Every year armchair general managers of all 30 NHL teams gather around the television to catch the action of the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. This year the NHL's annual event where we get a glimpse of the future of our game is being held in Montreal.
As an armchair GM, myself, I have opinions on who will get drafted where and when. Below are my selections to who I believe will be selected by particular teams in their particular order.
1. New York Islanders: John Tavares-Center-Drafted from: London (OHL)
For the entire year the No. 1 selection has been a tossup between Tavares and Hedman, and some have even brought Matt Duchene into these talks. Yet when it comes down to the nitty gritty details, both Tavares and Hedman will be great impact players in the league, but the Islanders need to focus on marketing as well. The fact that the Long Island fans chanted ‘Tavares’ nearing the end of the season implies how many tickets the young phenom will sell, prompting the Islanders to select him.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman-Left Defenseman-Drafted from: MODO (SEL)
Victor Hedman is the most NHL-ready player out of this year’s draft-eligible players. He is a defenseman who many compare to the likes of Chris Pronger. This guy can skate with the best of them and has a pretty decent shot to boot. When you look at a lowly Tampa team you see all offense and no defense. The addition to Hedman can begin the rebuilding process for the Lightning.
3. Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene-Center-Drafted from: Brampton (OHL)
The most complete forward in the draft will be selected by the Avalanche. There isn’t one particular reason to grab Duchene at this spot other than the fact that he is that good. Holding comparisons to leaders Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, Duchene has a wicked shot and great speed which he uses to turn it on on both sides of the ice. The once mighty Av's may have to think about rebuilding, and Matt Duchene is a more than adequate centerpiece to work around.
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Jared Cowen-Left Defenseman-Drafted from: Spokane (WHL)
This selection may come as a surprise to some, but Jared Cowan is what is needed in Atlanta to make a strong defensive prospect pool even stronger. With the likes of steady offensive defensemen Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom coming into their own, a shutdown guy like Jared Cowen can be useful to the Thrashers future. Other teams may not take Cowen at such a high position so possibly look for the Thrashers to trade down a few spots.
5. Los Angeles Kings: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson-Left Winger-Drafted from: Timra (Swe Jr.)
The Kings have been building their defense through the draft for many years, and it is about time that they took a forward with a top 10 selection. Paajarvi-Svensson is a talented, slick forward who can make even the best defenders look silly. Many could see Evander Kane being drafted by the Kings, but with Dustin Brown occupying the role of power forward, the likes of Paajarvi-Svensson being drafted will be more likely.
6. Phoenix Coyotes: Evander Kane-Center-Drafted from: Vancouver (WHL)
Evander Kane is a machine out there. He can shoot, pass, hit, and score like none other in the WHL. As being one of many who have seen Evander play in person I can say what a talent this guy is. The Coyotes need a bruising power forward and Evander is the answer. Teams love to have these types of players and he will be a great compliment in Phoenix to either Peter Mueller or Kyle Turris.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brayden Schenn-Center-Drafted from: Brandon (WHL)
They have one brother, why not add another. Brayden Schenn is a complete forward with a very high level of skill. With his brother Luke already playing for the Leafs this could tempt the Buds to draft another Schenn. The Leafs have a defenseman to build around, and with Brayden in the picture they will have a forward that will be a great help in future years.
8. Dallas Stars: Dimitry Kulikov-Defenseman-Drafted from: Drummondville (QMJHL)
Kulikov is a talented offensive defenseman that could be tempting to many teams as he has already gotten a chance to skate on North American ice for a full season. With the possibility of Sergei Zubov leaving the team, Dimitry Kulikov could be viewed as a substitute over the next few years for the Stars. He’s strong and has a great shot and is one of the players in this draft who wouldn’t surprisingly be playing in the NHL next year.
9. Ottawa Senators: Zack Kassian-Right Winger-Drafted from: Peterborough (OHL)
Kassian is the one of the best prototypical power forwards in this draft and is a player who is not afraid to get into the rough stuff. He places a sense of intimidation into all of his opponents and is a player that the Senators could really use. The ninth spot may seem a little high for Kassian, but his combination of toughness, size, and skill will allow him to creep up into the top 10.
10. Edmonton Oilers: Nazem Kadri-Center-Drafted from: London (OHL)
The talented and shifty Nazem Kadri will be the selection of the Edmonton Oilers. When you have a guy like Kadri who has great puck handling skills it’s hard to pass him up. Many see the Oilers taking a defenseman with this pick which I am not ruling out, but I feel that Tambellini and Lowe want the best player available which could well be Kadri.
11. Nashville Predators: John Moore-Defenseman-Drafted from: Chicago (USHL)
John Moore is a slick skating offensive defenseman that could help any NHL team out down the line. With the Predators drafting Colin Wilson at last year’s draft look for them to select a defenseman this year with Moore being the prime candidate. He plays on all special teams and is an integral five-on-five defenseman.
12. Minnesota Wild: Ryan Ellis-Defenseman-Drafted from: Windsor (OHL)
The highest scoring defenseman in the CHL will be taken by the Wild as they are in need of a solid defensive prospect. Ellis has one of the hardest shots in the OHL and is also one of the best skaters. People may judge his play through his size, but it when comes down to it Ryan Ellis has the tools to be a possible top pairing defenseman in the NHL.
13. Buffalo Sabres: Jordan Schroeder-Right Winger-Drafted from: USA U-18 NTDP
When it comes to Jordan Schroeder people know about his great shot, but he is also a great leader on and off the ice. The Sabres drafted Tyler Myers last year, and selecting a dynamic forward such as Schroeder will compliment the hulking defenseman they chose last year. The only possible reason that I could see the Sabres passing up on Schroeder would be due to his small frame, but his skill set makes up for it.
14. Florida Panthers: Scott Glennie-Center-Drafted from: Brandon (WHL)
Scott Glennie is just what the Florida Panthers need. He is big, strong, and a great finisher. The Panthers have been building their defense over the past few years and with the possible drafting of Glennie they will have that forward to compliment players such as Michael Frolik or Nathan Horton in the future. Glennie has shown power forward aspects to his game, but if viewing a comparison can be seen as a young Jonathan Cheechoo.
15. Anaheim Ducks: David Rundblad-Defenseman-Drafted from: Skelleftea (SEL)
Rundblad to the Ducks is one of the few matches made in heaven throughout this first round. A young offensive defenseman such as Rundblad will thrive in Anaheim and his skill along with defensive and offensive prowess may fill a possible hole in the Ducks lineup if Francois Beauchemain leaves.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Oliver Ekman Larsson-Defenseman-Drafted from: Leksand (Swe II)
Oliver Ekman Larsson is one of a rare commodity of defenseman who has a knack for jumping up into the play and making something out of nothing. He can shoot pass and plays a solid defensive game. The Blue Jackets have nothing close to an all-star defense core, and Ekman Larsson is one who could significantly improve that aspect of their team.
17. St. Louis Blues: Tim Erixon-Defenseman-Drafted from: Skelleftea (SEL)
The string of talented Swedish defenseman being taken continues with the Blues selecting Tim Erixon. A player who can be compared to a young Mattias Ohlund, Erixon is sound defensively along with having offensive talent. Erixon may be a gamble with the 17th pick. He is one who could possibly get drafted near the top ten or near the bottom of the first round.
18. Montreal Canadiens: Louis Leblanc-Center-Drafted from: Omaha (USHL)
Louis Leblanc is the prototypical player that the Canadiens need to fill their team with. Leblanc is a strong and skilled forward who combines talent and great leadership qualities to be successful on and off the ice. The guy is from La Belle Province as well, which couldn’t hurt his chances.
19. New York Rangers: Chris Kreider-Center-Drafted from: Andover (MA-HS)
Considered to be the best skater in the draft, Kreider will be selected to take the place of Alexei Cherepanov after his untimely death. Kreider’s speed along with his ability to keep the puck on his stick will prompt the Rangers to select him with the 19th overall selection.
20. Calgary Flames: Dylan Olsen-Defenseman-Drafted from: Camrose (AJHL)
The Flames need a solid defensive prospect as we have seen throughout the past few years defense has been this team’s issue. Olsen is a sturdy defenseman who has underrated offensive abilities. He was born and raised in the Calgary area and there’s no better place to play than at home.
21. Philadelphia Flyers: Drew Shore-Center-Drafted from: USA U-18 NTDP
The Flyers love American-born players heading into the NCAA, and Shore fits that bill perfectly. A strong and skilled player, Shore separates himself from many others in the draft with his on-ice smarts. He has great hockey sense and will one day be a great compliment to James Van Riemsdyk in Philly.
22. Vancouver Canucks: Stefan Elliot-Defenseman-Drafted from: Saskatoon (WHL)
The Canucks are in serious need of a talented defensive prospect one that may lessen the blow of losing Luc Bourdon in a tragic motorcycle accident. Elliot is one who compares himself to that of Mike Green. He is an offensively gifted defenseman who can skate and if that isn’t enough he is also a star off of the ice. The Vancouver native who has been a lifelong Canucks fan was named CHL Scholastic Player of the Year for having the highest academic average. This kid will be a great fit in Vancouver: good attitude and good skill.
23. New Jersey Devils: Zach Budish-Right Winger-Drafted from: Edina HS
This pick may seem a little off of the board as Budish missed the past season due to a serious ACL tear, yet what this player possesses is rare in any draft. He has amazing size at 6’4" and 230 lbs and has a great skating ability. His hands are soft and he is generally able to make something out of nothing. The Devils have looked to American Juniors in the draft and Budish can be a great compliment to players such as Zajac or Parise. Think of a younger Johan Franzen or David Backes.
24. Washington Capitals: Landon Ferraro-Right Winger-Drafted from: Red Deer (WHL)
The son of former pro NHL’er Ray Ferraro will be taken by the Capitals. Landon’s greatest strength is his explosive speed. He will appear on one end of the ice when he was just at the other end. Ferraro also has his speed compliment with a wicked shot and good hockey sense. Learning from fellow snipers Ovechkin and Semin in Washington can allow the Capitals and Landon Ferraro to have a strong mutual relationship through this draft.
25. Boston Bruins: Calvin de Haan-Defenseman-Drafted from: Oshawa (OHL)
de Haan is a talented offensive defenseman playing for Oshawa in the OHL. He has solid speed, a good shot, and is sturdy in his own end of the ice. The Bruins are lacking many defensive products and de Haan is one that should be able to contribute to the lineup in a couple of years.
26. New York Islanders (via San Jose via Ottawa): Robin Lehner-Goaltender-Drafted from: Frolunda (SEL)
Lehner, in my opinion, is the top goaltender in this year’s draft, and with the recent injuries constantly occurring to Rick DiPietro, a goaltending prospect may not be the worst option for the Islanders. Lehner is a goalie who takes up most of his net and challenges all of his shooters very well. Think young Henrik Lundqvist or Mike Smith.
27. Carolina Hurricanes: Carter Ashton- Left Winger- Drafted from: Lethbridge (WHL)
Carter Ashton is a big presence on the ice with solid size, great hands, and good skating ability. When Ashton gets a scoring chance he’s one who will make good on it. With all likelihood some of the Canes free agent scorers will be leaving and the drafting of Ashton will help to fill those voids.
28. Chicago Blackhawks: Jacob Josefson-Center-Drafted from: Djurgarden (Swe Jr.)
Josefson is a very skilled and shifty center. He plays well in both ends of the ice and has a great hockey sense which allows him to improve his skating and to be in the right place at the right time. With a fast-paced system in place in Chicago, Josefson should fit in perfectly.
29. Detroit Red Wings: Peter Holland-Center-Drafted from: Guelph (OHL)
Holland will be a great fit in Detroit due to his size, skill level, and his ability to play in all aspects of the game. He is used on the power play and on the penalty kill. He has a great snap shot and has a great first stride that allows him to make plays from all over the ice. The Red Wings could use an offensive threat like Holland to one day compliment their stars.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins: Jordan Caron-Right Winger-Drafted from: Rimouski (QMJHL)
Jordan Caron is not your ideal Penguin. He doesn’t have mind blowing skill or an amazing shot, but he is one who does his job well and can score goals. Caron is a great power forward who goes to the net and gets the garbage goals. He has been said to be one of the hardest workers in this year’s draft, something that could possibly lift him higher than the 30th selection, but his strengths fit Pittsburgh’s needs.
These are just the opinions of one, as come Friday it is very possible that 30, 15, or even zero of my selections will be correct. We have seen a plethora of Swedish defenseman taken in my mock draft along with a highly skilled group of centers.
Yet no matter who gets selected in the first round of this year’s entry draft we as fans are in for a treat come Friday night.