Disclaimer: The following predictions are based on my conversations (most of which have been cited in this article) with NHL scouts, player agents, journalists, team representatives, and the draft eligible prospects themselves, in addition to my own opinion. It should be noted that although this article represents my best guess as to what will unfold come draft day, the NHL Entry Draft really is a spin of the roulette wheel, and if anything, this “mock draft” should be considered a source of information rather than a forecast of the future.
1. New York Islanders: John Tavares
John Tavares is a pure sniper, and although his skating has raised some concern, he will put up big numbers in the NHL. The Canadian World Junior Gold Medalist has an uncanny nose for the net, coupled with a tremendous shot. In recent interviews, John Tavares has made it very clear that he would be absolutely thrilled to join the Islanders organization. I had a few brief conversations with Victor Hedman’s Swedish based agent Peter Wallen, and he doesn’t believe that New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow will make his decision until the last second, after he is presented with any trade offers. Although I’m hearing the Islanders will take Tavares, this pick really could go either way, so don’t be surprised if Snow and the Islanders opt for Hedman instead. Additionally, based on my conversation with TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Islanders may be seriously considering Matt Duchene here as well.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman
Victor Hedman is a towering Swedish defenceman with great hockey sense and offensive instincts. He will be a mainstay on the Lightning back end for years to come. With the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, and Martin St. Louis up front, Hedman is just what the Lightning need to solidify their defence. Hedman’s agent Peter Wallen assured me that they had been given no indication as to where Hedman might end up, and was adamant that his client is heading into the draft very humbled, and with an open mind. If Hedman goes #1 to New York, this would make it easier for the Lightning to move this pick or part ways with Vincent Lecavalier if this is indeed what they intend to do. Based on my conversation with Lecavalier’s agent Kent Hughes, the Lightning will include Hughes and Lecavalier in the process, and get the all-star forward’s approval if they decide they should trade him. As of June 1st, Hughes had not been notified of anything of the sort; however, he did not rule out something developing in the weeks leading up to July 1st.
3. Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene is a dynamic forward with great offensive skills and blazing speed. Some believe that Duchene, an Avalanche fan growing up, deserves some consideration as a top two pick. I spoke to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post who believes that Duchene to the Avs is a “foregone conclusion” if Tavares and Hedman are the first two selected as expected. This really is a no-brainer for the Avalanche organization, who will look to fill the void left by the expected retirement of Joe Sakic – be it this off-season or next.
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane
Evander Kane is an offensive forward who enjoyed a break out year with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL this past season. He possess pure goal scoring instincts and isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas to make plays, as exemplified at the recent World Junior Championships. If Kane’s frame fills out, he could very well turn into a great power forward in the NHL, someone a team could really market around. Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell has spoken openly about his team’s interest in Kane.
5. Los Angeles Kings: Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi
Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi is a fast and highly skilled forward. He’s a great playmaker and an effective goal scorer. Sure, his defensive game has some room for improvement, but the same could be said for most draft-eligible players. Svensson-Paajarvi would slot in nicely alongside Anze Kopitar down the road. The Kings had success drafting Swedish forward Oscar Moller so they go back to Scandinavia with this selection. Svensson-Paajarvi’s agent and father Gunnar Svensson, who I spoke with recently, expects his son to play one more season with Timra of the Swedish Elite League before moving to the NHL, and guesses he will go anywhere from fourth to seventh overall in this year’s draft. The Kings will also have interest in Brayden Schenn, so it’s a possibility that Toronto swings a deal with LA here to select Schenn, and in that case, Svensson-Paajarvi would likely end up with the Kings at seventh overall.
6. Phoenix Coyotes: Jared Cowen
Jared Cowen is a big, mobile, shutdown defenceman whose offensive abilities have come to fruition in recent years; however, a severe knee injury he suffered this past season may have hampered his value. One NHL scout I talked to believes Cowen will slip just a bit in the first round, but he also mentioned that no one else on his staff feels the same way. The scout stated: “A kid that size who can skate and is coordinated the way he is is rare and not a lot of teams will let him slide.” With the likes of Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhnov, Kevin Porter and others in the system, the Coyotes have an abundance of young talent up front; so conventional wisdom suggests they would rather select a defenceman with their first round pick, likely Cowen. However, there’s something to be said about drafting the best player available no matter what the positional need, which may turn out to be Schenn if he’s still available.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brayden Schenn
Brayden Schenn, brother of Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn, is perhaps the most all-around forward of this year’s draft. According to one NHL scout I talked to, Schenn “plays like a warrior with very good compete. Some may say he is not a great skater but he is strong on his feet and uses his edges well. He’s a good character kid that plays 200 feet. Schenn has a great set of hands, vision and a strong stick. He reads the game and reacts very well. There are no real holes in his game; he can be an all minute type if all things works out.” Leafs General Manager Brian Burke has made it very clear that he would like to move up in the draft to select John Tavares, however, I believe his goal is to unite the brothers from Saskatchewan. As previously noted, to do that he may need to move up a few spots.
8. Dallas Stars: Dmitry Kulikov
Dmitry Kulikov is a great offensive defenceman who can hold his own against the opponents’ top forwards. He has shown a willingness to learn the North American game, as he was a key cog in Drummondville’s success this season, and a desire to play in the NHL. Many Stars fans are hoping for Jordan Schroeder to be their selection at eighth overall, and while I do believe Schroeder and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are possibilities here, I think Kulikov is the best player available at this point in the draft.
9. Ottawa Senators: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
In his own words, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is “a player with good skating, good hands, and [who] sees the ice well.” His stock has risen a ton in the last few months. Rumors suggest that some teams have Ekman-Larsson ranked in their top five. Ekman-Larsson has one more year left on his contract with Leksand of the Swedish Elite League; however when I asked him about it, he speculated that it might take him two years before he’s prepared to move to North America. This, of course, could change with the proper persuasion from the team who selects him. Again, Schroeder isn’t out of the question here, but most believe that the Sens brass are very high on Ekman-Larsson, who would be a great compliment to Erik Karlsson.
10. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Ellis
Although only 5’10”, Ryan Ellis is a very effective and well-rounded defenceman. He has great hockey sense and leadership qualities, along with the uncanny ability to quarterback a power play. Since the Oilers don’t necessarily need another offensive defenceman, rumor is they’re looking to move up a few spots to get a crack at Kane, Schenn, or Svensson-Paajarvi but will settle for the World Junior Gold Medalist and Memorial Cup champion who is no slouch in his own right. Based on my conversation with Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, the Oilers have interest in big wingers Zack Kassian and Carter Ashton, but aren’t sure they deserve to be top 10 picks. Matheson speculated the Oilers wouldn’t have a problem selecting Ellis, as by the time he’s NHL ready, some of their current blue liners will be gone. Additionally, Oilers head coach Pat Quinn coached Ellis at the recent World Junior Championships and has publicly endorsed him on numerous occasions.
11. Nashville Predators: Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri is a dangerous offensive forward who possesses great speed to go along with a nice set of hands. The London Knights forward would give the Predators a dynamic one-two punch down the middle with Colin Wilson. Kadri is probably the best player available at this point, and the Predators have an abundance of depth on the back end so they have no concerns making this selection.
12. Minnesota Wild: Jordan Schroeder
Jordan Schroeder is a small, but speedy forward with the innate ability to find his teammates. The native of Prior Lake, Minnesota is similar to Patrick Kane in that he uses his quickness and hockey sense to compensate for his lack of size. The Wild fan base has been longing for a talented Minnesotan to join their organization, and they may just finally get one. Although I have Schroeder going to the Wild, I do believe there’s a very good chance he may indeed crack the top 10.
13. Buffalo Sabres: Scott Glennie
Scott Glennie is a natural goal scorer with great speed and tremendous offensive instincts. However, scouts like him more because he’s hard working, poised, and an overall great character guy. According to Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton, the team has been “heavy on defense the past few years and they still need to get bigger up front, but they truly so subscribe to the ‘best player available’ system.” If the Sabres opt to once again subscribe to this system, Glennie would likely be their selection. However, if they choose to address their need to “get bigger up front,” Zack Kassian could be a possibility here as well. It should be noted that Glennie, at 6’1”, 180 Ibs, is not exactly on the smaller side either.
14. Florida Panthers: Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian could be the biggest wildcard in this year’s draft. Some believe he could crack the top 10, while others believe he could fall and keep falling. Kassian is likely one of the toughest players in the Canadian Hockey League, and he has drawn several comparisons to Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. He’s a big body who is great along the boards and is not afraid to drop the gloves. If Kassian’s available at 14th overall, I’m not sure the Panthers would be able to pass on him.
15. Anaheim Ducks: John Moore
John Moore may very well be the best skater in this year’s draft and that alone could propel him into the top 15. The USHL defenceman of the year is always a threat offensively from the back end, and seems to be tailored to the modern-day NHL. Moore’s defensive zone coverage needs some work, but I’m confident that could be solved after spending some time within the Ducks organization.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Despres
Simon Despres is a big, reliable defenceman who is very mobile for his size. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses or strengths; he just continually gets the job done. Some believe he could be a top 15 pick, while others speculate he could fall to the later stages of the first round. Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline, who I had a brief chat with, speculates the team would like to start drafting defencemen again. Portzline added: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade a body to get a second-round pick, either.”
17. St. Louis Blues: Jacob Josefson
Based on my discussion with Djurgårdens Sports Manager Janne Järlefelt, Jacob Josefson is a smart, playmaking center who sees the ice very well. He displays exceptional character and a humble personality. Järlefelt hopes and expects Josefson to play two more seasons in Sweden before making the move overseas. Josefson’s agent Peter Wallen believes that he will be a top 15 pick come draft day. The Blues have a good mix of young forwards and defenceman in the system, so my guess is they simply go for the best player available here.
18. Montreal Canadiens: Louis Leblanc
Louis Leblanc is a talented, gritty forward with outstanding finishing abilities. Just like the Minnesota Wild fan base, Montreal’s faithful have been longing for a homegrown superstar and with the draft in Montreal this year, this native of Point-Claire, Quebec may turn out to be their man. Leblanc is committed to attend Harvard University in the fall. Chris Kreider and Carter Ashton are possibilities here as well.
19. New York Rangers: Chris Kreider
Chris Kreider will be a first-round pick come draft day, but whether he cracks the top 15 or falls to the later stages remains to be seen. The big forward could very well be the best skater in this year’s draft, and he has outstanding offensive abilities to go along with his speed. The only thing working against him is that he played in high school last season, so it remains to be seen if his strong play will carry over when challenged with stronger competition. Kreider would be a nice compliment to Rangers prospect Evgeny Grachev.
20. Calgary Flames: David Rundblad
David Rundblad is an offensive defenceman with a great shot and a tremendous ability to rush the puck up ice. He has drawn some comparisons to Mike Green due to his offense first mentality; however, he remains sound defensively. According to Anna Hägglund of Skellefteå AIK, Rundblad’s “absolute strength is his offensive play, and he can sometimes amaze you by doing the unexpected.” Rundblad is exactly the type of player the Flames need, and they are not hesitant going back to Sweden after having success with Mikael Backlund. The Flames would also likely have interest in Carton Ashton at this point in the draft.
21. Philadelphia Flyers: Carter Ashton
Son of former NHL’er Brent Ashton, Carter Ashton is a big power forward with a nice offensive touch. Ashton is great in the corners and proves nearly impossible to knock off the puck. Many believe that Ashton will crack the top 15 in this year’s draft, but I see him falling just a little bit not because he’s done anything wrong, but because others have done a little bit more to improve their stock in recent months.
22. Vancouver Canucks: Calvin De Haan
Calvin De Haan is a poised, puck-moving defenceman who displays maturity far beyond his years. He makes a good first pass and has a knack for getting his shot through to the net. De Haan is also underrated defensively, as his exceptional skating and hockey sense allows him to consistently remain in position. The Canucks have a need for an offensive defenceman in their prospect pool, and De Haan would certainly fit the bill. However, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis has been adamant that he will draft who he believes to have the most character, integrity, and intelligence, rather than according to a positional need. Kyle Palmieri, Landon Ferraro, and Stefan Elliot would be good candidates here as well.
23. New Jersey Devils: Kyle Palmieri
Kyle Palmieri is a solid all-around forward who has drawn some comparisons to Chris Drury of the New York Rangers. He isn’t the fastest skater, but he’s very strong on his skates and he doesn’t let his size deter him from bringing a physical game to the table. The Devils already have their fair share of smaller forwards in the system, however, so Peter Holland is a possibility here as well. But if their not worried about the size factor, there’s a pretty good chance that either Palmieri or Landon Ferraro will be their guy. Additionally, it should be noted that if the Devils feel the need to address their need of a puck-moving defenceman, Stefan Elliot could be their selection.
24. Washington Capitals: Landon Ferraro
According to Red Deer Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, the strengths of Landon Ferraro’s game “are his scoring ability – he has a natural ability to find the net – and his speed. He’s able to pull away from defencemen and does a good job driving to the outside. He’s also very competitive and plays with a lot of grit for an averaged size guy.” Wallin added that Ferraro is very outgoing and well liked and respected by his teammates. You’d never have to guess what’s on his mind or how he’s feeling; he wears his heart on his sleeve. When asked about Ferraro’s weaknesses, Wallin suggested he must continue to work on his consistency and defensive play. Ferraro is consistently ranked as a late first rounder, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name called a little earlier come draft day.
25. Boston Bruins: Stefan Elliot
According to one NHL scout I talked to, Stefan Elliot is “a good skating defenceman that advances the puck well. He has good puck skills and is an asset on the power play. Elliot is a guy that can jump up and join the rush. His weakness is his work in his [own] end. He plays a little light at times and needs to compete more consistently. His good qualities out-weigh his weaknesses.” The Bruins need a puck moving defenceman, and with Rundblad and De Haan off the board, Elliot is the next best thing. There are rumblings that the Bruins are also very high on Ethan Werek, so there’s a chance he could be their guy at 25th overall as well.
26. New York Islanders: Tim Erixon
Based on my conversation with Anna Hägglund of Skellefteå AIK, Tim Erixon is a skilled defender who is very good with the puck. He thinks the game very well and plays his position effectively. After drafting Tavares, and with the likes of Okposo and Bailey already in the system, the Islanders go for a defenceman here. Some believe that the Islanders will choose Hedman at first overall, but I believe they’ll end up with this Swedish defenceman, who patterns his game after Niklas Lidstrom. Islanders Assistant General Manager Ryan Jankowski has spent his fair share of time in Sweden over the past year, so he and Islanders Swedish scout Anders Kallur are well aware of what Erixon brings to the party. The Islanders have four picks in the first 37, so rumors suggest they’ll try to package this pick with a later one to move up and draft Moore, Despres or Rundblad.
27. Carolina Hurricanes: Jordan Caron
Jordan Caron is a big, hard-working forward with a developing offensive game. He uses his body and plays his position effectively, which often puts him into prime scoring opportunities. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jordan Caron were not available at this point in the draft. His performance with the Rimouski Oceanic in the Memorial Cup may have put him out of the Canes’ reach. If he is available, however, I think the Hurricanes would have some major interest.
28. Chicago Blackhawks: Peter Holland
Peter Holland is a big body who skates well and is effective at both ends of the rink. His strong suit is probably his offensive game, as Holland possesses good playmaking abilities and a very good shot. Rumors suggest that his stock has dropped off significantly as of late as opposed to others who seem to be on the rise, but Holland was consistently ranked as a top 15 pick earlier this season, so it admittedly may be a stretch to suggest he falls to 28th overall.
29. Detroit Red Wings: Ethan Werek
Ethan Werek is a big, physical, character forward with a nice offensive touch. By all accounts, however, his skating is average and that’s why he’ll likely be a later first-round pick. On the other hand, his skating could almost certainly be improved after spending some time working in the developmental mecca that is the Detroit Red Wings organization, so he could turn out to be a steal at 29th overall. I would think defenceman Dylan Olsen, Swedish forward Carl Klingberg, and Jeremy Morin would be of interest here as well.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins: Jeremy Morin
Jeremy Morin is a skilled left-winger, who can also play at center, with great offensive instincts. He probably has one of the best sets of hands in this year’s draft class, to go along with a very good shot. While his offensive game is without doubt his strong suit, Morin is also very reliable in his own end. Morin would look pretty good on Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin’s wing a few years down the road.
On the Bubble
Drew Shore, Dylan Olsen, Carl Klingberg, Zach Budish, Nick Leddy, Richard Panik, Marcus Johansson