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Aaron Vickers takes a shot at predicting the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft


Ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft, staff have taken a shot at predicting the first round. Here is Aaron Vickers' mock draft:

1. New Jersey Devils - Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Patrick, the top-ranked draft eligible all season long, plays a cerebral, complete game. He's a big time competitor and can carry a team. His IQ is unparalleled, which will allow him to adapt and play valuable minutes. He has the potential to develop into a true No. 1 center. 

2. Philadelphia Flyers - Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Hischier, who has continually climbed draft rankings throughout the season, is playmaking center with good skating agility to compliment excellent playmaking instincts, vision and passing skills. He has the potential to develop into the most explosive offensive forward from the draft.

3. Dallas Stars - Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Vilardi is a dynamic and often brilliant offensive attacker who has skilled hands and outstanding awareness. He looks to set up his teammates with timely passes, but is equally adept at finishing off the play when the opportunity is there. He has the potential to be a top-line center.

4. Colorado Avalanche - Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Liiga)

Heiskanen, a late-season riser who showed extremely well at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, has elite hockey sense and skating and is excellent at defending the rush in his own zone. He also has solid offensive upside. He has No. 1 potential as a two-way blueliner.

5. Vancouver Canucks - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (High-MN)

Mittelstadt is a smart, quick center with a quick release and excellent puckhandling skills. He can beat defenders on his own and gain the zone by utilizing either this hands, feet or brain. He showed well both on the high school circuit in Minnesota and in stints in the United States Hockey League. 

6. Vegas Golden Knights - Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Glass, another late-season riser, is a heady center with good IQ. At this stage, he is unpolished but has plenty of time to develop. He shows great compete and uses his size effectively, and while not overly flashy, does have an offensive element in his game.

7. Arizona Coyotes - Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Makar, who had an incredible season at all levels of play, is a dynamic offensive defenceman whose instincts and smarts with the puck are elite. He has a high level of awareness in all areas on the ice and has an innate understanding of how the play is developing. He has the upside to be the draft's most dynamic defenceman.

8. Buffalo Sabres - Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Tippett is a strong scoring winger with a natural touch. He gets to the right areas of the ice both with and without the puck, and has the pro-type shot and release to score. He has all the potential to be a top-six scoring winger.

9. Detroit Red Wings - Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Tolvanven, an underrated winger, is lethal in the offensive zone with his unreal shot and rapid release. He has the potential to add offence to where ever he goes, and has top-line potential as a productive winger with his quick thinking, high intensity and overall skill.

10. Florida Panthers - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL)

Liljegren, who has slid in many draft rankings as the season has gone on, is a flawless skater, really smooth hands, excellent shooter and is solid in the defensive end. He has the ability to carry the puck and make game-changing plays. He could develop into a top-pairing, two-way blueliner with refinement.

11. Los Angeles Kings - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Allsvenskan)

Pettersson is an energetic forward with highly creative hands, good work ethic and offensive skills. He is dangerous one-on-one, and possesses a combination of speed and agility that make him dangerous offensively.

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)

Andersson has impressive smarts that help fuel his strong, two-way game. He has improved his shot and scoring skills throughout the season, and possesses good decision-making, leadership qualities and an advanced understanding of the game.

13. Winnipeg Jets - Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Valimaki is strong, minute-munching, two-way, dependable blueliner who doesn't possess a lot of high-end offensive flash or dash to his game, but just makes the right play consistently with little panic.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Hague, a hulking blueliner, is a fluid skater despite his imposing size, displaying a great stride. He handles the puck respectably and is a lethal shooter. He can also shut down the play and is a driver on the ice.

15. New York Islanders - Martin Necas, C, Brno (CZREP)

Necas is a strong, offensive-minded forward who has explosive, darting speed complimented by good lateral agility. His smooth hands and shot make him a contributor both in creating and finishing.

16. Calgary Flames - Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (SHL)

Vesalainen is a big, strong winger who has the ability to impact the game in many ways. He plays a versatile, high-tempo offensive game and has the ability to mix a heavy game with very soft, skilled hands. 

17, Toronto Maple Leafs - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Foote, the son of longtime NHL defenceman Adam Foote, plays a simple, risk-free game on the blueline. He moves well for his size, can chip in a bit in the offensive end and is an eraser when the puck comes into his own end. 

18. Boston Bruins - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Rasmussen, an imposing pivot, is a big, skilled center who uses his size well. His size isn't a detriment to his skating, and he's able to use an underrated set of talents to change the game with a skilled play as much as he's able to do so with his body.

19. San Jose Sharks - Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Yamamoto, despite his size, is a dynamic playmaker who has the ability to impact a game on any shift. He possesses great quickness and an ability to separate himself from opponents via his first-step. He's no stranger to finishing, either. 

20. St. Louis Blues - Klim Kostin, C, Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

Kostin, who was injured for much of the season, showed he can play a power game with his big frame and strong work ethic. He displays a strong sense of what's going on around him on the ice, and can either stickhandle around a defenceman or simply bull his way around them. 

21. New York Rangers - Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)

Oettinger, considered by many to be the top draft eligible goaltender, is an athletic stopper who fits the prototypical NHL mould with his blend of imposing size and ability to move around smoothly in his crease. He has all the makings of a starting goalie in the NHL. 

22. Edmonton Oilers - Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL)

Brannstrom, while somewhat undersized for a defenceman, is a highly skilled offensive rearguard who displays smooth skating, great poise with the puck and impressive vision. He has the ability to help break the puck out of his own end with strong passing and can serve as a powerplay quarterback with similar skills. 

23. Arizona Coyotes (via Minnesota) - Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)

Ratcliffe, one of the biggest forwards available in the draft, is a raw but skilled prospect with loads of potential. He uses his size to his advantage and has a mean streak to his game, and shows good skating and puckhandling ability for a player that towers over most of his opponents.  

24. Columbus Blue Jackets - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Suzuki, the Canadian Hockey League's top sportsman, has impressive quickness in his feet and an enviable top speed that displays equal parts of agility and shiftiness. His hands are quick, and he uses them in part to display creativity and poise with the puck. 

25. Montreal Canadiens - Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

Comtois, regarded as one of the top-ranked skaters from the QMJHL, is a big winger who is able to play in all three zones. He is a heady player, and can generate the speed to separate himself from defenders off the rush. His best asset is his ability to finish plays. 

26. Chicago Blackhawks - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)

Poehling, a do-it-all center, has a great work ethic and great hockey sense. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but his anticipation and understanding of the game rarely sees him out of position. He shows strong anticipation in all three zones and is a 200-foot player. 

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washinton) - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Liiga)

Vaakanainen is an intelligent, two-way defender who reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck. He's a steady player who shows composure with the puck, whether it is either at the offensive blue line or breaking the play out of his own end. 

28. Ottawa Senators - Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

Bowers, a Canadian playing in the United States Hockey League, has a good base to build on as he continues his development. He plays a strong, 200-foot game and has a solid set of all-around skills. He's a steady, but not necessarily flashy, center. 

29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) - Michael DiPietro, G, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

DiPietro, one of the top goalies in major junior this season, is a touch undersized compared to the more traditional NHL goaltender but more than makes up for it with his impressive athleticism and anticipation in the crease. He's a bit of a battler who shows upside as a starting goalie in the NHL.

30. Nashville Predators - Marcus Davidsson, C, Djugardens (SHL)

Davidsson is a well-rounded, two-way center who is still developing many of the skills that could see him develop into an impressive forward. He has skilled enough hands to navigate traffic well, and his vision allows him to utilize his teammates well. He's equally adept in the defensive zone, too.

31. Pittsburgh Penguins - Matthew Strome, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

Strome, the brother of Ryan and Dylan Strome, isn't the fastest skater but more than makes up for it with strong vision and puckhandling ability. He can beat defenders on his own with an impressive reach, but also has the ability to distribute the puck to his teammates with his passing ability. 

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