2016 NHL Draft: Final First Round Mock Draft
My final take on how the first round of the NHL Draft will shake out.
1. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (Switzerland): No need to overthink this pick, Matthews is the top player available in the draft.
2. WINNIPEG JETS
Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara Tampere (Finland): Jets fans are brought back to the Teemu days with thought of another star Finn in Winnipeg. The Jets have one of the best groups of young talent in the league.
3. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Finland): Despite the trade chatter, the Jackets need to stock up on high-end talent and Puljujarvi is the best player available. He and Brandon Saad would form 2/3 of an elite scoring line.
4. EDMONTON OILERS
Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL): Though the Oilers may covet Matthew Tkachuk more, adding an impact puck-mover like Juolevi makes the most sense for Edmonton. I still see this pick being moved, however.
5. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London Knights (OHL): The Canucks were one of the “losers” in the draft lottery, but I’m sure they’re more than happy to have Tkachuk fall in their laps.
6. CALGARY FLAMES
Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): It’s not often the top-ranked North American skater falls to sixth, but this is no ordinary draft. The Flames are loaded up front with the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, but Dubois is too good to pass up here.
7. ARIZONA COYOTES
Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Some consider Sergachev to be the top blueliner available, so if he’s still on the board at 7th the Coyotes will stumble over themselves rushing to the podium to draft him. With OEL, Goligoski and Connor Murphy already in the organization, Arizona is assembling a terrific blueline.
8. BUFFALO SABRES
Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Taking a blueliner makes sense here too, but Nylander’s skill set is too tempting. This is a BPA pick, but Nylander fills a team need for high-end offense on the wing.
9. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): I try to think outside of the box when researching for these mocks, but I can’t help but join the masses in sending Brown to the Habs. He’s precisely what they need and he’s a top-ten talent.
10. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Every year there’s a top prospect that starts the year near the top of the rankings and whether due to injury, sub-par play or the rise in the rankings of others in his draft class, he falls. Chychrun was once the consensus top blueliner, and though he’s fallen a bit he seems destined to be a long-time, dependable pro.
11. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Clayton Keller, C, USNTDP (USHL): I can’t think of a better fit for Keller than the Devils. They’re a team that has always embraced players of smaller stature who can play at a high level, and he gives the organization a much needed skill boost.
12. OTTAWA SENATORS
Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Though his season was slowed by injury, McLeod remains a prototypical scoring center that would fill an organizational hole in Ottawa.
13. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Tyson Jost, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL): The cupboard is bare for the ‘Canes up front, so adding a high-end forward like Jost is prudent here. There are some scouts out there who would say that getting Jost at 13th is a total steal.
14. BOSTON BRUINS
Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-D’Or Foreurs (QMJHL): The top power forward in the draft fits the classic image of what it is to be a Bruin. He crashes the net and does whatever it takes to score goals.
15. MINNESOTA WILD
Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Aside from Matt Dumba and maybe Mike Reilly, the Wild are thin on young blueline talent. Bean is an offensive defender that can anchor a powerplay. Bean on the point and Dumba as the shooter would look awfully good while on the man advantage.
16. DETROIT RED WINGS
Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL): The Wings have a handful of very good young forwards, but their depth on the blueline could use a boost. Fabbro helps in that regard and more.
17. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University (NCAA): Preds doing what the Preds do best: stocking their blueline. McAvoy is offensively gifted and would fill a major hole if the Preds lose a blueliner in the expansion draft.
18. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Max Jones, LW, London Knights (OHL): When I watch this kid play, I think throwback. As in, throwback to the good ol’ days of the bruising power forward. Jones plays with an edge, but has skill to back it up. He’ll make things very difficult for the Flyers’ opponent on any given night.
19. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Logan Stanley, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): For me this is a BPA-with-positional-emphasis pick. The Isles could really use another top defenseman in the pipeline, and at this pick Stanley’s one of the best on the board. He’s huge and plays with a physical edge.
20. ARIZONA COYOTES (FROM RANGERS)
Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestad (SHL): Asplund is a two-way center that caught the attention of scouts at the World Juniors, when he stepped up after William Nylander was felled by a concussion. With steady development, Asplund could develop into the ‘Yotes number two center behind Dylan Strome down the line.
21. CAROLINA HURRICANES (FROM LOS ANGELES)
Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): After adding Jost earlier, the ‘Canes add another center in Howden. He put up about a point-per-game in the WHL, and is the younger brother of the Panthers’ Quinton Howden.
22. WINNIPEG JETS (FROM CHICAGO)
Kieffer Bellows, LW, USNTDP (USHL): The rich get richer. With Laine on board, the Jets avoid the temptation of balancing their first round with a defenseman, and take physical winger Bellows.
23. FLORIDA PANTHERS
German Rubtsov, C, Team Russia U-18 (Russia): Based on skill alone, Rubtsov is a minor steal at 23rd. There is of course the ever-present Russian factor, and Rubtsov’s unfortunate association with the meldonium doping scandal earlier this season.
24. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Riley Tufte, LW, Blaine HS (Minnesota): It’s a bit risky to take a high school player, but Tufte’s numbers are eye-popping. He won the prestigious Mr. Hockey award, and is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
25. DALLAS STARS
Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA): You have to respect the character of Kunin, he stuck it out on a poor Badgers squad in one of the most important seasons of his career. He’s a smart player who won’t hurt you. A bit of a “safe” pick for Dallas here.
26. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): The Caps are thin on defensive prospects, but Clague and his two-way game will improve that. He doesn’t have a great shot from the back-end but he’s a good distributor.
27. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vitali Abramov, RW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Pure offense. That’s what Abramov brings to the table. He’ll have plenty of countrymen to lean on in the organization, and will *partially* offset the potential loss of Steven Stamkos.
28. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Pascal Laberge, C, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): From a playing style perspective, he’s not far off from David Backes. While Laberge may not have the leadership and intangibles that Backes was able to offer the Blues, Laberge can fill the role down the line that Backes played some admirably over the years.
29. BOSTON BRUINS (FROM SAN JOSE)
Alex Debrincat, RW, Erie Otters (OHL): After taking bruising winger Julien Gauthier earlier, the Bruins take a bit of a flyer on Debrincat - who’s one of the smallest players available. There’s no denying his ability to fill the net, however, and Debrincat has shown that he can hang with elite linemates.
30. ANAHEIM DUCKS (FROM PITTSBURGH, VIA TORONTO)
Filip Gustavsson, G, Lulea (SHL): With the pick acquired from Toronto in the Frederik Andersen deal, the Ducks immediately draft his replacement in Gustavsson. This was a great deal for the Ducks, as Gustavsson may prove to be even more talented than Andersen.