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NHL Mock Draft: Picks 16-31

Now the field opens up and anything can happen

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

See PIcks 1-15 here:

16. Colorado Avalanche

Synopsis: Needs – Defense, depth at wing. Most expected this team to be a bottom feeder only Colorado missed the memo going 43-30-9 and making the playoffs. Mikko Rantanen make major steps into becoming a future star on this team alongside Nathan MacKinnon who made unprecedented jumps going from 53 points to 97 points season over season. Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier were sufficient in net to help this team advance to the playoffs and surprise many.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Serron Noel, OHL, Oshawa. He is a big winger who needs at least a year or two to develop but he has strong legs, great speed and would be a nice long term pick for a team that likely doesn’t have a short term window given it’s young talented group.

Who I think they WILL pick: Grigori Denisenko, Russian Junior League. Despite his slightly smaller statue, he is able to use his body well to maneuver on the ice. I don’t think he translates into the biggest scorer but he can play two way hockey, he protects the puck and he is more than willing to fight for the puck.

17. New Jersey Devils

Synopsis: Needs – Depth at Center. Another team who surprised most, analysts kept waiting for the Devils to start losing and it never happened. A 44-29-9 record carried them to the playoffs where they lost in round 1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Taylor Hall just took his first ever Hart trophy leading the team with 39 goals and 93 points. First overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft Nico Hischier was second on the team with 52 points and 20 goals. Defensemen Will Butcher, Sami Vatanen stepped into a good 1-2 role for them and Keith Kinkaid become a nice number two punch alongside Cory Schneider in net.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Barrett Hayton. An intelligent center who can play two way hockey efficiently. I think he is a near perfect fit for both the style of play for the Devils as well as the needs they have and where he could fit into the lineup playing alongside any number of wingers in their lineup.

Who I think they WILL pick: Akil Thomas, C, OHL, Niagra. A small gritty center would be a good fit for the Devils. He can play wing and would be good along either Pavel Zacha or Travis Zajac on the 2nd or third lines. He seems like a decent fit for the Metropolitan division with his willingness to fight it out in the corners.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets

Synopsis: Needs – a star Center (which Pierre-Luc Dubois might be?) . Expectations were high for the Blue Jackets after a breakout campaign in 2016-2017. They were not able to deliver with a few cold streaks encapsulated by a flame out to the Washington Capitals after being up two games to none. Ironically, they might have given the Capitals their biggest scare of the playoffs and it was in round 1. Artemi Panarin proved he was capable without Patrick Kane and Sergei Bobrovsky continues to be strong in net (not to mention a strong defense of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones helping in front).

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Rasmus Kupari, C, Liiga. His ability to raise the bar and overachieve have been evident. In Liiga as one of the younger players he has not flinched, 6 goals and 14 points in 39 games. He has a great shot and deft hands that allow him to find the net often. He forechecks hard but his back checking leaves a bit to be desired. He will need another year at least to develop into an NHL player.

Who I think they WILL pick: Bode Wilde. While the Blue Jackets certainly don’t NEED a defenseman, it doesn’t hurt to invest in them early as it’s typically one of the slowest positions to materialize into NHL caliber talent. Bode looks like he needs a few years to build his way up to NHL level and by then there could assuredly be an opening for him on this roster.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Dominik Bokk, D, Swedish Junior League. Given my previous pick at #14 I think the Bode and Bokk tandem would be a fun one. Get your top defensemen and then build up with a good forward. He helped the Vaxjo win their championship scoring 11 points in eight playoff games. He is a shoot first prospect which the Flyers could use alongside Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jacob Voraceck.

Who I think they WILL pick: Ty Smith, D, WHL, Spokane. Ron Hextall wants to start backfilling his defensive prospects and this will work towards that goal. To boot, it’s not a bad steal for #19 as he is seen as a top 15 pick in this draft.

20. Los Angeles Kings

Synopsis: Needs – Depth at Center. All star Anze Kopitar put up 92 points and 35 goals this season and Dustin Brown of all people came in second with 61 points (as opposed to Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli). They made the playoffs and were the first of many victims to the Vegas Golden Knights who swept them in four games. I find the Kings in an interesting limbo of

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Isac Lundestrom, C, SHL, A lulea HF. Two years into the top Swedish elite league he has put up 21 points across 91 games. He is a good two-way forward and to me he is reminiscent a bit of Nicklas Backstrom. He is efficient down low in the zone finding the net when need be but an open teammate as well. He protects the puck well and forechecks to create turnovers.

Who I think they WILL pick: Isac Lundestrom, Swedish C. If he is there at this point, I think the Kings grab him.

21. San Jose Sharks

Synopsis: Needs – depth at wing, depth at defense. A disappointing season for the Sharks who transitioned a bit from high octane offense to a much more defensive approach and a somewhat limited offense. It reminds me a bit of the early fall of the Ducks a few years ago when it became clear that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf couldn’t carry the entire load anymore. Even with a gentrification of the team, they are still talented enough to make the playoffs.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Vitaly Kravtsov. I doubt he makes it this deep but his scoring ability coupled with maneuvering down low and quick shot are a great fit for the Sharks. He would be a nice backfill to Logan Couture or Timo Meier type. His size will help him muscle around down low for rebounds as well.

Who I think they WILL pick: Rasmus Sundin, OHL, Sault Ste. Marie. It should come as no surprised that yet again Sault Ste. Marie looks to have multiple first round picks. Rasmus would be a good fit for the Sharks too, he could materialize into a top four defensemen who does not compromise his position and would be able to feed the puck up ice to Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton or even Brent Burns.

22. Ottawa Senators (from Pittsburgh Penguins)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Martin Kaut Czech, Pardubice. Maybe it’s because he’s an elite scoring player from Czech Repubic but I can’t help but correlate this Martin to another famous player from Czech Republic – Martin Havlat. Playing along fellow high prospect Filip Zadina, he got a chance to show his talent at the World Junior Championship where he averaged a point per game. He has quick hands and knows how to find open space and bury the puck when given the chance.

Who I think they WILL pick: Serron Noel. Much like where I picked him in Colorado, Ottawa has the time to sit and let him develop. He can materialize into a star top six forward for Ottawa. GM Pierre Dorion spent a number of years as a scout and he will not shy away from a high ceiling forward. They grabbed two centers and a wing last year, Shane Bowers who had elite skill not unsimilar to Serron Noel.

23. Anaheim Ducks

Synopsis: Needs – Young offense, especially on wing. Currently the 2nd oldest team in the league (behind Detroit), Anaheim finds more and more struggles to generate offense. This has not been an issue as their defense of Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, Brandon Montour, Hampus Lindholm and Francois Beauchemin coupled with John Gibson in net might be the most formidable defensive unit in the league. Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silverberg are working to become the offensive force for this team but they need more help.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Grigori Denisenko, LW/RW, KHL, Lokomotiv. I think his aggressive style, puck protection, two way hockey is a perfect fit for the Ducks. It’s unlikely he lasts this long into the draft but if he did, this would be a great match. The Ducks style of play, which is typically more defensive oriented with flashes of offense, would bring out the best in Grigori’s game.

Who I think they WILL pick: Mattias Samuelsson, D, U-18. They do have Sam Steel and Nic Kerdiles in waiting to come up soon and at this point almost all prospects are spending years in the minors so I can’t blame them for going with the best defensemen available. Mattias would be a great backfill for this strong unit in a few years. He plays positionally strong, physically present defense. He is 6-4 and uses all of his size to knock around forwards.

24. Minnesota Wild

Synopsis: Needs – Young depth at wing. Minnesota is among one of those elite defensive teams between Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon and Devan Dubnyk in net. Eric Staal hit the fountain of youth last year and Mikael Grandlund is an oft unsung hero on this team but beyond that, there not enough power or depth.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Akil Thomas, C, OHL, Niagra. He’s on the smaller side but he is quick and best of all, he could play win if need be. He will grind out in the corners and can complement Eric Staal or Mikko Koivu on a wing. A good playmaker to take late in the first round.

Who I think they WILL pick: K’Andre Miller, D, U-18, USA. GM Chuck Fletcher loves a good defensemen. 2015 to present 5 of the teams 16 picks have been defensemen. Typically he grabs them later in the draft but I could see them snagging a first round talent like Miller at this spot.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs

Synopsis: Needs – Defense. Defense. Defense. They are in a good spot as this is a very deep defensive class. Making it to the second round before losing to Tampa Bay in the playoffs, Toronto is on the cusp of greatness. Frederik Andersen was stopping everything this past season and obviously they have a plethora of young forward talents: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: K’Andre Miller, D, U-18, USA. K’Andre is big enough (6’3) and he seems eager to learn and mature as a player. Playing at University of Wisconsin will be good this season as the NCAA is showing more and more prospects coming out of it. He is deft at playing hot and cold with opponents to keep them on their toes.

Who I think they WILL pick: Alexander Alexeyev, D, WHL, Red Deer. He’s young and big with a lot of raw talent but he will need at least 1-2 seasons to develop maybe more.

26. New York Rangers (from Boston Bruins)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Rasmus Sundin, D, OHL, Sault Ste. Marie. He reminds me of the days back with Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh. These kinds of players don’t get a lot of attention but they carry teams a long ways while the Erik Karlssons and Brent Burns get all the glory.

Who I think they WILL pick: Dominik Bokk. A very good defensive prospect but more offense oriented and I think a more defense oriented one will benefit New York at this time. Of course they do have three picks so life is good for the Rangers.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (from Nashville Predators)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Mattias Samuelsson, Positionally sound and another great defense to help them out. Their defense is getting quite old and will need to backfill with fresh talent soon. I’m more optimistic about their young forwards between Anthony Louis, Tyler Sikura and Christopher DiDomenico not to mention Nick Schmaltz, Anthony Duclair and Alex DeBrincat.

Who I think they WILL pick: Jared McIsaac, D, QMJHL, Halifax. He is good with puck control and reading plays, he can progress plays up ice and is able to stop plays in transition. Big criticism on him as to whether or not he looks better than he is due to playing on a team with Filip Zadina so his offense might not be there but his defense first mentality is certainly there.

28. New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay Lightning)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Ty Dellandrea, C, OHL, Flint. A really good player on a really bad team helped (or some may argue hurt) his eyes for scouts. He put up 27 goals and 59 points in 67 games which is impressive largely because he plays just as hard in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone. This work engine will be a great addition to the Rangers team.

Who I think they WILL pick Rasmus Kupari, C, Liiga. Voila, a fantastic center (some would argue a top 3 center in this draft) falls into their lap at #28 and is too good for them to pass up. A potential 1-2 center for them a few years down the road.

29. St. Louis Blues (from Winnipeg Jets)

Synopsis: Needs – Center depth. Brayden Schenn came into his own and the team spent years having a winger step up every year: Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, Jori Lehtera, Vladimir Sobotka, one would decrease in production and another would step up.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Alexander Alexeyev, D, WHL, Red Deer. He will be a more physical stay at home ground and pound defender that St. Louis could use. Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko are more offense oriented so having a stay at home presence would help.

Who I think they WILL pick Martin Kaut Czech, Pardubice. Another talented win to help score. This team has had little trouble on the scoring front and Martin could be another name to help out there. The last few years their first round pick has been a foreign Center Wing type of player.

30. Detroit Red Wings (from Vegas Golden Knights)

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Ryan McLeod, C, OHL, Mississauga. He strikes me as a team first classic Detroit player. He typically doubles his goals with assists at each level and as an added bonus he has fantastic face-off skills. Between his speed, his shifty skating, his size (6’2) and ability to pass he will fit in well with the likes of Andreas Athanasiou, Darren Helm and Anthony Mantha.

Who I think they WILL pick Ty Dellandrea. He’s quick and he doesn’t quit, the kind of play the Red Wings have been chomping at the bit to grab lately. He will backcheck and he seems right up their alley, especially late in the first round.

31. Washington Capitals

Synopsis: Needs – What does the Stanley Cup winning team need? I’m sure they are ecstatic that they finally won the elusive trophy. I’ll be curious if this gets them over the lip and there are more on the way.

Who I think they SHOULD pick: Calend Addison, D, WHL, Lethbridge. He would be a fit for some of their other defensive players, he is a strong skater with a strong shot but he’s smaller and has to develop defensively. He isn’t seeing pro time for a few years and could easily develop into a top four defensemen for the Capitals.

Who I think they WILL pick Sampo Ranta, LW, USHL, Sioux City. He is quick and he knows how to score. He’s flexible and can be used on the power play OR on the Penalty Kill. He would serve as a good swiss army knife for them. He’s one of those players who is efficient and good without being particularly flashy in any aspect of his game. He would end a season with 65 points and you would be wondering how that happened.

I am excited for Friday night!