Heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the big story wasn’t just the players who were going to hear their names called on draft night. No, this time the talk of the town was the newest NHL Expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, who held their expansion draft days earlier.
This expansion drastically shifted the 2017 draft class, as cap-strapped franchises give away assets by the handful in order to convince the Golden Knights to take on their bad contracts. This led to a multitude of picks and players being traded along with a bit of uncertainty as there wasn’t a surefire superstar in this class as there was in 2015 and 2016.
Related: 2016 NHL Entry Draft Top 10: Where Are They Now?
So, let’s take a look back at this class with the blessing of hindsight to see how the top-ten picks of the 2017 draft have develped.
*The 2017 NHL Draft was held on June 23-24 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
1. Nico Hischier – New Jersey Devils
After winning the 2017 Draft lottery despite having the fifth-best odds, the New Jersey Devils found themselves in a good position despite failing to meet their lofty expectations heading into the 2016-17 season. After pulling off a blockbuster trade to acquire Taylor Hall back in the 2016 offseason, the team just didn’t find much success with a roster that simply couldn’t find a way to win.
With this pick, the Devils took Nico Hischier, which was the first time a Swiss-born player was selected first overall at the NHL Draft. While he wasn’t seen as the most offensively explosive talent in 2017, Hischier had a well-rounded two-way game that New Jersey believed would allow him to develop into a dominant top-six centerman that they could build around for a decade-plus.
Hischier quickly made himself known in New Jersey, as he took the ice immediately in 2017-18, and posted 52 points, which was the second-most on the team behind only Hall, who went on the win the 2018 Hart Trophy. His performance helped to call the Devils back into the playoffs, where they lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since this breakout rookie season, where he played in all 82-games, Hischier has continued to steadily develop but hasn’t necessarily taken that next step for a first-overall pick. Injuries have slowed his production on the ice, as the 2021-22 season was the first time he managed to surpass his rookie scoring by playing 70 games and posting 60 points.
Hischier is far from a bust, however. He was named the Devils’ 12th captain in team history on February 20th, 2021, and if he can stay healthy, the best years are still in front of him.
2. Nolan Patrick – Philadelphia Flyers
Heading into the 2017 Draft, many considered Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick to be the best player available, bar none. The offensively gifted forward was scoring at a torrid pace in the Western Hockey League (WHL), and he had the size and total toolkit that general managers dream of when making a top selection. With this in mind, it makes sense why the Philadelphia Flyers selected him second-overall, given that most people didn’t expect him to last past the first pick.
Despite taking on 70-plus games in both 2017-18 and 2018-19, his transition to the NHL wasn’t smooth. However, that can be expected from a teenager playing against men, so the future still looked bright. Yes, Patrick needed to take those developmental steps, but 13 goals and 30-plus points wasn’t the worst-case scenario either,
Unfortunately for Patrick and the Flyers, injuries drastically altered his career trajectory. In 2019 he was diagnosed with a non-hockey-related migraine disorder, which kept him out of hockey for more than 17 months. While he was expected to work his way back into a role for Philadelphia, the team decided to move on from him in the 2021 offseason, where they traded him to the Golden Knights.
After joining Vegas, Patrick started the season well enough, before suffering more injuries, including a brutal high-hit to the head that largely ended his 2021-22 season.
Now, Patrick finds himself in a tough position. He still has the toolkit of a top-three selection, but he can’t stay healthy enough to utilize it. While he has one-year remaining on the contract extension he signed with Vegas, the Golden Knights are looking to pinch every penny they can to be cap compliant once again. This could lead him to traded if he starts the 2022-23 season slowly, which may hurt his opportunities to excel alongside a playoff-caliber team.
3. Miro Heiskanen – Dallas Stars
With the third-overall pick, the Dallas Stars decided to take the first defenseman off the board by selecting Finnish prospect Miro Heiskanen. In 2016-17, Heiskanen was playing professional hockey against men with HIFK of Liiga, Finland’s top hockey league. He wasn’t playing sheltered minutes either, as he was taking on a top-pairing role despite being just 17 years old.
After spending the 2017-18 season on loan with HIFK, Heiskanen made the jump to North America and immediately found success with the Stars. By taking on more the 23 minutes of ice-time each night as a rookie, he was a top candidate for the Calder Trophy despite lacking in scoring that often drives conversation surrounding that award.
Following his rookie season, Heiskanen continued to be a great defenseman for the Stars. He consistently eats 23 to 25 minutes of ice-time each night, puts up needed points, and just acts as a stalwart on the blue line that every team dreams of. He may not be the most explosive player, but during Dallas’ run to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, he scored 26 points in 27 games played and was in the discussion for the Conn Smythe Trophy had they won it all.
In 2021, Heiskanen signed an eight-year, $67.6 million deal to keep him as a centerpiece of the Stars. Given everything, this was a great selection by Dallas, as they have one of the top young defensemen locked down to a reasonable deal through his prime years.
4. Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche
To say that the 2016-17 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Colorado Avalanche would be a bit of an understatement. To start things off, then head coach Patrick Roy stepped down as head coach before the season even began, leaving the team little time to scramble and find a new skipper.
Related: 2007 NHL Draft: 5 Forgotten Picks
On the ice, the Avalanche finished dead last in the league, only mustering 48 points, which made them one of the worst teams of the cap era. Off the ice, they had a disgruntled star in Matt Duchene who wanted to be traded. Finally, despite having the best odds to win the Draft Lottery, they ended up falling all the way to fourth.
However, while this looked like a stroke of bad luck that would set the franchise back years, it ended up becoming a centerpiece of their rapid rebuild to glory. This, of course, was due in no small part to their selection of Cale Makar.
At the moment, the selection of Makar seemed like a slight reach, as many had him projected in the sixth to 10th overall range. However, he quickly went about proving any skeptics wrong by tearing up the NCAA and winning the 2019 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college. Next, he joined the team for the 2019 postseason, where he played 10 games and posted six points.
Following this strong start, he went on to win the 2020 Calder Trophy as the top rookie of the year and then went on to dominate the league in 2021-22 en route to winning the Norris Trophy. Finally, he capped everything off by claiming the 2022 Stanley Cup and winning the Conn Smythe Award.
Needless to say, this pick will be a defining moment for the Avalanche over the next decade-plus. Somehow, by falling down the draft board, Colorado were able to still claim the best player of the 2022 Draft.
5. Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks
Despite having the second-best odds to win the draft lottery, the Vancouver Canucks fell all the way back to fifth, putting them in that awkward spot where they would miss out on the perceived top talents but still should be able to select an impactful player. As they took the stage to make the fifth-overall selection, however, few were ready for what they were about to announce. The Canucks seemingly reached and selected forward Elias Pettersson, who divided the experts. Some havd him ranked in the top ten while others saw him as a late-first rounder at best.
Once Pettersson took the ice for the Canucks, he left any of his doubters behind. He set the standard throughout his rookie season in 2018-19, posting 28 goals and 66 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy despite only playing in 71 games.
Following the breakout, Pettersson continued to be a franchise-defining player for the Canucks while also struggling with injuries at times. When he is healthy, however, he is a star on the ice, which led Vancouver to lock him down to a three-year, $7.35 million bridge deal in 2021.
So, while this pick seemed risky in the moment, it ended up being an absolute hit for the Canucks.
6. Cody Glass – Vegas Golden Knights
As the talk of the town, the hockey world waited with bated breath as the Golden Knights made their first pick as a franchise. With this selection, the Golden Knights took forward Cody Glass, a big-bodied, two-way threat that many believed would become the top-line centerpiece for the fledgling franchise. Following his selection in 2017-18, he put up 102 points in 64 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, further cementing him as a premier NHL prospect.
Unfortunately, sometimes potential doesn’t translate to the NHL. Glass struggled with injuries and inconsistency to start his professional career, as he only played 41 games in AHL and NHL in 2019-20, scoring just 14 points. He followed that up with another disappointing split season for Vegas, leading to his trade during the 2021 offseason to the Nashville Predators.
With the Predators’ AHL affiliate, Glass showed that his development wasn’t done yet. He scored 62 points in 68 games, along with another six points in seven games in the postseason. So, while he wasn’t everything that Vegas dreamed of when they drafted him, his NHL career is far from over.
7. Lias Andersson – New York Rangers From the Arizona Coyotes
As a team starting what would become a re-tool, the New York Rangers made a big splash on draft day by trading Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for the seventh-overall pick in 2017 and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. With this newly acquired top-10 pick, the Rangers selected Swedish defenseman Lias Andersson.
While many projected Andersson to have top-four potential in the NHL, he was never able to translate this to this ice for New York. Even if he showed glimpses of greatness in the AHL, whenever he was called up to the NHL he struggled to keep up. This led the Rangers to reduce his ice time, which eventually led to a trade request by the young defenseman.
This request was granted at the 2020 Draft, where he was dealt to the L.A. Kings for a second-round pick. Since joining the Kings, Andersson has struggled with injuries, which limited his playing time overall. So, while he is still young and full of promise, it’s becoming less and less likely that he will be able to develop into a nightly NHL starter.
8. Casey Mittelstadt – Buffalo Sabres
With their eight-overall selection, the Buffalo Sabres were keen to add another forward talent to supplement the selection of Jack Eichel second overall in 2015 and Alexander Nylander in 2016. With this pick, they took Casey Mittelstadt, a big-bodied forward who showed great potential.
As a commit to the University of Minnesota, Mittelstadt played the 2017-18 season with the Golden Gophers, where he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. With this successful collegiate run under his belt, he decided to make the jump to the NHL and joined the Sabres for the final six games of the season.
Following this, Mittelstadt has struggled to develop for the Sabres. He played 77 games in his rookie season, but since then hasn’t taken on consistent ice time due to injury and inconsistency. His career-high in points is still just 25, and he hasn’t shown the glimpses of a top-ten pick.
While the Sabres can still wait for him to continue developing, time is likely running short on Mittelstadt’s career in Buffalo. If he can stay healthy he might quickly improve, but that’s a big if given his career so far.
9. Michael Rasmussen – Detroit Red Wings
Clocking in at 6-foot-6, it came as no surprise that Michael Rasmussen drew a lot of attention heading into the 2017 draft. Not only was he a big centerman, but he also posted 55 points in 50 games played for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, showcasing that he could be more than just size.
Related: The Best NHL Defensemen Ever
Seeing a chance at a franchise centerman, the Detroit Red Wings selected Rasmussen ninth-overall, but decided to send him back to the WHL for one more season to tear up the league. Following this, he started his professional career with the Red Wings, playing 62 games in 2018-19. While he only posted 18 points during this time, there were still positive signs to build upon.
So, even if his development hasn’t been fast, Rasmussen is still looking to factor into Detroit’s future. He played 80 games in 2021-22, and if that continues, he could become a solid bottom-six forward for the franchise. This may not be an ideal use of a top-ten pick, but it’s at least not a total loss either.
10. Owen Tippet – Florida Panthers
Rounding out the top-10 picks from the 2017 draft were the Florida Panthers, who selected winger Owen Tippet. By many accounts Tippet was seen as being the best pure goalscorer available, and as a big-bodied forward coming off a 75-point season in 2016-17, some expected to be taken even higher on draft day.
After his selection, TIppet was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to continue developing his game, which he did by posting dominant 70-plus point seasons in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. Following this, he posted 40 points in 46 games for the Panthers’ AHL affiliate.
However, when taking the ice with Florida, Tippet just never was able to translate his scoring potential. He had great defensive analytics but struggled to post more than a handful of points. On a team like the Panthers who features so much depth, this just didn’t cut it, so they packaged him in a blockbuster trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that brought back Claude Giroux at the 2022 Trade Deadline.
With a new franchise, Tippet will have a chance to reinvent himself, which could be the best thing possible for the young forward. There’s still a lot of talent in his big frame, and the Flyers could be the right team to try and unlock it.
2017 Draft Top Ten Featured Big Highs and Lows
Many felt that the 2017 draft was relatively weak, especially compared to the historically strong 2015 and 2016 classes. In many ways, this was the right assumption, as the top-ten picks have shown a lot of good but underwhelming players.
However, the best players from this class are truly exceptional, as Makar, Heiskanen, and Pettersson will be faces of the league for years to come. These players will define the 2017 draft as truly exceptional, even if it is lacking in overall depth.