The 2017 NHL Draft wasn’t as hyped up as others.
That’s because there wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime prospect like Connor McDavid in 2015 or Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine in 2016. In fact, TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted months ago that Nolan Patrick (ranked by many to be the best prospect in the draft), to be a second-line centre.
That being said, some NHL teams appeared to fix their long-term futures by drafting wonderful pieces that’ll totally change their franchises around. You have to love what selections some of these teams made, and we’ll undoubtedly look back on the 2017 draft as a turning point for some of these squads.
But on the flip side, the 2017 draft will also be viewed was a wasted opportunity for some teams. They picked the wrong player with their picks, meaning it’ll be hard for him to reach his full potential.
Here’s a look at eight 2017 draft prospects who’ll have bright futures, and seven who are doomed with their new teams.
15. Bright Future: Cal Foote
The Tampa Bay Lightning may have gotten the steal of the first round in Cal Foote — the big 6-foot-4, 214-pound blueliner. The son of former Colorado Avalanche star Adam Foote fell to Steve Yzerman at 14.
Foote, a right-handed shot, will be a perfect complement to world class defenceman Victor Hedman — who was nominated for the Norris Trophy this past season. Foote may not be much of an offensive defenceman in the NHL, but he will be a lot like his father (as Don Cherry would put it, a “meat and potatoes guy”).
14. Doomed: Michael DiPietro
NHL.com ranked Michael DiPietro as the fourth-best North American goalie prospect heading into the 2017 NHL Draft. The Vancouver Canucks may have gotten a steal in DiPietro — who fell to them at 64.
This is nothing against DiPietro as a goalie; with the right team he shall succeed. But there’s almost no way he’s going to be shining with the Canucks. General manager Jim Benning already said Jacob Markstrom will be the Canucks starter in 2017-18.
Furthermore, the Canucks own the NHL’s top goalie prospect in Thatcher Demko, who figures to be in the NHL within the next three years. Vancouver has their long-term answers in goal with Markstrom and Demko, and DiPietro isn’t going to be NHL-ready for a long time. And even when he is, the Canucks logjam between the pipes could hold DiPietro back for a few years.
13. Bright Future: Timothy Liljegren
Just a couple of months ago, the big Swedish defenceman was projected to be the top defenceman selected in the 2017 draft. But the rises of Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen caused Timothy Liljegren’s stock to fall, as did the centre-loaded draft.
The good news for Timothy Liljegren is that he fell to a team that will give him every chance to succeed — the Toronto Maple Leafs. Liljegren, who was the 17th pick, may need more time in Sweden before he’s ready for the NHL. And when he makes it? Watch out, league.
Toronto doesn’t have a great-looking blueliner in the long-term future, outside of Morgan Rielly. That means Mike Babcock will find a way to make Liljegren a big part of the Leafs defence when he’s NHL ready. Oh, and did you see all these young Leafs break out in 2016-17? Babcock has a thing for getting the most out of his players in short timing. Liljegren will be among those players when he’s in the NHL.
12. Doomed: Casey Mittelstadt
I love the player that Casey Mittelstadt is going to become. He has all the materials needed to be at least a quality second-line centre. There also isn’t a reason to hate the Buffalo Sabres for picking Mittelstadt, who should be a nice fit on a team that’s rebuilding with so much young talent.
What I don’t like is the fact the Sabres are loaded at centre, which means Mittelstadt is going to have a heckuva time trying to make a name for himself. Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly are going to be Buffalo’s top two centres in the long run, and Zemgus Girgensons is a stud in the making.
Mittelstadt went to the Sabres at eighth, though many thought he could have gone as high as fifth-overall. He could be a lot like what Jordan Staal was with the Pittsburgh Penguins — a quality top-two centre that just gets outshined by the other two on his team. It’s going to be a long journey for Mittelstadt in Buffalo.
11. Bright Future: Elias Pettersson
It was a bit of a surprise for me to see the Vancouver Canucks draft the Swedish centre with the fifth selection. I personally thought they would go with a more NHL-ready player like Gabriel Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt or Cody Glass. Nonetheless, Elias Pettersson is expected to be Vancouver’s centre of the future.
Vancouver landed prospect Jonathan Dahlen from the Ottawa Senators in the Alexandre Burrows trade. Jim Benning said that Dahlen was a big part in having the Canucks select Pettersson. Here’s why:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) June 23, 2017
Petterson is also going to get the chance to work with Brock Boeser, a rising Canuck that should be a consistent 25-30 goal-scorer in this league. Pettersson is going to need to add a lot more size to his 165-pound body. But once he’s in the NHL, he’ll take over the “face of the Canucks franchise” label.
10. Doomed: Lias Andersson
The New York Rangers traded away Derek Stepan and backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes to land the seventh selection. They made a questionable call in taking centre Lias Andersson — who is far from a sure-thing to succeed in the NHL
Centre also isn’t a weakness for the Blueshirts — but rather a strength. They have Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes there, not to mention great wingers in Rick Nash, Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarrello.
New York needed to add another defenceman to help out Ryan McDonagh. If they were bent on a centre, Mittelstadt or Valardi would have been better pickups. Andersson is a long time away from NHL-ready, and the Rangers great scoring depth may hold him back from being a true first-liner in Manhattan.
9. Bright Future: Gabriel Vilardi
Months before the draft, many considered Gabriel Vilardi a potential top-three selection. Well, his stock fell quickly because of his skating — and the Los Angeles Kings selected him with the 11th-overall selection. Vilardi has the size (6-foot-2, 203 pounds), to be a force on an L.A. team that is built around big and tough guys.
As Anze Kopitar nears his twilight years, the Kings will need to start grooming Vilardi to be their top centre of the future. Vilardi may not quite be a bonafide superstar in the NHL, but he should be at least a very solid No. 2 centre.
The goal for Rob Blake and the front office now is to start finding some young wingers to help Vilardi mature and develop quicker. If and when that happens, Vilardi will be ready to take over as the Kings top forward in the long run.
8. Doomed: Morgan Frost
The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Nolan Patrick with the second-overall selection after getting real lucky with the lottery system. They then cleared room for Patrick at centre by trading Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis blues that netted Philly the 27th selection. The Flyers then selected centre Morgan Frost; a selection that isn’t making a whole lot of sense here.
For one, Claude Giroux is going to remain a top-two centre on the Flyers for a few more years. Patrick will slot in as the first or second centre. Then there’s a reliable two-way centre in Sean Couturier, who fills in greatly as their third centre.
So where is the chance for Morgan Frost to succeed? We all know that late first-round picks rarely turn into stars. But Frost really doesn’t have much of a chance in Philly, unless they decide to trade Giroux and Couturier in the future for no good reason. Frost can celebrate being drafted, but it’s tough to see him being a standout in Philadelphia.
7. Bright Future: Cale Makar
In the first year of an official tear-it-all-down rebuild by the Colorado Avalanche, Cale Makar becomes their consolation prize for what was the worst season in franchise history. The flashy defenceman was taken with the fourth-overall selection (see Colorado, it’s not so bad falling down three spots in the draft lottery).
What also bodes well for Makar is that he should be able to form a nice pairing with blueliner Tyson Barrie — who’s consistently among the highest-scoring defencemen in the NHL. Colorado does have speed and skill in Nate MacKinnon (unlikely to be traded), and Gabriel Landeskog, so there’s a good supporting cast to complement Makar’s game.
6. Doomed: Nick Suzuki
The Vegas Golden Knights loaded up on high draft picks — thanks to other teams giving them away like candy to ensure George McPhee didn’t select any of their best players that were left exposed.
So with the 13th selection (via the Winnipeg Jets), the Golden Knights selected centre Nick Suzuki. Now, he has plenty of talent to succeed in the NHL. The problem is that Suzuki has a long mountain to climb if he wants to be a flashy centre in Vegas.
The Golden Knights drafted centre Cody Glass with the top pick. They also got Jonathan Marchessault, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and William Karlsson in the expansion draft to fill out their centres. And this is going to be a long rebuilding process, so you figure McPhee is bound to draft even more high-quality centres over the next few drafts.
5. Bright Future: Miro Heiskanen
The Dallas Stars had a 6.4 percent chance at landing the third-overall selection in the NHL draft. Indeed, they did get lucky and landed the third pick. GM Jim Nill used the pick wisely to select the top defenceman available — Finnish standout Miro Heiskanen.
Dallas desperately needed help on the blue line. It’s worth adding they haven’t had a superstar on the backend since Sergei Zubov almost a decade ago. So there’s no doubting that the Stars will do everything in their power to make sure Heiskanen gets the chance to succeed as a top centre.
Another thing that helps Heiskanen is his future head coach in Ken Hitchcock. The well-respected veteran plays a strong defensive style that relies on neutral zone traps and using speed to push the tempo of play. Heiskanen fits every bill of Hitchcock’s system perfectly. It’s a matter of when and not if he becomes a star for the…Stars.
4. Doomed: Juuso Valimaki
You can make a case that the Calgary Flames got a steal in Juuso Valimaki — who went 16th-overall. But for Valimaki’s sake, going to Calgary was far from ideal for him in more ways than one.
For one, the Flames are ready to win now and are in no rush to push Valimaki’s progress. But most importantly, Calgary now has a top-four on defence that few teams can match: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic — who was acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders.
Those four blueliners are in their playing primes and will be long-term pieces of the Flames future. There’s no way Valimaki is going to jump into a top-four role any time soon. His best hope is to play well, get mature quickly and become trade bait for Calgary. Even then, that’s a few years away.
3. Bright Future: Nico Hischier
It was a coin flip among scouts to determine who would go first between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. At last, the New Jersey Devils used the first selection to take Hischier — the first-ever Swiss player to be selected with the top pick.
Now, it’s anybody’s guess who will have the more successful career between Hischier and Patrick. But the latter is going to a more promising team that fell just short of reaching the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Hischier is going to a team devoid of superstars that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012.
Taylor Hall is good, not great. He and Hischier should form a nice scoring tandem, but it could take a while for that to progress. Hischier will undoubtedly be a star on New Jersey, but it may take a while for him to make his case as the better player than Patrick — if that ever becomes the case.
2. Doomed: Michael Rasmussen
Not many were optimistic about the drafting of the Detroit Red Wings. It was their first top-10 selection in decades, and it caused many people to scratch their heads:
The worst draft of the weekend, by a landslide, belongs to the Red Wings (relative to my ranking). Keith Petruzzelli the only good pick.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) June 24, 2017
FYI the red wings just took the worst 5v5 player in the draft. His analytic numbers belong in the 6th round.
— Mike Baran (@unclebaran) June 24, 2017
That starts with Michael Rasmussen, whom the Red Wings selected with the ninth-overall selection. Rasmussen has great size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), but the NHL is now a game for faster and more skilled players. The Red Wings team is also built around speed — Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar, among others.
But the Rasmussen pick also doesn’t make sense, because Detroit has another towering centre in Anthony Maanta. He’s 6-5 , weighs 214 pounds and broke out with 17 goals in just 60 games this past season.
Rasmussen may not quite have the upside that other guys like Vilardi, Suzuki and Owen Tippett have. They don’t need two big centres, so no one really understands what in the world they were doing with this selection.
1. Bright Future: Nolan Patrick
Nolan Patrick is number one on my list over Hischier for a number reasons.
First off, Patrick at least has the big frame (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), to be an impact player right away. Smaller guys like Hischier can often struggle in the beginning to adjust in the NHL with bigger and stronger guys.
Secondly, Patrick will have a much better supporting cast in Philadelphia. Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl and Matt Read all have 20-goal potential and will be able to help Patrick score a lot of goals immediately in his rookie year. Patrick joins a Flyers team that’s based on speed, skill and a ton of goal-scoring. This is totally a match made in Heaven for him.
Just right now, I like Patrick’s future more than Hischier’s. His all-around play and better supporting cast give him a better chance to succeed in 2018, 2019 and 2020, at least.
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