Entering their first NHL Draft Lottery, the Vegas Golden Knights had the third-best odds of obtaining the first-overall selection and an 81.1-percent chance of picking in the top five. Vegas’ luck turned sour, though, as they fell as far down the board as possible, landing the sixth-overall pick.
The Golden Knights weren’t the only team short on luck. Colorado, Vancouver, and Arizona, the three worst teams in the NHL, all dropped as low as they could, too, marking the first time that no bottom-three team will pick in the top three at the NHL Draft.
While those four teams bonded in misery, the Devils, Flyers, and Stars were popping the champagne. New Jersey won the lottery with the fifth-best odds (8.5-percent probability), while Philadelphia jumped from no. 13 to no. 2, and Dallas from no. 8 to no. 3. I’m sure I speak for us all when I say, congratulations, you lucky jerks.
While we could spend the day damning those franchises, using our time to preview the lottery picks in the 2017 NHL Draft seems more beneficial. (Or at least the top-ten picks.)
Unlike the last two seasons, there is no clear-cut no. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Nolan Patrick has long been considered the best available prospect, but Nico Hischier has continued to build on a strong performance at the World Junior Championships. Hischier and Patrick are now locked in a two-horse race to be selected first-overall.
In spite of the Devils desperate need for goal-scoring, New Jersey will take the better all-round player in Patrick. Hischier may be the more talented offensive threat, but as a member of the Wheat Kings, Patrick has consistently displayed a great two-way game and the ability to excel in any situation.
Hischier is the best offensive talent in the draft. The center scored 86 points in 57 games this season in the Q, and recorded 15 points in 11 games during the World Juniors. The only concern with Hischier is his size (6’0″, 174 pounds). But smaller forwards are becoming more common in an NHL that covets speed.
The Stars allowed the second-most goals in the league this season (3.17 per game). It’s safe to say Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi weren’t overly impressive between the pipes, but the blame shouldn’t all lie on their shoulders. Adding a defenseman who is not only strong in his own end, but can move the puck as well would help Ken Hitchcock’s Stars get back on track.
Simply put, the Avalanche just need to collect good hockey players. There is no specific area of need right now, because they need help in nearly every aspect of the game. Selecting Vilardi gives Colorado a big, right-handed body with magnificent hands and great vision up the middle.
The Sedins will be 37 years old before the 2017 season starts. Vancouver needs to find a goal-scorer to play alongside Bo Horvat in the future. Tippett is exactly that, drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel.
Vegas’ first draft pick needs to be as sexy as possible. Unfortunately for the league’s newest team, this is not the draft to find a future star at no. 6. I see the Golden Knights looking for offensive potential here, which leads them to Mittelstadt. Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey will need to polish the finer parts of his game, but his skills with the puck are more than enough to convince Vegas to call his name.
The Coyotes have a ton of young, talented forwards. It’s time for them to start building the back-end. Makar is an undersized defenseman with phenomenal offensive talent. The righty can quarterback a power-play, join the rush, and start the break out.
Buffalo needs to surround Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly with guys who can put the puck in the net. Glass is often described as a two-way forward, but don’t let that take away from what he’s capable of in the offensive zone. The center finished seventh in the WHL in scoring last year (94 points).
Prior to this season, Liljegren was widely considered the draft’s best defenseman. However, after catching mononucleosis and struggling to adjust to Sweden’s top league, the talented defenseman finds his stock declining. Detroit is a franchise that has long embraced (and nurtured) Swedes; the Wings won’t let Liljegren fall any further.
The Panthers are already a very young team and have some time to wait for a prospect to develop. Pettersson is a playmaker down the middle, who is also willing to partake in the less-sexy parts of the game. He may take some time, but he has a ton of potential.
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