With the 2016-17 NHL regular season winding down, teams that have played their way out of playoff contention are turning their focus to June's draft.
The 2017 draft doesn't appear to be as deep as last year's, but with potential studs such as Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier available, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the upcoming lottery.
While there are still games to be played, here is a full first-round mock draft based on the standings, as well as a closer look at where the draft's top prospects could land.
|2017 NHL Mock Draft|
|1||Colorado Avalanche||Nolan Patrick||F||Brandon (WHL)|
|2||Arizona Coyotes||Nico Hischier||F||Halifax (QMJHL)|
|3||Vegas Golden Knights||Timothy Liljegren||D||Rogle (SEL)|
|4||Vancouver Canucks||Gabriel Vilardi||F||Windsor (OHL)|
|5||New Jersey Devils||Michael Rasmussen||F||Tri-City (WHL)|
|6||Detroit Red Wings||Martin Necas||F||Brno (Czech)|
|7||Buffalo Sabres||Casey Mittelstadt||F||Eden Prairie (USHS)|
|8||Dallas Stars||Owen Tippett||F||Mississauga (OHL)|
|9||Florida Panthers||Cale Makar||D||Brooks (AJHL)|
|10||Winnipeg Jets||Juuso Valimaki||D||Tri-City (WHL)|
|11||Los Angeles Kings||Klim Kostin||F||Moscow (KHL)|
|12||Carolina Hurricanes||Elias Pettersson||F||Timra (SWE-ALS)|
|13||Philadelphia Flyers||Eeli Tolvanen||F||Sioux City (USHL)|
|14||Tampa Bay Lightning||Miro Heiskanen||D||HIFK (SM Liiga)|
|15||New York Islanders||Cody Glass||F||Portland (WHL)|
|16||Nashville Predators||Ryan Poehling||F||St. Cloud State (NCAA)|
|17||Calgary Flames||Cal Foote||D||Kelowna (WHL)|
|18||Toronto Maple Leafs||Nicholas Hague||D||Mississauga (OHL)|
|19||St. Louis Blues||Lias Andersson||F||HV71 (SHL)|
|20||Boston Bruins||Shane Bowers||F||Waterloo (USHL)|
|21||Ottawa Senators||Jake Oettinger||G||Boston U (NCAA)|
|22||San Jose Sharks||Kailer Yamamoto||F||Spokane (WHL)|
|23||Edmonton Oilers||Kristian Vesalainen||F||Frolunda (SHL)|
|24||New York Rangers||Nikita Popugaev||F||Prince George (WHL)|
|25||Anaheim Ducks||Urho Vaakanainen||D||Jyvaskyla (SM Liiga)|
|26||Montreal Canadiens||Maxime Comtois||F||Victoriaville (QMJHL)|
|27||Arizona Coyotes (from MIN)||Conor Timmins||D||S.S. Marie (OHL)|
|28||Columbus Blue Jackets||Matthew Strome||F||Hamilton (OHL)|
|29||Chicago Blackhawks||Nick Suzuki||F||Owen Sound (OHL)|
|30||Pittsburgh Penguins||Kole Lind||F||Kelowna (WHL)|
|31||St. Louis Blues (from WAS)||Henri Jokiharju||D||Portland (WHL)|
Patrick entered the 2016-17 season as the heavy favorite to be selected No. 1 overall, and although Hischier has closed the gap, Patrick's immense potential may help him maintain the top spot.
After posting 102 points for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings last season, Patrick appeared in just 33 regular-season games in 2016-17 because of injury. He made the most of those games, however, with 46 points.
While his durability is a question mark, NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr told NHL.com's Mike Morreale doesn't believe it will affect Patrick's draft stock: "Nolan's situation is part of the game, and for NHL clubs, it's a talking point in draft deliberations, and from many recent discussions with NHL personnel, it will have absolutely no negative implications or bearing on Nolan's draft status."
Patrick has proved to be a dynamic offensive presence when healthy, which is why it is difficult to envision him falling any lower than No. 2 in the draft.
The Colorado Avalanche have been the NHL's worst team this season by far, and if the lottery holds true to form, they will have their pick of the litter at No. 1.
Despite their struggles, the Avs have an impressive group of young forwards, and adding Patrick to the mix would make them dangerous in the years to come.
Colorado has major issues on defense and in goal, but a forward group including Patrick, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog would be a strong core to build around.
The Avalanche may have greater needs elsewhere, but it wouldn't be wise to pass up a potential elite talent like Patrick.
After seeing limited action in the Swiss A and Swiss B leagues last year, Hischier was loaned to the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL and proceeded to break out in a big way.
The Swiss star put up 38 goals and 86 points in 57 regular-season games to go along with four goals and seven points in six playoff contests for Halifax.
He is perhaps best known for his performance at the World Junior Championship, however, as he totaled four goals and seven points in five games.
According to Paul Palmeter of CBC News, Halifax general manager Cam Russell believes Hischier brings a complete game to the table that NHL teams will value:
There's no limit to what he can do. He's such a well-rounded player. He's got great skills but one thing you never hear anybody talk about is his defensive game. He's our best defensive player and he's great on faceoffs. He's a player who once he gets to the NHL, they're going to play him in every situation in the game.
Like the Avalanche, the Arizona Coyotes have had a rough season, but there is hope on the horizon because of the talent they boast up front.
In the coming years, Arizona is in line to have a forward corps that consists of Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Anthony Duclair, Lawson Crouse and Dylan Strome.
Hischier arguably shines brighter than any of them and has the type of superstar potential the Coyotes seem to be lacking.
He is a dynamic presence with the ability to create for himself and others, and selecting him in the draft would likely accelerate Arizona's rebuilding process significantly.
While much of the focus with regard to the 2017 NHL draft is on forwards, Sweden's Timothy Liljegren leads the way among defensemen.
The smooth-skating rearguard had a difficult campaign, as mono forced him to miss extensive action. He appeared in 19 games for Rogle BK and five contests for Timra IK, posting one goal and five assists in total.
Although his numbers leave plenty to be desired, young players generally have a difficult time putting up impressive statistical seasons in the Swedish league.
Liljegren's puck-moving ability makes him an intriguing prospect, and as pointed out by David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting, a lack of quality defensemen in the 2017 draft could lead to a team going after the Swede early, per Morreale: "Defensemen are at a premium this year. That could cause a defenseman to go sooner. Early in the draft, it's usually the best player available, but there are a couple defensemen there that some teams may step up for and say that's the kind of defenseman we want."
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights have the same chance at the No. 1 overall pick as the team that finishes with the NHL's third-worst record.
Assuming Vegas falls in line to No. 3, Liljegren would be a sensible option since building a team from the ground up with a cornerstone defenseman is a wise move.
The Golden Knights can afford to be patient and won't have to rush Liljegren along, which makes them an ideal landing spot for the Swede.