By: Nick Lanciani
In the (dis)interest of the offseason for some teams and fans, I’ve completed my mock draft for the first fourteen picks of the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft that will be held in Buffalo, New York on June 24th. Rounds 2-7 will be held on June 25th. As we near the end of the Stanley Cup Final, I’ll be adding picks 15-30 and adjusting the rest of my mock draft accordingly. So take a look, tell me I’m on the right track or that I’m an idiot for thinking that [SOME TEAM] is going to pick [SOME PLAYER] over [SOME DIFFERENT PLAYER]. Let us know your thoughts–> tweet to @DTFrozenRiver or drop us a line on our Facebook page.
1) Toronto Maple Leafs–> C Auston Matthews, Zurich (SUI)
Aside from the Raptors— finally! There’s hope in Toronto and its name is Auston Matthews. The 6’1”, 210-pound center is a two-way player reminiscent of the likes of Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles or Patrice Bergeron in Boston. His 24-22-46 totals in 36 games with Zurich this season earned him the Rising Star Award and 2nd in voting for the MVP of the National League A in Switzerland. Matthews is the franchise center that the Maple Leafs have been waiting for since the days of Mats Sundin. He led the United States to the bronze with 7-4-11 totals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
2) Winnipeg Jets–> RW Patrik Laine, Tappara (FIN)
Everyone keeps saying that Patrik Laine is one of the next best things and they might be right. The 6’4”, 206-pound right-winger, could easily fill the hole left behind by Andrew Ladd’s departure around the trade deadline. His size and skill combined with his maturity provide much strength for the increasingly young and talented Jets lineup. Laine had 10 goals in 18 playoff games with Tappara en route to being named postseason MVP and winning the championship in Liiga (Finland’s top professional league).
He had 17-16-33 totals in 46 games during the regular season and led all Liiga rookies in scoring. As well, Laine tied Auston Matthews in goals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship while helping Finland win gold.
3) Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (FIN)
With the 3rd overall pick the Columbus Blue Jackets select the next best overall skater at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Puljujarvi is talented and has enough hockey sense to drive an offense. He’s best on the wing and would help continue the youth movement in Columbus as the Blue Jackets look to get back into competitive form and out of the basement of the NHL.
The 6’3”, 203-pound forward had 13-15-28 totals in 50 games played for Karpat in Liiga as a 17-year-old. In addition, Puljujarvi was one point shy of Jaromir Jagr’s record for U-18 players at the World Junior Championship level, having scored 17 points in seven games en route to winning gold with Finland this year at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors.
4) Edmonton Oilers–> D Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia (OHL)
If the Edmonton Oilers keep the 4th overall pick, Chychrun is a no brainer. If Edmonton trades the 4th overall pick, Chychrun is a no brainer. Any questions? Good. The 6’2”, 214-pound, Boca Raton, Florida native is a two-way NHL ready defenseman and a surefire top-5 draft pick. While some may argue there is no clear cut number one defenseman in the draft (there’s three or four top defensemen), Chychrun is a cut above the rest based on his size and familiarity with the North American style of the game.
His physicality and awareness combined with his skating, should help any team strengthen their blue line. He had 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games, while amassing a plus-23 plus/minus, this season with the Sarnia Sting.
5) Vancouver Canucks–> LW Matthew Tkachuk, London (OHL)
Tkachuk is a skillful forward with grit at 6’1”, 195-pounds. He tied Auston Matthews in scoring for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 11 points and had 30-77-107 totals in 57 games with the London Knights this season. Of note, 42 of those points came on the power play.
The way the Canucks have been heading in the last few seasons, finding someone who can play alongside Bo Horvat or Jared McCann is a priority. Offense can be groomed and defense can be brought in through trades and free agency. GM Jim Benning should keep that in mind as Vancouver heads into the offseason.
6) Calgary Flames–> LW Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
The Flames have done a solid job with building youth from the ground up in recent years, despite making draft selections that have surprised just about every analyst. While Calgary is yet another team that needs to replace some parts on the blue line, taking a defenseman at the Draft is not an option for them this year. Instead, Pierre-Luc Dubois is a smart and versatile forward that can add some flexibility to their lineup.
At 6’2”, 201-pounds, Dubois packs a punch with a playing style that’s on edge and includes great hands. He led the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with 57 assists and 99 points in 62 games this season and was a plus-40 rating. Dubois also finished the season in the top-six in the QMJHL in goals and points.
7) Arizona Coyotes–> D Olli Juolevi, London (OHL)
It’s always hard to predict where a defenseman will go in the Draft, let alone where anyone will go after about the first five picks usually. Juolevi is arguably as good as, if not better than, Chychrun depending on who you ask. Given how some teams are leary on taking a blue liner so high up, Juolevi slides to the seventh spot where the Arizona Coyotes see no problem in calling him one of their own.
While the Keith Yandle deal from the spring of 2015 paid in dividends for the Coyotes with the addition of Anthony Duclair, they still lost a defenseman that they put a lot of time and effort into forging. Juolevi comes ready made at 6’2”, 182-pounds and provides some solidarity should the Coyotes part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in any fashion in the coming years. Juolevi had nine goals and 42 points for the London Knights this season with a plus-38 rating. He also won gold with Finland at the 2016 World Juniors and transitioned from Finland to the OHL with ease.
8) Buffalo Sabres–> D Charles McAvoy, Boston University (Hockey East)
This one might be a stretch, but then again, maybe I’ll be right and prove anyone that’s doubting me wrong. The logic of the Sabres’ 8th overall selection is that they’re quite familiar with Boston University over the last couple of seasons, having taken Jack Eichel 2nd overall last year and signed Eichel’s BU linemate, Evan Rodrigues, in free agency. While Buffalo is set on offense, GM Tim Murray needs to set his sights on patching up their defense in the next couple of seasons.
McAvoy might not be NHL ready immediately, but he is an excellent 6’0”, 208-pound right shot defenseman that should turn into an NHL regular. He had three goals and 25 points in his freshman season with BU this season. In 37 games played, he had 39 blocked shots and was a plus-10. McAvoy also had a plus-5 rating with the bronze medal-winning United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
9) Montreal Canadiens–> RW Alexander Nylander, Mississauga (OHL)
Nylander had four goals, five assists and nine points for the Swedes at the 2016 World Junior Championship. The 6’0”, 180-poung brother of Maple Leafs forward,William Nylander, Alexander Nylander is built for NHL stardom one day having led the Mississauga Steelheads with 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games in his first OHL season. The dynamic skater also had nine power play goals and can separate himself from other skaters on the ice with ease.
He’s going to be picked by a rival of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The question is which one?
10) Colorado Avalanche–> C Logan Brown, Windsor (OHL)
Brown is a big— 6’6”, 222-pound— skilled center with speed and puck handling skills that will definitely come in handy for a team looking for a playmaker that could become like some of the best two-way players in the NHL. It’s hard to find someone like him with his size at his position (a la Joe Thornton), but the Avalanche could utilize his strengths given the uncertainty of their relationship with Matt Duchene.
Brown had 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games with the Windsor Spitfires this season. He also had 29 points on the power play and won 53% of his faceoffs, which is a big plus for a team like Colorado that is looking for their next Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg.
11) New Jersey Devils–> D Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL)
The Devils could use a young defenseman to pair with their existing protégé, Adam Larsson, especially considering the offensive upside of Jake Bean. The 6’0”, 173-pound offensive defenseman is an excellent skater that makes smart passes and carries his own weight. Given some time to strengthen up a bit, Bean could use his stick, body and talent to be a force on the blue line in New Jersey alongside the likes of Larsson. The Devils need to improve their offense, but they also need a more immediate plan for their defense to take some of the load off of the often-underrated Cory Schneider in goal.
12) Ottawa Senators–> D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor (OHL)
Sergachev is a big 6’2”, 208-pound defenseman that brings an offensive side to his game as the best defenseman in the OHL in his first season in North America. His two-way presence along the blue line should be enough to make the Senators happy to see the likes of another potential Erik Karlsson on their team. Sergachev plays with confidence and speed and had 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games with the Windsor Spitfires in his rookie season.
He also had 31 points on the power play this season. In the wake of the Dion Phaneuf trade, one would think that the last thing Ottawa needs is another temporarily unreliable defenseman, however, Sergachev brings the total package that Phaneuf may not be able to produce on the regular and adds some much needed balance to their youthful blue line.
13) Carolina Hurricanes–> C Clayton Keller, USA U-18 (USHL)
Keller is a smart, skilled and speedy 5’9”, 168-pound center with a left-shot that could lead him to the NHL. He led the USA’s U-18 program with 70 assists and 107 points in 62 games and had four goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2016 IIHF World U-18 Championship en route to a bronze medal.
In the post-Eric Staal era (unless they bring him back in free agency), the Hurricanes need to rebuild down the middle. Keller is committed to Boston University in 2016-2017 and was also selected in the second round (40th overall) of the 2014 OHL Draft by the Windsor Spitfires. In either case, he’s got a chance of developing quite nicely as Carolina doesn’t need to rush things, despite lacking immediate depth at center.
14) Boston Bruins–> RW Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
The Bruins are trying to find their next Milan Lucic. Either that or they’re picking someone who will give Jimmy Hayes a run for his money. Gauthier is a 6’3”, 225-pound power forward that can skate and score. His 41-11-57 totals in 54 games for Val-d’Or are impressive enough to make him a tactical selection by Boston. Of note, he was the only 2016 NHL Draft-eligible player to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship where he had two assists in five games played.