All 31 NHL teams, including the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, are looking for players who can help improve their fortunes for the future. Those at the top of the draft are in desperate need of prospects who will turn things around in a hurry.
Considering the success of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews—the top picks from the last two drafts—there is reason for optimism.
While we don't know if anyone from this class will make that type of immediate impact, there is certain to be plenty of drama during the June 23 first round.
First Round Projections
1. New Jersey Devils: Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon
2. Philadelphia Flyers: Nico Hischier, C, Halifax
3. Dallas Stars: Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prarie
4. Colorado Avalanche: Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK
5. Vancouver Canucks: Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor
6. Vegas Golden Knights: Cody Glass, C, Portland
7. Arizona Coyotes: Owen Tippet, RW, Mississauga
8. Buffalo Sabres: Cale Makar, D, Brooks
9. Detroit Red Wings: Martin Necas, C, BRNO
10. Florida Panthers: Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle
11. Los Angeles Kings: Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City
12. Carolina Hurricanes: Elias Pettersson, C, Timra
13. Winnipeg Jets: Klim Kostin, LW, Dynamo Moscow
14. Tamp Bay Lightning: Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound
15. New York Islanders: Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City
16. Calgary Flames: Juusu Valimaki, D, Tri-City
17. Toronto Maple Leafs: Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda
18. Boston Bruins: Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State
19. San Jose Sharks: Callan Foote, D, Kelowna
20. St. Louis Blues: Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga
21. New York Rangers: Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo
22. Edmonton Oilers: Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane
23. Arizona Coyotes (via Wild): Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland
24. Columbus Blue Jackets: Nikita Popaguev, LW, Prince George
25. Montreal Canadiens: Lias Andersson, C, HV 71
26. Chicago Blackhawks: Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston
27. St. Louis Blues (via Capitals): Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph
28. Ottawa Senators: Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie
29. Dallas Stars (via Ducks): Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna
30. Nashville Predators: Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University
31. Pittsburgh Penguins: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown
1. Devils: Nolan Patrick
While there are no sure things in this class, two players stand above the rest. Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, two talented young centers, are likely to go No. 1 and 2 in the draft in some order.
Devils general manager Ray Shero spoke highly of both players, although he still doesn't seem convinced on which one he will take.
"They are both great players," Shero said, per Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com. "Patrick went through injury this year, but everybody knows he's a heck of a player and he's going to be very good. Hischier is a Swiss center with good size and talent. For us, these are two centers, two real good players. We're going to get one heck of a player and, at this point, that's what this franchise needs."
Patrick has played extremely well in the WHL and seems destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, Steve, and his uncle, James, both of which played in the NHL.
With more size, strength and athleticism, his upside is slightly better than Hischier and is worthy of the top pick in the draft.
2. Flyers: Nico Hischier
The Flyers are in perfect position in this draft. They can wait to see who the Devils take and pick the best available player after.
Of course, Hischier is much better than a normal consolation prize.
At 18 years old, the center more than held his own in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 38 goals with 48 assists. His 86 points not only led all rookies, it was 10th best in the entire league.
He already has great awareness on the ice to go with his natural talent with the stick, which could help him make an early impact with whichever team drafts him.
The Swiss forward has all the tools you look for in an offensive player and is as safe as they come in the draft.
3. Stars: Casey Mittelstadt
Being Mr. Hockey in Minnesota is no minor accomplishment. Casey Mittlestadt earned the title with ease after tallying 64 points in 25 games during his high school season.
The center continued his career with the Green Bay Gamblers and was just as impressive against USHL competition, earning 30 points in 24 games.
"Mittelstadt is one of these anomalies that come along every few years," director of NHL central scouting Dan Marr said, per NHL.com.
He has good size at 6'0", 199 pounds with the strength and quickness necessary to beat most defenders at the next level. His presence on the ice should also help rack up both goals and assists no matter who he is playing against.
Although the Dallas Stars need more help on defense than offense, Mittelstadt is worth the early selection.
4. Avalanche: Miro Heiskanen
The Avalanche aren't happy to have just the fourth pick in the draft after their 48 points was by far the worst in the NHL this season, but that is how the lottery unfolded.
Still, the team has the ability to come away with the top defenseman in the draft in Miro Heiskanen.
Although he only had 10 points on the season, it came in the top Finnish league, where he impressively earned a regular role with HIFK. He has also represented Finland at a high level in various international events.
The Avalanche's official Twitter account thinks highly of him:
He is a talented two-way defensive player who can contribute early and become an anchor for the Avalanche for years to come.