NHL teams begin restocking their cupboards Friday night with the first round of the draft in Vancouver, British Columbia. Expect to see Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko picked first and second, respectively. After that, the fun begins with plenty of variables coming into play. And don’t forget about trades, which will blow up many a mock draft. Here’s mine, with comments on select players:
1. New Jersey, Jack Hughes, C, U.S. Under-18 team
Comment: The speedy Hughes is the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick, and he should contribute quickly. He put up stunning stats for the U.S. Under-18 team, amassing 34 goals and 78 assists this season.
2. N.Y. Rangers, Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Finland)
Comment: Some draft observers have Kakko ahead of Hughes, pointing to his leadership and productivity in Finland’s run to the world junior title. Hughes and Kakko should spice up the Devils-Rangers rivalry.
3. Chicago, Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
Comment: The Blackhawks take the best defenseman in the draft over a solid center in Alex Turcotte.
4. Colorado (from Ottawa), Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. Under-18 team
Comment: The Wisconsin signee has drawn raves for his two-way game and playmaking skills.
5. Los Angeles, Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
6. Detroit, Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
7. Buffalo, Trevor Zegras, C, U.S. Under-18 team
8. Edmonton, Phillip Broberg, D, AIK (Sweden)
9. Anaheim, Matthew Boldy, LW, U.S. Under-18 team
10. Vancouver, Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL)
11. Philadelphia, Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (Sweden)
12. Wild, Vasili Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (Russia)
Comment: GM Paul Fenton has plenty of options here. Will he go with the top goalie in Spencer Knight? How about center Alex Newhook or 5-7, Wisconsin-signed winger Cole Caufield? It might be tough to say no to Podkolzin, the No. 2-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting.
13. Florida, Spencer Knight, G, U.S. Under-18 team
14. Arizona, Cole Caufield, RW, U.S. Under-18 team
15. Montreal, Cam York, D, U.S. Under-18 team
16. Colorado, Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)
17. Vegas, Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL)
18. Dallas, Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
19. Ottawa (from Columbus), Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (Germany)
20. Winnipeg (from N.Y. Rangers), Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL)
21. Pittsburgh, Bobby Brink, F, Sioux City (USHL)
Comment: The Penguins have had success with Minnesotans – see Guentzel, Jake – and Brink, a former Minnetonka star, brings offensive flair. He’ll continue his development against NCHC competition at Denver next season.
22. Los Angeles (from Toronto), Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (Finland)
23. N.Y. Islanders, Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL)
24. Nashville, Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL)
25. Washington, Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
26. Calgary, Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden)
27. Tampa Bay, Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
28. Carolina, Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (Sweden)
29. Anaheim (from San Jose via Buffalo), Ryan Johnson, D, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Comment: The incoming Gopher from Irvine, Calif., lands with the Ducks. His father, Craig, is a former Gopher who played for both Los Angeles and Anaheim.
30. Boston, Robert Mastrosimone, C, Chicago (USHL)
31. Buffalo (from St. Louis), Connor McMichael, C, London (OHL)