After five years of issuing an NHL mock draft, here's what I've learned: these things make crapshoots look like blue chip investments. After all, it's not simply a matter of trying to guess how these 17- and 18-year-old kids will pan out. It's trying to make a read of how each individual team thinks these kids will pan out.
Since no scout is willing to reveal his team's cards, a mock comes down to a lot of jawboning and over-the-fence type speculation. Suffice to say, it's an inexact science. Still, it's a lot of fun trying to fit the pieces together and get the debate rolling until it all plays out for real on Friday night, isn't it?
So, without further ado, here's how I envision this thing:
Mystery, my butt.
Other teams will come calling, but the Bolts won't put this pick into play with Hedman there to be had. This is, after all, the team that dressed an NHL-record number of defenders (21) last season. A cross between
Some will compare him to
Keep an eye on the guy that announcers, for sake of brevity, refer to as MPS. Widely considered a lock for the top-five since an impressive performance at the World Juniors, there are now whispers that he could drop several slots. Wishful thinking on the part of some scouts at the lower end of the lottery and beyond? Could be. I still think he's too intriguing a package to slip. MPS's game is all about speed. The kid is a burner,
Given the depth of young talent they've acquired and their need for immediate help, I'll be stunned if the Kings hold onto this pick. But whoever they deal it to likely will make the move with an eye on selecting Schenn, a hard-nosed player who approaches every shift with integrity. Like his brother Luke, Brayden is a scrapper. He's intense in his pursuit of the puck, and extremely tough when it's in his possession. He's got a bit of
The Leafs probably had their hearts set on Schenn, but won't be disappointed to land Kane, a cruiserweight with a gift for goal scoring and a nasty competitive edge. He's not particularly big (6-1, 176) but he plays with the determination of a guy three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Once he hits the blueline, he's a bull going to the net. Kane likely will move to the wing in the NHL.
The injury-riddled Stars didn't earn many breaks last season, so maybe it's a small payback from the hockey gods that health concerns drop Cowen into their laps. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has the potential to become the dominant physical defenseman they've lacked since the departure of
It happens every year. A team shocks the draft floor by grabbing a player far earlier than anyone expected. Could it be Kreider this year? There's been plenty of quiet buzz surrounding this big center that suggests there are several clubs hoping he drops to them later in the round, but I don't think it'll happen. Kreider is the big two-way center that every team covets. He's blessed with great acceleration, elite playmaking skills and a willingness to engage in the battle down low. A more competitive version of
Maybe the Oilers don't make this pick if someone other than
A risky pick? Some might say so after his red flag-raising performance at the combine and a disappointing effort at the World Juniors. And even in the new NHL, 5-9 is 5-9. But Schroeder is regarded as a world-class talent, an elite playmaker with great wheels who elevates the level of those with whom he skates. is frame may be small, but it's sturdy, and that makes him tough to knock off the puck. He's also displayed obvious chemistry with Nashville's 2007 first-rounder
Overshadowed by linemate Schenn for much of the year, Glennie proved himself a potential top-10 pick by season's end. A dynamic player, the core of his game is speed. Defenders have to respect his ability to blow by them, and that creates space for him and his linemates in the neutral zone. His goal-scoring ability might be slightly overrated, but Glennie should develop into a solid finisher with 30-goal potential.
It's not like the Sabres are lacking in blueliners, but OEL is too good to pass on at this point. At 6-3, he's bigger than the prototypical new-age defender, but boasts the same high-end skills package. He's an elite skater with great mobility and he reads the play quickly, something that shows in his strong positioning at both ends of the ice. It wouldn't be a shock to see him taken in the top 10.
The Panthers have a big hole opening on their roster with the impending departure of
A bit of a slider, Kadri can be a flashy, creative contributor in the offensive zone and a diligent checker in his own end. There have been questions about his competitive fire, but some scouts feel they were answered during the OHL playoffs. Still, other nagging concerns about his size (6-0, 177) and offensive potential have allowed other prospects to scoot past him into the top 10, thus allowing the Ducks to pull off something of a steal mid-round.
The Jackets may not have the league's worst power play by the time Rundblad shows up in Columbus, but he has the tools to ensure they become a more formidable opponent with the extra man long-term Rundblad worked the PP in the SEL as an underager, thanks to his slick playmaking, cannon shot and strong reads. And he's a right-handed shooter, a quality almost every team covets. Add in the fact that he should play at about 6-2, 210 and has more than a passing familiarity with his own zone, and he should become a bulwark of the Jackets' back end.
There's nothing in his game that particularly stands out, but that's not a bad thing. He's such a well-rounded performer that you simply roll him out every third shift and trust him to do the job at both ends of the ice. He won't dazzle anyone with his offense, and there is some frustration about him not shooting enough, but he's a smart playmaker who makes the most of his linemates. His safe play seems like an ideal fit for the growing pool of talent in St. Louis.
Montreal gets their armed response to
Other than "no draft," there's no more damning tag applied to a young player than "lazy." Once it's there, it's almost impossible to shake. Scouts hear it and then all it takes is a couple of soft shifts per night for it to stick. Holland's earned a rep as this year's
As if the Sutters could pass on a big-bodied Western Canadian boy. Ferraro may not match the top end of some first-rounders, but his skill set and willingness to compete at both ends suggest he'll become a solid NHLer. He's fearless in the corners and down low, and as his 37 goals suggest, he's got a nose for the net.
Their biggest need is between the pipes, but whispers out of Philly suggest
This is exactly the sort of kid the Canucks need. Palmieri's game is built on speed and hockey sense, but his tenacious play with or without the puck makes him so desirable. His compete level always is set on high and that helps earn him the space he needs to take advantage of his howitzer shot. And don't get too worked up about his lack of size (5-10, 191). Palmieri was a beast at the combine, finishing in the top three in the key strength tests.
Here's the funny thing about Leblanc. Scouts routinely praise his competitiveness, but this kid has played at least a level below his maximum for the past two seasons. Now that may be because he wanted to keep the college option open -- he's going to Harvard next year -- but at the same time, you have to wonder. Those willing to overlook his easy route will point to his soft hands and ability to create separation on the ice. He's that ideal center who's just as willing to shoot as pass, and with a projectable frame (currently 6-0, 178), he could become a second-line bulldog.
Everyone says they aim to take the Best Player Available, but sometimes you can't overlook a specific need. The Caps are shy of both right wings in the system and physical forwards who drive the net and score the ugly goals. Ashton's game often draws comparisons to
Ask around and it's surprising how many insiders think de Haan is destined for the Bruins. The B's could use some help on the wings, too, so they might consider
With a safe bet in Tavares already in their pocket, the Isles can afford to reach a bit with their second first-rounder. Morin has size (6-1, 189) and smarts, but that sweet set of hands has him ranked as the best pure scorer after Tavares. Morin can, and will, shoot from anywhere, and his one-timer may be the best in the draft. So why is he available at 26? His skating leaves scouts wanting more and so does his work ethic. Both are skills that can be developed with effort and maturity, but the kid has raised memories of
A number of safer picks could be made here (
He'll never be a top pairing defender, but Olsen has the kind of innate understanding of the game that the Wings love. He's blessed with an NHL-ready body (6-2, 207) and plays the kind of smart, physical game that never goes out of style. He's reliable enough with the puck that he can play Detroit's system, but he'll be more of a boon to the penalty kill than the power play.
Elliott is drawing plenty of comparisons to