2017 NHL Mock Draft

Brayton gives his first round mock for the 2017 NHL Draft

Brayton Wilson
June 11, 2017 - 5:13 pm

Photo: Matt Zambonin - HHOF-IIHF Images

The day is finally here. It's the 2017 NHL Entry-Level Draft from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

The New Jersey Devils hold the first selection in the NHL Draft, after winning the Draft Lottery back in late April. The Philadelphia Flyers moved up from 13th overall to hold the second overall pick, while the Dallas Stars won the third overall selection.

Compared to the past few years, the 2017 class does not have a generational-type player to the likes of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine. However, this year's draft is stock piled with a good number of top-level talent that will make some major contributions to their teams in the years to come in the NHL.

Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier have stood out this season as the top-two prospects in this year's draft class. Both have flipped back-and-forth as being considered the top overall prospect for months, but the Devils and Flyers will certainly be happy to land one of the two very skilled forwards at the top.

After Patrick and Hischier, there is a good group of top-players that could be impact players in the NHL after some further development at the junior ranks. Players like Gabriel Vilardi, Casey Mittlestadt, Owen Tippett, Michael Rasmussen, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and others are considered to be future, bright young talents at the NHL ranks.

After the top-15 to 20 players at the top player of the Draft, the class is made up of many players who could range from being selected in the mid to late first round and into the second round on Saturday.

Here is my mock for Friday's NHL Draft:

1.) New Jersey Devils

SELECTION: Nico Hischier - Center - Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 176 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Switzerland

Birthday: 1/4/1999

Hischier is arguably the most offensively gifted forward in this year's draft.

Hischier is always looking to have the puck on his stick, and will do just about about anything to get the puck in his possession. His patience with the puck makes him elusive, and his ability to see the ice at a high pace makes him a dangerous playmaker.

In his rookie season with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Hischier led all rookies in scoring with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 regular season games. Hischier was tied for the lead in rookie scoring across the entire Canadian Hockey League with Aleksi Heponiemi with the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League. However, he ended up winning the Rookie of the Year honors in both the QMJHL and the CHL in 2017.

At the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada this past year, Hischier led his home nation of Switzerland in scoring with four goals and seven points in five games played. However, the Swiss were eliminated in the tournament quarterfinals after falling to the United States, who went on to win the tournament in the gold medal game against Canada.

In addition to Hischier's dangerous presence on offense, he is a very gifted skater. Hischier is strong and smooth on his feet, and uses his strength to his advantage to generate good speed. His elusiveness with the puck allows him to move well in tight spaces in the offensive zone and it makes him unpredictable.

Hischier is also a player who is capable of coming up in the clutch with some big plays when need be. If his team is down by a goal or needs a goal to spark some energy into the team, it's Hischier who seems to always be there to make a play and get his team back on track. He can make his teammates better around him, and could one day be the leader for the Devils for years to come.

It may be a toss up between Hischier and Patrick at the top, but the Devils need scoring badly. Hischier will provide some consistent scoring for many years to come.


2.) Philadelphia Flyers

SELECTION: Nolan Patrick - Center - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 198 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 9/19/1998

If Nolan Patrick had been born just four days earlier, he could have been eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. If he was eligible for last year's draft, Patrick may have been the third player taken off the board by the Columbus Blue Jackets right behind Matthews and Patrik Laine.

The 2015-16 season was a breakout year for Patrick, with 41 goals and 61 assists in 72 games played with Brandon in the WHL. In the playoffs, Patrick took his game to a whole new level with 13 goals and 30 points in 21 games. Patrick's performance helped the Wheat Kings to a WHL Championship and a berth in the CHL Memorial Cup.

Before the 2016-17 season began, many had considered Patrick to be the consensus number one player in the NHL Draft. However, injuries derailed the 18-year old's season, leaving him with only 33 games played in the regular season. Patrick did manage to score 20 goals while averaging over a point per-game in that time played.

Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason, which forced him to miss Canada's summer world junior camp. He returned to action in late September, but suffered an upper-body injury just five games later. Not only did the injury force him to miss months of action, but it also forced him to miss out on the IIHF World Junior Championship and the chance to play for Team Canada.

After returning from his upper-body injury, Patrick looked back on track with 16 goals and 22 assists in 28 games heading into the stretch of the season. However, Patrick suffered a lower-body injury in the second to last game of the regular season that forced him out of action in the playoffs. Brandon was eventually swept in the first round by the Medicine Hat Tigers in four games.

While injury caused Patrick to fall from the top spot of the prospect rankings heading into the NHL Draft, he is still heavily considered as a favorite to go in the top-two.

Patrick is a reliable two-way center who has the potential to be an impact player for a franchise. While Patrick may not be the flashiest of playmakers, his passing and vision makes him an underrated threat on the ice. His size and strength also allows him to play with confidence when the puck hits his stick.

Where Patrick may need improvement is his skating as he doesn't have the greatest of speed, but he makes up for it with power.

Overall, Patrick may have the most well-rounded game heading into the NHL Draft. The Flyers will be happy to land whoever the Devils do not take between Hischier and Patrick. The Flyers may like to add Patrick with the potential to play as their second line center behind Claude Giroux down the road.


3.) Dallas Stars

SELECTION: Miro Heiskanen - Defense - HIFK (Liiga)

Height: 6′ 1″

Weight: 173 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 7/18/1999

While Miro Heiskanen may not put up the biggest of offensive numbers from the blue line, he is the most reliable defenseman in this year's NHL Draft.

Heiskanen was a fast-rising prospect as the season progressed for him with HIFK in the Finnish Liiga. Heiskanen scored five goals and registered 10 points in 37 games this season as a 17-year old playing in Finland's top professional league.

Heiskanen also played very well in international competition with Finland this season, playing in both the IIHF World Junior Championship and the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. At the World Juniors, Heiskanen played an important role for Finland as a 20-plus minute defenseman who can jump in on the powerplay and the penalty kill. At the Under-18 tournament, Heiskanen dominated on the blue line with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in seven games played. He finished the tournament second in scoring, and was named the tournament's best defenseman.

As a left-handed defenseman, Heiskanen regularly played on the right side of the ice and flourished. While Heiskanen brings some offensive flash in his game and is not afraid to join in on the offensive rush, he is a kid that can play 20-plus minutes a night playing in all situations. Heiskanen sees the game very well, and is exceptional with his his decision making as he rarely makes a decision to jeopardize his team.

With the puck, Heiskanen is as calm, cool and collective as one would want a defenseman to be. His vision allows him to move the puck quickly and accurately in transition. He protects the puck well in his own zone, and it's not often he turns the puck over.

Heiskanen is a good skater who uses his footwork to keep himself in good position in all three zones of the ice. While he does not have the speed or skill on his feet that someone like Cale Makar or Timothy Liljegren may have, Heiskanen is fully capable of staying engaged and well positioned each and every shift.

Compared to Makar and Liljegren, Heiskanen is arguably the most well-rounded defenseman in the NHL Draft. Also, his style of play on the blue line fits what many teams are looking for in defenseman today.

The Stars already have some decent Finnish prospects on the back end with Esa Lindell and Julius Honka. Certainly the Stars wouldn't mind welcoming in another very talented Finnish defenseman.


4.) Colorado Avalanche

SELECTION: Cale Makar - Defense - Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Height: 5' 11"

Weight: 180 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 10/30/1998

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the NHL Draft, Cale Makar chose the unorthodox path by playing his Draft year with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

In Brooks, Makar dominated with an incredible 24 goals and 75 points as a defenseman. Makar was the the regular season's leading scorer among defensemen by 23 points, and finished as the league's sixth leading scorer. In the playoffs, he put up 18 points in 13 games as Brooks easily pushed their way through to an AJHL championship.

Makar's unorthodox path will continue into next season when he is expected to play college hockey at UMass (Amherst), which just finished the 2016-17 season with a 5-29-2 overall record and a 2-19-1 record in Hockey East.

One name has been linked to Makar as a popular NHL comparable - Erik Karlsson. And for good reason.

Makar is an exceptional offensive talent on the blue line, and is always a threat when the puck lands on his stick. He can skate with it all day before dumping it off for a scoring chance, or he can find open space himself and create a scoring chance of his own. He can let go of a wicked wrist shot, or unload from the point with a heavy slap shot.

Makar also uses his skating skills in the defensive end with being able to skate pucks out of his own zone with ease. He can easily take the puck from end of the ice to the other on his own and create a scoring chance.

While Makar has a very high ceiling, there are some questions about his game.

His size and strength is a concern, especially if he plans on transitioning his game from the AJHL to the NCAA. Standing at 5' 11" and 180-pounds, Makar may not have strengthened his game playing in a league like the AJHL, rather than a league like the Western Hockey League. His rights in the WHL are held by the Medicine Hat Tigers, but Makar decided to go the AJHL route and then to the NCAA. If Makar goes to UMass (Amherst) and cannot make the transition, that will certainly raise some red flags.

However, many believe that Makar will be able to continue to get stronger as he gets to UMass (Amherst) and get in some quality action at the college level. 

Some may feel that taking Makar in the top-five would be a risk, but if he can continue to progress and continue his excellent offensive play, the sky is the limit.

Colorado is in need of some added depth on the blue line, however they may just see Makar as the best player available with the fourth pick. If that is the case, the Avalanche will run to the podium at the Draft in order to take him.


5.) Vancouver Canucks

SELECTION: Gabriel Vilardi - Center - Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Height: 6' 3"

Weight: 201 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 8/16/1999

Vilardi is a big, skilled, puck-hungry playmaker with a ton of upside in his game.

Standing at 6' 3" and 201-pounds, Vilardi is relentless in all areas of his game. He is always in position to either make a play with the puck or set himself up to make those plays. Vilardi is also the type of player that makes everyone around him better because of his hockey I.Q. and what he can do as a playmaker.

Vilardi scored 29 goals and 61 points in 49 games this season in Windsor. While the Spitfires were eliminated early from the OHL playoffs, they went on to capture the 2017 CHL Memorial Cup as the host team. Vilardi played well in the tournament, putting up seven helpers in four games and was named to the CHL Memorial Cup All-Star team.

The 17-year old possesses good speed, and is a finisher when he has a scoring chance. Whoever selects Vilardi will likely give him another year or two in the OHL with Windsor to let him continue to grow his overall game. Once Vilardi is ready, he can be a nice addition to a team's top-six forward group.

Vancouver is going through a rebuild of their own, and adding Vilardi can certainly add to the talented youth movement for the Canucks.


6.) Vegas Golden Knights

SELECTION: Michael Rasmussen - Center - Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Height: 6' 6"

Weight:  215 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 4/17/1999

A big-bodied center that gets to the net and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in the play.

Standing tall at 6' 6" and 215-pounds, Michael Rasmussen is a hard-working center with a knack for parking himself around the goal. He uses his size and physical strength to win battles, create some space for himself and be a playmaker and goal scorer in tight.

In 50 games played this season, Rasmussen scored 32 goals and registered 55 points before a fractured wrist late in the season ended his 2016-17 campaign.

Another asset that teams may like about Rasmussen is his work ethic and the dedication he puts into his game. He is a guy that pays attention to detail to not only better his game, but also better his health and keep him in shape and good health.

Vegas will want a player who can have a long-lasting impact for the Golden Knights as they begin their journey as a NHL franchise. Rasmussen has the potential to develop into a very good second line center, but a guy that could play for many years as long as health stays on his side.


7.) New York Rangers (Acquired from Arizona Coyotes)

SELECTION: Owen Tippett - Right Wing - Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 203 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 2/16/1999

Without a doubt, Owen Tippett is one of the best goal scorers in this year's NHL Draft.

Tippett scored 44 goals in 60 games this past season with the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL, and added 10 more in the postseason. This came after a 15-goal campaign in his rookie season in the Greater Toronto Area.

It is clear to see that Tippett can score in just about any fashion you can imagine. Slap shot from the off-wing, wrist shot in close, tap-in along the post, backhander on a breakaway. It is fair to say that Tippett has one of the most lethal shots in the draft class, and generates a ton of power with his strong 6' 2" and 203-pound frame. His lightning-quick release also makes him even more of a threat when the puck finds him in the offensive zone.

Tippett is also a very underrated skater, and can blow by any unsuspecting defender at a moment's notice. Tippett seems to get even faster when he has the puck on his stick. He uses his strength to power to the offensive zone and uses his size to protect the puck as he crashes the net.


***8.) Buffalo Sabres***

SELECTION: Casey Mittelstadt - Center - Eden Prairie High School (USHS)

Height: 6' 1"

Weight: 201 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 11/22/1998

Casey Mittelstadt is the top-ranked American prospect available in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Mittelstadt brings electricity to his offensive game every time he steps on to the ice. He is a competitor with blazing speed, good vision, and crafty hands that allow him to be a good puck handler and playmaker. When the puck find his stick, he can hold on to it for as long as possible while using his speed and vision to find the best play available. He has the capability to be a complete player in the offensive end, and eventually be a top-six forward in the NHL.

Mittelstadt has good size, but could work on getting even more stronger in his physical game. However, he is committed to play the the University of Minnesota as a freshman this fall, which should allow Mittelstadt to grow his game all around.

In his time with Eden Prairie High School, Mittelstadt led the team with 21 goals and 64 points in 25 games played. Mittelstadt also spent time with the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League, scoring 13 goals and 30 points in 24 games.

Mittelstadt stood out for the United States last year at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, scoring four goals and nine points. He will likely be a possible option for the United States this season for the IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship in Buffalo this winter.

The Sabres could really use a player of Mittelstadt's caliber to add to what is already a young, skilled group of forwards. While Mittelstadt can develop into a nice second or third center option for the Sabres, maybe a move to the wing with a player like Jack Eichel may also be enticing.

He has the skill to be a stud in the future, but now it's all about Mittelstadt growing his game even further. He'll get that chance at a stellar program in Minnesota.


9.) Detroit Red Wings

SELECTION: Cody Glass - Center - Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 178 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 4/1/1999

Cody Glass is one of the smartest players to come out of this year's draft class.

His vision allows him to anticipate plays as they develop and lets him get into spots to make plays in the offensive zone. Glass is the type of player where he can find that open space, and just about makes the most out of every chance he create. He makes everyone around him better because of his playmaking, but can also contribute in the goals category with quick hands and a good release.

Glass scored 32 goals last season with the Portland Winterhawks while putting up 94 points in 69 games, making him the eighth leading scorer in the WHL.

Glass is very well-rounded in his game with the ability to play on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He can also be relied upon to plays responsible hockey in all three zones of the ice.

However, Glass lacks the skating skills that can make him more of a threat on the ice. Glass also needs to bulk up and get stronger before he can make that jump to the NHL.

Some have Glass projected as a top-five pick in the Draft, so if he falls to Detroit at nine it may be possible we see him doning the classic red and white on the stage.


10.) Florida Panthers

SELECTION: Kristian Vesalainen - Left Wing - Frolunda (SHL)

Height: 6' 3"

Weight: 207 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 6/1/1999

Vesalainen could very well be the first European forward off the board in the NHL Draft.

The Finnish winger has very good size and speed for his age, and played well for an 18-year old in the Swedish Hockey League last season with Frolunda. Even though he only scored a goal and added five assists in 26 games, Vesalainen has shown that the potential is there for him to be a future stud.

Vesalainen really put on a show at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, where he led the tournament with six goals and 13 points in seven games. Vesalainen dominated the competition physically, and was an offensive juggernaut, averaging over four shots a game.

The Panthers could use a player of his skill set down the road, but not before he gets more time to develop in the SHL. If he reaches his full potential, there could be a chance that one day he plays alongside fellow countryman, Aleksander Barkov on a top-two line in Sunrise. 


11.) Los Angeles Kings

SELECTION: Timothy Liljegren - Defense - Rogle BK (SHL)

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 191 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 4/30/1999

At the start of the 2016-17 season, many had penciled Timothy Liljegren as a top-three pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

However, an early bout with mononucleosis forced him to miss the first two months of action in Sweden. After returning in November, it seemed like he never regained his game and his stock fell. Liljegren's game seemed to finally gain some ground later in the season, but it was too little too late.

In 19 regular season games with Rogle BK in the SHL, Liljegren scored one goal and four assists. As Rogle entered the postseason, he matched his regular season total in just three games. At the Swedish junior level, Liljegren scored five goals and put up seven points in 12 games.

The IIHF Under-18 World Championship was a chance for Liljegren to showcase his talent one more time before the season's, but it ended up being an underwhelming result with two assists in seven games.

While this season was a major down year for Liljegren, he still shows major upside in his offensive game on the blue line. He's very creative with the puck, he moves the puck well, and finds ways to get the puck to the net. Perhaps Liljegren's biggest strength to his game is his skating. His strong, smooth strides allows him to flow up and down the ice with ease and generate good speed.

The concern in Liljegren's game is his inconsistencies in his own end. If he can straighten out his problems in his own end, Liljegren may be able to regain his confidence and return to the way he played entering his draft year.


12.) Carolina Hurricanes

SELECTION: Martin Nečas - Center - Brno (Czech)

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 167 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Czech Republic

Birthday: 1/15/1999

Martin Nečas is a very good skating forward who performed well last season playing in the Czech Extraliga with HC Kometa Brno.

In 41 regular season games, Nečas scored seven goals and registered 15 points as a 17 and 18-year old. Nečas also performed well in the playoffs, scoring four goals in 10 games as HC Kometa Brno went on to win the league championship.

Nečas is a well-rounded player in the offensive zone with good speed, elusiveness, and the vision that can make him an excellent playmaker in the future. In his own end, Nečas is responsible with and without the puck and is not afraid to get involved in the action.

Nečas also played a decent IIHF World Junior Championship with a goal and two assists in five games, but was consistent with his high flying, high octane offensive game.

It is likely that Nečas is going to be one of those next Czech stars to play in the NHL along the likes of David Pastrnak, Jakub Voracek, and Ondrej Palat. The Hurricanes would be fortunate to land this up and coming young forward.


13.) Vegas Golden Knights (Acquired from Winnipeg Jets)

SELECTION: Juuso Valimaki - Defense - Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 204 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 10/6/1998

The Finnish defenseman saw his game continue to flourish in his second season in North America in the WHL.

His first season with Tri-City was a learning experience, but he managed to put up 32 points in 56 games. This past year, Valimaki flourished on the blue line just bursting with confidence in his game. Valimaki finished the 2016-17 campaign averaging over a point per-game, while scoring 19 goals.

Valimaki played well on the blue line at the IIHF World Junior Championship, scoring twice for a Finnish team that struggled to score in the tournament.

Valimaki provides stability on the blue line from both ends of the ice. His calm demeanor allows him to skate and play the puck with confidence. Valimaki is also capable of eating a lot of minutes, while also playing on special teams and any other situation that is asked of him.

The potential for Valimaki is high as there is the potential for him to develop into a top-four defenseman. If he continues to take the leaps in his game like the one he did in 2016-17, Valimaki can make an impact in the NHL sooner than later.


14.) Tampa Bay Lightning

SELECTION: Eeli Tolvanen - Right Wing - Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Height: 5' 10"

Weight: 170 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 4/22/1999

If only Eeli Tolvanen had been a bit bigger in size, he would most likely be one of the top picks in the NHL Draft. However, he makes up for his lack of size and strength with a big shot and his dangerous goal scoring capabilities.

After scoring 17 goals in his rookie season in the USHL, Tolvanen finished this past season tied for third in league scoring with 30 goals. Tolvanen also managed to finish this past season with 54 points in 52 games played, which was also a top-10 total.

Tolvanen has had a track record of success in international competition with Finland as well. In the 2016 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, Tolvanen scored seven goals in seven games as Finland took home the gold medal over Sweden. In this year's World Juniors, Tolvanen scored twice and added four helpers for a Finnish team that struggled in the preliminary round and nearly got relegated.

Tolvanen wants to have the puck on his stick, and wants to get as many pucks to the net from just about anywhere on the ice. He can let a quick shot go from in tight, let go of a powerful slap shot; Tolvanen can score in just about any way possible.

While size and build may not be on his side, Tolvanen creates space for himself using his speed and elusiveness.

But now Tolvanen faces some uncertainty with his future as Boston College's admissions department denied him of joining the school after failing to meet admissions standards. His CHL rights are reportedly owned by the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, so he could join them next season.

That will be something that Tolvanen will have to figure out after Friday.


15.) Vegas Golden Knights (Acquired from New York Islanders)

SELECTION: Elias Pettersson - Center - Timra IK (Allsvenskan)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 161 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 11/12/1998

Pettersson really stood out in his first full season in Sweden's second-tier professional league with 19 goals and 41 points in 43 games played.

While Pettersson may be lighter that what he maybe should be for is frame, he plays a tenacious two-way game. Pettersson can play a speed, high-flying and creative game while also playing a gritty, physical and hard-nosed game. The more aggressive he gets, the better he plays.

Pettersson will make the jump to the SHL next season and play with the Växjö Lakers. There he can continue to grow his game while continuing his play against men in Sweden's top pro league. If Pettersson can continue to play the way he did in the Allsvenskan, he may become one of the more prolific players in Sweden.

Any team in the NHL would welcome a player of Pettersson's pedigree. If he can find a way to bulk up and get stronger, Pettersson may become a monster to play against.


16.) Calgary Flames

SELECTION: Cal Foote - Defense - Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Height: 6' 4"

Weight: 212

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 12/13/1998

The son of former NHLer Adam Foote, Cal is perhaps the exact opposite with the style of play that his dad played with many years ago. Where his dad was a physical, defensive defenseman that was a nightmare to matchup against night in and night out, Cal is a smart two-way defender who relies on his positioning and mental awareness to be a threat on the blue line.

Cal Foote has the size and the stature to play with the physical capabilities to succeed in the NHL, but it is the way he reads the game and plays the transition game that makes him so dangerous. Foote may not be the best of a skater yet, he moves the puck well in all three zones and can read plays quickly in order to get himself into the best position possible to make a play.

Foote put up 51 assists in addition to six goals in 71 games with Kelowna this past season, but he is a defenseman that tends to make his team better when he is on the ice. Whether it is making the right pass or getting the puck to the net, his team will create more scoring chances and play a better all-around game when he is on the ice.

Let Foote continue to develop his skating game in the WHL for another year or two, but Cal is certainly on a path that will lead him to be a good NHL defenseman for many years to come.

17.) Toronto Maple Leafs

SELECTION: Erik Brannstrom - Defense - HV71 (SHL)

Height: 5' 10"

Weight: 173

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 9/2/1999

Brannstrom is another good, young puck-moving defenseman who can develop into a good transition player at the highest levels of hockey.

In his first SHL season with HV71 as a 17-year old, Brannstrom played 35 games with just six points but competed well against a league of men. Brannstrom also played well at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship this season, scoring twice and adding three assists in seven games.

Brannstrom still has some room to grow, both in his physical game and his play on the ice. There will be no need to rush Brannstrom as he can develop for some more time in the SHL and with the program that just won the SHL championship.

Certainly a young defenseman with a lot of potential.


18.) Boston Bruins

SELECTION: Klim Kostin - Center - Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

Height: 6' 3"

Weight: 196 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Russia

Birthday: 5/5/1999

Klim Kostin is a powerful force to be reckoned with that has a lot of skill to go along with it.

The 18-year old Russian forward uses his size not only to play a strong physical game, but he utilizes it to be a strong skater and someone who won't be take down easily. Kostin plays with a lot of drive and determination, and is not afraid to get into the dirty areas to make a play. Kostin also sees the ice very well, and can distribute the puck well when he has some open space.

What's different about Kostin is his shot selection as he rarely ever scores goals with a slap shot. He likes to score a majority of his goals solely with a quick wrist shot, but mixes things up every once in a while. 

Kostin's 2016-17 season was cut short after a few games in both the VHL and the KHL with Dynamo Moscow after needing to undergo shoulder surgery. Kostin should be healthy by the start of the season, and will look to get back on the track he was in 2015-16 when he produced well in the MHL with eight goals and 21 points playing for HK MVD Balashikha.


19.) San Jose Sharks

SELECTION: Nick Suzuki - Center - Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Height: 5' 11"

Weight:  183 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 8/10/1999

While on paper Suzuki may not look like the biggest of players (5' 11" and 183-pounds), he plays much bigger than one would anticipate.

After a rookie year filled with growing pains, Suzuki has rebounded quite nicely, finishing the season with 45 goals and 96 points in 65 games played. Those numbers were good to cement Suzuki in the top-five of OHL scoring this season. His 45 goals this season also ranked him fourth in the OHL.

Suzuki plays a smart offensive game that allows him to see the game at a high level. His solid skating helps him generate good speed, and his speed allows him to be an underrated, dangerous forward. Suzuki has shown he can score with a nice quick release, while having the anticipation and the patience to generate plenty of scoring chances.

Suzuki has also shown that he can play a reliable two-way game and be a capable leader on the ice.

There certainly is a chance for Suzuki to be taken higher than 19th overall. A good mid-first round pick that may develop into a capable second line talent.


20.) St. Louis Blues

SELECTION: Lias Andersson - Center - HV71 (SHL)

Height: 5' 11"

Weight: 198 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Sweden

Birthday: 10/13/1998

Another high-end Swedish-born talent that may have a chance to be an underrated offensive force at the highest levels of hockey.

In 42 games playing with HV71 in the SHL, as an 18-year old Andersson scored nine goals and registered 19 points. Andersson played well in the playoffs as well, scoring four goals and added an assist in 16 games as HV71 took home the SHL crown.

Andersson is a playmaking, strong forward with good quickness and speed along with his ability to play a strong two-way game in the process. Andersson strives under pressure in both ends of the ice, and is always looking to be an aggressive player up front while not being flashy with the puck.

His father, Niklas Andersson, played six seasons in the NHL with five different organizations and nearly 170 games played. Andersson is just another young player looking to follow his father's footsteps in the NHL.


21.) New York Rangers

SELECTION: Ryan Poehling - Center - St. Cloud State University (NCHC)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 183 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 1/3/1999

Ryan Poehling may have been the youngest player in the NCAA last year, but he certainly made his presence known.

The big-bodied center brings that size and power down the middle with a nice offensive touch. He scored seven goals and 13 points in 35 games with St. Cloud State last season, and continued to improve his overall game as the season went on and he got more comfortable.

Poehling played very well at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, scoring two goals and five points in seven games. However, he was a force on the third line in both ends of the ice and was part of the depth that helped the U.S. win gold.

Poehling will return to college next year, and it will be interesting to see how his game grows going into his sophomore year. Expect Poehling to also contend for a spot on the U.S. roster for the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo.


22.) Edmonton Oilers

SELECTION: Kailer Yamamoto - Right Wing - Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Height: 5' 8"

Weight: 159 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 9/29/1998

While size is definitely not on Yamamoto's side, his skill and scoring prowess makes him a desirable asset.

Standing at only 5' 8" and 159-pounds, Yamamoto has a significant disadvantage going up against some of the bigger players in hockey. It is his speed and shiftiness that allows him to have an upper-hand on the competition. It is also his relentlessness that allows him to compete the way he does and he is not afraid to be pushed around and punished a bit in order to make a play.

Yamamoto finished sixth in WHL scoring last season in Spokane with 99 points, and was also in the top-10 in goals with 42.

Yamamoto is a contributor in all areas of the ice. He plays in most offensive situations, but he also spends time playing on the penalty kill and other defensive situations.

If Yamamoto can build some more strength and continues to play with the same energy and passion that he does in Spokane, he could have a bright future in the NHL.


23.) Arizona Coyotes (Acquired from Minnesota Wild)

SELECTION: Conor Timmins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Height: 6' 1"

Weight: 185 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 9/18/1998

Timmins is a smooth skating defenseman with great vision and intuition with the puck.

He became a high-riser as the season went on with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, finishing the year with seven goals and 61 points in 67 games played. He carries the puck with confidence, and it looks as though transitions the puck from zone to zone with ease. His puck movement is key to his game as well with the ability to make a good first pass and hit his forwards in stride.

While Timmins can probably get a bit bigger on the back end, his stats and style of play would indicate that he will fit in with where the future of the game of hockey is heading.


24.) Winnipeg Jets (from Vegas Golden Knights via Columbus Blue Jackets)

SELECTION: Isaac Ratcliffe - Left Wing - Guelph Storm (OHL)

Height: 6' 6"

Weight: 200 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 2/15/1999

Another player who showed vast improvement from his rookie year in the OHL with Guelph..

After a 13-point campaign in 2015-16, Ratcliffe came back to produce a 28-goal season and 54 points in 67 games on one of the OHL's worst teams. Ratcliffe is a big body that needs to grow his physical game a bit more, but isn't afraid to still thrown the body around. He shows a lot of potential on the offensive side of the puck, getting to the front of the net and uses his big size to be a wall in front of the net. He has a good release on his shot, and really likes to get in the dirty areas around the net to create a scoring chance for himself.

Ratcliffe has the potential to develop into a nice checking winger with an offensive upside at the NHL level. If he can build up some more strength and continue to play a big game, he may become a terror to try and defend.


25.) Montreal Canadiens

SELECTION: Urho Vaakanainen - Defense - JYP (Liiga)

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 185 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Finland

Birthday: 1/1/1999

While Vaakanainen is not a defenseman who produces a ton of offense, he is an extremely responsible two-way defenseman who does not make many mistakes.

Vaakanainen positions himself well in the defensive end, and is quick to get the puck moving from one end of the ice to the other whether he skates it our himself or he hits that good pass. He has good vision, sees the ice well, and has good anticipation in all three zones. He locks everything down in the defensive zone, whether it is on the penalty kill or in the late stages of a game.

Vaakanainen fit right in with JYP in the Finnish Liiga as a 17 and 18-year old, and was a solid partner with Miro Heiskanen at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship this year. He was able to let Heiskanen flourish in the tournament while he kept everything in order in the defensive end.

Vaakanainen's two-way game will likely transition well into the NHL from Finland when his time comes. While he won't put up the points, he will make all the right decisions to put his team in the best spots to succeed.


26.) Chicago Blackhawks

SELECTION: Jake Oettinger - Goalie - Boston University (Hockey-East)

Height: 6' 4"

Weight: 212 pounds

Catches: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 12/18/1998

Oettinger is the best goaltending option in this year's NHL Draft, and he has the tangibles to become a future starting goalie in the NHL.

He has the size, 6' 4" and 212 pounds, he moves well in the crease and stood out in his freshman season with the Boston University Terriers. Oettinger posted a 21-11-3 record with the Terriers while posting a 2.11 goals-against average and a .927 save-percentage.

Oettinger also has the pedigree of a professional with the right mindset to have success as a starter in the NHL.

It's not often you see a goalie taken in the first round of the NHL Draft anymore, but Oettinger is certainly an exception. He makes a good case for potentially being a first round pick.


27.) St. Louis Blues (Acquired from Washington Capitals)

SELECTION: Nicolas Hague - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Height: 6' 6"

Weight: 215 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 12/5/1998

Another big body on the blue line with an offensive upside to his game.

Standing at 6' 6" and 215-pounds, Hague has a cannon on the back end to go along with an ability to move the puck efficiently. Hague also brings some size and physicality from a defensive standpoint while playing a top role with the Steelheads in the OHL.

Hague stepped up his game after an impressive rookie season, scoring 18 goals and 28 assists in 65 regular season games. In the playoffs this year, he provided more of a set up role with a goal and eleven assists in 18 games.

While he provides offense from the back end and can be a quarterback on the powerplay, Hague has good footwork and is strong on his feet. However, he needs improve on his speed and the way he utilizes his strength in his stride. Give him some more time to keep growing with a competitive Mississauga team, and Hague might turn into a decent NHL defenseman.


28.) Ottawa Senators

SELECTION: Pierre-Olivier Joseph - Defense - Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

Height: 6' 2"

Weight: 163 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 7/1/99

Another good puck moving, skating, two-way defenseman available in this year's Draft.

Joseph produced well in his second season in the QMJHL with Charlottetown, scoring six goals and registering 33 points in 62 games. His mobility makes him a threat on the fly and in transition, while he gives stability in both the offensive and defensive ends. He adds offense with the capability to quarterback the offense on the point. On defense, he positions himself to cut down passing lanes and put pressure on the opposition.

He does not have the scoring prowess of his older brother Mathieu, but he can still produce points from the blue line. If he can build up his strength and play more physical, he can be a value add for a NHL team.


29.) Dallas Stars (Acquired from Anaheim Ducks)

SELECTION: Robert Thomas - Center - London Knights (OHL)

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 188 pounds

Shoots: Right

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 7/2/1999

Thomas is a very underrated, two-way playmaking center who often gets overlooked for his contributions on the ice.

While he doesn't stand out with his play, Thomas was a point per-game player in London this year with 16 goals and 66 points. Thomas comes from a program that is accustomed to producing smart, reliable, and well-rounded two-way centers. He skates very well, strong on his feet, handles the puck with confidence and is an instinctive playmaker.

Thomas will get consideration from many teams around the NHL. Another year or two of developing in London may do some wonders for a kid like Thomas.


30.) Nashville Predators

SELECTION: Grant Mismash - Left Wing - U.S. National Development Team (USHL)

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 186 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: United States

Birthday: 2/19/1999

Another quality two-way forward who could develop into a second or third line asset.

Mismash has good size at 6' 0" and 186 pounds, and provides a nice blend of offensive firepower and shut down defensive play. He scored 26 goals and 61 points in 65 games with the U.S. National Development program, while putting up 24 points in 26 games with the U.S. team in the USHL.

At the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, Mismash was second on the team in scoring with three goals and eight points playing on the Americans' second line.

Mismash is committed to join the North Dakota Fighting Hawks for his freshman year this fall. He can groom his game even more at the college level, and North Dakota has a recent history of turning out some quality NHL prospects.


31.) Pittsburgh Penguins

SELECTION: Shane Bowers - Center - Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

Height: 6' 1"

Weight: 183 pounds

Shoots: Left

Nationality: Canada

Birthday: 7/30/1999

Bowers is a solid power forward that plays a gritty offensive game.

He put up 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) in 60 games with the Waterloo Black Hawks this past year. Bowers is a shifty skater with a pair of gifted hands that allow him to play well in tight and in traffic. He's also strong on his feet, and is not afraid to engage in some puck battles here and there.

Bowers is committed to play with Boston University this upcoming fall, and could be a player who fills in a spot left open by someone like Clayton Keller or Kieffer Bellows.

It may not be surprising if he falls out of the first round of the Draft, however he will not last long in the second round.

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