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Mock Draft: First Round of 2017 NHL Draft; Elias Pettersson to LA Kings

Adam Kimelman projects the First Round of the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor Deputy Managing Editor Adam Kimelman projects the top 15 selections in the 2017 NHL Draft:

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

The Devils get the franchise center they need to invigorate an offense that averaged 2.20 goals per game this season, third-fewest in the League. Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) played 33 games because of injuries but was 10th in the Western Hockey League at 1.39 points per game. The injuries won't prevent him from going No. 1. Scouts still remember him winning MVP of the WHL playoffs last season as a 17-year-old.

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

Born in Switzerland, Hischier (6-1, 176) made the move to the smaller North American ice look easy this season, when he had 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games. Scouts love his poise and willingness to play hard in all three zones.

3. Dallas Stars - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (HIGH-MN)

The talented center not only dominated his high school league and was named Mr. Hockey in Minnesota, he led the United States Hockey League with 1.25 points per game in 24 games with Green Bay. Mittelstadt (6-1, 201) is committed to the University of Minnesota, but it might not be long before he adds some depth through the middle in Dallas.

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

Heiskanen's two-way skill set, skating and smarts would fill a big need for the Avalanche. As a 17-year-old this season, he had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games with HIFK in Liiga, the top league in Finland. Heiskanen (6-0, 170) was dominant against players his age at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, when he had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in seven games.

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

Vilardi (6-3, 201) used the 2017 Memorial Cup as a final showcase of his ability to dominate from the faceoff circles down in the offensive zone, with seven points, all assists, in four games. As the Canucks look ahead to a time without Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin in the lineup, having Vilardi and Bo Horvat through the middle would provide a solid foundation for a climb up the standings.

6. Vegas Golden Knights - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL)

At 6-6, 215 pounds, Rasmussen has the size and skill set to become a foundational player for Vegas. He's considered an outstanding skater and had 32 goals in 50 games prior to season-ending surgery for a broken wrist in March. He's expected to be healthy for training camp, and because of his size and skill set, he could start the season in the NHL.

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

The Coyotes have stockpiled skilled young forwards and now find a defenseman who can get them the puck. Makar (5-11, 180) excels offensively, with the ability to skate the puck out of trouble or make smart breakout passes. He led Alberta Junior Hockey League defensemen and was sixth in the league with 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 54 games. Despite playing against what some might consider lower-level competition, scouts saw him dominate. He's committed to UMass-Amherst next season, but he could be in the NHL before too long.

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

The Sabres need offensive talent, and some scouts believe Tippett (6-0, 200) is the best goal-scorer in the 2017 NHL Draft. He had 44 goals this season, fifth-most in the Ontario Hockey League. With an NHL-caliber shot and excellent skating ability, some scouts have compared Tippett to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel.

9. Detroit Red Wings - Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)

Scouts love his consistency and high hockey IQ. Glass (6-2, 178) won't overwhelm with pure skill, but his smarts allow him to be in the right position to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates. His game got better as the season progressed, and he was tied for seventh in the WHL with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 69 games.

10. Florida Panthers - Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (SWE)

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon likes to build around big, talented forwards, making Vesalainen (6-3, 207) a solid choice here. He skates well for his size, has a good shot, wins battles along the wall, and is strong enough to hold his position when he gets to the net. At 17, he's already played in the Swedish Hokey League and Liiga, and he was dominant for Finland at the World U-18 Championship with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in seven games.

11. Los Angeles Kings - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (SWE-2)

The Kings need to add offense, and Pettersson is a highly skilled, creative forward who can play in the middle or on the wing. He spent the entire season in Allsvenskan, Sweden's second division, and at age 18 had 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 43 games. At 6-2, 161 pounds, he needs to get bigger, but he isn't shy when it comes to getting to the net in the offensive zone. He plays smart and is positionally strong defensively. 

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)

Suzuki (5-11, 183) was in the top five in the OHL in goals (45, fourth) and points (96, fifth), but his real assets are his smarts, nonstop energy and willingness to work hard in all three zones. Suzuki would be a nice complement to a burgeoning young core of forwards that includes Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm.

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

Three of the top four in ice time among Jets defensemen are 27 or older, led by Dustin Byfuglien, 32, who averaged 27:26 per game. Adding youth to the development pipeline is a must. Valimaki (6-2, 204) had 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 60 games this season. Scouts see him as the prototypical modern-day defenseman, able to use his high hockey IQ to know when to take the puck and go on the attack or find the open player for a quick pass to start a breakout.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Klim Kostin, C/LW, Dynamo Moscow (RUS)

Kostin (6-3, 196) played 17 games with three teams this season, including his first eight games in the Kontinental Hockey League, but surgery for a shoulder injury ended his season in January. Scouts saw him dominate early in the season at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup with seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games for Russia. Kostin is an offensive talent who skates well. He said he intends to play somewhere in North America next season. Kootenay of the Western Hockey League has his Canadian Hockey League rights, but he told he doesn't want to play there.

15. New York Islanders - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SWE)

Liljegren (6-0, 191) felt he never had a chance to show his talents this season. He had mononucleosis in September and a hip injury later in the season, and he played for four teams at four different levels, keeping him from getting into any kind of rhythm. But when he was at his best, he showed creative offensive skills and outstanding skating. He needs to refine his decision making, and with better luck he should be ready for the NHL after one more season in Sweden.

16. Calgary Flames - Martin Necas, C, Brno (CZREP)

Necas brings high-energy, high-speed play combined with the experience of 41 games against older, more developed competition in the top Czech Republic league. He had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) during the regular season and four goals in 10 playoff games. He needs to add some muscle to his 6-foot, 167-pound frame, but his offensive skills could make him a future second-line center for the Flames.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland (WHL)

An offensive-minded right-shot defenseman who excels at getting the puck out of the defensive zone to skilled forwards is exactly what the Maple Leafs need. He's a bit on the small side (6-0, 180), but that didn't prevent him from having a productive first season in North America with 48 points (nine goals, 39 points) in 71 games. He doesn't turn 18 until June 17.

18. Boston Bruins - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State

With top centers Patrice Bergeron (31) and >David Krejci (31) each nearing the end of his prime, there's a need to develop young centers. Poehling (6-2, 183) is a perfect fit. He knows how to use his long reach and big body to protect the puck in the offensive zone, and scouts like his vision and playmaking ability. He's also a smart player; he graduated high school a year early to play college hockey with his two older brothers. He turned 18 on Jan. 3 and was the youngest player in NCAA hockey.

19. San Jose Sharks - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)

Foote, the son of two-time Stanley Cup winner Adam Foote, excels at making smart, accurate passes out of the defensive zone. Scouts also like his intelligence and his NHL-ready size (6-4, 212), as well as an offensive game that continued to improve this season.

20. St. Louis Blues - Lias Andersson, C, HV 71 (SWE)

A highly skilled two-way forward, Andersson (5-11, 198) had a strong season with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 42 games, and had four goals in 16 gams to help HV 71 win the SHL championship. His offensive ceiling could be higher as he gets older.

21. New York Rangers - Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL)

The 5-10, 170-pound forward is an offensive dynamo who was tied for third in the USHL with 30 goals in 52 games. He can execute at high speed and can get his shot off from all areas of the ice. He'll continue to develop his game and add some strength at Boston College next season.

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

Yamamoto plays a fast, determined game that belies his size (5-8, 153). He's working on getting stronger, but his high-end hockey sense allows him to avoid bigger players and produce in the offensive zone. He was sixth in the WHL with 99 points (42 goals, 57 assists) in 65 games.

23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota Wild) - Nicolas Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL)

The Coyotes added skill to their defense with their first pick and now add size with Hague (6-5, 215). His enormous reach helps him in the defensive zone, and he showed an improved offensive game this season with 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 65 games.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets - Jason Robertson, LW, Kingston (OHL)

The Blue Jackets are looking for a goal-scorer, and Robertson (6-2, 192) had 42 goals in 68 games this season. His skating needs to improve, but his puck skills are top-notch and he can score from anywhere on the ice.

25. Montreal Canadiens - Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)

Bowers is a strong skater and gifted playmaker who is effective in all three zones. He patterns his game after Jonathan Toews, and like Toews he will take the college route to develop his game next season, at Boston University. At 6-1, 183, he could grow into a player with some good size through the middle.

26. Chicago Blackhawks - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (FIN)

With a defense that is beginning to show some age, adding Vaakanainen (6-1, 185) would be a nice start to building for the future. He's a good skater and puck-mover who can make smart passes out of the defensive zone. He likely won't be a big offensive producer, but he'll be someone the coach wants on the ice in the final minutes of a game to protect a lead.

27. St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) - Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

The versatile forward (6-2, 200) can play all three positions up front but might be best suited to the wing. He's shown the ability to excel in any kind of game, from up-tempo to more physical. He also knows how to use his body to protect the puck and carry it deep into the offensive zone to create scoring chances.

28. Ottawa Senators - Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (H-EAST)

As a true freshman, Oettinger (6-4, 212) started 35 games and led BU to the NCAA tournament with a 2.11 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts. He has a very good butterfly and does a good job covering the upper portions of the net. He's also a cerebral goaltender who showed great consistency from game to game.

29. Dallas Stars (from Anaheim Ducks) - Conor Timmins, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Timmins (6-1, 185) is an offensive-minded playmaker with top-end skating ability. He can lead the rush but get back into the defensive end if the play turns the other way.

30. Nashville Predators - Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph (OHL)

The Blues add another big, skilled forward with Ratcliffe (6-5, 200). He's strong in front of the net, and when he gets there he is good at tipping pucks and using his long reach to create scoring chances in close. He led Guelph with 28 goals in 67 games.

31. Pittsburgh Penguins - Aleksei Heponiemi, C, Swift Current (WHL)

Despite his small size (5-10, 147), Heponiemi thrived in his first season in North America after playing in Finland's junior league last season. He led WHL rookies with 86 points (28 goals, 58 assists) in 72 games. The goal will be adding strength without sacrificing the speed and elusiveness that make him so productive.

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