Auston Matthews slipping a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater over his head is the only sure thing about the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on Friday night at Buffalo's First Niagara Center (7 p.m. Eastern, NBCSN).
Beyond that lies chaos.
A class deep with scoring forwards and mobile, transition-minded defenders has teams jockeying for position both up and down the board. Columbus, Calgary, Buffalo and Arizona are waiting by the phone and Edmonton is at least willing to listen to offers, setting the stage for some blockbuster deals. And with the spectre of an impending expansion draft looming over the proceedings, there could several big-name veterans on the move as well.
While we can't predict those trades, we can give you some insight into the players your team might select. We weighed the best players available up against drafting trends and organizational needs to create our annual mock draft.
We've also included thoughts from scouts to give you an insider's look at how players are perceived, along with NHL comparables for each player—just keep in mind these are intended as a broad indication of a player's style, not a projection of what these prospects will become.
With that important caveat in mind, here's how things might play out on Friday night.
1. toronto maple leafs
RECORD: zurich SC (Switzerland) |<br> 6' 2", 216
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Anze Kopitar
2. winnipeg Jets
RECORD: tapparatempere (finland) | 6' 4", 201
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Ovechkin
3. columbus blue jackets
RECORD: karpat(finland) | 6' 3", 208
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Blake Wheeler
4. edmonton oilers
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Keith Tkachuk (his dad)
5. vancouver canucks
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Jamie Benn
6. calgary flames
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan Johansen
7. arizona coyotes
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
8. buffalo sabres
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Roman Josi
9. montreal canadiens
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Artemi Panarin
10. colorado avalanche
11. new jersey devils
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Joe Sakic
12. ottawa senatorS
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Kyle Turris
13. carolina hurricanes
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Darren Helm
14. boston bruins
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Corey Perry
15. minnesota wild
RECORD: Val D'or Foreurs (QMJHL) | 6' 3", 231
16. detroit red wings
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan McDonagh
17. nashville predators
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Justin Faulk
18. philadelphia flyers
RECORD: london (oHL) | 6' 2", 206
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Scott Hartnell
19. new york islanders
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan Ellis
20. arizona coyotes
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Steen
• SCOUT SAYS: “Multi-purpose forward who can chip in with big plays in all three zones. Plays with intensity and focus.”• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Ryan O'Reilly
22. winnipeg jets
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Tyler Myers
23. florida panthers
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Martin Hanzal
24. anaheim ducks
25. dallas stars
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Tyler Toffoli
26. washington capitals
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Dennis Seidenberg
27. tampa bay lightning
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Alex Goligoski
28. st. louis blues
RECORD: kelowna (whl)| 6' 2", 175
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Dan Hamhuis
29. boston bruins
RECORD: tri city (ushl) | 6' 1", 205
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Andrew Ladd
30. Anaheim ducks
RECORD: Sault Ste. Marie (oHL)| 6' 1", 190
• COMPARABLE NHL PLAYER: Boone Jenner
Five to Watch
Riley Tufte, Tri City Storm (USHL): Massive winger tore up Minnesota high school hockey, but struggled to score in USHL. Very raw talent.
Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants (WHL): Physical winger oozes skill, but injuries could knock him out of first round.
Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad BK (Sweden): Versatile forward lacks size, but no one questions his speed and smarts.
Vitali Abramov, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Forward is just 5' 9", but highly skilled and willing to work down low to generate scoring opportunities.
Will Bitten, Flint Firebirds (OHL): Center carried the Firebirds while the team was undergoing upheaval on and off the ice. Scouts wonder what he might have done in a stable situation.