5th Annual NHL Mock Draft: 2016, Round 1

Turns out, this 2016 draft ain’t so bad after all.

Last year, at this time, the hype was all about Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel — and deservedly so for that “generational” draft class — but Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and their peers have come on strong over the last 12 months.

Larry Fisher
           Larry Fisher

Initially deemed a “weak” class by some scouts and several pundits, the 2016 group has exceeded expectations and could now be considered “above average” when they hear their names called June 24-25 in Buffalo.

There’s a Big 3 — Matthews, Laine and fellow Finn, Jesse Puljujarvi — but some feel there could be franchise-type players available into the teens. There is plenty of quality in the top 20 — especially in the top 13 — and there will surely be some late steals as per usual.

It’s tough to compare this year to 2015, but 2016 is looking stronger and deeper than most anticipated a year ago.

So much so that I decided, for the first time, to extend my fifth annual mock draft to the full seven rounds. In years past, I typically stuck to the first round, but the wannabe scout in me eventually pushed it to two rounds and then to three last year, which proved to be my most successful mock to date.

Seven rounds is obviously taking it to a whole other level, but I don’t expect to get much right in the latter half. It tends to be a crapshoot after the first few rounds — or perhaps the first few picks in this year’s case — so I’m going the distance more as a fun exercise than anything.

I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on the top end of this draft class — say the top 100 prospects, or comfortably the top 60 — but I’ll be throwing darts for the final four rounds based on team tendencies and perceived organizational needs.

I’ll be posting my mock draft in a five-part series, starting with the first, second and third rounds separately, followed by rounds four through seven combined and, lastly, a team-based breakdown of the results.

Before getting started, I should admit to a slight bias towards major junior and specifically Western Hockey League players. I cover the WHL on a daily basis and, therefore, I’m more familiar with those prospects through live viewings. So, all things seemingly equal, I may go with the WHLer more often than not.

In saying that, this draft may be remembered as the year of the Finns and the Knights. There will be plenty of talent plucked out of Finland and from the Memorial Cup champion London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Without further ado, let’s get on with the show. The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the clock with the first overall pick — and Gary Bettman does not have a trade to announce. Sorry, Coyotes fans . . .

First Round

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

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2.25, 216 pounds (Combine Official, courtesy Mark Scheig, previously listed at 210)

Playoff Stats: 4 GP-0 G-3 A-3 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 36 GP-24 G-22 A-46 PTS

Central Scouting: 1 European Skaters (EUS, April 12, Final)

ISS Hockey: 1 (June, Final)

Future Considerations: 1 (June 4, Final)

McKeen’s Hockey: 2 (June 10, Final)

TSN Bob McKenzie: 1 (June 20, Final)

TSN Craig Button: 1 (June 8, Final)

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 1 (May 20, Final)

Toronto Maple Leafs square logoANALYSIS: Laine’s MVP performance at the worlds made this decision all the more difficult but, from the start, it was pretty simple. The Leafs have long needed a No. 1 centre and Matthews is capable of being that guy. Put him between William Nylander and Mitch Marner for the next decade and watch the sparks fly. That has the potential to become the league’s most dominant line.

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

Height/Weight: 6-3.75, 201 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 18 GP-10 G-5 A-15 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 46 GP-17 G-16 A-33 PTS

Central Scouting: 2 EUS

ISS Hockey: 2

Future Considerations: 2

McKeen’s Hockey: 1

TSN Bob McKenzie: 2

TSN Craig Button: 2

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 2

Winnipeg Jets square logoANALYSIS: As consolation prizes go, Laine is one of the better ones in recent memory — much like Jack Eichel behind Connor McDavid last year or Tyler Seguin after Taylor Hall in 2010. Laine has a lot of Alex Ovechkin in him, maybe a bit of Jaromir Jagr and Brett Hull too. He’s a big body and a pure goal-scorer. The Jets will be trending up with Laine lining up alongside Mark Scheifele and Nik Ehlers or Kyle Connor in the future, giving Winnipeg an elite trio too. Laine comes with quite the personality as well, a likeable cockiness — reminiscent of a young Ovechkin. I could totally see Laine shooting down his glove after his first NHL goal, like the second coming of the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne.

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

Height/Weight: 6-4, 203 (did not test)

Playoff Stats: 10 GP-4 G-5 A-9 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 50 GP-13 G-15 A-28 PTS

Central Scouting: 3 EUS

ISS Hockey: 3

Future Considerations: 3

McKeen’s Hockey: 3

TSN Bob McKenzie: 3

TSN Craig Button: 3

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 3

Columbus Blue Jackets 2 square logoANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets’ biggest need is for a centre — since trading away Ryan Johansen — but Puljujarvi is too good to pass up and there’s potential to convert him to a pivot. Some believe Columbus could entertain offers for the pick or consider taking Matthew Tkachuk here instead of Puljujarvi but, at the end of the day, Jarmo Kekalainen will be thrilled to select his countryman, a big forward that John Tortorella will take a liking to.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2, 200 (did not test)

Playoff Stats: 18 GP-20 G-20 A-40 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 57 GP-30 G-77 A-107 PTS

Central Scouting: 2 North American Skaters (NAS)

ISS Hockey: 4

Future Considerations: 5

McKeen’s Hockey: 4

TSN Bob McKenzie: 4

TSN Craig Button: 5

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 4

Edmonton Oilers square logoANALYSIS: Nobody would be surprised if the Oilers traded their pick for an immediate upgrade on defence — somebody like Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, Carolina’s Justin Faulk, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba or possibly even Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen. However, there won’t be any fictitious trades in this mock, and if Edmonton is keeping the pick, then Tkachuk has become the favourite to go here. His performance in the Memorial Cup championship game, with two goals, including the overtime winner, has supposedly “cemented” his status as the fourth-best prospect in this draft class, if not the third. Prior to that performance, many (including myself) felt Pierre-Luc Dubois would be a better fit for Edmonton as a versatile forward with size, skill and significant upside. However, there’s a good chance that Tkachuk was Peter Chiarelli’s preferred option all along and that, barring a trade, his mind is now made up after being in attendance to watch Keith’s son step up despite playing on a sprained ankle. One of first changes that Chiarelli made upon being hired by Edmonton was to strengthen the team’s scouting in Ontario where the staff now includes Chiarelli’s brother, Mike. So the Oilers would already have been very familiar with Tkachuk and his London teammate Olli Juolevi, a puck-moving defenceman from Finland. Tkachuk has been compared to Shane Doan, but he’s smaller than Dubois and pigeonholed as a left-winger behind Hall on the depth chart. In saying that, Tkachuk appears to be a clutch scorer the way right-winger Jordan Eberle was coming out of junior and a Doan type might be just what the doctor ordered for Edmonton’s forward group. Yes, Tkachuk would be ANOTHER forward and what Edmonton really needs is help on defence, but all the top draft-eligible defencemen, including Juolevi, are left-handed, which would be redundant in Edmonton with Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart already filling that side for the future. More than likely, I feel, Bettman will be announcing a trade here and the team moving up will be doing so with the intention of also taking Tkachuk. Unless it’s Montreal, with the Habs being hard after Dubois. Whatever happens here could send this entire mock into a tailspin, but that’s half the fun of draft day.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2.25, 205 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 12 GP-7 G-5 A-12 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-42 G-57 A-99 PTS

Central Scouting: 1 NAS

ISS Hockey: 5

Future Considerations: 4

McKeen’s Hockey: 8

TSN Bob McKenzie: 5

TSN Craig Button: 4

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 5

Vancouver Canucks 1 square logoANALYSIS: By trading Jared McCann, a centre, for Erik Gudbranson, a defenceman, the Canucks appear poised to replace McCann at this year’s draft. That deal threw a real wrench into my mock because I initially had Vancouver picking all-purpose defender Jakob Chychrun for the same reasons it acquired Gudbranson. Chychrun would have been a chip off the old Ed Jovanovski block, but if the Canucks are now coveting a centre, Dubois is likely their man assuming he’s still available. Dubois would be an offensive upgrade on McCann, though it’s likely he would spend another season in junior with Vancouver already having Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat down the middle. Dubois could make the Canucks as a winger, but their goal would be to develop him as a centre and have him play a key role on Canada’s world-junior team. If by chance Dubois is gone, then Logan Brown might be Vancouver’s next-best option. Brown is a huge playmaking type, drawing favourable comparisons to Joe Thornton, which will increase his draft stock thanks to San Jose going all the way. Brown would be a bit of a reach at No. 5, but you can’t teach size and he’s got sky-is-the-limit potential. Brown’s dad, Jeff, was on the Canucks team that went to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final — a productive defenceman who sprung Pavel Bure for a memorable breakaway goal in those playoffs — but Jeff didn’t leave Vancouver on the best of terms after speculation of a scandal involving goalie Kirk McLean’s wife. All things considered, the Canucks would be hoping whoever picks fourth takes Tkachuk, so they can grab Dubois here, which now seems a likely scenario.

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

Height/Weight: 6-0.5, 178 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 6 GP-6 G-6 A-12 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 57 GP-28 G-47 A-75 PTS

Central Scouting: 3 NAS

ISS Hockey: 6

Future Considerations: 8

McKeen’s Hockey: 6

TSN Bob McKenzie: 7

TSN Craig Button: 10

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 9

Calgary Flames square logoANALYSIS: The Flames would be adding another dynamic offensive player in Nylander, a future wingman for Sam Bennett to complement the Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan pairing. Or Calgary could really load up that top line, but either way, the son of former NHLer Michael and brother of Leafs top prospect William would be a big boost to Calgary’s firepower up front. Before Tkachuk lit it up at the Memorial Cup, I had him slotted here with Nylander falling all the way to Carolina at No. 13, which seemed a tad unrealistic. This is more in line with the “consensus” order through six picks, no real surprises so far, and maybe Calgary wouldn’t have wanted Tkachuk anyways. Not after previously picking a bust by the name of Daniel Tkaczuk. Remember him? The Flames took Tkaczuk in the same spot, sixth overall, in 1997 and he was essentially the same size as Tkachuk too (Tkaczuk was listed at 6-1, 190). Perhaps that would have been a bad omen, but this Tkachuk would have been impossible to pass up as a gritty-yet-skilled winger who can obviously put the puck in the net — even on one leg. If Nylander doesn’t go here, there’s a realistic possibility that he could fall out of the top 10 and into the teens. Brother William went eighth overall to Toronto in 2014 but is widely considered to be the better talent — sort of like the Granlund brothers from Finland, with Mikael being better than Markus, the former Flame. Who knows what Calgary will do here, but if this mock isn’t already a mess by No. 6, the Flames could, well, make it go up in flames. Going away from the consensus, maybe Julien Gauthier, the behemoth winger, is an option? Or perhaps Jake Bean, the hometown kid who arguably improved more than any other blue-liner over the course of this draft year? That would be shocking, but so was Thomas Hickey in 2007. Tyson Jost or Clayton Keller, the list of possibilities goes on and on. Nothing would surprise me, but Nylander seems the most likely candidate.

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

Height/Weight: 6-6.25, 220 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-0 G-6 A-6 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 59 GP-21 G-53 A-74 PTS

Central Scouting: 7 NAS

ISS Hockey: 7

Future Considerations: 12

McKeen’s Hockey: 9

TSN Bob McKenzie: 10

TSN Craig Button: 7

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 8

Phoenix Coyotes square logoANALYSIS: This pick could also change the complexion of the draft and the Coyotes could go several different directions here. No defencemen have been picked yet in this mock, so Arizona could have its pick of the litter and the aforementioned Juolevi and Chychrun, or Mikhail Sergachev, could be attractive options, though they are all lefties like Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ultimately, this draft was all about getting a centre, the homegrown Matthews, and the Coyotes can still plug that hole in the long-term depth chart by selecting Brown, who could form a quality 1-2 punch with Dylan Strome down the road. They play contrasting styles, with Strome a shooter and Brown a passer, so it seems like a good fit for Arizona and would give the Coyotes the necessary size down the middle to compete in the Pacific Division. There are rumblings that Arizona could trade Martin Hanzal — its current 6-foot-6 centre — this offseason, so Brown would be a logical choice to fill that void. It helps that Brown helped Coyotes prospect Christian Fischer score 40 goals in his first OHL season and could serve as a set-up man for some of Arizona’s other goal-scoring wingers like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Brendan Perlini. This still seems a bit high for Brown, but he’s going to be a big riser thanks to a second-half surge and a strong showing at the under-18 tournament. If not Brown, another option might be Keller, the MVP from the U18s playing alongside Brown with Team USA.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2, 182 (did not test)

Playoff Stats: 18 GP-3 G-11 A-14 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 57 GP-9 G-33 A-42 PTS

Central Scouting: 5 NAS

ISS Hockey: 11

Future Considerations: 11

McKeen’s Hockey: 5

TSN Bob McKenzie: 6

TSN Craig Button: 9

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 6

Buffalo Sabres square logoANALYSIS: The Sabres are almost certainly going defence and, unlike the teams picking ahead of them, Buffalo’s current strength is on the right side with Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson. The left side is a weakness, so enter Juolevi, a slightly more offensive Olli Maatta and the perfect partner for fellow Finn, Ristolainen. Buffalo probably has its mind made up here, assuming Juolevi is still available. Where this mock could be way off is in suggesting the first defenceman won’t go until No. 8. The actual draft could play out more like 2012, when eight defencemen went within the top 10, including seven in a row starting at No. 4. There won’t be eight in the top 10 in 2016, but there could easily be four or five, possibly even six and, likewise, that could start at No. 4.

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

Height/Weight: 5-11, 190 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 11 GP-6 G-8 A-14 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 48 GP-42 G-62 A-104 PTS

Central Scouting: 16 NAS

ISS Hockey: 9

Future Considerations: 10

McKeen’s Hockey: 15

TSN Bob McKenzie: 11

TSN Craig Button: 11

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 7

Montreal Canadiens square logoANALYSIS: The Canadiens could go defence here too, with Chychrun or Sergachev being reasonable picks. Montreal has Alex Galchenyuk making the move to centre and big Michael McCarron behind him, but both are capable of playing the wing as well. So a centre, like Jost, who has been labelled a smaller, poor man’s version of Jonathan Toews with similarities to Saku Koivu too, could be a good fit for the Habs. Marc Bergevin will be fond of Jost’s intangibles and his size won’t scare off Montreal, considering how effective Brendan Gallagher and others have become in the evolving NHL. Jost was also an all-star at the U18 showcase where he broke McDavid’s Canadian scoring record at his future stomping grounds — the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. Jost will be following in Toews’ footsteps, destined for the University of North Dakota next season after winning Junior A player of the year honours in Canada.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2.25, 221 (CO, previously listed at 208)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-2 G-3 A-5 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 67 GP-17 G-40 A-57 PTS

Central Scouting: 8 NAS

ISS Hockey: 10

Future Considerations: 9

McKeen’s Hockey: 14

TSN Bob McKenzie: 9

TSN Craig Button: 8

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 10

Colorado Avalanche square logoANALYSIS: Like Buffalo, the Avs are probably leaning toward to picking a defenceman here and Colorado could also use a lefty, with Erik Johnson and Barrie both righties. Sergachev, who is capable of playing on both the left and right sides, shot up the rankings thanks to a sensational debut in North America and he may have overtaken Chychrun in Colorado’s eyes because of the offence that Sergachev brings. Chychrun has a lot in common with Johnson, while Sergachev also has Johnson’s size but an overall skill-set similar to Barrie, who the Avs are rumoured to be shopping on the trade market. With fellow left-handed Russian defence prospect Nikita Zadorov ready to take the league by storm, Sergachev wouldn’t be far behind. As another comparable, Sergachev is sort of this year’s Ivan Provorov. A crazy rumour has Colorado trading Matt Duchene for Trouba (highly unlikely), but if that came to fruition, then Keller would be a good pick here as a Duchene replacement in due time.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2, 200 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-2 G-6 A-8 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-11 G-38 A-49 PTS

Central Scouting: 4 NAS

ISS Hockey: 8

Future Considerations: 6

McKeen’s Hockey: 13

TSN Bob McKenzie: 13

TSN Craig Button: 17

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 12

New Jersey Devils square logoANALYSIS: The Devils would be very familiar with Chychrun, a junior teammate of last year’s first-rounder Pavel Zacha. That connection could sway New Jersey toward the top-ranked defenceman at this time last year. Chychrun didn’t have a great draft year and didn’t make Canada’s world-junior team, but it’s unlikely he’ll fall much further than this. New Jersey’s defence lost a lot of its promise with Eric Gelinas traded and Jon Merrill not making much of an impact. Even Adam Larsson and Damon Severson have had their struggles, and the prospect pipeline isn’t as promising as it once was either. Tempting as some of the available forwards might be, it makes sense for the Devils to draft Chychrun, the son of former NHLer Jeff Chychrun and nephew of Luke Richardson.

12) Ottawa Senators — Clayton Keller (C, U.S. National Development Team)

Height/Weight: 5-10, 164 (CO)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-37 G-70 A-107 PTS

Central Scouting: 9 NAS

ISS Hockey: 12

Future Considerations: 7

McKeen’s Hockey: 11

TSN Bob McKenzie: 8

TSN Craig Button: 6

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 13

Ottawa Senators square logoANALYSIS: If the draft plays out this way, the Senators would have their pick of a potential top-line centre here, be it Keller or Ontario product Michael McLeod. Keller is smaller but he’s always “in the fight” and making things happen offensively. Keller is a catalyst who has chemistry with Colin White, Ottawa’s first-rounder from 2015, having played together in the past. Keller is quite comparable to Winnipeg’s Connor, who is emerging as the steal of last year’s first round (at 17th overall), and some even liken Keller to Patrick Kane. There is a lot to like for Ottawa, but staying closer to home and taking McLeod wouldn’t be a bad idea either. The Senators could also continue the run of defencemen by selecting Bean or one of the top-ranked righties in Charlie McAvoy or Dante Fabbro.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2, 185 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 7 GP-3 G-6 A-9 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 57 GP-21 G-40 A-61 PTS

Central Scouting: 13 NAS

ISS Hockey: 13

Future Considerations: 15

McKeen’s Hockey: 7

TSN Bob McKenzie: 15

TSN Craig Button: 19

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 16

Carolina Hurricanes square logoANALYSIS: Ron Francis probably wants to pick a centre — ideally Brown, for his size, but assuming he’s off the board, McLeod would make for a nice consolation prize. In this mock, McLeod is the last of that first wave of potential front-liners. McLeod isn’t as big as Brown obviously, but he’s not small by any means and could fill out his frame to become a Scheifele type, with more speed but less finish around the net. If the Hurricanes aren’t overly high on McLeod here, they could opt for a bigger winger like Julien Gauthier or Max Jones. The idea of picking a centre comes from losing the former face of the franchise, Eric Staal, but Carolina is actually still quite deep at that position with Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm and the up-and-coming Sebastian Aho, though the latter two might make better wingers down the road. This will be an interesting pick, assuming the Hurricanes don’t package it with No. 21 (or other picks) to move up in the pecking order and perhaps get their man in Brown.

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

Height/Weight: 6-0.25, 199 (CO, previously listed at 208)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 37 GP-3 G-22 A-25 PTS

Central Scouting: 6 NAS

ISS Hockey: 23

Future Considerations: 14

McKeen’s Hockey: 12

TSN Bob McKenzie: 14

TSN Craig Button: 16

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 11

Boston Bruins square logoANALYSIS: The Bruins will probably go defence with this pick and they are one of the teams with a need for a righty. Fortunately for Boston, there is a good fit right in its backyard. McAvoy could be this year’s Zach Werenski, so this selection just makes a ton of sense. In saying that, nothing Boston did at last year’s draft made any sense at all, so who knows what to expect from Don Sweeney this time around. Gauthier, Jones and this next guy could certainly be part of the conversation for the Bruins’ pick.

15) Minnesota Wild — Kieffer Bellows (LW, U.S. National Development Team)

Height/Weight: 6-0, 197 (CO)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 62 GP-50 G-31 A-81 PTS

Central Scouting: 10 NAS

ISS Hockey: 17

Future Considerations: 16

McKeen’s Hockey: 19

TSN Bob McKenzie: 18

TSN Craig Button: 13

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 20

Minnesota Wild square logoANALYSIS: The son of former Minnesota North Star, Brian Bellows, the bloodlines and the goal-scoring ability make this a logical selection. The younger Bellows is quite similar to Canucks prospect Brock Boeser, who had a breakout year at North Dakota. Bellows is bound for Boston University and could have a similar impact as an NCAA freshman. Some see a bit of Zach Parise in Bellows too — all the more reason to pick this Minnesota-born prospect.

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

Height/Weight: 6-0.75, 173 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-0 G-2 A-2 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-24 G-40 A-64 PTS

Central Scouting: 15 NAS

ISS Hockey: 16

Future Considerations: 18

McKeen’s Hockey: 10

TSN Bob McKenzie: 12

TSN Craig Button: 12

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 17

Detroit Red Wings square logoANALYSIS: The Red Wings might go for a righty in Fabbro, but Bean is the better prospect with the bigger upside in my opinion. Bean is a lefty like Joe Hicketts and a late-bloomer like him too. There are also lots of forward options that could be attractive to Detroit in this spot, so it just depends what Ken Holland wants to do. In terms of defencemen, the Red Wings could go with a skilled option like Bean or Samuel Girard or perhaps go for size in Logan Stanley. If Detroit decides to go with a forward instead, the Red Wings might take Wisconsin’s Luke Kunin, who is quite similar to Dylan Larkin.

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

Height/Weight: 5-11.5, 197 (CO)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 30 GP-9 G-19 A-28 PTS

Central Scouting: 24 NAS

ISS Hockey: NA

Future Considerations: 29

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 39

TSN Craig Button: 44

Sportsnet Damien Cox: HM

Nashville Predators square logoANALYSIS: The Predators seem like a team willing to take a chance on Benson despite his injury-plagued draft year (cyst on tailbone removed, resulting in inflamed pubic bone). Nashville drafts heavily out of the WHL and would have been watching Benson for years already. His skating could use a bit of work, but Benson is a natural centre who could slot in behind Ryan Johansen. Benson will be one of the wild-cards of this draft, once a top-10 prospect but now possibly a second-rounder. This spot would be considered on the high side for Benson right now. The Predators may strongly consider Kunin here too but don’t want another Jimmy Vesey debacle and decide to pass on the NCAA standout.

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

Height/Weight: 6-3, 231 (CO, previously listed at 6-4, 225)

Playoff Stats: 6 GP-2 G-3 A-5 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 54 GP-41 G-16 A-57 PTS

Central Scouting: 12 NAS

ISS Hockey: 21

Future Considerations: 21

McKeen’s Hockey: 20

TSN Bob McKenzie: 17

TSN Craig Button: 43

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 21

Philadelphia Flyers square logoANALYSIS: The Flyers like them big and strong and Gauthier certainly fits that bill as the son of a champion bodybuilder. Gauthier played for Canada at the world juniors as the lone draft-eligible and had a fairly strong showing on the big ice in Finland, yet seems to be falling for some reason. Scouts are questioning his hockey sense and playmaking ability based on his Cy Young stat-line, but Gauthier is the prototypical Flyers pick. Philadelphia has drafted an embarrassment of riches on defence, so expect Ron Hextall to focus on selecting forwards this year.

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

Height/Weight: 6-5, 211 (CO, previously listed at 205 and as low as 190)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 27 GP-10 G-4 A-14 PTS

Central Scouting: 17 NAS

ISS Hockey: 22

Future Considerations: 22

McKeen’s Hockey: 21

TSN Bob McKenzie: 21

TSN Craig Button: 45

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 22

New York Islanders square logoANALYSIS: The Islanders might be losing Kyle Okposo to free agency and would want to replace that size in their top-six forwards eventually. Tufte could be a good long-term option, but he’s really raw and his dominance of high-school hockey didn’t translate to junior. Tufte racked up 47 goals and 78 points in just 25 regular-season games with Blaine High, then tacked on two goals and seven points in two playoff games for good measure. Expect a bigger forward here, with Max Jones or another project type in Tage Thompson potentially going to the Islanders if not Tufte.

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

Height/Weight: 6-0.5, 192 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 11 GP-0 G-8 A-8 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 45 GP-14 G-53 A-67 PTS

Central Scouting: 18 NAS

ISS Hockey: 19

Future Considerations: 13

McKeen’s Hockey: 24

TSN Bob McKenzie: 16

TSN Craig Button: 15

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 15

Phoenix Coyotes square logoANALYSIS: The Coyotes could pass on the top-end defencemen with their first pick and still get a good one in this spot. Fabbro was arguably Canada’s best defenceman at the U18s, which could have boosted his stock into the teens, but Arizona probably wouldn’t pass on him at No. 20 if taking a forward like Brown at No. 7. Headed to Boston University to be a teammate of McAvoy next season, Fabbro is sort of an all-purpose defender, somewhat similar to righties Michael Stone and Connor Murphy already on Arizona’s roster. So perhaps the Coyotes would prefer Stanley’s size or an offensive catalyst like Girard or Kale Clague. This pick really depends on who Arizona takes at No. 7.

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

Height/Weight: 6-2, 203 (did not test)

Playoff Stats: 6 GP-1 G-1 A-2 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-28 G-24 A-52 PTS

Central Scouting: 14 NAS

ISS Hockey: 14

Future Considerations: 20

McKeen’s Hockey: 17

TSN Bob McKenzie: 19

TSN Craig Button: 42

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 19

Carolina Hurricanes square logoANALYSIS: Carolina’s fan base is clamouring for size and that factor comes into play here. Jones may not be the most skilled option available, but he was a force at the Memorial Cup after returning from a lengthy suspension in the OHL playoffs. Jones is looking like this year’s Lawson Crouse, albeit less of a pure scorer and more of a pest. Still, that’s a good fit for Carolina’s future forward group.

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

Height/Weight: 5-11.75, 184 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 21 GP-6 G-8 A-14 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 71 GP-6 G-37 A-43 PTS

Central Scouting: 27 NAS

ISS Hockey: NA

Future Considerations: 39

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 30

TSN Craig Button: 55

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 27

Winnipeg Jets square logoANALYSIS: Winnipeg would have the book on Clague, with him playing just up the road in Brandon. Clague had his struggles this season and was stuck behind Ivan Provorov and captain Macoy Erkamps on the depth chart, but Clague came on strong in the WHL playoffs and probably did enough to push himself back into the first round. His stat-line pales in comparison to Bean’s, but they have a lot of similarities. Ryan Ellis and Jets prospect Josh Morrissey are also comparables for Clague. The Jets probably have Clague in mind for this pick, but could they resist picking Kunin here? He’d be awfully tempting and fits the mould of Winnipeg’s recent draft history.

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

Height/Weight: 5-11.25, 193 (CO)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 34 GP-19 G-13 A-32 PTS

Central Scouting: 11 NAS

ISS Hockey: 18

Future Considerations: 19

McKeen’s Hockey: 16

TSN Bob McKenzie: 20

TSN Craig Button: 20

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 18

Florida Panthers square logoANALYSIS: The Panthers’ new analytics-based scouting department takes their best player available here in Kunin, who could be one of the draft’s biggest risers based on a strong showing at the combine. Some have Kunin inside the top 20 and even close to the top 10, but this spot still seems appropriate. Of course, Florida could also go with the sentimental pick here and take Brett Howden — the younger brother of Panthers forward Quinton — but the hope would be that he’s still available with Vancouver’s second-rounder at No. 33, acquired in the Gubranson trade. Kunin is the better talent and can’t be passed up.

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

Height/Weight: 5-7, 165 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 13 GP-8 G-11 A-19 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 60 GP-51 G-50 A-101 PTS

Central Scouting: 21 NAS

ISS Hockey: 26

Future Considerations: 25

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 33

TSN Craig Button: 21

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 24

Anaheim Ducks square logoANALYSIS: The Ducks have a lot of size in their forward group but could use a bit more speed and energy. DeBrincat doesn’t have the wheels of Andrew Cogliano (25th overall in 2005), but he’s a better scorer — as evidenced by back-to-back 50-goal seasons in junior — and doesn’t let his size hold him back. Scouts see a lot of Tampa’s Tyler Johnson in DeBrincat and that kind of offensive upside would be welcomed in Anaheim.

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

Height/Weight: 6-0.5, 190 (CO, previously listed at 6-2, 178)

Playoff Stats: 3 GP-0 G-1 A-1 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 28 GP-12 G-14 A-26 PTS

Central Scouting: 5 EUS

ISS Hockey: 15

Future Considerations: 17

McKeen’s Hockey: 22

TSN Bob McKenzie: 23

TSN Craig Button: 14

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 23

Dallas Stars square logoANALYSIS: The Stars like their Russian forwards in the first round — Valeri Nichushkin (10th in 2013) and Denis Gurianov (12th in 2015) — and would probably see Rubtsov as a steal here. Rubtsov might be a top-15 talent in this draft class but expect him to fall into the 20s due to the Russian factor, along with missing the U18 showcase because of a doping scandal and also false advertising his height prior to the combine. Then again, Rubtsov recently announced his intention to play major junior next season — we’ll find out where on June 28, the date of the CHL Import Draft — so that could rocket him back up the draft board. Time will tell, but I don’t see Dallas passing on Rubtsov under any circumstances.

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

Height/Weight: 5-9, 175 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 10 GP-7 G-6 A-13 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-38 G-55 A-93 PTS

Central Scouting: 29 NAS

ISS Hockey: NA

Future Considerations: 24

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 51

TSN Craig Button: 23

Sportsnet Damien Cox: HM

Washington Capitals square logoANALYSIS: The Capitals like their Russians too and might be hoping Rubtsov falls to them, but Abramov is a nice consolation prize and he’s already playing on this side of the pond. Abramov is a shifty, high-skill player, perhaps a bit more explosive than Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky.

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

Height/Weight: 6-1, 174 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-3 G-2 A-5 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 56 GP-23 G-45 A-68 PTS

Central Scouting: 28 NAS

ISS Hockey: 30

Future Considerations: 23

McKeen’s Hockey: 30

TSN Bob McKenzie: 32

TSN Craig Button: 35

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 25

Tampa Bay Lightning square logoANALYSIS: Speaking of liking Russian forwards, the Lightning would probably take Rubtsov or Abramov if either of them are available here. Instead, Tampa Bay takes Laberge, who was the first star of the CHL Top Prospects Game. Some see shades of Simon Gagne in his younger years. Just another weapon for the Lightning to deploy and perhaps a complement to Jonathan Drouin now that he’s sticking it out in Tampa Bay.

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

Height/Weight: 6-5.5, 195 (CO)

Playoff Stats: NA

Regular Season Stats: 36 GP-14 G-18 A-32 PTS

Central Scouting: 20 NAS

ISS Hockey: 24

Future Considerations: 30

McKeen’s Hockey: 25

TSN Bob McKenzie: 27

TSN Craig Button: 32

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 28

St. Louis Blues square logoANALYSIS: The Blues may be surprised to see Thompson still available here, considering his size and stat-line, and the fact his father Brent played in the NHL. Thompson will need to bulk up over the next couple seasons in college, but he has towering potential. Fortunately for the Blues, their prospect pool is pretty deep and they can afford to wait on a project like Thompson who could be a few years away from competing for a roster spot. Thompson reminds some of Mark Jankowski, who the Flames picked 21st overall in 2012 and just finally signed this spring. Calgary’s Joe Colborne is another comparable and he went 16th to the Bruins back in 2008. Therefore, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team reach for Thompson in the early 20s or even the late teens. St. Louis might be hoping for the local boy here in Kunin, who has a bit of Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri in him, but Kunin will likely be long gone. Maybe the Blues trade up to get him, packaging Kevin Shattenkirk or a young forward like Ty Rattie or Dmitrij Jaskin as part of the deal.

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

Height/Weight: 6-7, 224 (CO, previously listed at 6-6, 209)

Playoff Stats: 5 GP-1 G-0 A-1 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 64 GP-5 G-12 A-17 PTS

Central Scouting: 19 NAS

ISS Hockey: 25

Future Considerations: 42

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 22

TSN Craig Button: 30

Sportsnet Damien Cox: 14

Boston Bruins square logoANALYSIS: The Bruins know Zdeno Chara doesn’t have many years left and look to replace his size on the back end with Stanley. You can’t teach size and Stanley has that, but he’s also a smooth skater for such a big kid. With that comes comparisons to Tyler Myers, but Stanley’s offensive skill-set isn’t on that level yet. Stanley is another real wild-card who could go 10 spots higher or lower, but there’s a good chance some team will take him in the first round, especially a team with two picks like Boston.

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

Height/Weight: 5-9, 160 (CO)

Playoff Stats: 21 GP-2 G-20 A-22 PTS

Regular Season Stats: 67 GP-10 G-64 A-74 PTS

Central Scouting: 38 NAS

ISS Hockey: NA

Future Considerations: 27

McKeen’s Hockey: NA

TSN Bob McKenzie: 45

TSN Craig Button: 27

Sportsnet Damien Cox: NA

Toronto Maple Leafs square logoANALYSIS: It’ll be interesting to see what the Leafs do with these back-to-back picks to end the first round and start the second round. Girard could be a good fit here. He’s undersized and projects as more of a power-play specialist like Vatanen in Anaheim. Girard has more offensive upside than Morgan Rielly or Travis Dermott. Toronto fans would be in for a treat watching Girard dish pucks to Matthews, Marner and Nylander with the man advantage. If the Leafs wanted to go with another forward instead, the likes of Rasmus Asplund, Boris Katchouk, Brett Howden and Cam Morrison would likely be topping their list.

Recapping the First Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12) Ottawa Senators — Clayton Keller (C, U.S. National Development Team)

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

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

15) Minnesota Wild — Kieffer Bellows (LW, U.S. National Development Team)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traded Picks

New York Rangers to Arizona

Los Angeles to Carolina

Chicago to Winnipeg

San Jose to Boston

Pittsburgh to Toronto