With the draft set to kick off Friday night, it’s time to reveal my 2016 mock draft. There will likely be a handful of trades leading up to the draft as well as on the draft floor, but this mock is done without trades for obvious reasons.
- Toronto Maple Leafs- Auston Matthews, C, ZSC Zurich, NLA
This is a no brainer. The Leafs have been searching for a franchise center since Mats Sundin and are able to grab one with the top selection. Matthews lit up the Swiss league last season, and put up 9 points in 10 games at the world championships.
- Winnipeg Jets- Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Tappara Tampere, SM-Liiga
The Jets have perhaps the most impressive crop of young forwards, both at the NHL level and in the prospect pipe line, and probably need to add depth to the defensive corps. That being said, they are absolutely not going to pass up a chance at Laine. He is good enough to play in the NHL next season, and certainly closed the gap on Matthews when it comes to the consensus first pick label. Laine excelled in the Finnish league last season and was named MVP of the World Championships this year. He fits nicely with Nik Ehlers and Mark Scheifele on the Jet’s top line of the future.
- Columbus Blue Jackets- Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat, SM-Liiga
The Jackets snag the other Finnish winger with the third selection. Puljujarvi didn’t play at the worlds but was dominant at the world juniors, where he played on a line with Laine and Sebastian Aho. Columbus has done a nice job building their blue line in recent years, but is still dealing with bad contracts and no movement clauses throughout the forward ranks. Puljujarvi’s addition will help to brighten that picture a bit.
- Edmonton Oilers- Matt Tkachuk, LW, London Knights, OHL
This is where it gets interesting. I fully expect Oilers to move down into the 6-8 range, but if they keep the pick I can’t see them passing on Tkachuk. Even with a loaded forward corps he is the best pick for the Oilers at 4. Tkachuk put up over 100 points in under 60 OHL regular season games this year, and also put up over a point per game at the World Juniors. While he can light up the scoreboard he also plays with a bit of an edge, which is a characteristic Peter Chiarelli is known to appreciate. Bringing in the Memorial Cup winner also gives Edmonton more options when it comes to acquiring that blue help via trade.
- Vancouver Canucks- Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/W, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL
The Canucks have quite a few holes to fill and I think Jim Benning will opt for the big power forward over the best defenseman available. Benning has spent a lot of time eyeing up Dubois this season, and it’s hard to blame him; Dubois put up 99 points to go along with 112 PIMs this season. Dubois also fits the heavy style that the Pacific Division’s main contenders love to play.
- Calgary Flames- Alex Nylander, LW, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL
The Flames could really go anywhere at #6, but the recent acquisitions of Jyrki Jokipakka, Dougie Hamilton, and Oliver Kylington lead me to believe they’ll go with a forward. Calgary is in good shape down the middle but could use some reinforcements on the wing, which leads me to Nylander. He acquitted himself well in his first junior season with 75 points, his speed will allow him to fit in nicely with Johnny Gaudreu and Sean Monahan.
- Arizona Coyotes- Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting, OHL
The Coyotes have done a wonderful job building one of the deepest prospect pools in the league when it comes to forwards. They also have a nice group of young defensemen at the NHL level, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With Zbynek Michalek and Nicklas Grossman on the wrong side of 30 and no blue chip defensive prospect in the system John Chayka will look to augment the defensive corps. There are differing opinions as to who the best defenseman in the draft is, but I think Arizona will tab Chychrun. Although some have concerns in regards to his decision making, his physical ability is undeniable. Chychrun will likely spend another year in Sarnia, but should become a solid top 4 defenseman in the desert.
- Buffalo Sabres- Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights, OHL
I think the Sabres would be very happy with Juolevi at 8. He’s a solid all around defenseman that can play a shutdown role but also has offensive ability. From a positional standpoint he’s a perfect fit for the Sabres as a left handed shot who plays on the left side. Another year in London is likely the plan for Juolevi regardless of who selects him, and his likely NHL arrival in 2017-18 would coincide nicely with the expiration of Cody Franson’s contract from a Sabres standpoint. Looking forward he looks like a nice partner for fellow Finn Rasmus Ristolainen.
- Montreal Canadiens- Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires, OHL
This makes too much sense for Montreal, as they are fairly weak down the middle organizationally. Brown feels that need perfectly with his 6’ 6” frame. Despite not being overly physical for a player his size, he is a handful below the goal line and should only become more comfortable using his body as he gets older. He had a solid year in the OHL and acquitted himself well at the U-18 Worlds; while he has another year or two at the junior level the hope for Montreal will be that he forms a nice 1-2 punch down the middle with Alex Galchenyuk.
- Colorado Avalanche- Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires, OHL
With Francois Beauchemin and Brad Stuart both 36 the Avs are in need of young blood on the blue line; if they trade away Tyson Barrie that need is multiplied tenfold. Sergachev is likely the best available defender on the board at #10, though some concerns about his maturity level. Sergachev’s biggest asset is his skating, and he uses it to be effective at both ends of the ice. He averaged nearly a point per game with Windsor last year, but also racked up 56 PIMs in 57 games.
- New Jersey Devils- Tyson Jost, LW, Penticton Vees, BCHL
The Devils will look to the goal scoring North Dakota commit to inject some youth into an aging group of forwards. Jost racked up 42 goals and 104 points in just 48 games in the BCHL last year, so there’s certainly no denying his offensive ability. Jost likely won’t be long for North Dakota, as he projects as a solid top six forward for the Devils.
- Ottawa Senators- Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL
I went back and forth between McLeod and Jake Bean here, but ended up going with McLeod. Even with the likes of Turris, Zibanejad, and Curtis Lazar in Ottawa I think McLeod is still the best pick here. McLeod plays more of a power game as compared to the three other Senators, He has the size and skill to play the wing if need be, but I feel the role of power center is one that still needs to be filled in Ottawa and McLeod is perfect for it.
- Carolina Hurricanes- Max Jones, LW, London Knights, OHL
Carolina has done a nice job building its blueline, and now it’s time to address the forwards. Apart from Jeff Skinner the ‘Canes are weak on the wings. Max Jones is a nice fit at 13, and the power forward would play a role not currently occupied on the Hurricanes’ roster. He is a direct player who gets to the net at any opportunity and also plays a physical style, racking up 106 PIMs in only 63 OHL contests.
- Boston Bruins- Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University, Hockey East (NCAA)
Despite grabbing a defenseman with one of three first round picks last year the Bruins further solidify the blue line here. I have the local kid, Charlie McAvoy, over a player like Jake Bean. McAvoy is a little bigger than Bean and plays a tad more physical. He was able to adapt to the college game pretty seamlessly, racking up 22 assists and 25 points in 37 regular season games with the Terriers. McAvoy will likely spend at least one more season in college before making the jump to the pros.
- Minnesota Wild- Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen
The Wild could go in any direction with this pick, but I think the value in a player like Bean at 15 is too much to pass up. Bean is a terrific offensive defenseman, amassing 64 points in 68 WHL games last season. Bean will likely have to add a few pounds of muscle, but his arrival in Minnesota would come at a perfect time, especially with Jonas Brodin’s future uncertain.
- Detroit Red Wings- Clayton Keller, C, U.S. National U-18’s, USHL/USDP
The Wings are now woefully weak down the middle, especially with Pavel Datsyuk heading back to Russia. Keller is certainly the best center available, despite being ony 5’ 9”. He is an offensive dynamo, with 107 points in 62 games for the U-18 team. Keller will still only be 17 when he is drafted, so there’s certainly enough time to add some weight, and possibly an inch or two, but when Keller is ready he immediately becomes a big piece of the puzzle in Detroit.
- Nashville Predators- Rasmus Asplund- C/LW, Farjestad BK, SHL
The Preds are set on the blue line and are solid down the middle, so David Poile will look toward the wings. Nashville has had success with Swedes before, and will look to Asplund to continue the trend. While playing mainly as a center, he is also able to play on the left side. Asplund is already playing in Sweden’s top league, and also performed very well at last year’s World Juniors. He plays more of a finesse game rather than a power game, so wing may suit him better in the NHL.
- Philadelphia Flyers- Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL
Ron Hextall and the Flyers have done a nice job building a solid group of young defensemen, sonow is the time to fortify the wings. Gauthier is a power forward who excels at both ends of the ice and has drawn comparisons to Rick Nash. While I am leery of prospects from the “Q” due to the style of play, I think Gauthier can adapt at the next level.
- New York Islanders- Kieffer Bellows, LW, U.S. National U-18’s, USHL/USDP
Bellows is another talented power forward who put up 50 goals last season. There are a few concerns, though. Many teams feel his skating needs improvement, and others also believe his shoot first mentality needs to be changed. Bellows is slated to head to Boston University in the fall, and should spend at least two season there to round out his game.
- Arizona Coyotes (From New York Rangers)- Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees, BCHL
The Coyotes take their second defenseman of the night with Fabbro. He is an outstanding offensive defenseman, as evidenced by his 53 assists in 45 BCHL games. Some scouts have drawn comparisons to Tyson Barrie, and if they are correct he would be a steal at 20.
- Carolina Hurricanes (From Los Angeles)- Riley Tufte, LW, Fargo Force, USHL/Blaine, USHS
Tufte played 25 high school games sandwiched between 27 games in the USHL. Tufte is already 6’ 5” and over 200 pounds, and toyed with high school competition, putting up 47 goals and 78 points. He is committed to Minnesota-Duluth for next season, but should be ready for Carolina in a few seasons.
- Winnipeg Jets (From Chicago)- Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
Clague was thought of much higher of before he struggled in the first half of last season. He broke all of Dion Phaneuf’s bantam scoring records before getting to Brandon, and rebounded nicely in the second half of the season and playoffs. Despite the early season hiccup, he still managed 43 points in 71 games.
- Florida Panthers- Logan Stanley, D, Windsor Spitfires, OHL
Stanley is a beast a 6’ 6”and 225 pounds. As expected, he uses his size well and plays a very physical game. His offensive game is slowly coming along, but it’s unlikely he becomes a powerplay defenseman. When he’s ready to make the jump from the OHL he will fit nicely in the role vacated by the recently traded Erik Gudbransson.
- Anaheim Ducks- German Rubstov, C, Russian U-18s, MHL
Rubstov is easily most mysterious prospect in the draft. When seen, scouts have been extremely impressed with the 18 year old, the only problem is that he hasn’t been seen much. Rubstov was part of the team withdrawn from from the U-18’s due to the meldonium scandal, and he didn’t suit up at word juniors, so viewing has been limited. The Ducks are in a spot where they can afford to take a flyer on the talented, but unknown, Russian.
- Dallas Stars- Filip Gustavsson, G, Lulea, SHL
Gustavsson spent the majority of time with Lulea’s U-20 squad last season, but did make it up to the big club. He’s not a big goalie by today’s standards, but at 6’ 2” is big enough. The Stars’ goaltending issues have been well documented, and Gustavsson is the best available option in the draft. He has a contract with Lulea that runs through 2017-18, so there’s a few years for him to develop before coming to North America.
- Washington Capitals- Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw, WHL
The Caps’ window to compete for the Cup will still be open for another season or two, and are in no need for immediate help from their current prospects or the one they’ll get with this pick. With that mindset, it may be a case of best available rather than positional need. That leads me to Howden, who has nice size for a centerman and captained Team Canada at the Hlinka tournament this season.
- Tampa Bay Lightning- Dennis Cholowski, D, Chilliwack, BCHL
Despite the impending departure of Steven Stamkos the Lightning are in decent shape, as evidenced by their playoff run. They are, however, likely to lose either a defenseman or goaltender in the expansion draft. With that in mind, Cholowski is the pick. There are varying opinions on the defenseman; he ranges from a mid 1st round grade all the way to late 2nd round grade. He’ll head to St.Cloud State to develop his game at the NCAA level.
- St. Louis Blues- Jacob Moverare, D, HV71, Swedish SuperElit
Moverare saw action in four games with HV71’s SHL team, but spent the majority of the year with the U-20 team. He’s likely to spend a few years in Sweden before coming to North America.
- Boston Bruins (From San Jose)- Tage Thompson, C, Connecticut, Hockey East (NCAA)
Thompson is a big center that put up a solid 32 points in 36 games as a freshman at UConn. Thompson should be ready for the professional ranks in a few years.
- Anaheim Ducks (From Pittsburgh via Toronto)- Sam Steel, C, Regina Pats, WHL
Steel also struggled in the beginning of the year but had a very nice second half. Steel as the last pick of the first round represents good value for the Ducks.