After several weeks of anticipation, it’s finally time.
Some may wonder what the process is. One way to start is by looking at a team’s draft history – some teams have a clear preference for players out of Canadian junior hockey, others for US college hockey, and still others for European leagues. You can look at team needs – team ‘A’ badly needs a centre; team ‘B’ a defenceman. Or you can assume that teams will just take the ‘BPA’, or best player available – a strategy which becomes more arbitrary as you get further down the list.
I use a hybrid strategy. Regardless of what GM’s like Brian “I always take BPA” Burke say, organizational needs are important. Team culture is also a big factor. For instance, I’m almost certain that New Jersey will do just about anything to get Adam Larsson. They’re in desperate need for defencemen both at the prospect level and the NHL level, and they’re quickly accumulating a young core of Swedes with Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, and Alexander Urbom. Larsson would be an ideal choice.
There’s no way to objectively determine who the best player available is, but I like to tier the prospects. Here’s the general concensus:
- The top-4 – Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson, Huberdeau, Landeskog
- Next 5 – Couturier, Hamilton, Strome, Murphy, Zibanejad
While most scouts believe that’s the top 9, no one knows what order they’ll go in. I think Bartschi, Beaulieu, Brodin, Scheifele, and Siemens are in the next group that will make up most of the top-half of the draft, but it’s really hard to say as team preferences kick in more later in the draft. In any case, without further ado, here’s my mock draft:
|1||Edmonton||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||F||Most skilled player available. #1 centre will make Hall even better|
|2||*New Jersey||Adam Larsson||D||Fills a huge need on the blueline. Devils trade up to get best D available|
|3||Florida||Jonathan Huberdeau||F||Potential gamebreaker on a team that currently has none|
|4||*Colorado||Gabriel Landeskog||F||Gritty style is a great fit with finesse C’s Duchene/Stastny|
|5||New York I||Sean Couturier||F||Nice one-two punch down the middle along with Tavares|
|6||Ottawa||Mika Zibanejad||F||Strong, two-way centre; adds to a nice Swedish core|
|7||Winnipeg||Ryan Strome||F||Most dynamic player left, has strong first line potential|
|8||Philadelphia||Dougie Hamilton||D||Solid all-around d-man should become a fixture in top-4|
|9||Boston||Ryan Murphy||D||Most skilled D by a mile. Mini Drew Doughty (5’11 175)|
|10||Minnesota||Nathan Beaulieu||D||Safe pick at 10 – a potential top-4 d-man|
|11||Colorado||Jonas Brodin||D||Smartest D in the draft – nice complement to ’06 #1 Erik Johnson|
|12||Carolina||Duncan Siemens||D||Nice shut-down D should fit in top-4 with current ‘Cane McBain|
|13||Calgary||Mark Scheifele||F||Skilled two-way centre – perfect on any team’s second line|
|14||Dallas||Sven Bartschi||F||Highly skilled player lacking size and speed; could be a steal at 14|
|15||New York R||Oscar Klefbom||D||Need help on D – potential pairing with fellow Swede Tim Erixon|
|16||Buffalo||Jamie Oleksiak||D||Overflowing with forward prospects, Buf takes 6’7 beast – definitely a project|
|17||Montreal||Joel Armia||F||A big man with a good skill set – think of him as a Finnish Dustin Penner|
|18||Chicago||Matthew Puempel||F||Good goal scorer – a great fit on the top-line one day with Toews+Kane|
|19||Edmonton||Mark McNeill||F||Potential second line centre with good size and toughness|
|20||Phoenix||J.T Miller||F||Good size and skating – solid second line potential|
|21||Anaheim||Connor Murphy||D||Looked great at Under 18’s – might have ranked higher if not for injury|
|22||Ottawa||Nicklas Jensen||F||Has fallen a bit in the rankings, but has good size and skill|
|23||Pittsburgh||Rocco Grimaldi||F||High end skill and speed to burn – but only 5’6|
|24||Detroit||Joe Morrow||D||Wings select a good all-around d-man as per team need|
|25||Toronto||Brandon Saad||F||More expected of this late ’92, but Burke craves power forwards of his ilk|
|26||Washington||Tyler Biggs||F||Power forward prospect – inconsistent but has shown flashes|
|27||Tampa Bay||Tomas Jurco||F||Pretty skilled forward with projectable frame|
|28||San Jose||Ty Rattie||F||Good skill, but size is a concern|
|29||Vancouver||Zach Phillips||F||Huberdeau linemate has potential second line talent|
|30||Toronto||Brett Ritchie||F||Performance at Under-18’s sneaks him into top-30. Good size, limited upside|
*New Jersey will swap picks with Colorado to nab Larsson
Since it’s impossible to know the specific preferences of the scouts informing their teams, the main way I went about making these picks is through the team’s need – usually as simple as whether they’d prefer a forward or a defenceman (all else equal). In cases where the team didn’t have an obvious need for either, I looked at the cultural make-up of the team, with the best example being Ottawa’s selection of Zibanejad, who will develop in a core group that includes fellow Swedes like Karlsson, Rundblad, and Silfverberg, all under the veteran tutelage of Daniel Alfredsson.
The next handful of blogs will remain focused on the draft, with an analysis of how the first round picks fit into each team’s core (top-6 forwards / top-4 defenceman), followed by a re-examination of last year’s draft.