1. Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon (C) QMJHL
I’ll be honest; I had Seth Jones going to the Avalanche for the longest time. A team with serious defensive issues and a good crop of centers were set up well to take the best defenseman in the draft, even if he wasn’t the best player.
However, it looks like Patrick Roy is going full-Edmonton here and eschewing much needed defensive help in favor of forwards, Nathan MacKinnon in this case. MacKinnon is probably the best player in the draft, but it’s always a risk to ignore the holes in the team. More power to them, and best of luck with that plan.
2. Florida Panthers – Jonathan Drouin (LW) QMJHL
Florida gets possibly the most explosive player in the draft with the No. 2 pick. Drouin will be a nice fit with Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau in what should eventually be a potent top line.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Aleksander Barkov (C) Finland
Martin St. Louis is old. Vincent Lecavlier is getting old. Steven Stamkos could find himself quickly wondering where all his help went. Barkov is a big-bodied playmaking machine and adds another solid forward to an already nice crop of forward prospects.
4. Nashville Predators – Seth Jones (D) WHL
This is probably a scenario that the Preds probably didn’t think would happen a month ago. Outside of Filip Forsberg, Nashville doesn’t have a lot of top-end offensive talent in the prospects system and could have really used one of the top guys in this draft. While Nichushkin could certainly be in play, Jones is too good to pass up as he brings a good skill set of offensive abilities as well. Nashville probably can’t wait to pair Jones with Shea Weber in a year or two.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – Valeri Nichushkin (RW) KHL
Carolina desperately needs some defensive help, and Darnell Nurse certainly looks like he’ll be there, but I have Carolina going with best player available here with Nichushkin.
The Hurricanes have very little in the prospect pool at the forward position (same with the defense, but at least Ryan Murphy is there), and Nichushkin is a dynamic offensive talent. He could have an immediate impact that a defenseman couldn’t for Carolina.
6. Calgary Flames – Elias Lindholm (C) SHL
A team in full rebuild mode gets a fantastic two-way center here in Lindholm. Sean Monahan seems like a better fit here, being a Canadian kid and all, but I think Lindholm is the better player of the two.
7. Edmonton Oilers – Darnell Nurse (D) OHL
At some point the Oilers had to take a defenseman with their first pick of the draft, and that seems destined to happen this year. It would provide a good chuckle though if Edmonton continued to go offense and went with someone like Monahan or Shinkaruk in this spot.
8. Buffalo Sabres – Hunter Shinkaruk (C/LW) WHL
He’s a smaller player and goes against the Sabres philosophy of acquiring size and toughness that they seem to have established in the past few seasons. Buffalo needs offense though, and Shinkaruk is a skilled forward. The Sabres don’t have much in prospect talent at the forward position after Mikhail Grigorenko and very little at the wings.
9. New Jersey Devils – Sean Monahan (C) OHL
He’s a big, smart, two-way forward and looks to be one of the safer picks in the draft. New Jersey has basically no good forward prospects in the system, and Monahan would be great value here.
David Clarkson may not be back with the team next year and center help will be needed very soon. Monahan has the mentality of a future captain.
10. Dallas Stars – Rasmus Ristolainen (D) Finland
Ristolainen just fits way too many needs for this Stars team. He’s big, right-handed and one of, if not the best, two-way defensemen in the draft. He could anchor a power play or lead a penalty kill and plays a tough, physical game as well. Just make this happen already.
The Stars really need help at center, but no one really stands above Ristolainen at this spot. Bo Horvat is an interesting option, but the young Finnish defenseman would add the most to the team.
My very first profile back in early June was over Ristolainen, and he was my top choice of the likely players to be there at No. 10 for the Stars back then.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Nikita Zadarov (D) OHL
The Flyers need defensive help in the worst way, so why not take a hulking, physical, nasty player in Nikita Zadarov? There’s potential here for Zadarov to be a solid shutdown defenseman in the future.
12. Phoenix Coyotes – Bo Horvat (C) OHL
This is another one of those picks that just fits in well. Horvat is the best defensive center in the draft and found a bit of his scoring touch this past season as he went on to dominate the OHL playoffs. He’s great in his own zone, excellent in faceoffs and has the potential to eventually be counted on to take on the best center on opposing teams.
13. Winnipeg Jets – Alexander Wennberg (C) SHL
The Jets need help at center. Wennberg has an excellent scoring touch and great vision. He’s above average as defender and a solid skater. It’ll take a couple of years until he’s ready to take on the NHL as he just signed with Frolunda of the SHL, but he’s talented enough to take here.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets – Max Domi (C/LW) OHL
Columbus needs some goal scorers and Domi has shown he has a great scoring touch in the past couple of seasons in the OHL. He’s a solid playmaker, and Columbus can certainly use more of that.
15. New York Islanders – Ryan Pulock (D) WHL
It’s all about the defense for the Islanders. The Islanders may need a winger here, mostly due to the odd Nino Niederreiter situation, but Pulock has a “wow” factor with his shot. While they have a good group of defensemen already, Pulock provides a little more offense than the other prospects and could eventually anchor a potent power play alongside guys like John Tavares and Ryan Strome.
16. Buffalo Sabres – Frederik Gauthier (C) QMJHL
Buffalo returns to their obsession with getting size here. The 6’5”, 210-lb center really adds a ton of size to their system (obviously) and would become one of the best forward prospects on the team. He fills a need that Buffalo has obviously been trying to find in the past few seasons.
They add a little bit of skill with their first pick in Shinkaruk and size with this pick.
17. Ottawa Senators – Curtis Lazar (C) WHL
Ottawa’s got a solid system, so it can just go with whoever it wants at this point. Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau got a lot of time with the Senators this season, so bolstering the center prospects is probably the best route to go here.
With that in mind, Lazar is a good pick here. He’s a nice solid, all-around forward, though his offensive abilities aren’t that highly though of.
18. Detroit Red Wings – Josh Morrissey (D) WHL
A defenseman with surplus skill on the offensive side of the ice? How does that not sound like a perfect fit for the Red Wings? He’s a bit undersized and could have trouble physically in the NHL, but the tools are all there for him to be a potential game changer.
There’s a good amount of risk in taking him, but Detroit can afford that for the potential that he has.
If they want to go with a lower-risk, lower-reward type player, Robert Hagg could be an option here.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets – Andre Burakowsky (LW) SHL
Burakowsky is a scorer. He has the skill set to provide a ton of offense to whatever team he goes to. He had a bit of a down season that dropped his draft stock, but the potential is there and the Jackets really need the offense that he could provide.
20. San Jose Sharks – Robert Hagg (D) SHL
Hagg is one of the better offensive-minded defensemen in the draft and fits well with what the Sharks need in this draft. They have an aging group of defensemen and very little in the prospects system.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Adam Erne (LW) QMJHL
The Leafs get a solid power forward prospect here in Erne. The kid plays physical and works hard for the puck. He could certainly take over the place of someone like Colton Orr right?
22. Calgary Flames – Kerby Rychel (LW) QMJHL
Grit, good skill, a booming shot, top-end scoring ability. It’s all about the offense with Rychel. He adds some offense to the Flames system that isn’t too prevalent at the moment.
23. Washington Capitals –Valentin Zykov (LW) QMJHL
Zykov had a surprise season in the QMJHL this past year and shot up the draft boards. He plays physical in front of the net and could be a solid power forward.
24. Vancouver Canucks – Shea Theodore (D) WHL
Another solid offensive defenseman. Theodore is an excellent puck mover and could quarterback a power play. He doesn’t provide a whole lot on the defensive side of the ice though, so this pick is all about the offense.
25. Montreal Canadiens – Anthony Mantha (LW) QMJHL
Mantha has good size, is a good skater and has an excellent scoring touch. He doesn’t play as physical as his size would suggest, but he could grow into that.
26. Anaheim Ducks – Samuel Morin (D) QMJHL
The biggest dude in the draft at 6’7”, Morin has the potential to be a shutdown defenseman. There are a wide range of differing opinions about where he could go, and he might be gone by the pick No. 15 or last till the second round. He’s well on his way to being a top-pair defenseman though. He just needs time.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets – Nicolas Petan (C) WHL
Why not more offense? I have the Jackets going with forwards with the first two picks of the first round, and here’s another in Nicolas Petan. Petan is a dream for those who covet puck possession and was an offensive machine for the Winterhawks this season. He’s a little dude though, but that hasn’t stopped him yet.
28. Calgary Flames – Zach Fucale (G) QMJHL
Kiprusoff is retiring, Joey MacDonald isn’t the answer and Leland Irving is still a giant question mark. Calgary doesn’t have a top-end goalie prospect in the system, and Fucale is too talented not to go in the first round. He’s the best goalie in the draft, and the Flames obviously need one. He could easily go to the Flames with pick No. 22.
29. Dallas Stars – Morgan Klimchuk (C/LW) WHL
I’m not sure if Klimchuk will last this long, but he would be an excellent pick for Dallas if he falls down here. Klimchuk is a tad undersized at around 5’10” or 5’11”, but that doesn’t take away at all from his play.
He works hard in all three zones, skates well and plays a puck possession game like Petan, though not quite as well as him. He’s got good offensive skill and can work the power play. He’s a good character guy and will work hard to improve his weaknesses in his game.
30. Chicago Blackhawks – Madison Bowey (D) WHL
The Cup winners can really go with anybody at this point. They have some solid prospects at the forward position already, and with no goalie worth taking here, I have them going defense.
Bowey has a ton of upside as an offensive defenseman and is an excellent skater. He would just add more skill to an already skilled group of players in Chicago. He would be nice for the Blackhawks to have in their pocket for the future as Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson get older.