The draft lottery was Saturday, and the majority of the draft order has now been determined. Now that the ping pong balls have fallen, we can have our first crack at projecting how the draft will play out in June. First off, a few clarifications. This is a mock draft, not my draft rankings. The list below is how I expect the draft will play out. Just because I see one player being selected before another does not necessarily mean that I believe that player will be better than the one they were passed over for. Now that we have that out of the way, we can get into the mock.
1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin (LD)
A dynamic, but still two-way defenceman, Dahlin has incredible skating, puckhandling, passing and shooting skills to accompany his lack of any real weakness. There is absolutely no doubt about this one. Dahlin is far and away the best available prospect.
2. Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov (RW)
A two-way force, Svechnikov has the strength and balance required to be consistently dangerous when driving the net while his skating, hands and shot allow him to be lethal in other areas as well. Svechnikov used the later part of the season to regain separation from Filip Zadina, and barring major surprise, he’s a Hurricane.
3. Montreal Canadiens – Brady Tkachuk (C/LW)
A large, agitating power forward, Tkachuk has all of the intangibles that scouts go crazy for. However, his skating ability, soft hands and dazzling skill sets him apart from your ordinary grinder. More Brad Marchand than Tom Wilson – the best comparison for him would be his brother, Matthew Tkachuk. Brady can play some centre, so the Canadiens may take him over Zadina in hopes of filling their hole in the middle of the ice.
4. Ottawa Senators – Filip Zadina (RW)
Zadina is a Czech sharpshooter that scores a lot of his goals and generates a lot of his shots from the top of the circle, a la Alex Ovechkin. He’s absolutely deadly on the rush and was one of the better Czech players at the World Junior Championship. If he practically falls into their lap like this, Ottawa won’t pass up the opportunity to add Zadina, a dynamic scoring winger.
5. Arizona Coyotes – Adam Boqvist (RD)
Boqvist plays a dynamic, offensive game reminiscent of Erik Karlsson. He can both rush and move the puck and possesses an impressive ability to get shots through from the point. Adding Boqvist to play with fellow Swede Oliver Ekman-Larsson may be too good of an opportunity to pass up. That would quickly become one of the best pairings in the league.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Evan Bouchard (RD)
Bouchard possesses elite puckmoving abilities and one of the best shots in the entire draft. His 1.3 PPG is the best for an OHL defenceman since Anthony DeAngelo and places 3rd among all draft-eligible skaters when adjusted for league and age. This seems like the perfect match. Bouchard fits the Detroit mold, with both size and production.
7. Vancouver Canucks – Noah Dobson (RD)
You could certainly make an argument in favour of Noah Dobson as the best all-around defenceman in the draft. An impressive skater that can move the puck, Dobson brings steady play to both ends of the rink. However, his offensive upside may be lower than other defencemen like Quinn Hughes and Ty Smith. Dobson seems like a Vancouver pick. They’ll be looking to add a two-way defensemen which Dobson is. However, if Evan Bouchard is still available, I would suspect they take him instead.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Quinn Hughes (LD)
Hughes, a one-man breakout machine, has been described as more of a rover than a defensemen. His gigantic offensive impact makes up for his small stature and his play in his own zone is underrated. The Blackhawks window to win has more or less closed and they’ll be looking for successors for their aging players. Quinn Hughes will make a formidable replacement for Duncan Keith a few years down the line.
9. New York Rangers – Oliver Wahlstrom (RW)
Wahlstrom’s fantastic shot has drawn comparisons to Phil Kessel’s which speaks to how accurate and powerful it truly is. On top of that, Wahlstrom also skates well and has soft hands along with a knack for being in the right spots at the right time. Wahlstrom will easily be the best player available at this point. There is a drop-off after this pick, so it’s likely the Rangers go with the goal-scoring winger.
10. Edmonton Oilers – Ty Smith (LD)
Smith disappointed at high profile events like the CHL Top Prospects Game and U18 World Championships, but don’t let that factor in to how you view him. Smith was fantastic with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, displaying his two-way play and puckmoving ability. I believe that this one will come down to either Smith or Joel Farabee for the Oilers, depending on which position they want to bolster. Smith may be the best player available at this point, but the Oilers are already set on the left side with Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Knowing the Oilers though, they’ll probably take Smith to allow Chiarelli to ship out Oscar Klefbom for pennies on the dollar.
11. New York Islanders – Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C/W)
Kotkaniemi is an all-around offensive force who can both score and set up his teammates. He loves to have the puck on his stick and doesn’t rush plays. His vision allows him to find open teammates with ease and he can dangle or snipe when given time and space. Even if he goes as high as 11th, he could still be a steal. With all the top defensive prospects already off the board, the Islanders will likely go for the best player available with this selection. Kotkaniemi is widely considered to be the best available player at this point.
12. New York Islanders (From Calgary Flames) – Bode Wilde (RD)
Bode Wilde displays a lot of the features that NHL teams love to see in young defencemen. He’s big, he’s physical and he plays hard all over the ice. A two way defenceman, Wilde can feather accurate passes through open lanes or take the puck up ice himself. All in all, Wilde is an effective defender all over the ice and is capable of driving the transition game. After taking the best player available with their first of back-to-back picks, the Islanders will likely look to fill a need on the back end. Bode Wilde will probably be right at the top of their list of available defensemen.
13. Dallas Stars – Joe Veleno (C)
Veleno earned “exceptional status” from the CHL, a rare feat, so there’s no question about his skill. However, Veleno has struggled to put it together into results at times, including important international events and it’s hurt his draft stock. After a mid-season trade, Veleno went from one of the QMJHL’s worst teams to one among the best, and the new environment helped Veleno break out of his early slump and showcase his stellar playmaking and two-way play. Stars’ centre Jason Spezza is getting up there in age and the club is lacking in the department of centre prospects that could act as a suitable replacement. At this spot in the draft, there is no centre better than Veleno. The two-way centre would look good playing behind Tyler Seguin in Dallas.
14. Philadelphia Flyers (From St. Louis Blues) – Joel Farabee (LW)
Farabee, a shifty and elusive winger, has the opportunity to be one of the biggest steals in the entire draft despite his already high draft position. At times, Farabee has been more of a threat than top 10 staple Oliver Wahlstrom and quite frankly, not much separates the two. Both are constantly dangerous and can threaten with their shots and hands. The Flyers are doing pretty good at forward and would probably prefer to take a defensemen, but doing so here would be a bit of a reach. It’s more likely that they take the best available forward instead who in this case would be Joel Farabee.
15. Florida Panthers – Isac Lundestrom (C/LW)
Isac Lundestrom has had quite the season. After starting off his campaign nowhere near this position in the consensus rankings, Lundestrom earned his call-up to the SHL, the top men’s league in Sweden, where he did quite well. Powered by a strong World Junior Championship where he centred a strong line for Sweden, Lundestrom cracked some top 10’s before ultimately taking his place in the 15-20 range. The Panthers already have Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek and Henrik Borgstrom down the middle so adding yet another centre doesn’t make too much sense. Barrett Hayton is the consensus pick at 15, but Florida may prefer to select a winger or defensemen instead. Isac Lundestrom can play both centre and left wing and the Panthers should like how he fared against men in 42 SHL games this season, posting 15 points.