americans, WHL

6’2, 204 | 10/6/98

The Leafs don’t peg me as the kind of team that will draft for need in a draft thin on gamebreakers. But this mobile Finn checks every block for what you’d want from a draft-eligible rearguard. His positioning and poise with the puck are excellent, and his hard point shot makes a goalie work a bit harder to stop.
18 C Ryan Poehling

St. Cloud St. Huskies, NCHC

6’2, 183 | 1/3/99

The Bruins love two-way players with size, but Poehling can be one heck of a fancy player if the situation calls for it. The stats (7-6-13 in 35 games) are somewhat indicative of a freshman forward on a stacked team, but he lit up the international circuit and almost carried Team USA to gold at the Hlinka last August.
19 LHD Pierre-Olivier Joseph

Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL

6’2, 161 | 7/1/99

Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson and staff are pretty unpredictable, but in the past they’ve leaned towards Americans and Quebec Leaguers. If Poehling is here, I think they take him, but Joseph is one of the more mature defenders available. He stood out and played big minutes despite Charlottetown being loaded with NHL picks, and I think he’s only some added muscle away from contributing at the highest level.
20 C Michael Rasmussen

Tri-City Americans, WHL

6’6, 215 | 4/17/99

Rasmussen is an excellent two-way center who missed half the season with a busted wrist. He was a key cog in Tri-City’s resurgence and was one of the few bright spots for Canada at the Hlinka. More of a scorer than a playmaker, his massive frame and soft touch around the net helped him cash in with 32 goals in 50 games.
21 C Joni Ikonen

Frolunda J20, Superelit

6’0, 178 | 4/14/99

The Rangers need shooters who are fast enough to play their up-tempo style, so this is a case where an off-the-board center like Ikonen is a perfect fit. He’s an exciting player with elite puck skills who as Kritian Vesalainen’s center in Frolunda helped reinvigorate the former’s sliding draft stock. He owns a blistering shot and isn’t afraid to use it.
22 RHD Callan Foote

Kelowna Rockets, WHL

6’4, 212 | 12/13/98

Although I think the Leafs might be leaning towards this kid, the Oilers’ pipeline could use a Steady Eddie to augment their young puck movers. The son of former Avalanche Stanley Cup winner Adam Foote, Callan is big, strong and ridiculously smart. He was Kelowna’s stopper when matched up against opposing top lines and was an integral component to its lethal power play.
23* RHD Henri Jokiharju

Portland Winterhawks

6’0, 180 | 6/17/99

There are always risky picks, but Jokiharju’s limitations in size and strength doesn’t mean he’ll never get big enough to handle an NHL workload. Two things this Finn can do well are skate and handle the puck, but his defensive zone play was quite good considering he was a first-timer in North America. Don’t sleep on this kid — he seems to relish challenges when the spotlight shines brightest.
24 LW Kristian Vesalainen

Frolunda J20, Superelit

6’3, 207 | 6/1/99

It was a tale of two seasons for this Finnish power forward, who closed out his draft year with strong performances in both Sweden’s J20 league and the U18 worlds. Not only did Vesalainen earn the tournament’s top player honors, but his ability to make plays at high speed and cause serious damage off the cycle revealed just how dominant a player he can be. Consistency in effort and playing enaged are areas he needs to work on, but this is a home run pick for a team coming off a 50-win season.
25 RW Grant Mismash

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’0, 186

The NTDP was slow out of the gate before slicing through international competition like a hot knife through butter, and this power winger was a big reason why. Mismash, a North Dakota commit, is a dual-purpose threat who is money on the power play and in odd-man situations. He’s a tough matchup who battles hard and can wow you with slick plays close to the goal.
26 LHD Nicolas Hague

Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

6’6, 215 | 12/5/98

Mammoth puck mover with a heavy shot who gelled with Mississauga’s talented lineup of scorers. It’s easy to classify Hague as a project, but that’s more for his play in his own end. He loves to join the rush, fill in gaps and taken risks deep in enemy territory, and he can hammer home one-timers from the circles on the power play. Not as physical as you’d want him to be, but neither was Brent Seabrook in his draft year.
27* C Robert Thomas

London Knights, OHL

6’0, 188 | 7/2/99

Playing for a perrenial powerhouse in London has more advantages than disadvantges, but in Thomas’s case, you wish he saw more time than he did. When he was on the ice, however, this kid was outstanding in all three zones. One of the 2017 draft’s most dangerous players from a static position, meaning he doesn’t need time and space to carve you up.
28 C/LW Scott Reedy

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’2, 204 | 4/4/99

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and gun for a kid who has the potential to be something far greater than what the stats may indicate. Reedy is a great stickhandler who plays an in-your-face game and scored goals after being converted to left wing from his natural center ice position. Getting benched at the U18 worlds certainly didn’t help his draft stock, but his puck skills are worthy of a gamble this late in the first.
29 C Nick Suzuki

Owen Sound Attack, OHL

5’11, 183 | 9/10/99

The stats scream that Suzuki is a possible top-10 pick, but lots of players put up big numbers in the CHL. He isn’t the biggest, fastest or most intense player, but his IQ, playmaking ability and two-way play are off the charts. Suzuki was the straw that stirred the drink in Owen Sound, leading all first-year OHL eligibles with 96 points in 65 games.
30* RHD Connor Timmins

Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, OHL

6’1, 185 | 9/18/98

The Stars already have several blue chippers on the back end, and there’s a good bet they either take a goalie or trade up to grab a bigger name. But Timmins is a kid who improved significantly in all areas as the year progressed. He tied Valimaki for most points (61) by a first-year draft eligible CHL defenseman and was excellent quarterbacking the Soo’s power play.
31 C Josh Norris

U.S. U18, NTDP

6’1, 192 | 7/2/99

You have to go all the way back to Angelo Espositio in 2007 to find the last time Pittsburgh drafted a center in the first round, but Norris couldn’t be any more different a player. He’s thick, strong on his skates and can create plays in any situation, including the penalty kill. A playmaker with a hard shot and soft hands, Norris will play for Michigan in the fall.

*Arizona acquired Minnesota’s 2017 first round pick in the Martin Hanzal trade.
*St. Louis acquired Washington’s 2017 first round pick in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.
*Dallas acquired Anaheim’s 2017 first round pick from a condition in the Patrick Eaves trade.