It’s that time ladies and gentlemen. We are looking down the barrel of a shotgun named playoffless for a tenth straight season and unless the return of Connor McDavid, Oscar Klefbom, and Brandon Davidson can propel this team past the likes of a surging Anaheim Ducks, the ever-present Arizona Coyotes, or the unpredictable Vancouver Canucks, we’re starting at a top 5 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft… Again.
So it behooves me to introduce you to some of the prospects that could be available in the form of a mock draft. Now, I had my amazing prospects writer, Corey Mitchell (@corn_cwm), help me out a bit here by doing up a mock of his own to which I will comment on each of his picks.
From here I’ll turn it over to Corey.
I used Craig Button’s most recent draft rankings to conduct my draft. I’ve included the player’s current team, as well as Button’s draft ranking. My selections, with standings as of the All-Star break, are as follows. Note: this does not take into account any future trades, or the draft lottery itself.
1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Auston Matthews, Zurich ZSC, Swiss A (1)
CM – Matthews is the consensus number one pick in all the draft rankings I’ve seen. This is a no brainer.
BLH – I agree. Ryan Johansen is gone and they need a true no.1 franchise centerman. Matthews is their man.
2. Buffalo Sabres – Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, SM-liiga (2)
CM – Large right-winger, currently the overwhelming favorite to go number 2 in the draft, despite only 18 points in 38 games.
BLH – I wonder if the Sabres go with Puljujarvi’s sharp shooting teammate Patrik Laine here. Eichel’s the setup man with Laine sniping… Either way the Sabres need some scoring from the wing and they can definitely pick that up at this year’s draft.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs – Matthew Tkachuk, London, OHL (4)
CM – This is where I go a bit off the board, only because of the chemistry Tkachuk has with Leafs prospect Mitch Marner.
BLH – I like Tkachuk here too but not because of his chemistry w/ Marner but because of the Mark Hunter/London Knights connection. I’m torn here though, what about Toronto’s mediocre depth on defense or would they take Jesse Puljujarvi due to his exquisite puck possession skills. We know Kyle Dubas is an analytics monster, how heavy will his opinion weigh on the final say and what about William Nylander’s brother, Alex, who we’ve heard could be better than William?
4. Edmonton Oilers – Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia, OHL (7)
CM – For the Oilers, it’s about drafting for need, not best available. A large blue liner to help fill the lack of depth they continue to have.
BLH – I love Chychrun here. He’s a helluva skater, he can quarterback the powerplay, he’s got mad poise, and he’s drawn comparisons to Rob Blake. If Chychrun is gone at this point and Matthew Tkachuk is available, lock it in. Tkachuk will be an Oiler. Edmonton needs to add some character and Tkachuk has it in spades. Also, I’m not a fan of Laine’s history of mental lapses and injury history.
5. Winnipeg Jets – Patrick Laine, Tappara, SM-liiga (3)
CM – The Jets would be ecstatic to see this large body forward still be available to them at number 5.
BLH – I dig this pick for the Jets too. His countryman Jesse Puljujarvi has drawn comparisons to former Jet, Teemu Selanne, but I see Laine becoming a great scorer alongside Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers someday. I’ve heard him compared to Stamkos in regards to his scoring ability.
6. Calgary Flames – Alexander Nylander, Mississauga, OHL (5)
CM – The Flames take the best player available to the at number 6, an offensive minded forward to fill the ranks with their young core.
BLH – I don’t see the Flames going with Nylander here. They’ve got Bennett and Monahan to cover the bases for the time being and Nylander doesn’t seem like a Burke/Treliving kinda guy. I could see his linemate in Mississauga, the lightning fast Michael McLeod going here or perhaps Boston University defenceman Charlie McAvoy. Burkie loves a good American boy and McAvoy did very well in the Ryan Suter role at this year’s World Juniors.
7. Anaheim Ducks – Olli Juolevi, London, OHL (6)
CM – The top ranked defence man at the moment, the Ducks would be more than happy to add him to a system that could be lacking in top blue liners soon.
BLH – Here is a Ducks team that has Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Brandon Montour, Shea Theodore, Jacob Larsson, Cam Fowler… There’s no shortage of great young dmen there. They’re looking to add some top six scorers and I say they go after Alexander Nylander here or Julien Gauthier. It’s either skills to thrill (Nylander) or Mac truck power (Gauthier). Either way, they’d be adding a major threat to their offense.
8. Philadelphia Flyers – Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton, QMJHL (10)
CM – The Flyers take Dubois two spots higher to add some youth, size, and offense to their forward prospects depth chart.
BLH – PLD wowed at the top prospects game and I can’t help but like him at this spot too. The Flyers are building a nice looking team here with the likes of Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Konecny coming in. Dubois fits right in here.
9. Arizona Coyotes – Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor, OHL (9)
CM – Taken right were Button feels he should be to help add depth to the blue line.
BLH – The Coyotes are so boring so it makes perfect sense that they’d grab the least of the flashy defencemen here. Warren Rychel compared him to a former teammate of his, Alexei Gusarov, in that he’s Captain Cool out there and nothing fazes him.
10. Carolina Hurricanes – Tyson Jost, Penticton, BCHL (12)
CM – With Eric Staal rumours about, the Canes could be needing to draft for need. In my mind, Jost is the best centre available to them.
BLH – I am in agreeance that the Canes will be looking at adding to their forward corps. but I’m not sure it’ll be Jost. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about him, I reckon that Ron Francis would prefer to go for a Michael McLeod or Julien Gauthier if they’re still around when they pick.
11. Ottawa Senators – Dante Fabbro, Penticton, BCHL (8)
CM – Fabbro drops a few spots because of teams drafting for need, and the BCHL being overlooked a bit. Decent size and offensive instincts could make him a dangerous addition to the Senators.
BLH – Where the ‘Canes need offense, the Senators need defense. If one of Juolevi, Sergachev or Fabbro are still here then I could really see the Sens selecting them. Each add their own special spice to the game but they would definitely be a great help to Ottawa down the road. The Senators did very well with their selection of Thomas Chabot last year, you can have faith if they go a similar route this year.
12. Montreal Canadiens – Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or, QMJHL (15)
CM – The Canadiens love to take their French-Canadian players, and Gauthier is the best available to them, with good size, and offensive numbers.
BLH – Love the pick of Julien Gauthier here. I’m a sucker for romantic narratives like the French-Canadian leading the Habs to success or the local Toronto boy heading up the Leafs. That being said, they could use a bit of help at all positions. One has to wonder about Clayton Keller here too. The Habs are having trouble scoring and Keller is a crafty playmaker…
13. Nashville Predators – Clayton Keller, US NTDP, USHL (11)
CM – After dropping a few spots, Nashville would be quick to take Keller to help with their issues of depth down the middle.
BLH – Not sure if the Preds would take Keller here now that they have Johansen and there’s Kevin Fiala coming up too. I like Kieffer Bellows here. Son of former NHL sniper, Brian Bellows. He’s lighting the USHL up right now with 32 goals in 40 games. A very tenacious player and would be a great fit in the Predators system.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs (PIT) – Michael McLeod, Mississauga, OHL (17)
CM – Decent sized centre playing for his hometown Steelheads, and having a very productive year.
BLH – McLeod would be a lovely selection here for the Leafs but I’m still enamoured by the Mark Hunter/London Knights connection and if I were the Leafs I’d go for Max Jones. A very dangerous power forward with NHL size (6’3″ 200+lbs). He’s trapped behind some great talents in London at the moment but when all of those players left to play at the World Juniors, he stepped up his game. He’s a bulldog out there and might have a dusting of the Wendel Clark to him…
15. Vancouver Canucks – German Rubtsov, Russia MHL, RusJr (13)
CM – The Russian centre drops a few spots, but with a young forward core ready to take over, I see the Canucks taking a chance on him.
BLH – I do like the Russian here. He’s a very responsible two-way player and add him to the likes of McCann and Horvat and you’ve got some sweet depth in the making. God know the Canucks are going to need it when the Sedins are gone… Best plan of attack might be to have the best defensive team in the league.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Kieffer Bellows, US NTDP, USHL (14)
CM – Another drop in the rankings, Bellows could be another productive addition to an already impressive young group of forwards in Colorado.
BLH – If I’m the Avs, I do what I can to add to the defense here. Be that by taking offensive dynamos Jake Bean or Samuel Girard, the aforementioned Charlie McAvoy or the yet to be mentioned Kale Clague. This team needs to shore that part of the organization up and pronto.
17. Boston Bruins (SJ) – Dillon Dube, Kelowna, WHL (18)
CM – An offensive minded centre, if a bit on the small side at 5’ 10”, the Bruins are looking to fill organizational needs.
BLH – The Bruins are solid in regards to their prospect depth with Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Zboril, Subban and Morrow coming up. I think if they went with the best player available here it wouldn’t be a surprise. Two names pop out at me, Logan Stanley (6’7″ 220lbs) and Max Jones (if available). The inevitable Chara comparisons come out with Stanley and justly so. He’s a bit stay-at-home dmen with an edge. Jones’ comparison is obviously close to Milan Lucic and surely Bruins fans could get on board with that.
18. New Jersey Devils – Jake Bean, Calgary, WHL (19)
CM – Always keen on defencemen, the Devils take Bean, although not the highest ranked player still on the board, because of his size, and his offense.
BLH – This team is bereft of any prospect depth with the highlights being Pavel Zacha, MacKenzie Blackwood, and Steve Santini. They are in dire need of some help everywhere and I’d like to see them go with Connor McDavid’s former linemate in Erie, Alex DeBrincat here. Devils fans from many moons ago will remember Steve Sullivan… DeBrincat is an elf of a player but he can put the puck in the net. If you’re a Devils fan, wouldn’t you like to see some more scoring?
19. Boston Bruins – Alex DeBrincat, Erie, OHL (21)
CM – Although on the small side, DeBrincat is having a stellar year for the Otters. Has the ability to play centre or wing.
BLH – Here we are with the Bruins second pick in the first round and fifth first rounder in two years. I maintain, if Logan Stanley or Max Jones are still lingering here, they should go that route. If not then why not take a chance on Tyler Benson (injuries have derailed a promising junior career but he’s got mad character and loads of potential) or the towering Logan Brown (6’6″ son of former NHLer Jeff Brown).
20. New York Islanders – Vitalii Abramov, Gatineau, QMJHL (20)
CM – Abramov doesn’t move out of his current ranking, and could be a dynamite player for the Islanders, as he’s lighting up the QMJHL at the moment.
BLH – I don’t see a lot of weaknesses on the Islanders pro squad depth or it’s prospect cupboard. The could very well take the talented Russian but I wonder if they’d take a chance on the top ranked goalie Carter Hart here. Then again Garth Snow is fairly unpredictable, maybe he’d go as far as to double-down on this pick and take Sean Day at this point?
21. Minnesota Wild – Riley Tufte, Blaine, High School (25)
CM – A big body forward, the Wild draft this local product a few spots higher because of the size he brings up front.
BLH – I like the Wild’s depth on D right now so I reckon they could be after a forward. More specifically a center and Tufte fits right in. Big guy, can skate like the dickens, and has an innate ability to get his shot off anywhere. Mikko Koivu isn’t going to be there forever and the next guy in line right now is Jarret Stoll… That being said Joel Eriksson-Ek is an outstanding center too and he’ll be giving Koivu a run for his money sooner than later.
22. Detroit Red Wings – Mitchell Mattson, Grand Rapids, High School (23)
CM – A large forward at 6’4”, the Red Wings have a knack for finding hidden gems in the draft. This local product could be another one.
BLH – The Red Wings have some lovely prospects coming on the wing in Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Svechnikov. I don’t see them adding there. But they could use a guy like Kale Clague on defense. Very cool and collected, doesn’t get fazed and has a very good hockey IQ. Perfect for the Detroit system.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning – Samuel Girard, Shawinigan, QMJHL (16)
CM – I have Girard dropping down because of his size. But with so much potential upheaval in the organization, Tampa takes the best player still on the board.
BLH – Sam Girard could very well go to the Lightning but with Anthony DeAngelo and Slater Koekkoek coming would he be a good fit? The Lightning’s roster is deep and varied in every sense of the word. It’s hard to say what kind of player they’d lean towards. Are Stamkos and Drouin still with the team this summer? Maybe Yzerman dips into his Swedish contacts and goes with two-way forward Rasmus Asplund or the gritty Carl Grundstrom.
24. Arizona Coyotes (NYR) – Charlie McAvoy, Boston U, NCAA (22)
CM – Good size for a defenceman, with some offensive upside. Arizona has a nice set of young forwards already, and continue to build the blue line.
BLH – I’m with Corey on this one. If McAvoy is still available I think the Coyotes would be best served taking him.
25. Florida Panthers – Logan Stanley, Windsor, OHL (24)
CM – With one of the best young groups of players in the league, and drafting in unfamiliar territory, the Panthers look to add size to their blue line.
BLH – This is definitely a team I could see picking Carter Hart. Goalies in the first round isn’t always a sure thing but the way he’s dominating the WHL this year. The Panthers’ roster is more or less set for the foreseeable future so they can afford to take a chance here on what could be a very good goalie in the future.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (LA) – Brett Howden, Moose Jaw, WHL (30)
CM – With a second pick, the Canes go off board a bit, taking 30th ranked Howden at 25. Big body centre with nice offensive upside to help shore up the middle.
BLH – I had to take a second look when I saw Carolina picking here, I forgot they got LA’s 1st rounder in the Sekera deal. I like the skilled and amazingly named Sam Steel here. Great at creating offense and isn’t that just what the ‘Canes could use? If not him, then why not a flyer on Top Prospects game star, Pascal Laberge?
27. St. Louis Blues – Tyler Benson, Vancouver, WHL (26)
CM – Benson stays on track, having fallen down the list over the season. A nice addition to the forward group in St. Louis.
BLH – Tyler Benson would be a great addition to the Blues and it’s hard to gauge where this team will be and what the make-up of it will be in 3-4 years when this prospect develops but if not Benson, why not a PP quarterback like Chad Krys?
28. Dallas Stars – Markus Niemelainen, Saginaw, OHL (33)
CM – Things get interesting, as the Stars overlook a handful of players to take the large defenceman from Sarnia.
BLH – Woof! Another team that has a great NHL roster and a deep prospect cupboard. Corey has them taking the Finn, I’d like to see them take a Canadian. Power forward Nathan Bastian makes up 1/3 of the Mississauga Steelheads top line with Alex Nylander and Michael McLeod. He’s a big boy (6’3″ 195lb) and we know the Stars do alright drafting big wingers…
29. Chicago Blackhawks – Carter Hart, Everett, WHL (32)
CM – The only goalie to go in the first round. He has sensational numbers this year, and could be the goalie of the future for Chicago.
BLH – Rough goalie depth for the Hawks right now. I agree with Corey, if Hart is there, they should take him.
30. Washington Capitals – Will Bitten, Flint, OHL (27)
CM – The best player on the board with a few teams going for later ranked players, Washington would love to have this skilled player available at number 30.
BLH – What a name?! Will Bitten. I’m not sure if the Caps go for him, he’s a great two-way center but I think they’d likely want to re-stock the defense here. Libor Hajek is a wonderful blueline who models his game after LA Kings dman Drew Doughty. He’s got good hands and hockey sense and he’s willing to play a physical game.
Well there it is! 3000 words later we’ve come to the end. Let us know in the comments below if you agree with our picks!