Son of former NHLer Michael Nylander and younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect William Nylander, Alexander Nylander has future star written all over him. In this mock draft, he's taken fourth overall this year by Edmonton.
Welcome back to my weekly Prospect Ramblings column. This week, I post the results of the first round of a mock draft of the upcoming NHL entry draft.
To do this, I enlisted the services of fellow sport management students at Brock University – the same program that produced Kyle Dubas, assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We are also all members of an organic, student-organized and driven Hockey Performance & Development Group. This group meets weekly to discuss issues around the sport, review tape on select teams and prospects, and discuss the state of the game.
Before I get into the results, some introductions are in order.
I, David McDonald (DM), spent 10 years as a consultant in the automotive industry before deciding to pursue a dream of a career in sport in which I will complete my masters degree in three years. I currently cover/scout the Vancouver Canucks for Dobber Prospects, and have spent time volunteering for events involving CIS and the IIHF. I can be followed on Twitter @HOCCA_Scouting.
Nick Tropper (NT) has been scouting for multiple seasons in the LNAH and independently. Most recently, he has been scouting with International Scouting Services (ISS Hockey) with an emphasis on the OHL and NHL drafts. He can be followed on Twitter @FocusedScouting
Zach Fraleigh (ZF) is an independent scout who follows Ontario Minor Midget hockey, as well as the Ontario Hockey League, American Hockey League, and National Hockey League. He can be followed on Twitter @zachfraleigh.
Chris Mazza (CM) was born and raised in London, Ontario, and played 13 years with the Oakridge Aeros minor hockey association. He spent time working as a commentator for BrockTV as operations manager for the Brock University athletic department, and with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. He is also a co-founder of BTI Hockey with Matt Anderson.
Matt Anderson (MA) is a co-founder of BTI Hockey with Chris, and a statistician and analyst for BrockTV, covering the Brock Badgers of CIS, and is a fierce supporter of the analytics movement. He is active with local hockey and has volunteered with IIHF events. He can be followed @MattAnderson_9.
Darren Faria (DF) has spent seven years officiating in the OMHA and three years scouting and coaching high school hockey. He is in the process of co-founding a hockey analysis business venture with a partner. He can be followed on Twitter at @DLHockeyCanada.
Kyle Bezaire (KB) spends part of his time scouting, but spends more time in development for youth hockey, including the coaching in the OHL/OHF Program of Excellence. These responsibilities kept him indisposed during part of the draft – we were happy to cover for him!
So without any further ado, here are the results:
1st overall: The Toronto Maple Leafs select, from the Zurich Lions of the NLA, centre Auston Matthews.
DM: He's the elite top-line center the Leafs have been looking for, with size, skill, and a complete game. This is a no-brainer for the Leafs, despite the impressive skill set that Patrik Laine brings to the table. Keeping the puck on a string, and with what could easily be ice in his veins, Matthews represents a hybrid of Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour that could make the collective suffering of Leafs fans well worth the past decade.
2nd overall: The Winnipeg Jets select, from Tappara-Tampere of the SM-Liiga, right wing Patrik Laine.
MA : The Leafs may have won the first overall pick, but the Jets won the lottery, with the chance to draft one of the most dynamic offensive forces to hit the draft in the past decade. Laine's shot is generational, perhaps rivalling that of noted snipers Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. With his well-above-average frame and a creative flare possessed by few in the offensive zone, the Jets will hit gold based on their original draft position. Laine's only slight weakness is his skating, but that may just be because the rest of his game is so elite.
3rd overall: The Columbus Blue Jackets select, from Karpat of the SM-Liiga, right wing Jesse Puljujarvi.
KB: He's a big boy with exceptional playmaking skill. His willingness to play physically and use his two-way abilities has drawn comparisons to Jamie Benn. This is to say nothing of his track record of individual and team accomplishments. We hope that Jesse's winning ways will translate into success with the Blue Jackets.
4th overall: The Edmonton Oilers select, from the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, left wing Alexander Nylander.
ZF: In perhaps the most difficult draft position of all, Edmonton goes with the young Nylander. Alex demonstrates an elite goal-scorer's touch. Don't be surprised to see him fooling goaltenders in the big league, as we've seen him do so many times before. His knack around the net makes him lethal in the offensive zone; whether he's hammering home a one-timer, deking goalies, or simply beating them on his shot. He remains unpredictable to defenders and goaltenders alike, as he can beat you with any one of his traits of playmaking, shifty East-West skating, and dazzling stickhandling in addition to his remarkable release.
5th overall: The Vancouver Canucks select, from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, left wing Matthew Tkachuk.
ZF: Tkachuk is an energetic forward who possesses dynamic playmaking ability and a good scoring touch around the net. Son of former NHL star Keith Tkachuk, Matthew is a chip off the old block. He plays with an edge and loves to battle within the dirty areas. He is no stranger to getting under his opponents' skin and drawing penalties. Though playing on a loaded line with Marner and Dvorak, the young forward notched 107 points in 57 games. He followed his draft season campaign with 40 points in 18 playoff games. It would not hurt his game to play with a little more discipline.
Long-suffering fans of the Vancouver Canucks will cheer if their team drafts Matthew Tkachuk.
6th overall: The Calgary Flames select, from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
DM: While the Flames boast some depth in their prospect pool when it comes to rearguards, none offers the top-pairing ceiling that comes with Chychrun. Playing Brian Burke's two-way style (which we have to assume Brad Treliving is on board with), the Sarnia Sting defender will get every opportunity to showcase his skill set at both ends of the ice with a heady awareness north of the opposition blueline, and the willingness to get dirty inside his own.
7th overall: The Arizona Coyotes select (glaring angrily at Calgary), from Boston University, defenseman Charles McAvoy.
NT: Here is a tough one. I think they more likely trade down but here is the reasoning for the selection. Arizona's crop of young offensive talent is essentially unmatched. However, they have made strides to address their prospect depth on the defensive end, and more importantly, are seeking grit and toughness on the back end. McAvoy is coming off an impressive season at BU and fits that description to a tee. Calm and poised with the puck, though, does not offer mind-blowing offense. Plays with an edge, a real physical style and a headhunter mentality, while not leaving himself out of position.
8th overall: The Buffalo Sabres select, from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
KB: We're taking him because of his proven overall performance. With the Spits this year, he was a near point-per-game player as a rookie and named to the first rookie all-star team (along with teammate Michael DiPietro). A solid two-way defender with serious offensive upside makes him a great fit along other young stars in Buffalo like Eichel, Reinhart and Kane.
9th overall: The Montreal Canadiens select, from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois.
NT: Let's get past the obvious French connection here. That was not at play. The heavy winger has the tools to play with finesse, to keep up with a run-and-gun offense, or to play a heavier game in the offensive zone. While I have my fears about his offensive output carrying over to the next level, given his inflated numbers from playing in the QJMHL, his best game could be exactly what this club needs. At worse, I can see him being a reliable third-line player who can chip in once in a while. Montreal's target was certainly a high-end defenseman, but we hope we can address that need with our two second-round selections.
10th overall: The Colorado Avalanche selects, from Boston University, left wing Clayton Keller.
MA: Keller is probably the most gifted offensive player in the draft after Matthews and Laine and has a ceiling as high as any in the draft. His speed, skill, shiftiness and smarts make a fantastic pick for an organization that seems eager to churn out offensive talents like Ryan O'Reilly (with talk swirling around a potential Matt Duchene trade). Keller will immediately become the organization's top prospect.
11th overall: The New Jersey Devils select, from the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, center Michael McLeod.
CM: McLeod brings a well-rounded game along with the size and skill expected of a future No. 1 center. His speed may very well be unmatched in this draft class, and he uses it effectively to create offensive opportunities for both himself and his teammates. The Devils are desperate for a game-breaking forward, and McLeod's physical abilities combined with incredible on-ice vision and an accurate shot fit that bill quite nicely.
12th overall: The Ottawa Senators select, from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Olli Juolevi.
ZF: Olli Juolevi displays maturity beyond his years. He has elite vision, which he utilizes with and without the puck with his passing and positioning. The Helsinki native is an all-situational player who is effective in all three zones, and is the definition of composure. The Senators are drafting one of the top defensive prospects with this selection who will fit well into their increasingly youthful core.
13th overall: The Carolina Hurricanes select, from the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League, center Tyson Jost.
CM: After trading captain and No. 1 center Eric Staal at this year's trade deadline, the Hurricanes need someone to fill that void, and have their choice of several talented pivots in this year's draft. Jost has done exactly could be expected of someone playing their draft year in a junior A league – dominate and produce points by the boatload. He combines top-level playmaking ability with a dangerous shot and a relentless work ethic to remain dangerous whenever he is on the ice. The diminutive forward has negated any concerns about his production against weaker competition in the BCHL, as he has consistently been one of the best players at all national and international competitions while playing against the top talent in his age group.
14th overall: The Boston Bruins select, from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, center Logan Brown.
KB: His 74 points in 59 games, and an impressive plus-24 rating, are a testament to his abilities at both ends of the ice. His big frame allows him to shield the puck and get a lot behind his release. Although he's not afraid to hit, his physical play could be improved. We're confident that Bergeron and Marchand can help him develop into a great defensive center and add some physical play to his game, respectively. Also, we wanted to give him a chance to not be the tallest guy on the team for once in his life.
15th overall: The Minnesota Wild select, from the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, left wing Tyler Benson.
CM: Benson, whose season has been riddled by a series of unfortunate injuries, remains one of this draft's most well-rounded players. With an acute sense of on-ice positioning and knowledge of the game, Benson is an extremely effective defensive forward who possesses the elite skill set to lead the offense as well. The former first overall selection in the WHL bantam draft has the highest ceiling of all remaining draft-eligible players, and will fit in well with a Minnesota system that is lacking top-end talent on the wing.
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Thanks for reading. Check back next week when we continue with the second half of the first round, followed by the second round in the weeks that follow. And feel free to give me a follow on Twitter.