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NHL Draft

NHL Draft: 5 questions

Golden Knights selection at No. 6, first defenseman to be chosen among intriguing topics

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Who will be the No. 1 pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas?

Many expect the New Jersey Devils to choose between centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. The Philadelphia Flyers have the No. 2 pick and Dallas Stars have the No. 3 selection.

The first round of the draft at United Center is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

 

[RELATED: Complete NHL Draft coverage]

 

Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) from Brandon of the Western Hockey League, and Hischier (6-1, 178) from Halifax of the Quebec Montreal Junior Hockey League, are Nos. 1 and 2 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

Video: Nolan Patrick - Prospect Profile

Each was asked how he differs from the other.

"I think Nico is a tremendous player; an unbelievable skater with skill and he can shoot the puck too," Patrick said. "I think I might be a little bigger than him and a little more defensive but I think he's a great player. I've seen him play a couple of games and he plays a 200-foot game and competes hard."

Video: Alan Hepple discusses Nico Hischier

"Nolan has really good size; I don't think he has any weaknesses," Hischier said. "He's a complete player, skates really well and has a good shot, good hands and good vision. I would say I like to spin away from players more than he does."

Here are five other questions entering the draft:

 
1. Who will be selected No. 3?

If the Dallas Stars keep the pick, they might choose the best remaining center or defenseman. The Stars have a multitude of quality defensemen in the pipeline in Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns and Niklas Hansson, so forwards Gabriel Vilardi (6-3, 202) of Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, center Casey Mittelstadt (5-11, 199) of Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota or Cody Glass (6-2, 177) of Portland in the Western Hockey League might be high on their list. If the Stars opt for a defenseman, it likely will be either Cale Makar (5-11, 187) of Brooks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League or Miro Heiskanen (6-1, 172) of HIFK in Finland. It's very possible general manager Jim Nill, who has two first-round picks (No. 3 and No. 29) will trade for an established player to fill an immediate role.

 

2. Who will be the first defenseman drafted?

Makar has a lot of upside with his tremendous skating and offensive ability, and for that reason he might be the first defenseman off the board. Makar, who will attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League Defenseman of the Year, and Alberta Junior Hockey League defenseman of the year and player of the year. A right-handed shot, he has great lateral movement with the puck on his stick, is quick and elusive. He had 135 points (35 goals, 100 assists) in 111 career AJHL regular-season games. Heiskanen is also very high on many draft boards so don't be surprised if the Finland-born defenseman goes earlier than expected and before Makar.

Video: Breaking down defensive prospect Cale Makar

 

3. Will a goaltender be selected in the first round?

The 2017 draft class was considered to be deep at center and goaltender. There are a few solid goalie prospects but Boston University freshman Jake Oettinger (6-4, 218) is a good bet to be taken in the first round. He led Hockey East with a 2.09 goals-against average in league games and went 21-11-3 with a 2.11 GAA, two shutouts and .927 save percentage in 35 games.

"Hearing that I could potentially be selected in the first round would be a dream come true," Oettinger said. "I don't think it adds any more pressure but it just adds a bit more excitement."

 

4. Who will be the first pick of the Vegas Golden Knights?

Vegas might want to develop talent down the middle and there could be plenty of centers to choose from with the No. 6 selection, including Mittelstadt, Vilardi and Glass. Four other international players who could be considered are Klim Kostin of Dynamo Moscow (KHL), Martin Necas of Brno (CZE), Lias Andersson of HV71 (SWE) and Elias Pettersson of Timra (SWE-2).

 

5. How many trades can we expect over the two-day draft?

Expect there to be a lot more than the 16 made over two days at the 2016 draft because the expansion Golden Knights will be looking to fortify their prospect pool with as many quality players and future picks as possible.

"You never know with the trade front," Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "I don't think there will be any difference in the activity this year. You still make calls whether there's interest or not to see or find out what exactly might be going on and to try and keep ahead of the game."

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