With the NHL draft coming up, I’ve been putting up my predictions for the first round of the NHL draft and how it will shake out. This week, I’ve compiled all my predictions into one article, so you can check them all out in one place! In case you missed it, there are currently seven teams without a first round pick this year. They are the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Las Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators. So here you have it, the whole kit and kaboodle, the grand poohbah of the first round, the final product, an entire first round mock draft for tonight’s NHL draft!
1. Buffalo Sabres- D Rasmus Dahlin
With the Buffalo Sabres holding the first pick in the NHL draft, they must must must select Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin is a surefire starter in today’s NHL with the unique ability to score and solid defense, nobody can’t quite compare to the Swedish D man. Expect him to be next to the other Sabres star defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to start the 2018-2019 season.
2. Carolina Hurricanes- C/LW Brady Tkachuk
Did I just pick Brady Tkachuk to go second overall? I did. Let me tell you why. Lineage. The Tkachuk family has produced nothing but outstanding players for the NHL and Brady will be no different. He has no problem going toe to toe with the big guys and is a very well-balanced player. He can do it all and he has the drive to succeed. Ultimately, the Hurricanes could go any way with this pick because they need a lot of help but Tkachuk is my bet to make the most immediate impact and become a cornerstone of a soft rebuild for the Canes.
3. Montreal Canadiens- RW Andrei Svechnikov
The Canadiens have Carey Price. Minus the goaltender spot, the Canadiens need help all over the ice. The biggest issue I see for the Canadiens is goal scoring. They averaged an abysmal 2.52 goals per game average, best for 29th in the league. Svechnikov would be a plug and play starter for the Canadiens. He’s a natural goal scorer that can move the puck well and would be an instant boost to an otherwise terrible offensive team.
4. Ottawa Senators- D Quinton Hughes
Boy did Ottawa fall off the wagon this season. They need help everywhere on the ice and this guy will do it for them. He’s an offensive minded defenseman with the ability to take the puck away. He plays a very fluid game and will immediately contribute to the offensive and defensive ends for the Senators. He may not be in the lineup day one, but he’ll get his shot sometime this season.
5. Arizona Coyotes- LW Filip Zadina
The defense in Arizona isn’t as bad as you may think. They need a starting goaltender and maybe one more defenseman, but their glaring need comes in the form of a true goal scorer. The Coyotes last year were a group of rag tag players that were never able to put together a set of games. In comes Zadina, a goal scorer that doesn’t need anyone’s help to score. He would immediately start for the Coyotes and give them a true scoring threat.
6. Detroit Red Wings- C Jasperi Kotkaniemi
The Wings will need to replace their aging players and what better way than drafting the number one center in the draft this year?
7. Vancouver Canucks- D Adam Boqvist
I’m 99% sure that if Boqvist is available at this point in the draft, the Canucks will have to take him. He’s a great skater and provides a great offensive presence for a team that averaged 2.66 goals per game in 2017-2018. A boost on the offensive end from a defenseman will help bolster the Canucks roster immediately.
8. Chicago Blackhawks- D Evan Bouchard
One thing that killed the Blackhawks in 2017-2018 was inconsistency. Evan Bouchard will be able to play day one for the Hawks and provide consistency (minus some rookie growing pains) to the abysmal defense the Hawks had last year. I expect that Bouchard will pair very nicely with Duncan Keith as Chicago’s top line pairing.
9. New York Rangers- C/RW Oliver Wahlstrom
New York had a firesale before the trade deadline and will look to build through the draft in hope to make a respectable team while they still have the king in net. Wahlstrom will be able to make an immediate impact for the Rangers, providing depth and a big body that will anchor the Rangers even past the king’s time. It’s amazing that Wahlstrom falls to the ninth pick but here we are!
10. Edmonton Oilers- LW Joel Farabee
The Oilers need someone to help Cam Talbot out because playing 50+ games a season rarely works out well, but they won’t find that guy in this draft. They also need to find players other than Connor McDavid. With cap space tight because of his RIDICULOUS contract (not to say he doesn’t deserve it), the Oilers need a young guy to come in and step up. In comes Joel Farabee. What makes Farabee exciting is he has the quickness and agility to skate around guys. He’s undersized at 5-11 and 162 lbs, but with a little bit of a bulk up and some playing time, he could become this year’s Alex DeBrincat.
11. New York Islanders- C Joseph Veleno
The Islanders have back to back picks to start their draft, so they could go with two starting caliber players if they so choose. Veleno, in my opinion, is deemed a high risk, high reward pick. Although he is one of the top players in this year’s draft, nobody really knows what to expect from him. His defensive play is fantastic and he is mature beyond his years, but his biggest knock is his lack of creativity when it comes to scoring goals. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. . . right?
12. New York Islanders- D Bode Wilde
The Isles addressed the center position and now they need a true number one defender for their team. In comes Wilde, who has a huge upside. We may not see him right away, but he has the size (6,2, 195) and skill to become quite the addition in 2019 for the Islanders.
13. Dallas Stars- D Noah Dobson
The Stars need help defensively more than they do offensively and with an aging group of guys, Dobson is a no-brainer. Right up there with the likes of Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist and Evan Bouchard, Dobson will be able to make an immediate impact for the Stars and help to replace some of the older defensemen the Stars have. If he adds 10/20 lbs, he can be a force to be reckoned with on the back end for the Stars for many years to come.
14. Philadelphia Flyers- D Ty Smith
No Barrett Hayton here, no way. The Flyers already have a gajillion centers on their roster and they could benefit from having a defenseman outside of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. Not to say their back end is bad, but they could definitely improve from Johnny Oduya.
15. Florida Panthers- C Barrett Hayton
The Panthers need some help offensively. Just last year, Jamoir Jagr was one of their top point getters. Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck can’t do everything. Hayton could immediately fit in as a third/fourth line center and offer some stability for the Panthers lower half. After losing Jonathan Marchessault and Jamoir Jagr in the same offseason, they need to replenish.
16. Colorado Avalanche- D Rasmus Sandin
Currently the Av’s are a potential playoff team every year. With the insane amount of talent they have on the front end mixed with having the youngest roster in the NHL, the only place they can go is up. However, they need someone that is going to grow with the team defensively. They have some young talent, but Erik Johnson isn’t getting any younger and give it a few years and they’ll need all the help they can get. Sandin could step in as early as next year and become part of the prime years of the Avalanche’s rise to glory.
17. New Jersey Devils- C/LW Issac Lundestrom
The Devils need help both defensively and offensively, but I decided to go offense here. The Devils had the Taylor Hall show last year, but this year, they’ll add to their firepower of the future by taking Lundestrom.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets- C Rasmus Kupari
A hidden gem, Kupari will need some help to grow, but he also can absolutely rip shots from anywhere on the ice. Imagine the Jackets having another sniper next to Panarin. Anyone remember the Kane/Panarin saga in Chicago and how glorious it was? The Jackets find their combo with Kupari.
19. Philadelphia Flyers- W Domink Bokk
Do you remember how I said the Flyers had five billion centers? Yeah, me too. It was five picks ago. Here, they take a winger, because why not add some serious offensive upside to an aging core group of guys. Bokk wouldn’t play this season but give him a few years and he has a chance to be a remarkable talent. The Flyers will need that once their aging core of players take the down turn of their careers. In steps Bokk, ready after a few year of polishing at the lower levels.
20. Los Angeles Kings- C/RW Jonatan Berggren
The Kings somehow find their way into the playoffs almost every year for some obscene reason. This year, however, they were blown up by a much younger, faster and overall better Las Vegas Golden Knights team. The Kings need to get younger. . . a lot younger. Much like the Blackhawks last year, the Kings are going to have to ALMOST start from scratch. Berggren may not be ready right this second but give him a year or two and start selling guys for way above market value (like the Hawks and Hartman) and the Kings could find themselves with a quick turnaround with Berggren paving the way for the future.
21. San Jose Sharks- C Ty Dellandrea
The biggest issue for the Sharks right now is getting younger. They were one of the oldest teams in the NHL this past season at 27.9 years old average. Dellandrea would help the Sharks when Joe Thorton finally decides to call it quits. The Sharks made the playoffs and were successful, but to get over the hump they need somebody like Dellandrea waiting in the wings to take over.
22. Ottawa Senators- C Ryan McLeod
After the Sens took their defenseman of the future with the fourth overall pick, they double down and pick up another potential day one starter. McLeod has the size and the maturity to develop into a top line guy in a couple of years. He may not be the fastest skater out there, but he makes his own offense and can command a powerplay with the puck on his stick. McLeod can come in and make a much needed impact for the Senators.
23. Anaheim Ducks- D Ryan Merkley
The Ducks were a hard pick for me. They could go in any direction honestly. Here, I chose Merkley for them. The Ducks just need to get younger and surround themselves with players for the future. With an average age of 28 years old, the Ducks are the fourth oldest team in the NHL. The Ducks have a lot of needs on the back end of their roster and in comes Merkley. Now, here’s the kicker. The ducks will switch Merkley from defense to winger at the NHL level. He still needs to add weight to even think about playing in the NHL, but a young, fast and agile guy that can rack up the points would be a welcomed addition to a Ducks team that got rolled in the playoffs.
24. Minnesota Wild- D Jett Woo
The Wild get mighty lucky that Woo made it all the way to 24. Woo is not known for his scoring and that’s okay. His strength lies in his defensive play, which he has been touted for throughout his young career. He plays smart too, which is an immense help to his draft stock. The Wild may not use Woo in this upcoming season, but he will be able to crack the lineup in a few years.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs- D Jared McIssac
The Maple Leafs offensive talent is solid; therefore a defenseman is a no brainer. They take the 6’1, 194 lbs McIssac. He is a raw talent but he’s currently tearing it up with the Halifax Moosheads in the QMJHL. Las season, he compiled 47 total points. He would help to make the offense even better than they already are and with another year in the minors, McIssac can become a steady presence on the blue line for years to come.
26. New York Rangers- D K’Andre Miller
Miller is huge. What better way to replace Ryan McDonagh then with Miller. Miller may not see the ice for a few years as he needs to polish his game, but he is a behemoth of a human being (6’4 205lbs.) and can be a driving force on the blue line for the Rangers in the coming years.
27. Chicago Blackhawks- C Allan McShane
Yes, the Hawks need help defensively but with Henri Jokiharju and eighth pick Evan Bouchard more than likely cracking the lineup, the Hawks need a third or fourth line center that can make an impact. They could have went with Akil Thomas here, but McShane is a natural scorer and can also setup his teammates. He constantly skates with his head up and is always looking to make a pass before taking a shot. My favorite part about McShane is his skating ability. He is constantly moving in the offensive zone and getting to the net. The Hawks desperately need a net-front presence and McShane can be that guy.
28. New York Rangers- C Akil Thomas
Thomas has a knack for making plays and scoring. He needs to work on keeping himself moving in the offensive zone, but he’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas and pick up those inglorious garbage goals. He can make an immediate impact for the Rangers as a third line guy.
29. St. Louis Blues- C Jack McBain
McBain will be attending Boston College in 2018/2019, but that shouldn’t deter the Blues from taking a swing at the big center. At 6’3 and 196 lbs, McBain has the potential to become a top line center in a few seasons. Depending on how desperate the Blues are to succeed this season, McBain may get some playing time this year.
30. Detroit Red Wings- D Niles Lundkvist
The Red Wings back end is atrocious. They have no real standout defensemen on their roster. Lundkvist isn’t going to be playing in the NHL this season but with the Wings still looking for an identity, he has a few years to develop into their defenseman of the future. He needs to add weight to be a factor in the NHL but he displays great movement in the offensive zone and could become an effective powerplay quarterback at the NHL level.
31. Washington Capitals- D Mattias Samuelsson
The Capitals won the Stanley Cup and subsequently lost their head coach due to contract issues. It’s a wonder if they’ll try to sign him back on with a better contract or if somebody else will snatch him up. With that aside, the Caps take Samuelsson. They won’t see him this season but he will definitely be able to take over for Brooks Orpik when he calls it a career or leaves the team. He will also be able to give Christian Djoos a run for his money. Having somebody like Samuelsson in the wings will help the Caps build for the future to be a perennial playoff team like they already are.
There you have it, all my picks for the first round of the 2018 NHL draft. Maybe I missed a few guys that could sneak their way into the first round, but that will remain to be seen. For now, I am confident I made some great choices and I think I’ll be more accurate than not.