Predicting the First 5 NHL Entry Draft Picks
With the 2017 NHL Entry Draft kicking off tonight in Chicago, another year of young, hungry prospects will hope to hear their names called and climb up the ranks of professional hockey.
As it happens every year, NHL pundits spend month after month evaluating the next crop of potential draft picks, predicting who will get picked and in what order. As the draft begins, let’s look at the probable top five picks of the 2017 Draft.
#1. New Jersey Devils – Nico Hischier, Center
Mock drafts have gone back and forth on whether the New Jersey Devils will use its number one pick on Halifax center Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings. For months, Patrick was the consensus top pick, but a rough season filled with injury made teams and analysts look more closely at Hischier. At this point, it could go either way.
Hischer would be a wonderful get for a Devils team that has struggled offensively for years. The 6’2” 18-year-old spent last season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he racked up 38 goals and 48 assists in 58 games.
He has the build, speed, and skill to make an immediate impact for New Jersey and he’ll likely take the ice for the opening night of the 2017-18 season.
#2. Philadelphia Flyers – Nolan Patrick, Center
There is no question Patrick and Hischier will be the first two players drafted and, assuming New Jersey takes Hischier, the Philadelphia Flyers will use the second pick on fellow center Nolan Patrick.
Despite some unfortunate injuries in 2016-17, Patrick has already proven that he has enormous talent. Playing just 33 games for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, the 18-year-old still put up 20 goals and 26 assists. Looking back a year, in 2015-16, he has 102 points — 41 goals and 61 assists — in 72 games for Brandon.
He’s a phenomenal goal-scorer, but has great passing ability as well. His build — 6’2” and 198 pounds — makes him NHL-ready, but the injury issues are worrisome. Regardless, his talent is too much to pass up and he’ll certainly be gone by the time the third pick rolls around.
#3. Dallas Stars – Gabriel Vilardi, Center
The Dallas Stars have a few great options at the number three spot. With guys like Cody Glass and Casey Mittelstadt on the board, there’s no shortage of quality forwards in the top 10 prospects. However, signs point to the Stars going with center Gabriel Vilardi of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.
Vilardi spent the last two seasons with Windsor, tallying 99 points in 111 games. This past season was a breakout year for him, as he ended the year with 29 goals and 32 assists in just 49 games.
The kid — and he is just a kid at 17 — already has an extremely mature game, one that makes him a consistent threat on both offense and defense. He’s a pure skater, a forward who is dangerous with or without the puck and can use his size to fight his way to the net.
Dallas needs a big, young center to add depth to its offense and Vilardi fits that bill perfectly.
#4. Colorado Avalanche – Cody Glass, Center
The Colorado Avalanche have issues to address at nearly every position, which makes the number four pick crucial to get right. Some think the Avs will take defenseman Miro Heiskanen, going against the team’s trend of using early picks on forwards. However, with rumors of star center Matt Duchene on his way to another team, I believe Colorado will use its pick on center Cody Glass.
Ranked as the number six prospect by Hockey Prospect, Glass spent his major junior hockey years with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. In 2016-17, he played 69 games for Portland, finishing the year with 32 goals and 64 assists.
His two-way play is fantastic and he already has a high hockey I.Q. Glass has great puck control and has the ability to attack hard and evade opposing skaters. He’s more on the slender side — 179 lbs — compared to some of these other top centers but his mobility and footwork make him a threat every time he touches the ice.
#5. Vancouver Canucks – Owen Tippett, Forward
Vancouver is another team that has issues at every position to address. The Canucks have an aging team that is about to go through a rebuilding phase and starting the draft off with a young, talented forward is a necessity.
Canadian Owen Tippett fits that need for Vancouver. Playing in 60 games for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads last season, Tippett finished with 44 goals and 31 assists. He led the Steelheads in the playoffs as well, tallying 19 points in 20 postseason games.
Tippett is another big forward. Standing at 6’2”, 203 pounds, the Ontario native is an offensive force who can score at will. He may begin his career in the minors, but it’s doubtful that he’ll stay there long, given his talent and high-level play.
That covers the top five picks. Number six goes to the brand-new Vegas Golden Knights franchise and, if one of the aforementioned picks drops a couple spots, expect the team from Sin City to jump at the chance to take one of them.
The 2017 NHL Entry Draft begins with the first round on Friday, June 23rd at 7 PM ET. The second through seventh rounds take place on Saturday, June 24 beginning at 10 AM ET.