With the NHL Entry Draft being less than a month away, here is my version of how the events will unfold on June 24 at the Excel Energy Center in Minneapolis. Without further ado, here is how the first round will unfold in just a few weeks.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
The Edmonton Oilers will take the center knowing that he likely will not contribute in the NHL for at least a season. His two-way presence and playmaking ability will do wonders for the Oilers' stable of young wingers.
2. Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
By dealing Chris Stewart for Erik Johnson, the Avalanche need another winger to play with Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene. With the team looking to contend for a playoff spot next season (unlike Edmonton), Johnson's strong play, and with Landeskog believed to be NHL-ready, this selection makes sense.
3. Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
Dale Tallon knows the importance of having a No. 1 center having drafted Eric Gudbranson last year, and with young Keaton Ellerby expected to challenge for a roster spot, Huberdeau immediately becomes the Panthers' future top-line center.
4. New Jersey Devils
Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (SEL)
Lou Lamoriello will be a happy man having Larsson slip to him, although Sean Couturier would be an option here as well.
5. New York Islanders
Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)
Hamilton will team with Calvin de Haan to feed the puck to John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and the other young Islander forwards.
6. Ottawa Senators
Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
With the Ottawa Senators rebuilding and having a strong defensive group, Couturier becomes the franchise's future No.1 center.
7. Winnipeg ___
Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
With rumours circulating that Zach Bogosian might not re-sign with Atlanta, Murphy is a very capable replacement.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Sven Baertschi, LW, Portland (WHL)
With Nikita Filatov bordering on bust status, Baertchi is reunited with Portland Winterhawk teammate Ryan Johansen.
9. Boston Bruins (via Toronto)
Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (HE)
With Zdeno Chara aging, the Boston Bruins pick up the biggest wild card in the draft—the 6'7" 244lb Oleksiak. The Bruins being one of the strongest organizations in the league are able to take more risks than other franchises, and this is one of them.
10. Minnesota Wild
Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
Strome falls to Minnesota, where he will be their No. 2 center behind Michael Granlund.
11. Colorado Avalanche
Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Colorado comes out of the first round with both Landseskog and Beaulieu—quite a haul. Beaulieu projects to be an offensive defenceman who can anchor the power play, and he and Erik Johnson should be fun to watch.
12. Carolina Hurricanes
Joel Armia, RW, Assat (FIN)
Armia is a big power forward who can open up the ice for his teammates, and he can compete for a roster spot within a year.
13. Calgary Flames
Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Having just dealt top prospect Tim Erixon to the New York Rangers, the Flames find a meaner version of him in Siemens. Prince Albert's Mark McNeill is an option here, but he would make Greg Nemisz, Calgary's 2008 first-round pick expendable. That is certainly not the case.
14. Dallas Stars
Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
McNeill immediately becomes the Star's top center prospect, and he could be fun to watch with Scott Glennie—both possessing size and offensive ability.
15. New York Rangers
Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgardens (SEL)
A big center with a great shot and solid defense, he may make the Rangers' roster right out of training camp.
16. Buffalo Sabres
John Gibson, G, US U-18 (USHL)
Ryan Miller is the Sabres' No. 1 goalie, but behind him the organization lacks depth. Gibson, who has committed to Michigan next season, will have a few years to develop behind one of the league's best goalies. Mark Scheifele and Boone Jenner are also options here.
17. Montreal Canadiens
Joe Morrow, D, Portland (WHL)
The Canadiens love selecting players out of the USHL or US National Development Program, which is why both Rocco Grimaldi and Tyler Biggs are options here. That said, Morrow could be the steal of the draft with his size and offensive ability.
18. Chicago Blackhawks
Tyler Biggs, RW, US U18 (USHL)
Biggs is a big forward (203 lbs) who plays a gritty game and uses his size to his advantage. His presence would serve as insulation for Chicago's skilled forwards.
19. Edmonton Oilers (via Los Angeles)
Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown (USHL)
The Oilers grab a player who has been marketed as "Chris Pronger lite." He has the size and snarl that Edmonton needs, plus some offensive potential. Oscar Klefbom is an option here as well, but lacks the mean streak of Mayfield. Mayfield is very similar to Jamieson Oleksiak in that there is enough potential for a team to grab them earlier than expected.
20. Phoenix Coyotes
Rocco Grimaldi, C, US U18 (USHL)
Very undersized at 157 lbs, but he plays well at both ends of the ice and also has leadership qualities.
21. Ottawa Senators (via Nashville)
Boone Jenner, C, Oshawa (OHL)
There are some scouts who feel Jenner's offensive game will not translate to the NHL, however, he brings the defensive reliability and intangibles to warrant a first-round selection. Every team needs players like Jenner in order to win.
22. Anaheim Ducks
David Musil, D, Vancouver (WHL)
Having hit a home run with their first-round pick last year in Cam Fowler, the Ducks again go for defence early in the draft. Musil is a reliable stay-at-home blue liner who was at one point a potential top-10 pick.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins
Oscar Klefblom, D, Farjestads (SEL)
Having dealt offensive defenceman Alex Goligoski this past season, the Penguins find a similar player in Klefblom. Needing wingers as well, Matt Puempel and Brandon Saad are also options here.
24. Detroit Red Wings
Ty Rattie, RW, Portland (WHL)
Rattie is a sniper who has a lethal shot; but he's still at least a couple of years away from challenging for a roster spot. But he brings the intangibles and could be a steal here.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
Adam Clendening, D, Boston University (NCAA)
An offensive defenceman who has good size at 193 lbs, Clendening is still a few years away from making an impact in the NHL. Brian Burke loves big players.
26. Washington Capitals
Connor Murphy, D, US U18 (USHL)
Even though Jonas Brodin is still on the board, the Capitals go with Murphy because of his size (194 lbs) and pedigree (father played in the NHL).
27. Tampa Bay Lightning
Magnus Hellberg, G, Almtuna (SEL)
The Lightning can't expect 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson to play forever, and they lack depth at goalie. Hellberg is a very wise long-term investment.
28. San Jose Sharks
Matt Puempel, RW, Peterborough (OHL)
The Sharks could use an offensive forward, and Puempel, who is still a couple of years away, could replace Dany Heatley on the Sharks offense.
29. Vancouver Canucks
Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestads (SEL)
Brodin slips to number 29, where Vancouver gladly picks him up. Brodin is projected as a very solid, unflashy player who will play on a second pairing.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs
Brandon Saad, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
Brian Burke loves players with size, and Saad brings tons of it (6'2", 211 lbs) as a budding power forward. Saad is a wild card who is still raw, however, the prospect of him clearing ice for Nazem Kadri will have Leafs fans salivating.
There you have it, Salim Valji's mock draft. Let the debate and ridicule begin!