NHL Mock Draft 2016: Projection for Round 1

NHL Draft, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine

Top Prospects Alexander Nylander, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Auston Matthews and Pierre-Luc Dubois pose prior media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects ahead of Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final. (Getty)

The NHL draft kicks off on June 24 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

First round coverage of the NHL Draft begins on Friday, June 24, at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Network. Rounds two through seven begin on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and can be seen live on the NHL Network.

The top two headliners in this draft class are Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, who seem set for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, respectively.

The first-round class for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is a deep one. Here’s a look at our predictions:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, 6′ 2″, 216
Position: Center
Record: 24-22-46 in 36 games

The Leafs need a franchise center with a complete skill set. The Arizona native was a dominant scorer in the Swiss National League, and has the skills necessary to succeed in the NHL. Matthews showed his ability to compete at the world championships. He was Team USA’s best player at the World Championship at just 18 years old. He has elite size, skating ability, and offensive creativity. Toronto has not had an outstanding No. 1 center since Mats Sundin, and Matthews has the potential to fill this vacancy.

2. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine, 6’4”, 201
Position: Right Wing
Record: 17-16-33 in 46 games

Laine is coming off an MVP performance at the World Junior Championship, where he led Finland to a gold medal. He isn’t as well-rounded as Matthews, but is a dynamic scorer, with a high hockey IQ.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jesse Puljujarvi, 6’3”, 208
Position: Right Wing
Record: 13-15-28 in 50 games

Simply put, he knows how to skate. Puljujarvi is a big-bodied winger who dominates possession and has an accurate shot. He was the MVP of the World Junior Championship last year after putting up an impressive 17 points in seven games, which ultimately led Finland to gold.

4. Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Tkachuk, 6′ 1″, 202
Position: Left Wing
Record: 44-82-16 in 63 games

Oilers may trade the pick to land a defenseman. But whoever ends up with the fourth pick will likely take Tkachuk. He is an explosive power forward, who knows how to compete in tough situations. The Oilers have a clear need for a physical player, with high offensive skills, and Tkachuk could be the guy to get the job done.

5. Vancouver Canucks: Pierre-Luc Dubois, 6′ 2″, 205
Position: Center/Left Wing
Record: 42-57-99 in 62 games

Dubois is a natural left wing, but spent most of the past season playing center. He has the puck skill, speed and hockey sense to become a top-line forward. He has a big presence on the ice, and won the CHL’s Top Prospect Award.

6. Calgary Flames: Logan Brown, 6’6”, 222
Position: Center
Record: 21-53-74 in 59 games

Calgary Flames president, Brian Burke has said the Flames need a bigger, physical presence. At 6’6”, 222 lbs., Brown certainly fits the mold. He brings a big size, powerful stride, and elite playmaking skills. He ended the season on a high note, scoring 13 goals in his final 13 games.

7. Arizona Coyotes: Mikhail Sergachev, 6’2”. 221
Position: Defenseman
Record: 17-40-57 in 67 games

Sergachev won the OHL Defenseman of the Year award as a rookie, and is known for his aggression and confidence on the ice. He is a three-zone player with the skills to become a top-pairing defenseman in the future. Sergachev is a quality stickhandler, with a mature defensive game.

8. Buffalo Sabres: Olli Juolevi, 6’2”, 188
Position: Defenseman
Record: 9-33-42 in 57 games

Juolevi had 42 points in 57 games with London during the regular season. He is an efficient player with excellent awareness and hockey sense.

9. Montreal Canadiens: Jakob Chychrun, 6′ 2″, 200
Position: Defenseman
Record: 11-38-49 in 62 games

Chychrun was considered the best defenseman in the draft at the start of the season, however he still remains a one of the top-rated defenseman. He is an extremely physical player who can play in all three zones. Chychrun had 49 points in 62 games.

10. Colorado Avalanche: Alexander Nylander, 6′, 178
Position: Left Wing/Right Wing
Record: 28-47-75 in 57 games

Nylander is an exciting player to watch and possesses an impressive skill-set. He is a dynamic player, who knows how to step up his play in critical moments. He is an impressive stickhandler who contributed 75 points in 57 games for Mississauga in the OHL last year.

11. New Jersey Devils: Clayton Keller, 5′ 10″, 164
Position: Center
Record: 37-70-107 in 62 games

Keller’s hockey sense is exceptional, perhaps one of the best in the draft. Although he’s a smaller player, he has a set of offensive-skills that would benefit any team, but especially the Devils who are seeking an offensive spark. Keller has demonstrated a combination of skill, speed and cleverness on the ice. He knows how to take chances, and he knows how to score. The 17-year-old set numerous scoring records with the U.S. National Team Development Program, breaking the records set by Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.

12. Ottawa Senators: Tyson Jost, 5′ 11″, 190
Position: Center
Record: 42-62-104 in 48 games

Like Clayton Keller, Jost is a talented passer and shooter who doesn’t have the ideal size. However, he was been able to overcome that with crafty goals and a determination to win battles in the tough areas. He scored an impressive 104 points this season, further proof of his ability to play, and think fast.

13. Carolina Hurricanes: Michael McLeod, 6’2”, 185
Position: Center
Record: 21-40-61 in 57 games

McLeod brings size and speed, along with a strong hockey sense and gritty game. He will be an excellent defensive forward. McLeod McLeod had 61 points for the Steelheads in 57 games last year. He would be a safe pick for the Hurricanes, with offensive upside.

14. Boston Bruins: Kieffer Bellows, 6’, 197
Position: Left Wing
Record: 50-31-81 in 62 games

Just like his father, NHL star Brian Bellows, this young talent knows how to score. He played for the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan this past season. He scored 50 goals, including 12 power-play goals and nine game-winning goals. Only Auston Matthews, the anticipated first overall pick in the draft, scored more. Expect Bellows to be aggressive on the puck at all times.

15. Minnesota Wild: Julien Gauthier, 6′ 3″, 231
Position: Right Wing
Record: 41-16-57 in 54 games

Gauthier, the high-scoring right winger is a powerful skater, with a big frame. Opponents have a difficult time dislodging him from the puck. He has great speed and agility for his size.

16. Detroit Red Wings: Charlie Mcavoy, 6′, 199
Position: Defenseman
Record: 3-22-25 in 37 games

Although he was the youngest player in the NCAA this season, he had an impressive level of maturity on the ice. As a freshman with the Terriers, McAvoy wowed scouts with his puck confidence, determination and willingness. McAvoy has great offensive potential, and has already won a world junior bronze medal with Team USA.

17. Nashville Predators: Jake Bean, 6’1”, 173
Position: Defenseman
Record: 24-40-64 in 68 games

Bean is one of the top offensive-minded defenseman in this draft. There’s a strong possibility that he’ll will be gone before the 17th pick. He is an excellent puck-mover, with a high hockey IQ. He reads defenses extremely well, and knows how to attack them. Bean was the goal-scoring leader among WHL defenders.

18. Philadelphia Flyers: Max Jones, 6′ 2″, 206
Position: Left Wing
Record: 28-24-52 in 63 games

This power winger brings a well-rounded game along with an intimidating presence and some offensive ability. If the Flyers want someone they can plug in anywhere in a lineup, Jones would be a solid choice. Jones’ versatility makes him an exciting option for any team beyond the top 10.

19. New York Islanders: Dante Fabbro, 6’, 192
Position: Defenseman
Record: 14-53-67 in 45 games

Fabbro is a dependable two-way defenseman with high offensive upside, and a mature presence. He was the top defenseman in the BCHL this season, dominating possession. He’s a highly effective puck mover with a strong situational awareness.

20. Arizona Coyotes (Pick acquired from Rangers): German Rubtsov
6’, 178
Position: Center
Record: 12-14-26 in 28 games

Rubtsov is a player with excellent hockey sense and work ethic, who has to develop some areas. He’s a two-way center who scouts have praised for his versatility and competitiveness. He is very strong on both ends of the ice, however there are questions about his scoring ability.

21. Carolina Hurricanes (Pick acquired from Kings): Luke Kunin, 5’11’, 193
Position: Center/Right Wing
Record: 19-13-32 in 34 games

Kunin is a playmaker who is mature, plays hard and does whatever is needed to make a positive impact for his team. His speed combined with a high hockey sense could transition well into the NHL.

22. Winnipeg Jets (Pick acquired from Blackhawks): Logan Stanley, 6’7”, 224
Position: Defenseman
Record: 5-12-17 in 64 games

Stanley has already learned how to use his size and physicality to his advantage. According to his eliteprospects profile he’s “become a nasty player the other team dreads when he’s on the ice.” He’s a smart player, but will need to work on his speed and footwork.

23. Florida Panthers: Alex Debrincat, 5′ 7″, 165
Position: Center/Right Wing
Record: 51-50-101 in 60 games

With a big need at right wing, a highly skilled right-handed forward such as Debrincat could be a good fit. He scored 102 goals over the past two seasons. Although he is undersized, he may be the niftiest goal scorer in this draft, and attacks the greasy areas.

24. Anaheim Ducks: Brett Howden, 6′ 2″, 193
Position: Center
Record: 24-40-64 in 68 games

He knows how to use his size to his advantage. Howden scored 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) last season in the WHL. While his numbers were not considerably remarkable, he does exhibit upside and a well-rounded skills package. He’s a solid player with good size and decent speed.

25. Dallas Stars: Tage Thompson, 6’5”, 195
Position: Center
Record: 14-18-32 in 36 games

Thompson is a big 6’5″ center, among the tallest in college hockey and has a lot of potential and upside. There are few that can match his size in this draft, but he also has some learning to do. Several scours said they would like to see him use his size to his advantage more frequently, and develop his physical play.

26. Washington Capitals: Libor Hajek, 6’1”, 205
Position: Defenseman
Record: 3-23-26 in 69 games

Solidly build, defense-first defenseman. That’s not to downplay his skating ability or hockey sense—he’s strong in both areas. But his natural inclination is to take care of his own zone. He has great instincts, has a good stick and is tough to beat one-on-one. He’s a safe bet to play on the second pair.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Dennis Cholowski, 6′ 1″, 177
Position: Defenseman
Record: 12-28-40 in 550 games

He is a good sized puck-moving defenseman. He is a solid passer and excellent puck mover, something that scouts have taken note of. He has many of the qualities teams look for in a defensive prospect, including skill with the puck and a high end hockey IQ. His shot could use some improvement

28. St. Louis Blues: Lucas Johansen, 6′ 2″, 175
Position: Defenseman
Record: 10-39-49 in 69 games

He’s not his brother, Predators star Ryan Johansen. Different position. Different temperament. Different skill set. Lucas is a smooth skating, two-way defender who can be trusted in all situations. He can key the transition game and join the rush when appropriate, but he’s at his best in his own zone where his smarts and positioning make him highly effective.

29. Boston Bruins (Pick acquired from Sharks): Wade Allison, 6’1”, 205
Position: Right Wing
Record: 25-22-47 in 56 games

Allison led the USHL playoffs with nine goals, and was named postseason MVP. When he’s at his best, he’s winning puck battles down low, and playing a very physical game.

30. Anaheim Ducks (Pick acquired from Penguins): Boris Katchouk, 6′ 1″, 190
Position: Left Wing
Record: 24-27-51 in 63 games

Katchouk is a solid all-around winger who help his team win hockey games in a variety of different ways. He is more of a support player in the attack zone, but shows signs of strong offensive potential. The question is, how good of a goal scorer can he be?

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