June 2017


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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