2016 NHL Mock Draft: Final Projections for Rounds 1-3

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2016

2016 NHL Mock Draft: Final Projections for Rounds 1-3

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    The 2016 NHL draft is right around the corner, and excitement is building across all 30 teams. Fans of non-playoff teams are hoping for another key piece of the future—or a trade that lands their favorite team a bona fide NHL player.

    The top two players appear to be a lock, as Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine are destined for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, respectively. After that, things are wide open, and trades will be in play Friday and Saturday. It is also true that the draft order varies widely after No. 2 and especially after No. 3, and that alone could drive movement up and down in each round.

    Here is a three-round mock draft for 2016, complete with details about why teams are looking for specific skills.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, C, Zurich Lions (NLA)

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs own the No. 1 overall pick this year and will waste little time in selecting Auston Matthews from Scottsdale, Arizona. The rare North American player who is first-year eligible after one year of pro, his universal hockey experience includes an impressive year with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League.

    Matthews kicks off a round where as many as 12 American-born prospects could be selected on merit—such is the changing map of NHL hockey.

    For the Leafs, the team selects a franchise center with a complete skill set. He should be a possession driver early in his career, his production offensively will be immediate and his two-way acumen will be a godsend for a team with a disciplined coach in Mike Babcock.

    Historically, Toronto has employed an outstanding No. 1 center, with Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour, Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon being examples over the last 50 years. Matthews has the potential to be the face of the franchise for a long time, and Maple Leafs fans should be thrilled with this selection.

2. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine, W, Tappara (Sm-Liiga)

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    The Winnipeg Jets were the big winners at the draft lottery, moving up to No. 2 overall and earning the right to draft sniper Patrik Laine. While playing for Tappara in his native Finland, Laine showed a range of skills and gained some notoriety as a first-shot scorer.

    That reputation blossomed at Christmas during the World Junior Championships and again at the World Hockey Championships in the spring. For Laine to become a focal point offensively for such a quality team like Finland reflects his status as an elite player.

    As a bonus, the 18-year-old ripped up the Sm-Liiga during the league playoffs, just to show he can play against men at his age. The Jets are a solid team drafting out of order because of the lottery—and will receive the franchise player this young, talented roster needs.

    The draft is already a home run for Winnipeg, and there is no doubt about its selection. Beginning at No. 3 overall, everything is open to discussion.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Sm-Liiga)

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets have a massive decision at No. 3 overall. The best player available is Finn winger Jesse Puljujarvi, best described as a bull in a China shop. He is a rambunctious winger who might be NHL-ready, so finding negatives in this player is a tough chore.

    The issue for Columbus comes via its current roster strength—wingers. The team's leading goal scorers a year ago—Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell—are all wingers, although Jenner did take almost 300 faceoffs in 2015-16.

    The Blue Jackets did not boast a true No. 1 center until they drafted and developed Ryan Johansen, and an in-season trade for defender Seth Jones cost the team its big pivot.

    The correct call may be offloading Hartnell or Atkinson for a center and drafting Puljujarvi as a replacement. Columbus could also trade down and grab someone such as Logan Brown later in the top 10, but the guess here is the team takes the best player available at No. 3 overall.

4. Edmonton Oilers: Matt Tkachuk, LW, London Knights (OHL)

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    The Edmonton Oilers moved down in the draft lottery, but they will be right in the middle of things come Friday evening. Although there is a very strong chance the team selects a player, it is fairly clear the draft reaches a fork in the road at No. 4 overall.

    Teams wishing to trade up for Matt Tkachuk of the London Knights or Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles will certainly take a shot at securing this selection.

    For the Oilers, the temptation is probably too strong and the team will select Tkachuk. He will be the second American-born player and the second native of Scottsdale, Arizona to go in the 2016 draft.

    Edmonton needs defensemen, but the appeal of Tkachuk as a possible linemate for Connor McDavid is too strong. The offense is off the charts, he has size—6'1'', 194 pounds—and his ability to pass, shoot and create appear to be outstanding.

    The Oilers are unlikely to go the defensive route if the team stays at No. 4 overall. The best talent at this number is a forward, and the team is going to choose Tkachuk.

5. Vancouver Canucks: Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

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    The Vancouver Canucks are trying to do the most difficult thing in a cap-world league: rebuild on the fly while still contending. The team that won the Western Conference in 2011 is mostly gone, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and defenseman Alex Edler the remaining impact players from that run.

    At this year's draft, the goal will be to continue procuring talent and developing it quickly. The team has acquired Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen in recent seasons while also having enough depth to offload Jared McCann in an effort to improve areas of weakness.

    Pierre-Luc Dubois would be an outstanding addition to the Canucks' talent pool. His ability to play center or wing, the two-way ability and the offensive numbers all indicate an outstanding prospect. He also has a fairly late birthday (he turns 18 on June 24), so there may be more development from this player than others in this group.

    Dubois is unlikely to be NHL-ready this fall, but another year in the QMJHL may be enough for him to compete at the NHL level. Vancouver would be delighted with that kind of development, making Dubois a perfect fit for a team in need.

6. Calgary Flames: Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

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    The Calgary Flames are in an interesting spot in the 2016 entry draft. The top-flight forwards will likely be off the table, but there will still be some very talented players available.

    Jakob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting possesses a complete skill set, is able to impact the game offensively and can make quality defensive plays. He also has NHL size—6'2'', 198 pounds—and plays a rugged style. Best of all is his skating, and that is the thing that may separate Chychrun from other defensemen in this range.

    The Flames are a good team for Chychrun, the club has a strong defense at the NHL level and there's an interesting range of prospects bubbling under. The last time Calgary chose a defender in the first round was 2009 (Tim Erixon). Chychrun is likely two years away, but his range of skills makes him a fine pick at No. 6 overall.

7. Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller, C, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)

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    The Arizona Coyotes will have a nice group of players to choose from at No. 7 overall, and the club would be wise to select brilliant offensive forward Clayton Keller. The native of Swansea, Illinois, would be the fourth American-born player to be selected if the draft falls this way—behind Auston Matthews, Matt Tkachuk and Jakob Chychrun.

    Keller is a fantastic skill player who dominated the U18 World Juniors this spring. His scoring prowess is exceptional, and despite a lack of size—5'10'', 163 pounds—his dogged pursuit makes him an impact player with and without the puck.

    The Coyotes have a strong group of young forwards in the NHL, including Max Domi, Anthony DuClair and Tobias Rieder. Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini are recent drafts who should be NHL-ready soon. Adding a substantial offensive talent in Keller would give the Coyotes an exceptional young forward group that could sustain the team for a long time.

8. Buffalo Sabres: Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)

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    Olli Juolevi of the London Knights is a brilliant puck-mover whose passing ability is an extremely rare skill. He has impressed scouts with his ability to get the puck out under control and help the transition to offense. Although Juolevi isn't a physical defender, his skating ability and intelligence defensively make him a promising player without the puck.

    The Buffalo Sabres have posted three strong drafts in a row, delivering Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel in the last three times inside the first round. Although the team's needs include a top-pairing defender—this according to Scott Cullen of TSN—Juolevi should not be considered an immediate plug-and-play solution.

    The best thing about Juolevi's skill set might be that he is lefthanded—Buffalo has some fine young righties in Ristolainen and Mark Pysyk. By the time Juolevi is NHL-ready—he might push by the fall of 2017—the Sabres should have several homegrown talents delivering on a nightly basis.

9. Montreal Canadiens: Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

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    Logan Brown of the Windsor Spitfires is unlikely to get out of the top 10 overall—and no one was saying that at the beginning of the year. The gigantic center—he is 6'6'', 220 pounds—delivered a complete performance in the OHL and was a star at the U18s this spring.

    If the actual draft follows this mock draft, he would be the fifth player born in the U.S. and chosen in the 2016 draft.

    Montreal has deployed a team with smaller forwards for most of this century, and that has been an area management has been looking to address. Brown is a pivot, so when he arrives, the entire complexion of the depth chart will change.

    Although his offensive numbers are solid, we won't know where Brown will slot in on an NHL depth chart until he develops more. By the time his junior career ends in the spring of 2018, Canadiens fans could be looking at a top-six forward with a complete range of skills. This is a terrific pick at No. 9.

10. Colorado Avalanche: Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

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    The Colorado Avalanche are in a spot where a forward or defenseman makes sense. In Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads, the club would be selecting a skilled power center.

    McLeod delivered 61 points in 57 games last season, suggesting he could thrive on an NHL skill line if he continues to develop. He would likely fill a complementary offensive role but has the skills to be the defensive conscience on the line. If his offense doesn't come with him to pro hockey, McLeod's skills would make him a fine candidate for a checking role.

    The Avalanche like a specific player type, and McLeod's size—6'2'', 185 pounds—and rugged style are a nice match for coach Patrick Roy. Attitude and talent are in ample supply, and this is a match that could happen at No. 10 overall.

11. New Jersey Devils: Tyson Jost, LW, Penticton Vees (BCJHL)

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    The New Jersey Devils are rebuilding via the draft and astute trades. The most precious and difficult-to-find item in this situation is an offensive driver, and New Jersey has only two in 30-goal scorers Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique. An offensive player will be the priority in this draft.

    Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees is an impact offensive player in the BCJHL and a top-flight NHL prospect. Among his arsenal of offensive gifts are a terrific shot, quickness and creativity. Jost was the top forward at the U18 World Juniors this spring.

    The Devils may have to be patient; Jost is scheduled to attend the University of North Dakota this fall. The rebuild in New Jersey can afford to be patient, and when he does arrive, Jost should give an enormous boost to a team that badly needs offense.

12. Ottawa Senators: Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

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    The Ottawa Senators are an astute drafting team with a long list of value selections outside the top 10 over the years. The No. 12 selection has been a good spot for the Senators, with Marian Hossa being the best example of ridiculous value in this range. 

    If the draft works out as above, the major prospect who will fall is Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires. He is a terrific skater and offensive catalyst who also possesses NHL size—6'2'', 220 pounds—and a range of skills. Sergachev will have to work on his defensive reads, but that is normal for a player this age (turns 18 June 25).

    Ottawa has a need on defense, but Sergachev is likely to take two full seasons of junior to develop. The Senators drafted Thomas Chabot a year ago; he may be a strong candidate to make the NHL team this fall in a puck-moving role.

13. Carolina Hurricanes: Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

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    The Carolina Hurricanes are a team that is likely on the rise as the young NHL players already on the roster continue to mature. A recent trade for Teuvo Teravainen gives the offense a boost, and adding Alex Nylander will give the team a future scorer.

    Nylander is a substantial offensive prospect who's coming off a year in the OHL in which he posted 75 points in 57 games and another 12 points in six playoff contests. He also starred at both the U18 and U20 World Juniors and brings a tremendous skill set that includes speed, skill and an excellent shot.

    As was the case with brother William Nylander, Alex may be closer to pro-ready than most of the players in this year's draft. The Hurricanes may bring him to camp and see where he stands at that time, but a good bet is that he plays a final season in junior before turning pro in 2017.

14. Boston Bruins: Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCJHL)

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    The Boston Bruins will have a difficult choice at No. 14 if the draft breaks this way. Charlie McAvoy from Boston University will be available, but the pick here is Dante Fabbro from the Penticton Vees.

    Fabbro is an effective two-way player with outstanding vision and passing ability. He is an intelligent player, making him effective with and without the puck. He has a chance to run an NHL power play someday based on his skill set.

    He is off to college this fall—Boston University—where management can watch him develop. A smart bet has Fabbro turning pro after two years in college. Fabbro has NHL talent, and it won't be long before he is ready.

15. Minnesota Wild: Kieffer Bellows, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)

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    The Minnesota Wild do a lot of shopping at the U.S. National Development Program. In the last two seasons, the Wild have selected Alex Tuch, Louis Belpedio, Jordan Greenway and Nick Boka from the program.

    At the draft this year, Minnesota will have a few players to contemplate. Boston University defender Charlie McAvoy and Wisconsin scorer Luke Kunin could go in this range, but Kieffer Bellows from the development program is an outstanding scoring prospect. He is a fine skater and a sniper—scoring 50 goals last season—and represents real value here.

    Bellows is headed to Boston University in the fall and may spend a couple of years there. If he continues to develop at his current pace, the Wild will have grabbed exceptional value at No. 15 overall.

16. Detroit Red Wings: Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University (NCAA)

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    The Detroit Red Wings don't take defensemen in the first round often—the last time they did it was 2007 (Brendan Smith). The club is aging on the blue line, and there is a strong option available at No. 16—and there is every chance Detroit goes defense this time.

    The Red Wings have drafted and procured some good forwards over recent years—specifically Dylan Larkin—so they can afford to go the defensive route in order to get such a promising prospect this late in the first round.

    One other benefit: Charlie McAvoy has already played one year in college and is closer to being NHL-ready while also offering a complete range of skills. Although it is unlikely he will be ready by the fall of 2018, that is not the modus operandi of the Red Wings. Drafting McAvoy would give Detroit its most substantial defensive draft pick in years.

17. Nashville Predators: Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)

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    The Nashville Predators have had uneven results in recent seasons when pursuing forwards in the first round of the draft. Austin Watson was chosen in 2010 and is still attempting to establish himself as an NHL player, Pontus Aberg has been hot and cold, and Kevin Fiala—who looks like he will make it—still has a ways to go. Nashville's system was unable to produce a No. 1 center, so the team was forced to deal Seth Jones in order to cover that spot with Ryan Johansen.

    It is good fortune, then, that center Luke Kunin of Wisconsin is the likely best player available when the Predators pick at No. 17 overall. Kunin could be a very good NHL scorer, and frankly, the only thing keeping him from going higher is size—he is 5'11'', 182 pounds—and a lack of consistency.

    The offensive players above Kunin are more proven, but he showed flashes of brilliance this past season—including six goals in seven games at the U18 World Juniors. Nashville will be hard-pressed to pass on him at No. 17 overall.

18. Philadelphia Flyers: Max Jones, LW, London Knights (OHL)

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have chosen defenders three times in the last four trips to the podium for first-round selections. In Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov, the future of the Flyers defense looks strong—especially with Shayne Gostisbehere emerging at the NHL level this past season.

    The choice at No. 18 overall comes down to an offensive defenseman in Jake Bean, an undersized scorer in Alex DeBrincat and several big forwards with skill—including my choice for the Flyers, Max Jones of the London Knights.

    If you created a template for the traditional Philadelphia winger, Jones would fit the description perfectly. A big man—6'3'', 201 pounds at age 18—he is an aggressive winger with good foot speed. Jones' 28 goals in the regular season last year reflects his offensive ability, and he is a good forechecker because of his size, speed and aggression.

    Philadelphia would be justified in taking Jones at No. 18 on talent alone. The fact he is a perfect fit for the organization is a bonus.

19. New York Islanders: Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

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    The New York Islanders have enjoyed good to great drafting position over the last several years, but many of the prospects procured have posted unusual progression. Ryan Strome was No. 5 overall in 2011 and has yet to establish himself, Griffin Reinhart was a lottery selection in 2012 and did not step into an NHL job before being traded last summer.

    This year, the Islanders may get lucky with an outstanding offensive defenseman in Jake Bean. This year there are a half dozen quality defenders and only so many teams that would be willing to invest in one—there are also a substantial number of scoring forwards. Bean might be the finest offensive defenseman available and should be considered an extreme value pick if he falls to No. 19 overall.

    The Islanders have a solid group of left-handed defenders —Nick Leddy, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey—so there is no need to push Bean. His offense could put him in a position to contend for a full-time job in the NHL in the fall of 2017.

20. Arizona Coyotes: Julien Gauthier, RW, Val D’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

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    The Arizona Coyotes have two selections in the first round: the pick at No. 7—used in this mock draft to procure Clayton Keller—and one at No. 20. This pick was acquired in the Keith Yandle trade in March 2015.

    Arizona could go any number of ways, but Julien Gauthier is a compelling selection at No. 20 overall. He possesses a power forward's skills, including 41 goals in 57 games this past season. Gauthier also has good speed and size—6'3'', 229 pounds—making him unique in this draft among skill forwards.

    Combined with recent first-round selections such as Max Domi, Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome, adding Keller and Gauthier would give Arizona a strong forward cluster to build around. Gauthier has enough skill to play on a feature line, making him an outstanding addition to the group.

21. Carolina Hurricanes: Riley Tufte, LW, Fargo Force (USHL)

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have two picks in the first round of the 2016 draft—this one and their own at No. 13 overall. This mock draft selected skill winger Alex Nylander early, and the choice at No. 21 is giant winger Riley Tufte.

    Among the assets that make Tufte a strong prospect is size—he is 6'5'', 212 pounds—and scoring skills. The big man potted 47 goals in 25 high school games, and he was also effective in junior USHL, scoring 10 goals in 27 games. His offensive prowess at lower levels will be tested next year when he arrives in the NCAA with Minnesota-Duluth, but the resume suggests he will be impressive.

    Carolina drafts heavily out of high school and the USHL, so the comfort level with Hurricanes' brass in taking Tufte should be high. He may take the entire four years in college—his skills are raw—but the potential payoff warrants a selection this early.

    Note: In this mock draft, Tufte represents the 10th American-born player selected. He follows Auston Matthews, Matt Tkachuk, Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Kieffer Bellows, Charlie McAvoy, Luke Kunin and Max Jones. Almost half of the names on this list are U.S. players.

22. Winnipeg Jets: Logan Stanley, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

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    The Winnipeg Jets went heavy on forwards a year ago, using seven of eight selections on them. This year, the club owns the No. 2 overall selection and is likely to use it on sniper Patrik Laine. With the prospect cupboard strong up front, the guess here is the team turns to defense in Round 1 of the 2016 draft.

    Logan Stanley is a giant defenseman—6'7'', 225 pounds—who counts terrific foot speed as one of his major assets. It is somewhat rare to see a player with that kind of size who can move, and Stanley's unique skills make him a top shutdown prospect in this draft. He posted only 17 points in 64 games last season, but most of his value will come on the defensive side of the puck.

    Winnipeg added this pick courtesy the trade deadline deal that sent Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks. Stanley is likely to play two more years of junior before causing havoc at the pro level.

23. Florida Panthers: Alex DeBrincat, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)

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    The Florida Panthers are going through some front office changes, making it difficult to handicap the draft direction for 2016. When in doubt, it is best to guess on skill. 

    Alex DeBrincat is an exceptional scorer—a young expert at the most difficult thing to do in hockey. He has scored 50 goals in a junior season two times in a row—once with Connor McDavid and this past season without—and is a deserving first-round pick who could go higher. If chosen at No. 23 overall, he would be the 11th U.S.-born player in the first round.

    The Panthers are brimming with young talent, the group of players under 24 the envy of any NHL team. Adding DeBrincat—whose only weakness is size (5'7'', 165 pounds)—would give the team another young gem to add to a terrific cluster.

24. Anaheim Ducks: Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestads (SHL)

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    The Anaheim Ducks are one of the NHL's best teams at the draft table. The club's last five first-round picks include Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Shea Theodore, Nick Ritchie and Jacob Larsson. Lindholm is an emerging star, Rakell is a bona fide NHL player, Theodore and Ritchie are outstanding prospects knocking on the door, and Larsson took a big step forward in Sweden's top league this past season.

    Rasmus Asplund is a fine two-way center who played in the top Swedish league this past season. He also posted enough offense—12 points in 46 games—to suggest he could be a strong player at that level by age 20. In Asplund's World Juniors, he displayed two-way ability and scored five points in seven games. He is one of the most responsible centers in the draft and is a worthy selection at the end of Round 1.

    Anaheim slow-plays its prospects for the most part, but Hampus Lindholm was in the NHL one year after being drafted. Asplund probably takes a couple of years before coming over, but the Ducks are very good at bringing prospects along in their own time.

25. Dallas Stars: Boris Katchouk, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

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    The Dallas Stars are a fascinating, unpredictable and ultimately highly successful team at the draft table. Last year's first round saw the team select KHL winger Denis Gurianov. The big winger was ranked No. 20 by Craig Button of TSN in a deep draft, but Dallas stepped up and took him at No. 12. The Stars often draft somewhat outside normal parameters.

    The pick at No. 25 for this draft is OHL winger Boris Katchouk. Bob McKenzie of TSN had him spiking in his final list, moving up to No. 29. Some of that may have to do with a strong playoff spring by the talented two-way winger. His across-the-board skills may have given teams some pause in keeping him outside the top 30 overall.

    Dallas doesn't need to fast-track Katchouk, and it is likely he will stay in junior for his final two seasons of eligibility. His offense in his draft year—30 goals, including playoffs—is something to watch for in the coming season. He may end up being a real bargain.

26. Washington Capitals: German Rubtsov, C, Team Russia (MHL)

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    The NHL has an uneasy relationship with Russian players, especially since the dawn of the KHL. One team that has successfully negotiated with Russians is the Washington Capitals. Perhaps due to the team's star, Alex Ovechkin, Russians in the Capital has been a very good fit in the last decade. Russians drafted by Washington include Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov and the team's No. 1 pick in 2015, goalie Ilya Samsonov.

    Based on value, the best player on the board for Washington will be center German Rubtsov. He is a terrific checking center who's aware defensively. NHL scouts did not get a chance to see him at the U18s this spring, but he was impressive as a 16-year-old in 2015.

    Washington can afford to be patient with him—the team has great depth at the position—including Kuznetsov. If Rubtsov develops offensively, he could see action on a scoring line as a strong defensive conscience. If not, the Capitals will have drafted a potential top-flight checker late in the first round.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Brett Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning spend a lot of their draft currency in Canadian junior leagues. Going back to the 2012 draft, 19 of the team's last 30 selections have come from the CHL.

    Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors has a strong set of skills and posted a strong regular season in 2015-16, scoring 64 points in 68 games. He stepped up in a big way during the playoffs, scoring 15 points in 10 postseason games. Howden showcased his skill at the U18 World Juniors and flourished there, scoring five goals in six games. His speed and skill are already on display, and at 6'2'' and 190 pounds, he has room to grow physically.

    The Lightning do well with WHL kids. In fact, Tyler Johnson wasn't even drafted; Tampa Bay signed him as a free agent. Howden will be chosen outside the truly elite players in this draft, but he might catch them anyway.

28. St. Louis Blues: Libor Hajek, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

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    The St. Louis Blues are an effective organization at the draft table. The shining recent example is big defender Colton Parayko, who posted a brilliant rookie season. He was chosen in the third round in 2012 and blossomed after the draft.

    Libor Hajek of the Saskatoon Blades has some similarities to Parayko. He is a bigger, strong defender who skates well and is able at both ends of the ice. He does not impress with his offensive numbers—just 26 points in 69 games with Saskatoon—but he posted those totals on a young, struggling team. It is a good bet Hajek will exceed those numbers in a big way this coming year.

    The Blues can afford to be patient with Hajek, but he could also blossom in a hurry. The range of opinions on him is reflected in the final ranking by TSN's draft experts: Craig Button has him at No. 84 and Bob McKenzie has him at No. 26 overall. The bet here is that St. Louis likes him enough to step up and grab him in Round 1.

29. Boston Bruins: Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL)

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    The Boston Bruins have two picks in the 2016 draft's first round. The club is scheduled to pick at No. 14 overall—this mock chose impressive defenseman Dante Fabbro—and at No. 29 (via the San Jose Sharks from the Martin Jones deal).

    Since the Bruins will have a sure thing with Fabbro, the team might chase a home run in winger Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants. He played only 30 games in 2015-16 due to injury—scoring 28 points—and did not impress in the playoffs or U18s because he was unable to play.

    Benson's style is rugged and aggressive, with enough skill to be considered a future member of an NHL scoring line—should he continue to develop. There is a great deal of risk and reward with Benson, but he is Boston's kind of player and could help the team if he remains healthy.

30. Anaheim Ducks: Nathan Bastian, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

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    The Anaheim Ducks have two picks in the first round of the 2016 entry draft. Rasmus Asplund was chosen at No. 24 in this mock draft with the first selection, and the Ducks end Round 1 with a pick just acquired in the Frederik Andersen deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    At this point in the draft, there are still some very interesting prospects—many from the OHL. Nathan Bastian of the Mississauga Steelheads fits with the Anaheim prospect template—he is an aggressive forward with skill. The big winger—6'3'', 207 pounds—is also a creative player, with 40 of his 59 points this past season coming via assists.

    Anaheim gets a power forward who may one day end up as a bookend to Nick Ritchie in the years to come. He should be considered outstanding value at No. 30 overall, and his being available suggests this draft is more than 30 quality prospects deep.

2nd Round: Picks 31-40

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    31. Toronto Maple Leafs: Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL). The Maple Leafs have a real chance to have a dominant draft in 2016. In Round 1, the club will draft Auston Matthews—an outstanding player with a complete skill set. In Round 2, Lucas Johansen—brother of Ryan—should still be available. He has all the tools and blossomed offensively this year with the Kelowna Rockets. Toronto has a plethora of picks in Rounds 2 and 3, with Johansen representing a very nice addition early in Round 2.

    32. Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Raddysh, RW, Erie Otters (OHL). The Oilers enter this draft with a list of needs, and this mock selected Matt Tkachuk in Round 1. Edmonton heads back to the OHL for the second round, with Taylor Raddysh the best player available at No. 32. He is a promising offensive player—73 points in 67 games—and has a reputation for being a solid two-way player. Perhaps surprisingly for some, the first picks by the Oilers are wingers—no defensemen yet!

    33. Florida Panthers: Cam Dineen, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL). The Panthers continue to add offensive options in the second round with Cam Dineen. The young defender scored 59 points in 68 games during the regular season—and despite being ranked as a third-round pick by some, he should cover the bet for Florida because of his ability with the puck.

    34. Columbus Blue Jackets: Janne Kuokkanen, C, Karpat (Fin Jr). Columbus drafted from Karpat in Round 1 of this mock, choosing Jesse Puljujarvi from the top team. In Round 2, the selection is from the junior Karpat squad, as Janne Kuokkanen is a skilled center with speed. His performance at the U18s vaults him close to the first round at No. 34.

    35. Calgary Flames: Jonathan Dahlen, C, Timra (Allsvenskan). The Flames grabbed a complete defense prospect in Jakob Chychrun early in the first round, and with the second pick, they could add some real skill. Jonathan Dahlen had a strong regular season and an amazing playoff—six goals in five postseason games—and is an emerging scorer. Calgary gets great value at No. 35.

    36. Winnipeg Jets: Dennis Cholowski, D, Chilliwack Chiefs (BCJHL). The Winnipeg Jets won the draft when the lottery delivered the team to No. 2 overall, netting sniper Patrik Laine. In the second round, the Jets grab a young defender with a complete skill set in Dennis Cholowski. There is a chance he goes in the first round, but playing tier-two hockey in the BCJHL may give scouts some pause. Based on performance, he is a bargain at No. 36.

    37. Arizona Coyotes: Filip Gustavsson, G, Lulea (SHL). Arizona owns two picks in the first round: This mock draft chose forwards Clayton Keller and Julien Gauthier. At No. 37, the Coyotes grab the first goalie of this draft, impressive Swedish tender Filip Gustavsson. He posted impressive numbers throughout this past season in various leagues, including top-division SHL. He is an outstanding young prospect who could emerge in the next couple of seasons.

    38. Buffalo Sabres: Vitali Abramov, RW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL). The Sabres are on home turf and may be looking for home run picks in the early rounds. Vitali Abramov is an undersized sniper who exploded on the QMJHL this past season with 93 points in 63 games. At 5'9'', 174 pounds, he falls to No. 38 because of size, but teams that chose to pass on him could be sorry in a few seasons. 

    39. Montreal Canadiens: Pascal Laberge, C, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL). The Canadiens have a nice opportunity to improve center depth in this draft. This mock draft chose Logan Brown in the first round, and with pick No. 39, Pascal Laberge is added. He is a solid offensive player—68 points in 56 games—but can also be counted on to play an aggressive style without the puck. A solid addition for an area of need, he also qualifies as the likely best player available at this point.

    40. Colorado Avalanche: Adam Fox, D, U.S. National Team (USHL). The Colorado Avalanche step up and grab one of the more intriguing names in the draft. Adam Fox is a dynamic offensive defender whose performance at the U18s had to make scouts notice. He posted nine points in seven games during the tournament and was close to a point a game during the regular season. He could be a steal for Colorado at No. 40.

2nd Round: Picks 41-50

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    41. New Jersey Devils: Tage Thompson, C, Connecticut Huskies (NCAA). The Devils pluck giant center Tage Thompson—he is 6'5'', 194 pounds—in the middle of the second round. He is regarded as a strong two-way center who can post impressive power-play numbers. Along with first-round selection Tyson Jost, this draft tandem could help the Devils' forward group in a big way.

    42. Ottawa Senators: Adam Mascherin, LW, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). The Senators grab a nice offensive winger in Round 2, as Adam Mascherin lasts due to a lack of size (5'9", 192 pounds). He scored 81 points in 65 games last season and would have been a lock for first-round selection with three more inches in height. Landing in Ottawa would be a good spot for him, and the Senators are an astute drafting team.

    43. Carolina Hurricanes: Cameron Morrison, LW, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL). Morrison has a range of skills that will make him an attractive option on draft weekend. He is 6'2," 207 pounds and has good speed, and his USHL numbers—66 points in 60 games—suggest he might land on a scoring line when he turns pro. There's plenty of development to come, as he is headed to Notre Dame in the fall.

    44. Tampa Bay Lightning: Carter Hart, G, Everett Silvertips (WHL). Goalies may come off the board slowly this year, but Carter Hart has first-round talent. He is the No. 2-ranked North American goalie and turned some heads with a .929 save percentage in the playoffs for the Silvertips.

    45. Montreal Canadiens: Veini Vehvilainen, G, JYP (Sm-Liiga). A small run on goalies is likely in the second round, and Vehvilainen would be an excellent pick at No. 45. He was eligible in 2015, but his numbers this past season in the pro Sm-Liiga—including a .925 save percentage in a good pro league—suggest he will be one of the first goalies off the board this summer.

    46. Detroit Red Wings: Sam Steel, C, Regina Pats (WHL). Detroit might get lucky in the middle of Round 2, as one of the prospects who may fall is Sam Steel. Although he scored almost a point per game and has terrific playmaking skills, he did not spike offensively season over season. Great value at No. 46.

    47. Nashville Predators: Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL). Clague being available this late is a reflection of the quality in this draft. A fleet defender with terrific passing skills, his defensive issues are typical of young players, and Nashville is the perfect landing spot. He is a first-round talent.

    48. Philadelphia Flyers: Will Bitten, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL). The Ontario league has so many terrific players in this year's draft that it might be easy to overlook Bitten. However, his skill and work ethic are top-shelf, as reflected in his regular-season numbers and outstanding U18 performance. He will make an excellent Flyers center in a few years.

    49. Boston Bruins: Victor Mete, D, London Knights (OHL). Mete is undersized—5'10'', 174 pounds—but is an outstanding skater and a smart two-way defenseman. He does not possess great offensive ability, but his speed makes him dangerous in that area. His performance at the Memorial Cup turned heads, and he screams value at No. 49.

    50. Chicago Blackhawks: Carl Grundstrom, RW, Modo (SweHL). Chicago is a good spot for Grundstrom, who is a fast winger with skill. He is an aggressive player with decent size—6'0'' and 194 pounds—and his 53 penalty minutes suggest that rugged style will fit the North American game.

2nd Round: Picks 51-61

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    51. Los Angeles Kings: Jordan Kyrou, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL). The Kings do not have many picks in the early stages of this year's draft—no pick in the first or third rounds—but they could get lucky with Kyrou. He is a fine two-way forward who impressed at the U18s. At the very least, the Kings grab a checker, and his offense may mean he can player a bigger role.

    52. Philadelphia Flyers: Cliff Pu, London Knights (OHL). The most famous team in junior hockey this season was the London Knights. The team's impressive performance—including the Memorial Cup—gave draft-eligible players a chance to show their abilities. Cliff Pu was exceptional, playing well in a two-way role and delivering surprising offense. He likely goes inside Round 2 and is a good fit for the Flyers.

    53. Arizona Coyotes: Markus Niemelainen, Saginaw Spirit (OHL). The Coyotes grab a giant defender—Niemelainen is 6'6'', 205 pounds—who has good mobility and is a solid defensive prospect. His offense suggests limited potential—27 points this season—but the speed and size make him an attractive NHL prospect.

    54. Calgary Flames: Noah Gregor, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). The Flames grab a skill center with good foot speed late in the second round. Gregor has a range of skills, including an excellent shot. His offense this past season—28 goals and 73 points in 72 games—shows a great deal of promise.

    55. Pittsburgh Penguins: Joseph Woll, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). The Penguins enjoyed a dream season in 2015-16, and young goalie Joseph Woll had a fabulous campaign, too. His play during the U18 World Juniors likely cemented his status as one of the best goalie prospects in the draft.

    56. Calgary Flames: Yegor Korshkov, W, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL). The Flames have several picks inside the top 60 overall, and Korshkov is a fascinating, if somewhat risky, bet. The KHL offers NHL teams special issues in terms of signability, but the young winger is a promising power forward who would fit Calgary's style.

    57. Toronto Maple Leafs: Dillon Dube, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL). Dube is a speed merchant and a promising offensive prospect. He's stepped up offensively season after season but did not deliver an outstanding offensive campaign in 2015-16. Dube is probably undervalued here.

    58. Tampa Bay Lightning: Givani Smith, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL). The Lightning grab another fine OHL player, this time an emerging power forward in Smith. At 6'2'', 204 pounds, Smith is a rugged winger who can impact the game physically—and his 23 goals suggest some real offensive ability.

    59. St. Louis Blues: Kyle Maksimovich, Erie Otters (OHL). The Blues took giant defender Libor Hajek in the first round of this mock draft, and this time they'll go after small skill winger Kyle Maksimovich. His 71 points in 68 games suggest real offensive talent, and St. Louis can afford to take the risk on a smaller player (the team roster has plenty of size).

    60. San Jose Sharks: Luke Green, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). The Sharks do not have a first-round selection, but Green has the kind of offensive talent normally associated with one. He is a mobile defender who has two-way skills and the size—6'1'', 185 pounds—to play in the NHL. 

    61. Pittsburgh Penguins: Wade Allison, RW, Tri-City Storm (USHL). The Penguins may draft a gem in Allison, who has a power forward's skill set. He spiked in the second half of the 2015-16 season. After scoring just three goals in his first 20 games, Allison scored 22 in his final 36 games of the year. He finishes off the second round.

3rd Round: Picks 62-75

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    62. Toronto Maple Leafs: Tyler Parsons, G, London Knights (OHL). Toronto has not drafted a goalie in the last two seasons, so picking Parsons—who had a save percentage of .925 last season—makes sense for need. Also, he's probably best player available here.

    63. Edmonton Oilers: Frederic Allard, D, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL). The Oilers—in desperate need of defensive help—finally grab one in the third round. Allard is a fine two-way defender who put up impressive offensive numbers this past season.

    64. Vancouver Canucks: Matthew Phillips, RW, Victoria Royals (WHL). Vancouver does not have a second-round pick, and the first-round selection is Pierre-Luc Dubois in this mock draft. Dubois is a power forward, thus freeing up the Canucks to take a brilliant, undersized winger in Phillips.

    65. Columbus Blue Jackets: James Greenway, D, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). James Greenway is a big defender—6'4'', 205 pounds—who has an intriguing set of skills. He possesses some raw offensive skills along with shutdown potential—reflected in his point-per-game performance at the U18 World Juniors.

    66. Calgary Flames: Filip Hronek, D, HC Hradec Kralove (Czech). The Flames have a bunch of picks in the top 90 this year, and Hronec would represent terrific value. He is a slender puck-mover who will need time to mature physically, but he has NHL potential.

    67. Carolina Hurricanes: David Quenneville, D, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL). The Hurricanes have a nice group of young defensemen emerging at the NHL level, and Quenneville may join them one day. He is undersized—5'8'', 183 pounds—but is an impressive offensive defender. His showing at the U18s should see him drafted far higher than his rankings—all past No. 100 in his Elite Prospects bio.

    68. Arizona Coyotes: Chad Krys, D, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). Arizona grabs a solid two-way defender who is a good skater and shows some offensive promise. Krys is the second-highest scorer among U.S. National Team defenders—the team is basically a blue-line factory—and may be taken earlier on the weekend.

    69. Buffalo Sabres: Henrik Borgstrom, HIFK (Fin Jr). Buffalo, which as has several selections in the third round, will grab Borgstrom mid-round. He is a slender center with playmaking skill and a plus release. The young Swede will attend the University of Denver this fall.

    70. Montreal Canadiens: Jacob Moverare, D, HV71 (SuperElite). The Canadiens grab a future shutdown defender in Moverare. As is the case with all of the defense-first rearguards in this draft, Moverare is a good skater.

    71. Colorado Avalanche: Tim Gettinger, W, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL). Colorado will have a difficult time passing on Gettinger if he is available here. A giant winger—6'5'', 201 pounds—he also produced some offense in the OHL. He is a solid prospect.

    72. Toronto Maple Leafs: Samuel Girard, D, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL). The Leafs would be pleased to grab Girard at this point. The small—he is 5'9'', 161 pounds—offensive defender delivered a massive offensive season—more than a point per game—for a blueliner.

    73. New Jersey Devils: Matt Filipe, C, Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL). The Devils are building a contender via the draft, and Filipe would represent the third forward taken in this mock draft—behind Tyson Jost and Tage Thompson. Filipe is a promising power forward with good speed.

    74. Carolina Hurricanes: Artur Kayumov, LW, Team Russia (MHL). Carolina kicks off a two-in-a-row series of picks with offensive winger Kayumov. Although one-dimensional, he is fast and very skilled.

    75. Carolina Hurricanes: Brandon Gignac, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL). The Hurricanes continue to gather impressive forward prospects. Gignac is a skilled center and is probably underrated when looking at his rankings via Elite Prospects.  

3rd Round: Picks 76-91

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    76. Buffalo Sabres: Sean Day, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL). Buffalo grabs Day late in the third round. He is a famous prospect who has not delivered as expected during his OHL career but remains a mobile player with substantial skills. 

    77. New Jersey Devils: Evan Fitzpatrick, G, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL). The Devils grab the No. 1-ranked North American goalie, according to Central Scouting. Fitzpatrick struggled at the U18 World Juniors, and that may impact his draft number.

    78. Nashville Predators: Jacob Cederholm, D, HV71 (SuperElite). Nashville is one of the NHL's best teams at finding defensemen, and Cederholm has a nice range of skills. Mostly regarded as a shutdown player, his speed is a major asset.

    79. Philadelphia Flyers: Max Lajoie, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL). Lajoie is a solid two-way defender with skill. The Flyers should consider taking him here because of his superior foot speed.

    80. Ottawa Senators: Trent Frederic, C, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). Ottawa has a way of uncovering talent, and Frederic shows a great deal of promise. He is not as naturally talented as many of his teammates, but he has size—6'2'', 203 pounds—and shows potential.

    81. New York Rangers: Josh Mahura, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL). The Rangers are known as a team that takes risks, and Mahura missed almost the entire 2015-16 season. He is a mobile defender with real potential, but there is little resume from this past season. He is a talented athlete who's worth the pick.

    82. Philadelphia Flyers: Andrew Peeke, D, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Peeke has a complete set of skills but is not yet the sum of his parts. He can skate, move the puck and has the size—6'3'', 205 pounds—we normally associate with a bona fide NHL defender.

    83. Chicago Blackhawks: Simon Stransky, LW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL). The Blackhawks don't have many picks early—this is the second selection—and the need for skill is great. Stranksy is a terrific player with the puck, but he may be a little shy on speed.

    84. Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Sambrook, Erie Otters (OHL). The run on defenders is finally underway for the Oilers. Sambrook is an excellent prospect—a smooth-skating two-way player who performed very well as an OHL rookie in 2015-16.

    85. Anaheim Ducks: Eetu Tuulola, RW, HPK U20 (Fin Jr). Anaheim has been known to go off the board in search of unique talent. Tuulola is a big winger—6'3'', 227 pounds—with a terrific shot. Ranked by several services, he should be considered a reach pick—but there is value in this player.

    86. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Candella, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL). Sabres grab another two-way defender in Candella, who's a good skater and an excellent passer. He was hurt during the 2015-16 campaign—that could impact his draft number—but fits into this range of defenders in and around the end of the third round.

    87. St. Louis Blues: Mikhail Berdin, G, Team Russia (MHL). The Blues may choose to grab a goalie this season—although the team has added one in each of the last two drafts. Berdin showed extremely well in the Russian junior league.

    88. Tampa Bay Lightning: Joey Anderson, RW, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). The Lightning have no qualms about employing undersized forwards, and Anderson may attract interest from them this year. At 5'11'', 190 pounds, some teams may overlook his considerable offensive talent.

    89. Buffalo Sabres: Zach Sawchenko, G, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). Buffalo grabs the final goalie in the third round. Sawchenko posted a .916 regular-season save percentage and was quality in the playoffs.

    90. Dallas Stars: Connor Hall, D, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Dallas grabs Hall, who is a physical, shutdown-type defender. His performance at the U18 World Juniors may help his final draft number.

    91. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Lindgren, D, U.S. National Development Team (USHL). Lindgren is a solid prospect who has a range of skills and plays with intelligence. He was splendid at the U18 World Juniors.

    Prospect information is via Elite Prospects and HockeyDB.com.


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