NHL Mock Drafts Revisited: 5 Takeaways from 2016

Hindsight is always helpful, often enlightening, and sometimes humorous too.

In the build-up to my seventh annual NHL mock draft — to be published the morning after the Stanley Cup is handed out in June — I’ve decided to revisit my results over the last six years and provide five takeaways from each of those drafts.

I will highlight my steals and misses, the good and the bad — even the ugly. It should be a fun trip down memory lane for better or worse. There will be humbling reflections and perhaps some boasting too.

For the first three years — 2012, 2013 and 2014 — I was mocking on my own blog site prior to joining THW for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts.

I started by mocking only the first round in 2012, then expanded to two rounds for 2013, before returning to one round in 2014 when I did two versions — one with potential trades and one without.

For THW, I mocked three rounds for 2015 and then attempted all seven rounds for 2016 and 2017, which will be the case again this year as I try to predict all 217 picks while providing at least 100 honourable mentions.

That’s something to look forward to, but let’s reflect on 2016.

Mock Draft

1) Toronto Maple Leafs — Auston Matthews (C, USA, ZSC Lions NLA)

2) Winnipeg Jets — Patrik Laine (LW, Finland, Tappara)

3) Columbus Blue Jackets — Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, Finland, Karpat)

4) Edmonton Oilers — Matthew Tkachuk (LW, USA, London OHL)

5) Vancouver Canucks — Pierre-Luc Dubois (C/LW, Canada, Cape Breton QMJHL)

6) Calgary Flames — Alexander Nylander (LW, Sweden, Mississauga OHL)

7) Arizona Coyotes — Logan Brown (C, USA, Windsor OHL)

8) Buffalo Sabres — Olli Juolevi (LHD, Finland, London OHL)

9) Montreal Canadiens — Tyson Jost (C/LW, Canada, Penticton BCHL)

10) Colorado Avalanche — Mikhail Sergachev (LHD, Russia, Windsor OHL)

11) New Jersey Devils — Jakob Chychrun (LHD, USA, Sarnia OHL)

12) Ottawa Senators — Clayton Keller (C, USA, U18 NTDP)

13) Carolina Hurricanes — Michael McLeod (C, Canada, Mississauga OHL)

14) Boston Bruins — Charlie McAvoy (RHD, USA, Boston University NCAA)

15) Minnesota Wild — Kieffer Bellows (LW, USA, U18 NTDP)

16) Detroit Red Wings — Jake Bean (LHD, Canada, Calgary WHL)

17) Nashville Predators — Tyler Benson (C/LW, Canada, Vancouver WHL)

18) Philadelphia Flyers — Julien Gauthier (RW, Canada, Val-d’Or QMJHL)

19) New York Islanders — Riley Tufte (LW, USA, Fargo USHL)

20) Arizona Coyotes (from New York Rangers) — Dante Fabbro (RHD, Canada, Penticton BCHL)

21) Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings) — Max Jones (LW, USA, London OHL)

22) Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks) — Kale Clague (LHD, Canada, Brandon WHL)

23) Florida Panthers — Luke Kunin (LW/C, USA, University of Wisconsin NCAA)

24) Anaheim Ducks — Alex DeBrincat (C/RW, USA, Erie OHL)

25) Dallas Stars — German Rubtsov (C, Russia, U18 National Team)

26) Washington Capitals — Vitaly Abramov (RW/C, Russia, Gatineau QMJHL)

27) Tampa Bay Lightning — Pascal Laberge (RW/C, Canada, Victoriaville QMJHL)

28) St. Louis Blues — Tage Thompson (C, USA, University of Connecticut NCAA)

29) Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks) — Logan Stanley (LHD, Canada, Windsor OHL)

30) Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins) — Samuel Girard (LHD, Canada, Shawinigan QMJHL)

NHL Draft

1) Toronto Maple Leafs — Auston Matthews

2) Winnipeg Jets — Patrik Laine

3) Columbus Blue Jackets — Pierre-Luc Dubois

4) Edmonton Oilers — Jesse Puljujarvi

5) Vancouver Canucks — Olli Juolevi

6) Calgary Flames — Matthew Tkachuk

7) Arizona Coyotes — Clayton Keller

8) Buffalo Sabres — Alexander Nylander

9) Montreal Canadiens — Mikhail Sergachev

10) Colorado Avalanche — Tyson Jost

11) Ottawa Senators (from New Jersey) — Logan Brown

12) New Jersey Devils (from Ottawa) — Michael McLeod

13) Carolina Hurricanes — Jake Bean

14) Boston Bruins — Charlie McAvoy

15) Minnesota Wild — Luke Kunin

16) Arizona Coyotes (from Detroit) — Jakob Chychrun

17) Nashville Predators — Dante Fabbro

18) Winnipeg Jets (from Philadelphia) — Logan Stanley

19) New York Islanders — Kieffer Bellows

20) Detroit Red Wings (from N.Y. Rangers via Arizona) — Dennis Cholowski (LHD, Canada, Chilliwack BCHL)

21) Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings) — Julien Gauthier

22) Philadelphia Flyers (from Chicago via Winnipeg) — German Rubtsov

23) Florida Panthers — Henrik Borgstrom (C, Finland, HIFK U20)

24) Anaheim Ducks — Max Jones

25) Dallas Stars — Riley Tufte

26) St. Louis Blues (from Washington) — Tage Thompson

27) Tampa Bay Lightning — Brett Howden (C, Canada, Moose Jaw WHL)

28) Washington Capitals (from St. Louis) — Lucas Johansen (LHD, Canada, Kelowna WHL)

29) Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks) — Trent Frederic (C, USA, U18 NTDP)

30) Anaheim Ducks (from Pittsburgh via Toronto) — Sam Steel (C, Canada, Regina WHL)

4 Hits

Auston Matthews, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
There was a bit of debate over No. 1 in 2016, but the Maple Leafs went with the centre in Auston Matthews over the winger in Patrik Laine. Toronto really couldn’t have gone wrong with either of them.

My first attempt at mocking seven rounds produced mixed results. I only had four hits in the first round, including the top two picks. Matthews and Laine were expected to go 1-2, so that hardly counts.

McAvoy to Boston at No. 14 made too much sense, and I had a feeling about Thompson to St. Louis, with the Blues trading up from No. 28 to get my guy at No. 26. That still counts.

Maybe I was too fixated on the lower rounds, but 2016 wasn’t one of my finer performances in the first round.

6 Misses

Henrik Borgstrom
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
Henrik Borgstrom is making the Panthers look smart for picking him in the first round. It was a reach at the time, but Borgstrom was arguably the best player in college hockey in 2017-18 and could be a Calder candidate in 2018-19.

It wasn’t my worst showing overall, but it could have been a lot better.

My misses were Benson, Clague, DeBrincat, Abramov, Laberge and Girard, replaced by Cholowski, Borgstrom, Howden, Johansen, Frederic and Steel.

Only two years removed, it’s too early to pass much judgment, but it looks like I might have outperformed the NHL scouts.

DeBrincat and Girard are the best of the bunch so far, with Clague and Abramov appearing promising as well. Benson and Laberge have been hindered by injuries and lost key developmental time, but seemed to take a step in the right direction this season and therefore can’t be considered busts yet.

Alex DeBrincat Blackhawks
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Alex DeBrincat is proving to be a second-round steal for Chicago, but he wouldn’t have made it out of the first round in my mock.

Comparing their draft position, from my mock to reality, the order went: Benson (17 to 32), Laberge (27 to 36), DeBrincat (24 to 39), Girard (30 to 47), Clague (22 to 51) and Abramov (26 to 65). That makes the NHL scouts look even worse, but next season will be more telling one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Borgstrom is looking like the real deal and a steal for Florida. The other five misses — Howden, Steel, Johansen, Frederic and Cholowski — are trending reasonably well too and could all be players for their respective teams.

Comparing their draft position, from reality to my mock, the order went: Howden (27 to 33), Steel (30 to 47), Cholowski (20 to 49), Johansen (28 to 53), Borgstrom (23 to 80) and Frederic (29 to 102). As you can see, I really missed the boat on Borgstrom and Frederic wasn’t on my radar for the first round.

Last-Minute Mock

Lucas Johansen
(Sammi Silber/THW)
Lucas Johansen is a prospect that I was torn about in 2016, having seen plenty of him here in Kelowna. Maybe I watched him too closely or too critically in slotting Johansen as a second-round pick in my original mock before rightfully upgrading him to a first-rounder for my last-minute mock.

In 2016, I also published a second mock on the eve of the draft (June 23) based on feedback I had received in the 10 days since my mock went live (June 13) and a few new developments over that timeframe.

My revised mock fared slightly better in the first round, getting 26 of 30 compared to 24 for my original mock. The updated version had Cholowski (22), Howden (23) and Johansen (26) cracking my first round, with Thompson (33) slipping out.

I even had Johansen going to the right team the second time around, with my last-minute mock producing five hits — Matthews, Laine, McAvoy, Kunin to Minnesota and Johansen to Washington.

My original mock was still better at the top, getting nine of the top 10 — I had Brown over Keller — whereas the updated mock only got eight, with Brown and Bean over Keller and Jost.

That was a fun exercise, compiling an 11th-hour mock based largely on the opinions of other people for comparison sake. I might try that again this year, time permitting.

For those interested, I recapped the full results in two formats — a by the numbers breakdown and a pick-by-pick comparison between the two mocks.

More Promising Picks

Carter Hart Everett Silvertips
(Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire)
Carter Hart won the WHL’s goaltender of the year award for a record third straight season in 2017-18, while also winning league MVP honours and backstopping Canada to gold at the 2018 World Juniors. Would he crack the first round in a re-draft of 2016?

Again, it’s too soon to be declaring steals and busts, but looking beyond the first round, I’m optimistic about quite of few of my picks.

From the second round of my original mock, I’m still high on Carter Hart (32 to 48), Boris Katchouk (35 to 44), Taylor Raddysh (37 to 58), Adam Fox (38 to 66), Carl Grundstrom (40 to 57) and Filip Gustavsson (46 to 55) — and, with a lesser degree of optimism, Sean Day (31 to 81), Dmitry Sokolov (44 to 196), Aapeli Rasanen (50 to 153) and Cliff Pu (57 to 69).

I feel those 10 are — or certainly could — outperform their actual draft position. Sokolov and Rasanen will really look like steals for me if they make it to the big league, but Hart and Fox are two of my better bets at this point.

Montreal Canadiens, Victor Mete
(David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Victor Mete exceeded my expectations by making the Montreal Canadiens as a 19-year-old defenceman, but I was higher on him than NHL scouts at the 2016 draft.

From the third round of my original mock, I’m liking Victor Mete (71 to 100), Jack Kopacka (76 to 93), David Quenneville (84 to 200), Matthew Phillips (81 to 166) and Mikhail Berdin (90 to 157) as possible steals down the road. I’m not quite as confident about Adam Brooks (78 to 92), Jacob Moverare (83 to 112), Tim Gettinger (72 to 141), Luke Green (68 to 79) and Ty Ronning (64 to 201), but they have the potential to make me look good as well.

From rounds four through seven of my original mock, there are some more picks that I’d like to go to bat for — starting with Jesper Bratt (104 to 162), Calvin Thurkauf (126 to 185) and Oskar Steen (127 to 165). That trio is exceeding expectations as of today. Oleg Sosunov (157 to 178), Eetu Tuulola (98 to 156) and Dylan Wells (99 to 123) warrant mention as well.

Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Jesper Bratt shocked everybody by sticking with the New Jersey Devils out of training camp in 2017-18, but I was surprised he didn’t get drafted higher in 2016.

Then there were all the guys from mock that went undrafted, including Swedish defenceman Sebastian Aho, who was passed over for the second straight year. I had Aho at No. 68 in 2015, then dropped him to No. 158 for 2016, but the NHL scouts still didn’t take a liking to him. He finally got drafted in 2017, at No. 139 by the Islanders, and is already looking like the player I believed he could be.

Igor Shvyrev, who I had at No. 118, was also passed over in 2016 before getting selected at No. 125 in 2017 and recently getting signed by Colorado.

Yegor Zaitsev (182) went undrafted in 2016, only to be taken at No. 205 in 2017.

Brennan Menell (149) and Ondrej Vala (193) were both overlooked but later signed by Minnesota and Dallas, respectively.

Veini Vehvilainen (153) and Vladislav Sukhachyov (207) are two European goalies that have been twice passed over in 2016 and 2017. Ditto for European forwards Pius Suter (163) and Kristian Reichel (166).

Taking another look at my last-minute mock and the placement of some of these same prospects, I actually bumped up Girard (27) in the first round and Fox (32) in the second round. Steen (114) and Vala (180) were a bit higher too, along with the netminders Vehvilainen (123) and Sukhachyov (177). I gave more love to Dillon Dube (47 to 56) the second time around, and a new name appeared in Patrick Bajkov (169), who was twice passed over before signing with Florida.

Glass Half Full

Clayton Keller Coyotes
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
If I could have just one mulligan for 2016, I would probably use it to get Clayton Keller into my top 10, but overall I’m still happy with my efforts.

As always, time will tell, but I should be able to boast on some of those fronts in the seasons to come.

Of course, there were also misses that I won’t be able to live down. That list starts with Keller outside the top 10 and also includes first-rounders Borgstrom and Frederic, who were way too low in my original mock before being elevated to second-rounders in my updated mock at Nos. 46 (80) and 59 (102), respectively.

At least I had them trending in the right direction, based on feedback from some quality sources. That suggests I’m talking to and, more importantly, listening to the right people.

Two more examples of that: Josh Mahura went at No. 85, I had him at No. 165 in my original mock and then No. 96 in my updated mock; and Joseph Woll went at No. 62, I had him No. 124, then No. 78.

Another goalie, Colton Point, was going undrafted in my original mock — listed among my top 20 honourable mentions — then at No. 92 in my updated mock. He split the difference in getting selected at No. 128.

That list goes on and on, but the glass is half full when looking back on 2016. My first full mock was so much fun — and so rewarding — that I tried it again in 2017 and I’ve been hard at work on the 2018 edition in hopes that it’ll yield my best results yet.