Vegas Golden Knights
Favourite Picks: Cody Glass (6), Nick Suzuki (13), Erik Brannstrom (15), Nicolas Hague (34), Jake Leschyshyn (62)
Vegas took advantage of all their early picks with a ton of strong selections. Cody Glass looks like a fairly safe bet to develop into a second line centre, and Suzuki’s scoring production is incredibly impressive given his age. It is difficult to find top-6 centres outside of the draft, and the Golden Knights began to cut down on the amount of catching up they have to do in this area.
I’m surprised Hague fell out of the first round given his skill level for such a large defender. Brannstrom carries a ton of offensive upside and a similar profile to Liljegren, while Leschyshyn looked impressive at the Top Prospects Game. I would have taken Mittelstadt, Liljegren, and Suzuki with their first round picks, but it is tough to argue with these selections.
Favourite Picks: Eeli Tolvanen (30), Grant Mismash (61), David Farrance (92)
The Predators maximized the late picks they had, as Tolvanen is an absolute steal at #30. He dominated against his age group in International Tournaments, and his shot gives him the upside of a 30 goal scorer if all goes right. I labelled Tolvanen as the potential steal of this draft in this post, and we took him at 17th overall in the SB Nation Mock Draft.
Farrance is a slightly undersized defenceman who is one of the best skaters in this draft. I thought he would be a solid selection in the second round, yet alone at the end of the third, as his speed should help distinguish his game as he climbs through the ranks. Mismash performed well with the US- U18 team this year, and could turn heads at the World Juniors this year.
Favourite Picks: Casey Mittelstadt (8), Marcus Davidson (37), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (54)
Mittelstadt is one of the most impressive players in this draft class in terms of skill, and I saw him as a clear top-6 selection. His scoring upside should have put him in the top-5, especially when you consider that he plays a premium position.
The #8 pick is the main reason why the Sabres make this list, but Davidson also displayed a high-level of skill while playing for Sweden in International events. I am no goalie expert, but Luukkonen was highly-regarded by most outlets coming into the draft, and that appears to be a reasonable gamble at the backend of the second round.
Favourite Picks: Elias Pettersson (5), Kole Lind (33), Jonah Gadjovich (55), Michael DiPietro (64, Petrus Palmu (181)
The Canucks were in dire need of a strong draft, and they delivered in a big way with a handful of great picks. Taking Pettersson is a slight gamble given his off the puck play, but he offers plenty of upside as one of the more skilled skaters and puck carriers in this class.
Kole Lind and Jonah Gabjovich were both major scoring threats in the CHL this year, and goaltender Michael DiPietro is coming off of a very strong season with the Windsor Spitfires. Finally, Petrus Palmu was one of the leading scorers in the OHL this season, and he was a great selection at 181 despite his age and size.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Favourite Pick: Timothy Liljegren (17)
I do not love Toronto’s picks outside of the first round, but the Leafs practically stole a top-10 talent at #17. This is a player with some clear flaws, as he will need to improve his decision making, strength, and defensive awareness before he can match up against top competition. He may need sheltered minutes to start his career, but his ability to pass or rush the puck up the ice gives him plenty of offensive upside.
Liljegren is terrific at generating both zone exits and zone entries, as he can fly around opposing defenders with his speed. This provides him significant potential in terms of shot attempt differential, as he excels at creating offensive zone time thanks to his top-end skating ability. Eemeli Rasanen did not impress me at the top prospects game, but I am fine with taking a 6’7 defenceman with a bit of skill at #59.
Favourite Picks: Owen Tippett (10), Aleksi Heponiemi (40), Max Gildon (66), Tyler Inamoto (133).
Owen Tippett is the complete package with great speed, size, and scoring ability. He fits Florida’s team needs well, and will offer two-way ability thanks to his strength in puck battles. I see him as a safe bet to develop into a top-6 forward, and his goal-scoring ability provides him with first line upside.
Heponiemi is a small but skilled centre who found the score sheet at an impressive clip in the WHL this season. Gildon is worth a shot at 66th overall after his impressive U-18 tournament, and Inamoto is an interesting under-the-radar pick in the fifth round.
Los Angeles Kings
Favourite Pick: (Gabriel Vilardi (11))
I do not love the Kings later picks, but Vilardi provides terrific value at #11. His strong cycle game will play well on a dominant possession team in Los Angeles, and he can make the most of his scoring opportunities thanks to his creativity in tight spaces. I flipped flopped on Vilardi all year, but he always looked like a clear-cut top 10 prospect.
Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers.
Detroit Red Wings
Taking Michael Rasmussen over Owen Tippett or Gabriel Vilardi looks like a big mistake. I do not see him as a top-15 player in this class, and there was some big time talent left on the board. I also would have liked Jason Robertson, Robin Salo, or Joni Ikonen in the second round, but the Red Wings opted to go in a different direction.
It is extremely important to capitalize on top-10 picks, and there were two better scoring options just sitting there for the taking. Nick Suzuki or Timothy Liljegren would have also been better selections. Let’s wish Rasmussen all the best, but I will be a bit surprised if he develops into a first line scorer.
New York Rangers
I am a big fan of Lias Andersson, but this selection is a bit of a reach at #7. Mittelstadt, Tippett, and Vilardi all offer more scoring upside, and I thought Andersson would go a few spots later. On the bright side, he looks bound to be a solid top-6 forward.
The Rangers did not have many mid-round picks, and Filip Chytil looked to be a bit of a reach with Eeli Tolvanen, Kailer Yamamoto, and Klim Kostin still on the board. The Rangers were given an opportunity to come away with a major haul in this draft, and it just did not happen.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning took Cal Foote at #14, but I would have preferred Brannstrom (#15), Valimaki (#16), or Liljegren (#17). I liked their selection of Lipanov at #76, but I am not overly knowledgeable on Volkov at #48.
This team typically drafts quite well, so I am willing to be a bit more patient to see if they found a diamond in the rough in the later rounds. Still, while Foote is a steady defender, he does not offer the same scoring upside as the other three defenders.
Urho Vaakanainen is a fine defender, but there were a few potential steals available in Tolvanen, Yamamoto, and perhaps even Klim Kostin. I also preferred Joni Iknonen, Anoine Morand, Grant Mismash, or Michael DiPietro to Jack Studnicka in the 2nd round, but I’m willing to be a little bit patient on that selection.
Trading out of the first round for Ryan Reeves is a questionable decision to say the least. Like the Blue Jackets, they simply did not possess enough picks to add any significant talent into their organization.
Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames. Their first picks saved them from making the list. The Ottawa Senators deserve a mention as well, though I am willing to be patient to get a better look at Shane Bowers (their first round pick at #28).