Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: January 31, 2017.
Colorado Avalanche: Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
- The fourth overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft has the experience and leadership you covet. He won 2014 WHL Rookie of the year despite having very limited experience.
- The 6-3 198 lb Nolan Patrick entered the 2017 NHL Draft as the clear cut first overall pick in similar fashion as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but not highly as touted. Patrick has better size than both McDavid and Matthews though. I still think Patrick is the front runner to be the top pick after coming back from an injury only to be named team captain of Team Cherry in the 2017 CHL Prospects Game. Patrick isn't a lock though with Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads making a case to be the top pick as well though.
- Nolan Patrick had 41 goals, 61 assists, and 102 points in 2015-2016 as an alternate captain. This season he got named team captain and has 8 goals, 9 assists, and 17 points in 11 games this season. Patrick has 4 points in his past three WHL games since recovering from a WHL injury with 2 goals and 2 assists over those 3 games.
- Nolan Patrick is one of three or four players in a pretty weak 2017 NHL Draft that is NHL ready. Colorado is loaded with centers though so Patrick may start out on the third line behind Matt Duchene and Nate Mackinnon.
- Nolan Patrick did an awesome job winning face offs against Nico Hischier going 12/16 on face offs. Patrick set up two assists despite being double teamed, but also was on the ice when Team Orr scored four of their five goals. Patrick showcased his playmaking and leadership and despite not having a great CHL Prospects game, he still played well enough to be the top pick narrowly edging out Nico Hischier and Gabriel Vilardi.
Arizona Coyotes: Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
- The Arizona Coyotes take the best player available at 2 which happens to be the 6-0 174 lb Nico Hischier who was named the second team captain of the 2017 CHL Prospects Game for Team Orr.
- Hischier had 1 goal, 2 assists, and 3 points in the loss to Team Orr. He also went 8/16 on face offs in the 2017 CHL Prospects game. One could argue that Hischier's speed and vision should make him the top pick rather than Nolan Patrick. Hischier won't win face offs like Patrick does plus Patrick's leadership still gives him a slight edge, but Hischier is really making a strong case to jump Nolan Patrick because Hischier has the speed, agility, burst, vision, and deking that you wish Nolan Patrick would display more often. Hischier only gave up two of Team Cherry's 7 goals. Hischier got first star in the 2017 CHL Prospects game despite being on the losing team.
- Nico Hischier has 33 goals, 35 assists, and 68 points in 40 games this season. Hischier is NHL ready and could play with 2015 third overall pick Dylan Strome next season to form a deadly center tandem for the Arizona Coyotes.
Vegas Golden Knights: Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
- The Vegas Golden Knights are going to need a center to anchor their team. This expansion team needs an identity and a face of the franchise. The 6-2 192 lb Gabriel Vilardi has 17 goals, 19 assists, and 36 points in 30 games.
- Gabriel Vilardi has good ability on both offense and defense. The second overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection is ready to play in the NHL. Vilardi shot a hockey puck in between tires when he was 11-years-old plus he's versatile enough to play left wing or right wing making him a top 3 pick and a very complete forward in my eyes after dominating the 2017 CHL Prospects Game. Vilardi has the speed, deking, vision, quick reaction, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, and slap shot accuracy. Vilardi is a very complete player on tape despite what the stats say.
New Jersey Devils: Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
- The 6-5 203 lb Michael Rasmussen has 32 goals, 23 assists, and 55 points in 49 games. Rasmussen is the best center at winning face offs in the entire draft. Rasmussen has 50 penalty minutes along with a -13 +/- ratio. Rasmussen had a -1 +/- ratio despite scoring in the CHL Prospects game so that should tell you that Rasmussen is a defensive liability even though he went 4/4 on face offs in that game.
- You can easily make a case that Rasmussen has everything you want from a line 1 center in terms of size, winning face offs, and making plays on offense goes. Being a defensive liability is the only thing that kept Rasmussen from potentially being the top pick when you assess his tape. Rasmussen may return to the CHL in 2017 to continue developing, but his upside is greater than Timothy Liljegren if he can correct his defensive problems on tape.
Previous Pick: Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Detroit Red Wings: Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle B.K. (Elitserien)
- There are a lot of different directions the Detroit Red Wings could take here at 5. I ultimately settled on giving the Red Wings the 6-0 198 lb Timothy Liljegren for two reasons.
- First Liljegren is the only player left who has a realistic shot of going straight to the NHL even though he's not ready in my mind. Second this draft is extremely thin at defense after Liljegren and Adam Foote's son Callum Foote with other second round prospects getting pushed up the boards.
- Liljegren has 1 goal, 4 assists, and 5 points on Rogle B.K.'s Elitserien team in the SHL in 16 games in 2016-2017. He entered the season as the challenger to Nolan Patrick to be the top pick in the 2017 NHL Draft before being surpassed by Nico Hischier, Gabriel Vilardi, and Michael Rasmussen.
- Lots of people hyped up Liljegren to be the player who challenged Nolan Patrick to be the top prospect. I felt like Liljegren would bust when I first saw his tape back in August, but I feel a lot more confident in that statement now even though Liljegren should get picked in the top 5 mainly because of a terrible defensive group overall.
Previous Pick: Maxime Coitos, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Buffalo Sabres: Casey Mittelstadt, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
- After Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Gabriel Vilardi, Michael Rasmussen, and Timothy Liljegren there is a signifiant drop off in talent that separate the top 5 from the rest. Casey Mittelstadt is the best player on the board at 6 despite being a project player.
- The 6-1 201 lb Casey Mittelstadt attended Eden Prarie High School in Minnesota before playing for the Green Gay Gamblers in the USHL. I don't expect him to make an immediate jump to the NHL though.
- Mittelstadt has 8 goals, 13 assists, and 21 points in 16 games this season with the Gamblers. Mittelstadt is a complete player with the speed, skating, and hockey IQ you covet.
- This is a guy who has the versatility to play center, left wing, or right wing in the NHL and is easily the most versatile skater outside of Gabriel Vilardi. That makes Mittelstadt the most versatile player in the 2017 NHL Draft.
- Mittelstadt is the best player on the board. With Buffalo being stacked on offense and thin on defense, this is a team that has the luxury of patiently developing Mittelstadt. Mittelstadt committed to Minnesota to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I expect him to go to Minnesota for a year before signing his first NHL contract in 2018.
Carolina Hurricanes: Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- The 6-2 203 lb Owen Tippett is the top player available at this pick. Tippett has 36 goals, 25 assists, and 61 points in 45 games. Tippett is a guy that had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a -2 +/- ratio in the 2017 CHL Prospects game meaning he gave up 4 goals and looked sloppy on defense. Tippett did much better with a +15 +/- ratio. Tippett really blew a golden opportunity to put himself potentially in the top 5 with a poor showing at the CHL Prospects game. It's hard to see Tippett slipping past Carolina though since they really need a right winger.
Previous Pick: Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Winnipeg Jets: Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
- The Winnipeg Jets draft the top player available at this pick. Kailer Yamamoto has Conor Sheary's size and Nail Yakupov's speed. Yamamoto is easily the fastest prospect on tape I've seen since Yakupov in terms of his overall speed and its not even close. Kailer Yamamoto has lined up at left wing, center, and right wing on Spokane's top line in 2016-2017 and even Yakupov wasn't considered that versatile.
- Kailer Yamamoto would be a top 10 potentially a top 5 pick if he wasn't 5-8 159 lbs. His lack of size puts him in jeopardy of being a first round pick, but I honestly believe he's a top 10 talent when you watch his tape.
- Yamamoto had 19 goals, 52 assists, and 71 points in 57 games in 2015-2016. Yamamoto has 30 goals, 33 assists, and 63 points in 43 games this season.
- Kailer Yamamoto had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, and a +/- ratio of 0 in the 2017 CHL Prospects game. The only thing Yamamoto really struggled with was winning face offs with his size at 5-8 159 lbs. Yamamoto is a future top 6 winger if you can develop him in the WHL and make sure he adds more muscle and plays a little more aggressive in terms of reacting and executing on face offs. Even with his lack of size, Yamamoto is fly as a mother when it comes to playing wing on either side in the NHL.
- Most scouts won't look past his size. I will because I think he's physically and mentally tough enough to play at the NHL level despite being extremely undersized.
Previous Pick: Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Dallas Stars: Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
- The 6-3 198 lb Callan Foote also known as Cal Foote may be the top defender in the 2017 NHL Draft. Foote gained 21 lbs of muscle this year now making him 209 lbs. His father is Colorado Avalanche legendary defenseman Adam Foote, his mother is a famous Chef, and his little brother Nick is his teammate on the Kelowna Rockets. The bottom line is that Callan has that gritty assertiveness and toughness you want a defender to bring to your blue line. Being the oldest sibling in the Foote family makes me even more confident in his ability.
- Callan Foote had 8 goals, 28 assists, and 36 points in 71 games last season. Foote has 5 goals, 30 assists, and 34 points in 46 games this season. Foote is playing much better on defense too improving his +/- ratio from +16 to +18 and has solidified himself as a top 10 pick.
- Dallas has such a dire need on defense. I cannot see the Stars passing on Callan Foote at 9 after his father gave the Dallas Stars Stanley Cup teams in the late 90's so many problems. Dallas has veterans on offense like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin so putting Foote in Dallas could ultimately end up being a steal of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Previous Pick: Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Tampa Bay Lightning: Klim Kosten, RW, UHC Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
- The 6-3 196 lb Klim Kosten is the top Russian prospect from the KHL. Some have Kosten as a top 10 prospect. Steve Yzerman loves drafting Russian Wingers. With both Owen Tippet and Kailer Yamamoto off the board, Tampa Bay may feel like they need to add Kosten as a developmental player ending the run on potential right wingers that could crack the top 10.
Previous Pick: Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
New York Islanders: Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
- There are a lot of different directions the New York Islanders could take here at 11. I don't think there are any players outside of the top 10 that will be NHL ready until 2020.
- One player who really stood out at the 2017 CHL Prospects game was left winger Isaac Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe seems like a blue chip left winger that could compliment your line 1 center.
- Isaac Ratcliffe has 22 goals, 18 assists, 40 points, and a +11 +/- ratio in 2016-2017. Ratcliffe really did a great job showcasing his skills at the 2017 CHL Prospects game and may have did enough to move into the top half of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Previous Pick: Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle B.K. (Elitserien)
Florida Panthers: Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
- The 6-2 179 lb Cody Glass is a top prospect. Glass has 23 goals, 42 assists, 65 points, and a +26 +/- ratio. Glass has an outside shot of cracking the top 10 if he can keep building momentum.
Previous Pick: Klim Kosten, RW, UHC Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
Vancouver Canucks: Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- Vancouver drafts a defenseman here. The 6-6 214 lb Nicolas Hague has 14 goals, 20 assists, and 34 points in 45 games. Hague has a deadly slap shot with the shooting power and shooting accuracy on his slap shots. Hague also possesses the offensive and defensive awareness to be a two-way defender.
Previous Pick: Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Los Angeles Kings: Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
- Matthew Strome is the little brother of Ryan Strome and Dylan Strome. The 6-3 201 lb left winger has the versatility to play left wing, center, or right wing. Unlike his older brothers he struggles with face offs which is why he is expected to convert to the wing in the NHL. Strome has already matched his 38 point total from last season so he should be a top 15 pick.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
- The 6-2 201 lb Juuso Valimaki has 13 goals, 28 assists, and 41 points this season. This crafty offensive defenseman has great size and once he improves defensively, he could have a sound career in the NHL.
Previous Pick: Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)