NHL teams only have two weeks remaining to put their final draft strategy in place. Hockey fans around the world are already salivating at the idea of watching their favorite team go up on stage and pick a future NHL star. After all this is one of the most important times of the year for NHL teams.
The NHL draft is hard to predict and I see this year being especially so. I’d like to think I’m knowledgeable enough when it comes to prospects and the game itself so I’ve decided that I’m taking my shot at predicting where each prospect’s career will continue. Here is my 2016 mock draft..
1.Toronto Maple Leafs
Pick: Auston Matthews
Please stop. Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be drafting Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Matthews shocked many when he decided to play for the Zurich Lions in Switzerland but had an impressive season with 46 points in 36 games. Matthews believes he can become a franchise centreman in the NHL and he has the skill set to do so. The Arizona native has the ability to make players around him better and doesn’t shy away from using his shot either. With Marner and Nylander the Leafs posses two very skilled forwards and Matthews will be able to complement them with his two-way game.
Pick: Patrik Laine
Position: Left Wing
“I’m the best player available”. Patrik Laine is saying all the right things ahead of the NHL Entry Draft and the young forward oozes of self-confidence. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be an impactful NHLer for the Winnipeg Jets. Laine has a big frame at 6’4″ and his “Ovechkin”-like shot will be giving goaltenders nightmares for years to come. He had a great year over in Finland winning the Jari Kurri trophy (playoff MVP) as an 18-year-old and was also named the IIHF tournament MVP against NHL competition. Yup, this kid has a bright future ahead of him.
3.Columbus Blue Jackets
Pick: Jesse Puljujarvi
Position: Right Wing
You won’t hear the Blue Jackets complaining with the third overall selection at this year’s draft. At the beginning of the year many experts had Puljujarvi ahead of Matthews and Laine on their scouting list. The young winger is big, powerful and can score. He likes to use his size and speed to protect the puck and create scoring opportunities around the net or on the rush. Once again, he impressed everyone at the World Juniors tournament where he put up 17 points in 7 games. The Blue Jackets are lucky to be able to draft this type of player with the third overall pick.
Pick: Matthew Tkachuk
Position: Left Wing
The Edmonton Oilers need to draft a defenseman this year. The Edmonton Oilers need to draft a defenseman this year. The Edmonton Oilers need to draft a defenseman this year. Ok, we give up… Everyone has been saying this for the past 2-3 years and this year won’t be any different. I strongly believe the Oilers will be drafting a forward with their top-5 pick. Why? Matthew Tkachuk has been simply too good the past few months for the London Knights and there will always be too much temptation to draft another skilled forward in Edmonton. However, Tkachuk is different from the other forwards on the current Oilers team. Remember, NHL scouts like players that deliver and clutch situations and Tkachuk did just that for the London Knights at the Memorial Cup. He’s considered to be that top-6 power forward that every team is looking for because of his size and skill. Who knows what the Oilers will do with the 4th overall pick.
Pick: Pierre-Luc Dubois
Pierre-Luc Dubois has an intriguing combination of size, skill and vision. The Canucks will probably strongly consider choosing a defensemen with the 5th overall pick but I believe this is the case of drafting the best player available. The Canucks have some intriguing prospects up front but none of them have the potential to be an offensive threat like Dubois. After a 99-point season in the QMJHL at the age of 17, Dubois is highly skilled player that was ranked the #1 North-American skater by the NHL Central Scouting. Already 6’2″ and 205 lbs the two-way power forward could have an immediate impact on the Canucks roster. Who knows what the Canucks have planned.
Pick: Jakob Chychrun
Jakob Chychrun should be a no-brainer for the Flames at number six. Many scouts have him landing somewhere top-5 but I think the D-men in this draft are going to slide down the draft board. That being said, Chychrun is a promising two-way defensemen with the potential of becoming a top pair guy. He had 49 points in 62 games this season in the OHL playing for Sarnia. He has every tool that point to him busting into an elite NHL player. His composure and hockey IQ are an excellent compliment to his great skating ability. He literally makes difficult plays look easy when he’s moving the puck out of his zone. Is well-rounded game allow Chychrun to make his presence felt at both ends of the ice.
Pick: Olli Juolevi
The Coyotes already have plenty of talented young prospects up front with Domi, Duclair, Strome, and Dvorak. Olli Juolevi would be an ideal candidate for the desert dogs because of his complete game that allows him to dominate at both ends of the ice. He can move the puck very well and would be great fit for a fast team with skilled forwards like the Coyotes. He would also have the chance to play behind a guy like Oliver Ekman-Larsson which is never a bad thing.
Pick: Alex Nylander
Position: Left Wing
An impressive rookie season with the Mississauga Steelheads landed Alex Nylander with OHL rookie of the year honours. This season the first year OHL forward put up 75 points in 57 games which is a pretty good point production. Nylander is fast and has great hands to go along with his playmaking skills. His skill, passing abilities and high hockey I.Q. made him one of the most electrifying players in the OHL this season. He would be a good addition on the wing beside Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly. In some ways he is very similar to his brother William Nylander who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs because they are both considered undersized forwards with jaw-dropping talent.
Pick: Logan Brown
The past few years everyone has been criticizing the size of the Montreal Canadiens and I believe that criticism has brainwashed them enough to draft another big forward. Brown is listed at 6’5″ but has a lot of skill to compliment that large frame of his. He had 74 points in 59 games for the Windsor Spitfires. The Habs already have big Michael McCarron and I could see them following that same philosophy of drafting a big player. Many have the Canadiens taking a defensemen but I believe they will be looking to add some size up front come draft day.
Pick: Mikhail Sergachev
The Colorado Avalanche will be drafting the best player available with the 10th pick at this year’s draft. If one of the top defensemen are available (Chychrun, Juolevi, Sergachev) that’s who they will go with. I have the smooth skating Russian defensemen available when the Avs walk up to the podium. A 17-year-old Russian defenseman that put up 57 points in 67 games for the Windsor Spitfires last season would be a great acquisition for the Avalanche. Colorado knows just how hard it is to acquire a top pairing defensemen and that the only way to acquire them is by drafting them. Sergachev might be the best defensemen in this draft and could be ready to jump into the NHL starting next year.
That completes my top-10 NHL mock draft for the upcoming NHL Entry draft. What are your predictions?
Sean Murphy – @SeanMurphy_92