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Paul Mawdsley takes a shot at predicting the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft

by PAUL MAWDSLEY @pmawdsley23 /

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

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

He's been the guy from the very start of the draft process. But just like in year's past, another player puts together a great season and makes a charge for the top spot. Last season it was Patrik Laine who put on a great campaign to knock off Austin Matthews for the top spot and in 2015 it was Jack Eichel who put forth a valiant effort to go number one over Connor McDavid. Just like those drafts, the team in the top spot will stick with the guy who's been at the top the whole time.

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

The young centre really blossomed in 2017, scoring 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads. Hischier really turned heads with his dynamic skating ability and poise with the puck. He's got the size and skill to be a major factor at the NHL level.

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

One of the OHL's top players in 2016/17, Vilardi is a big centre who has great offensive awareness and the dynamic skill to take advantage. While he is not the fastest player on the ice, he can maneuver in a phone booth and make things happen with a great passing ability.

4. Colorado Avalanche - Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

With talented, young centres Matt Duchene and Tyson Jost already in the stable, the Avalanche pick up the drafts top winger. Tippett is a speedster who has a knack for finding the back of the net, proven by his 44 goals in 60 games for the Mississauga Steelheads.

5. Vancouver Canucks - Cody Glass, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Having grown a couple of inches and gained some muscle in the process, Glass has been rising up draft boards around the NHL. Glass plays strong on the puck and uses his excellent speed to create space and finish with his quick release.

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

At 6-foot-1 and 200-pounds, Mittelstadt has ideal size to go along with his elite skill. Playing for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, the centre put up 30 points in just 24 games. He has a fantastic first step and can use his quickness to make defenders miss.

7. Arizona Coyotes - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL)

The Coyotes stopped a top ranked defenceman from falling last year in Jacob Chychrun, and that has worked out pretty well for them. This time around, they get a fast, strong player who many thought would be a top-five pick at the start of the year. Injuries derailed his season, but the potential is still there for the young Finn and Arizona is hoping to reap the rewards of his tumble to seventh.

8. Buffalo Sabres - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Allsvenskan)

The left-handed shooter does everything you ask out of a top-flight forward. He's a good skater with soft hands and an ability to find open space on the ice. One-one-one, he's extremely tough to stop. He's not overly physical, but he won't shy away from necessary contact.

9. Detroit Red Wings - Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Teams are always on the lookout for the next big puck moving defenceman, and the Red Wings might have found him in Valimaki. The 6-foot-2 Swede is a workhorse who is effective on both ends of the ice. While not flashy in the offensive zone, his ability to put the puck on net and make tape-to-tape passes are what make him a threat in the attacking end.

10. Florida Panthers - Klim Kostin, C, Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

A big body, a non-stop motor, and a quick release - that's what the Panthers are getting with the versatile forward. Kostin is a guy that will work hard in the dirty areas and use his size to keep possession of the puck. Once he fills out his big frame, he could be a beast in the NHL.

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

A Calgary native, Makar is also one of the draft's top defencemen. He is a tremendous skater who offers plenty of upside because of his offensive game. Defensively, he has a high level of awareness and uses his positioning to beat the opposition.

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Martin Necas, C, Brno (CZREP)

An offensive-minded centre, Necas has great lateral movement and can make defenders miss in space. He has good vision of the ice and can dissect the play quickly when on the rush.

13. Winnipeg Jets - Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Liiga)

With a number of high profile forwards on the Jets roster, they look to bolster the back-end with a fantastic two-way defender in Heiskanen. He has great vision and makes smart passes out of his own zone.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City (USHL)

Although he's a bit undersized, Tolvanen exhibits great speed, skill, and intensity on the ice. The winger has a quick release and a powerful shot, making his one-timer extremely dangerous. He loves to shoot and should become an effective goal scorer at the highest level.

15. New York Islanders - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

At 6-foot-5, Rasmussen is one of the biggest players in the draft. For a kid his size, he moves well and is able to win battles in the corners. He has found a home in front of the crease, where he can fish for rebounds or deflect pucks into the net.

16. Calgary Flames - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Following a similar storyline to last year's draft, the Flames once again take a player with a strong NHL lineage. Foote is a big, right-shot defenceman who has a powerful shot from the point. He is able to use his size and skating ability to take away time and space from opposing forwards.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

The 5-foot-10 centre showed a penchant for scoring in the OHL as he finished the 2016-17 season ranked fifth with 45 goals and 51 assists. Although he is a tad undersized, he flashes a high hockey IQ and an ability to play on both special teams units.

18. Boston Bruins - Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)

The Bruins pick up an intelligent centre who has the hockey IQ, leadership, and decision making qualities of a more mature player. Andersson is not the most skilled centre in the draft, but he brings solid instincts in the offensive zone and always makes the right play.

19. San Jose Sharks - Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

Hague is a large young man at 6-foot-6, but he combines that size with plenty of skill. He has good straight line speed, which helps him when retreating back into his own zone. He has a big point shot and he has the potential to be a big-time offensive contributor from the back-end.

20. St. Louis Blues - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)

A solid 200-foot player, Poehling is a very smart player on ice who can beat defenders with a great hockey sense. He's a reliable player who makes the right plays and is rarely out of position on the ice.

21. New York Rangers - Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)

A big boy - 6-foot-5 to be exact - Ratcliffe loves to throw his weight around on the ice. He's a strong skater with a big shot, but is still fairly raw. 

22. Edmonton Oilers - Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Despite his small stature (5-foot-8), Yamamoto exhibits some dynamic playmaking ability. The feisty winger uses good speed and agility to find open space where he can take advantage of his creative hands and quick shot.

23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) - Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

A dependable winger who can play in all zones, Comtois is a big kid with a great idea of what he's doing on the ice. He makes smart decisions quickly and can take advantage of any space he's given because of his elite shot.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets - Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

A gritty centre, Bowers can make life hard on the opposition. He uses his body well to protect the puck and he's willing to go play in the dirty areas. Armed with a quick shot, he is quite dangerous around the net.

25. Montreal Canadians - Robert Thomas, C, London Knights (OHL)

The London Knights seem to be a factory for first round picks. This year, it's Rob Thomas, who is a strong two-way player that does everything well. He makes good reads and plays with tenacity.

26. Chicago Blackhawks - Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL)

At 5-foot-10, the Swede won't be the biggest player on the ice, but he's a smooth skater with exceptional skill for a blueliner. He has a great stick in the defensive zone and he uses his positioning well to angle players away from the net.

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington) - Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (SHL)

The big winger has a hard shot and quick release, but it's his ability to make tape-to-tape passes that round out his offensive game. He plays a heavy game and does a lot of damage in the corners and in front of the opposition's net.

28. Ottawa Senators - Joshua Norris, C, NTDP U18 (USHL)

The American plays with lots of energy and contributes on both ends of the ice. He's a good stick-handler who does a good job of protecting the puck. While he may not be the most skilled forward in the draft, his consistent high-tempo style of play creates quality chances more often than not.

29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim) - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Liiga)

Vaakanainen is a strong defender who can also make an impact in the offensive zone. He moves the puck out of his own zone with ease and shows excellent speed to join the rush.

30. Nashville Predators - Kole Lind, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

With soft hands and good size, Lind is able to hang on to the puck for lengthy periods of time. He combines good awareness with great agility and acceleration to beat defenders. Lind has the ability to score with a good shot, but his passing ability is his bread and butter.

31. Pittsburgh Penguins - Marcus Davidsson, C, Djugardens (SHL)

Davidsson has a well-rounded game, but is still developing physically and could become an even better play-making forward. He's a great passer already and that skill should translate right away.

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