The draft order was randomized online using a draft lottery simulator based on the NHL standings as of January 13th, 2016. The write-ups for each player are primarily based on my personal viewings of the prospect, however thoughts from well-respected hockey minds are included. The player comparisons made can be either stylistic in comparison, or compared in terms of talent, as indicated.
Pick 1: Columbus Blue Jackets- Auston Matthews, Zurich
The Blue Jackets are a bad hockey team right now, but with the recent acquisition of Seth Jones from the Nashville Predators to a future blue line consisting of Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski, they appear to be set on the back end for a long time. Trading Ryan Johansen really hurt their forward core, but Auston Matthews completely changes everything. Matthews is smart, plays a 200-foot game, and is scoring at a ridiculous pace in the Swiss League, bagging 17 goals and 29 points in 24 games. To put this in perspective, an 18-year-old has never scored at this pace ever. Matthews is extremely creative with the puck and makes the other players around him much better. Defensively, Matthews is extremely aware and responsible, has good positioning and an active stick. While some may say Jesse Puljujärvi and Patrik Laine have overtaken Matthews because of their monstrous World Junior tournament, Matthews remains number one for two reasons. Firstly, Matthews plays a more desirable position as a center, while Puljujärvi and Laine are both wingers. Secondly, Matthews had an impressive tournament in his own right, helping the United States capture the bronze medal in Helsinki. Matthews is an elite talent, and would have challenged 2nd overall pick in 2015 Jack Eichel for his position if Matthews was a 2015 eligible prospect.
Potential: Franchise Centerman, Risk: Low, Comparison (talent): Jonathan Toews.
Pick 2: Edmonton Oilers- Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia
Will 2016/2017 finally be the year the Oilers make the playoffs? We seem to be asking ourselves the same question every year. Although the Oilers have seemed to have made strides this year in terms of overall team structure, they do not have the goaltending nor the defense to compete with in the West just yet. Jakob Chychrun is a nice consolation prize to the season and bolsters a defensive core needing more talent. I will say however, Chychrun is not the best player available at this point. I firmly believe Jesse Puljujärvi and Patrik Laine are both better prospects then Chychrun. However, Edmonton needs to draft for position at this point and drafting a forward would be redundant given the last (besides Darnell Nurse) of elite talent needed to take the Oilers to the next step. Chychrun is a good skater, has good size, very responsible defensively and has a developing offensive game. While being left off Team Canada’s World Junior team slightly lowered Chychrun’s stock, I still regard him as the 4th best player in the draft and he has all the tools to become an elite defenseman in the NHL. The development of Chychrun’s offensive game will really define his status in the NHL.
Potential: #1 Defenseman, Risk: Medium, Comparison (stylistic): Ryan Suter
Pick 3: Toronto Maple Leafs- Patrik Laine, Tappara Tampere
The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a very interesting position. Two Finnish kids nearly identical in talent, both stars at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Mark Hunter, head of player development for the Leafs, will have a very difficult time choosing between Laine and Puljujärvi, however I believe the Leafs will end up taking the sniper. Laine has an elite shot, which can perfectly complement the pass first game of Mitch Marner, drafted 4th overall last year. Laine displayed his absolutely electric shot at the World Juniors, and proved to be lethal when given any sort of time or space by the opponent. With the potential Marner’s elite playmaking skill, and Laine’s elite shot, Hunter has to take Laine. Laine’s game is very similar stylistically to that of Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. He is big, fast, and has an elite shot. Laine will need to improve his consistency at the next level, but I can see him potting 40 goals in the NHL, his shot is that good.
Potential: 1st line Winger, Risk: Low, Comparison (stylistic): Alex Ovechkin
Pick 4: Buffalo Sabres- Jesse Puljujärvi, Karpat
Jesse Puljujärvi is right up there with Auston Matthews in terms of playing a complete game. Puljujärvi is an extremely hard worker, and has the skill to make him a nightmare for opponents. While he has struggled with consistency at times with Karpat, he tore up the WJCs with Team Finland and cemented his status as a top 3 draft pick. Puljujärvi does it all, he can hit, pass, is such a fluid skater, and has a good shot on him. Puljujärvi would look good on Jack Eichel’s wing, and the only thing holding Puljujärvi back at this point is his consistency. His play for me is eerily similar to Marian Hossa in terms of playing a complete game with skill and size.
Potential: 1st line Winger, Risk: Low, Comparison (Stylistic): Marian Hossa
Pick 5: Winnipeg Jets- Olli Juolevi, London
The Winnipeg Jets are having a tough season, and some may point to their lack of certainty regarding their two big impending UFAs, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd as distractions for the team. These two players have been cornerstones for the Jets franchise and losing either of them would be a large blow to the franchise. The Jets will look at this pick as a key building block in their draft and develop program that has recently produced talent such as Jacob Trouba, Nikolaj Ehlers, and 2015 draft steal Kyle Connor. Olli Juolevi has been a riser all season and he continued to rise with an outstanding WJC performance with team Finland. There is simply nothing Juolevi can’t do well at this point as a prospect. He has shown effectiveness on the powerplay, ability to lock down defensively, and the ability to transition the puck from defense to offense through a good first pass or his good skating ability. Juolevi is a solid pickup for the Jets and will be key to the Jets’ re-emergence in the West.
Potential: #2 Defenseman, Risk: Low, Comparison: Cam Fowler
Pick 6: Calgary Flames- Matthew Tkachuk, London
The Flames were due for a bit of a fall back to grace from their incredible season last year if you take an analytic approach. However, the key pieces are there to build a dominant franchise in the future, with players like Gaudreau, Bennett, Monahan, Brodie and Hamilton leading the youth movement in Calgary. Matthew Tkachuk will only add to the impressive forward group the Flames are building. Tkachuk in some ways plays a very similar game to that of his father Keith in terms of grit and power, but Matthew has the skill to make him a potential first line winger in the future. He is responsible defensively, smart positionally, and possess a good shot. One question regarding Tkachuk is how much of his production is a result of playing alongside Mitch Marner and Dvorak of the Knights.
Potential: #1 Winger, Risk: Medium, Comparison (Stylistically)- Gabriel Landeskog
Pick 7: Vancouver Canucks- Alex Nylander, Mississauga
The Vancouver Canucks have built their franchise around two star Swedish forwards in the Sedin twins, and they may have another in Alex Nylander. Nylander, the brother of Maple Leafs top prospect William Nylander and son of longtime NHLer Michael, plays a very skill based game and is not overly physical. He does however, possess elite offensive ability and is more of a shooter than his brother William. Alex will be a key piece for the Canucks moving forward and will need to improve his defensive game at the next level. He showed elite potential at the WJCs and looks to continue his form in the OHL.
Potential: 1st line winger, Risk: Low, Comparison (Stylistically)- Gustav Nyquist
Pick 8: Carolina Hurricanes- Michael McLeod, Mississauga
The Carolina Hurricanes have done a good job of incorporating youth into their lineup and it is clear that they have built from the back with defenders like Hanifin, Faulk, and Fleury, so it is very likely they take a forward here. Two attributes come to mind when I think of Michael McLeod, and that is elite skating, and good two-way play. McLeod is known for his high tempo, smart game and can be deployed as a matchup centerman or a playmaker, and he can excel at both roles. In an ideal world McLeod is an elite #2 centerman, but I can see him being a low-middle end number one centerman if everything pans out.
Potential: 2nd line Center, Risk: Low, Comparison- Ryan Kesler
Pick 9: Philadelphia Flyers- Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or
The Flyers have some very impressive pieces on the backend however the forwards in their prospect pool are bare. I think they take big, power winger, Julien Gauthier, who resembles everything the vintage Flyers represented. Big, mean, and hardworking are just some of the attributes used to describe Gauthier, who is one of the QMJHL’s leading scorers. He has good goalscoring potential and the NHL level, and he will definitely be a good fit in Philly.
Potential: First-line forward, Risk: Medium: Comparison: More Skilled Troy Brouwer
Pick 10: Colorado Avalanche- Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor
The Avalanche, despite losing key centermen Paul Stasny and Ryan O’Reilly in consecutive years are still considered a top offensive team led by Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and Gabriel Landeskog. With Mikko Rantenen also close to being NHL ready and looking like an impact player in the AHL, the Avs go with the big left handed shooting Mikhail Sergachev. Sergachev shined at the WJCs and is playing very well for Windsor in the OHL. Sergachev plays a sound defensive game and has the ability to contribute offensively as well. Sergachev still needs to round out his defensive game and use his size more effectively, but looks to be a very good #2 defenseman in the NHL.
Potential: #2 Defenseman, Risk: Low, Comparison: Jake Muzzin
Pick 11: New Jersey Devils- Clayton Keller, USA U-18
The Devils are having a great season, but ultimately they do not have the talent to make the playoffs. They need more skill up front, and who better to go with than the very skilled Clayton Keller. Keller may slide a bit on draft day, however I feel he is the perfect fit for the New Jersey Devils. Keller is considered a smaller player, but his skill makes up for his size. His vision and playmaking is top notch, and he is not afraid to use his shot. Keller, like many smaller players, will need to get stronger on the puck, and although he is listed and plays center currently, I see him as a winger in the NHL.
Potential: First Line Winger, Risk: High, Comparison: Tyler Ennis
Pick 12: Ottawa Senators- Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton
The Senators are currently on the outside looking in, but not by much. They have the talent to make the playoffs, but mediocre defensive play could cost them a playoff spot. The Senators will look to take the best player available at this point since organizationally they have depth at every position, and Pierre-Luc Dubois is the best player available in my opinion. Dubois plays a very smart 200-foot game, and is continuing to develop into a premier offensive threat in the QMJHL. Dubois has all the talent to be a first line forward, but his offensive game still needs to develop to consider him an elite prospect.
Potential: First Line Winger, Risk: High, Comparison: Nick Foligno
Pick 13: Pittsburgh Penguins- Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton
The Penguins needed defense, and they went out and shelled nearly 7 million dollars a season on another forward. They look to add more to their weak defense by taking what could be a steal in Dante Fabbro. Fabbro is dynamic offensively, plays a strong defensive game, but players playing in the BCHL are generally viewed less than the 3 major CHL leagues. This could cause Fabbro to fall come draft day, but he is too good to pass up for an organization lacking defense. Fabbro could develop into a dynamite #1 defenseman, or he could be a #4 in the NHL, it is all up to him and how the Penguins handle his development.
Potential: Top Pairing Defenseman, Risk: High, Comparison: TJ Brodie
Pick 14: Anaheim Ducks- Max Jones, London Knights
The Ducks have had an extremely disappointing season, but drafting Max Jones is a positive. Jones plays a prototypical powerforward game. He uses size, skating, and grit to create scoring chances for himself and open space for his team mates. He fits in perfectly with the playstyle of the Ducks, and along with prospect Nick Ritchie, could help continue to make Anaheim a team nobody wants to play against going forward.
Potential: Top 6 Forward, Risk: Medium, Comparison: Nick Ritchie
Pick 15: Boston Bruins (SJ Sharks)- Tyson Jost, Penticton
Pick 16: Tampa Bay Lightning- Alex DeBrincat, Erie
Pick 17: Arizona Coyotes- Jake Bean, Calgary
Pick 18: Boston Bruins- Logan Brown, Windsor
Pick 19: Detroit Red Wings- Kieffer Bellows, USA U-18
Pick 20: Montreal Canadiens- Charles McAvoy, Boston University
Pick 21: Arizona Coyotes (NY Rangers)- Tyler Benson, Vancouver
Pick 22: Florida Panthers- Sam Steel, Regina
Pick 23: NY Islanders- Chad Krys, USA U-18
Pick 24: Minnesota Wild- Nathan Bastian, Mississauga
Pick 25: Nashville Predators- German Rubstov, Russia U-18
Pick 26: St. Louis Blues- Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad
Pick 27: Carolina Hurricanes (LA Kings)- Carl Grundstrom, MODO
Pick 28: Dallas Stars- Logan Stanley, Windsor
Pick 29: Chicago Blackhawks- Riley Tufte, Blaine
Pick 30: Washington Capitals- Dmitry Sokolov, Sudbury
JANUARY 20, 2016
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