One of the hallmarks of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas has been the unpredictability heading into the first round at United Center in Chicago on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
That's exemplified in the final mock drafts submitted by NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman, NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale and LNH.com staff writer Guillaume Lepage. The differences started at the top and continued through most of the 31 selections.
Brandon center Nolan Patrick will be the first choice by the New Jersey Devils, according to Kimelman and Morreale. Lepage believes the Devils will select Halifax center Nico Hischier.
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Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was limited to 33 games because of injuries but averaged 1.39 points per game, 10th-best in the Western Hockey League. He was voted the best professional prospect in the Canadian Hockey League.
Hischier (6-1, 178) who is from Switzerland, led Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookies with 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games. He was named the top rookie in the CHL.
"They are both great players," Devils general manager Ray Shero said. "Patrick went through injury this year but everybody knows he's a heck of a player and he's going to be very good. Hischier is a Swiss center with good size and talent. For us, these are two centers, two real good players. We're going to get one heck of a player, and at this point that's what this franchise needs."
Each of the draft experts see the rest of the top five differently. Lepage and Kimelman believe the Dallas Stars will select Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi at No. 3, and Morreale thinks they will select defenseman Cale Makar of Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. All three writers agree the Colorado Avalanche will select HIFK defenseman Miro Heiskanen at No. 4. Kimelman and Lepage think the Vancouver Canucks will select Eden Prairie (Minnesota) center Casey Mittelstadt at No. 5, but Morreale thinks they'll choose Portland center Cody Glass.
Glass will be the first selection of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, according to Kimelman and Lepage. Morreale predicts it will be Vilardi.
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It will be the first of three first-round selections for the Golden Knights, who acquired the 13th and 15th picks in trades with the Winnipeg Jets and New York Islanders on Wednesday. They're the first team with three first-round picks since the Boston Bruins in 2015.
Three other teams have multiple first-round picks. The Stars have their selection at No. 3 plus No. 29, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in the Patrick Eaves trade on Feb 24. The Arizona Coyotes have the seventh pick as well as No. 23, acquired from the Minnesota Wild in the trade for forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White on Feb. 26. The St. Louis Blues have their pick at No. 20 and No. 27 from the Washington Capitals, acquired in the trade for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on Feb. 27.
The NHL Draft Lottery set the order for the first 15 selections. The remainder of the first round was set by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Rounds 2-7 of the draft are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN)