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Top 31 NHL draft rankings for 2017: No sure thing at No. 1

There's no "generational talent" at the top of the draft this season, but there is a nice battle for the top spot between Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

It’s time for draft rankings, people, and it’s getting very interesting out there.

The 2017 draft class has already been pilloried quite a bit this season, but I think we just have to appreciate it for what it is: a chance for teams to get better. We’ve been spoiled by “generational” talents such as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews lately, but that can’t happen every year. Instead, we have a nice little battle shaping up at the top between Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. And don’t be surprised to see even more movement as time goes on.

I have Timothy Liljegren third, but I’m kinda conservative when it comes to moving top players down. Recognize that he may slide as other blueliners make their cases, or if it appears we’ll have another run on centers at the top this summer in Chicago. Whatever happens, here’s the first round as I see it right now.

1. Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL): Back from injury and from all appearances, not suffering. Patrick has the size, skill and all-around game to be an instant NHLer

2. Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL): The high-end skills and smarts are so tantalizing. Hischier is certainly giving Patrick a run for his money and surpassing the Wheat King is not out of the question.

3. Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL): Liljegren seems to be back on track after illness and a loan to Timra. His skating and offensive instincts are excellent and he’s getting some nice responsibility with Rogle.

4. Gabe Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL): Skating is the knock, but scouts are already downplaying it by hyping up his other skills. Vilardi is big, smart and talented and really, the speed isn’t that bad right now.

5. Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL): A weaponized winger with size, speed and a big-time shot, Tippett doesn’t have the versatility of Vilardi, but the physical tools are beguiling.

6. Klim Kostin, RW, MVD (Rus.): Surgery ended his nightmare season, but Kostin is enough of a known quantity thanks to earlier international duty. He’s a big, powerful kid with loads of talent.

7. Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (Minn. HS): The Minnesota commit wanted one more shot at a state title, so Mittelstadt is currently laying waste to high schoolers with Eden Prairie. Tons of skill and he put up numbers in the USHL, too.

8. Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL): Starting off with his nearly 6-foot-6 frame, there’s a lot to like about Rasmussen. Naturally his reach is good, but his hands are also pretty sweet and he can play with an edge.

9. Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL): A wicked shot in a smaller package. The Boston College recruit is a pure goal-scorer and draws penalties with his skill. Mixed opinions out there on his feistiness.

10. Miro Heiskainen, D, HIFK (Fin.): Smooth-skating defensemen are in and Heiskanen may even challenge Liljegren for draft stock. Some scouts thought he was Finland’s best blueliner at the world juniors.

11. Martin Necas, RW, Kometo Brno (Cze.)

12. Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (SHL)

13. Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL)

14. Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Swe.)

15. Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)

16. Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)

17. Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)

18. Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

19. Nikita Popugaev, LW, Prince George (WHL)

20. Cal Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)

21. Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, Guelph (OHL)

22. Nic Hague, D, Mississauga (OHL)

23. Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)

24. Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane (WHL)

25. Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)

26. Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)

27. Jake Oettinger, G, Boston U. (Hockey East)

28. Ivan Lodnia, RW, Erie (OHL)

29. Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Spokane (WHL)

30. Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL)

31. Sasha Chmelevski, C, Ottawa (OHL)

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