Well, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. The season has ended for most of the players eligible for the Draft, while a few select guys are still fighting for trophies and titles, the overwhelming group have now settled into the Waiting Game (i.e. skills coaches, weight training, practice interviewing, etc) until the Combine.
For me, with the loss of Tim Murray I’ve had to rejigger my Mock Draft a bit on the Sabres side. I felt like I was getting a good handle on the kind of players he prioritized, but with an unknown (literally) conducting the Draft this time around, I’m just going with guys that are not only good quality players but also on the safe side. No one wants to miss on their first Draft. So I’ve erred on the side of caution with the early round picks, and got a little more into upside in the later choices.
It’s finally starting to break down into tiers for me, but as has been stated before, this Draft is a complete crap shoot. I’ve heard one draftnik suggest that the tiers are basically #1-10, then #11-40. There are so many question marks surrounding the "top echelon" players, that guys you would’ve thought inferior players have caught – or in some cases, passed by – those highly regarded prospects. This could very well be one of those drafts where the player with best career in the Draft comes out of the teens or even the 2nd round, so jumbled are the prospects in this group. It will, as it so often does, come down to development, system and team fit, and opportunities for most of these kids.
Personally, I think you’re looking at something like 1-4 (Hischier, Mittlestadt, Glass and Patrick) following by 5-10 (Heiskanen, Makar, Vilardi, Rasmussen, Pettersson, and Poehling), then 11-20 (Suzuki, Necas, Tippett, Liljegren, Kostin, Yamamoto, Vaakanainen, Andersson, Lodnia). After that…well, good luck. It’s deep in goal as far as prospects go, there is a rash of solid defenders from the 20 slot into the 50’s, and forwards…well, not a lot of good, big forwards available after the 2nd round, but a lot of skilled, speedy small guys and overagers floating around. I really don’t think too many, if any at all, will be playing in the NHL and getting a regular shift beyond their 9-game tryout next year unless that team is in dire straits. So adjust your expectations accordingly.
I think this is a solid draft for BFLO. Adds plenty of depth to the back-end, a couple high-motor, talented forwards, and a developmental goalie. If I had my dream scenario, I’d probably try to get down into the #12-15 range and try to net myself a 2018 1st or at least a 2nd and a later pick (maybe a 4th). From that spot, I’d try to grab Pettersson because his floor wouldn’t be as much a concern if you draft him outside of the Top 10. Plus you’re adding picks in what is shaping up to be a great draft next year. That’s a win-win.
#1 NEW JERSEY: This just seems like a no-brainer. The Devils have Taylor Hall, and Palmieri isn’t bad, but as far as dynamism in the forward ranks (or really, anywhere)…it’s lacking. Even their prospects outside of Blake Speers aren’t wildly creative. So obviously, you go with the most creative, dynamic offensive player when you have the first pick. He’s got great wheels, vision, can pass or score the puck, and is actually a pretty accomplished defensive forward as well. Sure, maybe he’s not an NHL center when it’s all said and done, but having a top line of Hall – Zacha – Hischier would be the best line the Devils have rolled out since the Sykora – Arnott – Elias line when they were winning Cups.
NICO HISCHIER, C/W, Halifax, QMJHL
#2 PHILADELPHIA: OK, this doesn’t necessarily fit – I think Philly needs some scoring wingers – and I was sorely tempted to go Vilardi or Tippett here, but the potential cannot be denied. And with rumors coming out of Philly that they’re considering moving Giroux (probably not true, depending on what Duchene can get), they might sx a high-end centerman. And this kid is that. Big, strong, can play around the net or on the perimeter, pass or shoot, can play well in transition but I think is better out of sets or off the cycle. And with him and Couturier they are largely set at C. Of course, this is a huge risk because of his disturbingly frequent injuries..and reports of his being a bit of a prima donna…but if he can somehow stay healthy and regain his form from last year…the Flyer stole a stud.
NOLAN PATRICK, C, Brandon, WHL
#3 DALLAS: Like Philly, I think Dallas needs help up front. I don’t get all this ‘needs help on defense’. They’ve got Lindell, Honka, Johns…plus guys like Klingberg are just entering their prime. Meanwhile, Patrick Sharp is leaving, Spezza isn’t getting any younger, they’ll probably lose a forward in the Expanson Draft…so let’s look up front. Obviously, having Benn and Seguin able to play the middle doesn’t hurt. But adding another high-end centerman would be a nice addition to a fairly deep mix of wing prospects: Hintz, Gurianov, maybe a new coach even brings back Valeri Nicushkin from the KHL. Let’s find someone to get them the puck.
GABRIEL VILARDI, C, Windsor, OHL
#4 COLORADO: Dropping in the Draft might actually work in the Avs favor. They desperately need help on defense. Most of the kids they’ve taken on the back-end have not worked out, and now word out of Denver is that Hobey Baker Award-winner Will Butcher – another D – might not sign with Colorado. Things are desperate along that blue line. Had they finished in the Top 2 they would have felt a lot of pressure to subscribe to one of the Top 2. Now, they can go with the guy they need the most. A solid, sure-fire defender with a high floor, and a fairly high ceiling.
MIRO HEISKANEN, LHD, HIFK, Finland
#5 VANCOUVER: The Canucks are a wild card here. They could go defense and choose Makar, but their GM has already said he’s looking for a playmaking center. They have Bo Horvat as one of their future top 2 centers…but after that, it’s a bit barren. And with the Sedins getting older and forwards like Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette coming up, they could use another skilled guy in the middle to get them the puck.
CODY GLASS, C, Portland, WHL
#6 VEGAS: I imagine the Knights go with whomever, regardless of position, is at the top of their Board. So I’ll give them who is at the top of my Board. Which creates a lot of problems for BFLO. So let’s hope they go with Tippett, or Tolvanen, or Rasmussen here.
CASEY MITTLESTADT, C/W, Green Bay, USHL
#7 ARIZONA: The Yotes have a deep pool of young forwards and prospects already: Domi, Duclair, Perlini, Keller, Strome, Dvorak, etc. Honestly, I could see them trade out of this pick if there is a market for it to grab an NHL defenseman. But let’s stick with the pick for now. They have OEL, but he had a down year, and Chychrun, who surprised…but after that there isn’t a lot left. Murphy is solid but replaceable and Goligoski is aging rapidly. Time to reload on the back-end.
CALE MAKAR, RHD, Brooks, AJHL
#8 BFLO: This is essentially the worst-case scenario IMO. The best forwards are off the board, and the two best D-men. The ideal play to me would be to trade down, but I don’t know if there will be a market there…I’d like for them to add a pick in ’18 (a 1st would be a dream) and slide into the middle-teens for someone who wants to come up for one of the goal scorers or Liljegren…maybe the Bruins or Habs…but let’s assume no one wants to move up. BFLO needs to make a hard decision. Do you think you can coach Liljegren up enough to minimize the bonehead turnovers he tends to make and take advantage of his superior physical skills? Do you take one of the pure goal scorers (Tippett or Tolvanen) whose skillsets you don’t really have in your prospect group, knowing their limitations? Do you reach for a defender (Valimaki, Vaakanainen, Hague)? Or take a risk on a guy who’s a real solid player that might not be the right fit (Rasmussen, Vesalainen, Kostin, Necas)? I’m going to skip all that and go a little bit off the Board here.
NICK SUZUKI, C/RW, Owen Sound, OHL
#9 DETROIT: The Wings have a couple of needs, but the most pressing is probably landing some young defenders who can play. Their D is aging, and not gracefully, while a number of the guys they were counting on a couple years ago – Marchenko, Oulette and Sproul – are not really panning out as legit NHL contributors. They need a potential high-end defender, one who could materialize into a top pair guy. Sure, there are risks…but aren’t there always risks in the Draft? So they take a chance on a guy who could turn out to be a top-pair defender, and has the highest ceiling (but maybe the lowest floor?) remaining on the Board.
TIMOTHY LILJEGREN, RHD, Rogle, Sweden
#10 FLORIDA: The Panthers suffered with injuries up front this year – Barkov, Huberdeau, only Vinnie Trocheck and Jagr really remained healthy from the guys that drive offense. And if Jagr is indeed going to be on the outs in FLA as the rumor goes, they need some juice in the Top 6 who can score some goals and generate shots. Already owning some young depth on D, they should be comfortable going with the best pure goal scorer in the Draft.
OWEN TIPPETT, RW, Mississauga, OHL
#11 LA KINGS: Things are changing in the City of Angels. The GM and Coach are out, and quite possibly the AGM is packing his own bags. There hasn’t been real regime change – former AGM Rob Blake has taken over the GM duties, and former Asst HC John Stevens takes the coaching reins. So you have to imagine some things will remain the same. Like the focus on size and puck possession. Now LA needs everything when it comes to prospects, having dealt away a ton over the past few years…but they are best situated on the defensive side. Calling all forwards! Centers are almost always more valuable than wingers, and there is one center who has size and puck possession in spades, but also can skate very well and score on the PP.
MIKE RASMUSSEN, C, Tri-City, WHL
#12 CAROLINA: We all by now know that the Canes have plenty of depth on the back-end. And it is too early to select a goalie. So like LA the selection prior, Carolina needs forwards…and particularly, centermen. Now there is a lot of buzz in the scouting community that this kid doesn’t have elite skill, that his creativity is limited. I don’t agree. While he wasn’t consistently eye-popping, he seemed to always make plays at crucial times in the U-18s, while being the only kid who didn’t play with the Development Team/U-18 team all year. He was one of, if not the youngest, player in NCAA D1 hockey for St. Cloud State. And he didn’t fare all that badly. I think the Canes could be getting a good one here...at worst, he’s a future replacement for Jordan Staal at 3C.
RYAN POEHLING, C, St. Cloud State, NCAA
#13 WINNIPEG: Like ARZ, another team with a wealth of young forwards although theirs are more advanced (Schieifle, Laine, Ehlers) and were supposed to have a great back-end. That hasn’t come together. Big Buff has been solid, but he and Enstrom are aging, Trouba reportedly doesn’t want to be there, and Myers has had all kinds of health/personal issues since he arrived. They especially could use a left-shot to pair with Trouba or Myers. Given the Jets are not known as risk-takers, this pick seems right in their wheelhouse. They’re going to play it safe with a guy who’s as steady as they come.
URHO VAAKANAINEN, LHD, JYP, Finland
#14 TAMPA BAY: This is a tough one, because the Bolts look to be in a cap crunch that – this time, at least – will require them to move some forwards out unless Stammer remains injured. Maybe Palat, Tyler Johnson, maybe Drouin. And those players can be moved out for talent on the back-end, which is what Tampa needs. Their supporting D are aging quickly, and had a hard time keeping up last year. And they have some solid prospects in the pipeline, but no one that makes you think ‘Top 4 lock’. This was another spot I thought about moving up for Liljegren, but assuming they move one of the aforementioned guys (or two) out, I’ll bet they re-upholster their blue line via trade which should give them time to develop some guys. Instead grab a guy with indisputable hockey smarts, a clever playmaker who, if developed properly, can backfill the Top 9 as some of those forwards start to age out. He’s a risk, but might be a good one.
ELIAS PETTERSSON, C/W, Timra, Sweden
#15 NY ISLANDERS: At risk of losing a D-Man in the Expansion Draft, the Isles are homeless and staring at John Tavares’ last year of his contract. I could easily see this pick being moved for some more immediate help. But let’s say they keep the pick. Garth Snow has a handful of real good young forwards either coming up or cracking the NHL line-up (Barzal, Dal Colle, Ho-Sang, Beauvillier) but they could stand to reload on the back-end. And the Isles aren’t shy about taking risks (trading up for Ho-Sang, anyone?) in the Draft either. But this one isn’t a risk. He’s as solid as they come, strong, mature and offensive minded. Should fit in nicely with their group.
JUUSO VALIMAKI, LHD, Tri-City, WHL
#16 CALGARY: The Flames might have gotten themselves a steal at #16. In need of some secondary scoring and without a real high-end forward prospect (outside of Matt Tkachuk), being able to snag a guy who has already played a year plus against men and more than held his own is a luxury. They’ve got a pile of young defense prospects, although most of them are risky, but with Brodie and Hamilton both being young, they aren’t in dire need of a D-Man. So they get a guy who can play center, or wing, playing a smart two-way game with enough skill to play Top 6 minutes, and has the kind of compete level that Burkie loves. A winner.
LIAS ANDERSSON, C, HV71, Sweden
#17 TORONTO: This is a spot where I can see the Leafs moving up, maybe to grab Liljegren, as they need a right-shot to pair with their top D. But we’ve been staying away from trades, so let’s say the Leafs stick here. There’s a guy who might be a reach, but it just makes too much sense to me not to slot him in this spot. Mark Hunter, Toronto’s AGM, is an OHL guy and scouts the OHL. Kyle Dubas was the GM for Sault Saint Marie. And supposedly they love fancy stats. Well, one guy plays in the OHL, was drafted by Dubas in the Soo, and has very good fancy stats relative to his peers in this draft class. And look at that – he’s a right shot, which is just what they’re looking for!
CONOR TIMMINS, RHD, Sault St Marie, OHL
#18 BOSTON: The Bruins have a nice group of prospects, including the sublime Charlie McAvoy (you guys laughed at me last year!). But most of those guys are not big scorers, and the ones they have are aging and have a lot of wear on those tires (except for Marchand). One of the two pure goal scorers in this Draft happens to still be on the board, and will be playing college hockey in Boston so he’ll be easy to keep tabs on (again, see McAvoy). He’s on the smaller side, but has a whole quiver of shots in his arsenal, has a lightning quick release, and would fit nicely in with some of the playmakers Boston has coming up.
EELI TOLVANEN, LW, Sioux City, USHL
#19 SAN JOSE: With a reputation of being patient and drafting well in the later rounds (guys like Lebanc, Karlsson, Donskoi, etc), San Jose smartly hung on to their #1 and as the roster continues to age, going Best Player Available works to their advantage as they get a guy who has Top 10, maybe Top 5 ability if not production this year. Given their reputation as being patient developers of talent, they should be able to get the most out of a pick with supreme physical skills and plenty of confidence to do what he wants on the ice.
KLIM KOSTIN, RW, Dynamo Moskova, Russia
#20 MONTREAL: Without a doubt the Habs are having a crisis of centermen. With a number of talented wingers (Patches, Lekhonen, Gallagher, etc) but a lack of strong, playmaking centers, the Habs need to add one to their mix. Galchenyuk has once again fallen into the doghouse, they moved David Desharnais, and Tomas Plekanec is getting older and could be Expansion fodder. They need some help. And a centerman who has slid down the Board has fallen into their laps. He’s creative, fast, and a playmaker plus he’s been playing against men for the last year so his NHL readiness is probably a bit closer that most of the other prospects in this range.
MARTIN NECAS, C, Brno, Czech Republic
#21 ARIZONA/MIN: Acquired in the trade for Martin Hanzal, this ‘extra’ pick for the Yotes essentially gives them the ability to be the first to dip into the very deep goaltender pool in this Draft. Mike Smith continues to age, and Louis Domingue being the answer is murky at best right now. They don’t have a bunch of young tenders in the system either, so it’s a good time to invest in this critical position. And although goalies are voodoo, as we all know, they’ve already used a high 1st round pick which gives them coverage to take a chance on the best goalie in the Draft.
JAKE OETTINGER, G, Boston University, NCAA
#22 COLUMBUS: The Jackets are very deep when it comes to young players. Guys like Werenski, Jones, Wennberg and Bjorkstrand are all current or future cornerstones for the organization. And they have more assets coming up (DuBois, Carlsson, etc). So they can take whoever is highest on their board. And they have had a lot of luck with undersized players (Atkinson comes to mind). So they grab a small defenseman who has a ton of skill and can drive offense from the back end. They hope he’ll grow a couple inches over the next 2-3 years, which isn’t out of the question given his late birthday.
ERIK BRANNSTROM, LHD, HV71, Sweden
#23 CHICAGO: The Hawks had a disappointing finish to the season, but as their roster ages, they need an infusion of talent to supplement Toews and Kane. And here, they benefit from a guy with a ton of potential falling into their lap. They manage to add a forward who has a solid 2-way game, has great size (6’4 210#) and spent the last year playing in the Swedish Elite league and Liiga against men, so he will be NHL-ready sooner…which is really something that Chicago would find beneficial. Not to mention the leading scorer at the U-18s. So this pick works out quite well as a Hossa replacement.
KRISTIAN VESALAINEN, RW, HV71, Finland
#24 ST LOUIS: With two 1sts in this Draft, the Blues have the good fortune to take a risk on a player with a ton of ability but iffy effort levels. Having picked up this pick in the Shatterkirk trade, the Blues forwards are getting older – Steen, Sobotka, Stastny, even Berglund – or banged up (Fabbri). Now’s the time to take a chance on a huge (6’6), skilled forward who is a solid skater with excellent hands and some real creativity when the mood strikes him. These kind of talents don’t come along every day, and with another pick two slots down, it’s worth a shot.
NIKITA POPAGUYEV, RW, Prince George, WHL
#25 NY RANGERS: On Broadway, the Rangers have parlayed speedy, small forwards with skill into a very potent offense that helps make up for a glacially slow defense. Zuccarello, Grabner, Fast, and Stepan all fit that mold. And here they go again, with a guy who has loads of offensive talent – probably Top 10 if not Top 5 caliber – but is generously considered ‘small’ (5’8 160#). Might be a future replacement for Zook, or maybe a complement to him, but the Rangers are looking to add young talent. It doesn’t get more talented than this kid.
KAILER YAMAMOTO, RW, Spokane, WHL
#26 ANAHEIM: This pick might be off the board a bit, but the Ducks love their big forwards. And this kid fits that mold, at 6’4 180#, but is very mobile and an excellent skater for his size. With Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler getting older, someone will have to replace those guys. Nick Ritchie is probably one, but this kid would be a great get here. And as one of, if not the, best forward for Team Canada at the U-18s and the Hlinka last summer, he’s got the chops.
MACKENZIE ENTWISTLE, C/W, Hamilton, OHL
#27 ST LOUIS/WAS: After taking a big forward at #24, the Blues are back again at #27. This time they look to the back end. But they have some admirable depth as far as blue-line prospects. One area they could help themselves in is between the pipes. ARZ has already jumped into that pool, and the goaltenders in this Draft are pretty strong as a group. So if the Blues – who have a large number of picks in this Draft – don’t have 100% trust in Jake Allen despite his superb playoff showing, this is the pick to make.
KEITH PETRUZELLI, G, Muskegon, USHL
#28 OTTAWA: The Sens really don’t seem to have a drafting pattern, they almost always seem to go BPA (except they never seem to draft Russians). But other than Thomas Chabot, they don’t seem to have much coming up on the back-end. So they add a guy who has a ton of defensive smarts, an NHL pedigree, and excellent size. And when you’re playing in that shut-down system like Ottawa runs, you don’t need to have elite speed…but great defensive instincts sure help.
CAL FOOTE, RHD, Kelowna, WHL
#29 NASHVILLE: We all know Nashvegas is heaven for defensemen. And they have some good ones coming up through the system. So drafting for the back-end doesn’t seem necessary. But they always can use scoring forwards with good size. Enter Lind (6’1 195#). He’s a pure playmaker from the wing, has sniper’s shot particularly off the one-timer, but also is a very good passer and has a knack for getting to the front of the net. All stuff that the Preds could use, as they have a few scoring forwards, and a few big forwards, but lack bigger forwards who can score.
KOLE LIND, LW, Kelowna, WHL
#30 EDMONTON: The McDavid Effect is loose in Alberta. Suddenly guys like Patrick Maroon look like Cam Neely. And they march onward to the Cup Finals! But there are still cracks in the façade. Eberle and RNH might on the way out. They don’t have much in the way of high-level talent in the pipeline beyond D-Man Ethan Bear. So an infusion at nearly any position – including goal – would be valuable. The Oil add a young centerman who has some versatility and a good 2-way game, but when it’s all said and done should be a replacement for Nugent-Hopkins as a #2C.
ROBBIE THOMAS, C, London, OHL
#31 PITTSBURGH: After winning the Cup again, the Pens thoughts turn to roster and cap management. And as you look at their prospects, they have a ton of talented young forwards – Guentzel, Sprong, Sheary to name a few. But they are lacking D-Men, and with Letang’s situation always up in the air, it might benefit them to grab someone they can be patient with since they’ve shown an ability to take guys off the scrap heap (Daley, Cole, Schultz) and turn them into players. Not saying this pick is doing that, but the guy they select has a world of natural ability but has had trouble performing up to expectations. They might be able to get it out of him.
MAX GILDON, LHD, US NTDP, USHL
#32 COL: Josh Brook, RHD, Moose Jaw, WHL
#33 VAN: Nicolas Hague, LHD, Mississauga, OHL
#34 LVG: Isaac Ratcliffe, RW, Guelph, OHL
#35 ARZ: Jonah Gadjovich, RW, Owen Sound, OHL
#36 NJ: Shane Bowers, C, Chicago, USHL
#37 BFLO: David Farrance, LHD, US NTDP, USHL:
#38 DET: Alexei Lipanov, C, Balaishikha, RUS
#39 DAL: Maksim Zhukov, G, Green Bay, USHL
#40 FLA: Henri Jokiharju, RHD, Portland, WHL
#41 LAK: Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston, OHL
#42 CAR: Marcus Davidsson, C, Djurgartens, SWE
#43 WIN: Ostap Safin, LW, Sparta Praha, CZE
#44 PHI: Joni Ikonen, C, Frolunda, SWE
#45 TB: Dimitri Samorukov, LHD, Guelph, OHL
#46 NYI: Ivan Lodnia, C/W, Erie, OHL
#47 OTT/CAL: Ukko-Pekka Luokkanen, G, HPK, FIN
#48 ANA/TOR: Alex Formenton, LW, London, OHL
#49 NJ/BOS: Cale Fleury, RHD, Kootenay, WHL
#50 TOR/SJ: Stuart Skinner, G, Lethbridge, WHL
#51 MTL: PO Joseph, LHD, Charlottetown, QMJHL
#52 BFLO/MIN: Luke Martin, RHD, Michigan, NCAA
#53 VAN/CBJ: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane, WHL
#54 CHI: Nate Knoepke, LHD, US NTDP, USHL
#55 STL: Filip Chytil, RW, Zlin, CZE
#56 CAR/NYR: Grant Mismash, C, US NTDP, USHL
#57 DAL/ANA: Robin Salo, LHD, Sport, FIN
#58 MTL/WAS: Sasha Chmelevski, C/W, Ottawa, OHL
#59 TOR/OTT: Aleksi Heponiemi, C, Swift Current, WHL
#60 NAS: Matt Strome, RW, Hamilton, OHL
#61 BOS/EDM: Maxime Comtois, C/LW, Victoriaville, QMJHL
#62 CAR/PIT: Ian Scott, G, Prince Albert, WHL
#63 NJ/COL: Cayden Primeau, G, Lincoln, USHL
#64 VAN: Josh Norris, C, US NTDP, USHL
#65 LVG: Morgan Frost, C, Sault St Marie, OHL
#66 FLA/ARZ: Mike DiPietro, G, Windsor, OHL
#67 NJ: Adam Ruzicka, C, Sarnia, OHL
#68 BFLO: Markus Phillips, LHD, Owen Sound, OHL
#69 ARZ/DET: Antoine Morand, C, Acadie-Bathhurst, QMJHL
#70 DAL: Nick Henry, RW, Regina, WHL
#71 FLA: Stelio Mattheos, C, Brandon, WHL
#72 LAK: Jarret Tyszka, RHD, Seattle, WHL
#73 CAR: Cameron Crotty, RHD, Brockville, CCHL
#74 WIN: Nate Schnarr, C, Guelph, OHL
#75 PHI: Ian Mitchell, RHD, Spruce Grove, AJHL
#76 TB: Filip Westerlund, LHD, Frolunda, SWE
#77 NYI: Lucas Elvenes, RW, Rogle, SWE
#78 ARZ/CAL: Ben Mirageas, LHD, Bloomington, USHL
#79 DET/TOR: Kasper Kotkansalo, LHD, Sioux Falls, USHL
#80 PHI/BOS: Fabian Zetterlund, RW, Farjestad, SWE
#81 ARZ/SJ: Lane Zablocki, C, Red Deer, WHL
#82 MTL: Mark Rubinchik, LHD, Saskatoon, WHL
#83 MIN: Dylan Samberg, LHD, Hermantown, US HS
#84 CBJ: Maxime Fortier, RW, Halifax, QMJHL **
#85 CHI: Tommy Miller, RHD, US NTDP, USHL
#86 STL: Scott Reedy, C, US NTDP, USHL
#87 DET/NYR: Kirill Maximov, RW, Owen Sound, OHL
#88 ANA: Olle Eriksson Ek, G, Farjestad, SWE
#89 BFLO/WAS: Aleski Toropchenko, W, Balashikha, RUS
#90 CAR/OTT: Kevin Hancock, C/LW, Owen Sound, OHL **
#91 NAS: Eemeli Rasanen, LHD, Kingston, OHL
#92 EDM: Dayton Rasmussen, G, Tri-City, USHL
#93 PIT: Jesper Boqvist, C, Brynas, SWE
#94 COL: Jocktan Chainey, LHD, Halifax, QMJHL
#95 VAN: Dylan Coghlan, RHD, Tri-City, WHL **
#96 LVG: Igor Shyvryv, C, Magnitogorsk, RUS **
#97 MIN/ARZ: Jake Leschyshyn, LW, Regina, WHL
#98 NJ: Mason Shaw, C, Medicine Hat, WHL
#99 BFLO: Tomas Vomacka, G, Corpus Christi, NAHL
#100 DET: Stephen Dhillon, G, Niagara, OHL**
#101 DAL: Jack Studnicka, C, Oshawa, OHL
#102 NYR/FLA: Clayton Phillips, LHD, Fargo, USHL
#103 LAK: Tyler Inamoto, RHD, US NTDP, USHL
#104 CAR: Santeri Virtanen, C/RW, TPS, FIN
#105 WIN: Reilly Walsh, RHD, Chicago, USHL
#106 PHI: Noel Hoefenmayer, LHD, Ottawa, OHL
#107 PHI/TB: Ivan Chekovich, LW, Baie-Comeau, QMHL
#108 PHI/NYI: Zach Gallant, C, Peterborough, OHL
#109 CAL: Tyler Steenbergen, C, Swift Current, WHL **
#110 TOR: Pavel Koltigyn, C, Drummondville, QMJHL
#111 BOS: Mario Ferraro, RHD, Des Moines, USHL
#112 VAN/SJ: Kyle Olsen, RW, Tri-City, WHL
#113 DAL/MTL: Jakub Sirota, LHD, Cedar Rapids, USHL
#114 MIN: Joey Keane, RHD, Barrie, OHL
#115 CBJ: Austin Keating, C/W, Ottawa, OHL
#116 CHI: Gustav Lindstrom, RHD, Almtuna, SWE
#117 STL: Jack Rathbone, LHD, Dexter, US HS
#118 COL/NYR: Shawn Boudrias, RW, Gatineau, QMJHL
#119 ANA: Brady Lyle, RHD, North Bay, OHL
#120 WAS: Evan Barratt, C/RW, US NTDP, USHL
#121 OTT: Patrick Hrehorcak, RW, Trinec, CZE
#122 NJ/NAS: Jake Christiansen, LHD, Everett, WHL
#123 EDM: Daniel Bukac, RHD, Brandon, WHL
#124 TOR/PIT: Phil Kemp, RHD, US NTDP, USHL
#125 COL: Ivan Prosvetov, G, Minnesota, NAHL
#126 EDM/VAN: Samuel Bucek, LW, Shawinigan, QMJHL
#127 LVG: Macauley Carson, LW, Sudbury, OHL
#128 ARZ: Jacob Tortora, RW, US NTDP, USHL
#129 NJ: D’Artagnan Joly, RW, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL
#130 STL/BFLO: Jonas Rondbjerg, RW, Vaxjo, SWE
#131 DET: Mike Pastujov, RW, US NTDP, USHL
#132 DAL: Linus Nyman, C, Kingston, OHL
#133 FLA: Toby Geisser, LHD, Zug, SWISS
#134 LAK: Daniil Tarasov, G, Tolfar UFA, RUS
#135 CHI/CAR: Kiril Slepets, RW, Loko Yaroslavl, RUS
#136 WIN: Filip Sveningsson, LW, HV71, SWE
#137 PHI: Antoine Crete-Belzile, LHD, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL
#138 LAK/TB: Hayden Davis, LHD, Niagara, OHL
#139 NYI: Georgi Ivanov, C, Loko Yaroslavl, RUS
#140 CAL: Jordan Hollet, G, Regina, WHL
#141 TOR: Kalle Makintec, C, Frolunda, SWE
#142 CAR/BOS: Noah Cates, W, Stillwater, US HS
#143 SJ: Alexander Texier, C, Grenoble, FRA
#144 MTL: Dylan Ferguson, G, Kamloops, WHL
#145 MIN: Simon Ronning, G, Modo, SWE
#146 CBJ: Jakub Galvas, RHD, Olomuoc, CZE
#147 CHI: Patrick Khodorenko, C, Michigan St, NCAA
#148 STL: Jiri Patera, G, Ceske, CZE
#149 NYR: Ivan Korosenkov, RW, Victoriaville, QMJHL **
#150 ANA: Emil Bemstrom, C, Leksands, SWE
#151 WAS: Sebastian Walfridsson, LHD, Modo, SWE
#152 PIT/OTT: Gera Poddubnyi, C, Erie, OHL
#153 NAS: Artyom Minulin, RHD, Swift Current, WHL
#154 EDM: Mikey Anderson, LHD, Waterloo, USHL
#155 PIT: AJ Pratt, RW, Red Deer, WHL
#156 COL: Josh Paterson, C, Saskatoon, WHL
#157 NYR/VAN: Martin Bodak, RHD, Tappara, FIN
#158 LVG: Scooter Brickley, RHD, Des Moines, USHL
#159 SJ/ARZ: Kristians Rubins, LHD, Medicine Hat, WHL **
#160 NJ: Jacob Peterson, C, Frolunda, SWE
#161 BFLO: Aarne Talvitie, C, Espoo Blues, FIN
#162 DET: Arnaud Durandeau, RW, Halifax, QMJHL
#163 DAL: Maxim Sushko, RW, Owen Sound, OHL
#164 DET/FLA: Jacob Paquette, LHD, Kingston, OHL
#165 LAK: Dalimil Mikyska, LHD, Horacka Slavia, CZE
#166 CAR: Adam Thilander, RHD, North Bay, OHL
#167 WIN: Scott Walford, LHD, Victoria, WHL
#168 PHI: Kaden Fulcher, G, Hamilton, OHL
#169 TB: Denis Mihkinin, RW, Rimouski, QMJHL
#170 CHI/NYI: Adam Ahman, G, HV71, SWE
#171 CAL: Zach Solow, C, Dubuque, USHL **
#172 TOR: Greg Meireles, C, Kitchener, OHL
#173 BOS: Otto Latvala, RHD, HPK, FIN
#174 SJ: Leon Gawanke, RHD, Cape Breton, QMHL
#175 MTL: Yegor Zaitsev, LHD, Dynamo Moskva, RUS **
#176 MIN: Paul Washe, C, Fargo, USHL
#177 CBJ: Alex Limoges, C, Penn St, NCAA **
#178 CHI: Isaac Johnson, C, Des Moines, USHL
#179 STL: Jesse Bjugstad, LHD, Stillwater, US HS
#180 NYR: Matt Quercia, LW, Sioux Falls, USHL
#181 ANA: Nick Swaney, C, Waterloo, USHL **
#182 WAS: Alexander Polunin, LW, Lokomotiv, RUS **
#183 OTT: Ryan Peckford, C, Victoria, WHL
#184 NJ/NAS: Oliver Castleman, RW, Niagara, OHL
#185 EDM: Connor McDonald, RHD, Edmonton, WHL
#186 PIT: Alex D’Orio, G, Saint John, QMJHL
#187 COL: Max Martin, LHD, Prince Albert, WHL
#188 VAN: Jordy Bellerive, C, Lethbridge, WHL
#189 LVG: Jordan Kawaguchi, C, Chilliwack, BCHL **
#190 ARZ: Matthew Brassard, RHD, Oshawa, OHL **
#191 PHI/NJ: Bobby Dow, RW, Kemptville, CCHL
#192 BFLO: Jack St Ivany, RHD, Sioux Falls, USHL
#193 DET: Jesse Koskenskorva, C, Karpat, FIN
#194 DAL: David Kvasnicka, LHD, Plzen, CZE
#195 BOS/FLA: Jonathan Smart, LHD, Regina, WHL
#196 TB/LAK: Reagan O’Grady, RHD, Sudbury, OHL
#197 CAR: Marian Studenic, LW, Hamilton, OHL
#198 WIN: Emil Oksanen, LW, Espoo Blues, FIN
#199 PHI: Pavel Voronkov, C, Yekaterinaberg, RUS
#200 TB: Jeremy Swayman, G, Sioux Falls, USHL
#201 NYI: Simon Johanssen, RHD, Djurgartens, SWE
#202 CAL: Johnny Kovacevic, RHD, Merrimack, NCAA **
#203 TOR: Nick Leivermann, RHD, Eden Prairie, US HS **
#204 BOS: Morgan Barron, LW, St. Andrews, CAHS
#205 SJ: Joel Teasdale, C/RW, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL
#206 WIN/MTL: Ben Jones, C, Niagara, OHL
#207 MIN: Brannon MacManus, RW, Chicago, USHL
#208 CBJ: William Lindgren, LHD, Orebro, SWE
#209 SJ/CHI: Drake Rymsha, C, Sarnia, OHL **
#210 STL: Mick Messner, C/W, Madison, USHL
#211 NYR: Corson Green, LHD, Chicago, USHL
#212 CHI/ANA: Daniil Vertiy, LW, North Bay, OHL
#213 WAS: Dereck Baribeau, G, Quebec, QMJHL
#214 SJ/OTT: Radim Salda, LHD, Hradec Kralove, CZE
#215 NAS: Jakub Lacka, LW, Trinec, CZE
#216 EDM: Emil Westerlund, LW, Linkoping, SWE **
#217 PIT: Griffin Mendel, LHD, Penticton, BCHL
#8: Nick Suzuki, C/RW, Owen Sound, OHL: Plain and simply, this is a player that Sabre fans will embrace instantly. The safest (i.e. highest floor) pick of the players on the board, Suzuki is a high-octane, high-IQ player whose motor never seems to slow, much less stop. A terror on the forecheck, he’s got an amazing sense of knowing where to go with the puck before he gets it, and reacting immediately to do so. Great ability to read the play on both ends. The puck ‘follows’ him. Frenzied backchecker, he’s a stocky 5’11, and with a very late birthday, there is possibility for more growth – both physically, and in his game. Not that he needs a lot of help. Putting up 96 P in 65 games suggests you’ve done pretty well for yourself. Doesn’t have a great shot, but is a dynamite stickhandler who doesn’t waste a lot of movement or dangle more than necessary to achieve his primary objective – moving the puck toward the opposing net for a scoring chance. Wins a lot of board battles, heavy on the puck and on his stick, has no fear as to where he needs to go to create a chance or find a loose puck, and is constantly in motion. Not an elite skater, he’s not a poor skater by any means. Particularly good agility and edges, although doesn’t have a ton of explosion or straight-line speed. Sometimes I feel like his head is a step ahead of his body, and he ‘stutters’ with the puck on his stick, but that might be something that gets resolved with maturity. Doesn’t dazzle, but gets the job done every night. Reminds me of former Sabre great Chris Drury’s game. He’d be a really nice player to put on Jack Eichel’s wing.
#38: David Farrance, LHD, US NTDP, USHL: The run on defensemen begins here. An explosive skater who is extremely nimble and agile on his skates, Farrance is somewhat undersized (5’11 190#) but fairly sturdy, puck-moving defenseman. Didn’t put up dazzling numbers (89 games, 53 points) as the top offensive threat among the D-corps for the US Development team, so its hard to get a great read on his offensive upside, but was the top point producer from the back-end. Very clever gaining the O-Zone with possession, has a knack for picking the right spots to pinch or join a rush, or hanging back and protecting his own zone. Uses those explosive wheels smartly to back off defenders and create space to make a play. Can lead the rush and makes the right plays in transition. Walks the line with tremendous skill, hands soft enough to handle tough cross-ice passes or keep pucks in the zone. Runs a very efficient power play. Heavy, hard shot from the point gets through more often than not. Not a particularly physical player, although he usually keeps good gaps, will need to engage more if he’s going to get minutes at Boston University where he’ll be a freshman next year (that should make Eichel happy). Another later birthday, he’s got room to develop.
#54: Luke Martin, RHD, Michigan, NCAA: Big, established defender continues the run on the back-end. Unlike the previous two picks, Martin is an early birth date and will be pro-ready sooner. He played in the World Juniors 2 years ago as an under-ager and acquitted himself well. A steady, no-frills player with good size (6’3 205#) and a strong skater whose strides eats up tons of ice. Excellent penalty killer who can slide into a 2nd PP unit. Really smart, diagnoses the play very well and beats opponents to spots or to pucks especially in the D-zone. Excellent stick, deflects a lot of passes and gets sticks on pucks. Very poised when facing a forecheck, he seems by nature calm, whether exiting the zone or defending transition. Rarely leaves his man early. Turns the puck up ice quickly, but will hardly ever lead the rush or make a dynamic play with the puck. Could use a bit more of an edge, especially along the boards. Game reminds me of Brian Dumoulin of the Pens, but with the potential for more.
#68: Markus Phillips, LHD, Owen Sound, OHL: Not someone I would choose were Tim Murray still running the show, this kid is all business. Only 6’0 but a thick 205#, he has excellent physical abilities – performed extremely well in the various tests leading up to the Top Prospects game, including finishing in the top 3 in a handful of skating tests, as well as in the top 3 in one of the strength testings. This carries over to his on-ice play. Likes to play a physical game, will bang and win puck battles along the wall or down low with relish. Extremely strong, he pins bigger players to let support find loose pucks, and is a bear in front boxing out forwards or tying them up. Not a big hitter, but can lay you out if the situation warrants. Superb balance. Really strong on his skates. Great skater, especially in reverse, can pivot quickly and follow the play to beat opponents to the puck. Quick decision-maker, very smart, gets the puck out of trouble and to open, exiting forwards on-time. Great defensive instincts. Rarely gets lost in his own zone. Extremely difficult to beat one-on-one, especially in transition. Has some offense, and may be more upside there, but I suspect he’ll be more of a shut-down type long-term. Still, he put up 43P in 66 games. Wore the C for last year’s U-18 team, wears a letter at Owen Sound, and has some leadership capability. See some Jake McCabe in his game.
#89: Alexei Toropchenko, LW, Balashikha, RUS: A bit of a risk, but the raw tools cannot be ignored. Great size (6’3 200#), has very good hands and extremely dangerous with the puck on his stick. Motor constantly running, he always looks like he’s just been unleashed on a possession change and he explodes out of the blocks in transition to chase down pucks. Flies up the ice, excellent skater, seems faster when he’s got the puck. Whole array of head and shoulder fakes keeps the goalie and defenders guessing. Soft hands, can distribute the puck equally well on the forehand or backhand, and can receive bouncing pucks without breaking stride. Not as good in a set, but still has the creativity and dangles to protect the puck while a play develops. Able to play either wing. With a birthday on the later side, I think he’s a bit of a late bloomer with a lot of raw ability. Put up a respectable 31P in 45 games, including 19 goals. Looked really sharp in the U-18s, generating tons of chances. Particularly against the gold-medal winning US team. Will need some work on the defensive end, particularly when it comes to board battles and maintaining structure. That said, he’s not a bad defensive player.
#99: Tomas Vomacka, G, Corpus Christi, NAHL: A bit of a sleeper here, a Czech goaltender with good size (6’3 175#) who had a dynamite first year in N America. Was the North American Hockey League goaltender of the year after putting up a 2.43 GAA and .923 Sv%, and then dazzled in the playoffs with a 1.43 GAA and a .951 Sv%. Won a Gold Medal with the Czechs at the Hlinka last summer, and has committed to a rising Univ of Connecticut program next year. A later birthday, he also was the winner in the NAHL Top Prospects game in OT (against the US Development team). Athletic, particularly quick from side-to-side, follows the play very well. An insurance policy if Cal Petersen decides to sign, but also a developmental goalie who can take 4-5 years to develop while the Sabres straighten out the Lehner/Ullmark/Petersen situation.
#161: Aarne Talvitie, C, Espoo Blues, FIN: A guy who made an impression on me at the recent U-18s for Team Finland, he’s a gritty, ferocious competitor who could make a real living as a defensive forward. Not big (5’11, 200#) but stocky, he battles hard along the way and seems to always get the loose pucks. Likes to bang, not afraid to mix it up or agitate opponents. Very defensively responsible, explosive skater with excellent straight-line speed and good burst. Offensive game has taken a leap forward in the 2nd half of the year, where he went PPG and then did the same for his U-20 League team in the playoffs. Captained the Finns U-18 Silver Medal-winning team and broke out further there, scoring 7P in 7 games. Committed to Penn State, so that connection exists to the Pegulas, however tenuous.
#192: Jack St. Ivany, RHD, Sioux Falls, USHL: Raw but intriguing defender coming out of So Cal. Excellent size (6’2 200#) for a late birthday, terrific mobility and lateral movement. Lot of physical tools. Hasn’t put up much in the way of offense (10P in 52 games), but his club was one of the worst in the USHL so he didn’t get a lot of help. Off to Yale next year, so he’ll have time to develop his game.