The 2017 NHL Draft shares one major attribute with the 2016 and 2015 NHL Drafts – everyone knew who the first two picks of the draft were going to be. This year the major difference is no one is sure who will go first and who will go second.

There is no bona fide certainty as to who will be the first pick in 2017. Nolan Patrick seems to be the leading candidate, but his injury-plagued season and the emergence of Nico Hischier has led to intrigue as the New Jersey Devils are on the clock with the Philadelphia Flyers waiting in the wings for their “consolation” prize.

Patrick and Hischier are at the top of a draft that has a big step down to next level of players that do not appear to have any sure-fire superstars.

As a result, Brian Costello, senior editor of The Hockey News (THN), thinks teams will employ a different draft strategy.

“Because of so few sure things available, you may see teams, much earlier than normal, switch from best player available to positional need, ” he wrote in THN’s 2017 Draft Preview.

While Costello seemed to try and put a positive spin on the draft, Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report was not as kind back in December 2016.

“Okay, we’re officially calling it: This is a bad draft year. Well, maybe bad is a tad harsh, but at best it’s unexciting, ” Woodlief wrote on USAToday.com

“What else can you say when the two top prospects on your board — Nolan Patrick and Gabriel Vilardi — have rarely been healthy enough to play at full strength? Or when the presumed top three Euro phenoms — Swedish defenseman Tim Liljegren, Finnish winger Kristian Vesalainen, and Russian winger Klim Kostin — have seen their collective play range anywhere from mildly disappointing to downright underwhelming?”

At this time last year, Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren was projected as the second best prospect by THN and the International Scouting Service (ISS). His inconsistent play and an early season bout with mono saw Liljegren drop to #15 in THN’s rankings and #8 in the ISS rankings. In terms of Mock Drafts, Liljegren has dropped to the middle of the 1st round.

Left wing Maxime Comtois was THN’s 3rd rated 2017 prospect according to their 2016 Draft Preview and was the 11th ranked player by ISS. While his overall game improved, his offensive numbers tailed off. As a result, THN lists him at #19 while ISS has him at #30 and he falls anywhere from the middle of the 1st round to the bottom of the first round in various Mock Drafts.

Conversely, Hischier was not among the THN’s Top 10 when they looked ahead last year and CSS had him at #23 in their 2016 Draft Guide.

The 2017 NHL Draft will mark the draft debut of the NHL’s 31st franchise – the Vegas Golden Knights. While Gary Bettman and the NHL tried to give Vegas a fighting chance at respectability in the Expansion Draft, they certainly stacked the odds against them in Entry Draft. Rather than slot Vegas with the best chance at winning the lottery, they “seeded” them in the third slot – which meant Vegas could climb as high as 1st overall or fall to 6th (which they did).

You would think that for $500 million, Vegas owner Bill Foley would have at least “suggested” his team should be given the best chance to win the lottery, if they weren’t going to be given the first overall pick like other leagues do during expansion.

Instead, Vegas GM George McPhee used the Expansion Draft to wheel-and-deal his way into the 13th and 15th picks as he made trades with the Winnipeg Jets and New York Islanders.

In the end, the New Jersey Devils moved up four slots to pick 1st overall, the Philadelphia Flyers moved up 13 slots and the Dallas Stars moved up eight slots.

In this Mock Draft, each player will have his 2016-2017 team listed – as well as his NHL Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN) and International Scouting Service (ISS) ratings.

CS listed their Top 217 North American skaters (NA), Top 140 European skaters (E), Top 31 North American goalies (NA-G) and Top 13 European goalies (E). THN’s ratings consist of their Top 100 players. ISS ratings include their Top 180 skaters and Top 20 goalies.

In their Draft Preview, THN listed the “best case” type of player for their Top 62 player. ISS listed a ‘Style Comparison” for their Top 31 players and “NHL Potential” for their Top 100 skaters and Top 10 goalies.

This Mock Draft is based on the NHL draft order as of June 22, 2017.

1. New Jersey Devils – Nolan Patrick – C – Brandon (WHL)
CS: # 1 NA
THN: # 1 — Best Case: Eric Staal
ISS: # 1 — Style Comparison: Ryan Getzlaf
NHL Potential: 1st line center – providing leadership, presence and skill-set offensively.

GM Ray Shero is going to be very busy during the draft as the Devils have seven picks in the first four rounds and 10 picks through six rounds (no 7th rounder). While Patrick’s run of injuries last year is a concern, there is no questioning his talent. In the end, Patrick’s size (6-3/198) and pedigree makes him the 1st overall selection.

2. Philadelphia Flyers – Nico Hischier – C – Halfax (QMJHL)
CS: # 2 NA
THN: # 2 — Best Case: Joe Pavelski
ISS: # 2 — Style Comparison: Pavel Datsyuk
NHL Potential: 1st line forward with dynamic offensive ability.

Ron Hextall’s squad is the big winner before a single selection is made as they moved up 13 spots to get into the Patrick/Hischier Sweepstakes. The Swiss center is another addition to the ever deepening Flyers prospect pool. Now if they could only solve their goaltending situation.

3. Dallas Stars – Gabe Vilardi – C – Windsor (OHL)
CS: # 4 NA
THN: # 3 — Best Case: Jason Allison
ISS: # 3 — Style Comparison: Jason Allison
NHL Potential: Top six play-making forward.

Vilardi had health concerns of his own starting with a knee injury at the U-18 that was followed up by an appendectomy. He still managed 61 points in 49 games and Vilardi stepped up his game during Windsor’s run to winning the 2017 Memorial Cup.

4. Colorado Avalanche – Miro Heiskanen – D – HIFK (Finland)

CS: # 4 E
THN: # 6 — Best Case: Ryan McDonagh
ISS: # 4 — Style Comparison: Cam Fowler
NHL Potential: Top pairing puck-moving defender.

Rumors continue to swirl over the status of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon in terms of trades. Still, with all that uncertainty the Avs will look to Heiskanen to be the impact defenseman teams build their blue line corps around.

5. Vancouver Canucks – Cody Glass – C – Portland (WHL)
CS: # 6 NA
THN: # 10 — Best Case: Mark Scheifele
ISS: # 6 — Style Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
NHL Potential: 2nd or 3rd line playmaking center.

The Sedin Twins are starting get long in the tooth so the Canucks need to start looking ahead at the next generation of star forwards. Glass still needs to fill out his 6-2/180 frame, but the skill sets are there as seen in his production rising from 27 points in his first year in the WHL to 94 last year.

6. Vegas Golden Knights– Owen Tippett – RW – Mississauga (OHL)
CS: # 7 NA
THN: # 7 — Best Case: Kyle Okposo
ISS: # 5 — Style Comparison: Phil Kessel
NHL Potential: First line scoring winger or Bust.

Expansion teams always seem to struggle to find their way when it comes to scoring goals so it makes sense for Vegas to take the best goal scorer in the draft. Of course, they will have to live with his play in the other two zones until his overall game matures.

7. Arizona Coyotes – Cole Makar – D – Brooks (AJHL)
CS: # 9 NA
THN: # 5 — Best Case: Erik Karlsson
ISS: # 9 — Style Comparison: Shayne Gostisbehere
NHL Potential: Top pairing [defenseman] with offensive ability.

With the NHL now concentrating on puck control and skating, a smallish d-men like Makar (5-11/200) can thrive. ISS praises him for his “high octane dynamic skating” and his “high [hockey] IQ”. He will get a chance to add some bulk and strength while at the University of Massachusetts.

8. Buffalo Sabres – Jusso Valimaki – D – Tri-City (WHL)
CS: # 11 NA
THN: # 18 — Best Case: Mark Giordano
ISS: # 14 — Style Comparison: Ivan Provorov
NHL Potential: Top pairing puck-moving defender.

With Jason Botterill and Phil Housely in charge, the Sabres are pointed in the right direction. Valimaki is a solid two-way d-man who nearly doubled his point total in his second year (32 to 61). ISS believes he is one of the top two-way d-men available. He still needs to work on his defensive play and on using his size (6-2/200) better.

9. Detroit Red Wings – Casey Mittlestadt – C – Multiple Teams
CS: # 3 NA
THN: # 4 — Best Case: Jaden Schwartz
ISS: # 7 — Style Comparison: Alexander Wennberg
NHL Potential: 2nd line offensive center.

Mittlestadt wanted one more shot at the Minnesota State high school title so he returned to school Eden Prairie. Prior to his high school season, he moonlighted with Green Bay in the USHL and averaged over a point a game. He still needs work in the d-zone and build on his size (6-1/201), but he gains pluses for killing penalties and playing the point on the PP.

10. Florida Panthers – Timothy Liljegren – D – Rogle (Sweden)
CS: # 6 E
THN: # 15 — Best Case: Jay Bouwmeester
ISS: # 8 — Style Comparison: Justin Faulk
NHL Potential: Top pairing puck-moving defender.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Detroit take Liljegren given their success with a guy named Lidstrom. Rogle was not very good last year and that seemed to take the starch out of his development – especially defensively. His offensive game is the to Liljegren’s success. He needs to use his WJC snub as a carrot to develop his game and take that next step.

11. Los Angeles Kings – Nick Suzuki – C – Owen Sound (OHL)
CS: # 10 NA
THN: # 13 — Best Case: Rickard Rakell
ISS: # 11 — Style Comparison: Jaden Schwartz
NHL Potential: 2nd or 3rd line scoring threat in the NHL. PP and 3-on-3 specialist.

With Anze Kopitar having a subpar season, the Kings might be on the lookout for a successor. He is not a flashy player, but he finds ways to produce. One scout told THN, “He doesn’t toe-drag anybody, but all he does is be a factor in the game in every way. I think it is ridiculous that he’s not rated ahead of Owen Tippett.”

12. Carolina Hurricanes – Michael Rasmussen – C – Tri-City (WHL)
CS: # 5 NA
THN: # 8 — Best Case: James van Riemsdyk
ISS: # 10 — Style Comparison: Nick Bjugstad
NHL Potential: 2nd line center who can play all situations and be effective in any role.

The British Columbia native could very well go to Vancouver at #5. Whether it is there or to Carolina, someone is going to get a center with size (6-5/200) that plays at his best when he plays with an edge. A broken wrist cost him the last 22 games, but he still managed 32 goals and 23 assists in 50 games.

13. Vegas Golden Knights – Ryan Poehling – C – St. Cloud State (NCHC)
CS: # 13 NA
THN: # 17 — Best Case: Ryan O’Reilly
ISS: # 15 — Style Comparison: Jordan Staal
NHL Potential: Top six play-making forward.

The 6-2/185 Poehling makes for a solid pick for the NHL’s newest team. He joined St, Cloud State early so that he could play with his twin brothers and was a 17-year-old playing against guys who older and more physically mature. He is more of a playmaker now so he could stand to be a bit more “selfish” and look for his shot.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning – Kristian Vesalainen – LW – Multiple Teams
CS: # 7 E
THN: # 21 — Best Case: Alex Killorn
ISS: # 19 — Style Comparison: James van Riemsdyk
NHL Potential: top six goal scoring winger.

Vesalainen started the season in Sweden with Frolunda, but was loaned to HPK in Finland when Sean Bergenheim joined Frolunda with the hopes he would shine in the WJC (he didn’t). However, he did score 13 points in 7 games in the U-18 tournament. With Jonathan Drouin dealt away for Mikhail Sergachev, the 6-4/207 LW brings top-six talent to help replenish the front lines in Tampa.

15. Vegas Golden Knights – Callan Foote – D – Kelowna (WHL)

CS: # 12 NA
THN: # 16 — Best Case: Erik Johnson
ISS: # 12 — Style Comparison: Dougie Hamilton
NHL Potential: Top four two-way defenseman.

McPhee made it a point to take d-men with size in the Expansion Draft so it follows that his first d-man in the Entry Draft is one with size. At 6-4/210, Foote is sure to pass his father Adam who was 6-2/220 in the size department – not too bad for a kid who was born prematurely. While Callan does not have his Dad’s snarl (yet), he is a solid two-way d-man who has good ability when it comes to moving the puck and reading the game.

16. Calgary Flames – Eeli Tolvanen – LW – Sioux City (USHL)
CS: # 8 NA
THN: # 11 — Best Case: Nikita Kucherov
ISS: # 17 — Style Comparison: Michael Cammalleri
NHL Potential: Top line sniper.

If Tolvanen were a little bigger than his 5-10/170 frame, we would be talking about a top five pick. Right now his game is built on offense as his defensive game is, well, a “work-in-progress”, but what an offensive game. One scout told THN, “He’s a pure shooter, pure goal scorer. His shot is elite. It is heavy and accurate.” He has committed to Boston College, but his NHL team might push him to join Oshawa (OHL).

17. Toronto Maple Leafs – Isaac Ratcliffe – LW- Guelph (OHL)
CS: # 15 NA
THN: # 20 — Best Case: Kevin Hayes
ISS: # 22 — Style Comparison: Kevin Hayes
NHL Potential: 3rd line center with offensive upside.

At 6-6/195, it is hard to miss Ratcliffe. While THN termed a “project”, they did so out of the idea that his hockey ability is trying to catch up to his size. ISS Chief Scout Dennis MacInnis said, “Lots to like about his game, good size, good speed, solid work ethic. Skating has improved slightly [but] still needs to improve speed. Played on top line, PP and some PK time. Good net front presence.”


18. Boston Bruins – Nic Hague – D – Mississauga (OHL)

CS: # 20 NA
THN: # 22 — Best Case: Ben Huttom
ISS: # 18 — Style Comparison: Colton Parayko
NHL Potential: top four shutdown defenseman.

The Bruins are near that time that they will have to fill the skates of Zdeno Chara. While not quite as imposing, the 6-5/216 Hague comes close. Hague uses his size to contain opponents, but he needs to work getting stronger and on using his size more. He scored 48 points in 65 regular season games and added 12 points in 18 playoff games.

19. San Jose Sharks – Elias Pettersson – C – Timra (Sweden 2)

CS: # 2 E
THN: # 9 — Best Case: Henrik Zetterberg
ISS: # 20 — Style Comparison: Paul Stastny
NHL Potential: 3rd line center with offensive upside.

With Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton set to become UFAs, the Sharks have to look to a future without their veteran pivots. The 6-2/161 center averaged nearly a point a game in the Swedish Jr. League and will play in the SHL next year with Vaxjo. He is a solid two-way player who needs to get bigger and stronger so that he can

20. St. Louis Blues – Martin Necas – RW – Brno (Czech Republic)
CS: # 5 E
THN: # 12 — Best Case: Claude Giroux
ISS: # 13 — Style Comparison: Marko Dano
NHL Potential: 3rd line scoring option could fit well on second PP unit.

Necas spent the season as 17/18-year-old playing in the top Czech League. His game is predicated on his skating and his speed and has the ability to play in both ends of the ice. He needs to add weight and strength to his slight frame (6-1/168).

21. New York Rangers – Connor Timmins – D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
CS: # 18 NA
THN: # 38 — Best Case: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
ISS: # 28 — Style Comparison: Alec Martinez
NHL Potential: 2nd pairing defender who can add some offensive upside.

For the first time since 2012, the Rangers will make a 1st round selection – a trade notwithstanding. While not the big d-man the Rangers could use, the 6-1/185 Timmins is the puck-moving blueliner that coach Alain Vigneault values. He has the ability to be a top four d-man who can play on the PP and PK. Most importantly to some fans, he is a right-handed shooting defenseman – a need for the Rangers.

22. Edmonton Oilers – Jake Oettinger – G – Boston University (HE)
CS: # 1 NA-G
THN: # 32 — Best Case: Braden Holtby
ISS: # 2 G — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: Imposing presence, has future NHL starter written all over him.

While Vegas did not select Laurent Brossoit, the Oilers might still continue to search for an eventual heir apparent to Cam Talbot in goal. The Boston University netminder has the kind of size (6-4/205) that teams crave. The true freshman showed last year that he can use his size well without having his movement be affected.

23. Arizona Coyotes (A) – Kailer Yamamoto – RW – Spokane (WHL)
CS: # 17 NA
THN: # 24 — Best Case: Conor Sheary
ISS: # 26 — Style Comparison: John Gaudreau
NHL Potential: Top six forward – valuable piece on the power play.

At 5-8/160, Yamamoto can thank John Gaudreau and Mats Zuccarello for paving the way for him. After failing to make the USA WJC team, Kailer took his anger out on the WHL to the tune of 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games. His excellent skating and hockey sense allows him to play in all three facets of the game – including the point on the PP.

24. Winnipeg Jets – Jaret Anderson-Dolan – C – Spokane (WHL)
CS: # 21 NA
THN: # 33 — Best Case: Mike Richards
ISS: # 31 — Style Comparison: Joe Pavelski
NHL Potential: 3rd line center with offensive upside.

Anderson-Dolan who was the captain of Canada’s U-18 team. After scoring 26 points in 65 games in his first year in Spokane, he jumped to 39 goals and 37 assists in 72 games last year. The 5-11/188 center needs to get stronger, but his skating, competitive nature and hockey sense make him a solid pick for the Jets who could lose Bryan Little as an UFA at the end of the season.

25. Montreal Canadiens – Pierre-Oliver Joseph – D – Charlottetown (QMJHL)

CS: # 27 NA
THN: # 26 — Best Case: Roman Josi
ISS: # 34 — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: Bottom pairing defenseman who projects more in a shutdown role.

After moving top prospect Mikhail Sergachev in the deal for Jonathan Drouin, the Habs will look to replenish their blue line. Joseph’s brother Mathieu was Tampa Bay’s 4th round pick in 2015. He is a good skating two-way defenseman who plays in all situations (even, PP and PK). He wore an “A” in his second year in Juniors. If the Habs go for size at forward, look for them to draft Maxime Comtois.

26. Chicago Blackhawks – Henri Jokiharju – D – Portland (WHL)
CS: # 19 NA
THN: # 56 — Best Case: Jared Spurgeon
ISS: # 29 — Style Comparison: Brady Skjei
NHL Potential: 2nd pairing defender who can add some offensive upside.

Age and salary cap considerations are beginning to eat away at Chicago’s defense corps. The undersized (6-0/170) d-man goes from Winterhawk to Blackhawk. Jokiharju fits the mold of puck-moving/strong skating defender that teams want. While he is a two-way player, his passing skills are among the best in the draft.

27. St. Louis Blues (B) – Maxime Comtois – LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
CS: # 30 NA
THN: # 19 — Best Case: Brandon Saad
ISS: # 30 — Style Comparison: Austin Watson
NHL Potential: 3rd line [winger] who can play just about any role in the lineup.

With the Blues going forward a few picks earlier, they might look for a blueliner. However, Comtois is too good to pass up. After scoring 60 points in his first season, Comtois took a step back with just 51 points. He might be a victim of his success in his rookie year in the QMJHL. Rather than being a prolific scorer, Comtois is more of a two-way forward who is just as likely to block a shot and make a defensive play as he is to score a goal.

28. Ottawa Senators – Klim Kostin – RW – Moscow Dynamo (Russia)

CS: # 1 E
THN: # 14 — Best Case: Dustin Brown
ISS: # 16 — Style Comparison: Patrik Berglund
NHL Potential: 2nd line two-way center that will chip in offensively.

The 6-3/196 Kostin is listed as a draft wildcard by ISS. Kostin was drafted 1st by Kootenay in the CHL Import Draft. Klim opted to stay in Russia and did not receive a lot of playing time. He has the skills to be a top player, but his season ended with shoulder surgery early in 2017.

29. Dallas Stars (C) – Erik Brannstrom – D – HV71 (Sweden)

CS: # 9 E
THN: # 28 — Best Case: Torey Krug
ISS: # 41 — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: Top four defenseman at NHL level with offensive upside.

He averaged better than a point a game in 19 games in the Swedish Jr. League before playing 35 games with the big club. Another one of those smallish d-men (5-10/179) that is being helped by the changing NHL. Despite his size, he is a solid two-way d-man whose game is powered by his skating and his hockey sense. One scout told THN that Brannstrom is “the closest thing to Kimmo Timonen I’ve seen.”

30. Nashville Predators –Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen – G – HPK (Finland Jr.)
CS: # 1 E
THN: # 41 — Best Case: Ben Bishop
ISS: # 1 G — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: Possesses all the tools to be a quality starter in the NHL.

Given Nashville GM David Poile’s habit for drafting defenseman, he might look at Brannstrom given the Timonen comparison. However, Pekka Rinne’s inconsistent Stanley Cup Final might highlight the need for an heir apparent – Juuse Saaros and Marek Mazanec aside. The 6-4/196 Luukkonen represented Finland at back-to-back U-18 tournaments leading the Fins to gold and silver. Has good movement and quickness for a goalie his size.

31. Pittsburgh Penguins – Urho Vaakanainen – D – JYP (Finland)

CS: # 8 E
THN: # 29 — Best Case: Jake Gardiner
ISS: # 37 — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: Mobile defenseman who shows intriguing upsides on both sides of the puck.

The Penguins repeating as champions showed you don’t need elite d-men, but the Pens do need to address depth among the defense corps. The 6-1/187 d-man played in Finland’s top league as a 16-year-old. He is a good mobile defender who will need to get stronger and bulk up a bit to reach his potential as a top-four defenseman.

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Even though the New York Rangers are scheduled to draft in the 1st round for the first time since 2012, they do not have their full complement of draft picks. Their 2nd round pick went to Carolina in the Eric Staal trade and their 3rd round pick went to Detroit in the Brendan Smith trade.

The Rangers dealt their own 4th round pick (#114) to Colorado in the Nick Holden trade, but they did pick up a 4th round pick from Florida (#102) in the Keith Yandle trade.

The Blueshirts own their own 5th round pick, but will move up in the 6th as a result of two separate trades. They dealt their 6th rounder (#176) to Nashville for Magnus Hellberg and acquired a 6th round pick from Vancouver as part of the Emerson Etem/Nicklas Jensen trade. The Rangers still own their own 7th rounder (#207).

In doing research for this article, I came across an amazing statistic/draft oddity. The 2017 Draft will mark the eighth straight time the Rangers do not have draft picks in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds. The last time the Rangers did have those picks was in 2009 when they drafted Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek and Ryan Bourque.

There are three players who were on my original list, but dropped off after I completed my 2017 NHL Mock Draft because I slotted them in prior to the Rangers pick at 21. In fact, I had all three players being picked one after another: Eeli Tolvanen (#16 to Calgary), Isaac Ratcliffe (#17 to Toronto) and Nic Hague (#18 to Boston),

Truth be told, if Tolvanen is still available when the Rangers draft I would not walk to the podium, I would sprint to the podium to draft the Finnish winger. While Tolvanen needs to tighten up his work in the defensive zone, he is an explosive offensive player who will get bigger, better and stronger while at Boston College – unless the NHL team that drafts him makes him play in the OHL.

Ratcliffe is a big forward (6-6/195) who has drawn comparisons to Kevin Hayes – and depending on your opinion of Hayes – that is either a good thing or a bad thing. Ratcliffe is going to be a heavy load to handle once his talent matches his size

Hague offers up an even bigger prospect, literally, as the blueliner is 6-5/216. Hague needs to work on his skating stride and, like Ratcliffe, have his hockey sense grown into his body.

With those three out of the running, that leaves us five players to review.

LIAS ANDERSSON – C – HV 71 (Sweden)
CS: # 3 E
THN: # 23 — Best Case: Ondrej Palat
ISS: # 25 — Style Comparison: Alexander Steen
NHL Potential: NHL upside as a potential top 2 line player.

Andersson has family connections to the NHL as his father Niklas was drafted 68th overall in 1989 in Quebec. Niklas played 165 games with five NHL teams. Lias’s father is a European scout for the Los Angeles Kings. Uncle Mikael was a 1st round pick in 1984 (#18) who played for five NHL teams an appeared in 761 games.

The 5-11/198 center played in the top Swedish League last season as an 18-year-old and scored 9 goals and 10 assists in 42 games. He also represented Sweden in the WJC and scored 3 goals in 7 games – not too bad for a player who was asked to use his solid two-way play to anchor the third line.

Dennis MacInnis (ISS Director of Scouting): “Complete package for a two-way forward. Highly intelligent player with good skills and physical tools. Has good character and work ethic”.

Ben Gallant (ISS Scout): “Liked this player at WJC. Played at center on shutdown line. Willing to engage physically and showed good creativity on the cycle. Tools to be a middle NHL forward that can play on [PP and PK].

Rocco Zappia (ISS Scout): Playmaking centre. Good skater, plays with a lot of pace and moves up the ice with speed. Very cerebral player, displays high hockey sense. Does a really good job of finding the open man.”

MAXIME COMTOIS – LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
CS: # 30 NA
THN: # 19 — Best Case: Brandon Saad
ISS: # 30 — Style Comparison: Austin Watson
NHL Potential: 3rd line [winger] who can play just about any role in the lineup.

The 6-2/200 Comtois was rated as the #3 prospect a year ago by THN. After scoring 26 goals and 34 assists in 65 games in his rookie season, his offensive numbers fell to 22 goals and 29 assists in 61 games. THN pointed out that too much was made and expected of Comtois offensively coming into this season. While his numbers might have dropped, he is solid at both ends of the rink and is a 200-foot player who will block shots and do what it takes to win – include kill penalties.

Dennis MacInnis: “Not a lot of flash to his game, but is a steady and dependable player with good hockey sense and compete level – he will play in the NHL, but there will never be a wow factor to his game.”

Chris Mooring (ISS Scout): “North/south type of skater with acceptable speed once he gets going. Looks like a middle six complimentary type power winger. Needs to show more consistency with and without the puck and improve first couple of steps and agility.”

Bob Johnson (ISS Scout): One thing about this player [is] he works hard on every shift. The puck wasn’t going in for him this year. He competes on every shift and he gets his nose dirty in traffic.”

JASON ROBERTSON – RW – Kingston (OHL)
CS: # 14 NA
THN: # 51 — Best Case: Mark Stone
ISS: # 36 — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: 2nd line sniper that can help PP.

The 6-2/196 Robertson has the size and scoring ability that teams want. The problem is that his skating needs improvement and he need to add a little more bulk and strength to his game. He might be a bit of a reach at #21, but his ability to score puts him on my radar. He more than doubled his point total from his first season (54-18-14-32) to his breakout second season (68-42-39-81).

The Rangers should be intrigued from this snippet from his ISS Scouting Report: “At his best on the PP where he works the half-boards, disguises the release on his shot well fooling goaltenders.

Greg Hickman (ISS Scout): “Offensive forward with great size and frame. Showing more confidence and poise with the puck. Skating and feet could be better, lateral skating is poor. Puck skills are strong. Has offensive upside at higher levels.”

Ben Gallant: “Natural goal scorer with high end offensive instincts. Shot is heavy and accurate with quick release. Footspeed needs to improve ….”

CONOR TIMMINS – D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
CS: # 18 NA
THN: # 38 — Best Case: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
ISS: # 28 — Style Comparison: Alec Martinez
NHL Potential: 2nd pairing defender who can add some offensive upside.

While Timmins might not be the “big” defenseman the Rangers could use, the 6-1/185 Timmins is the mobile/puck-moving d-man that Alain Vigneault wants on his blue line. He projects out as a player who can play among the top four on defense and man the point on the PP and PK. Most importantly to some fans, he is a righty shooting defenseman – a need for the Rangers.

Timmins saw a huge jump in his offensive production from his first season in the OHL (60-4-9-13) to last season (67-7-54-61).

Dennis MacInnis: “RH-shooting d-man with hard, low point shot. Skating is fluid and mobile. Has the habit to recognize his options quickly when retrieving pucks defensively. Makes a good first pass out of his zone. Like his offensive upside.”

Phil Myre (ISS Scout): “Conor has continued to improve all season long. Average size RD who plays top pair, top PP, and PK. Excellent puck mover and also has the ability to carry the puck up ice and beat players one-on-one,

Matt Manners (ISS Scout): Knows when to jump up offensively. He QB’s the PP unit and plays PK. Offensive game has improved tons this season. Heady player. Has good mobility and quickness.

KAILER YAMAMOTO – RW – Spokane (RW)
CS: # 17 NA
THN: # 24 — Best Case: Conor Sheary
ISS: # 26 — Style Comparison: John Gaudreau
NHL Potential: Top six forward – valuable piece on the power play.

At 5-8/160, Yamamoto would be the only player on the team that could look eye-to-eye Mats Zuccarello without any strain. One question with Yamamoto is will he be another Zuccarello/John Gaudreau or another Rocco Grimaldi? The other question is whether the Rangers could afford to have two players who are 5-8/5-7 among their 12 forwards? Of course, Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis coexisted without any problems so it can be done. The only difference is St. Louis’s experience dwarfs (no pun intended) that of Mats and Kailer.

The one thing in Kailer’s favor is that he has excellent skating ability. Much like Johnny Hockey and Zucc, Yamamoto is able to use his hockey sense to stay out of danger even though he is not afraid to go where bigger players fear to go.

After 71 points in his rookie season in the WHL, Kailer raised his game to the tune of 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games.

Dennis MacInnis: “Obviously small, but strong and explosive on his skates and he has a low center of gravity. Size is a concern, but if he was two inches taller he’s a no-brainer.

Milan Dragicevic (ISS Scout): “Huge engine in small body. Very smart. High hockey IQ, excellent pucks skills and speed. Can change the game in a positive way very quickly. Overall, really like his game and his composure, hard to teach that offensive skill set.”

Brent Parker (ISS Scout): “Small and skilled – size won’t be an issue with his high hockey IQ and how he uses his body position. Very good skater who is elusive and can change direction on a dime – dynamic high end offensive talent”.

When it comes time for the Rangers contingent to walk up to the podium, one of the five players I have previewed should still be on the board. As I mentioned earlier, if Eeli Tolvanen is available he is my first choice.

If Tolvanen is not available, then I would draft Conor Timmins with the 21st overall selection. He checks off a couple of the boxes that current Rangers players do not. While I am not obsessed with an even split of lefty/right shots on defense, it makes life easier by having a couple of righty shots on the blue line. Timmins also fits the Rangers desire to have d-men who can move the puck and make the first pass of the d-zone.

Looking at the rest of my favorites, I put them in this order: Yamamoto (by a wide margin), Robertson, Andersson and Comtois. I know that there is a concern about Yamamoto’s size when you already have a winger his size, but that could put the Rangers in a position to move Zuccarello to fill other needs and possibly shave a little but off their cap hit if having two smallish players ever became a problem – which it didn’t with Zucc and MSL.

If Robertson and Andersson were true Rangers’ targets, I might consider moving down (even out of the 1st round) and try to recapture a 2nd and/or 3rd round pick. The idea of trading down might not be a bad idea as multiple teams have multiple 2nd round picks. Someone like Buffalo might look to jump up into the 21st spot to draft Jake Oettinger – with the Rangers taking the Sabres two 2nd round picks at #37 and #54.

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Since trying to prognosticate the first round of the NHL Draft is hard enough, there is no way I can look into my crystal ball and detail who the Rangers should draft in rounds four through seven. Not even Kreskin could project out how the NHL Draft will shape up, so accurately coming up with draft picks for the fourth through seventh rounds would be like trying to her a clowder of cats. Therefore, I am going to list six players of interest that I would not mind seeing the Rangers draft.

ALEXIS BINNER – D – Green Bay (USHL)
CS: # 94 NA
THN: # Not Listed — Best Case:
ISS: # 93 — Style Comparison: Not Available
NHL Potential: Not Available

The 6-3/212 blueliner has committed to attend the University of Maine. Binner is an interesting prospect because his skating is very good considering his size. He is good in his own zone defensively and he is working on improving his offensive game – which could be aided by his strong skating.

Jose Charbonneau (ISS Scout): “Very good sized defenseman with a decent hockey IQ. Engaged physically and finishes his checks, moving the puck at the right places and a good utilization of his stick in the passing lanes to defend. Had good position and awareness in his own defensively.”

Phil Myre (ISS Scout): “He’s a good skater, mobile and good speed. Quickness just average. Good puck skills, good passer and stick handler. He has a good shot. Sees the transition game well and good outlet pass. Average defensive game, could be more assertive and use his size better.”

ZACH GALLANT – C – Peterborough (OHL)
CS: # 64 NA
THN: # 81 — Best Case: Not Available
ISS: # 89 — Style Comparison: Not Available
NHL Potential: Ceiling is 3rd-4th line checking role at NHL level.

The 6-1/184 center scored 21 goals and 26 assists in 65 games. THN calls him a “Fearless faceoff ace [who] goes to the net, plays the right way. Must get faster”. Gallant is a two-way forward who is a hard competitor who makes sure to take care of his defensive responsibilities.

Ben Gallant (ISS Scout): “Good compete and two-way game. Takes hits down low to make plays, cycled well and came back high in the offensive zone. Feet are average, but has quickness to get into the right spot at right time. Shows smarts in all three zones and in the right position.”
Rocco Zappia (ISS Scout): “Physical forward who reads the play well and gets into good position. Not the greatest skater, average top speed, quickness needs improvement. Despite his lack of elite skating ability, he seems to always get to where he needs to be without any issue. First on pucks and finishes his checks.”

GRIFFIN LUCE – D – University of Michigan (Big 10)
CS: # Not Rated
THN: # Not Rated — Best Case: Not Listed
ISS: # Not Rated — Style Comparison: Not Available
NHL Potential: From his 2016 Report – Shutdown defender.

Luce has a deep family connection to the NHL. His father, Scott, is the Florida Panthers Director of Personnel and his grandfather, Don, was a 1966 third round pick (14th overall) of the Rangers and played 894 games with five NHL teams. His grandfather played one season in Detroit with Griffin’s coach at Michigan – Red Berenson.

In 2016, THN rated him #53 while ISS rated him #89.

The 6-3/214 is a physical defensive defenseman who uses his size well. He went undrafted last year because his skating needs work and he has problems with players with speed. I know what you are thinking – not another Dylan McIlrath.

The difference is McIlrath’s career was hurt by a knee injury and the fact that the Rangers could have (and should have) drafted Vladimir Tarasenko (as I wrote way back when) or Cam Fowler. To gamble on a character player like Luce late in the draft is not that much of a reach or risk.

Dennis MacInnis (ISS Director of Scouting wrote in 2016): “Had limited ice time, but was effective. Kept things simple and safe. Knows his limitations and doesn’t try to do too much. Type [of] player coaches love to have on their team because of his high compete level and solid defensive play. Projects as 5th/6th shutdown defenseman with further development.”

Phil Myre (ISS Scout wrote in 2016): “Very good size and strength, physical defenseman. Keeps his game simple. Short passes, safe plays. Average skater, he needs to improve his quickness, but can generate speed for his size. Can deliver big hits. Defensive defenseman with NHL upside.”

OTTO MAKINEN – C – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
CS: # 211 NA
THN: # Not Listed — Best Case: Not Available
ISS: 2016 Rating – # 87 — Style Comparison: Not Available NHL Potential: From his 2016 Report – Impact bottom six winger who can play crucial minutes.

Makinen, 6-1/178 was a 2016 draft eligible prospect who went undrafted. THN rated him as their #59 prospect in 2016. Played for Finland in the 2015/2016 U-18 but was overshadowed by 2016 draftees Jesse Puljarjavi and Markus Niemelainen and 2017 prospects Eeli Tolvanen and Kristian Vesalainen.

He is a two-forward who is a playmaker first as he looks to pass before taking his own shot. According to the Elite Hockey Prospects, it appears that Makinen’s OHL term was one and done as the web site lists Makinen returning to Finland to play for Tappara. In 68 OHL games, Makinen scored 7 goals and 23 assists.

In 2016 one scout told THN, “He’s your prototypical two-way guy. Really good hockey IQ and works as hard as anyone in the [2016] draft. So involved, always makes the right play.”

Dennis MacInnis (wrote in 2016): “Good sized forward who competes and plays a 200-foot game. He has a lot of assets but didn’t have much impact in these U-18 championships. Has yet to show that he can play at a high level consistently.”

Olli Lahdesmaki (ISS Scout wrote in 2016): “Smart all-around center lacking ultimate assets …. Makes good decisions with the puck while lacks effectiveness and edge for creating space for himself.”

KIRILL MAKSIMOV – RW – Niagara (OHL)
CS: # 66 NA
THN: # Not Listed — Best Case: Not Available
ISS: # 99 — Style Comparison:
NHL Potential: Second-line skilled forward with further development.

Started the year with Saginaw (6 goals in 37 games) in the OHL before a mid0season trade to Niagara (15 goals in 29 games). He added 4 goals in 4 playoff games for the IceDogs and 3 goals in 7 games for Russia in the U-18.

While he has good size (6-2/192) he shies away from physical play at this time and needs to develop a sense of how to play defense. On the plus side, he has a nose for the goal and is adept at controlling and protecting the puck.

Dennis MacInnis: “Good sized winger. Above average skater, takes a couple of steps to get up to speed. Puck skills are fine with a decent shot. Showed flashes of ability then went shifts without touches. Needs to make better use of size and improve his level of compete.”

Phil Myre: “This player is showing a lot of improvement and getting more ice time. He plays on the PP and kills penalties. A good sized player, he has very good skills. Excellent hands, passing and shooting. He can make plays and score. Needs to improve his play in the boards in the defensive zone. Needs to be more reliable with the puck, some turnovers. Smart player with a continued slow growth. Big upside.”

PHILIP KEMP – D – USA U-18 (NTDP)
CS: # 175 NA
THN: # Not Listed — Best Case: Not Available
ISS: # 100 — Style Comparison: Not Available
NHL Potential: Bottom six stay at home type who provides a physical presence.

The 6-3/202 Kemp is committed to Yale University and was a member of the USA U-18 gold medal team. He is a strong physical defensive defenseman who is a right-handed shot so he will draw interest from NHL teams. While he will never be Brian Leetch with the puck, he does have a good shot. He needs to work on improving his quickness and mobility in terms of skating.

Phil Myre: “Very good size defenseman. He was very active both offensively and defensively with the puck. Was a presence physically. He has below average puck skills, but can make good outlet and transitional plays and [has] a decent shot. A good penalty killer, he is willing to block shots. Plays the defensive zone well, engages in front of the net and battles in the corners.”

Tim Zeches (ISS Scout): “He has a long reach and active stick one-on-one, but also uses his size/strength to keep attackers from cutting to center lanes. Good positioning, reads/anticipates well, and can create turnovers. Competes hard, sacrifices to block shots and can play with an edge at times. Doesn’t show much offensive skill.”

As you might have noticed, the three defensemen that I listed all share similar traits in that they are more defensive d-men first and play with a certain snarl. This was intentional on my part because the Rangers have plenty of blueliners in the system that can move the puck – a trait that Coach Alain Vigneault favors in his defensemen. However, even the “great” AV won’t always be the Rangers coach so it makes sense to have defensemen in the system that play a more physical style.

Among the forwards, I selected two centers that would make good fourth line centers. Some might see it as wasting draft picks going after fourth line players, but in a salary cap world it makes little sense to spend a lot of money on fourth line players when you can develop them on your own.

Maksimov’s addition is an attempt to also address the need for goal scorers and to enhance to depth of the Rangers organization when it comes to skilled forwards.

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While it might seem that the New York Rangers will be making a first round pick for the first time in the 21st century, it has only been since 2012 (which is long enough) when they selected Brady Skjei with the 28th overall pick.

In 2017, the Rangers will be making the 21st overall pick in the NHL Draft for just the third time since the NHL Draft began in 1963. The franchise met with diminishing returns during that history.

In 1964, the Rangers selected center Syl Apps, Jr. in the fourth round – two years after his father Syl Apps Sr. was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Apps Sr. was also named one of the NHL’s Greatest 100 Players as part of the league’s centennial celebration.

Syl Jr. played 727 NHL games (11 with the Rangers, the rest with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles). He scored 183 goals and 423 assists with his best season coming in 1975-76 when he posted career highs in goals (32), assists (67) and points (99).

The Rangers traded Apps and defenseman Sheldon Kannegiesser to Pittsburgh in exchange for Glen Sather in January 1971. The Penguins traded Apps and former Ranger (for all of six games) Hartland Monahan to Los Angeles for former Ranger Gene Carr, Dave Schultz and a 1976 4th round pick.

In 1972, the Rangers made the 21st overall pick again – this time in the 2nd round – and drafted Lawrence Sacharuk. The defenseman played a total of 151 NHL games, splitting them between the Rangers (75) and St. Louis (76). In his career, he scored 29 goals and 33 assists – the majority of those coming in his one year with the Blues in 1974-75 (76-20-22-42).

In August 1974, the Rangers sent Sacharuk and the Rangers 1st round pick in 1977 to St. Louis for Greg Polis. The Rangers reacquired when they sent Derek Sanderson to St. Louis. The Rangers eventually drafted Lucien DeBlois (while passing on Mike Bossy for the first of two times). In September 1975, Rangers brought Sacharuk back while sending Bob Macmillan to the Blues.

If you think you might be noticing a pattern with the Rangers and Blues, you are correct. Rangers GM Emile Francis used the Blues as an NHL-version of a minor league affiliate. From 1967-68 (the year St. Louis joined the NHL) until January 1976 (when Francis was fired by the Rangers), the two teams made 23 trades during those nine seasons.

During all of the trade machinations, Francis sent Red Berenson to St. Louis and in three separate deals he traded all three Plager brothers (Barclay, Bob and Bill) to the Blues.

Winger Jack Egers probably learned to rent on short-term leases thanks to the Rangers and the Blues. He spent 1969-70 and 1970-71 with the Rangers before being traded to St. Louis. He split the 71-72 season with the Blues and the Rangers. He spent the whole season with St. Louis in 1972-73 and probably thought his moving days were over. After starting the 1973-74 season with the Blues he got traded back to the Rangers. Egers was on the move again as the Capitals drafted him in the 1974 Expansion Draft and played 26 games split over the next two seasons before his NHL career came to an end.

Amid all of the deals Francis made with the Blues, the one that really paid off was in May 1971 when “The Cat” out-foxed St. Louis by sending Rangers third goalie Peter McDuffe to the Blues in exchange for their 1971 first round draft pick – which Francis used to select Steve Vickers.

In 2006, the Rangers exercised the 21st overall pick when they drafted defenseman Bob Sanguinetti with the 1st round selection. Sanguinetti played just five games with the Rangers before they traded him to Carolina in June 2010 as the Rangers acquired a 6th round pick in 2010 and Washington’s 2nd round pick in 2011.

The Rangers traded that Caps pick, along with the Rangers 2nd round pick and prospect Roman Horak to Calgary in exchange for Tim Erixon and 2011 5th round pick (the Rangers took Shane McColgan).

What became of that 6th round pick in 2010? Well, the Rangers used that to draft Jesper Fasth (as he was known as then).
Sanguinetti played 40 games over the next two season for the Hurricanes scoring two goals and 4 assists. He played last season with Kloten in the Swiss Elite League.

The Rangers had one more foray into the 21st pick in 1991 during the NHL’s Supplemental Draft. From 1986-1994, the NHL held a special draft for collegiate player who were not eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. John Cullen and former Rangers Cory Cross and Steve Rucchin are just three of the 12 players who were selected in the Supplemental Draft and then went to play more than 100 games in the NHL.

In 1991, they drafted winger Steven King who played 24 games in the 1992-93 season (7-5-12). King was claimed by Anaheim in the 1993 Expansion Draft. In parts of two seasons, King played 43 games with the then Mighty Ducks, scoring 10 goals and three assists.

Since this article is historical (or hysterical depending on your point of view) in nature, I came across an interesting piece of recent Draft history researched by The International Scouting Service.

ISS reviewed the NHL Drafts from 2007 through 2016 featuring players selected in all seven rounds. During those years, the Rangers drafted only 61 players – one better than the last place team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The least amount of players drafted dovetailed nicely with the Rangers having the least number of players play in the NHL (18) and their 29.5% success rate was the worst in the NHL, just ahead of the Washington Capitals at 29.90%. In the Rangers defense, no adjustment was made to reflect the tragic death of 2007 1st round draft pick Alexei Cherepanov.

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After eliminating Canada’s hockey capital (Montreal) it is only fitting that the next obstacle for the New York Rangers to climb would be Canada’s capital (Ottawa) in a rematch of their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals won by the Rangers in seven games after trailing three games to two.

This year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals features many intriguing off-ice and on-ice stories that bear watching.

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson has split his time this season tending goal for the Senators and tending to his wife Nicholle as she battles cancer – a situation that I am all too familiar with and as a result wish Craig and Nicholle nothing but the best.

Clarke McArthur’s triumphant return from missing nearly two full seasons recovering from a concussion and its aftermath was capped off with his Game 6 winning goal in overtime to eliminate the Boston Bruins.

Of course, one can’t talk of the senators without mentioning the “impending domination” of perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson and Anderson’s mastery over the Rangers (10-5-3 with a 1.77 GAA, .941 SV% and four shutouts).

In the minds of a lot of Rangers and Senators fans, this series will go a long way in deciding which team won the Mika Zibanejad-Derick Brassard trade. Early returns look good for the Sens as “Big Game Brass” is tied for second in the playoffs with eight points while Zibanejad has half as many points for the Blueshirts. Speaking of Brassard, the series reunites him with his former Rangers BFF Mats Zuccarello.

Alain Vigneault will be coaching against the organization that gave him his first NHL job as he served as an assistant coach for Ottawa for three and a half years.

Vigneault offered an interesting take to the media on the Zibanejad-Brassard trade leading up to the start of the series. The Rangers were able to acquire a 2018 second round pick from Ottawa in that deal which, in turn, allowed the Rangers to package a 2018 second round pick to Detroit as part of the Brendan Smith deal.

All of these off-ice and on-ice stories make for nice print and on-air talking points, but the main story for this series will come to down to “1-3-1” – the defensive system used by Ottawa’s coach Guy Boucher. It is a system that Boucher started when he was Tampa Bay and caused Philadelphia Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette to mock Boucher’s strategy.

The Rangers ability, or inability, to break the 1-3-1 is the key to the series. Job (sounds like rob) is to be as patient as Job (sounds like robe) when it comes to breaking Ottawa’s trap. In order to counter Boucher’s plan to stifle puck movement through the neutral zone, the Rangers must resist resorting to what MSG.com Rick Carpiniello likes to call their “fancy-boy” way of playing hockey where the Blueshirts put more reliance on piling up style points rather than shots or goals.

Whether they like it or not, the Rangers will have to play dump-and-chase hockey (emphasis on their need to chase). Considering on how much Boucher relied on his top four defensemen against Boston (without Mark Borowiecki who missed four of the six games, but should be back sooner rather than later), the Rangers can make good use of putting bodies on the Ottawa d-men, especially early in games.

In a discussion on the NHL Network, the analysts believed that the Rangers physical pressure on Karlsson would pay off late in shifts/periods/games. If the Rangers attack and put bodies him, they can take advantage of Karlsson – and by extension the rest of the Ottawa blueliners.

The Rangers need to implement a strategy that former Canadian Junior Brian Kilrea used to employ. In racking up nearly 1, 200 wins with the Ottawa 67’s, Kilrea’s forechecking strategy was “asses and eyeballs”. In Kilrea’s book, “They Caller Me Killer”, Bryan Trottier explained what Kilrea means by “asses and eyeballs”:

“If you see their asses, let’s pressure like hell! If you see their eyeballs, we’ll just send one, ” Trottier explained.

In addition to hard forechecking and dump-and-chase, the Rangers will need to be in constant motion to break the 1-3-1 with quick crisp passes – as opposed to their preferred method of looking to stretch the ice with long passes (which can play into the Senators’ trap).

In addition to patience, the Rangers will have to remain disciplined and not try to force a round peg into a square hole. The importance for discipline carries over to eliminating, or at least limiting, the lazy stupid penalties they took against Montreal – like all of those high sticking penalties late in the series.

In a way, the Rangers will have to do like they did in the Montreal series, adjust their style of play to meet the needs of the game. It is something that Derek Stepan recognizes.

“You have a game plan, but you also have to be ready to take what series’ give you and I think that’s how teams succeed in the playoffs, ” Stepan admitted to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “We have superstars on our team, but we don’t rely on superstars taking over games. We’re team-oriented and built that way.

“I go back to what Marty [St. Louis] preaches about the importance of being able to make adjustments. That’s what he did as an individual to be able to succeed in the league for so long, and that’s what teams need to be able to do.”

It is ironic that Stepan mentioned St. Louis because Marty was part of that Lightning team that implemented the 1-3-1.

Of course, the easiest way to break the 1-3-1, or any trap for that matter, is to get the lead and then add to it. The more Ottawa falls behind, the greater the pressure is to change their style of play and open the game up – which will play to the Rangers skill and speed advantage.

One way for the Rangers make sure they get the early lead is to win the special teams battles. The Rangers penalty killing helped do them in during their Game 3 loss and their power play goal in Game 6 helped win the series. With the way Anderson and Henrik Lundqvist are playing goals are expected to be at a premium so the special teams should be crucial.

Interestingly enough, success on special teams hasn’t been all that successful for playoffs teams this year. Calgary leads all playoff teams in PP% (37.5) and they were swept in four games. Minnesota and Montreal had the playoffs best penalty killing units (93.3) and both of those teams are out of the playoffs.

The Rangers need some of their young stars to pick up their play in the Ottawa series. Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller were far too inconsistent in the Montreal series, although Hayes began to show life towards the end of the series. Kreider and Miller got lucky after taking some really stupid penalties late in the series and can’t afford to do so now. With Montreal and the Carey Price Affair a memory, perhaps Kreider will regain his confidence to go to the net utilizing his size and speed.

While Stepan helped ice the series with his empty net goal, two points in six games is not going to get the job done – especially when you are only winning 37.2% of your faceoffs. That was the one part of Hayes’ game that was strong (57.6%).

The Rangers had success against Price when took advantage of him going down to the ice early. While he is a very athletic goalie, Anderson can fall into that same trap as well. The Blueshirts will need to get traffic in front of him in the hopes he will have problems going side-to-side and picking up the puck through traffic.

In addition to shutting down Brassard and Karlsson, the Rangers will have to deal with the resurgence of Bobby Ryan who scored four goals and three assists against Boston. He was using his Rick Nash-like ability in a way that the Rangers need to see from Nash and their big forwards.

THE PREDICTION

Many Rangers fans were pleased with the extra rest they received thanks to eliminating the Canadiens in six games instead of the usual seven games it always seems to take the Rangers. Frankly, the rest probably did more for Ottawa given the four overtime games they played against the Bruins – not to mention the “healing time” Karlsson’s hairline fracture in his foot received. The Senators captain averaged over 30 minutes of ice time that was topped off by nearly 42 minutes in double overtime in Game 5. Karlsson had to battle through cramps in that game so any extra rest for him was welcomed.

This series is going to be like the typical Rangers death struggle when it comes to the playoffs. There are going to be time when they resemble the team that started the season 13-4-0 and then there will be times when they play like the team that limped home during the final few weeks of the regular season.

Ottawa’s trap is sure to lead some ugly hockey at times, and that is to be expected. The Rangers response to the trap will determine the outcome of the series. As we have seen this year, home-ice is not the advantage it is cracked up to be. The Rangers were the NHL’s road warriors while the home team in the Ottawa series was just 1-5.

In the end, the Rangers depth, skill and speed will win out. The Rangers won their second straight playoff series against Montreal in six games so I expect the Rangers will win their second straight seven game series against Ottawa.

Once again, if you are looking to talk Rangers playoff hockey just visit Rangers Report 2.0. It is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Also, don’t forget to follow Rick Carpiniello on MSG.com for his unique takes on all things New York Rangers ACCORDING TO CARP.

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After it appeared that the New York Rangers were not going to win the Metropolitan Division crown, Blueshirts fans have been calling for their team to go into the tank (just enough) to clinch the first wildcard and cross over into the Atlantic Division as the fourth seed.

Ranger fans: Be careful what you wish for.

Switching divisions does have its advantage as the Rangers avoid the gauntlet of having to defeat two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (who also rank first, second and fourth in the NHL) in order to just reach the Eastern Conference Final.

Of course, that advantage means the Rangers get to face the Montreal Canadiens and the house of horrors known as the Bell Centre. Despite the Rangers having, as Rick Carpiniello, now writing online for MSG at ACCORDING TO CARP calls it, “road-ice advantage”, the Rangers would have been better off crossing over to the Western Conference where they posted a 21-6-1 record. Only Chicago’s 43 points against the Eastern Conference matched the Rangers.

The Rangers passed on their fans “tanking” mantra last season and paid the price with a five-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite that loss, that series was tied at 1-1 with Game 3 being tied at 1-1 going into the third period at the garden. The Rangers could have been ahead if not for Michael Sullivan winning a coach’s challenge that wiped out Chris Kreider’s PPG midway through the first period. Pittsburgh tied the game on a late second period PPG by Sidney Crosby.

Rather than that memory, fans remember the Rangers third period collapse in Game 3 and the Pens thorough dismantling of the Rangers in the next two games as The King was unceremoniously dethroned.

As is the case any time the Rangers have entered a playoff series, their fates rest squarely on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. For the first time in a long time, Lundqvist enters a series as the decided underdog in the battle of the goaltenders.

Since the end of the 2008-9 season, Lundqvist has been anything but a king in the Bell Centre posting a 0-6-1 record with a 4.42 GAA. In 2014, Lundqvist held Montreal to three goals as the Rangers won the first two games at the Bell Centre. Game 5, on the hand, was a nightmare as Lundqvist gave up four goals before being pulled about midway through the game leaving Cam Talbot to take the loss after the Rangers erased a 4-1 deficit.

As formidable as Price has been in his career during his 10 year career (he only played 12 games last season), he has been rather pedestrian in terms of his playoff heroics. In looking at his statistics Price’s numbers, his playoff numbers are slightly off when compared to regular season numbers: GAA – 2.62/2.40 and SV% – .914%/.920%.

For comparison’s sake, Lundqvist’s playoff numbers closely mirror his regular season numbers: GAA – 2.28/2.32 and SV% – .921/.920.

The Carey Price-Chris Kreider escapade of 2014 has been written about and talked about enough that there is no need for me to analyze and over-analyze what happened. I will say this – if Montreal needs that particular revenge factor as a motive to beat the Rangers – then the Habs are done before the series starts.

Another angle that has been beaten to death is the rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final coaches with Claude Julien replacing Michel Therrien during the regular season. Given that Julien and Alain Vigneault are coaching different teams this angle is nothing more than any interesting tidbit as what happened in 2011 will have no bearing on what happens in 2017.

What will have a bearing is which Rangers team decides to show up for this series. Is the disinterested Rangers team that stumbled home with an 8-9-4 record or is it the team that roared out to a 40-19-2 record?

While Jeff Gorton has done a pretty good job of injecting some youth into a team that was left bereft of first round draft picks, some tough decision will be coming in the off-season thanks to the Expansion Draft and the intrigue over next season’s salary cap. Contract clauses and high salaries will limit Gorton’s ability to break up the veteran core, but another uninspired playoff exit might force the Rangers to make hard decisions – which are for another day.

The concern for the Rangers is how to game plan a strategy to beat the Montreal Canadiens. Being a diehard Rangers fan – as if there is any other kind of Rangers fan – I offer Vigneault the following suggestions.

The first is some advice that I had stored way from an old Elliotte Friedman article from Sportsnet.ca. Friedman was writing about the 2015 playoff matchup between the Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Friedman wrote, “One NHLer, watching that series, said despite all of Ottawa’s pressure, there’s a certain way you have to do it against the Canadiens — drive the middle and push the defence back. ‘(The Senators) don’t shoot for rebounds, ’ he texted. ‘They shoot to score from far out, ’ and that is ‘too easy for Price.’”

The Rangers forwards are going to have to camp out in front of Price and being active and alert for any rebound chances and look to screen him at every chance. Think of Derek Stepan’s PPG against Philadelphia in the regular season finale as the blueprint for the Rangers – especially on the power play. Tristan Jarry had no chance to stop Stepan’s shot because he had to look around Rick Nash.

Shea Weber is going to be an imposing figure in this series at both ends of the ice. You can expect he will be out against either Kreider or Nash and will try to neutralize either one. On the plus side, that probably means he can’t be on the ice to defend them both as long as AV pays attention to matchups.

Offensively, Weber’s howitzer of a shot will be as imposing as that of Alex Ovechkin – especially when the Habs are on the PP. The Rangers must know where Weber is on the ice at all times in the Rangers zone and the Blueshirts must be active with their sticks and bodies to disrupt his shot – something they don’t always do enough of when facing Ovechkin – especially on the PP.

Offensively, especially early in games, dump the puck into his corner and make him play the puck. The Rangers have enough forwards who have the skating ability and size to put pressure on Weber and make him give up the puck. When he does, that is when the Rangers must attack on the forecheck. It is similar to the strategy the Rangers used in 1979 when they defeated Denis Potvin and the New York Islanders.

Some fans are concerned about the size the Habs added at the trade deadline. If the difference in this series comes down Jordie Benn, Dwight King and Steve Ott then the Rangers had no business even being in the playoffs. The Rangers have enough size in their lineup to battle Montreal – it is a matter of them using it.

It is that size and the Rangers speed among their forwards that make it a must that the Rangers harass Montreal on the forecheck, above and beyond what I wrote previously about slowing Weber down. Julien is going to have the Habs clogging the neutral zone so the best way for the Rangers to combat that is to pin the Canadiens in their own zone.

Remember, dump-and-chase is not always a bad idea as long as the Rangers don’t forget the chase part – something they often do. When they dump the puck in they have to do it smartly because price can handle the puck. Either band it hard around the boards or put into the corner where Price can’t play the puck. Cross-ice dump-ins with the weak side forward going hard after the puck will help.

Speaking of being pinned in their own zone, could the Rangers please abandon this fake news about them playing man-to-man defense because they don’t. The Rangers forwards drop down into the shooting lanes rather than cover the points. Watch the Rangers’ defensive zone coverage; the forwards are playing a spot on the ice as opposed to playing the man. This is why the Rangers get caught in their own zone for extended periods of time.

In coming up with a prediction, I am of two minds. My heart says that the Rangers can and will win in six games. However, my brain says something different.

If the Rangers were an offensive juggernaut or a lockdown defensive team, then I could see them being able to flip the switch and return to the success they had prior to the final quarter of the regular season. Since the Rangers are neither of those type of teams, the prediction is Montreal in six.

If you are looking for a place to gripe, kvetch or just talk Rangers playoff hockey just visit Rangers Report 2.0. It is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

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This edition of Ranger Ramblings represents my first blog entry since the June 2015 NHL Draft articles. I am writing this entry with a heavy heart as it is dedicated to and in memory of the Rangers most diehard fan, my most ardent supporter and the love of life – my wife Roe who passed away in May 2016. I want to take this opportunity to not only share Roe’s Rangers stories with you, but also explain my long absence from blogging.

It is no coincidence that my first blog in well over a year was posted on November 20 because it marks the six month anniversary of Roe’s passing. The anniversary theme kind of fits given that the Rangers are celebrating their 90th anniversary and Ranger Ramblings first appeared some 20 years ago (more on that later).

In mid-October 2015, I found myself with an unexpected vacation courtesy of an eight-day stay in the hospital. While not immediately life-threatening, it was enough to knock for me a bit of a loop for a few weeks. Combine that with the New York Mets run to the World Series and you can see why I was a little slow out of the gate in terms of blogging about the Rangers.

As time flew by, I just never seemed to get back on the writing track as the 2015-2016 NHL season progressed. I had many starts and stops before deciding I would try to get back in the saddle in time for the playoffs. Obviously, that never materialized as the Rangers quick exit never gave me a chance to even warm up my keyboard.

It was at that point that I figured that my love for the NHL Draft would be the thing that would get me to put pen to paper, so to speak, and end my writing “sabbatical”.

After celebrating my 30-year anniversary working at Iona College – a feat that Roe was prouder of than I was – my world came crashing down when she got sick on the evening of April 28 – only eight days after the aforementioned work celebration.

The details of what happened aren’t that important and, to be honest, are still a bit raw to this date – even though I have repeated the story many times since. Suffice it to say, three weeks later Roe was gone and my life permanently changed.

Now that I have given everyone the Reader’s Digest version of why I have been away for so long, I want to get much happier talk about Roe and her boys – the New York Rangers.

Roe and I met online in September 2003 – yes online dating does pay off. One of the first stories she told me was when her family would decorate the Christmas tree there would always be a Rangers game on the television.

While she was a Rangers fan before meeting me, Roe would attain diehard status after we started dating. Honestly, she never stood a chance in terms of loving the Rangers. She was quite proud to say that she “wasn’t a hockey fan, I am a Rangers fan.”

Little by little her Rangers fandom would grow. She started asking more and more questions about the game and Roe started learning the nuances of the game.

One of her biggest questions, and one that I could never properly answer, was why the team seemed to have so many problems in the second periods of games. The only answer I could provide was the idea of the long change being a possible answer. She often reminded me that their opponents faced the same dilemma. My final response would always be “because they are the Rangers”.

Of course, the Blueshirts have managed to correct that problem this year. Could they be getting a little intervention from above? Who knows, but I’d like to think that she looking down on her boys. It might also explain the offensive ‘explosion” we have seen from Dan Girardi at the start of the season. She would always get upset when I would let her know that the fans on Rick Carpiniello’s Rangers Report Blog (more on that later, too) would be getting on her “DANNY!”

Girardi was one of a handful of Roe’s Rangers favorites. Henrik Lundqvist was at the top of the list and his jersey is one of two that I bought for Roe over the years. The other is one that she stopped wearing in March 2014.

She was a big Ryan Callahan fan until he was dealt to Tampa Bay. She couldn’t understand why he was traded until I explained all of the free agency/salary cap machinations. In time she came to understand and adopted the Rangers Report nickname of “Tax Free” for Cally.

Another favorite of hers was Mats Zuccarello. It was Roe who helped me coin the nickname that I still use for him today – LINK (Little Italian Norwegian Kid).

As I mentioned that Roe became a DIEHARD Rangers fan after meeting me. I think I can even pinpoint the exact day that became official. It was May 4, 2007 when the Buffalo Sabres beat the Rangers in Game 5 in overtime. That was the game when Chris Drury tied the game with about eight seconds left in regulation and then Maxim Afinogenov won it about four and a half minutes into overtime with a power play goal.

As soon as the Sabres scored, Roe got up from her chair in the living room and went straight into the bedroom without saying a word to me. It was then that I knew she was one of us.

As far as I am concerned, her special place in Rangers fan history was set during the Rangers Eastern Quarterfinals matchup against the Ottawa Senators in 2012. That was the series that saw Carl Hagelin get suspended for three games for his hit on Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2.

That was also the series where Brian Boyle got concussed on a cheap shot from Chris Neil in Game 5. Then NHL dean of discipline Brendan Shanahan decided not to suspend Neil for the hit.

Shanny was Roe’s first favorite Ranger. So much so that one of the first Rangers items I gave to her was a Shanahan tee shirt.
Roe earned her stripes as a Hall of Fame Rangers fan after finding out that Shanahan was not suspending Neil after previously suspending Hagelin.

She calmly took out a pair of scissors and methodically began cutting that shirt to shreds. I must say that I was amazed at how coolly and calmly she cut that shirt up with the precision of a surgeon. Needless to say, I slept with one eye open (gripping my pillow tight) that night ?
The only thing she did not cut to shreds was the Rangers wordmark on the front of the shirt because she was keeping that. An interesting story so far, eh? Well, it is not over.

Roe was not content with dismantling the shirt. She had a higher method to her madness. She sat down and wrote a letter to Brendan Shanahan expressing her displeasure over his actions and told him that she was sending him the shreds of his shirt. She made sure to explain that she was not including the Rangers wordmark because “he did not deserve to wear the Rangers name”.

She made me get his address at the NHL offices and packaged everything up. I would love to be able to say that she mailed the package, but cooler heads prevailed and she did not. I will let you know that package sat waiting to be mailed for a couple of months before she ended up throwing it out.

In retrospect, I really wish we did mail it just see what, if any, response she would have received. Part of me regrets it because we might have been able to score free Rangers tickets and perhaps a meeting with Shanahan.

Oh, one final addendum to that story. When Roe finished packing the tee shirt shreds, she placed the Rangers wordmark on the end table near her recliner. I am happy to report that it has been there ever since and it will always remain there.

That 2012 playoff season provided us with the biggest Rangers thrill we shared as a couple. While the Stanley Cup Final run was special, Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final marked the first and only playoff game Roe ever attended. If you forgot that game, allow me to refresh your memory. Henrik Lundqvist shut out Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils 3-0.

It was poetic justice that night because Marty was one the players that Roe loved to hate. Uncle Daddy (she got a big kick out that when I explained it to her) rivaled only Sidney Crosby when it came to her dislike for Rangers opponents.

Speaking of Marty and the Devils, Roe and I went to one of those viewing parties at Foxwoods to watch the Rangers play the Devils – a game the Blueshirts would win. Among the Rangers legends were my all-time favorite Eddie Giacomin and one of Roe’s all-time favorites Adam Graves.

We saw Giacomin before the event and I called out “Eddie” and went over and talked to him for a few minutes. Roe was surprised that I would just go over to him and talk to him as if we had known each other for years.

Later in the evening Roe and hoped to get a picture with Graves. She thought she had him lined up, but he ended up going to a private area to spend time with an elderly gentleman.

After a few minutes he came out and one the young women working for Foxwoods was escorting him somewhere. I told Roe we should go and get the picture. Believe it or not, Roe was shy and didn’t want to do it. For her family and friends, yes Roe was too shy to go over and ask for a picture.

Anyway, I call out to Adam and ask if he would take a picture with my wife. Of course, he agreed and the young women also ended up taking a picture of three of us.

Okay, you are wondering what the big deal is. Well, the kicker was that she was so nervous that she kept referring to him as “Mr. Graves”. Mind you, Roe had a couple of years on him. Needless to say, we shared many laughs afterwards whenever I would mention “Mr. Graves”.

Allow me one more Rangers story in Roe’s memory. While I indoctrinated Roe into diehard Rangers fandom, she opened my horizons it terms of watching new TV shows. One such show was “Third Watch”. One of the characters on that show was Officer Maurice “Bosco” Boscorelli, portrayed by Jason Wiles – a character that often found himself getting in trouble for going over the line.

If you are familiar with Jason Wiles you will realize that he bears a resemblance to Rangers bad boy Sean Avery. It was not too much of a stretch to see that Avery soon became “Bosco” in our household.

To make a short story long, we have two female cats – Vinnie and Frankie. Yes, that is what happens when you pick out the names before you get the cats.

Anyway, Vinnie (Vincenza) was almost four-years-old when we got Frankie (Francesca) as a kitten. As you might imagine, they had some tussles during the first few weeks. Once Frankie got her bearings she managed to learn how to “torture” her sister.

After one such session, I remarked that Frankie was acting like Sean Avery and presto, Frankie’s nickname of Bosco was born.

I must admit that I kept putting off writing this article because I didn’t think I could do it without drowning my keyboard in tears. While my eyes did get misty, it was not as bad as I anticipated. It gave me a chance to reflect on some of the good times that Roe and I had. For that I am thankful that I had her in my life – even though the time was waaay too short.

I am also thankful for all of you who had to put up with reminiscing and for putting up with my 17 month absence. I do promise to try and get back to writing. I want to thank you for allowing me this insight into my life. I am hoping that it will help provide me some form of closure, even though there will always be a hole in my heart.

I am still fighting the doubts of whether Rangers hockey will ever mean the same to me again without my “linemate” being around. I know she is staring down at me and giving me that look only a wife can give her husband, but there is still something missing in terms of enjoying the Rangers.

Thankfully, the Blueshirts are providing me with some happier times. Whether it lasts or not remains to be seen. But if along the way, the Rangers get some “unexpected” breaks along the way this season – a post here and a lucky bounce there, we will know it will be because they have an angel on their right shoulder keeping an eye for them.

Before I close, I want to get back to a pair of items I mentioned previously.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ranger Ramblings, which began at Allsports.com before moving to NY Sport Day’s site. After using some of the skills I have acquired during my 30+ years working in a library, I found that very ORIGINAL EDITION of Ranger Ramblings.

I also mentioned Rick Carpiniello’s Rangers Report Blog that was housed on the Journal News web site. As most, if not all, of you know Carp was fired as part of housecleaning/money purge at the Journal News. I won’t comment any further because I don’t want to give that “newspaper” the time of day.

Anyway, one of his loyal readers started up a web site to continue Carp’s legacy and Rangers talk. I invite everyone to go to Rangers Report 2.0 – it is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Roe and Mr.  Graves

Roe and Mr. Graves

Roe with "Ryan Callahan"

Roe with “Ryan Callahan”

Roe showing that she is a Ranger

Roe showing that she is a Ranger

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Rick-Nash-640x427Rick Nash had to sit out seven weeks because of a bone bruise in his leg, but since his return to the New York Rangers lineup, Nash has been unable to find his scoring touch, which is affecting New York’s NHL online sportsbook odds of winning the Stanley Cup.

Nash was instrumental in New York’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings two seasons ago, and the team is hoping he can find his touch in time to help them make another push for the Stanley cup.

In an interview, Nash acknowledged that he was having trouble finding the back of the net. According to Nash, the scoring touch is actually the hardest thing to get back. Nash said his legs are feeling fine as is his cardio. But when it comes to scoring, the only way to get the touch back is by playing more games.

Nash acknowledged that he had a few opportunities to score since his return but his instincts didn’t take over like they usually do. He attributed the lack of goals to his hands not doing what his brain was thinking, which is something he believes will improve as he gets more comfortable on the ice.

In the four games since his return, Nash has 12 shots on goal and zero points. Nash attributed some of the missed opportunities to nerves. He said he was trying to force plays instead of making the simple plays.

Going by his body of work, it is only a matter of time before Nash finds his groove and starts scoring again. Nash is a six-time All-Star that has scored 40 goals in a season three times. Last season, he finished with 42 goals, which is the most he has scored in his career.

In the past, Nash has admitted to spending most of his time playing video games whenever he got hurt. this time around, he spent most of his time changing the diapers of his one-year-old son and has given up on the video games. The Rangers are hoping his change in priorities will make him a better player on the ice.

Former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, who currently works as a television analyst, doesn’t doubt that Nash will eventually regain his scoring form. Weekes believes that the more Nash shoots, the quicker he will find his scoring touch.

The Rangers boast one of the deepest teams in the NHL, but they know that once the playoffs start, they will need their best scorer to be at his best, which is why they are hoping Nash can find his scoring touch quickly.

While Nash was recovering from his injury, the Rangers added more depth to their team by acquiring Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes. Nash, who played with Staal on the Canadian youth team before winning gold as members of the Canadian senior team, is excited to have Staal on the team and believes he can help the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

Weekes also believes the Rangers have a very good chance of winning the Stanley Cup if Nash can find his scoring touch and Staal plays up to his capabilities.

As the playoff approaches, the Rangers are hoping that Nash regains his touch much sooner than later.

 

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The intrigue for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft reached its crescendo on April 18 when the Edmonton Oilers cashed out as the Draft Lottery winner for the fourth time in the last six years – thus anointing themselves as the winners in the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes.

“He’s not only the most productive junior player, but also the most dynamic, ” then-Oilers GM Craig MacTavish admitted to Mike Brophy of NHL.com
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for us to win this lottery. Any team would have been just over the moon about winning the lottery, and we’re the same. It’s a game-changer.”

While the Buffalo Sabres lost, they are also winners of a not-too-shabby consolation prize – Jack Eichel.

“We don’t have the first pick, but we have the second pick and we have said all along there are two top-end, impact players, if not franchise players in this draft and they both play the right position (center) for rebuilding, ” Buffalo GM Tim Murray explained to Brophy. “So as disappointed as we are in not having the No. 1 pick, we’re extremely happy to be picking No. 2.”

With the first two picks about as set in stone as any first two draft picks can be, the 2015 NHL Draft really begins once the Arizona Coyotes are on the clock with the third overall pick – the first of three the Coyotes own in the first round.

Arizona will shape the Draft depending on what GM Don Maloney does with the third pick. Do they look to continue to add to a young reserve of blueliners and select Noah Hanifin? If they decide on a forward, is it winger Lawson Crouse of centers Dylan Strome or Mitchell Marner? Given the intrigue and machinations swirling around the Coyotes, does Maloney entertain the possibility of dealing the third overall pick for immediate help and look to build the future late in the first round?

While there is a drop off in talent once you get by McDavid and Eichel, there is no lack of talent as there is depth throughout the draft – a point made by Red Line report’s Kyle Woodlief.

“Given the strength and depth of this year’s draft class, there appear to be a lot of teams highly motivated to get something done, so the inclination is to think we will see an active trade market at the draft, ” Woodlief predicted in a column for USA Today.

In addition to Woodliefs’ depth proclamation, I expect trades to be the name of the game in the first round of Draft Weekend at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida because of the number of teams that have multiple picks in the first round. The same also holds true for other rounds in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The Coyotes (Nos. 3 and 30) lead the charge of six teams with multiple first round draft picks. The other teams include the Oilers (Nos. 1 and 16), the Sabres (Nos. 2 and 21), the Toronto Maple Leafs (Nos. 4 and 24), the Philadelphia Flyers (Nos. 7 and 29), and the Winnipeg Jets (Nos. 17 and 25).

The Sabres and Oilers will be the most active teams early with Buffalo set to make three picks within the first 31 selections and with Edmonton scheduled to make three picks in the Top 33.

Conversely, barring a trade, the New York Islanders will not make their first selection until Round 3 (72nd).

You can expect a lot maneuvering as teams look to move up and down in the first round, as well teams who will be looking to replace lost first round selections.

For example, the New York Rangers have been discussing deals involving backup goalie Cam Talbot who whined during Henrik Lundqvist’s absence. You can bet President/GM Glen Sather covets the Oilers second 1st round pick (formerly Pittsburgh’s) as well as keeping his eyes on Edmonton’s two second round draft picks (Nos. 33 and 57) as a fallback.

However, Sather and the Rangers will draw competition from the Ottawa Senators who can offer up prospect Robin Lehner or veteran Craig Anderson. Even the Dallas Stars have floated Kari Lehtonen’s name.

Time will only tell to see which team blinks first. In a perfect world, Edmonton would keep the second of their 1st round picks and draft a goalie for the future and possibly use their 2nd round picks and/or prospects to secure their goalie of the present.

In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting “services”: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Bob McKenzie of TSN. CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters (NAS), European skaters (ES), North American goaltenders (NAG) and European goaltenders (EG). THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player (for their Top 30 rated players) and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders. McKenzie and TSN rank the Top 75 prospects along with 10 Honourable Mentions and rank skaters and goaltenders together.

The First Round Draft positions utilized are those as of 12p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

1. EDMONTON OILERS – CONNOR MCDAVID – C
CS: # 1 NAS —– THN: # 1 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 1 (Sidney Crosby) —– TSN: # 1 (Gilbert Perreault)
If new Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli plays his card properly in terms of draft selections and draft dealings, Edmonton might be able to bid a fond farewell to the NHL Lottery for some time because McDavid is that good. He is the ultimate franchise player who is so good that ISS scout Phil Myre said McDavid’s “acceleration and execution with the puck at high speed is the best I’ve seen since Bobby Orr.”

2. BUFFALO SABRES – JACK EICHEL – C
CS: # 2 NAS —– THN: # 2 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 2 (Mike Modano) —– TSN: # 2 (Ryan Getzlaf)
Eichel is no slouch in terms of the franchise player label and is in good company with comparisons to Modano, Getzlaf and Joe Sakic (according to ISS). One concern is that Eichel is not sure where he wants to play next season. It is possible he returns to Boston University, which sets the Sabres up for another round of Draft Lottery bingo and the chance to select Auston Matthews first overall in 2016.

3. ARIZONA COYOTES – DYLAN STROME – C
CS: # 4 NAS —– THN: # 4 (Top Line Center)
ISS: # 3 (Anze Kopitar) —– TSN: # 5 (Ron Francis)
The third overall pick is really where the 2015 Draft starts because it has been McDavid and Eichel one-two for a long time. Once again dark clouds rise over the Arizona sky in terms of where the Coyotes will play. If the Coyotes stay the course, Strome will help give Arizona a strong one-two punch down the middle when he teams up with Max Domi.

4. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – MITCH MARNER – RW
CS: # 6 NAS —– THN: # 5 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 6 (Patrick Kane) —– TSN: # 4 (Patrick Kane)
With no GM in place, Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter is expected to run the Leafs draft. With rumors swirling over possible deals (i.e. salary dumps) for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, T.O. could go forward or defense. If decide to go for offense then the Leafs will have a fine one in Marner.

5. CAROLINA HURRICANES – NOAH HANIFIN – D
CS: # 3 NAS —– THN: # 3 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 5 (Erik Johnson) —– TSN: # 3 (Jay Bouwmeester)
Another team that is looking to move some salary (Eric Staal or Jeffrey Skinner), Carolina could forward or defense. If Toronto goes defense, it is possible the Hurricanes would snap up Marner. If not, Carolina goes for the best d-man prospect in Hanifin. The youngster still has room for growth and maturity and will not turn 19 until the middle of the season.

6. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – LAWSON CROUSE – LW
CS: # 5 NAS —– THN: # 8 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 4 (Ryan Kesler) —– TSN: # 7 (Andrew Ladd)
A new era is dawning in New Jersey with Ray Shero taking over from Lou Lamoriello as GM. Look for Shero to change the culture of the club and to open up the offense as he is able to reload the cupboard. He is a power forward with what ISS calls “elite” level size and strength (6-4/215). He also has a mean streak as evidenced by his eight game suspension in his Junior’s teams final playoff contest.

7. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – IVAN PROVOROV – D
CS: # 7 NAS —– THN: # 6 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 7 (Andrei Markov) —– TSN: # 8 (Mark Giordano)
Another team with a new sheriff in town as Ron Hextall returns to Philly as the newest “Flyer Du Jour” as the Broad Street Bullies look to return to prominence. Hextall learned his craft well while with the Kings and should look to Provorov. The youngster is playing in the WHL and might not be as quick as Hanifin to join the rush; Provorov is a much heavier hitter.

8. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – MIKKO RANTANEN – RW
CS: # 1 ES —– THN: # 12 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 9 (Jeff Carter) —– TSN: # 10 (Jakub Voracek)
The Jackets led the NHL is games lost to injury so they might want to consider drafting help in the training staff. The failure to sign Mike Reilly might have Columbus look to Zach Werenski with this pick, but Rantanan is a solid top-six forward with size (6-4/209) and ability to play in the Finnish Elite League at the age of 18.

9. SAN JOSE SHARKS – TIMO MEIER – RW
CS: # 10 NAS —– THN: # 13 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 14 (Chris Kunitz) —– TSN: # 12 (Marian Hossa)
The Sharks might be joining the Oilers as one of those teams on the prowl for goaltending help; therefore, it is possible that this pick ends up somewhere else. If San Jose keeps it, Meier brings a European background to a player who is hard on the puck and managed 44 goals in the QMJHL last season.

10. COLORADO AVALANCHE – ZACH WERENSKI – D
CS: # 9 NAS —– THN: # 9 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 11 (Rob Blake) —– TSN: # 11 (Brent Seabrook)
For me, it was a tough decision as to which way I would go if I were the Avalanche. After looking at the later parts of the draft, it seems there is more value in Werenski at 10 and help in other areas later in the draft. While he is the third d-man taken in the draft, he has the ability and skills to be the best of the bunch.

11. FLORIDA PANTHERS – MATTHEW BARZAL – C
CS: # 11 NAS —– THN: # 10 (Playmaking Center)
ISS: # 8 (Claude Giroux) —– TSN: # 9 (Justin Williams)
Florida needs to find ways to improve an offense that was 25th in goals and 24th on the PP. Barzal brings playmaking skills to the table based on his hockey sense and skating. Played in only 44 games due to, what THN calls, a freak off-ice knee injury. He came back to lead Canada in scoring and to a Bronze medal in the U-18 championships in April.

12. DALLAS STARS – JAKUB ZBORIL – D
CS: # 12 NAS —– THN: # 22 (Physical Defender)
ISS: # 22 (Niklas Kronwall) —– TSN: # 14 (Niklas Hjalmarsson)
The Stars have a good corps of puck-moving d-men, but their physical defensive blueliners are projects. At 6-2/185, Zboril is still maturing as a player but he has a jump on other European-born players as he made the jump to the QMJHL last season.

13. LOS ANGELES KINGS – PAVEL ZACHA – C
CS: # 8 NAS —– THN: # 7 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 10 (James Neal) —– TSN: # 6 (Eric Staal)
While the Kings have concerns on defense, L.A.’s path to repeating as Cup winners was stalled by an inconsistent offense. At 6-3/214, Zacha gives the Kings the option of a solid power forward that might stay at center or shift to the wing.

14. BOSTON BRUINS – KYLE CONNOR – C
CS: # 13 NAS —– THN: # 11 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 13 (Kyle Turris) —– TSN: # 13 (Brandon Saad)
Boston is another perennial playoff team that will look to 2015 as a bump in the road and treat it as a year to reload. Like most teams, the Bruins are looking for ways to add scoring and speed. Connor used his speed, fast hands and goal scorer’s know-how to snipe 34 goals in 60 USHL games with Youngstown – helping them to league record 17-game winning streak.

15. CALGARY FLAMES – NICK MERKLEY – RW
CS: # 23 NAS —– THN: # 15 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 19 (Brayden Schenn) —– TSN: # 17 (Nicklas Backstrom)
The Calgary native might not be the fastest or most elegant skater in the draft, but he is a playmaker who is stronger on the puck than you might expect from someone his size (5-10/187). While his goal dropped from 25 to 20, his assists numbers skyrocketed to 70 from 33.

16. EDMONTON OILERS – ILYA SAMSONOV – G
CS: # 1 E-G —– THN: # 38 (Starting Goaltender)
ISS: # 1 G (Not Available —– TSN: # 19 (Andrei Vasilevskiy)
I still have to believe this pick could be in motion in the right deal for the right goaltender. Even if they moved later picks and/or prospects for a veteran-type goalie, Samsonov still makes sense moving forward. While first round goaltenders that succeed are few and far between, the Oilers can’t take the chance that another team won’t snap up Samsonov later in the first round. Besides, why have some nay draft picks if you are not going to gamble every now and then.

17. WINNIPEG JETS – EVGENY SVECHNIKOV – C/RW
CS: # 17 NAS —– THN: # 16 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 18 (Jakub Voracek) —– TSN: # 18 (Max Pacioretty)
While he is listed as a RW, Cape Breton used him at center toward the end of the regular season and the playoffs. He ended up winning 52% of his faceoffs in a seven-game losing effort against the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts.

18. OTTAWA SENATORS – TRAVIS KONECNY – C
CS: # 14 NAS —– THN: # 24 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 12 (Zach Parise) —– TSN: # 15 (Pat Verbeek)
Konecny and a few other players of his size (5-10/172) will all owe Tyler Johnson a few adult beverages because the Lightning’s play in the playoffs will have opened some eyes. Travis has had a history of concussions and shoulder problems so he will hate to adjust his game slightly, but his hockey sense and compete level should win the day.

19. DETROIT RED WINGS – THOMAS CHABOT – D
CS: # 16 NAS —– THN: # 23 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 16 (John Klingberg) —– TSN: # 25 (Alex Edler)
The Red Wings are a team whose star players are beginning to see the end of superb careers, so Detroit has to start replenishing their system. With Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on the horizon, the Wings could look to the blueline and draft Jakub Zboril’s Saint John teammate. Chabot stepped up his play when Zboril was injured and parlayed his season into a spot with Canada’s U-18 team.

20. MINNESOTA WILD – PAUL BITTNER – LW
CS: # 26 NAS —– THN: # 17 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 17 (James van Riemsdyk) —– TSN: # 20 (James van Riemsdyk)
Bittner (6-4/204) has the size that NHL scouts drool over. The Crookston, MN native has drawn some criticism for not using his size more and for not producing more despite being on a line with NHL draftees Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bittner is solid in terms on 5-on-5; PPP and PK play and is willing to drive to the net for goals.

21. BUFFALO SABRES – OLIVER KYLINGTON – D
CS: # 6 ES —– THN: # 20 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 32 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 24 (Keith Yandle)
Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report reminded everyone that current Sabres GM Tim Murray drafted Erik Karlsson when he was in Ottawa. Woodlief refers to Kylington as “Karlsson-lite” so it isn’t too much of a stretch for Buffalo to use one of their many picks on a player that one scout told THN reminded him of a cross between Niklas Kronwall and Trevor Daley.

22. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – JEREMY ROY – D
CS: # 21 NAS —– THN: # 26 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 23 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) —– TSN: # 29 (Dan Boyle)
With three veteran UFA d-men (including Mike Green), looking to bring in first round depth is not a bad thing. Roy’s size (6-0.183) isn’t ideal, but his sense for the game more than makes up for it. He is good at moving the puck, especially on that first breakout pass – and he has the ability to QB the PP as a right-handed shot from the point.

23. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – FILIP CHLAPIK – C
CS: # 18 NAS —– THN: # 30 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 40 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 38 (Sean Couturier)
Chlapik is never going to win any awards for his skating style, but his hockey sense and natural abilities more than make up for it. Born in the Czech Republic, Chlapik joined Charlottetown of the QMJHL and did not miss a beat, scoring 33 and 42 assists in 64 games.

24. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – COLIN WHITE – C
CS: # 29 NAS —– THN: # 19 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 15 (Patrice Bergeron) —– TSN: # 16 (Brandon Sutter)
A wrist injury and a bout with mono wreaked havoc with White’s USHL season with Team USA. However, the Boston College recruit responded in the U-18 with six goals and three assists in seven games. THN joined ISS in making Patrice Bergeron comparisons with White.

25. WINNIPEG JETS – NICHOLAS ROY – C
CS: # 45 NAS —– THN: # 18 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 47 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 73 (Joe Colbourne)
Roy might be a bit of a reach at #25, but for a team that is seeking to add size at center then Nicholas is worth the gamble. At 6-4/203, Roy is already an NHL center. The problem is that his skating is not. Roy needs to step up his development and production this season after a pair of 16-goal season with Chicoutimi. He did score three goals and three assists in seven games with Canada’s U-18 team.

26. MONTREAL CANADIENS – JAKE DEBRUSK – LW
CS: # 19 NAS —– THN: # 28 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 27 (Kyle Okposo) —– TSN: # 28 (Ondrej Palat)
While Jake (6-0/176) is a bit smaller than his father Louie (6-1/225), the younger DeBrusk far outshines his father in terms of offensive ability. After posting 39 points in 72 games in his rookie season with Swift Current, Jake erupted for 42 goals and 39 assists in 72 games. The offensive improvement was keyed by his strong skating and solid hockey IQ.

27. ANAHEIM DUCKS – BROCK BOESER – RW
CS: # 27 NAS —– THN: # 14 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 35 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 26 (Kyle Okposo)
While the Ducks have some youth among their secondary scorers, their big guns (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) are turning 30. Boeser affords the Ducks a solid opportunity to bring in a potential big-time scorer. Originally committed to attend Wisconsin, Boeser reopened his recruitment and chose North Dakota.

28. TAMPA BAY LIGHNTING– JOEL ERIKSSON EK – C
CS: # 4 ES —– THN: # 27 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 20 (Lars Eller) —– TSN: # 23 (Derick Brassard)
Ek is the solid two-way performer that the Detroit Red Wings won Stanley Cups with, so it shouldn’t be a stretch for GM Steve Yzerman to select the Swedish center. He split time playing in the Swedish Elite League and the Swedish Junior League. He held his own against the older players and averaged a point a game against his age level.

29. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – BRANDON CARLO – D
CS: # 25 NAS —– THN: # 31 (Shutdown Defender)
ISS: # 21 (Marc Staal) —– TSN: # 22 (Brayden Coburn)
While the Flyers are carrying Chris Pronger for salary cap purposes, they could use a physical d-man as part of their rebuild. Carlo (6-5/185) fits that need to a “T”. His reach is even bigger than what you might expect from someone 6-5. His skating ability is also better than one would expect from such a big player.

30. ARIZONA COYOTES – NOAH JUULSEN – D
CS: # 22 NAS —– THN: # 33 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 29 (Ryan McDonagh) —– TSN: # 37 (Kevin Bieksa)
Two-way d-man who has spent the last two years refining his game in North America with Everett of the WHL. While he is a little smaller than you would like (6-1/181), THN pointed out that scouts say he plays bigger than he really is – muck like Kevin Bieksa and Rhett Warrener. He played the PP in Juniors and his ability to do so in the NHL will signify the difference between a top four d-man and a third-pair defenseman.

FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK TRANSACTIONS
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on January 2, 2015 that sent David Perron to Pittsburgh in exchange for Rob Klinkhammer and this pick.
2. The New York Islanders’ first-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on October 27, 2013 that sent Thomas Vanek to New York in exchange for Matt Moulson, a second-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Buffalo will receive a first-round pick in 2014 or 2015 at New York’s choice – was converted on May 22, 2014 when the Islanders elected to keep their 2014 first-round pick.
3. The Nashville Predators’ first-round pick will go to the Toronto Maple Leafs as the result of a trade on February 15, 2015 that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to Nashville in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and this pick.
4. The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick will go to the Winnipeg Jets as the result of a trade on February 11, 2015 that sent Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf to Buffalo in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Winnipeg will receive the lowest of Buffalo’s first-round picks in 2015 – was converted on April 27, 2015 when the Islanders were eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, ensuring that the Blues’ first-round pick would be lower.
Buffalo previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on February 28, 2014 that sent Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and conditional second and third-round picks in 2014 to St. Louis in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
5. The New York Rangers’ first-round pick will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as the result of trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Martin St. Louis and a conditional second-round pick in 2015 to New York in exchange for Ryan Callahan, a conditional first-round pick in 2014, a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
6. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay in exchange for Radko Gudas, a third-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Philadelphia will receive the Lightning’s first-round draft pick in 2015 if it is not the first overall selection – was converted on March 30, 2015 when Tampa Bay qualified for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs ensuring that this pick could not be a lottery selection.
7. The Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round pick will go the Arizona Coyotes as the result of a trade on February 28, 2015 that sent Antoine Vermette to Chicago in exchange for Klas Dahlbeck and this pick.

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In this Second Round Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting “services”: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Bob McKenzie of TSN. CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters (NAS), European skaters (ES), North American goaltenders (NAG) and European goaltenders (EG). THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player (for their Top 30 rated players) and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders. McKenzie and TSN rank the Top 75 prospects along with 10 Honourable Mentions and rank skaters and goaltenders together.

The Second Round Draft positions utilized are those as of 12p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

31. BUFFALO SABRES – MACKENZIE BLACKWOOD – G
CS: # 1 NA-G —– THN: # 39 (Starting Goalie)
ISS: # 5 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 35 (Braden Holtby)
The Sabres emptied out their goaltending cupboard as part of their strategy to make an eventual run at Connor McDavid. While they will need to bring in someone for the present (e.g. Cam Talbot?), Blackwood sets them up for the not-too-distant future. The big netminder (6-4/215) has played two full seasons with Barrie (OHL).

32. ARZIONA COYOTES – JORDAN GREENWAY – LW
CS: # 47 NAS —– THN: # 50 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 31 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 62 (Benoit Pouliot)
Don’t be too surprised if Greenway’s physical makeup (6-5/223) and potential as a power forward doesn’t push him into the first round. He still has some maturing to do hockey-wise, but once he develops his game he has a chance to be a steal of the draft.

33. EDMONTON OILERS – GABRIEL CARLSSON – D
CS: # 2 ES —– THN: # 29 (Shutdown Defender)
ISS: # 30 (Braydon Coburn) —– TSN: # 27 (Jonathan Ericsson)
A disappointing U-18 tournament might have cost Carlsson a shot at the first round. While is most likely this pick is involved in whatever deal Edmonton makes for a goaltender, we will presume they keep the pick for Mock Draft’s sake. It makes sense for the Oilers to draft a defensive d-man with solid hockey sense and size – a nice addition for whomever is in goal in Edmonton.

34. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – VINCE DUNN – D
CS: # 32 NAS —– THN: # 34 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 51 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 36 (Trevor Daley)
Dunn’s game is built on being an offensive d-man. One scout told THN that Dunn not only joins the rush, but is just as adept at leading the rush. A bit on the smallish side (6-0/185), Dunn overcomes it thanks to a high compete level and solid skating.

35. CAROLINA HURRICANES – JANSEN HARKINS – C
CS: # 15 NAS —– THN: # 21 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 25 (Jordan Staal) —– TSN: # 30 (Ryan O’Reilly)
Todd Harkins, Jansen’s Dad, was the younger Harkins’ GM in Prince Albert. He uses his hockey sense to be more playmaker than goal scorer. Jansen needs to work on his skating if he wants to see top six forward minutes on a consistent basis.

36. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – DENIS GURYANOV – RW
CS: # 7 ES —– THN: # 66 (Not Available)
ISS: # 24 (Chris Stewart) —– TSN: # 21 (Chris Kreider)
New GM Ray Shero continues his effort to revitalize the Devils offense. Guryanov (6-3/183) is still filling out and learning to play to his size. Once he does that, he will easily be a top six forward because of a wide arsenal of offensive moves who has a nose for the net.

37. BOSTON BRUINS – DANIEL SPRONG – RW
CS: # 20 NAS —– THN: # 25 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 26 (Marian Gaborik) —– TSN: # 33 (Alex Semin)
The Amsterdam, Holland native is the next step in new GM Don Sweeney’s attempt to increase scoring and skating to the Bruins organization. Sprong has tallied back-to-back 30 goal seasons (30 and 39) with Charlottetown (QMJHL). Sprong is equal parts sniper and playmaker.

38. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – JACK ROSLOVIC – RW
CS: # 39 NAS —– THN: # 37 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 36 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 34 (Chris Kunitz)
The Columbus native allows the Blue Jackets to continue to stockpile talent. Roslovic has shown an ability to survive and thrive with 2016 Draft wunderkinds Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk. Roslovic, who will be attending the University of Miami-Ohio, made a big splash at the U-18 by scoring five goals and 4 assists in five games.

39. SAN JOSE SHARKS – DANIEL VLADAR – G
CS: # 2 E-G —– THN: # 40 (Starting Goalie)
ISS: # 2 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 47 (Martin Jones)
The Sharks are no strangers at drafting, developing and winning with European-born goaltenders. Vladar played poorly and was pulled against Team USA in the U-18. However, he did how the ability to split time with Kladno’s Men’s Team and its U-20 Team in the Czech Republic. He uses his size (6-5/185) in the butterfly. Vladar just needs to refine his game and technique before making the transition to the NHL.

40. COLORADO AVALANCHE – NICOLAS MELOCHE – D
CS: # 40 NAS —– THN: # 54 (Physical Defender)
ISS: # 37 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 44 (Francois Beauchemin)
At 6-2/198, Meloche is what you expect him to be a – defensive d-man who plays a physical (and sometimes nasty) game. Rather than stand out in one part of the game, Meloche does a little bit of everything well.

41. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – JEREMY BRACCO – C
CS: # 60 NAS —– THN: # 74 (Not Available)
ISS: # 28 (Tyler Johnson) —– TSN: # 53 (Mats Zuccarello)
It is very possible that the Devils might, and should, look to draft a defenseman at this point. However, Bracco’s talent and ability is too much to pass up. The only thing standing between Bracco and a definite first round selection is his size (5-9/173). Bracco makes up for his lack size with very strong skating skills and outstanding puck skills. While he is more of a playmaker, Bracco has a goal scorer’s shot and should thrive in the NHL as a PP specialist – at the very least.

42. OTTAWA SENATORS – ZACH SENYSHYN – RW
CS: # 38 NAS —– THN: # 47 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 39 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 40 (Joel Ward)
The Ottawa native spent most of the season playing on the fourth line for a loaded Sault Ste. Marie team. Despite the lack of top line ice time, Senyshyn score 26 goals and 19 assists in 66 games in OHL rookie season.

43. LOS ANGELES KINGS – JONAS SIEGENTHALER – D
CS: # 12 ES —– THN: # 79 (Not Available)
ISS: # 56 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 32 (Simon Despres)
At 6-3/220, Siegenthaler already has an NHL body. In addition, he is also a mobile defenseman and a good skater for someone his size. Jonas will not be a big point producer, but he is able to play smart game and keep the puck moving.

44. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING – ROOPE HINTZ – C/LW
CS: # 14 ES —– THN: # 56 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 52 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 58 (Lars Eller)
Hintz has proven to be a jack-of-all trades with his ability to play the wing or the pivot. While he needs to develop a consistency to his game, Hintz has shown that he can elevate his game by spending last season in the Finnish Elite League. Hintz also has a familiarity with North American hockey after playing Junior A hockey in Tampa Bay and Bismarck in 2012/13.

45. CALGARY FLAMES – MITCH VANDE SOMPEL – D
CS: # 34 NAS —– THN: # 36 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 74 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 63 (Kimmo Timonen)
After utilizing just one pick on their last 10 first rounders, the Flames will look to a unique player. One would have a hard time finding another d-man who runs the point on the PP and then moves up to forward to kill penalties like Vande Sompel. It is that hockey IQ and compete level that have allowed him to overcome his lack of size (5-10/181),

46. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS – ALEXANDER DERGACHEV – RW
CS: # 17 ES —– THN: # 58 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 45 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 54 (Devante Smith-Pelly)
In the salary cap era, the Penguins have done a great job of keeping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin happy contract-wise. However, that same salary cap has hampered their ability to find permanent linemates for them. At 6-4/201, Dergachev presents an imposing target for either star center. He has all the tools to be a bona fide NHL power forward – now he just needs to bring all of his components together. Missed being eligible for last year’s draft by 12 days.

47. WINNIPEG JETS – RYAN GROPP – RW
CS: # 71 NAS —– THN: # 55 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 50 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 56 (Michael Raffl)
Originally committed to North Dakota, Gropp switch plans and signed with Seattle two years ago. He has an NHL body (6-3/192) and features strong skating [and] a good shot. Gropp needs to harness and develop his size and use it more to his advantage – like driving to the net more. Gropp saw some time on the same line with first rounder Matthew Barzal.

48. OTTAWA SENATORS – ERIC CERNAK – D
CS: # 16 ES —– THN: # 99 (Not Available)
ISS: # 42 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 41 (Michal Rozsival)
At 6-3/202, Cernak already brings an NHL-ready body to the table. He uses his size and hockey IQ to win battles down low and he has the ability to get into proper position to get into the shooting lanes. Cernak has a good enough shot to be used on the PP and is a must on the PK.

49. DALLAS STARS – CALLUM BOOTH – G
CS: # 2 NA-G —– THN: # 86 (Not Available)
ISS: # 8 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 51 (Brian Elliott)
While the Stars have Jack Campbell, there has been some talk that they might move Kari Lehtonen. The 6-3/200 Booth plays his angles well and has the ability to square up to the shooter. While he does a lot of the little things well, he does need to work on his rebound control. Booth has plenty of time to fill in the holes because he doesn’t turn 19 until late May 2016.

50. MINNESOTA WILD – TOM NOVAK – C
CS: # 28 NA —– THN: # 25 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 44 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 57 (Derek Stepan)
Novak already has a majority of the Wild fans won over. The Wisconsin native committed to the U. of Minnesota. The 6-0/181 Novak needs to work on his skating and bulk up a bit more, but his playmaking abilities can’t be questioned.

51. BUFFALO SABRES – ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER – C
CS: # 33 NAS —– THN: # 48 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 41 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 43 (Jaden Schwartz)
Beauvillier was one of the two captains at the CHL Top Prospects game (Connor McDavid was the other) – which shows how scouts are willing to overlook a lack of size (5-10/181) when they see talent. His leadership ability and talent level are seen at both ends of the ice. His development from his rookie season to his sophomore season with Shawinigan was remarkable as he went from 33 points (9-24) to 94 points (42-52) in just three more games last season.

52. CALGARY FLAMES – NIKITA KOROSTELEV – RW
CS: # 50 NAS —– THN: # 46 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 60 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 69 (P.A. Parenteau)
There is no fear of losing Korostelev to the KHL because the 6-1/196 RW has spent the last two seasons with Sarnia (OHL) – giving him a nice head start against other Euro-born prospects. His skating is the one thing that probably kept him out of the first round. Despite that, his size and offensive game will make him a PP specialist.

53. CALGARY FLAMES – PARKER WOTHERSPOON – D
CS: # 43 NAS —– THN: # 49 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 54 (Not Available) —– TSN: # HM (Mark Stuart)
Wotherspoon is a two-way defenseman who seems to fall between the cracks because he does not have the size (6-0/170) of a big physical d-man and he does not have the complete offensive game to be an offensive d-man. What he does do well is compete every shift and look to make plays.

54. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – YAKOV TRENIN – LW
CS: # 48 NAS —– THN: # 43 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 59 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 64 (Mickael Backlund)
The 6-2/179 Trenin is another Euro-born prospect who decided his best path to the NHL was through Major Junior. Trenin seemed to improve game-by-game with Gatineau (QMJHL). While he does need to work on his skating, he has shown a willingness to work on his game. A poor defender at the start of the season, Trenin was seeing time on the PK.

55. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – MITCHELL STEPHENS – C
CS: # 112 NAS —– THN: # 65 (Not Available)
ISS: # 33 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 46 (Andrew Shaw)
The sentimental pick would be d-man Caleb Jones, brother of star blueliner Seth Jones. Predators need for more help offensively has to swing the day at this point of the draft. Stephens is a playmaker who bases his game on hockey sense and a strong competitive spirit – both of which were on display for Canada at the U-18.

56. ST. LOUIS BLUES – DENIS YAN – LW
CS: # 30 NAS —– THN: # 45 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 48 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 38 (J.T. Miller)
The 6-1/187 Yan is an interesting story. He is an American-born player who was raised in Russia. He started with the U.S. National Team Development Program before joining Shawinigan (QMJHL) last season 33 goals and 31 assists in 59 games and seven goals in seven playoff games.

57. EDMONTON OILERS – GUILLAUME BRISEBOIS – D
CS: # 41 NAS —– THN: # 74 (Not Available)
ISS: # 46 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 48 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic)
The Oilers have more than enough offensive prospects in the cupboard. Brisebois is a two-way d-man who served as Bathurst’s captain at the age of 17 (in his second year of Juniors). At 6-2/175, Brisebois has time to develop his game from both a physical and maturity level. Despite his youth, he is a strong competitor with a solid hockey IQ.

58. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – JAKOB FROSBACKA-KARLSSON – C
CS: # 31 NAS —– THN: # 57 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 55 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 52 (Daniel Winnik)
The Swedish center is taking an unusual route to the NHL. He has spent the last two seasons with Omaha (USHL) and has committed to play at Boston University. It will be interesting to see of “JFK” teams with Jack Eichel in a Boston-area school next season. The Blue Jackets are developing an organization where they can afford a 2ns round pick on a player who, at the very least, be a solid two-way third-line center who is strong on faceoffs and kills penalties.

59. NEW YORK RANGERS – AUSTIN WAGNER – LW
CS: # 35 NAS —– THN: # 67 (Not Available)
ISS: # 43 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 64 (Dwight King)
Wagner will continue the Rangers quest to add stronger and stronger skaters to the lineup. The 6-1/178 Wagner uses that speed to be dangerous on the rush and when he kills penalties. Of most interest to Rangers fans, Wagner uses his speed to be defenders wide and then funnel everything to the slot and to the net. He could turn out to be a bigger Ryan Callahan-type of player.

60. ARIZONA COYOTES – CHRISTIAN FISCHER – RW
CS: # 37 NAS —– THN: # 59 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 38 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 45 (Alex Killorn)
For a team that seems to have perennial ownership issues, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to draft a player who is committed to Notre Dame as they can stash him there for three or so years. Meanwhile, the Coyotes add a power forward (6-1/21) who has drawn some interest at the end of the first round.

61. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – GRAHAM KNOTT – LW
CS: # 57 NAS —– THN: # 53 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 73 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Available (Not in Top 85)
The 6-3/192 Knott has drawn varied scouting reports. Some see him merely as a third-line forward who will hit and pop the occasional goal. Others see him as a top-six forward. While he almost doubled his point totals with Niagara (23 to 44), there are those scouts who believe he should be productive. The feeling is that if he can’t get stronger and work on raising his compete level, Knott will live up to the latter scouting report.

SECOND ROUND DRAFT PICKS TRANSACTIONS
1. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the result of a trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles in exchange for Matt Frattin, a conditional third-round pick in 2014 and this pick. Los Angeles previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on June 23, 2013 that sent Jonathan Bernier to Toronto in exchange for Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Los Angeles will receive a second-round pick in 2014 or 2015 at Toronto’s choice – was converted on January 18, 2014 when Toronto’s second-round pick in 2014 was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
2. The Philadelphia Flyers’ second-round pick will go to the Boston Bruins as the result of a trade on October 4, 2014 that sent Johnny Boychuk to New York in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016, a conditional third-round pick in 2015 and this pick. The Islanders previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade March 4, 2014 that sent Andrew MacDonald to Philadelphia in exchange for Matt Mangene, a third-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
3. The Florida Panthers’ second-round pick goes to the New Jersey Devils as the result of a trade on February 26, 2015 that sent Jaromir Jagr to Florida in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in 2016 and this pick.[25]
4. The Dallas Stars’ second-round pick will go to the Ottawa Senators as the result of a trade on July 1, 2014 that sent Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson to the Stars in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill and this pick.
5. The Los Angeles Kings’ second-round pick was re-acquired as the result of a trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers to Buffalo in exchange for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parkers, LA’s second-round pick in 2014 and this pick. Buffalo previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on April 1, 2013 that sent Robyn Regehr to the Kings in exchange for a second-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
6. The Boston Bruins’ second-round pick will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Brett Connolly to Boston in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016 and this pick.
7. The Detroit Red Wings’ second-round pick will go to the Dallas Stars as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Erik Cole and a conditional third-round pick in 2015 to Detroit in exchange for Mattias Janmark, Mattias Backman and this pick.
8. The New York Islanders’ second-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on October 27, 2013 that sent Thomas Vanek to New York in exchange for Matt Moulson, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
9. The Washington Capitals’ second-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Curtis Glencross to Washington in exchange for a third-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
10. The Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Sven Baertschi to Vancouver in exchange for this pick.
11. The Chicago Blackhawks will receive the 24th pick of this round (54th overall) as compensation for not signing 2010 first0-round draft pick Kevin Hayes.
12. The Montreal Canadiens’ second-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Jeff Petry to Montreal in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
13. The Anaheim Ducks’ second-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent James Wisniewski and Detroit’s third-round pick in 2015 to Anaheim in exchange for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and this pick.
14. The New York Rangers’ second-round pick will go to the Arizona Coyotes as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in 2016 to New York in exchange for John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a conditional first-round pick in 2016 and this pick.
15. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s second-round pick will go to the New York Rangers as the result of a trade March 5, 2014 that sent Ryan Callahan, a conditional first-round pick in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015, and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – the Rangers will receive a second-round pick in 2015 if Callahan is re-signed by Tampa Bay for 2014/15 – was converted on June 25, 2014 when Tampa Bay signed Callahan to a six-year contract.
16. The Chicago Blackhawks’ second-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers as the result of a trade on February 27, 2015 that sent Kimmo Timonen to Chicago in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2016 and this pick.

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