Here's my second and final attempt at a mock draft for the first round of the NHL Draft. You can view the first one here.
1. New York Islanders: John Tavares, Forward, London Knights
Why: The Islanders have teased this past week about going in a different direction with Victor Hedman, or possibly even Matt Duchene, but I still think it would be a huge mistake if they didn't take Tavares. Even if Duchene and Hedman end up being better players, it would be a mistake to pass a potentially franchise forward that can score 40 to 50 goals a season. That's not saying the Islanders are above making a huge mistake, but I don't think they will make it here.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman, Defenseman, Modo
Why: The Lightning have been an absolute mess this past week with tons of in-fighting between Oren Koules and Len Barrie. The later rounds could be a disaster, but for now, I think this pick is difficult to screw up. The Lightning seem to be entertaining trade offers, but the set-up here is too perfect. They need a franchise defenseman and there is one that fell right into their lap at the number two spot. Again, it would be a huge mistake if they went in any other direction.
3. Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene, Forward, Brampton Battalion
Why: Colorado can basically write "Give us whoever is left between Tavares, Hedman, and Duchene" on their draft card, turn it in at 7:00 and get an early jump on the rest of the group to the Montreal strip club scene.
Again, Duchene is the most talented player on the board, and fills a need for the Avalanche organization.
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane, Forward, Vancouver Giants
Why: Here is where things are going to get really interesting in the draft. There doesn't seem to be any strong consensus on who the fourth most talented player in the draft is, but the general feeling seems to be sliding towards Kane. Atlanta is pretty open in terms of need, and I think the best players available are all forwards
Plus, if I've learned from following this year's draft, it's that Kane is named after Evander Holyfield, which is pretty sweet.
5. Los Angeles Kings: Brayden Schenn, Forward, Brandon Wheat Kings
Why: This was pick was rumored to be involved in the "Pronger to LA" trade rumor that kept everyone busy for about a day and never quite came to fruition. But Los Angeles could still be in the market to trade this pick. They want to win soon, and this is a pretty powerful bargaining chip that could bring in a very good veteran player. If they do keep this pick, or if somebody trades it, I think Schenn is the pick here. The Kings have to feel pretty good about their defense for the future, and could use another dynamic forward in their mix.
6. Phoenix Coyotes: Jared Cowen, Defenseman, Spokane Chiefs
Why: The Coyotes need a talented defenseman, and it will likely come down to a decision between Jared Cowen and Oliver Ekman-Larson. Both picks are fairly risky: Cowen's surgically repiared knee vs. hoping OEL can learn to play defense better. Cowen seems like a little bit of a safer bet, and would likely contribute at the NHL level a little faster.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Dmitri Kulikov, Defenseman, Drummondville
Why: A lot of people seem to think the Leafs will draft offense, but the possibility of a Schenn-Kulikov pairing looks an awful lot like a young version of the Pronger-Neidermayer pairing that made Brian Burke so successful in Anaheim. Kulikov brings some nice offensive ability, but is a little less risky than Oliver Ekman-Larson and Ryan Ellis.
8. Dallas Stars: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Forward, Timra
Why: This is a prime example of why teams will be trying to trade down from the 4-7 slots. The Stars have a number of legitimate options at both forward and defense. The speedy Paajarvi-Svensson has seen his stock drop a bit over concerns that he doesn't have the goal-scoring ability to be a top pick, but the Stars are getting a pretty good player for drafting 8th.
9. Ottawa Senators: Nazem Kadri, Forward, London Knights
Why: The Senators system lacks potential top 6 forward prospects. Kadri is arguably the most talented forward available at 9th overall in the draft. The Sens may have to wait a bit for Kadri to fill out some more, but he should be worth the wait.
10. Edmonton Oilers: Oliver Ekman-Larson, Defenseman, Leksand
Why: The Oilers will be thrilled if a defenseman with this type of skill falls to them at the 10th spot. Ekman-Larson has the skills to be really incredible, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to reach that level in the NHL.
11. Nashville Predators: Scott Glennie, Forward, Brandon Wheat Kings
Why: Glennie is another forward that has slipped a little bit in recent weeks. It can sometimes be tough to judge a player when he's paired up with a more talented linemate like Glennie was with Brayden Schenn, but Glennie is very talented and should be a nice asset for Nashville.
12. Minnesota Wild: Zack Kassian, Forward, Peterborough Petes
Why: New GM Chuck Fletcher has emphasized toughness in the Wild organization, so they'll pass on local star Jordan Schroeder for the bigger Kassian. Kassian is about as tough as they come, and hopefully has the skill to put up some points as well.
13. Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Ellis, Defenseman, Windsor Spitfires
Why: The Sabres could use an offensive defenseman, and it might be worth their while to try and trade up a couple spots to get Kulikov or Ekman-Larson, but if they can't, Ellis has potential to be one of the top powerplay quarterbacks in the league. It's a little riskier pick just because of his size, however.
14. Florida Panthers: Jordan Schroeder, Forward, University of Minnesota
Why: There's absolutely no way Schroeder should have lasted this long, but for whatever reason, his stock seems to have dropped since the end of the year. It would definitely be worth it for a number of teams to try and trade up into the 11-14 range to try and get Schroeder because he's such a safe bet to be an offensive contributor.
15. Anaheim Ducks: Chris Kreider, Forward, Andover
Why: Last year the Ducks went with a smooth-skating high schooler in Jake Gardiner in the first round, and this time around, needing a young forward, they'll go with the smooth skating Kreider.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: John Moore, Defenseman, Chicago Steel
Why: The Blue Jackets have a number of defensive prospects in the NCAA ranks, but none quite as dynamic as Moore is.
17. St. Louis Blues: Jacob Josefson, Forward, Djurgarden
Why: The Blues have built a solid foundation of talented young players by drafting college players and talented Swedes. At this pick, they'll have a choice between a talented Swede in Josefson and a college player in Louis Leblanc. Leblanc might be a little safer pick, but Josefson has a little more home run potential.
18. Montreal Canadiens: Louis Leblanc, Forward, Omaha Lancers
Why: The team hosting the draft selecting a local kid with their first round pick seems a little too cute, but Leblanc is probably the best player available on the board, the Canadiens could use another forward in their system, and they've shown they like selecting NCAA players.
19. New York Rangers: Carter Ashton, Forward, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Why: The Rangers are in need of a top power forward prospect and Ashton is the most talented available at this spot.
20. Calgary Flames: David Rundblad, Defenseman, Skelleftea
Why: Rundblad is probably the most talented player available at this point in the draft. He's got good offensive skills and the size to someday develop into a more physical player as well.
21. Philadelphia Flyers: Simon Despres, Defenseman, St. John's
Why: Despres will fall to the Flyers, who are in need of a good young defenseman, because of some consistency issues, but he does have the potential to be just as good, if not better, than some of the defensemen selected ahead of him.
22. Vancouver Canucks: Kyle Palmieri, Forward, US National Develop Program
Why: Palmieri's skill and impressive Combine performance are enough to clear away any concerns about character issues that Vancouver might have. They're getting an extremely talented player fairly late in the first round.
23. New Jersey Devils: Tim Erixon, Defenseman, Skelleftea
Why: Erixon is a player whose stock has risen in the past couple of months. He's got great bloodlines as the son of an NHL player, and has great potential to become a solid offensive defenseman.
24. Washington Capitals: Zach Budish, Forward, Edina HS
Why: If Budish had been healthy this past season, he would have long gone by this point in the draft, but his injury ends up being the Capitals gain. The Capitals get a great power forward for the future without having to give away anything to trade up.
25. Boston Bruins: Peter Holland, Forward, Guelph Storm
Why: Holland has such tremendous offensive talents that he's got great upside. If the Bruins end up losing Phil Kessel, perhaps Holland could fill that void in a couple of years.
26. New York Islanders: Ryan O'Reilly, Forward, Erie Otters
Why: Having already secured John Tavares, I wouldn't be surprised if New York decided to trade this pick, either to move up in the first round again, or trade down to get more assets. O'Reilly is similar to Tavares in that neither are particularly gifted physically, and skating is a bit of an issue, but both have absolutely tremendous offensive sense and do a great job of finding ways to get the puck into the net. O'Reilly has brilliant hands and could make for a great set-up man for Tavares.
27. Carolina Hurricanes: Landon Ferraro, Forward, Red Deer Rebels
Why: He put up decent offensive numbers on a pretty weak WHL team, but more importantly, he plays a very responsible defensive game, meaning the Hurricanes will very likely get an NHL player out of a late first round pick.
28. Chicago Blackhawks: Nick Leddy, Defenseman, Eden Prairie HS
Why: The Blackhawks have a choice between two offensive defensemen in Nick Leddy and Calvin De Haan with two different styles. De Haan is more of a threat to put up points, but Leddy has more upside in all areas of the ice because of his tremendous skating. Leddy is more likely to have a positive impact on a game where he doesn't register a point.
29. Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Olsen, Defenseman, Camrose Kodiaks
Why: Olsen is a little underrated because of the league he played in, and the Wings have made a habit of getting steals thanks to people overlooking certain prospects.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins: Charles Olivier-Roussel, Defenseman, Shawnigan
Why: Olivier-Roussel made a late move up draft boards with a nice playoff run. The Penguins will be getting a defenseman that can play in all ends of the ice with pretty good size.