There is still plenty of hockey to go before we start talking about the NHL draft in June, but it’s never too early to start putting together mock drafts! I have simulated the draft lottery 100 times using http://www.tankathon.com/nhl and have compiled everything into a spread sheet. The first overall pick earns you three points, second earns you two, and third overall earns you one point. I will be using different draft rankings and my own personal opinions to decide who goes where. I will be looking at the lottery selections only for the first edition of my mock draft. Let’s start Drafting.
Please keep in mind, this order was compiled on Thursday January 16 and may not represent today’s rankings.
1. Detroit Red Wings – Alexis Lafreniere (LW)
This one is obvious. Lafreniere is the best player available in the draft, and he showed why in the world juniors before the turn of the new year. Lafreniere is head and shoulders above the others in this draft class, and his numbers along with his performance at the World Juniors prove it. With 84 points through 39 games with Rimouski and 10 points in 5 games with Canada at the World Juniors, the captain of the Oceanic has drawn comparison to former Oceanic star, Sidney Crosby.
In the couple of times I have been fortunate enough to watch Alexis play, I have been beyond impressed. It was very clear that this kid is going to be an elite play maker at the next level and possesses some of the best hockey IQ I have ever seen. Lafreniere is going to be a fantastic player in the NHL and the Red Wings are desperate for a face of the franchise right now. This is the kind of franchise altering player that so many team would love to have, and the Red Wings wouldn’t need to think twice about picking him first overall.
2. Anaheim Ducks – Quinton Byfield (C)
Quinton Byfield is going to be an incredible hockey player when he gets bigger and stronger, but he just isn’t quite at the level of Lafreniere. For me right now, Byfield isn’t 100% ready for the NHL. His performance at the World Juniors just shows that being younger than the rest of the draft by having the late birthday is going to have an effect on his NHL ETA. Depending on how desperate the club who drafts him is, we could see him back in Sudbury next year. There is no reason to rush this kid along. He needs to bulk up before he can become a productive NHL player for me.
Some of the positives on this kid include his size obviously, but his hockey smarts and hands are incredible for a bigger player. Byfield can skate too, and all of those things combined will make his a very scary player when he gets into his prime.
3. Los Angeles Kings – Tim Stutzle (C/LW)
Stutzle is a lot better than I had originally thought. The German has some of the most impressive hands I have seen from a draft eligible player this year. Some of the passes this kid is capable of making are mind boggling. To go along with all of that, he isn’t playing against kids, he is playing pro hockey against full grown men. Stutzle isn’t a goal scorer, but shows flashes of being an elite play maker. With 28 points in 30 games in the DEL this year and five assists in five games in the World Juniors, Stutzle is going to be irresistible for one of the top five teams.
It will be interesting to see where Stutzle plays next year. He could be in the AHL or NHL, but he would certainly put the Los Angeles Kings in a great spot for their rebuild.
4. Ottawa Senators – Marco Rossi (C)
Marco Rossi is no consolation prize for the Ottawa Senators, and having the ability to scout him in their own back yard should help them realize this. Marco Rossi will provide the Senators with a center that they need so desperately. I can’t find the numbers, but Marco Rossi wins more face offs then he loses. Marco is once again a fantastic playmaker with plenty of talent, but unlike Stutzle, Rossi has the ability to score at any moment. That could be due to the strength of competition, but you can’t deny his goal scoring ability.
Rossi is a very smart hockey play who always seems to make the right play. He might be back in the OHL next season, but the Senators could be desperate enough to keep him around. Perhaps the best part of Rossi’s game is his play in the defensive end. Many players don’t play defence in the OHL, and I have seen it with players as good as Connor McDavid. Marco Rossi always back checks and gives an effort on every single play. I could rave about Marco all day, but the Senators should be happy with picking him up.
5. Ottawa Senators (From San Jose) – Jamie Drysdale (D)
Jamie Drysdale is the best defence man in the draft and the Senators would be lucky to get both him and Marco Rossi in back to back picks. Drysdale burst onto the scene when he made team Canada before Christmas, and now we are talking about him being drafted number five as the best defence man in the draft.
If the Senators are fortunate enough to get both Marco Rossi and Jamie Drysdale, they will be set for their future. I’m not a Sens fan, but the prospects they would have would be incredible. As a defence man this season, Drysdale has 38 points in 36 games and is a +7 on a mediocre at best Erie Otters team. Drysadle impressed at the World Juniors and cemented himself as the best defence man in the class. You could flip flop the order of the Sens picks in this situation as they have back to back picks, but it makes little difference. At the end of the day, the Senators would be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
6. New Jersey Devils – Yaroslav Askarov (G)
Yaroslav Askarov is an odd case for me. Askarov could go higher or lower, but unlike skaters, goalies will be drafted only by teams who need a goalie. The Devils have some incredible pieces even after trading Taylor Hall, but one thing they don’t have is a elite goaltender. Askarov has been touted as the future of goal tending and has some good numbers in the VHL, Russia’s second league. Askarov has a .922 save percentage to go along with a 2.38 goals against average.
One thing the Devils must avoid after drafting Askarov is keeping him in New Jersey right away. The best goalie in the NHL right now were allowed to develope in the AHL and even lower levels before becoming full time starters in the NHL. Goalies including Carey Price, Braden Holtby, and Jordan Binnington all spent time in the minors. It should be no different for the Devils and Yaroslav Askarov.
7. Minnesota Wild – Cole Perfetti (C/LW)
Cole Perfetti is a very talented hockey player and in any other draft would probably go in the top 5. Perfetti is yet another example of a fantastic play maker in this draft. Through 46 games, Perfetti leads the OHL with 54 assists and is 1 point ahead of Marco Rossi for overall points, though he has played nine more games. But why do I have Perfetti this low? Excellent question. It comes down to the eye test. In the few times I have been able to see Perfetti preform, he hasn’t been better than Marco Rossi and hasn’t stood out to me like a number four or five pick would. There is no question that Perfetti is a good player, but I don’t believe that he is good enough to go inside the top five in this draft.
Perfetti has a good sense of what he can do on the ice. I have been impressed both with his shot and his play making, but I have to question if he is going to be a liability on the defensive side of center. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perfetti become a good player at the NHL level, but I feel as if it is going to take some time for him to become the go to guy for the Minnesota Wild.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Lucas Raymond (RW)
From what I have been able to gather about Raymond, the Swede has great hands, and an even better shot. Some of the things Raymond was able to do in the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament are mind boggling. He has a good realese and doesn’t allow the goalie to see the puck for very long before he lets it rip.
Perhaps the best part of what I have seen from Raymond in his elusiveness. We don’t talk about hockey players being elusive very often, but Raymond has an ability to put the puck on a string and deke out the opposing team with ease. Raymond has seen most of his time with the big club in Frolunda in the SHL, meaning he has been playing pro hockey. He has put up eight points in 21 games in the SHL and scored four points in seven games with Sweden at the World Juniors. I think Raymond and Patrick Kane playing on the same team in Chicago would put them on the right path to get back to the Stanley Cup and possibly be back in the winners circle sooner rather than later.
9. Buffalo Sabres – Alexander Holtz (LW/RW)
Teammates with my previous pick, Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz is more of a balanced player in terms of scoring than the rest of the class before him. Holtz is more of a goal scorer than some of the other options in the draft, but he still has the ability to make good plays by passing the puck.
Holtz has what I can only describe as an elite release paired with exceptional accuracy and has a natural goal scoring ability that not many players have from what I have seen. There is one play I saw where he did a toe drag around the defender while looking at the net, and instantly pulled the trigger and wired the puck behind the goalie. Getting a player as good as Holtz is at number nine is insane for any other draft, but this draft appears to be so much better than years prior when you look strictly at the depth. Holtz probably won’t turn your franchise around, but Buffalo doesn’t need that. They already have some great talent there, and adding Holtz could make them a scary playoff team at the very least.
10. Montreal Canadiens – Dawson Mercer (C/RW)
The Montreal Canadiens will be looking to make a splash in the draft that they are hosting, but in this simulation, they fall to number 10 and select the very talented Dawson Mercer. There is no question that Mercer is a very talented player, but Mercer is certainly a downgrade from some of the earlier picks made.
Mercer was magnificent with the Drummondville Voltigeurs before being traded to the Chicoutimi Saguenéens at the trade deadline. Mercer has scored 47 points in 30 games between the two clubs, but his performance at the World Juniors left something to be desired. His puck control is great, but he might need more time in junior before he is ready to be a full time player in the NHL. The talent is there for Mercer, but the Habs would be greatly disappointed if Mercer is the best they can get when the draft comes to town.
11. New York Rangers – William Wallinder (D)
The New York Rangers have plenty of talent on thier roster, and most of it is rather young right now. This will allow them to take a gamble on a “shut down unit” for their back end.
Through 63 games in all competition, Wallinder has put up 27 points (mostly assists). There isn’t much information about this kid that you can find easily, but the Rangers would love to have a 6’4 giant on the back end to help out. Defensive defencemen never get the recognition they deserve, but players like Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber have a role to fill. I’m not saying Wallinder will turn out to be either one of those player, but the Rangers wouldn’t be a terrible fit for the Swede.
12. Nashville Predators – Connor Zary (C)
Connor Zary is another prime example of why the draft is so deep this year. Zary isn’t a guy who will knock your socks off and he isn’t someone you are going to need to see play, but Zary is a good hockey player and will bring value to the team who picks him.
Zary has scored 59 points in 40 games for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL this year and earned a spot at the CHL top prospects game where he impressed me. Zary has the ability to put the puck in the net, but he also possesses the ability to make the right play. He isn’t selfish. That is going to help immensely when he takes it to the next level. I don’t expect Zary to be the center piece to a roster in the pros, but Zary is more than capable of being a key piece to a team like the Nashville Predators who already have a very talented roster put together.
13. Vegas Golden Knights – Noel Gunler (RW)
It’s crazy just how deep this draft is, and add Noel Gunler to the list of players who would be going much higher in just about any other draft. Gunler has enjoyed much more success playing in SuperElit (U20 in Sweden) rather than the SHL, Sweden’s highest level. In two seasons in SuperElit, Gunler has scored 49 points in just 33 games. He hasn’t been as effective in the SHL, but 14 points in 39 games for a player as young as Gunler is isn’t anything to shake a stick at either.
Gunler has been playing pro hockey for the past two years and will bring some experience to the Knights. Gunler could probably do with some time in the AHL or even in Sweden before becoming a full time NHL player, but he will need a lot less time than your average 13th overall selection. Gunler can shoot the puck and pass the puck, but he isn’t a terrible skater either. He’s not the worst option for any team left outside the top ten, that’s for sure.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets – Dylan Holloway (C/LW)
Holloway is currently playing in the NCAA, but he isn’t scoring much. That doesn’t worry me with this player however. Holloway has shown just how good he can be in his 2018-19 season in the AJHL with the Okotoks Oilers. Holloway scored 88 points in just 53 games on the year. I know, it was the AJHL, but he is playing against players much older than he is right now. He is a freshman in university. CHL players are older than some of thier competition, Holloway is not.
I don’t know what exactly we should expect from Holloway when he does become a pro, but if its anything like what he did in Okotoks, he will be a star in the NHL. I don’t expect him to come anywhere close to the production he had in the AJHL, but drafting a player with such upside 14th overall will be worth the risk for the Jackets.
15. Florida Panthers – Jack Quinn (RW)
Okay, call me biased here, but let me explain. Jack Quinn impressed at the Top Prospects game recently and took home the team red MVP. Quinn scored a goal after being set up by some great passing by Marco Rossi and Jacob Perreault, but it was his skating and hockey smarts that impressed me the most.
Jack has shown exceptional growth as a hockey players in the last couple of seasons, and that’s something the Florida Panthers will want to jump all over. Quinn currently leads the OHL’s goal scoring race and could help the Panthers in many different ways. It’s not often that a mid round pick comes along that is as good as Quinn is, but this would be the lucky day for the Florida Panthers. Whoever gets lucky enough to draft Jack Quinn this year will be getting great bang for their buck with a mid round pick.
So there’s my first mock draft. Things are going to change and I certainly plan on doing another towards the end of the season. Share your mock draft with me on Twitter @FrankieVideo and @613_sports. Think I got something wrong? Let me know! See you all again when I completely change my rankings at the end of the season!