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Will's "Why Not" Mock Draft

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Because, why not? Researching the first round is fun, and every player could be the next true game changer in the NHL.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Let me start by saying that mock drafts are crapshoots. Hundreds of people are trying to assign numerical value to 17 year olds playing on different teams, in different leagues, using different styles. You can get a best guess, but oftentimes that’s all they are. With the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup on Monday, the draft order has been set. So without further ado, here is how I think the first round will shake out.

1. Edmonton – C Connor McDavid, Erie Otters

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Connor McDavid being taken first overall.

2. Buffalo – C Jack Eichel, Boston University Terriers

Future American hero on par with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, this freshman’s scoring levels in the NCAA have not been seen since Paul Kariya. He makes Buffalo a team I want to watch, and he’ll make them a team that can win in the future. I already own an "I Like Eich" shirt, and I’m excited to wear it and watch the Sabres this year.

3. Arizona – C Dylan Strome, Erie Otters

Arizona gets a big, super talented center to join Max Domi and Anthony Duclair in a growing Arizona prospect system. Strome is 6’3" and not yet 200 pounds. If he can grow and fill out a little bit, he’s got the vision, hands, and finishing ability to be an NHL difference maker. It’s going to suck for Arizona fans that as soon as the team moves the young players are going to start maturing and they’ll be a decent team for a new town. Maybe they’ll stay.

4. Toronto – D Noah Hanifin, Boston College Eagles

Things get a little dicey here. For me it was between American freshman Noah Hanifin and the electric Mitch Marner. But I think Shanahan goes with the well rounded, highly regarded defender. Toronto already has undersized-but-skilled Willie Nylander coming, and you have to wonder if you can rebuild a franchise around two small players. With Hanifin they add a great young defender who may be ready to make the leap to the NHL sooner rather than later. Now they’ve got two great pieces to move forward with, and the quest for a real NHL center continues.

5. Carolina – C Mitch Marner, London Knights

Carolina adds the OHL’s second leading scorer and is thrilled to do so. The Hurricanes need scoring, and a player who has been compared to Patrick Kane and is regularly called a wizard with the puck can certainly help that. He’ll have some good guys to play with between Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, and young defenseman Justin Faulk. Hopefully Marner in the next year or two can find his way onto that powerplay and start lighting the lamp in Raleigh.

6. New Jersey – C Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds

Sidelined with an injury for a lot of this season, Barzal really impressed in the games he did play. He is an incredible playmaker, responsible defensively, with an elusive puck handling ability. New Jersey has a couple young defenders they can be hopeful about, but almost no one offensively. Barzal will become their best forward prospect, and in a couple years could be the best offensive player on their team.

7. Philadelphia – D Ivan Provorov, Brandon Wheat Kings

I was inclined to have the Flyers taking either Mikko Rantanen or Lawson Crouse, because of their large size and high potential. However, Crouse to the Flyers seems like a little too much schadenfreude. Provorov is 6’ and has proven to be exceptional on the powerplay, and is rounding out into a good all-around defender. The Flyers are just a "best player available" team, due to no super glaring need or a bright area of hope. And Provorov is the best player on the board at this point.

8. Columbus – D Zach Werenski, University of Michigan Wolverines

Another American freshman defender who enjoyed an outstanding season in college hockey. Werenski put up good numbers and looks to be a future NHL powerplay quarterback. With a little work on his defense, he’ll be NHL ready soon, and will join a Columbus team that’s got a lot of good offensive talent in its system, and a growing defensive group. It would be interesting to see the development of Werenski alongside the oft-injured 2nd overall pick in 2012 Ryan Murray. A likable player joining a likable team.

9. San Jose – C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia Sting

A big, skilled player who had good-not-great year offensively but still deserves to be picked at the top of the first round. If the Sharks front office gets their wish and alienates and then gets rid of Thornton and Marleau, they’ll need big, skill guys like Zacha to replace the big, skill guys they’re trying to jettison. At 6’3", 205 and with good hands, vision, and a pretty good shot, Zacha could join Pavelski, Couture, and a host of other good players in San Jose, and enjoy some early NHL success.

10. Colorado – RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)

Another big and skilled player, Rantanen hits a lot of boxes for the Avalanche. He’s physical, skilled, and highly intelligent on the ice. His shot is nothing to write home about, but you don’t need an elite shot to help the team. I also thought about Timo Meier here, because it’s my opinion that the Avalanche need a shooter/scorer, but Rantanen is just too good, and has been playing against men in the Finnish professional league, so he’s developmentally closer than a lot of kids his age, and hopefully can help the team sooner rather than later.

11. Florida – LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston Frontenacs

The most divisive player goes to a young team in a small market. Perhaps the best place for a giant, physical, two way player with a lot of critical eyes upon him to go. Florida is a place where he can hopefully develop in some peace and quiet. He can learn how to use his size in the NHL from Jaromir Jagr, learn to deal with pressure from Roberto Luongo, and join Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau as the next generation of talent for the Panthers. I don’t know if he’ll pan out, but what a place to try.

12. Dallas – C Kyle Connor, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

A speedy two-way American that can use his creativity and tenacity to fit right in with the high-powered Dallas Stars. The Stars will like his top-speed playmaking ability, scoring tough, and his turnover-generating defensive play. I really like him, and hope that he goes to a team I can root for.

13. Los Angeles – RW Timo Meier, Halifax Mooseheads

Scoring winger to add yet another force to the Kings offense. At 6’1" 208 he has decent size, attacks the net, and shoots from anywhere on the ice. Like most players at this stage, he needs to work on his defense, but he’s another player I like a lot, and could really succeed in this situation. Scored 44 goals and 90 points in 61 games for Halifax this year. Maybe a replacement for Marian Gaborik?

14. Boston – RW Evgeni Svechnikov, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Young Russian who has shown commitment to staying in North America. Craig Button says he’s closer to the NHL than a lot of other players. He is a dangerous offensive playmaker and scorer who uses a large array of skills to score. Can join a Bruins team that was offensively-challenged in 2014-15 and hopefully kickstart their offensive.

15. Calgary – D Jakub Zboril, Saint John Sea Dogs

Czech defenseman Jakub Zboril is relatively new to North America, but he did a good job adjusting early on and will join a Calgary flames team that has a couple good, young pieces in Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Johnny Gaudreau. Zboril works hard to help the breakout, and is largely an offensive defenseman that tries to play with an edge, but still needs time to develop defensively.

16. Edmonton (from PIT) – LW Paul Bittner, Portland Winterhawks

A massive (6’4"), tenacious, and physical player who is not afraid to charge the net or opposing players. Possesses a decent shot and decent passing, in the next couple years he could be a good addition to a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, to use his size and skill to create space and finish plays. Will need to work on his consistency.

17. Winnipeg – RW/C Travis Konecny, Ottawa 67’s

Similar to Tyler Johnson in that he’s small (5’9"), but very determined and hard working. Great hockey sense and playmaking ability, as well as a good shot. Will probably need a couple more years in juniors, and a couple years in the AHL to work on his quickness and to adjust to playing in a league where he will no longer have the best hands or be able to get by people as easily as he does with the 67s.

18. Ottawa – C/RW Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets

Hard working, well rounded player. Craig Button says "with improved speed will become even more dangerous and prolific." Put up 90 points (70 assists) in 72 games this year. Strong on the puck, and a good playmaker who went all the way to the Memorial Cup Finals this year, while playing on the top line with the WHL Champion Rockets. Can help the Senators in the next few years by just being the offense-generator that he has been in juniors.

19. Detroit – C Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SHL)

A very well rounded player. Does not stand out in any particular area, but does everything well. Utility players are appreciated by Detroit, and he has been playing against men as a teenager in Sweden’s professional league, so his development is starting off on a good foot.

20. Minnesota – RW Denis Gurianov, Togliatti 2 (RUS)

Physically imposing, high-ceiling player. Power forward with an explosive shot, very strong on the puck, protects it well, and loves to drive the net and fire hard, accurate shots. Will take time to develop both consistency and defensively. Honestly, Craig Button says he could be a top 10 talent in this years draft, but I’m not seeing a lot of why he’s not being taken higher in most places. I’m assuming some mix of needing a lot of development, as well as the "Russian factor."

21. Buffalo (from NYI) – D Oliver Kylington, Farjestad

Medium risk, very high reward player. Before the season Kylington was being talked about as a top 10 pick, maybe even top 5.  Could end up being very good. He is an excellent passer, and one of the best skaters in the entire draft. However, as with a lot of players who fall in their draft year, it is his consistency that is a large knock. He goes on long cold streaks where his confidence seems to go down and really affect his play. However, if given time to develop properly, and given a good coach, he could really turn out well. Hopefully a new system in Buffalo headed by Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma will allow the young Swede to develop and be a part of a Sabres team that could be a real powerhouse in the next few years. I know it’s weird to think a team in a rebuild would take a risky pick, but I just think the potential reward is so high and it’s not like they need a player who can step in immediately, I think they could do it.

22. Washington – C Colin White (USNTDP)

All around good player. Not exceptional at anything, but responsible, hard-working, and very team oriented. Will be a good second- or third-line center, and potential penalty killer. Not much more to say, but a good and useful young player from Boston.

23. Vancouver – D Brandon Carlo, Tri City Americans

A native of my hometown Colorado Springs, Carlo is a mobile, smooth skating defenseman. He is pretty well rounded, can move the puck, though he doesn’t really contribute much on offense. His strength lies in his positioning, which allows him to block passing lanes, generate turnovers, and play decent defense. His size, 6’5", will be attractive to some teams. Had 38 points in 134 WHL games. Won’t get on the score sheet much, but could be a decent middle four defender if developed right.

24. Toronto (from Nash) – D Thomas Chabot, Saint John Sea Dogs

Chabot took a big leap in his second Canadian Hockey League year. His point totals almost doubled, and he showed glimpses of having a level of talent that would have gotten him picked much higher. However, when a player takes such a leap forward you have to wonder if it was genuine development, or a flash in the pan. Chabot is calm, collected, and confident with and without the puck, and moves it very well. Very mobile, smooth skater who times his passes well. He could be an important part of this leafs rebuild if his development is real.

25. Winnipeg (from STL) – RW Brock Boeser, Waterloo Blackhawks

Boeser is a dynamic, hard-working forward with a nose for goals. He is comfortable driving to the net and knocking in rebounds, or using a good release to shoot from beyond the circles. Needs to work on his defensive play, as well as his play along the boards.

26. Montreal – LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current Broncos

DeBrusk is one of those players who just finds a way to produce. That’s what the sometimes-offensively-starved Canadiens need. His two-way play is an added benefit, and he loves to play below the hashmarks. Very versatile young player who should continue to mature and find his way onto an NHL team.

27. Anaheim – D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr (SWE)

Big, high potential defender. Greatest strengths are positioning and outlet passes. He has not been much of an offense generator (0g, 7a in 39 games last season), but good at breaking up the cycle and getting the puck into the neutral zone. Anaheim has a decent roster now so they can afford to take longer-development guys.

28. Tampa Bay (from NYR) – D Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke Phoenix

Roy is an excellent decision maker with great poise, who sees the ice and other players incredibly well. Eliteprospects.com says he has been compared to Duncan Keith, a defender the Lightning are now all too familiar. The Lightning have a roster with most of the players returning, they can afford to draft a player that might take some time to develop, and that might be best for Roy, who already is a high character/high maturity guy. Giving him time to develop physically and continue to grow as a player could make him an effective contributor in the future.

29. Philadelphia (from TBL) - G Ilya Samsonov, Magnitorgorsk (RUS)

Samsonov continues the trend of large, athletic goalies. At 6’4", 203 with his size alone he’ll stop a lot of pucks. His ability to read the play at a high level helps him out, and given time to develop he should become a starting NHLer.

30. Arizona (from CHI) – RW Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown Islanders

Sprong may be/probably will be gone by this point, and even if he’s not this is not a safe pick for a struggling Coyotes team to make. But his talent level is incredible. Shot, skating, puck possession, passing are all at high levels, he even seems to do pretty well defensively at times. He is truly an electric player. However he can be selfish, has effort issues, and so often tries to do it all himself (be it arrogance or lack of trust, who knows), but he’s just not ready to step up and be a member of a great team, even if he is a good player. A lot like Josh Ho-Sang from last year. A risky pick, but if it pans out, a franchise could get an amazing talent very late.

TOP 5 THINGS I WANT TO HAPPEN ON DRAFT DAY

1 – Avalanche trade up to draft American defenseman Noah Hanifin

2 – Detroit Red Wings voluntarily forfeit the 19th pick, declaring "we don’t need your hand outs"

3 – The Flyers do the Flyer thing and draft Lawson Crouse

4 – Zach Werenski drops to the Avalanche. Underager who had an outstanding season playing with 18-22 year olds? Great sign.

5 – Commissioner Gary Bettman announces the Minnesota Wild will be relocated to Atlanta, citing an unstable fan base as the reason for moving

What else do you guys want to happen? Or what do you want NOT to happen?

*Edited to fix Babcock typo and replace with Bylsma