With the Memorial Cup completed and the Stanley Cup Finals in full swing, this is the time of the year to put on your GM hat and take a closer look at the next wave of prospects in the NHL entry draft. Less than a month away, online prediction sites are updating their forecasts for what should be a draft filled with depth players that teams are hoping can turn rebuilding campaigns into contending rosters.
Do General Managers try to fill current team needs or go with the best talent with early-round picks? Much like the draft order lottery, some good luck will be needed to reap the rewards in the coming couple years. No McDavid types found here, although some of these hopefuls will go on to be key additions in dressing rooms in the long run. After researching the varied predictions and mock drafts on several top analyst sites, this year’s June 23rd draft in Chicago is likely to be filled with many surprises.
Updated May 31st projected draft picks first 15 rounds: (May 8th rank)
|Team||Pick||Player||Size||Pos||High Rank||Low Rank||League|
|NJ||1 (1)||Nolan Patrick||6’2 198||C||1||2||WHL|
|PHI||2 (2)||Nico Hischier||6’0 174||C||1||9||QMJHL|
|DAL||3 (13)||Cale Maker||5’10 174||D||6||9||AJHL|
|COL||4 (4)||Gabriel Vilardi||6’2 192||C||3||5||OHL|
|VAN||5 (8)||Cal Foote||6’3 208||D||13||22||WHL|
|VEG||6 (10)||Owen Tippett||6’1 203||RW||4||9||OHL|
|ARI||7 (7)||Casey Mittelstadt||6’1 201||C||3||8||USHL|
|BUF||8 (3)||Timothy Liljegren||6’0 190||D||2||15||Sweden|
|DET||9 (5)||Miro Heiskanen||5’11 173||D||3||4||Finland|
|FLA||10 (12)||Cody Glass||6’2 179||C||5||15||WHL|
|LAK||11 (11)||Martin Necas||6’0 169||C||10||18||Czech|
|CAR||12 (15)||Juuso Valimaki||6’2 200||D||8||17||WHL|
|WIN||13 (6)||Michael Rasmussen||6’5 200||C||7||14||WHL|
|TB||14 (9)||Klim Kostin||6’3 194||RW||5||19||KHL|
|NYI||15 (14)||Nick Suzuki||5’10 183||C||13||20||OHL|
With five defensemen included on this list, teams must consider if the bigger need is a forward or at the blue line. Based on the 2016-17 regular season results, Dallas finished second worst in goals allowed (260) and killing penalties (73.9%). Those numbers may be inflated by goalie issues, however, and acquiring Ben Bishop to go with one of the league’s best offenses may suggest they look to a D-man with pick three. Buffalo could get the steal of the draft if Liljegren falls to the eighth pick.
Patrick and Hischier are consensus 1-2 picks on every prospect site. Vegas may look for a sniper-type forward like Tippett to build on while filling the seats in their first season. Mittelstadt is probably still at least two years away from an NHL roster.
The first pair of netminders expected to go in the late first round or early second are Jake Oettinger from Boston College and Windsor’s Michael Dipietro, followed by Russian Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.