The mock draft is moving along into the bottom portion of the first round today, and this is where things start to unravel from our safe predictions.
I’ve been using Bob McKenzie’s draft list as a guide, and as pick 15 disappears into the past, the usefulness of that list wanes a little. Individual opinions on who is the best choice become more varied, and the pool of players any one GM might be willing to take gets bigger.
The story so far:
This section of the draft is where you see more picks traded, and with New Jersey having three first rounders, there is a very good chance they use one of them to make some kind of trade, and the two that aren’t their original pick, the 18th and 20th are the ones more likely to be moved. However, for this exercise, they get to use them all.
They’re up first, and they are one of the teams with an extensive analytics department, a lot of European scouts, and a good number of amateur scouts in North America. They also won the draft lottery in 2017, and have taken a pick most thought reasonable in Nico Hischier. But since then, they have watched Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen wow the NHL. Oh, and Elias Pettersson too. Hindsight has made geniuses of us all, and obviously Pettersson was the pick there. Obviously. And no one laughed at Vancouver for making it either.
New Jersey has suffered a bit of a setback in their rebuild, no matter how many others would have chosen the same way at the time. They picked Michael McLeod in 2016 at 12th overall, and he’s not working out so well either. They also picked Pavel Zacha at sixth overall in 2015, and like Hischier, he’s a good player, just not the elite player they need.
The team has changed GMs, changed coaches, hired more numbers people, and clearly wants hits and not misses at the draft. But because they have three picks, I made them the team to risk it on a goalie with their better pick. That means they want an NHL player at 18th overall. They want to beat the odds. And then they want to do it again at 20th.
Would you be more or less risk averse in this position? Will New Jersey’s new GM Tom Fitzgerald swing for the fences or play it safe?
The highest ranked player left on McKenzie’s list is Dylan Holloway, who played in the NCAA last year because he has a late birthday, and will be 19 by draft day. His team did not perform well, and star Cole Caufield went from goal machine to a bit of a question mark. Holloway, who played in the AJHL has difficult stats to make sense of, but New Jersey has the people who should be able to do that.
Next on the list is a group of fairly similar forwards, mostly small, mostly offensively focused, mostly scoring goals, although John-Jason Peterka is another player you need to believe in beyond his goal stats. And then as you look down on the list deeper, you see the next set of defenders, Justin Barron and William Wallinder. There is a risk in seeing the next defender down the list as much better than he is, simply because he’s next.
In the situation I’ve given the imaginary Fitzgerald, he’s going to have a more informed opinion on Rodion Amirov than the rest of us. He’s going to know if Lukas Reichel is really worth spending his 20th overall on. I’m throwing darts in the dark, a little. New Jersey takes Amirov, with the 18th, and then they pass the Zoom call over to Calgary.
The Flames are very different to the Devils. First of all, they think they’re a team that can tune up to contender status quickly, and maybe they’re right. The last time they had a top-10 pick, they took Matthew Tkachuk, who they obviously love, and Rasmus Andersson the year before is not someone they will trade to the Leafs. But they also have publicly been upset with some of their forwards, and have made some questionable deals. If the team is turning away from Johnny Gaudreau — and I think criticism of him has some basis in fact — they might be a team that will draft for player type.
If they take the player closes to Tkachuk, I won’t be surprised, so I’m considering having them take Dylan Holloway, the Alberta boy who seems to play the right way, or Lukas Reichel, because they can’t resist the family connection to their past. Which will they choose? I’m giving them Reichel. If there was an obvious WHL pick in there, though, that’s who I’d give them.
The Devils are right back at it, and this is their big swing pick. They’ve got the goalie, and another Russian to be his best friend, and now they can just take a chance on whoever they think is worth it. They pick Mavrik Bourque.
Columbus is next, and they have one decent pick after trading everything else they had last season, so I think they are the number one candidate to trade up for a better player, but they take Holloway, because if ever a team likes the guy who plays right, it’s them.
Next time I’ll round this out with some picks for the last four teams to take it to 25.
The PPP mock mock draft list
- New York Rangers - Alexis Lafreniere
- Los Angeles Kings - Tim Stutzle
- Ottawa Senators - Quinton Byfield
- Detroit Red Wings - Cole Perfetti
- Ottawa Senators - Jamie Drysdale
- Anaheim Ducks - Lucas Raymond
- New Jersey Devils - Yaroslav Askarov
- Buffalo Sabres - Jake Sanderson
- Minnesota Wild - Anton Lundell
- Winnipeg Jets - Jack Quinn
- Nashville Predators - Alexander Holtz
- Florida Panthers - Kaiden Guhle
- Carolina Hurricanes - Marco Rossi
- Edmonton Oilers - Seth Jarvis
- Toronto Maple Leafs - Braden Schneider
- Montréal Canadiens - Hendrix Lapierre
- Chicago Blackhawks - Dawson Mercer
- New Jersey Devils - Rodion Amirov
- Calgary Flames - Lukas Reichel
- New Jersey Devils - Mavrik Bourque
- Columbus Blue Jackets - Dylan Holloway
- New York Rangers
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Colorado Avalanche
- Washington Capitals