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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