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Six 2017 first-round picks make NHL rosters

Hischier, Patrick seem set but fate of others likely determined by nine-game evaluation period

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

The 2017 NHL Draft has proven impactful for a few teams set to begin the new season.

It was speculated before the draft that center Nico Hischier, picked No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils, and center Nolan Patrick, selected No. 2 by the Philadelphia Flyers, were the only legitimate candidates to earn a roster spot out of training camp. 

Though they have done that, there are four other teenagers chosen in the first round who each made his team's 23-man roster: forward Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers), center Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes), center Filip Chytil (New York Rangers) and forward Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton Oilers).

It's a bit of a surprise, particularly because there isn't expected to be a generational talent the likes of Oilers center Connor McDavid (No. 1, 2015), Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (No. 2, 2015), Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (No. 1, 2016) or Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (No. 2, 2016) among the group.

"While there wasn't that generational player, that doesn't mean you won't find players capable of playing in the NHL," said David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting. "I think the fact there are [so many] players still with their NHL team just says that maybe the draft might have been a little deeper than expected, and players are becoming more NHL-ready at a young age."

The NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for nine games at the start of the regular season when a player on his entry-level contract can be evaluated. The player can be returned to his junior team without his contract kicking in at any point before the player dresses for his 10th game. If the player skates in more than nine games, he still can be returned to his junior team, but the first year of his contract goes into effect and the player could reach free agency at an accelerated pace.

Here is the projected forecast for each of the 2017 first-round picks who remain on NHL rosters:

 

Nico Hischier, No. 1, Devils

Hischier (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) is expected to remain a part of the lineup all season. He impressed the New Jersey coaching staff with his craftiness, speed and intelligence and proved to be an effective 200-foot player. He likely will begin the season as a second-line center and will be in the running for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. Hischier has the potential to score 20 goals and 50 points this season.

Video: NJD@WSH: Hischier fires one short side past Holtby

 

Nolan Patrick, No. 2, Flyers

Some believe Patrick, who projects to be a second-line center behind Sean Couturier, is more NHL-ready than Hischier. He exudes confidence and is exceptionally mature for an 18-year-old, having come from a hockey family where his father [Steve Patrick], and uncle [James Patrick] were first-round picks in the NHL draft. Patrick (6-2, 198) is expected to remain in the NHL all season, as long as he is healthy.

 

Owen Tippett, No. 10, Panthers

Tippett (6-1, 200) has NHL-ready size with a quick, strong release on his shot. Coach Bob Boughner would like to see Tippett work on his play away from the puck during his nine-game evaluation. The Panthers will be patient with the right wing and spread out his starts, but he likely will be returned to Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League.

 

Martin Necas, No. 12, Hurricanes

Necas (6-1, 167), drafted as a center, was used on the wing in the final two preseason games. He is a future first- or second-line center but he might not get the playing time to justify keeping him on the roster this season; he has played between 13 and 16 minutes in five preseason games. Necas could be assigned to Charlotte of the American Hockey League or returned to Brno in the Czech Republic for another season.

 

Filip Chytil, No. 21, Rangers

Chytil, the second first-round pick by the Rangers in 2017 (Lias Andersson, No. 7), could be New York's first 18-year-old forward in the season-opening lineup since Manny Malhotra in 1998. A mobile skater and playmaker, Chytil (6-2, 202) might play between Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers' confidence in Chytil suggests he'll remain beyond the nine-game trial and not be returned to HC Zlin in the Czech Republic.

 

Kailer Yamamoto, No. 22, Oilers

In five preseason games, Yamamoto (5-8, 154) had six points (five goals, one assist) and was plus-3, showing good chemistry at right wing with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jussi Jokinen. Yamamoto made up for his stature with his speed, stickhandling and shot. His NHL future this season will be determined by how well he withstands the rigors of daily life as a professional. Yamamoto had 99 points (42 goals, 57 assists) in 65 games last season for Spokane of the Western Hockey League.

"He came in here and I don't think many people expected him to have a job, but he found a way to battle for at least an opening night job," McDavid told the Edmonton Journal. "He has that battle level, that compete. You either have that or you don't, and he's got that fire. He brings it every day."

Video: EDM@WPG: Yamamoto notches empty-net goal to seal game

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