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MOCK DRAFT - GEORGE JOHNSON

George Johnson takes a shot at predicting the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft, CalgaryFlames.com staff have taken a shot at predicting the first round. Here is George Johnson's mock draft:

1. New Jersey Devils - Nico Hischier, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Strength down the middle is where teams start to rebuild and after five years out of playoffs, the Jersey reconstruction starts here. Scoring 38 goals and 86 points in his first season for the QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads, the Swiss-born Hischier received the Michael Bossy Trophy, emblematic of the league's most promising pro prospect. Finished second in team scoring and 10th in the Q, leading all rookies in both departments. Arguably most offensive-dynamic prospect available.

2. Philadelphia Flyers - Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Central Scouting's top prospect has the size - 6-foot-2, closing in on 200 pounds - and offensive panache to spare. The most NHL-ready of the top prospects. A spate of injuries that cost him a trip to the 2017 World Juniors won't deter the Flyers one iota. Is over a PPG guy - 205 in 163 games played - during his stay in Brandon and put up 45 points in 49 playoff dates for the Wheaties, as well. Fits the traditional Philly profile.

3. Dallas Stars - Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Liiga)

In a centre-laden draft, the Stars may look outside to a commodity that has - a mobile, puck-moving d-man. Outside of soon-to-be 25-year-old John Klingberg, the Dallas defence needs shoring, and brightening, up. Representing his country at both the U18s and World Juniors, Heiskanen was playing regularly for HIFK, against men, at 17 and contributed 10 points in 37 games as a debut turn.

4. Colorado Avalanche - Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Sure he needs to pack a few pounds onto that 6-foot-2-inch frame but the Portland Winterhawks' No. 1 centre fast-tracked himself up the NHL wish-list over the course of the season, piling up 94 points (including 62 helpers) to finish seventh in WHL scoring. The Winnipeg-born centre played for Canada in the U18s and the fact that he likely needs another year of junior seasoning. The wait should be worth it.

5. Vancouver Canucks - Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Hugely competitive appetite. Owing to Windsor's depth at centre, Vilardi received a of time out on the wing from Spitfires' coach Rocky Thompson, adding to his allure for scouts. At 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, just the sort of stubborn cuss that Canucks' GM Trevor Linden favours. Came back strong from injuries - a knee injury suffered during a Hockey Canada's under-18 training camp and then an appendectomy in November - to produced 61 points in only 49 OHL contests last winter. Contributed seven assists to Windsor's Memorial Cup-winning cause.

6. Las Vegas Golden Knights - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (High-MN)

With a honeymoon period guaranteed the expansion Golden Knights, there's time to wait for a prospect as enticing as the . Already 6-1 and a shade over 200 pounds, he racked up 64 points in his final high-school campaign. Mittlelstadt also showed in a stint with the USHL Green Bay Gamblers, registering 30 points in 24 starts. Received Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award as the top senior high-school player in the state.

7. Arizona Coyotes - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

The departure of longtime mainstay Martin Hanzal to Minnesota near the end of the season left the 'Yotes in need of a sizeable presence at centre for own the road a ways. That would be nicely filled by Rasmussen, a 6-foot-6, Vancouver-born pivot, ranked No. 5 on Central Scouting's final list of North American Skaters. Rasmussen scored 55 points, including 32 goals (15 via the powerplay) for Tri-City.

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

The Sabres right side is in need of some revitalization, Kyle Okposo's 19 goals aside. Captain Brian Gionta, for instance, is 38. Which is why Tippett, a 44-goal scorer for the Mississauga Steelheads (fifth best in the OHL) makes a nice fit here. Also chipped in with 10 goals and 19 points in Mississauga's playoff push. Blessed with a great shot and the size - 6-3, 203 pounds - to play a grinding game, in front of the net and along the woodwork, as well.

9. Detroit Red Wings - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL)

The consecutive playoff-years streak is over and so the overhaul begins in Motown. What better way to kick it off than selecting the man the many scouts are calling this draft's top defenceman. The Wings, after all, have done pretty well with Swedish-born d-men in the past. Missed nearly two months last season due to mononucleosis but rebounded with a strong Five Nations Tournament. Coveted for his skating ability, agility and playmaking acumen.

10. Florida Panthers - Martin Necas, C, Brno (CZREP)

Concerns about his 167-pound frame aside, Necas is indisputably among the most dynamic, creative offensive players available in this draft. A superb playmaker. Some of the physicality fears have been allayed this season, playing in the Czech's top league. Cleary, though, he'll require time and additional poundage to make the transition to the NHL game.

11. Los Angeles Kings - Cale Makar, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

The Rob Blake-Luc Robitaille era has begun in L.A., and the re-shift in focus to attack. Blake, an Hall of Fame d-man himself, must salivate at the undersized Calgarian - listed at 5-10 and 180 pounds - who's wowed 'em as leader of the AJHL Brooks Bandits. Blessed with the intuitive offensive panache. Won both the AJHL's MVP and playoff MVP and was a finalist for the CJHL's Top Defenceman Award. Has committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen this fall.

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Elias Pettersson, C/LW, Timra (Allsvenskan)

The second-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, a beanpole centre, with only 161 pounds tacked onto a rangy 6-2 frame, but there's plenty to like about his game. Spent the entirety of 2016-217 with Second Division Timra at home in Sweden, putting up nice numbers - 41 points in 43 games. A pure talent in a draft hardly top-heavy on sure-fire picks for right way well worth the investment in time and patience.

13. Winnipeg Jets - Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

What's that thing about Winnipeg and prodigious Finnish snipers, anyway? Selanne, Laine and … Tolvanen? This match just feels SO right. Tolvanen has North American experience, leading the USHL Sioux City Musketeers in scoring and finishing eighth in the league with 54 points in 52 starts. At the 5-10 and 170-pounds, can play either flank. Ranked among the USHL leaders in shots on goal. Chipped in with six points for Team Finland at the 2017 World Juniors.

14. Carolina Hurricanes - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Owning an impeccable lineage, the son of two-time Stanley Cup champion Adam Foote, nearing 6-foot-3 and 213-pounds, is one of those cornerstone d-men that, with a bit of experience, teams build around. Extremely dependable defensively, just like his pa, Foote showed enough offensive saavy to chip in with 51 assists to the Rockets' cause moving forward. A right-handed shot with tremendous mobility.

15. New York Islanders - Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Intelligent, slick, puck-moving defenceman who posted 61 points in 60 games for the Americans this past season. Noted for his maturity at both ends of the ice. Poised more than flashy, registered two goals at the 2017 World Juniors.

16. Calgary Flames - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Sparkplug centreman finished second in OHL scoring this season at 96 points - including 45 snipes - and 23 more over 17 playoff appearances. Received the William Hanley Trophy as most sportsmanlike player in the 'O. Flames' GM Brad Treliving is constantly talking about adding strength down centre. This would be another. A real find, if he's still available.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Lias Andersson, C, Frolunda (Sweden)

A versatile 5-foot-11 forward versatile enough to be play both in the middle and on the left flank. An impressive World Junior tournament - three goals in seven games - and solid season in Sweden's top loop (nine goals, 19 points in 45 starts) are attractive features at this selection spot. Scouts rate his two-way game highly.

18. Boston Bruins - Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)

A skyscraper-sized left winger, Ratcliffe led the Storm with 28 goals this past soon and finished second in points (67), making significant progress as the season wore on. Currently listed at 200 pounds, still plenty of room to add weight to that imposing 6-foot-6 frame. Finished 15th among North American skaters on the final Central League list. Fits the Boston mould. 

19. San Jose Sharks, Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)

Projected as a solid two-way centre, Poehling starred at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, scoring four goals in as many games, then raised eyebrows at the 2016 USA Hockey All-American Prospect Game. In a draft of projections, this is a project pick but the rewards could be off the charts. He scored seven goals and produced 13 points in his rookie year with St. Cloud.

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

The first-round wild card. Who'll roll the dice? Reported to possess other-worldly offensive skills, yet suffered a disappointing bow with KHL Moscow Dynamo (no points in nine games), then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in January playing in the Russian second tier. Still the top-rated European skater in Central Scouting's year-end rankings. Could be a nice fit with Vladimir Tarasenko down the road a stretch.

21. New York Rangers - Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (SHL)

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound Finnish power forward. Scouts drool over Vesalainen's rare combination of size and speed but is coming off a decidedly undistinguished season split between Sweden and Finland. Debuted in the Swedish league at the tender age of 16. An impressive turn at the U18 World Juniors put him back on the radar of many teams. A pretty good gamble at this stage of the draft.

22. Edmonton Oilers - Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Blessed with a cupboard overflowing with offensively talented players, the Oilers must be looking to stack stockpiling the back. At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Hague's a beast out there and has the tools to develop into that shutdown d-man to use against top players and lines and has the hockey IQ that allows him to be a contributing powerplay point man. Skating is still an issue in the eyes of some scouts.

23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) - Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Responsible for an astounding 42 of Kingston's 179 goals scored this season. Has compiled 133 points in 137 career OHL games. Skating needs work. The Northville, Mi. product has good size at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds and is force to be reckoned with in front of the net. As one of the youngest players eligible for the draft, will require time and patience, but the raw ingredients are there. Plays in all situations.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets - Josh Norris, C, NTDP U18 (USHL)

The product of Oxford, Mi. played the last two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. Impressed with three goals and four assists to at the 2017 Five Nations Tournament in Sundsvall, Sweden, leading the tournament in scoring as U.S. claimed gold. Committed to the University of Michigan.

25. Montreal Canadiens - Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

Rangy d-man who bolted up the Greyhounds' pecking order over a breakout season. Among the fast-trackers from the beginning of the season to its end. After picking up only 13 points last year, he bumped up to 61 this past campaign, including 54 helpers, which illustrates his passing proficiency. Scouts love his hockey smarts.

26. Chicago Blackhawks - Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)

Another of the London Knights' factory, noted for a 200-foot game. As the No. 1 centre, is used to handling responsibility. Averaged a point a game in 66 starts and contributed 12 more in 14 playoff assignments. Being compared to Vancouver's Bo Horvat.

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington) - Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Smallish, slick, lickety-split winger who led the Chiefs with 99 points - 42 goals, 57 assists - this season, good for sixth in the WHL. Named to the league's second all-star team. Excellent hockey sense and nifty hands. Compared to Calgary dynamo Johnny Gaudreau.

28. Ottawa Senators - Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Made a nice jump offensively with the Rockets, going from 14 goals and 41 points in '15-16 to 30 and 87 in his sophomore season. Led his team in scoring. Like so many prospects, needs a little more meat on the ol' bones. At 6-1, loves to get in on the forecheck.

29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) - Alexsi Heponiemi, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Nifty playmaking centre, as his 58 helpers for the Broncos illustrates. Pint-sized, Helsinki-born Heponiemi had five assists for Finland at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Did an amazing adapting job at the Major Junior level, leading all WHL rookies in points with 86.

30. Nashville Predators - Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Right-handed d-man adept at moving the puck. Not overly physical. On an emerging Nashville blueline, would add another fantastic piece in a year or two. Very fluid skater. Forty-eight points in his rookie season in North America. CHL Top Prospects Game Player of the Game (Team Cherry).

31. Pittsburgh Penguins, Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

In an impressive rookie season two years ago, scored 60 points in 62 games and was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team. Prior to last season starred at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, scoring four goals in five games but slipped to 51 points for Victoriaville and his stock in the eyes of some scouts dropped.

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