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NHL Mock Draft: Picks 1-15

Rasmus holds top billings

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Just a few days out from the NHL draft I can say two things for certain. When I say for certain I mean anything but because if there is one thing I’ve learned from drafts likes these, it’s that they can turn on a dime. This isn’t a Sidney Crosby, Auston Mathews, Connor McDavid draft. By this I meam, there is no clear cut generational player in this draft that has differentiated himself from the group. Instead we find ourselves in a Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin or a Nico Hischier vs. Nolan Patrick draft where there are two names above the rest and then a gigantic question mark beyond that. At the top you have two names: Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. The two things I know for certain:

1. Rasmus and Andrei will go in the first two picks (and quite honestly, while it looks like Rasmus is going #1 as the first defensemen since 2014 when Aaron Eckblad went to the Florida Panthers, I can’t tell). I was sure Tyler Seguin would go #1 and instead Taylor Hall did and I was sure Nolan Patrick was going #1 last year and instead it was Nico Hischier to the New Jersey Devils.

2. The first ten picks will have more defensemen then offensive players.

The ultimate tricky part is that

2018 Mock NHL Draft

1. Buffalo Sabres.

Synopsis: Needs - wings who can score, stay at home defenseman, maybe a goalie? The Sabres are the new Edmonton Oilers. Top picks galore and nary a strong year to show for the excess of talent. Jack Eichel’s injury didn’t help matters much but he otherwise had a good year, Ryan O’Reilly broke the single season face-offs won record, Sam Reinhart is slowly finding his touch in the NHL and they gave up Evander Kane for not a whole lot. No matter what they are still a ways off during this rebuild so they need to be looking long distance with this pick more than an immediate impact.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Rasmus Dahlin. I don’t think he is head and shoulders the best player like some do, I think Andrei is somewhat commensurate but what I DO think is that in a draft that is deep with good defensemen, Rasmus is clearly the best among a very solid group. This team was dead last in goals scored AND third to last in points against, Rasmus helps in both categories as he is sound defensively reading the play well. On the offensive front he will move the puck up and create plays for the offense.

Who I think they WILL pick: Rasmus Dahlin. Andrei will tempt them but they will go with the logical pick that helps their progressing rebuild. He scored 20 points in 41 games last year in the Swedish league. He will be able to step in day one to play for this team as a top four defenseman.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

Synopsis: Needs - Impact/Playmaking Center; Goalie. Many expected last year to be a breakout for this group with all of its young talent: Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Noah Hanifin and Victor Rask. Instead it was a struggling year with below average defense and offense. They got a great lift winning the 2nd overall pick at odds of 3.3% and I imagine Ottawa and Arizona were non-too-happy about Carolina getting this pick.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Andrei Svechnikov is the clear cut best forward among the group. He scored 72 points across 44 games with the OHL Barrie Colts last year. He is NHL ready and will be a nice pairing up front with Jordan Staal or Elias Lindholm.

Who I think they WILL Pick: They will go with Andrei as the logical pick at #2. The need would drive them towards Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Joseph Velano but this is too early to grab one of them. I would be intrigued to see if they consider trading down but I doubt they will.

3. Montreal Canadiens.

Synopsis: Needs - Potentially a star Center is Drouin doesn’t pan out, young wingers; Having just traded for Max Domi, they have a gritty grinder that can play first line minutes to help Jonathan Drouin should they choose. Carey Price may have to carry some more weight next year to get this team back into competing form again. .900 sv % and a 3.77 GAA was not what they wanted fresh off a nice big contract to him. Getting Shea Weber back healthy will be a major priority as well.

Who I think they SHOULD pick. Brady Tkachuk. I might be alone on this island but I think he is the 2nd best forward in the draft. Two supporting arguments, every person in this family has excelled, I remember vividly when Matthew slid in the draft and he is now scoring 20 goals and 50 points a season as a very gritty offensive player. Brady was a powerhouse with Boston University last year scoring 31 points in 40 games and showing every bit of tenacity that his brother had. Their style of play translates well into the NHL.

Who I think they WILL Pick: Filip Zadina. The issue is that Brady is a bit like Max Domi so you traded for the player who could be best for your team. With that piece solved Filip can start day one as a left winger on one of your top 3 lines. He comes out of the QMJHL scoring an insane 44 goals and 82 points across 57 games. He can certainly score and has strong hands, I’m not sure about how well he holds up physically. He has the size but the play will be much more physical and historically it has slowed and deterred previous QMJHL prospects. The Halifax Mooseheads have produced recent stars Nico Hischier, Nathan MacKinnon, Nikolaj Ehlers and Jonathan Drouin.

4. Ottawa Senators

Synopsis: Needs - depth on defense. Ottawa went from overachieving in 2016-2017 season to underachieving in 2017-2018, neither season represented who they are as a team. They have solid pieces in place, Erik Karlsson is a HOF defensemen, Craig Anderson is good in net, Mike Condon is a good backup, Matt Duchene is a star center, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Ryan Dzingel are good wingers, put together they are an average team.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Noah Dobson, defense SMJHL Bathurst. Is there anything he did NOT accomplish in the last year? Gold Medal, QMJHL Championship, Memorial Cup that’s not a bad year. I think he can work WITH Erik Karlsson on the point during power plays but he also provides the stay at home positioning needs that Ottawa is seeking. As is true with almost all defensemen, he won’t be ready right away and needs a season in the minors before joining the team.

Who I think they WILL pick: Adam Boqvist, defense SHL Brynas. He’s smaller but he is an excellent skater, he is very talented offensively and he has great on ice vision to find an open man. He is similar to Erik which isn’t the worst thing but I think that really limits what can be done when you have them together. He’s still a few years out from starting.

5. Arizona Coyotes

Synopsis: Needs - Goal scoring winger or center. They need offense pure and simple. Defense is below average but serviceable, it’s the offense that is completely absent. It looked promising with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair (both now gone) and the reins were passed on to Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan. Antti Raanta appears to be a promising presence in net for them.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Filip Zadina. This highly talented scoring force will be a big help alongside Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan. Filip would be a skilled, quick, goal scorer that would help out with the bereft offense that is basically Clayton Keller and crickets right now.

Who I think they WILL pick: Brady Tkachuk. He will essentially backfill the role that Max Domi played at perhaps a slightly more talented base. This isn’t the worst fit as Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk will appreciate a formidable gritty presence with them on the ice. He’s not going to be ready right away, there is an outside chance he makes the team but more likely they give him a year or two to develop some more.

6. Detroit Red Wings

Synopsis: Needs - A goalie? Defense, specifically a puck mover. There is an exciting group of young players who have been maturing and working their way up over the years. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanassiou and Martin Frk just to name a few. They even have some solid stay at home defensemen, they need someone who can provide more consistency in net, Jimmy Howard is up and down too much for them.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Adam Boqvist. He’s smaller but he is an excellent skater, he is very talented offensively and he has great on ice vision to find an open man. They have so many talented up and coming offensive players and Adam could really benefit them as a puck carrying threat who is capable of forcing players to pinch on him and finding the open man down low.

Who I think they WILL pick: Quinn Hughes, U-18 USA. Quinn Hughes and Evan Bouchard remind me very much of the Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov situation of two years ago. I think both will be successful and both are both similar and different. They are great on offense and have great on ice vision to find a pass but defensively Quinn has some work to do. Quinn was electric for the University of Michigan last year scoring 29 points in 37 games. He will need 1-2 years of further seasoning and bulking up.

7. Vancouver Canucks

What they need: An elite defensemen who can play two way hockey; potentially a star center. With the retirement of the Sedin twins, a big void opens up on this team for some of the young talents to fill. People will look to Brandon Sutter, Sam Gagner and Bo Horvat to lead at center and hope that some of the young wingers can step up to the challenge. Jacob Markstrom was average at net neither helping nor hurting the team.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Quinn Hughes, U-18 USA. Quinn Hughes will provide every bit of the offensive push from the point that Vancouver would welcome. Brock Boesser was great last year as a rookie up front and Bo Horvat stepped up as well. With other young talents like Sven Baertschi they need an all-star young defensemen like they have seen from Charlie McAvoy, Will Butcher, Mikhail Sergachev, Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov and Aaron Eckblad.

Who I think they WILL pick: Evan Bouchard, as aforementioned, very much like Quinn but with Quinn off first, Evan falls in place as a very good pick. He was captain for OHL’s London Knights and he scored 25 goals last season as a very talented power play defensemen. He can be up and down on his level of play but he is certainly very strong and smart at the point. Defensively he is more bold making key pinches that work most of the time.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

What they need: To get rid of some of the hefty contracts currently on their books. A few young defensemen wouldn’t hurt. For the first time in 10 years the Blackhawks did not make the playoffs as many speculate if the glory days are now over. Patrick Kane still looked dominant but beyond that not too much else beyond older players holding down average production. Corey Crawford is still strong in net so it looks like the farm system needs built back up.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Evan Bouchard, since he is likely a year or two out, he can be a perfect backfill for Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith and head up the power play for Chicago. This is the young puck moving defenseman that Chicago will need for years to come.

Who I think they WILL pick: Jesperi Kotkainen, SM-Liiga, Assat Pori. Likely the top center in the draft this year, Jesperi he posted an impressive 10 goal and 29 point performance this season in Finland. He is much more of a complete package player than a pure scorer which is why he would be perfectly aligned with Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat or Artem Anisimov. Watch for Jesperi to potentially move up more, his stock has skyrocketed over the last 3 weeks.

9. New York Rangers

What they need: A lot of young above average scorers are sitting on the edge with the Rangers. Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider are right there before the fire sale began. Not to mention they have Lias Andersson from last year’s draft and Vladislav Namestnikov from trades with Tampa Bay last year.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Ty Smith, WHL, Spokane. Years ago they had an elite young group of defense with Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Daniel Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh. They since grew old and left through trades or free agency, now is a time to start to rebuild that group.

Who I think they WILL pick: Oliver Wahlstrom, U18 USA. He is one of those players with raw talent. I feel like if he picked up a new sport he would learn and master it within hours. He can score, boy can he score. Playing with the USHL he had 22 goals in 26 games last year. His hands and burst of speed give him a chance to be a scoring threat for any team.

10. Edmonton Oilers

Synopsis: Needs: Goal scorers! To some degree Cam showed that 2016-2017 was a high point, he put up a .908 sv % with 3.02 GAA last year which was a sizeable decline. To me the real issue here was goal scoring where Conor McDavid and Leon Draisatl combined for more points than the next 5 top players combined. After Leon’s 70 points it drops to Ryan Nugent Hopkins with 48 (he was on a great start before tanking down the stretch), then Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic’s 34 points a piece.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Jesperi Kotkainen. He can provide that scoring touch that this team desperately needs. Put him on a line with Connor and oh man could we see a nice boost in points.

Who I think they WILL pick: Noah Dobson. This wouldn’t be the worst pick, he could help defensively on a unit that is not overtly strong. Adam Larsson had a down year, Oscar Klefbom provides a nice touch but their D is a bit thin.

11. New York Islanders

Synopsis: Needs – John Tavares to not leave! Oh and Goaltending. Mathew Barzal was impressive and he and John are clearly working together well as a tandem. Between Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss they could not get any form of consistent goaltending last year. Nick Leddy, Dennis Seidenberg and Thomas Hickey will need to step it up next year and really limit shots on net.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Ryan Merkley, OHL, Guelph. He was the top OHL pick in 2016 and he put up 67 points in 63 games last year. He needs to get MUCH better positionally but I think that can be taught as he spends a year or two in the minor league and could prove to be the good two way defender that the Islanders need.

Who I think they WILL pick: Barrett Hoyton, OHL Sault Ste. Marie. It helped that he was part of a team that tore through the OHL but Barrett was a utility knife for the team, he scored, he backchecked, he passed and he checked. He makes up for a bit of skill with tenacity and due to that he will be a good 3rd liner for the Islanders.

12. New York Islanders (from Calgary)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Oliver Wahlstrom, U18 USA. This provides them with a young solid scoring threat to add to Barzal, Tavares and Anders Lee.

Who I think they WILL pick: Joel Farabee. U18, USA. He served as Captain of the squad with a high hockey IQ and a lot of grit. He scored 76 points last season in 62 games. I feel given his maturity he’s closer then some of the other forwards around here to breaking into the NHL

13. Dallas Stars

Synopsis: Needs: Defensive depth, deeper wings. For one of the teams who spent years on the top scored lists it was a down year for them last year and depth the lineup seemed to catch up to them. They have the wild card mentality in that I could see them rising back up to a top 10 team next year if the stars aligned for them. They have good goaltending, a strong gritty style of play and they have the star player to excel when it all comes together.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Joe Veleno, QMJHL Drummondville. As a 15 year old he was able to play in the QMJHL through an exception. He will be much more of a utilizer of on ice vision to see open spaces and find the open man. He has mental and physical toughness to hold his own and has battle through a few injuries over the years. If they paired him on a line with Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin he could be an excellent source of assists for either one.

Who I think they WILL pick: I think this one falls in line with expectations.

14 Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis Blues)

Synopsis: Needs: As always a goalie. They were streaky last year going on long losing and winning streaks before ultimately making the playoffs and getting ousted in 6 games by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Claude Giroux showed what he still has eclipsing 100 points and Sean Couturier is stepping into the center 1 spot and showing why he could be the franchise player going forward.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Bode Wilde, D US 18. After a few years of picking just forwards, I saw build up the D pipeline again given the long time it can take some (especially this young) to materialize. Bode is a puck moving defensemen who can contribute on offense and on the flip side he doesn’t shy away from making contact with opposing forwards and really getting into their heads. He is the type of defender who can really help out the hole that currently sits in net.

Who I think they WILL pick: Vitaly Kravtsov, RW, MHL Polar Bears. He’s big, he scores and the Flyers have not been shy about grabbing some Russian players lately. His physical and forechecking heavy style plays well with the power forward prototypical player that Philadelphia usually gets a hold of.

15 Florida Panthers

Synopsis: Needs: depth on defense and wings. The Panthers remind me a lot of Winnipeg. They have stars that no one is talking about . Vincent Trocheck is really good, Joanthan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are talented players. Evgeni Dadonov has the chance to rise up there with them and give them 2-3 lines of deep talented centers and great scorers. Years of top picks has materialized into a great group of players coming into their prime.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Joel Farabee. When I think of the Panthers the first names that jump out are the quick hands of Vincent Trochek and the skilled moves of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Add the grit and hussle of Joel and you have a complimentary piece to the equation. He could really got deep fight for the puck or even backcheck and really hold counter teams stars in check to help the top few Panthers do what they do best.

Who I think they WILL pick: Ryan Merkley, OHL, Guelph. This will solve the defensive need that they have especially on the moving forward narrative. They have some sound defensemen but if they could add one who is on the power play and routinely helping out with the offensive aspect it would be nice. Keith Yandle won’t be able to carry that torch forward and Aaron Eckblad is there but it is certainly not his strong suit.