Draft day has finally arrived! The NHL Entry Draft takes begins this evening at 5:00 PM, so be sure to join us for our BSN Avalanche Draft Watch Party at the Blake Street Tavern. In preparation for tonight’s draft, check out our final First Round Mock Draft below. For complete profiles on these prospects and many more visit BSN Avalanche Draft Central.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews, Zurich Lions (NLA)
Cole: Auston Matthews has been heralded as the draft’s number one prospect for over a year and despite a great surge by Patrik Laine, he’ll take up the mantle of 1st overall tonight.
2. Winnipeg Jets – Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara (Liiga)
AJ: The obvious choice in my opinion. He’s a future 40-goal scorer with a dominant all-around game. This isn’t complicated.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets – Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Liiga)
Cole: Maybe Jarmo Kekalainen does have some reservations about Puljujarvi, but we’re betting that the talk outweighs Puljujarvi’s value. Everywhere you turn Puljujarvi is a consensus Top 3 pick, so if Columbus holds onto this pick it would be shocking to see them select anyone else.
4. Edmonton Oilers – Matthew Tkachuk, W, London Knights (OHL)
AJ: Tkachuk finished the season on fire in leading London to the Memorial Cup win. The Oilers are getting ready to go out and make a run at Milan Lucic in free agency and they’re going to draft a similarly styled player at fourth overall. I’d like to believe they take a defenseman, throwing this entire top 10 into chaos, but Edmonton seems to have no issues continue to just go forward after forward.
5. Vancouver Canucks – Pierre Luc Dubois, C/RW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Cole: The first tough decision of the night for me. The Vancouver Canucks have serious need at every position on the depth chart and Jim Benning has proven in his relatively short tenure as GM that he can be a real wildcard. It’s easy to imagine the Canucks picking the draft’s first defenseman here and it’s even possible (though unlikely) that they reach down the board in search of a top center in Logan Brown or Clayton Keller. I’ll give Benning the benefit of the doubt here, however, and assume that an organization with need everywhere takes the best player available, who also happens to play multiple forward positions.
6. Calgary Flames – Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)
AJ: I think Calgary is a prime target to move here but if they keep the pick and the board unfolds this way, I expect the Flames to take the best defenseman on the board, who is Juolevi. A future blue line featuring T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and Juolevi is a tantalizing prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Logan Brown here, either, given his fit and the possibility of them losing Joe Colborne down the line.
7. Arizona Coyotes – Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Cole: It’s hard to imagine the Coyotes taking a forward prospect given both their position in the draft and their crop of high end forward prospects already in the system. On the other hand, the team’s defensive pipeline is extremely shallow. The Coyotes take the best defenseman remaining on their draft board, in Russian blueliner Mikhail Sergachev.
8. Buffalo Sabres – Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting, (OHL)
AJ: I struggled a lot with this pick. My gut says the Sabres are targeting a defenseman here and Chychrun’s fall might be a lot more media and fan speculation than reality. I’m banking on that being the case here and Sabres seeking out a big-time defenseman. I know they’re after Cam Fowler but this is about the long-term health of the team and I think Chychrun makes the most sense. While Nylander would also be a really good fit here, I think Tim Murray will like the crop of forwards he’s built and add a big-time prospect to his blue line.
9. Montreal Canadiens – Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Cole: Alexander Nylander? Or Logan Brown? They scored 75 and 74 points in the OHL last season respectively, but Logan Brown’s massive growth at the end of the season and his favorable position as a center give him the edge over Nylander here for a Montreal team desperate for organizational center depth.
10. Colorado Avalanche – Alexander Nylander, W, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
AJ: This is simply getting out of your own way and taking what the board gives you. I’d love to take Keller and run with it but the addition of Nylander, and his eligibility to play in the AHL immediately next season, gives the Avalanche another goal-scoring winger to go along with Mikko Rantanen from last year’s draft. Nylander is a guy who could follow the path Rantanen has and be pushing for NHL time within two years.
11. New Jersey Devils – Tyson Jost, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Cole: Lou Lamoriello may be gone, but some things won’t ever change in New Jersey. After selecting the explosive Pavel Zacha last season, the team opts to return to its roots and draft a player with an evolved defensive game in Tyson Jost. Jost might not have the upside of some of the other offensive players still on the board, but he brings utility and versatility that’s always highly valued by the Devils organization.
12. Ottawa Senators – Clayton Keller, C, USNTDP (USHL)
AJ: Ottawa is in the position to let the pieces fall where they may in front of them and benefit from not having to make the hard decision here. They took Colin White last year and dip back into the USNTDP to take Keller, the undersized center with huge playmaking ability who plays a solid defensive game and would be a slam dunk top six choice if he was 6’1”. The Senators are in a position to just take the best player available and Keller certainly qualifies.
13. Carolina Hurricanes – Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Cole: The Hurricanes are well on their way to constructing a dominant defensive corps for years to come, but with the Staal brothers waning in usefulness, Jeff Skinner remains their most exciting player on offense. In McLeod the Hurricanes gain a great piece to start developing a forward corps to match. McLeod might not have game-changing offense, but his speed and skating ability should help, in time, to transform the makeup of the Hurricanes offense.
14. Boston Bruins – Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University (NCAA)
AJ: I was torn between McAvoy and Bean here but ultimately I went with the better all-around prospect of the two in McAvoy. He’s a big guy and a dynamic two-way defender who would fit in with the Bruins beautifully. I think he’s a perfect fit for the B’s and this is an easy enough pick.
15. Minnesota Wild – Kieffer Bellows, C/LW, USNTDP (USHL)
Cole: It’s no secret that the Wild are searching for high impact offensive forwards at the draft, in free agency, and at every other conceivable opportunity. He’s a few years out, but the Wild hope to build towards a more dynamic offense with the selection of gritty local boy, Kieffer Bellows. The Minnesota native plays a heavy, creative game and comes from impressive NHL stock.
16. Detroit Red Wings – Luke Kunin, C, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
AJ: I wanted to take a defenseman here but Jake Bean was the best one left and I think he’s a bad fit for the Red Wings so I went with the closest thing this draft has to a Dylan Larkin. Kunin is a dynamic skater with great hands and goal-scoring ability who should continue dominating a weak Big Ten before moving on to Grand Rapids and eventually Detroit. He’s a great fit for the Red Wings organization and makes a lot of sense given their needs.
17. Nashville Predators – Max Jones, LW, London Knights (OHL)
Cole says: The Predators have long been an NHL bastion of defensive development but as a result, their seemingly always in need of high end forward talent throughout the organization. With their recent additions of James Neal and Ryan Johansen, it’s clear that the Predators want to play a heavy, in your face offensive style game, and the explosive, if sometimes undisciplined, Max Jones is an excellent fit. He’s a high upside prospect who could make leaps and bounds in his development next year when London’s top players leave for professional hockey.
18. Philadelphia Flyers – Julien Gauthier, W, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
AJ: The best players left on my board are defensemen but given the extreme tilt towards the blue line of Philadelphia’s system, I passed on Bean and Fabbro to take Gauthier. He’s a power forward type with lots of goal-scoring ability and has probably fallen a bit on boards due to overexposure as a high-profile prospect for a few years now.
19. N.Y. Islanders – German Rubtsov, C, Russia U-18 (MHL)
Cole: In many ways this is a tough selection to make because of the Islanders embarrassment of riches in the farm system. The franchise has compelling young NHL players and prospects at every position, so here I chose the highest rated player remaining on my draft board. The Islanders will hope that between Rubtsov and last year’s first round pick, Matthew Barzal, they can find the kind of long term center depth behind John Tavares to finally lead them deeper into the playoffs.
20. Arizona Coyotes – Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
AJ: Arizona went defense at 7 and there’s still no great reason to go forward here with one of the draft’s best value selections available in Bean. They get a future power play quarterback here and in the span of a few hours added Sergachev and Bean to a prospect pool with a notable dearth of quality defendsemen. If not Bean here, I would have gone Fabbro.
21. Carolina Hurricanes – Riley Tufte, LW, Blaine (Minn. HS)
Cole: After taking the safe, high floor player in Michael McLeod, the Hurricanes can afford to take on a riskier prospect with their second 1st round pick. Riley Tufte has all the physical tools to become one of the most electric scorers in this first round, but inconsistent play in the USHL chased him back to high school hockey. Carolina doesn’t have any forwards with the physical gifts that Tufte has, so they make a good fit here at 21st overall.
22. Winnipeg Jets – Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
AJ: This is simply stopping the bleeding for Fabbro. The Jets have a second first rounder and the luxury of taking a chance on a guy like Alex DeBrincat or taking a big-time faller. Fabbro is the winner here so clearly the mighty mite DeBrincat will have to wait for the second round. Fabbro had a big-time showing in international play and looked much better than Chychrun at times when they were paired together. I would not be surprised to see him go much higher in the actual draft.
23. Florida Panthers – Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestad (SHL)
Cole: It’s a little difficult to assess the Panthers pick given the limited track record for their new management group, but Asplund is a good value pick here at 23 and fits well within the two-way identity they’ve constructed amongst their core forwards. Asplund is on the small side, but with an already accomplished group of young forwards the Panthers will feel plenty comfortable taking their time and waiting for him to mature.
24. Anaheim Ducks – Dennis Cholowski, D, Chiliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
AJ: I went with the smooth-skating Cholowski here as Anaheim is already going through turmoil with their NHL blue line and they need to prepare for more potential losses in the future. Think of this pick as the Vatanen replacement in four years when Vatanen’s just-signed contract expires and Cholowski is in the position Shea Theodore currently sits in as the heir apparent to Cam Fowler. This is how a team with a operating on an internal budget stays competitive.
25. Dallas Stars – Boris Katchouk, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Cole: With a few of their key forwards approaching their mid 30’s and not many quality forward prospects waiting around in the system, it certainly makes sense for the Stars to look at a forward here. In Boris Katchouk they don’t get a game changer, but rather, a solid complementary winger who plays a smart, heavy game.
26. Washington Capitals – Pascal Laberge, C, Victoriaville Tigers (QMJHL)
AJ: A feel-good story who can also play, Laberge hasn’t received a ton of attention in the lead up to the draft but he’s got legit game and facing the potential loss of some of their young depth in coming years, Laberge and his mature game might be able to quickly step in and help the Capitals bottom 6 early on in his career and develop into more down the road.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Vitaly Abramov, LW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Cole: If there’s one team in the NHL that seems completely unafraid of committing to smaller players with tons of talent, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Abramov comes with some jaw dropping talent and scored an impressive 38 goals this season, but there are some issues with consistency and obviously, concerns about how his 5’9” frame will hold up in professional hockey. The Lightning have the kind of prospect depth and development track record, however, that they feel comfortable betting on Abramov’s upside at the end of round one.
28. St. Louis Blues – Brett Howden, C/W, Moose Jaw Warriors, (WHL)
AJ: Howden is a solid two-way guy that fits the recent Blues teams to a tee. He’s the best guy on my board, only slightly above the power play prowess of Tage Thompson, and Howden is a great hybrid forward who can play all three positions. He’s a two-way player who makes it happen and the Blues can plug-and-play Howden in a couple of years without any concern.
29. Boston Bruins – Tage Thompson, C/W, University of Connecticut (NCAA)
Cole: After bolstering the Bruins’ defensive pipeline earlier in the draft, Don Sweeney turns to the University of Connecticut to snag a vintage “Bruins-style” power forward. Thompson has great offensive instincts that really shine through on the power play, but his overall offensive game is plenty impressive at even strength too. There are some skating issues still and he might be better suited to the wing as a pro, but either way he’s a great fit for a Boston team that’s lost a bit of it’s identity since trading Milan Lucic.
30. Anaheim Ducks – Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
AJ: Benson is a luxury pick for the Ducks here. Despite dealing with a myriad of injuries throughout the year, Benson is still a great talent and the luxury of multiple first round picks means this is less of a roll of the dice for Anaheim than it normally would be. Purely a luxury here, the Ducks roll the dice on Benson’s talent outshining his injuries as he moves forward.