The NHL's focus shifts to the offseason now the Pittsburgh Penguins have been crowned champions after edging the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final. The first major stop on the road to the new season is the 2016 NHL draft, starting June 24 in Buffalo, New York.
It's a well-rounded class of incoming prospects. Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine are the most promising players in terms of their potential to make an instant impact, but there's also plenty of depth when it comes to players who could become valuable assets with a few more years of seasoning.
With that in mind, let's check out a complete mock draft of the opening round. That's followed by a look at some of the prospects taken in the second half of the round who could provide a lot of bang for the buck.
Round 1 Mock Draft
|2016 NHL Draft: First-Round Order and Predictions|
|1||Toronto Maple Leafs||Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (NLA)|
|2||Winnipeg Jets||Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara Tampere (SML)|
|3||Columbus Blue Jackets||Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (SML)|
|4||Edmonton Oilers||Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL)|
|5||Vancouver Canucks||Alexander Nylander, LW, Mississauga (OHL)|
|6||Calgary Flames||Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL)|
|7||Arizona Coyotes||Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Cape Breton (QMJHL)|
|8||Buffalo Sabres||Jacob Chychrun, D, Sarnia (OHL)|
|9||Montreal Canadiens||Logan Brown, C, Windsor (OHL)|
|10||Colorado Avalanche||Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)|
|11||New Jersey Devils||Tyson Jost, C, Penticton (BCHL)|
|12||Ottawa Senators||Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)|
|13||Carolina Hurricanes||Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)|
|14||Boston Bruins||Charles McAvoy, D, U.S. Under-18|
|15||Minnesota Wild||Clayton Keller, C, U.S. Under-18|
|16||Detroit Red Wings||German Rubtsov, C, Vityaz Podolsk (RUS)|
|17||Nashville Predators||Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton (BCHL)|
|18||Philadelphia Flyers||Keiffer Bellows, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)|
|19||New York Islanders||Riley Tufte, LW, Fargo (USHL)|
|20||Arizona Coyotes (from NYR)||Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)|
|21||Carolina Hurricanes (from LA)||Max Jones, LW, London (OHL)|
|22||Winnipeg Jets (from CHI)||Markus Niemelainen, D, Saginaw (OHL)|
|23||Florida Panthers||Carl Grundstrom, LW Modo (SHL)|
|24||Anaheim Ducks||Alex DeBrincat, RW, Erie (OHL)|
|25||Dallas Stars||Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)|
|26||Washington Capitals||Logan Stanley, D, Windsor (OHL)|
|27||Tampa Bay Lightning||Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestad BK (SWE)|
|28||St. Louis Blues||Vitali Abramov, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL)|
|29||Boston Bruins (from SJ)||Brett Howden, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)|
|30||Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT)||Filip Gustavsson, G, Lulea HF (SHL)|
17. Nashville Predators: Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Dante Fabbro lit the BCHL on fire from the blue line this season, as he racked up 67 points (14 goals and 53 assists) in 45 games. He possesses a smooth stride that allows him to join the rush and the playmaking ability to develop into a power-play quarterback.
He must continue to become more steady in his own zone. That's something he figures to work on during his time in college. Russ Cohen of CSN Philly noted the Boston University commit is looking forward to testing himself against tougher competition.
"When I find that I'm playing well is when I'm active in the rush and hitting a few guys as well as defending the rush," Fabbro said, per Cohen. "I think playing college next year, that will help me do that with some bigger guys. That will help me develop as a player on and off the ice, and I'm looking forward to that experience."
His hockey sense is another thing that stands out. He does an outstanding job of reading the play, and in an era when blocking shots is such a crucial aspect of the game, finding a way to get his attempt to the net either for a shot or a possible deflection.
Ultimately, Fabbro has all the tools to become a high-end two-way defenseman. A couple seasons at the collegiate level—where he'll learn to become more sound defensively, especially against power forwards—should do wonders for him in terms of reaching that potential.
20. Arizona Coyotes: Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Michael McLeod is one of the more interesting cases in the first round. He's shown flashes of absolute brilliance, but the game-to-game consistency hasn't been there quite yet. He still managed to score 61 points (21 goals and 40 assists) in 57 games last season, however, which is a testament to his natural ability.
Perhaps one reason he's prone to going invisible at times during games is being overly predictable. He hasn't showcased a ton of variety to his game in the offensive zone, something further described by Stephen Burtch of Sportsnet:
That's a trait a player might not even realize since it simply becomes habit over time, but some opposing teams in the OHL surely keyed in on it. Getting him to work more along the wings, including some shot attempts, would help keep defensemen and goalies off balance.
Of course, the other way to look at it from a scouting perspective is he's putting up better than a point per game despite only using a small portion of the ice. His stock could improve markedly if he could become more comfortable utilizing the entire offensive zone.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Alex DeBrincat, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)
A quick glance at the numbers would make you wonder why Alex DeBrincat isn't in the conversation for the first overall pick, let alone still being on the board at No. 24. He's racked up 205 points (102 goals and 103 assists) in 128 games over the past two seasons with the Erie Otters.
While there's no doubt getting to play with Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome helped, he's held his own when playing with those top center prospects. His numbers also rate favorably with one of the class' top players, as noted by Todd Cordell of HockeyBuzz:
Yet despite those terrific numbers, he's only a fringe first-round prospect because of his 5'7'' frame. There are always concerns about whether a player with that type of size can translate their success into an NHL world filled with opponents nearly a foot taller.
For every Martin St. Louis success story there is a multitude of smaller players who never make the cut because they can't handle the physical nature of the pro game. It's something teams must consider before taking DeBrincat, but the upside at this stage of the round would make him worth the risk.