NHL Mock Drafts Revisited: 5 Takeaways from 2017

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 look back on 2017.

Mock Draft

1) New Jersey Devils — Nolan Patrick (C, Canada, Brandon WHL)

2) Philadelphia Flyers — Nico Hischier (C, Switzerland, Halifax QMJHL)

3) Dallas Stars — Miro Heiskanen (LHD, Finland, HIFK)

4) Colorado Avalanche — Cale Makar (RHD, Canada, Brooks AJHL)

5) Vancouver Canucks — Cody Glass (C, Canada, Portland WHL)

6) Vegas Golden Knights — Gabe Vilardi (C, Canada, Windsor OHL)

7) Arizona Coyotes — Timothy Liljegren (RHD, Sweden, Rogle)

8) Buffalo Sabres — Owen Tippett (RW, Canada, Mississauga OHL)

9) Detroit Red Wings — Elias Pettersson (C/LW, Sweden, Timra IK)

10) Florida Panthers — Casey Mittelstadt (C, USA, Green Bay USHL)

11) Los Angeles Kings — Lias Andersson (C, Sweden, HV71)

12) Carolina Hurricanes — Kristian Vesalainen (LW, Finland, Frolunda J20)

13) Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg) — Klim Kostin (RW, Russia, Dynamo Moscow)

14) Tampa Bay Lightning — Martin Necas (C/RW, Czech Republic, Kometa Brno)

15) Vegas Golden Knights (from N.Y. Islanders) — Cal Foote (RHD, Canada/USA, Kelowna WHL)

16) Calgary Flames — Eeli Tolvanen (LW, Finland, Sioux City USHL)

17) Toronto Maple Leafs — Nick Suzuki (C, Canada, Owen Sound OHL)

18) Boston Bruins — Michael Rasmussen (C, Canada, Tri-City WHL)

19) San Jose Sharks — Ryan Poehling (C, USA, St. Cloud State NCAA)

20) St. Louis Blues — Erik Brannstrom (LHD, Sweden, HV71)

21) New York Rangers — Josh Norris (C, USA, U18 NTDP)

22) Edmonton Oilers — Kailer Yamamoto (RW, USA, Spokane WHL)

23) Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) — Urho Vaakanainen (LHD, Finland, JYP)

24) Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas) — Juuso Valimaki (LHD, Finland, Tri-City WHL)

25) Montreal Canadiens — Nic Hague (LHD, Canada, Mississauga OHL)

26) Chicago Blackhawks — Henri Jokiharju (RHD, Finland, Portland WHL)

27) St. Louis Blues (from Washington) — Filip Chytil (C, Czech Republic, ZPS Zlin)

28) Ottawa Senators — Robert Thomas (C, Canada, London OHL)

29) Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) — Jake Oettinger (G, USA, Boston University NCAA)

30) Nashville Predators — Kole Lind (RW, Canada, Kelowna WHL)

31) Pittsburgh Penguins — Connor Timmins (RHD, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)

NHL Draft

1) New Jersey Devils — Nico Hischier

2) Philadelphia Flyers — Nolan Patrick

3) Dallas Stars — Miro Heiskanen

4) Colorado Avalanche — Cale Makar

5) Vancouver Canucks — Elias Pettersson

6) Vegas Golden Knights — Cody Glass

7) New York Rangers (from Arizona) — Lias Andersson

8) Buffalo Sabres — Casey Mittelstadt

9) Detroit Red Wings — Michael Rasmussen

10) Florida Panthers — Owen Tippett

11) Los Angeles Kings — Gabe Vilardi

12) Carolina Hurricanes — Martin Necas

13) Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg) — Nick Suzuki

14) Tampa Bay Lightning — Cal Foote

15) Vegas Golden Knights (from N.Y. Islanders) — Erik Brannstrom

16) Calgary Flames — Juuso Valimaki

17) Toronto Maple Leafs — Timothy Liljegren

18) Boston Bruins — Urho Vaakanainen

19) San Jose Sharks — Josh Norris

20) St. Louis Blues — Robert Thomas

21) New York Rangers — Filip Chytil

22) Edmonton Oilers — Kailer Yamamoto

23) Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) — Pierre-Olivier Joseph (LHD, Canada, Charlottetown QMJHL)

24) Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas) — Kristian Vesalainen

25) Montreal Canadiens — Ryan Poehling

26) Dallas Stars (from Chicago) — Jake Oettinger

27) Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St. Louis) — Morgan Frost (C, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie OHL)

28) Ottawa Senators — Shane Bowers (C, Canada, Waterloo USHL)

29) Chicago Blackhawks (from Anaheim via Dallas) — Henri Jokiharju

30) Nashville Predators — Eeli Tolvanen

31) St. Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh) — Klim Kostin

5 Hits

Kailer Yamamoto Oilers
(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
It was well documented in Edmonton that the Oilers were interested in Kailer Yamamoto and I played that hunch in my mock.

Considering I got the first two picks wrong — the first time in six years of mocking, dating back to 2012, that I didn’t get No. 1 right — I salvaged a respectable showing in the first round.

My five hits were Heiskanen, Makar and Yamamoto, plus Oettinger and Jokiharju, who went in different spots but to the same teams as my mock after a pick swap between Dallas and Chicago.

Respectable, yet average — bringing my total over six years to 29 hits, which doing the basic math rounds up to five per year. Slightly better than average I guess, since the average is technically 4.83.

Upon further review, 2017 tied with 2013 for my third-best result in terms of first-round hits — behind 2015 (eight) and 2014 (six). It was a slight improvement on 2016 (four) and much better than my mocking debut in 2012 (one) when Nail Yakupov was my lone hit at No. 1.

3 Misses

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
The biggest miss for me in 2017 was right at the top when I had New Jersey taking Nolan Patrick over Nico Hischier, thinking the Devils would want to reunite Patrick with his former junior linemate John Quenneville. A year later, it looks like the Devils made the right decision.

When it comes to misses, which is how I really evaluate the success of my mocks, 2017 tied with 2014 for my best-ever showing. And since there was an extra pick added to the first round in 2017 — with Vegas joining the fold as the NHL’s 31st franchise — last year takes the tiebreaker for my top performance at 28 of 31, compared to 27 of 30 in 2014.

It’s been a good run overall — 26 of 30 in 2013, 25 of 30 in 2012, 24 of 30 in 2016 and 22 of 30 in 2015 — but 2017 definitely raised the bar again, reaching a 90 per cent success rate.

That’s impressive and so is my six-year average success rate of 84 per cent — correctly predicting 152 of 181 first-round prospects, with only 29 combined misses over six years. I haven’t crunched the numbers for all my fellow mockers from other media outlets and websites, but I might have the best record of anybody since 2012.

Enough bragging, my three misses from 2017 were Lind, Hague and Timmins — replaced by Joseph, Frost and Bowers. Sorry, one more brag, since Timmins (32), Lind (33) and Hague (34) were the first three picks of the second round, which goes to show how close I came to perfection in 2017.

Las Vegas Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague
(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
The Vegas Golden Knights got lucky when Nicolas Hague fell to them in the second round. The expansion team had a terrific first draft.

A year later, I still prefer my three picks, with Timmins arguably emerging as Canada’s best blueliner at the World Juniors, Hague winning OHL defenceman of the year honours, and Lind leading Kelowna in scoring for the second straight season despite missing 14 games.

My mock had Joseph at No. 32, Bowers at No. 46 and Frost at No. 56 — all three going in my second round. They might still be another year or two away from making the jump to the NHL, but all three have taken a step forward and are looking promising in their own right.

Sneak-Peek Mock

Prior to publishing my official mock last June, I put out a preliminary mock of sorts earlier in the month, dubbing it a sneak peek and a work in progress.

Morgan Frost
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Morgan Frost was one of those kids I struggled to get a read on in his draft year, bouncing him all around my rankings as well as my mocks.

In that version, which featured some bolder picks to serve as feelers, I had Frost as a first-rounder at No. 25 — two spots ahead of where he went, at No. 27. I ended up backing off that prediction — based on feedback from a few sources — but obviously should have stuck with it.

My sneak-peek mock also would have had a sixth hit in the first round, predicting Pettersson at No. 5 to the Canucks. That was strongly discouraged at the time by Vancouver’s fan base and widely viewed as a reach — prompting me to change that pick to Glass for my official mock as a means of appeasing the masses — but my initial hunch proved accurate in more ways than one, with Pettersson certainly living up to that draft position.

Promising Picks

I’ve said it before — in regards to 2016 and even 2015 — but it’s way too early to be drawing conclusions on the 2017 draft class.

Give it a few years — at least two, preferably three — before proclaiming anybody a bust or a steal.

To date, only nine of those 31 prospects picked in the first round have made their NHL debuts, and only the top two picks played more than nine games this season. So it’s hard to say what the rest will become — what they will be in their prime — but some picks have been looking more promising than others over the last 12 months.

Eeli Tolvanen Team Finland 2016
(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Eeli Tolvanen was a faller in the 2017 draft, but he made scouts look a bit silly by lighting up the KHL as an 18-year-old.

From the first round of my official mock, I was higher than most on Vesalainen at No. 12 — he went at No. 24 — but he would be among the risers in a re-draft. Ditto for Tolvanen, who I had at No. 16 — he went at No. 30, but might crack the top 10 in a do-over. I really think Hague and Timmins would find their way into the first round as of today too.

From my second round, a handful of prospects stand out as potential steals down the road in Mike DiPietro (34 to 64), Ostap Safin (38 to 115), Joni Ikonen (40 to 58), David Farrance (54 to 92) and Adam Ruzicka (58 to 109).

From my third round, I’m quite proud about picking Mikey Anderson (68 to 103), Cayden Primeau (89 to 199), Kirill Maksimov (90 to 146) and Tim Soderlund (92 to 112). I also had Jarret Tyszka (77 to 149), Ian Scott (81 to 110) and Sasha Chmelevski (82 to 185) as fallers from my top 90 who could outperform their draft position going forward. And that’s not to mention two undrafted forwards in Jordy Bellerive (80), who has since signed with Pittsburgh, and Linus Nyman (69), who might now have a better chance of getting picked in 2018.

Cayden Primeau
(Brandon Anderson/Lincoln Stars)
Goaltenders are always tough to predict when it comes to the NHL draft and mocking, but Cayden Primeau is looking like a potential steal for Montreal after emerging as one of the NCAA’s best netminders.

From rounds four through seven in my official mock, I’m liking my selections of Tyler Steenbergen (107 to 128), Lukas Elvenes (110 to 127) and Ivan Chekhovich (113 to 212) ahead of their draft position.

I also had four WHL prospects from my wheelhouse go undrafted, only to since be signed by NHL teams in Jayden Halbgewachs (108, San Jose), Dylan Coghlan (124, Vegas) and Ty Lewis (127, Colorado), plus Brennan Menell (138, Minnesota), who was passed over twice after previously appearing at No. 149 in my 2016 mock.

Russian forward Georgi Ivanov (141, undrafted) should be on the radar for 2018, while European goalies Vladislav Sukhachyov (213) and Veini Vehvilainen (216) will be hoping the third time is the charm for them. Like Menell, I also had both netminders in my 2016 mock, with Vehvilainen at No. 153 (and 123) and Sukhachyov at No. 207 (and 177) in my two versions from their first year of eligibility.

Regrettable Picks

Elias Pettersson
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
I really wish I would have stuck with Elias Pettersson at No. 5 to the Vancouver Canucks. In a re-draft, Pettersson and Casey Mittelstadt would both be in my top five and challenging for top three.

No scout or draft enthusiast is perfect and I’ll admit that I missed the mark my fair share in 2017 too.

In the first round of my official mock, it appears I was too low on Pettersson (9 to 5), Mittelstadt (10 to 8), Rasmussen (18 to 9) and Valimaki (24 to 16).

From my second round, I wasn’t high enough on Aleksi Heponiemi (52 to 40) and Alex Formenton (59 to 47), but I was clearly too high on Nikita Popugaev (39 to 98).

From my third round, I underestimated Marcus Davidsson (64 to 37), Jonah Gadjovich (67 to 55), Ian Mitchell (74 to 57), Dylan Samberg (85 to 43) and Alexandre Texier (87 to 45), with those five all getting selected in the second round.

From rounds four to seven, it’s looking like I could be wrong on Mario Ferraro (109 to 49), Scott Walford (112 to 68), Jack Badini (129 to 91), Jack Rathbone (139 to 95), Daniil Tarasov (161 to 86), Gustav Lindstrom (163 to 38) and Drake Batherson (honourable mention to 121).

So, yes, every scout has regrets, but I should come out ahead from 2017 as far as being right more often than not. I guess that’ll look good on my resume if I ever try to make the shift from reporting to full-time scouting in the future.