The 2017 NHL Entry Draft may have been lost in the shuffle amidst an uncharacteristically busy summer for the league, but 31 players were selected in the first round on Friday and 31 players will have a chance to make a major impact in the years to come.
We’ll have a look at the top five selections.
The New Jersey Devils kicked things off selecting centre Nico Hischier, the highest-drafted Swiss player in league history. Hischier is 6’1, 178 pounds and was ranked second overall by NHL Central Scouting. The Devils are banking on Hischier to fill a serious gap down the middle and they may be right, especially given that he scooped the Michael Bossy Award and the Michel Bergeron Trophy in his rookie season with Halifax.
The Philadelphia Flyers had the second pick and took Nolan Patrick, who was ranked first by NHL Central Scouting. Patrick was the second-youngest captain in WHL history and has 205 points in 163 career WHL games. In 2015-2016, he managed 30 points in 21 playoff games and was named the MVP of the post-season as Brandon won the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Patrick is arguably the most NHL-ready forward in the draft and he gives the Flyers a solid right-handed shot.
The Dallas Stars used the third pick to select defenceman Miro Heiskanen. A left-handed shot, Heiskanen played on the top pair for HIFK in Finland and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time a game as a 17-year-old. According to NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, Heiskanen is the best international blueliner in the draft. He’s a puck-mover, which makes him a terrific fit for the Stars. Expect him to see big minutes alongside John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Julius Honka.
Cale Mekar went fourth overall as the selection for the Colorado Avalanche. The Canadian Junior Hockey League defenceman of the year and Alberta Junior Hockey League defenceman of the year is a quick blueliner and the Avalanche like his slippery skill. Mekar is due to play for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season, while Medicine Hat currently owns his WHL rights. That could mean it’ll take a while for him to debut with Colorado, but the Avalanche are more than game to wait.
Rounding out the top five is Elias Pettersson, who was selected by the Vancouver Canucks. The Swedish centre is offensively-minded and speedy with or without the puck, plus the Canucks like his height at 6’2. He’s a little on the lanky side right now, but some development could help that. Pettersson averaged nearly a point a game playing in Sweden’s second division and the Canucks like him for whatever’s in store in the post-Sedin era.