2016 NHL Draft

Mock Draft: Pre-lottery Edition (Round 1)

Steve Kournianos  |  04/12/2016 |  New York  |  [hupso]

Toronto_Maple_Leafs_logo  1. C Auston Matthews (ZSC Lions, SUI)
                36 gp 24g 22a 46p  |  Shoots Left |  9/12/97  |  6’2, 210

Consensus top pick whose surprising move to Europe for his draft season was backed up with an MVP-finalist performance in Switzerland’s National League. Matthews is the closest thing to a franchise center this draft has to offer and the kind of minute-munching pivot the Leafs have lacked since Mats Sundin.

  2. LW Patrik Laine (Tappara, Liiga)
                46 gp 17g 16a 33p  |  Shoots Right |  4/19/98  |  6’4, 206

Picked up right where he left off, producing a dominant postseason and helping Tappara come within a game of the Liiga finals. The big-bodied sniper remains the draft’s top goal scorer, and the likelihood of Laine becoming the first overall pick is discernable to say the least.

  3.  RW Jesse Puljujarvi (Karpat, Liiga)
                50 gp 13g 15a 30p  |  Shoots Right |  5/7/98  |  6’3.5, 203

Shook off a late-season lower body injury with a strong playoff, making plays at the right time while displaying a robust work ethic to match countryman Laine step for step as they duked it out in their series. With off-the-charts upside and a pro frame, Puljujarvi is the clear best player available at three.

293px-Columbus_BlueJackets4. LW Matt Tkachuk (London, OHL)
                57 gp 30g 77a 107p  |  Shoots Left |  12/11/97  |  6’2, 200

Missouri-born power forward who followed up a decorated career with the U.S. national development program with a 107-point campaign in the Ontario Hockey League. Tkachuk is a tank, owning a leathal shot and even better playmaking acumen.

 5. RW Alexander Nylander (Mississauga, OHL)
                57 gp 28g 47a 75p  |  Shoots Right |  3/2/98  |  6’0, 180

A fluid athlete with the uncanny ability to create and finish in the tightest of spaces, Nylander is a dual-purpose skill forward in that he can play both the set-up role and bury the biscuit. He’s very quick and can maintain his speed even while changing directions – the perfect option for today’s up-tempo game.

 6. LHD Jakob Chychrun (Sarnia, OHL)
                62 gp 11g 38a 49p  |  Shoots Left |  3/31/98  |  6’2, 206

The Jets need help on their blueline, and who better to bolster their underachieving group than this freakish, fleet-footed workhorse who can step right in and contribute. Chychrun is a cornerstone defenseman who logged upwards of 30 minutes a game in all situations for a top-heavy Sarnia club, and is ready for the rigors of the NHL.

 7. LHD Olli Juolevi (London, OHL)
                57 gp 9g 33a 42p  |  Shoots Left |  5/5/98  |  6’2, 182

Smart, poised two-way rearguard who had a fine rookie season in North America. His passing and mobility are strengths, but there’s more to Juolevi’s game than just puck movement. He’s a highly-cerebral player who can control the pace of the game with sound decision making.

 8. C/LW Pierre-Luc Dubois (Cape Breton, QMJHL)
                62 gp 42g 57a 99p  |  Shoots Left |  6/24/98  |  6’2, 201

A linebacker on skates with a quarterback’s brain, Dubois is a real leader who displays creativity and fury in one complete package. He skates well and can be a punishing hitter, but he screams top-line upside, and can do it from either the pivot or the flank.

Montreal Canadiens  9. LHD Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor, OHL)
                67 gp 17g 40a 57p  |  Shoots Left |  6/25/98  |  6’2, 208

Windsor’s Russian tank with a high-velocity cannon of a shot who rivaled Chychrun in terms of overall importance to his team’s success. Sergachev played a ton for the Spits, displaying keen awareness and using strong mobility to create chances from the back end.

Colorado_Avalanche_logo10. RW Julian Gauthier (Val-d’Or, QMJHL)
                54 gp 41g 16a 57p  |  Shoots Right |  10/15/98  |  6’4, 225

The build of a power winger with the soft hands and touch of a finesse pivot, Gauthier is one of the CHL’s top goal scorers who can be used in all situations. Blessed with a massive wingspan, his pass-receipt radius dwarfs practically all of his draft-eligible peers.

3641NDc11. C Clayton Keller (U.S. U18, NTDP)
                55 gp 33g 60a 93p  |  Shoots Left |  7/29/98  |  5’10, 170

The centerpiece of this year’s NTDP, Keller is a dynamic, pass-first sparkplug with a deceptive shot and an arsenal of moves. His impact may not be instant (he’s going to Boston University in the fall), but he is a legitimate top-six option who is always involved in the play and battles every shift from start to finish.

 12. C Mike McLeod (Mississauga, OHL)
                57 gp 21g 40a 61p  |  Shoots Right |  2/3/98  |  6’2, 190

Big-bodied playmaker with fighter-jet speed who can be used in all situations. McLeod worked well with fellow blue chipper Alex Nylander, as they combined to form one of the OHL’s top duos. He isn’t the best finisher, but his ability to make world-class plays at a high rate of speed makes him a no-brainer in the top 15.

 13. C Logan Brown (Windsor, OHL)
                59 gp 21g 53a 74p  |  Shoots Left |  3/5/98  |  6’6, 225

Gargantuan set-up man with a pro-level shot who centered Windsor’s top line and led the club in assists. Brown is a tough out who can thread the needle, but also owns a quick-enough first step to get around opponents and take it strong to the net. The son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Brown, Logan will play for Team USA at the upcoming under-18 world championship.

 14. LW Max Jones (London, OHL)
                63 gp 28g 24a 52p  |  Shoots Left |  2/17/98  |  6’2, 206

Jones is an elite athlete with a variety of ways to beat you at any given time during any situation. He aims to make every opponent’s shift as painful and irritating as possible, and that’s before he picks up the puck and jets the other way. Big and strong, Jones is a bit of a loose cannon, albeit one with blazing speed and a soft set of hands. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he turns out to be the best player to come out of the Class of 2016, but he has work to do in the maturity department.

15. LW Kieffer Bellows (U.S. U18, NTDP)
                55 gp 45g 28a 73p  |  Shoots Left |  6/10/98  |  6’0, 197

This is a deep draft for power wingers, and the son of fomer NHL all star Brian Bellows is near the top of the list. Physically mature and blessed with a quick shot, Bellows plays with fire and can get under your skin in a hurry. He’ll join Keller at BU, where the twosome will continue their on-ice chemistry.

detroit-red-wings-logo16. LW Luke Kunin (Wisconsin, Big-10)
                34 gp 19g 13a 32p  |  Shoots Right |  12/4/97  |  6’0, 195

Exceptional goal scorer who did everything for a rebuilding Badgers club. Kunin can fly, but he’s got a pro shot with deadly accuracy – almost on par with Laine in that regard. A threat on either the power play or the penalty kill, he’s a lot closer to the NHL than you’d think.

 17LW/C Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville, QMJHL)
                56 gp 23g 45a 68p  |  Shoots Right |  4/9/98  |  6’1, 175

Laberge is a natural in the offensive zone, picking apart defensive zone coverage either with sick vision or a blistering shot. He’s at his best when he has control of the puck below the circles, and he’s one of the draft’s best at culminating his cycles with a scoring chance. Laberge has a little work to do in the defensive zone, but he’s a mature and focused kid who’ll fit well in Nashville.

 18C German Rubtsov (Russia U18, MHL)
                  40 gp 15g 25a 40p  |  Shoots Left |  6/27/98  |  6’2, 180

A power center with shutdown capability, Rubtsov and his reputation took a body blow after it was revealed that he and most of his U18 teammates allegedly tested postive for a banned substance, thereby barring them from participating at the upcoming U18 world championship. Nevertheless, he’s still an outstanding offensive force and the crown jewel of Russia’s development program.

Lightning19C Rasmus Asplund (Farjestad BK, SHL)
                46 gp 4g 8a 12p  |  Shoots Left |  12/3/97  |  5’11, 176

Admired for his fill-in role on Sweden’s de-facto top line at the world juniors, Asplund is an excellent two-way center who is strong on draws and a magnet on the puck. He rarely looked out of place as a teenager for Farjestad, and on occasion played on the top line.

*20. RHD Charlie McAvoy (Boston University, Hockey East)
                37 gp 3g 22a 25p  |  Shoots Right |  12/21/97  |  6’0, 210

McAvoy is a physical two-way defender who helped stabilize the Terriers’ oft-depleted blue line. He makes game-breaking plays with either his body or his skill, and we saw him steadily improve in his decision making as the season progressed. Another Long Island-trained blue chipper who could end up being a steal this late in the first round.

  21. LHD Jake Bean (Calgary, WHL)
                68 gp 24g 40a 64p  |  Shoots Left |  6/9/98  |  6’0, 175

Bean is a classic puck mover and jump-starting quarterback who shed his no-name label with an outstanding campaign for Calgary, leading CHL defenders with 24 goals, and doing so on a younger team. He’s a quick thinker with the puck on his stick, but almost to a fault — he needs to cut down on his turnovers and pray for a patient coaching staff.

 *22. C Tyson Jost (Penticton, BCHL)
                48 gp 42g 62a 104p  |  Shoots Left |  3/19/98  |  5’11, 192

North Dakota-bound center who chose college over the CHL despite being one of Western Canada’s top prospects. Jost can create and complete difficult plays while darting in and around traffic, and can be relentless on the puck in the offensive zone. He has a very good shot — especially on the backhand — and can finish with regularity, making him a solid center option in a draft devoid of depth up the middle.

*23. RW Vitalii Abramov (Gatineau, QMJHL)
                63 gp 38g 55a 93p  |  Shoots Right |  5/9/98  |  5’9, 178

A dangerous skill winger who keeps defenders guessing the wrong way, Abramov plays far bigger than his 5’9 frame, and his capabilities with the puck are extraordinary. And while he’ll fight through checks and pay a high price to finish, he still manages to elude detection and appear out of nowhere.

 24C Will Bitten (Flint, OHL)
                67 gp 30g 35a 65p  |  Shoots Right |  7/10/98  |  5’10, 172

Swift puck possessor who preys on indecisive defenseman on the forecheck with tenacity and a quick stick. He had the burden of spearheading a thin Flint attack, but he fought through the tough assignments to lead his club in scoring. Bitten can find the open man and finish, and has excellent breakaway speed.

 25C Sam Steel (Regina, WHL)
                72 gp 23g 47a 70p  |  Shoots Left |  2/3/98  |  5’11, 180

Steel stood firm from opening day right through the playoffs as one of the WHL’s top first-year draft eligibles. He is a pure playmaker with great vision and a soft set of hands, but his shot and release are also top notch. Steel’s got a nose for the net and is capable of improving any power play.

 *26. LW Tyler Benson (Vancouver, WHL)
                30 gp 9g 19a 28p  |  Shoots Left |  3/15/98  |  6’0, 201

A season-ending groin injury in January is simply a formality, as Benson was white hot before being sidelined. He’s a scoring winger with strength who is a pain to play against as he uses his upper body strength and leg drive to separate the puck from opponents. Benson can play either center or wing, but his finishing ability makes him a better fit for the flank.

Toronto_Maple_Leafs_logo  *27G Carter Hart (Everett, WHL)
                63 gp 35-23-4, 2.14 GAA, .918 SV%  |  Catches Left |  8/13/98  |  6’0, 181

The Leafs aren’t alone in the quest to find elite goaltending, so it makes total sense to nab this draft’s top goalie within the first round. Hart is a technically-sound butterfly netminder with excellent post-to-post quickness, and he’s rebounded from an average second half to star in the postseason.

28LW Adam Mascherin (Kitchener, OHL)
                65 gp 35g 46a 81p  |  Shoots Left |  6/6/98  |  5’9, 206

Top-notch playmaker with a powerful build and hard shot who enters the Spring months as one of the draft’s most under-appreciated forwards — he was third in scoring among OHL first-year eligibles but wasn’t invited to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game. He’s not the tallest or even close to the fastest, but only a handful can carve up an entire five-man unit the way Mascherin can.

29.  LHD Libor Hajek (Saskatoon, WHL)
                69 gp 3g 23a 26p  |  Shoots Left |  2/4/98  |  6’2, 199

Hajek is a physical shutdown defender with excellent mobility and mature instincts, which were somewhat stifled thanks to the tilted ice he contended with on a nightly basis. He has top-pairing potential and can run a power play if necessary, using speed and patience to gain the zone with relative ease.

30LW/RW Alex DeBrincat (Erie, OHL)
                60 gp 51g 50a 101p  |  Shoots Right |  12/18/97  |  5’7, 168

DeBrincat is a pure finisher with the best hands of any in his class. He’s feisty and physical, and you’ll rarely see him get cheated on a shift. He may seem compactly built, but he’s surprisingly strong on his skates and plays on the inside regardless of whether it’s an option or not. DeBrincat will thrive in an up-tempo system, but he’s just as dangerous during trench warfare.

*Boston owns San Jose’s 2016 1st round pick from the Martin Jones trade.

*Winnipeg owns Chicago’s 2016 1st round pick from the Andrew Ladd trade.

*Toronto owns Pittsburgh’s 2016 1st round pick from a condition in the Phil Kessel trade.

*Carolina owns Los Angeles’s’ 2016 1st round pick from the Andrej Sekera trade.

*Arizona owns the New York Rangers’ 2016 1st round pick from the Keith Yandle trade.