This year's NHL draft seems to feature a consensus top four players, with some folks adding a fifth. But in general, most pundits agree that if you have a top-four pick in Philadelphia at the draft, you'll be getting a stud.
Of course, the draft goes on for much longer than just the first four picks, so we'll do a mock for every first-round team below. But to ensure you are familiar with the main names to know, we'll further break down those top four players.
|1||Florida Panthers||Aaron Ekblad||D||Barrie (OHL)|
|2||Buffalo Sabres||Sam Reinhart||C||Kootenay (WHL)|
|3||Edmonton Oilers||Leon Draisaitl||C||Prince Albert (WHL)|
|4||Calgary Flames||Sam Bennett||C/LW||Kingston (OHL)|
|5||New York Islanders||Michael Dal Colle||LW||Oshawa (OHL)|
|6||Vancouver Canucks||Jake Virtanen||LW||Calgary (WHL)|
|7||Carolina Hurricanes||Nikolaj Ehlers||LW||Halifax (QMJHL)|
|8||Toronto Maple Leafs||William Nylander||C/RW||Sodertalje (SWE)|
|9||Winnipeg Jets||Kasperi Kapanen||RW||KalPa (FIN)|
|10||Anaheim Ducks||Brendan Perlini||LW||Niagara (OHL)|
|11||Nashville Predators||Nick Ritchie||LW||Peterborough (OHL)|
|12||Phoenix Coyotes||Haydn Fleury||D||Red Deer (WHL)|
|13||Washington Capitals||Kevin Fiala||LW||HV71 J20 (SWE)|
|14||Dallas Stars||Jared McCann||C||Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)|
|15||Detroit Red Wings||Ivan Barbashev||C||Moncton (QMJHL)|
|16||Columbus Blue Jackets||Julius Honka||D||Swift Current (WHL)|
|17||Philadelphia Flyers||Alex Tuch||RW||USA (NTDP-18)|
|18||Minnesota Wild||Dylan Larkin||C||USA (NTDP-17)|
|19||Tampa Bay Lightning||Sonny Milano||LW||USA (NTDP-17)|
|20||San Jose Sharks||Tony DeAngelo||D||Sarnia (OHL)|
|21||St. Louis Blues||Robby Fabbri||C||Guelph (OHL)|
|22||Pittsburgh Penguins||David Pastrnak||LW/RW||Sodertalje SK (SWE)|
|23||Colorado Avalanche||Roland McKeown||D||Kingston (OHL)|
|24||Anaheim Ducks||Travis Sanheim||D||Calgary (WHL)|
|25||Boston Bruins||Nick Schmaltz||C||Green Bay (USHL)|
|26||Montreal Canadiens||Josh HoSang||RW||Windsor (OHL)|
|27||Chicago Blackhawks||Adrian Kempe||C||MoDo U-20 (SWE)|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning||Conner Bleackley||C||Red Deer (WHL)|
|29||Los Angeles Kings||Nikolay Goldobin||RW||Sarnia (OHL)|
|30||New Jersey Devils||Thatcher Demko||G||Boston College|
Most folks believe Aaron Ekblad will be the top player off the board, and he's certainly the top defenseman in this draft. He's also uniquely prepared to enter the NHL immediately and make an impact, as Kyle Woodlief of USA Today wrote:
Ekblad is both physically and mentally ready to join the NHL right away with his large frame and the poise that comes with being granted "exceptional status" to join the Ontario Hockey League at age 15. He already has three full years in at the OHL level, and is used to being the center of media attention, so handling his draft status should be no problem. With his mix of size, toughness, defensive acumen, and puck skills, Ekblad can impact games at both ends of the ice, and contributes in just about every aspect.
Ekblad isn't going to be great offensively going forward, but he's a smart, physical and elite defender who will instantly improve a team's defense. Add a huge shot, and you can see why scouts are enamored with him.
He'll be a good one at the next level.
A gritty, dynamic forward, Sam Bennett is younger than the other two forwards featured here, but he could end up having the most upside. Bennett is an aggressive, intense presser who will join in the forecheck but also uses elite speed and acceleration to give opposing defensemen nightmares.
Add a top-notch scoring touch, an innate feel for the game and seemingly endless energy, and you can see why teams are drooling over Bennett.
Of the top four players mentioned here, Bennett is probably the purest two-way player. It will be really exciting to see if his style can hold up in the NHL—he'll need to bulk up his frame to ensure it does—and how he adjusts to life at the next level.
Sam Reinhart needs some time to develop, but he already has an elite shot and goalscoring touch, which is a great start. He also has quality bloodlines, as Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com wrote:
He is the son of Paul Reinhart, who spent 11 seasons in the NHL with the Flames and Vancouver Canucks after being picked by the Atlanta Flames with the 12th pick of the 1979 draft.
He's also the youngest of three hockey-playing brothers. Oldest brother Max plays for the Calgary Flames and middle brother Griffin was taken by the New York Islanders with the fourth pick of the 2012 draft.
'Over the years all of us talked to my dad after every game,' Sam Reinhart said. 'He [Paul] would give us advice. Max and Griffin went through the same things I am going through, so being able to watch them has had a huge positive influence on my career; it's nice having both of them.'
Reinhart has the talent to stand out when compared to his brothers and his father, however. Like Bennett, he is a true two-way player and should become a dynamic star in the NHL. Don't be surprised if he's one of the league's most potent scorers in a few years.
Soft hands. Smarts. Playmaking ability.
That's the short version of who Leon Draisaitl is as a player. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that's a pretty good start, no?
Draisaitl isn't the most physical player, but he uses his size well and has elite vision. He isn't the smoothest of skaters, but he positions himself well and generally is where he needs to be. He's dogged on the puck and usually makes the right decision, be it finding an open teammate or taking a crack at the net himself.
There is a lot of upside here. He's gonna be a good one.