Each year there are a number of preconceptions surrounding a draft class. 2015 was hailed as “the best since ‘03” years before it took place, and was praised for its depth in both the first round and throughout the remainder of the draft. With 18/30 first round selections having already played their first NHL game, it’s hard to argue that the preconceptions regarding that draft class were wrong. The preconceptions surrounding the 2017 draft class are vastly different, with many questioning both it’s depth and talent at the top. Though I believe the depth aspect of this draft is lacking, the talent at the top isn’t something to scoff at.
Nolan Patrick vs. Nico Hischier has been the battle presented to the masses this season, and though many, including myself, believe Nolan Patrick will likely be the first overall selection, Nico Hischier has done nothing but impress throughout his rookie QMJHL campaign. Throughout 43 games, Hischier has managed 76 points (1.77 ppg/2nd amongst QMJHL skaters), and has been relied upon in every situation for the Mooseheads, a testament to his ability to think the game at a very high level. His Zetterberg-like approach to the game has made it evident that he will be an effective player at the next level, and given the skills he possesses coupled with his ability to produce at all levels, it’s hard to see him not becoming a top line, point producing NHL player in the near future.
Since his return to the Wheat Kings lineup, Nolan Patrick has been dominant, recording 14 points in 8 games as well as a fight victory against Tyler Wong on January 31st. The Wheat Kings captain has drawn comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf, as the big bodied forward has proven to be an offensive zone force with his ability to push through traffic and be an effective scorer from in tight. He projects to be a top line NHL player, and given his versatility and ability to play in all situations as well as on the wing, he’s an ideal fit for nearly every team. Amongst teams poised to hold the first selection, Colorado would be an ideal fit giving their young core revolving around Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Tyson Jost.
The most intriguing talking point when looking at these two high-end players is the west coast vs. east coast differences in their games. Teams have their choice of Nico Hischier, a true finesse, speedy, skilled type of forward, similar to Henrik Zetterberg or Nolan Patrick, the powerful, dynamic point producer similar to Ryan Getzlaf. Given the current layout of the NHL standings, both are likely western conference property when it’s all said and done, and regardless of which player goes first, I believe both will be successful NHL Players.
Though Patrick and Hischier have been the two players featured in headlines, they are being pushed by some highly skilled and talented players. Timothy Lijegren, the top-ranked defenceman for this draft has had an up and down year, dealing with mono as well as demotion to Allsvenskan following a disappointing return from his sickness. Liljegren is a highly intelligent, smooth skating defender who’s omission from the Swedish World Junior roster left many confused given his ability to play in all situations as well as produce offensively. He’s a defenceman teams will have to be patient with, and we may end up seeing him spend another year or two in Sweden before coming over, though significant AHL time may not be the worst thing for his development. Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie is a player who will garner attention from teams picking in the top five, and in my opinion may be a top three forward when we look back at this draft five years from now, as he boasts a strong offensive two-way game, and has really proven to be difficult to play against. He’s a solid player whose hard to knock off the puck and can be a dynamic offensive force.
Regardless of who is selected first overall, the 2017 draft brings a unique mix of offensive talents, with players who possess a wide range of skillsets and intangibles. It may not have the McDavid or Matthews hype, but any team picking in the top ten is walking away with an excellent player.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments be sure to reach me at @DraftGeekHockey on Twitter or comment below!