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NHL Draft

Mock Draft: Matthews gives Toronto No. 1 center

NHL.com's Adam Kimelman projects top 30 selections

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

1. Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (SUI)

The Maple Leafs have needed a No. 1 center since Mats Sundin left after the 2007-08 season. Matthews (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) already has proven he can excel at a high level against older, more developed competition. He was runner-up for the most valuable player award in National League A in Switzerland and led the United States with six goals in 10 games at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.

2. Winnipeg Jets - Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara (FIN)

Laine already has NHL-ready size (6-3, 201), and his shot and ability to get it off quickly has been compared to Hockey Hall of Fame member Brett Hull. Like Matthews, Laine showed he could excel against men when he won the MVP at the World Championship. He should step into a top-six role next season.

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3. Columbus Blue Jackets - Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (FIN)

The 6-3, 208-pound forward fell out of the headlines because of a knee injury but showed he was healthy at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship when he had five goals and seven points in four games. That followed his dominant effort at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he had 17 points in seven games, tied for the second-most ever by an under-18 player (Jaromir Jagr, 18, 1990).

4. Edmonton Oilers - Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia (OHL)

Chychrun has NHL-ready size (6-2, 200) and might be the most complete defenseman in the draft pool. He's solid defensively and his offensive numbers will be better when he gets around better talent.

5. Vancouver Canucks - Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL)

General manager Jim Benning said he was looking for a top-line forward with the fifth pick, and Tkachuk has the skill to fill that role. Scouts have said the 6-1, 202-pound forward might be the best player in the 2016 draft class from the faceoff dots down in the offensive zone.

6. Calgary Flames - Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

Dubois had 42 goals and 99 points this season but he's more than just an offensive dynamo. He uses his size (6-2, 201) and skating just as well in the defensive zone, and displayed his hockey sense and skill by excelling at center, a position he never played before December.

7. Arizona Coyotes - Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL)

Juolevi said he was best the defenseman in the draft during the NHL Scouting Combine and a number of scouts agreed with him. His skating and offensive ability are top-notch, as is his hockey IQ. He showed little problem adjusting to the smaller North American rinks after arriving from his native Finland this season, and has room to add strength to his 6-2, 188-pound frame.

8. Buffalo Sabres - Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)

The Russian-born left-shot defender showed skill and snarl in his first North American season. He's got NHL-ready size (6-2, 221) and was named the best defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League after he had 17 goals in 67 games. He could push for an NHL roster spot next season. 

9. Montreal Canadiens - Logan Brown, C, Windsor (OHL)

Two of the biggest needs for the Canadiens are big forwards and depth through the middle. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Brown supplies both. He's a Joe Thornton-esque playmaker more than a goal scorer, but there's lots of room for him to grow his game, both skill-wise and strength-wise.

10. Colorado Avalanche - Charles McAvoy, D, Boston University (H-EAST)

The Avalanche have a number of talented forwards but need someone to get them the puck. McAvoy (6-0, 199) showed he could do just that as a college freshman against older, more developed competition. The right-shot defender is well-regarded for his skating, mobility and work ethic.

11. New Jersey Devils - Clayton Keller, C, USA U-18 (USHL)

Devils general manager Ray Shero said he's looking to add skill to the organization and Keller (5-10, 164) is a great place to start. He had 107 points in 62 games with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team this season. He'll continue to hone his skills next season at Boston University but it might not be too long before he adds his high-end ability to the Devils lineup.

12. Ottawa Senators - Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga (OHL)

The Senators need to cut down on the League-high 32.8 shots per game they allowed this season, but Nylander (6-0, 178) is too tantalizing a talent to pass on. Scouts love his speed, hockey sense and playmaking. And though he played on the wing this season, he also can play center.

13. Carolina Hurricanes - Tyson Jost, C, Penticton (BCHL)

The talented center had an outstanding season in the BCHL with 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games, and also led Canada in goals (six) and points (15) and was named the best forward at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Jost (5-11, 190) will face a higher level of play next season at the University of North Dakota, but he has the look of a building block for the Carolina offense.

14. Boston Bruins - Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)

Centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 30 years old but should still be useful players when the speedy McLeod (6-2, 185) is ready to make an impact. With 21 goals in 57 games he showed he could finish plays, but his strength was using his skating to create time and space for his linemates.

15. Minnesota Wild - Kieffer Bellows, LW, USA U-18 (USHL)

A 50-goal scorer this season with the NTDP U-18 team, Bellows (6-0, 197) would bring some needed skill and physicality along the wing to the organizational pipeline. He'll spend next season developing his game at Boston University, but scouts already like his shot and his willingness to use it in all areas of the ice.

16. Detroit Red Wings - Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL)

The offensive-minded left-shot defender led WHL defensemen with 24 goals in 68 games this season. At 6-foot and 173 pounds he needs to get stronger, but his skating and offensive skill would help raise the tempo and mesh will with their developing young forwards.

17. Nashville Predators - Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton (BCHL)

With the trade of Seth Jones on Jan. 6 and Shea Weber turning 31 in August, it's a good time to start adding some organizational depth on defense. They'll be able to wait for Fabbro (6-0, 192) to mature at Boston University, where he's scheduled to start in the fall. He had 67 points in 45 games, and scouts also like his defensive awareness and ability to read the play.

18. Philadelphia Flyers - Max Jones, LW, London (OHL)

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said he wants to get bigger up front, and at 6-2 and 206 pounds, Jones has the look of a future top-six power forward. He had 28 goals and 52 points in 63 games this season but needs to tame some of the wildness that got him 106 penalty minutes and a 12-game suspension in the OHL playoffs. That should come with maturity.

19. New York Islanders - Logan Stanley, D, Windsor (OHL)

Some physicality on defense would help and at 6-7 and 224 pounds, Stanley brings that element. He skates well for a player his size and likely will continue to improve. He won't be a big offensive producer, but could look pretty solid as the defensive half of a future pairing with Ryan Pulock. Stanley showcased his endurance at the combine by going 12:30 on the VO2 max bike test, the longest of any player.

20. Arizona Coyotes (from New York Rangers) - Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (BIG10)

Wisconsin struggled last season but Kunin (5-11, 193) managed to stand out with 32 points in 34 games as a freshman. He'll likely return for at least one more college season and will get top-end coaching next season from new Wisconsin coach Tony Granato.

21. Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings) - Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)

A pure sniper, Gauthier had 41 goals in 54 games this season. Scouts also like how the 6-3, 231-pound forward gets up and down the ice with a strong skating stride. He also was the only 2016 draft-eligible player to make Canada's roster for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship

22. Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks) - Dennis Cholowski, D, Chilliwack (BCHL)

Two of the Jets' top defensemen, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom, are 31, so now is the time to start looking to the future. Cholowski (6-1, 177) is an excellent skater with top-end hockey sense. He'll look to get stronger next season at St. Cloud State.

23. Florida Panthers - Alexander DeBrincat, RW, Erie (OHL)

DeBrincat has played alongside top-end centers Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome the past two seasons, but you still have to be pretty talented to score 102 goals in 128 games, especially with a 5-7, 165-pound frame. He anticipates the game well, has a quick release on an accurate shot and is fearless in getting to the net in the offensive zone.

24. Anaheim Ducks - Riley Tufte, LW, Blaine (HIGH-MN)

General manager Bob Murray said he was looking to add a left-shot left wing, and Tufte, a 6-5, 211-pound forward who will play next season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, has the potential to make a top-line impact. He won the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award this season, when he had 47 goals and 78 points in 25 high school games. He also had 10 goals in 27 games against better competition with Fargo of the United States Hockey League.

25. Dallas Stars - German Rubtsov, C, Team Russia U18 (RUS-JR)

The 6-foot, 178-pound forward had a solid offensive season with 26 points in 28 games, but scouts also like his hockey sense and defensive-zone play. Those two qualities would make him a good fit on a Lindy Ruff-coached team.

26. Washington Capitals - Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna (WHL)

The Capitals need to add some young defensemen to their organization and there's no better place to find one than Kelowna, which has produced, among others, Weber, the Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith and Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche. Johansen (6-1, 175), the younger brother of the Predators' Ryan Johansen, excels at using his skating to attack offensively and defend.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning - Vitaly Abramov, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL)

In his first season in North America, Abramov led QMJHL rookies with 38 goals and 93 points. He's 5-9 and 175 pounds but is a highly competitive player with a quick, accurate shot.

28. St. Louis Blues - Pascal Laberge, C, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

With David Backes a 32-year-old impending unrestricted free agent and Paul Stastny at 30, this could be a good time for the Blues to start building for the future through the middle. Laberge (6-1, 174) had 68 points in 56 games; he's a smart playmaker who is willing to work for pucks along the wall.

29. Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks) - Tage Thompson, C, Connecticut (H-EAST)

The 6-5, 195-pound power forward had a strong freshman season and scouts like his puck skills and accurate, quick-release shot. He also could boost the Bruins' power play; his 13 goals on the man-advantage led the NCAA.

30. Anaheim Ducks (from Pittsburgh Penguins via Toronto Maple Leafs) - Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw (WHL)

The Ducks could bolster their forward depth with Howden, a strong two-way center. He had 24 goals and 64 points in 68 games but was just as well-regarded for his competitiveness and defensive reliability. And at 193 pounds on a 6-2 frame, there's room for him to get stronger.

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