1. Colorado Avalanche- Nate MacKinnon, Center (Canada)
-Colorado needs just about everything, and from the looks of it, they’ll be going with Nate MacKinnon to help fill out their forward group. Seth Jones was the popular pick here for a long time, but Avs president Joe Sakic seemingly quashed that trend with a recent announcement that they’d pass on Jones. So, they’ll go with the next best prospect- Nate MacKinnon, who will instantly step in as a center on one of their top two lines. Most likely, he’ll start out as the second-line center, Ryan O’Reilly will pivot the top line, and Matt Duchene will move out to left wing.
– The Panthers lost the draft lottery, but they may still be able to get this year’s top prospect. With the Avs likely taking MacKinnon, Florida can scoop up Seth Jones to bolster one of the weaker bluelines in the NHL.
– Martin St. Louis is still going strong, but at age 37, one has to figure the tank is getting close to empty. Lucky for Tampa Bay, they can take a player like Jonathan Drouin, whose playmaking style from the wing has often been compared to St. Louis.
– Nashville gets what it sorely needs here: a dynamic young center to lead the makeover of a dismal Predators offense. Barkov, along with Filip Forsberg, should provide plenty of offense and hope for the future in Nashville.
-If Carolina stays put, its more than likely they’ll take Valeri Nichushkin, the big, playmaking Russian winger. However, there’s a strong chance they trade down to grab a defenseman like Rasmus Ristolainen or Nikita Zadorov. Dallas and Columbus are likely trade partners.
-Calgary is in full-on rebuilding mode- good thing they’ve got three first round picks this year. With the first of those three choices, Calgary can begin to reconstruct its top-six with a center like Elias Lindholm, who often draws comparisons to elite Swedish centerman Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals.
-Perhaps this year will be the time Edmonton uses its top-ten pick on the defenseman they so sorely need. After all, they’ve had five picks in the top ten of the last six drafts, and have used all of them to fill out their forward lines (Sam Gagner, Magnus Pajaarvi, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov). Time to add a shutdown defenseman to the group, and that’s just what they can get if they use the No. 7 pick on Finnish blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen, who’s a big body at 6’3″, 200 pounds who also has plenty of two-way ability.
-It never hurts to add a talented center to your prospect pool. Given that Buffalo’s pretty weak up the middle both at the NHL level and in their pipeline (cupboard gets pretty bare after Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko), someone like Monahan would be a good pick for the Sabres.
– How long can New Jersey rely on Martin Brodeur? Better yet, how long do the Devils think they can keep starting Brodeur without an heir apparent waiting in the wings? It’s high time New Jersey added their next franchise goaltender. Fucale can develop for another year or two, and take over from Brodeur then.
– Dallas has plenty of solid talent at just about every position in their prospect pool, now they just need to add a player with “gamebreaker” potential. They can stay put at No. 10 and grab someone like Hunter Shinkaruk, a playmaking winger who has been compared to Patrick Kane, or they can use their bounty of high picks (two first rounders, two second rounders) to trade up and grab Nichushkin, Barkov or Lindholm.
– This pick just makes too much sense. Philadelphia’s blueline is quite weak, both at the NHL and developmental level, and Darnell Nurse is the nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Nurse can step in and be the physical, dominating presence along the back end that the Flyers have missed since Chris Pronger got hurt.
-Time for Phoenix (or Seattle, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, or Quebec) to add some offensive firepower. Zykov has classic Russian traits (good hands and speed) to go along with solid size (6’0″, 200) and scoring prowess- Zykov is coming off a 40-goal season in the juniors.
-Winnipeg’s defensive prospect pool gets pretty shallow after last year’s first round pick, Jacob Trouba. Adding someone like Nikita Zadarov, who at age 18 is already beastly 6’5″, 230, would go along way towards improving the Jets’ back end.
-Columbus has three picks in the first round of this year’s draft, and can pretty much do whatever it wants. Since no trades will be projected in this mock, Columbus can add a healty dose of size and scoring talent at No. 14 with Anthony Mantha, a 6’4″, 190 lb. winger who racked up 50 goals last year with QMJHL’s Val-d’Or.
– The Islanders have plenty of talent up the middle, now it’s time for them to add a few difference-makers on the wing. Erne, who has drawn comparisons to Dustin Brown, would be a good fit for New York. He’s got a strong three-zone game, and will be ready to jump into the NHL sooner rather than later.
– After adding a center with their first pick, the Sabres can shore up the wing with their second first-round choice. Burakowsky is someone who possesses a great scoring touch, and has the potential to be Buffalo’s next Thomas Vanek.
-Pulock may end up going higher than this, but if not, it’s just because he’s one of the eventual casualties of what some are considering the deepest draft since 2003. Pulock has a great shot and is responsible in all zones, and should easily find himself in Ottawa’s top-four in a few years.
-Detroit does love its Swedish players. So, why not give them the best Svensk available? Wennberg is very talented, and will be allowed to develop his game for the next several years, when he’ll be in line to replace Henrik Zetterberg.
-Last year they took Ryan Murray. This year, with one of their three first round picks, they could do worse things than grab Murray’s old blueline partner from Everett, Mirco Mueller. Sometime down the line, the Blue Jackets can reunite the two at the NHL level.
-An heir apparent for Patrick Marleau. Lazar is highly skilled, and will raise the level of play of those around him. He’s another player who could go much higher, but falls only due to the incredible depth of this year’s class.
-Like the Darnell-Nurse-to-Philadelphia pick, this one is again all too perfect. Toronto gets to take the son of one of their most memorable players from the past 25 years. The best part? Max might turn out to be even better than his father, Tie. The younger Domi has offensive potential that his father never did, and could end up as Toronto’s second or third line center sooner rather than later.
– Another key piece for Calgary’s rebuild. Gauthier can play any forward position, and has a great, well-rounded game to go along with great size at 6’5″, 211 lbs. Gauthier has the makings of a great power forward, and should be ready to help Calgary get back on track in a few years.
– Will Washington ever be able to find a long-term solution at second-line center behind Nicklas Backstrom? We may never know, but that’s no reason for them to stop trying. Couldn’t hurt for the Capitals to grab someone like Bo Horvat at No. 23 overall. Horvat isn’t a great scorer, but has solid passing skills to and a good two-way game.
– After dealing away Kevin Connauton, the Canucks would do well to add some talent to their defensive prospect pool. Madison Bowey is one of the best left available, and would be a good fit for Vancouver at this juncture.
– A solid two-way player with a good scoring touch. He’s still developing, and will likely end up as a winger at the pro level. Has good genes, as he’s the son of former Warren Rychel, who played for ten seasons in the NHL.
-A talented, offensive-minded defenseman for Anaheim to add to a prospect pool that features little after their pair of high-end Europeans (Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm).
– Hartman is a high-effort player who can take the ice in any situation. He won’t be a top-line goal scorer, but he’ll fit well as a middle-six forward who can chip in wherever needed, much like Steve Ott.
– The Flames get a major boost to their defensive prospect pool with the selection of Robert Hagg. He’s a well-rounded player who has been likened to Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall. He plays strong in all three zones, and can quarterback the power play.
– Another forward might be the more prudent decision for Dallas at No. 29, but they may find it impossible to pass up the 6’7″ Morin. Paired with the 6’7″ Jamie Oleksiak, their 2011 first-round pick, somewhere down the line the Stars could have a towering set of blueliners anchoring their defense.
-There isn’t much Chicago needs, but it never hurts to add someone with Klimchuk’s scoring acumen to a team’s pipeline. At 5’10”, 176, Klimchuk isn’t a big player, but has plenty of skill and knows how to light the lamp. He notched 36 goals last year with Regina of the WHL.
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– They hit gold with one French-Canadian winger, Jonathan Huberdeau, in the 2011 draft; no harm in trying for the same kind of success at the top of the second round here.
– They passed on Seth Jones, but defense is still a concern. McCoshen could go higher, so the Avs get good value to go along with a “need” pick.
– Theodore’s just another defenseman who slips out of circumstance, not for lack of talent. He could certainly go in the first round, but if he slides this far Tampa Bay would do well to scoop him up.
– Never a bad idea for Montreal to tap into the local pipeline. Dauphin’s still a couple years away from being NHL ready, but he’s already showing a penchant for being able to come through in the clutch (tied for the QMJHL league lead with nine game-winners).
– If Carolina doesn’t trade down from No. 5 in the first round to grab a defenseman, they’ll surely use their second-round choice on a blueline prospect.
– Another forward for Montreal. Tough to say anything against it though- they’re already stacked on defense with guys like Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Dalton Thrower. Dickinson will add a nice left-handed shot to their prospect pool.
– A do-it-all grinder who should add some much-need grit to this Edmonton squad. Needs to add some weight, but should be in the lineup within two years.
– Buffalo’s could use some size on the wing, and hometown kid Justin Bailey can do just that. He’s only 18, but is already a solid 6’3″ 185. Bailey’s got the potential to turn into a good power forward down the line.
– The Devils don’t have much up the middle at either the professional or developmental level. If they don’t add a center with the No. 9 pick, they should do so in the second round.
– Like Shinkaruk at No. 10, Dallas adds a smallish winger with great playmaking ability by snatching Lehkonen with their first pick in the second round. He’s only 5’10”, 160, so he will need to add weight before making the jump to the NHL, but he offers skills that could make him a steal down the line.
– After going defense in the first round, Philadelphia can grab Compher here to bolster a developmental forward group that doesn’t have much after last year’s first-round pick, Scott Laughton.
– Another winger for a team that needs one. He’s a year or two away, but could up as a nice middle-six player with goal scoring potential for Phoenix.
– Winnipeg will have to wait on Buchnevich, as he’s going to play at least the next two years in Russia, but he’s got all the tools to make their gamble pay off.
– Look at that- another first-round talent falls into the second round. Columbus needs size and scoring ability in the forward pipeline, and those are both elements Carrier can offer. He’s already 6’2″, 200 and is only a year removed from a 70-point season in the QMJHL (injuries cost him much of last season).
– With Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri both graduating to the NHL level, it couldn’t hurt Anaheim to restock the shelf at forward.
– With top netminding prospect Matt Hackett gone to Buffalo as part of the Jason Pominville deal, Minnesota may want to grab another goaltender to develop for the future.
– With Vladimir Tarasenko joining the Blues, there’s nothing wrong with St. Louis replacing one talented European prospect with another. Bjorkstrand racked up 31 goals with Portland of the WHL.
– Detroit knows their Europeans, so it’s tough to argue with them taking Sorensen at this juncture. He needs to fill out his six-foot frame a little more, as he’s only 165 pounds right now, but goodness knows Detroit will give him all the time he needs at the developmental level to do that.
– San Jose likes sizable forwards, and that’s just what they’ll get with the 6’5″, 230 pound McCarron.
-One thing San Jose lacks in their prospect pool is goaltenders. Their best is probably Harry Sateri, but it’s looking more and more unlikely that he’ll ever join the NHL. So, San Jose might as well use one of their three second-round picks on a netminder.
– Never hurts to add a center to a team’s prospect pool. Lodge grew up in Toronto, so it could also make for a nice story if they grabbed the hometown kid (though that certainly shouldn’t be the motivating factor).
– After drafting three forwards with their first three picks, Buffalo can add a blueliner here. Pesce has a good frame at 6’3″ that he can fill out while fulfilling his commitment to New Hampshire over the next three years.
– Washington enjoys drafting Russians. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Semyon Varlamov, Dmitry Orlov, Stanislav Galiev, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, Sergey Kostenko….the list from the past several years could go on. With that in mind, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise for them to grab someone like Bogdan Yakimov at this juncture in the second round.
– Dallas really lacks centers, both at the professional and developmental level. If they don’t grab someone like Elias Lindholm, Bo Horvat or Alex Wennberg in the first round, they’d be wise to grab one in the second.
– Another one of those picks that just has to happen. Montreal’s already got Norris Trophy-winning P.K. Subban, so why not add his brother?
– Duclair is a forward with tremendous speed and a nice skill set, one whom Edmonton can draft and develop for the next few years. He needs to add some weight to his 160-pound frame, but he’s got the potential to turn into something special down the line.
-A big-body forward who can play the kind of hard-checking two-way game that Los Angeles preaches.
-San Jose’s had three picks up until now. Forward? Check. Goaltender? Check. Defenseman? Not yet, so might as well grab one here.
– A winger for for the Jets. Wow, what an awful pun. Anyways, Tambellini is a good pick for Winnipeg, seeing as their pool of forward prospects gets pretty weak after Mark Scheifele.
– Boston doesn’t need much- there’s a reason they’ve been in two of the last three Cup finals. So, when in doubt….grab a center. Never hurts to have too many talented pivots waiting in the wings.
– Winnipeg is a bit weak when it comes to goaltending prospects. So, they might as well grab a netminder with the last of their three second-round picks.
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