As we do every year, the NHL blogs of SB Nation get together (over the Internet) and play GM, conducting a mock of the first round of the NHL entry draft.
The first few picks went in today, which you can follow here. Stay tuned to that page for updates on the picks and trades (yes, there are trades) as they happen. We will be making the Leafs pick at #17 overall, unless we trade it. Our pick will be up for your perusal and mocking on June 17th (fitting).
But first, let’s take a look at the picks that have come in so far.
1. Nico Hischier - New Jersey Devils
I cannot understate what Hischier did with Halifax in the QMJHL in this season. In terms of raw points, he finished tenth in the entire league with 86 and first by a lot among rookies. The nine players with more total points than Hischier were all older than him and have went through at least one draft eligible year. Per Prospect-Stats, Hischier finished seventh in the entire league with a rate of 1.21 primary points per game; most of those 86 points came from goals and primary assists. Also per Prospect-Stats, Hischier shot at a rate of 4.05 shots per game. On the rare night where Hischier wasn’t scoring, he was absolutely firing away - that points to how he generates offense.
2. Nolan Patrick - Philadelphia Flyers
If you were to have asked any informed NHL draft observer who the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft would be at this time a year or so ago, they’d probably have named anyone other than Nolan Patrick. That’s because Patrick entered this year as the odds-on favorite to be the first pick in the 2017 draft, and his status there only started to really get questioned as we got deeper into the 2016-17 hockey season.
These were always going to be the top two players off the board - the only question was the order in which it would occur. This is regarded as the draft with the most uncertainty about who the #1 pick is since the Taylor (Hall) vs Tyler (Seguin) draft of 2010. I’d put the 2014 draft in a similar boat, with the conversation then being about Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, and Sam Bennett.
At this point, Nico and Nolan are in a dead heat. But it wasn’t always this way. At the start of the year, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who took Hischier over Patrick. However, a combination of Hischier’s stellar play, Patrick’s somewhat lackluster numbers given his age, and his injury concerns have seen the gap narrow. New Jersey ends up going for the new hotness, while Philadelphia is just thankful they get the chance to pick either of these two prospects.
While neither Patrick nor Hischier project to be transformational players at the NHL level, they certainly are high-upside and high-skill picks who should live in the top half of any NHL team’s lineup.
So who would you have taken first? And what do you think Dallas does with #3 overall? Let us know in the comments, and check the link above tomorrow.