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The art of predicting drafts is more like palm reading than science. The fact is, NHL teams have scouts that give reports that can be radically different from the rankings that are shoved down our throats by TSN and the like. We’d like to think that those scouts know what they’re talking about, but just like all of us, general managers guess – or one might say, make educated guesses – and they make mistakes (See Hickey, Thomas at 4th overall).
Teams also have radically different draft philosophies. Some draft based on needs, but most take the best player available. Some stay away from defensemen and goalies early, and some will capitalize on this imbalance to steal draft sliders. The problem is, we often don’t know which category teams fall into, and since we don’t know the rankings of individual teams, it can be practically impossible to project where guys go.
That doesn’t mean we can’t try. These projections are based on rankings from Future Considerations, TSN, and based on mock drafts that I’ve read across the web. Mostly, though, my picks are made based on my gut feeling about the direction in which each GM will go.
Finally, I fully expect this to be the craziest draft in recent memory. There will be trades, and shock picks. I would bet there will be a player outside the consensus top-30 picked in the top 15, and a player in the top 20 that drops to the late second round. I think there’s a solid chance Edmonton trades down, most likely with Columbus, but Toronto will make a push, as Burke always does.
Pick: Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
Others: Murray, trade down
Reason: Whether it’s Edmonton picking or somebody else, I would all but guarantee Yakupov will be the #1 overall pick. It would be an outrageous error for Edmonton to pass on the budding superstar, who I would consider the closest thing to a sure-thing in this draft.
Pick: Ryan Murray, D, Everett (WHL)
Others: Galchenyuk, trade up
Reason: I don’t buy into the whole "Russian scare" when it comes to the Blue Jackets. In my opinion, it would be riskier for Columbus to pass on a potential superstar in Yakupov than to for them to draft him with the worry that he’d be a bust or flee to Russia. That said, if they keep the pick, I say them going with the NHL-ready defenseman.
Pick: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia (OHL)
Others: Grigorenko, Forsberg
Reason: I’ve been on the Galchenyuk bandwagon since the first time I heard his name January. I was never convinced that Grigorenko wouldn’t be a bust, and now my concerns seem justified. The Canadiens need Galchenyuk, he is the perfect fit, and should he be scooped up by Columbus or Toronto, it would be a huge organizational hit.
Pick: Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer (WHL)
Others: Forsberg, Reinhart
Reason: I struggled a bit with this pick, debating between the hard-hitting Dumba, the two-way Forsberg, and the quick-riser Reinhart. I could see any of these three being the pick, but I’ll lean to Dumba because I think he has the highest upside, and because the Islanders definitely need a franchise defenseman.
Pick: Filip Forsberg, LW, Leksands (Sweden)
Others: trade up, Rielly
Reason: I have a feeling the Leafs may not end up selecting fifth, but if they do, I think Forsberg is the way they will go. He is a two-way forward with first-line potential, something the Leafs are lacking, as Kadri, Colborne, and Frattin all seem to be future second-liners.
Pick: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit (Finland)
Others: Trouba, Rielly
Reason: Current Finish Duck Teemu Selanne scored 76 goals as a rookie (albeit with the Jets). It’s shallow to make a pick based on a loose connection like that alone, but the fact is, Teravainen is the fastest-riser in the draft, and many wouldn’t be surprised if he goes in the top 5.
Pick: Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Others: Reinhart, Trouba
Reason: Minnesota has gone from having one of the worst set of prospects in the league (Pouliot and Sheppard are notable busts) to developing a nice group of young forwards in Granlund, Coyle, and Phillips. With Brent Burns now gone, the Wild need a new offensive D-prospect, and Rielly is the best of the group.
Pick: Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
Others: Faksa, Reinhart
Reason: Here’s where organizational philosophy comes into play; Jim Rutherford is known to despise taking defensemen early – unless they fall too far to resist like last year – and with a big drop-off between Grigorenko and the next-best forward, he snags this year’s Couturier and slots him into the lineup right away.
Pick: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)
Others: Faksa, Trouba
Reason: Kevin Cheveldayoff is also known to prefer drafting forwards early, but with Reinhart in the top 5 of many draft-boards, he is too good to pass up. Besides, Winnipeg could use a potential franchise defensemen.
10. Tampa Bay
Pick: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Sweden)
Others: Trouba, Ceci
Reason: Yzerman goes a little off the board here, but coming from the Swede-heavy RedWings organization, having inherited Victor Hedman, it isn’t that much of a surprise.
Pick: Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener (OHL)
Others: Trouba, Girgensons
Reason: GMGM loves his two-way players, and Faksa is a highly rated forward prospect. I also considered Girgensons, but Faksa seems to be the safer choice here.
Pick: Jacob Trouba, D, NTDP U18
Others: Girgensons, Gaunce
Reason: The Sabres may be looking for a forward, but Trouba, ranked as high as 6th by Future Considerations, is too good to pass up at 12th.
Pick: Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque (USHL)
Others: Ceci, Gaunce
Reason: Dallas never seems afraid to reach for players they feel are being undervalued (Glennie and Campbell as recent examples), and Girgensons is rising on a lot of draft boards.
Pick: Sebastien Collberg, RW, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden)
Others: Gaunce, Ceci
Reason: The Flames need help just about everywhere, but this talented Swede would be a good start. He has top-line potential, and is considered the top Swedish forward in this class.
Pick: Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa (OHL)
Others: Gaunce, Pouliot
Reason: Bryan Murray has acquired several former Ottawa 67s players in his time as Senators General Manager, and will be thrilled that the reliable Ceci is available this late.
Pick: Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)
Others: Gaunce, Maatta
Reason: Scared off a little by Kuznetzov’s reluctance to come to North America, McPhee makes his second pick from the CHL in this draft, claiming the reliable Finn.
17. San Jose
Pick: Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough
Others: Maatta, Hertl
Reason: Seen by many as a draft wildcard because of his injury troubles, San Jose will reach for the D-man based on potential upside.
Pick: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)
Others: Maatta, Gaunce
Reason: Nothing in particular, other than the fact that going from the Winterhawks to the Blackhawks is pretty fitting, and that Pouliot seems to be flying under the radar as a high-upside potential top-4 defenseman.
19. Tampa Bay
Pick: Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
Other: Hertl, Maatta
Reason: This pick isn’t so much based on the fact that the Lightning need a goalie, but based on the fact that they are the first of the teams with multiple first-round picks, meaning they will be more willing to take a goalie with their second. I personally think Subban will be a star, and Yzerman and co. will reap the benefits.
Pick: Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth (OHL)
Others: Kerdiles, Matteau
Reason: Wilson, dubbed the "next Lucic", is bound to be at the top of the list of teams with philosophies build on toughness, like Boston and Philadelphia.
Pick: Tomas Hertl, LW, Slavic (Czech Republic)
Others: Gaunce, Aberg
Reason: Looking for reinforcements on the wing, the Sabres go with a project-pick in Hertl, hoping he develops oversees.
Pick: Henrik Samuelsson, RW, Edmonton
Others: Aberg, Maatta
Reason: Samuelsson could go anywhere from 20th -50th overall, but I’d wager the Penguins take Ulf’s son here, gambling on his strong playoff performance as an indicator of his potential.
Pick: Pontus Aberg, LW, Djurgardens (Sweden)
Others: Skeji, Maatta
Reason: Aberg has very high potential, and his slide will be stopped by Tale Tallon, who armed with his franchise centre in Huberdeau, will be looking for scoring wingers.
Pick: Nicolas Kerdiles, LW, NTDP U18
Others: Matteau, Thrower
Reason: Boston could go in many directions with this pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went with a defenseman, but Kerdiles is a strong two-way player who could interest Chiarelli.
25. St. Louis
Pick: Ludvig Bystrom
Others: Skeji, Maatta
Reason: St. Louis likes to surprise, and in this case they go with the polarizing Bystrom, who I’ve seen ranked as high as 19th, and as low as the second round.
Pick: Olli Maatta, D, London (OHL)
Others: Laughton, Thrower
Reason: Maatta impressed me in the Memorial Cup playing for London, but his recent injuries combined with questions over how good he can be at the NHL level will lead to a slide down the draft board.
Pick: Colton Sissons, C, Kelowna (WHL)
Others: Matteau, Laughton
Reason: He’s not talked about a lot, but Colton Sissons is a nearly unanimous late first round pick, and Phoenix loves physical centres, meaning Sissons is a logical fit.
28. New York Rangers
Pick: Stefan Matteau, LW, NTDP U18
Others: Laughton, Vasilevski
Reason: Obvious connections aside, the Rangers have been collecting American prospects, especially from the NTDP, and with some scoring but also some spice, Matteau seems like an obvious pick here.
29. Los Angeles
Pick: Martin Frk, Halifax, QMJHL
Others: Laughton, Nieves
Reason: With Kopitar, Richards set to man the middle of the ice for years to come, and a bevy of defense and goalie prospects, wingers are the obvious need, and Frk has an elite wrist shot, although he’s a risk considering time missed this past year with injury.