Four more days until the NHL  draft and it’s still looking like Taylor Hall  will reign supreme in the Taylor/Tyler debate. This mock draft sees a few changes from last week, though I’d be crazy to switch as many picks as we do in the NFL mock drafts. This is because, unlike the NFL, these guys don’t see their stocks bounce all over the place from day to day. If you think Tyler Toffoli should go to Anaheim one week, you’ll probably think it the next week. There is a top 10 shakeup, however, as I think the Lightning will opt for Mikael Granlund at No. 6 and the Hurricanes will go for defense early.
1. Edmonton Oilers  (62 points) Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor (OHL)
Nothing has changed in the last week, and though a team in need of help across the board may benefit more from a playmaking center, Hall’s Memorial Cup performance narrowly gives him the edge over Seguin. Don’t be surprised if the Oilers stay in this spot and still select Seguin, as they could prefer him or be talked into it by the Bruins and a nice compensation package.
Peter Chiarelli said last week that if the Bruins are to make any deal with the Oilers, it is more likely that it isn’t an actual swap of picks, but rather a trade that would include a promise from the Oilers to lay off their guy. Whomever they get, they’ll be in great shape. Here’s one to think about: If the Bruins end up with Seguin, who in Plymouth wanted to wear No. 19 in honor of Steve Yzerman, the player to whom he is often compared, does he take Joe Thornton’s old number?
3. Florida Panthers  (77 points) Cam Fowler, D, Windsor (OHL)
This is how we do it in the NFL mocks: If you think a team is going to trade up and take a certain player, you project the player in the slot so you can have half the pick right, and I’m bringing the theory with me to the NHL . I really believe (based on nothing — this is a total hunch) that the Bruins will move up from No. 15 and back into the top five. Why? Because they can. They have all the ammunition, and who’s to say the talks for Nathan Horton  don’t include the Panthers’ first-rounder coming to Boston?
4. Columbus Blue Jackets  (79 points) Brett Connolly, LW, Prince George (WHL)
You know your team is in rough shape when a trade rumor is dismissed by the public because nobody believes a player would accept a trade to go there. If the Blue Jackets can’t upgrade offensively with Marc Savard , they’ll have to do so with Connolly, who should help them improve from their ’09-’10 total of 214 goals.
5. New York Islanders  (79 points) Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL)
The idea of Gudbranson being around at No. 5 sounds pretty crazy, and if the Panthers keep their pick there is a good chance he’ll be gone at No. 3, but I just don’t have enough confidence that Florida will stay put. This allows the Islanders to get a big and tough defenseman at a steal.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning  (80 points) Mikael Granlund, F, HIFK (Finland)
Can you believe it’s been two years since Vincent Lecavalier has had a 30-goal season? Lecavalier has gone from a guy you can expect 90-plus points from to more of a 70 point guy (67 and 70 in the last two years). Steven Stamkos can’t do it all by himself, so the versatile Granlund will help either as a winger on one of the top two lines or as a solid third-line center.
7. Carolina Hurricanes  (80 points) Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton (QMJHL)
The Hurricanes appear to have some decent young talent at defense in Jamie McBain and Brett Carson, but Gormley would highlight the young defensive wave in Carolina. after allowing the fifth most goals in the league, the team could use the well-rounded Gormley.
8. Atlanta Thrashers  (83 points) Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL)
Windsor Spitfires and Portland Winterhawks will clog the top 10. Taylor Hall wasn’t the only one to boost his stock with an outstanding showing in the playoffs, as Johansen racked up 18 points in 13 games in the postseason for Portland.
9. Minnesota Wild  (84 points) Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland (WHL)
The Wild need some help on offense after a season in which they scored just 18 more goals than the dead-last Bruins. Niederreiter is no Hall and might not contribute right away, but the Switzerland Native had 36 goals this year in the WHL.
10. New York Rangers  (87 points) Derek Forbort, D, USA Under-18
This is good class of American-born defenseman, and four could go in the first round. The Rangers technically only have four defensemen under contract for next season, and while they have over $10 million in cap space according to CapGeek.com, they have some work to do with retaining their free agents.
11. Dallas Stars (88 points) Jeffrey Skinner, C, Kitchener (OHL)
While plenty of people know that Tyler Seguin scored more goals than Taylor Hall, few have considered they were both outscored by Skinner, who finished second in the OHL with 50 goals. Skinner added 33 points in 20 playoff games.
12. Anaheim Ducks  (89 points) Tyler Toffoli, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
Toffoli is an exciting young player who can contribute either as a winger or a center, which should make him more attractive to clubs. The Canadian-born Toffoli was actually chosen in the KHL draft recently despite never speaking to a Russian team. It’s safe to say a KHL team wasted their pick.
13. Phoenix Coyotes  [from Calgary (90 points)] Quinton Howden, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Howden is one of the more interesting stories in the draft. A bike accident had him in a body cast as a child, but he recovered to become one of the top prospects in this draft. He is considered a burner and elite penalty killer.
14. St. Louis Blues (90 points) Austin Watson, RW, Peterborough (OHL)
The Blues didn’t have a single 25-goal-scorer last year. They also didn’t have anyone with 60 points. Watson is still a few years away, but as he continues to develop both physically and offensively, he should be able to be a major contributor for the Blues.
15. Boston Bruins (91 points) Jon Merrill, D, USA Under-18
Riddle me this: If I’m anticipating the Bruins will pick third, should I project who I think the Panthers would take if they were picking 15th? Why the hell not? They missed out on one American defenseman, so they grab another here. Merrill will play at Michigan next season.
16. Ottawa Senators  (94 points) Alex Burmistrov, C, Barrie (OHL)
I wrote last year that Vladimir Tarasenko might be a tough guy to take for some teams because of his KHL ties, and as a result I’m moving him down and replacing him with a more dedicated Russian forward. Playing in the OHL has to give NHL teams confidence that Burmistrov is committed to playing in North America.
17. Colorado Avalanche  (95 points) Jack Cambpbell, G, USA Under-18
Yes, Craig Anderson started a franchise-record 71 games, but the Avalanche can’t get too carried away with the numbers from a career backup. Anderson also struggled down the stretch, as he had a goals against average of 3.47 in March.
18. Nashville Predators  (100 points) Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Sibir (KHL)
Whichever team lands Tarasenko either has to be really confident he will stay in North America or comfortable with risking a top pick on a talent that would have otherwise gone sooner. Tarasenko should still be a top 20 pick.
19. Los Angeles Kings  (101 points) Emerson Etem, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)
Etem hails from California, so it only seems fitting that in a draft that takes place in Los Angeles, the home team draft the kid who racked up 37 goals this season for the Tigers. Etem would be a great value this late.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins  (101 points) Nick Bjugstad, F, Blain Minn. (HS)
Defense is a possibility here, as they have to be worried about losing Sergei Gonchar, but unless they trade way up and get Fowler, nobody they get in the draft would step in right away anyway. Bjugstad might take time to develop, but they have plenty of offense to hold them over in the mean time.
21. Detroit Red Wings  (102 points) Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Like Gubdranson, the draw with McIlrath is his size and toughness. Will Niklas Lidstrom ever retire? Who knows? In any case, the 6-foot-5 McIlrath is seen as a dominant defender who can and will use his body relentlessly.
22. Phoenix Coyotes (107 points) Mark Pysyk, D, Edmonton (WHL)
Psysk is a very skinny 6-foot-1 and 173 pounds and is coming off an injury, so whoever gets him will have to be patient and hope the speedy defenseman can fill out his body and reach his potential.
23. Buffalo Sabers (100 points) Jarred Tinordi, D, USA Under-18
Tinordi is an absolute monster and will make scoring on Ryan Miller  even more difficult. He isn’t viewed as a two-way defenseman, but when you’re 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, you don’t need to be. Tinordi is set to attend Notre Dame .
24. Atlanta Thrashers [from New Jersey (103 points)] Tyler Pitlick, C, Minn. State (WCHL)
Still no word on where Pitlick will play next year. His coach at Minnesota State has admitted his freshman is considering leaving the school. Pitlick is liked by scouts for his speed-size combination.
25. Vancouver Canucks  (103 points) Charlie Coyle, C, South Shore (EJHL)
Coyle has a bit more bulk to him than the other centers with his height (6-foot-2) and though he comes from a lesser level of competition, his size and strength should have him off the board before the end of the first round. He’ll attend BU next year and the Canucks havea history of going after Hockey East guys.
26. Washington Capitals  (121 points) Alexander Petrovic, D, Red Deer (WHL)
Is Semyon Varlamov the long-term answer in net for the Capitals? If not, Seattle (WHL) goalie Calvin Pickard could be given some attention with this pick. The top-scoring team in the league doesn’t need any more offense, so they’ll take the best defenseman available.
27. Montreal Canadiens  (88 points) Jaden Schwartz, C, Tri-City (USHL)
Schwartz had 33 goals in 60 games for the Storm this season, making him one of the better goal-scoring centers in this draft. For now, however, the only center the Habs should be worried about is Tomas Plekanec, whom they badly need to re-sign.
28. San Jose Sharks  (113 points) Kirill Kabonov, RW, Moncton (QMJHL)
From all accounts, this kid has some serious character issues, as he faced massive difficulties getting permission to play for Moncton due to disputes with the KHL. He was also kicked off the Russian Under-18 team, but at 6-foot-3 and 176 pounds, the talent is there. The Sharks are one of the few teams that can afford to take a risk on Kabonov, who is ranked No. 8 overall by International Scouting.
29. Anaheim Ducks [from Philadelphia (88 points)] Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Jokerit (SM-Liiga)
Pulkkinen is a bit of a wild card in this draft because generally players outside of North America and Russia go unnoticed by the average fan unless they’re projected to be a top pick. The right winger comes from a credible league, though as SM Liiga produced the likes of Teemu Selanne, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jere Lehtinen.
30. Chicago Blackhawks  (112 points) Calvin Pickard, G, Seattle (WHL)
Call me a pessimist, but what exactly happens when Antti Niemi fails to produce at the same high level as he did in the playoffs? What happens when he becomes the most recent Jean-Sebastian Giguere? The Blackhawks might still need a goalie of the future, and they are fine enough everywhere else on the depth chart to be able to afford making such a move.
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