1. Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon (C) QMJHL
I’ll be honest; I had Seth Jones going to the Avalanche for the longest time. A team with serious defensive issues and a good crop of centers were set up well to take the best defenseman in the draft, even if he wasn’t the best player.
However, it looks like Patrick Roy is going full-Edmonton here and eschewing much needed defensive help in favor of forwards, Nathan MacKinnon in this case. MacKinnon is probably the best player in the draft, but it’s always a risk to ignore the holes in the team. More power to them, and best of luck with that plan.
2. Florida Panthers – Jonathan Drouin (LW) QMJHL
Florida gets possibly the most explosive player in the draft with the No. 2 pick. Drouin will be a nice fit with Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau in what should eventually be a potent top line.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Aleksander Barkov (C) Finland
Martin St. Louis is old. Vincent Lecavlier is getting old. Steven Stamkos could find himself quickly wondering where all his help went. Barkov is a big-bodied playmaking machine and adds another solid forward to an already nice crop of forward prospects.
4. Nashville Predators – Seth Jones (D) WHL
This is probably a scenario that the Preds probably didn’t think would happen a month ago. Outside of Filip Forsberg, Nashville doesn’t have a lot of top-end offensive talent in the prospects system and could have really used one of the top guys in this draft. While Nichushkin could certainly be in play, Jones is too good to pass up as he brings a good skill set of offensive abilities as well. Nashville probably can’t wait to pair Jones with Shea Weber in a year or two.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – Valeri Nichushkin (RW) KHL
Carolina desperately needs some defensive help, and Darnell Nurse certainly looks like he’ll be there, but I have Carolina going with best player available here with Nichushkin.
The Hurricanes have very little in the prospect pool at the forward position (same with the defense, but at least Ryan Murphy is there), and Nichushkin is a dynamic offensive talent. He could have an immediate impact that a defenseman couldn’t for Carolina.
6. Calgary Flames – Elias Lindholm (C) SHL
A team in full rebuild mode gets a fantastic two-way center here in Lindholm. Sean Monahan seems like a better fit here, being a Canadian kid and all, but I think Lindholm is the better player of the two.
7. Edmonton Oilers – Darnell Nurse (D) OHL
At some point the Oilers had to take a defenseman with their first pick of the draft, and that seems destined to happen this year. It would provide a good chuckle though if Edmonton continued to go offense and went with someone like Monahan or Shinkaruk in this spot.
8. Buffalo Sabres – Hunter Shinkaruk (C/LW) WHL
He’s a smaller player and goes against the Sabres philosophy of acquiring size and toughness that they seem to have established in the past few seasons. Buffalo needs offense though, and Shinkaruk is a skilled forward. The Sabres don’t have much in prospect talent at the forward position after Mikhail Grigorenko and very little at the wings.
9. New Jersey Devils – Sean Monahan (C) OHL
He’s a big, smart, two-way forward and looks to be one of the safer picks in the draft. New Jersey has basically no good forward prospects in the system, and Monahan would be great value here.
David Clarkson may not be back with the team next year and center help will be needed very soon. Monahan has the mentality of a future captain.