Why do we do these perilously early mock drafts, dear reader? Is it because we love to self-own ourselves when Vegas ends up going to the Stanley Cup final instead of picking Rasmus Dahlin, or one of the players doesn’t even get drafted?
No, though it might seem that way. In truth, the early mock draft is to give you an idea of who is coming into the season with high draft aspirations, to get you familiar with the names that will become household-known by the time the 2019 NHL draft actually rolls around in Vancouver next June. Names like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, for example.
The order of the mock draft is based off our team predictions in Season Preview. Since the playoff semifinalists get the final four selections, we have ordered them as such, based on our forecast. Otherwise, it goes by Stanley Cup odds and our predicted division winners. For example, we believe Columbus will win the Atlantic Division but lose before the Eastern Conference final, so that affects the team’s draft slot.
The actual order of the teams will likely be radically different, but it’s worth noting that last year we nailed three of the top four picks. We also had the New York Rangers taking Vitaly Kravtsov, albeit at No. 19 instead of the ninth selection. You gotta give us partial credit for that one, right?
1. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Jack Hughes — U.S. NTDP (USHL), C
The most dynamic center since Auston Matthews will join the Avs because of Ottawa’s Matt Duchene trade. Eep.
2. DETROIT RED WINGS
Kaapo Kakko — TPS (Fin), RW
Kakko has size, smarts and a great shot. Started the year on pace for more points than Patrik Laine at the same age.
3. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Kirby Dach — Saskatoon (WHL), C
Big, smart and possesses a potent high-end game, Dach can step right into Vancouver’s lineup next season.
4. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Dylan Cozens — Lethbridge (WHL), C
Great potential as a top-line center thanks to his size and shot. Imagine him and Mathew Barzal as a 1-2 punch.
5. NEW YORK RANGERS
Matthew Boldy — U.S. NTDP (USHL), LW
One of the most gifted offensive players in the draft, Boldy will put up big numbers. He’s a Boston College commit.
6. ARIZONA COYOTES
Cam York — U.S. NTDP (USHL), D
York is a modern, mobile D-man whom you can’t pass up. He’s already racking up points with The Program this season.
7. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Ryan Suzuki — Barrie (OHL), C
He’s a smart kid with a lot of skill who could really make noise with Alex DeBrincat one day.
8. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Philip Broberg — AIK (Swe), D
With his size and skating, Broberg is a young D-man who could turn into a Victor Hedman kind of unicorn.
9. BUFFALO SABRES
Bowen Byram — Vancouver (WHL), D
Byram can control a game and brings an offensive dimension. Even with Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo needs blueliners.
10. MINNESOTA WILD
Raphael Lavoie — Halifax (QMJHL), C
They like ’em big in Minnesota and Lavoie has a ton of upside. He has great hands to go with his 6-foot-4 frame.
11. EDMONTON OILERS
Matthew Robertson — Edmonton (WHL), D
Robertson is a big body who can chip in offensively and has played well for Canada. Plus, he’s already in town.
12. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Vasili Podkolzin — SKA-1946 (Rus), RW
Nasty speed and strong on the puck, Podkolzin may have some young Taylor Hall in him for the Devils.
13. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Alex Turcotte — U.S. NTDP (USHL), C
Is Turcotte the top center Carolina needs? He’s not a definite No. 1, but he has skating and smarts.
14. LOS ANGELES KINGS
AlexNewhook — Victoria (BCHL), C
Imagine a Robby Fabbri type and you’ve got Newhook, who took the BCHL by storm last year with his speed and skill.
15. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Nolan Foote — Kelowna (WHL), LW
Is it a little too cute to have Colorado nab Adam Foote’s kid? Well, Nolan is a tenacious power forward, so he’s worth it.
16. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Maxim Cajkovic — Saint John (QMJHL), RW
Slovak winger dazzled at world under-18s last spring and has been stellar in his early ‘Q’ days. Good hands and vision.
17. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Anttoni Honka — JYP (Fin), D
Honka, younger brother of Julius, is a puck-mover who can also quarterback the Panthers’ power play.
18. DALLAS STARS
Arthur Kaliyev — Hamilton (OHL), RW
One of the best pure scorers in the OHL, Kaliyev can kill you with his wrister or heavy slapshot.
19. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Cole Caufield — U.S. NTDP (USHL), RW
He’s tiny but really hard to get a bead on. Caufield is a Wisconsin commit who piled up points last year.
20. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Trevor Zegras — U.S. NTDP (USHL), C
He’ll get a little overshadowed by Hughes, but the Boston U. commit has excellent playmaking ability.
21. BUFFALO SABRES
Moritz Seider — Mannheim (Ger), D
The big German kid brings smarts and a two-way game. Buffalo nabs him with the second of three first-round picks.
22. BUFFALO SABRES
Samuel Poulin — Sherbrooke (QMJHL), LW
Speaking of Buffalo, the third selection is Poulin, a laser-focused producer who does great work around the net.
23. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Alex Vlasic — U.S. NTDP (USHL), D
The cousin of Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a mammoth defenseman who can move. Committed to Boston University.
24. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Spencer Knight — U.S. NTDP (USHL), G
Toronto has elite forwards and promising ‘D’ on the way, so why not splurge on the best U.S. goalie prospect in years?
25. BOSTON BRUINS
Nils Hoglander — Rogle (Swe), LW
A tenacious battler who works hard in all three zones, Hoglander also boasts dazzling vision and playmaking skills.
26. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Tobias Bjornfot — Djurgarden (Swe), D
An all-around talent who can log heavy minutes in all situations, Bjornfot has starred on the international stage.
27. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Josh Williams — Medicine Hat (WHL), RW
An excellent sniper who has proven to be clutch internationally, Williams would give Columbus high-end skill.
28. CALGARY FLAMES
Valentin Nussbaumer — Shawinigan (QMJHL), C
Awesome smarts, hands and decision-making help the Swiss import create a ton of offense.
29. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Matvey Guskov — London (OHL), C
Guskov has the talent and demeanor to become a great pro once he rounds out his game. Pens need to refill cupboard.
30. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Ryan Johnson — Sioux Falls (USHL), D
Bolts are playing the long game, and Johnson is the type of smooth-skating D-man who could pay off big-time.
31. WINNIPEG JETS
Ryder Donovan — Duluth East (Minn HS), C
From Winnipeg’s neck of the woods (over the border), Donovan is a North Dakota commit with size and skill.
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.