Yesterday, I shared the top-16 picks in my mock draft, ending with the Colorado Avalanche selecting Vitaly Kravtsov. Now, here is what I think might happen in back half of the first round tonight.
17. New Jersey: Dominik Bokk - RW - Vaxjo-J20, SuperElit
As tempted as the Devils are to select Ryan McLeod, they pass on the center in favour of the winger with huge offensive upside. Bokk might be a year away from being two years away, but his potential is as high as just about any forward in the draft.
Trade: Columbus trades pick No. 18 to Detroit for picks No. 26 & No. 33 + 2019 3rd
*Detroit uses the pick they previously received from the Rangers as well as Ottawa’s 2nd round pick that they acquired at the 2017 trade deadline in order to move back up. After trading away a few picks over the past few years, Columbus uses this opportunity to gain a few back.
18. Detroit: Martin Kaut - RW - Pardubice, Czech Extraliga
Kaut had a scare at the draft combine when doctors found an irregularity with his heart, but reports are that the talented winger has a clean bill of health and will be fine to resume his hockey career. Some think Kaut has top-10 (or even top-5) talent so the Red Wings decide to jump up and grab him.
19. Philadelphia: Serron Noel - RW - Oshawa, OHL
After taking a skilled winger in Joel Farabee with the 14th pick, the Flyers take another one here. Serron Noel is a big kid that can fly down the ice, and while he’s seen as a project, the Flyers have the flexibility to take a gamble on him. If anyone tells you “Noel got drafted so high because he’s so big,” ignore them, they obviously haven’t watched the kid play.
He’s a smart player that’s got a long way to grow, but one that is very likely to be a legitimate top-6 power forward down the road.
20. Los Angeles: Ryan McLeod - F - Mississauga, OHL
His older brother Mikey was selected 12th overall just two years ago, but Ryan is probably the better NHL prospect. Seen as a potential top-5 pick when he broke into the OHL, McLeod is one of the fastest skaters in the draft, but unlike his brother, his hands can keep up with his feet.
McLeod is one of the more NHL-ready prospects in the draft, so it wouldn’t be surprising to make him jump right into the league next season.
21. San Jose: Grigori Denisenko - LW - Yaroslavl, MHL
With only one pick in the first three rounds, the Sharks need to hit a home run here. They believe they’ve done that with Denisenko. A playmaker with a ton of offensive upside, the young Russian is going to take a while before he makes an impact in the NHL, but with the way the Sharks are positioning themselves this offseason, is seems like they’re more than happy to stash him in the KHL for a couple years.
22. Ottawa: K’Andre Miller - D - USNTDP U18
He’s only been playing defense for a few years, but Miller is quickly becoming one of the favorites in the draft class. He’s got a lot to learn on the defensive side of the puck, but his skating, size and puck skills point to a kid that could end up being a top pair defender in the NHL. Ottawa can’t afford to pass on someone like this.
23. Anaheim: Bode Wilde - D - USNTDP U18
Hoping Miller would drop to them, the Ducks go with his teammate. Wilde has all the physical talent in the world, but it’s his on-ice awareness and decision making that will cause him to drop this low.
Trade: Minnesota trades pick No. 24 + Tyler Ennis to Arizona for Lawson Crouse
*The Coyotes absorb one year of Ennis’ terrible contract in order to pick up another player in the first round.
24. Arizona: Ryan Merkley - D - Guelph, OHL
There are teams that have Merkley on a “do not draft” list. That said, the young puck mover has the skill to be a top-3 pick in this draft. If an organization can knock some sense into him and help him grow up, he could end up being one of the biggest steals in a long time. (Personally, I don’t think he’s worth the risk).
25. Toronto: Ty Dellandrea - C - Flint, OHL
Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I don’t care. I want the Leafs to draft Dellandrea with their first round pick. He’s a natural center that has speed and untapped offensive potential. Now the Leafs just need to put pressure on a few OHL people to get him traded out of Flint - he’d probably look pretty good in Oshawa Generals red and blue. (Editors Note: Typical, Tom.)
26. Columbus: Isac Lundestrom - C - Lulea, SHL
Columbus moves back and still grabs the kid they wanted. He’s seen by some scouts as a bit of a safe pick, but Columbus believes there is more high-end upside than others.
27. Chicago: Jonatan Berggen - F - Skelleftea, J20 SuperElit
After going with the safe pick in Dobson earlier in the night, Chicago goes the opposite way taking the young forward that has the potential to be an offensive game-breaker one day.
28. New York Rangers: Alexander Alexeyev - D - Red Dear, WHL
After trading up to get future superstar Oliver Wahlstrom, the Rangers go with the big two-way defender that could surprise many by turning into a top-2 defender one day.
29. St. Louis: Jared McIsaac - D - Halifax, QMJHL
After striking gold with Robert Thomas last year, the Blues go with the safe pick here. McIsaac will be an NHLer, but he probably tops out as a #4 guy in the pros.
30. Detroit: Liam Foudy - C - London
Foudy has seen his draft stock rise significantly after his season ended. Many believe that he will sneak into the end of the first round and point to the success of his teammate Alex Forementon as the reason why. Like Forementon, Foudy has underwhelming offensive numbers in his draft year, but he’s a kid that can fly and he has the style of game that could make him very successful in the NHL.
31. Washington: Akil Thomas - C - Niagara, OHL
Can’t win ‘em all. The Capitals take the kid that I legitimately think is great in junior but won’t be able to translate into an impact player in the NHL. I see him as Jeremy Bracco 2.0.