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BSN Denver 2018 NHL Mock Draft 1.0: Post-lottery edition

AJ Haefele Avatar
May 1, 2018

With the lottery officially in the books, the order for the upcoming NHL Draft is set up to pick 20. There can still be changes depending on who advances to the conference finals and beyond but for now, we’re going to take our first swing at a mock draft up to Colorado’s selection at pick number 16. When the entire order is set following the completion of the postseason, we’ll do another one leading up to draft day on June 22.

For now, our first attempt at predicting the board:

1. Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (SHL)

Buffalo finally won something! Them getting the first overall pick is a huge boon as they accidentally ended up the worst team in the NHL and are getting rewarded for it, unlike when they tanked hard for Connor McDavid. This time around they get this year’s big fish, Rasmus Dahlin. Some have called him the best defensive prospect in 40 years. That’s a bit much for my taste but I am comfortable saying he’s the best since Drew Doughty. He’s an excellent two-way player who is already playing meaningful minutes in pro hockey. He solves Buffalo’s problem of lacking any legitimate top-end defenders and should be in the NHL right away.

2. Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie (OHL)

After years of wasted potential, the Hurricanes finally began to shake things up with their front office overhaul and the resignation of Bill Peters. Carolina has operated as the prime example of what happens when a franchise is too patient, forever treading water in a paralysis by analysis state. They’ve lacked high-end forwards, specifically centers, for years and despite building up an enviable cache of defenders, they’ve chosen to just sit on their hands and hope the problem magically solves itself. Stunningly, that has not worked and now the universe has given them the chance to take Svechnikov, who will not solve their center problem but will become their most exciting forward potentially in franchise history. He’s a goal-scoring machine who became the first player to ever win USHL and OHL Rookie of the Year awards.

3. Montreal Canadiens – Brady Tkachuk, RW, Boston University (NCAA)

Okay, hear me out. People familiar with this year’s draft class are probably wondering why I’ve gone with Tkachuk ahead of the more highly-touted Zadina. Montreal GM Marc Bergevin’s most notable quote from his end-of-season presser mentioned his team’s lack of compete level. Enter Tkachuk, who is this year’s best combination of try hard and skill. He’s not the pest his brother is and his upside is still riding high from his WJC performance, which was excellent. His play at BU wasn’t really that of a top-flight prospect but Tkachuk is the guy everyone seems to be ignoring certain aspects in his favor. I’m doing the same here and projecting a desperate Canadiens team to take a player for the wrong reasons.

4. Ottawa Senators – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas IF (SHL)

Not expecting to be in this position and facing the reality of losing their franchise player either via trade or UFA in a year, the Senators get ahead of the problem and grab another dynamic offensive defenseman from Sweden that will likely fail to live up to Karlsson’s standards because drafting Hall of Fame talent is hard. But that’s Ottawa’s reality here and instead of taking Zadina and adding a top forward to their coffers, they add a piece on a blue line where they have very few impact prospects on the way. Boqvist and Thomas Chabot can combine down the road as the collective face of this defense while piling up points like a hockey version of Maverick and Goose.

5. Arizona Coyotes – Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

This is an amazing outcome for the Coyotes as they are the on the receiving end of good fortune after once again falling in the draft lottery. They land a player in Zadina who could realistically go number two to Carolina and nobody would criticize the selection. Zadina has been a powerhouse in his first year in North America and showed what a special player he can be at WJCs with a dominant performance. He’s a hard-working goal-scorer who brings an elite offensive profile to the table. Depending on the team that takes him, Zadina could contribute right away in the NHL next season.

6. Detroit Red Wings – Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL)

It seems like the Red Wings have been looking for a young RHD for ages. They have some tough choices here as Bouchard and Dobson have had breakout seasons and are right-handed. Hughes is the most dynamic of all of them and a local product but I’m giving them Bouchard. Of the three, he’s the best combination of size, skating, production, and he’s a touch older so you’re hoping his breakout is more indicative of who he’s going to be down the road. You could reasonably put any of them to any of these teams and I wouldn’t have a problem.

7. Vancouver Canucks – Quinn Hughes, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)

Vancouver is in a position where they can just sit back and let the draft unfold and take whoever is atop their board. Most teams should be doing that anyway, especially in the top 10, but that’s not the reality we live in. The Canucks have some dynamic young forwards in the NHL and even more on the way after a forward-heavy draft class last season. Olli Juolevi, the fifth overall pick in 2016, is likely headed to North America next season and is the only defenseman they’ve drafted in the first round since 2005 (!). Here they take advantage of a class heavy on skilled defensemen and they go with the diminutive stick of dynamite in Hughes. He’s an explosive puck-mover and while his size is always going to be a concern, these types of players are all the rage these days. Vancouver gets in on the act with a good one in Hughes.

8. Chicago Blackhawks – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

Dobson finishes the run here on defenseman as Chicago bolsters the weakest part of its pipeline. Chicago has been trying to get away with scrubs on defense for years and last year they got serious about fixing the position long-term when they drafted Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell in the top two rounds. Both players look like legit prospects and Dobson would jump both of them to give them a trio of exciting blueline prospects. Dobson would be a set-and-forget replacement for Brent Seabrook. While he may not have quite the physicality to his game, Dobson’s size, skating, and soft hands make him a high-end prospect that could easily go as high as fourth in this draft after his breakout season in the QMJHL.

9. New York Rangers – Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

The Rangers need a little of everything but I’m giving them the sniper in Wahlstrom. With Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson in tow from last year’s draft and three first rounders this year (from Boston and Tampa Bay, not projected in this version of the mock), the Rangers can do whatever they want. Here I have them taking the best goal scorer remaining on the board. Wahlstrom’s future is a little murky right now as he has long been a Harvard-commit but it appears his grades won’t be good enough to get him in, forcing him to go elsewhere. We saw this have a drastic effect on Eeli Tolvanen last year when he was unable to get into Boston College but his great season means whatever drop Wahlstrom may feel should be limited. Where he goes next will be a big part of the team’s plan when they select him.

10. Edmonton Oilers – Bode Wilde, D, USNTDP (USHL)

This is a bit of a reach but I’m expecting a little desperation from the Oilers come draft day. They have high-end forwards in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and to a lesser extent Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have some big bodies on defense in Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Instead of taking one of the forwards here, they look to the defense and specifically the right side in the form of Bode Wilde. He’s a big body who skates like the wind and has intriguing offensive upside. He’s an aggressive player in all three zones and loves to punish opponents for mistakes, be it physically or by doing something great with the puck. He’s a very intriguing blend of skills that I expect will rise a bit as the draft gets closer and Edmonton would be a perfect fit for him long-term.

11. New York Islanders (from Calgary) – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat (Liiga)

Thanks to the Travis Hamonic deal, the Islanders find themselves with back-to-back selections. It would only be responsible to pick a forward and a defenseman so the Isles begin by going with the highest forward left on my board in Kotkaniemi. He’s not the greatest skater but everything else he does is high-level. He’s a very smart playmaker from the pivot who also has a mature defensive game already. His production in the Liiga as a teenager has been mighty impressive and he’s been great in international competitions as well. He’s my top Finnish player this year and a name to keep an eye on as a big riser.

12. New York Islanders – Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

On the other side of the coin, Ty Smith is coming off a tough U-18s where he didn’t live up to expectations. He had a great year at Spokane and he’s another undersized puck-mover but it looks like he might be the odd-man out in this class right now with the most potential to drop. I’m personally a big fan of his skillset as he does everything well except engage physically, not surprising given his 5’10” and 170 pounds. He’ll need to bulk up a bit at the next level but he fits for the Isles as they are lacking any high-potential defensemen who aren’t already in the NHL.

13. Dallas Stars – Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

This is classic Stars right here. For years, they’ve drafted toolsy stars whose production has been questionable. Valeri Nichushkin, Denis Gurianov, and Riley Tufte were all players whose tools were all intriguing but questions were whether or not they could fit them inside a toolbox and become functional high-end players. So far, none have panned out the way they hoped and that may give them pause on taking a shot on a mystery man like Denisenko. If they’re comfortable, however, he fits the profile of a classic Stars pick

14. Philadelphia Flyers  (from St. Louis) – Joel Farabee, LW, USNTDP

This is another example of matching style with style. Philadelphia has a grip of intriguing prospects but at their core the Flyers are always going to be about high-effort guys who maximize whatever talent they possess. It’s just their identity. Farabee is this year’s workout warrior whose extremely high motor overshadows what might be questionable high-end offensive skills. He’s committed to going all-out on every shift and he’s easy to root for because of that but hard to evaluate because as he progresses through the levels he’ll be unable to simply outwork as many players to be successful. He’s a guy you select with the second line in mind but his ability to give you heavy minutes on both the PP and PK will make him very valuable, even if he ends up just as a third liner. With multiple picks in first round, the Flyers can afford to take a chance on this kid.

15. Florida Panthers – Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga)

Finland has been especially good to the Panthers in recent years as Henrik Borgstrom and Aleksi Hepponiemi are among their top prospects. They again turn to Finland as they get another flashy offensive player. Having given away Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas, the Panthers have needs at forward. You can never draft too many defensemen but there isn’t one hanging around for the Panthers in this range as this is the part of the draft where it will be more forward-heavy. The shifty Kupari is an intriguing offensive player who bounced around a bit this season before settling in late. His uneven play was uninspiring at times and its caused him to drop from being a potential top-10 selection to middle of the round.

16. Colorado Avalanche – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

This would be a great scenario for Colorado. Veleno really became a serious consideration for me at 11 with the Islanders but for a variety of reasons he ended up dropping to the 16. The first maritime player granted exceptional status to play in the QMJHL at age 15, Veleno hasn’t quite lived up to that billing in his career but a strong finish following a midseason trade from Saint John to Drummondville has his stock back on the rise. He’s a great skater with an unselfish attitude and commitment to defense that would be an excellent fit down the road in Colorado behind Nathan MacKinnon. He can struggle away from the puck as he loses focus when he’s not involved but his upside is very intriguing, especially going to a team that won’t need him to be the top center. Him actually lasting to 16 should make it an easy selection for Colorado but any of the players taken immediately before him in this mock would also make compelling arguments to be the pick. The two other players I considered at this spot were Ryan McLeod (OHL) and Akil Thomas (OHL).

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