NHL draft recap: Analysis on every first-round pick

Bruce Mason
The Detroit News
Cale Makar poses for photos after being selected fourth overall.

Bruce Mason of The Detroit News breaks down every first-round pick in the NHL draft:

No. 31 St. Louis (via Pittsburgh), Klim Kostin, left wing/center, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

Pittsburgh and St. Louis made a trade prior to the pick.

In the trade: Pittsburgh received enforcer Ryan Reaves and the No. 51 overall pick; St. Louis received center Oskar Sundqvist and the No. 31 overall pick, which was used to select Kostin.

Kostin (6-2, 207) was the No. 1 rated European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. Many thought he could be picked in the top 10 of the draft, if he was healthy. But he slipped because his 2016-17 season was cut short by shoulder surgery.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins have more protection for superstar Sidney Crosby, considering Reaves (6-1, 225) had 104 penalty minutes last year.

Sundqvist, 23, had 46 points in 63 games last year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

No. 30, Nashville, Eeli Tolvanen, right wing, Sioux City (USHL)

Tolvanen (5-10, 189) is a dynamic player who was projected to be selected much higher in the draft. He had 54 points in 52 games last year with Sioux City.

Tolvanen is supposed to head to Boston College next year, but rumors are swirling that he is not academically eligible to attend school.

That makes six Finnish players selected in tonight's first round.

No. 29, Chicago (via Dallas from Anaheim), Henri Jokiharju, defenseman, Portland (WHL)

Jokiharju (6-0, 188) has strengths such as mobility and understanding where the puck needs to go.

The United Center roared as Blackhawks management brought Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to the stage to make the selection.

Toews (No. 3 overall in 2006) and Kane (No. 1 overall pick in 2007) are the faces of a franchise that rose from the cellar of the NHL to become Stanley Cup champions three times (2010, 2013, 2015).

Jokiharju marks the fifth Finnish-born player selected tonight. He had 48 points in 71 games last year.

No. 28, Ottawa, Shane Bowers, center, Waterloo (USHL)

Bowers (6-1, 178) finished in a tie for 10th among USHL scoring leaders with 51 points in 60 games.

Bowers, who is known for his all-around play, is committed to Boston University next year.

No. 27, Philadelphia (via St. Louis), Morgan Frost, center, Sault St. Marie (OHL)

St. Louis and Philadelphia made a trade prior to the pick: Philadelphia received the 27th pick, Jori Lehtera and a 2018 conditional first-round pick; St. Louis gets center Brayden Schenn.

With the 27th pick, the Flyers drafted Frost (5-11, 172), who had 62 points in 67 games last year.

Schenn is the biggest name in the deal and had 55 points in 79 games in 2016-17 with Philadelphia. Schenn, who is 25-years-old, was the 5th overall pick by the L.A. Kings in the 2009 NHL Draft.

Lehtera had 22 points in 64 games last year.

No. 26, Dallas (via Chicago), Jake Oettinger, goalie, Boston University (H-East)

The Stars traded picks No. 29 and No. 70 overall to move up and select him.

Oettinger (6-4, 218) uses his size effectively in between the pipes. He was the second-youngest player in college hockey last year, according to NHL.com.

No. 25, Montreal, Ryan Poehling, center, St. Cloud State (NCHC)

He draws comparisons to Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Poehling (6-2, 177) has a good mind but needs to improve his skating.  He's the fifth American selected in the draft tonight.

Last season, a record 12 American-born players were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in Buffalo.

No. 24 Winnipeg (from Columbus via Vegas), Kristian Vesalainen, left wing/right wing, Frolunda (Sweden)

Vesalainen (6-4, 209) was the MVP of the IIHF World Junior Championship this past spring in Slovakia. To make a comparison, last year’s No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) was the 2015 MVP of the world junior championship.

No. 23, Arizona (via Minnesota), Pierre-Olivier Joseph, defenseman, Charlottetown (QMJHL)

Joseph (6-2, 163) is a late bloomer. His brother, Mathieu Joseph, was a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2015.

It caps quite an interesting week for Arizona, which said goodbye in an odd manner to longtime veteran and captain Shane Doan, and coach Dave Tippett.

No. 22, Edmonton, Kailer Yamamoto, right wing, Spokane (WHL)

Described as electrifying, Yamamoto (5-foot-7 1/2, 146 pounds) will join superstar Connor McDavid in Edmonton.

Yamamoto is believed to be the shortest first-round pick of all-time, and he might be the lightest, too.

Yamamoto is known for his agility and had 99 points in 65 games last season.

The Alberta-rival Calgary Flames have Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 157 pounds), and now the Oilers have a similar player in Yamamoto.

No. 21, N.Y. Rangers, Filip Chytil, center, Zlin (Czech Republic)

Chytil (6-2, 192), who is 17-years-old, was eligible for the draft by just a few days. He's projected to be a top-six forward who can play both ends of the ice.

Chytil “can be a dazzling puck-handler at times,” wrote Kevin Allen of the USA Today.

Earlier in the day, the Rangers traded center Derek Stepan and backup goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the 7th pick in the draft, which New York used to select Swedish center Lias Andersson.

"Hopefully today, (with) what we've done, it's a step forward in the right direction," said Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, who said he is rebuilding on the fly during an interview with NBCSN.

No. 20, St. Louis,Robert Thomas, center, London (OHL)

Thomas (6-0, 193) won a Memorial Cup in 2015-16 with the London Knights. He compares his style of play to L.A. Kings forward Anze Kopitar, according to NHL.com.

Thomas had 16 goals and 50 assists in 66 games last year for London.

No. 19, San Jose, Josh Norris, center, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Norris (6-0, 189), who was born in Oxford, Michigan, led the U.S. National Under-18 team in goals (27) in the 2016-17 season.

Norris is committed to play for the University of Michigan next season.

No. 18, Boston, Urho Vaakanainen, defenseman, JYP (Finland)

His strength is his hockey sense. Vaakanainen (6-1, 188) is the third Finnish defenseman taken in tonight’s first round.

"We think he has tremendous upside," said Bruins GM Don Sweeney.

No. 17, Toronto, Timothy Liljegren, defenseman, Rogle (Sweden)

Liljegren (6-0, 188) loves to jump into the offensive attack but has leverage and quickness.

Liljegren is quick to loose pucks and makes great passes, but his hockey sense has come into question.

No. 16, Calgary, Juuso Valimaki, defenseman, Tri-City (WHL)

Valimaki (6-2, 211) led all Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) blue line prospects in goals (19) last season.

It's the first time in the history of the draft that two Finnish defensemen have been drafted in the first round.

No. 15, Vegas (via N.Y. Islanders), Erik Brannstrom, defenseman, HV 71 (Sweden)

Hands. Poise. Skating ability. Terrific shot.

Brannstrom (5-9, 179), who is 17-years-old, joins Cody Glass (sixth overall) and Nick Suzuki (13th overall) as first-round picks of the Golden Knights.

"I'm really delighted that we got these kids," Vegas GM George McPhee said.

McPhee also noted that the NHL is shifting toward a league with mobile defensemen, and Brannstrom fits the bill.

No. 14, Tampa Bay, Callan Foote, defenseman, Kelowna (WHL)

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman has selected the son of a former arch rival.

Foote (6-4, 215) is the son of former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, who is best known for getting his face smashed into the glass by Slava Kozlov in the height of the Wings-Avalanche rivalry.

Callan Foote is two inches bigger than his dad and has a size 16 shoe.

Kelowna is known for pumping big-time defenseman into the NHL (Montreal's Shea Weber, Chicago's Duncan Keith, Arizona's Luke Schenn).

No. 13, Vegas (via Winnipeg), Nick Suzuki, center, Owen Sound (OHL)

Suzuki (5-11, 183) has great hockey sense and is tough to check. He had 96 points last year for Owen Sound.

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News said recently that Suzuki could be the steal of the draft.

No. 12, Carolina, Martin Necas, center, BRNO (Czech Republic)

Necas (6-1, 178) has offensive skill, but his size concerns scouts.

“He’s got a lot of off-ice work to do,” NHL analyst Pierre McGuire said on NBCSN.

Necas is known for his hockey sense and is compared to Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.

Necas played on a line in Finland last year with Martin Erat, who had five 50-point seasons with the Nashville Predators from 2006-07 through 2011-12.

No. 11, L.A. Kings, Gabriel Vilardi, center, Windsor (OHL)

Critics knock the skating of Vilardi (6-3, 203), who was projected to be a top-five pick in some mock drafts.

Vilardi might be suited as a wing in the NHL, but he compares himself to Islanders star John Tavares.

"We're excited about this," Kings GM Rob Blake said to NBCSN.

No. 10, Florida, Owen Tippett, right wing, Mississauga (OHL)

Tippett (6-0, 203 pounds) has a lethal shot, but he’s been labeled as a defensive liability.

Craig Button said on TSN.ca in a draft preview that Tippett is the “best pure goal scorer in the draft. He can beat goaltenders from 35-40 feet with just an exceptional shot.”

Did the Red Wings make a mistake by skipping Tippett?

No. 9, Detroit, Michael Rasmussen, center, Tri-City (WHL)

"This could be the ultimate sleeper of the draft," said NHL analyst Pierre McGuire.

Rasmussen is 6-foot-6, 221 pounds and is known for his presence around the net. He had 32 goals in 50 games last year but was a minus-13.

The scouts wonder: Can he score at even strength? More than half of his points last year came on the power play.

In a short interview with NBCSN, Red Wings GM Ken Holland noted the "character" of Rasmussen and called him a "consolation prize" after a tough season.

"Rasmussen is far from the best skater on the ice and will need to work on both his speed and agility," wrote Brett Slawson of The Hockey Writers.

Rasmussen saw his Tri-City season end in February with a broken wrist. He compares his style to former Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin, according to sportsnet.ca writer Mike Johnston.

Rasmussen is the Wings' highest draft pick since 1991 when Martin Lapointe went 10th overall.

No. 8, Buffalo, Casey Mittelstadt, center, Eden Prairie (High school) Minnesota

Poised. Steady. Kind of like a Patrick Kane awareness level.

Mittelstadt (6-0, 199), who will play at the University of Minnesota but is unlikely to be there four years, played in high school last year and was named "Mr. Hockey" of Minnesota.

Mittelstadt also played last year with Green Bay of the USHL (before and after his high school season).

"He's a dynamic offensive player," said Sabres GM Jason Botterill.

No. 7, N.Y. Rangers (via Arizona), Lias Andersson, center, HV 71 (Sweden)

Andersson has winnable traits, someone who can shine in all facets of the game, and is compared to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz.

Earlier in the day, the Rangers dealt Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona for the 7th pick in the draft and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

Raanta was 16-8-2 last year with a 2.26 goals against average. He could be the No. 1 goalie after the Coyotes recently traded Mike Smith to Calgary.

N.Y. Rangers Alain Vigneault called the loss of Stepan a tough decision.

No. 6, Las Vegas, Cody Glass, center, Portland (WHL)

Glass had 67 more points in 2016-17 than he did the previous year. What an increase.

Glass (6-2, 178) is still growing, too.

Portland Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston coached Ryan Johansen (Nashville Predators) in juniors, and he says Glass is practically Johansen 2.0, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

"I don’t think (Glass is) close to what he’ll be as an NHL player because ... he’s going get a lot stronger and a lot bigger," Johnston told the Winnipeg Free Press. "He’s going to fill out. I saw the same thing with Johansen. When Johansen was with us, you could see he was going to be a really good player, but he was nowhere close to what he was going to be as a pro."

No. 5, Vancouver, Elias Pettersson, center, Timra (Sweden-2)

The Canucks provide a slight surprise by taking Pettersson (6-2, 165), who was believed to fall as low as No. 9, where the Red Wings were believed to be thinking of taking him.

Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting, believes Pettersson has “high-end creativity.”

No. 4, Colorado, Cale Makar, defenseman, Brooks (AJHL)

The comparison across the hockey world is Makar (5-11, 187) is another version of Erik Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators’ two-time Norris Trophy winner.

Scouts were wary of Makar’s prospects because of his lack of exposure and lesser competition in the Junior A level, which is a step below Major Junior Hockey (OHL, WHL, QMJHL). But he rose up the charts this past year with his ability to jump into the offensive play.

How soon will Makar head to the Avalanche in Denver? He is committed to UMass for next season.

The Avalanche were rumored to deal forward Matt Duchene, but it hasn't happened yet. Or maybe it won't at all.

No. 3, Dallas, Miro Heiskanen, defenseman, HIFK (Finland)

His hockey brain has been compared to Red Wings legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. His all-around game does not have many flaws.

Heiskanen (6-1, 172) was named the best defenseman this spring at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Slovakia.

“I think I'm the best of the defenseman who can play offense and defense," Heiskanen told NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale.

Dallas GM (and former Red Wings assistant GM) Jim Nill was rumored to deal the third-overall pick in the draft. According to hockey guru Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Nill was interested in former Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot, who is temporarily a member of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. 

Remember: The Stars were the Western Conference regular season champions (109 points) just two years ago.  An injury epidemic made the Stars plummet from contention:  Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin missed training camp and had a tough time finding their groove.

The time is now for the Stars, who believe they can get to the top of the conference again.

No. 2, Philadelphia, Nolan Patrick, center, Brandon (WHL)

No surprise, here. Patrick was the No. 1-ranked North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau and was in a long-running debate about whether he would be taken ahead of Nico Hischier.

Vision. Size. Skating. Patrick is a prototypical power forward (6-2, 198) and was the MVP of the 2016 WHL playoffs for the champion Brandon Wheat Kings.

Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting, believes that Patrick compares to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal.

Patrick is the third family member to be selected in the first round. His father, Steve, went 20th overall in the 1980 draft (Buffalo). His uncle, James, was chosen ninth overall by the N.Y. Rangers in 1981.

One concern: He missed three months of 2016-17 with a sports hernia to his left side, this coming after he had surgery for a sports hernia on the right side. The left side, he said, was undetected by doctors.

Interestingly enough, the Flyers have a history with the Brandon Wheat Kings. They selected defenseman Ivan Provorov at No. 7 overall in 2015, and, GM Ron Hextall was born in Brandon and also played for the Wheat Kings.

No. 1, New Jersey, Nico Hischier, center, Halifax (QMJHL)

The 6-foot-2, 179-pound center is the third European taken No. 1 overall in the past 13 years. The Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin was No. 1 overall in 2004 and the Oilers’ Nail Yakupov was the top pick in 2012.

Hischier is the first ever Switzerland-born player taken No. 1 overall.

"Hischier is definitely worth the price of admission," central scouting director Dan Marr said to NHL.com. "He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he’s the first player back. He’s in that category as a special player."

Hischier has been compared to former Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk.

The Devils have a solid history with top-three picks. Here they are: Brendan Shanahan (1987, 2nd overall), Scott Niedermayer (1991, 3rd overall).

Will Wings deal Mrazek? 

After a whirlwind day of trades, it will be quite an interesting night at the United Center in Chicago for the 2017 NHL Draft.

Analysts believe it's one of the worst crops of players in years — and if that’s the case, it doesn’t bode well for the Wings, who will be selecting No. 9 overall. It certainly won’t be like the previous two draft classes that featured generational talents such as Auston Matthews (Toronto, 2016) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton, 2015), but there’s a strong likelihood the Wings will land a center or defenseman with their pick.

Will goalie Petr Mrazek be traded tonight? Or will there be a (gulp) ... three-headed rotation heading into training camp with Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau?

Regardless, the draft is critical for the rebuilding Red Wings, who will select their first of 11 picks tonight. Several mock drafts have the Wings selecting Swedish center Elias Pettersson (6-foot-2, 165 pounds). The 18-year-old is known for his excellent hockey sense and creativity. Last year, he had 41 points in 43 games with Timra, the former team of captain Henrik Zetterberg.

Kevin Allen of the USA Today believes the Wings will select Czech Republic center Martin Necas (6-1, 178), who has plenty of offensive skill, but his size concerns scouts.

Wheeling and dealing

Already today, Chicago traded budding star Artemi Panarin to Columbus for Brandon Saad, who returns to the franchise he helped win two Stanley Cups. The N.Y. Rangers dealt Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona for the 7th pick in the draft (and a player who you never knew).

Keep an eye on Las Vegas GM George McPhee, who has three first-round picks in the top 15 overall slots and six picks in the first two rounds.

Who will go No. 1?

Nico or Nolan?

The long-running consensus is either Nico Hischier (Halifax, QMJHL) and Nolan Patrick (Brandon, WHL) will be selected No. 1 overall tonight by New Jersey, and whoever is left will put on the Philadelphia Flyers sweater (No. 2 pick).

According to an NHL.com poll of 14 scouts, Patrick held a 9-5 advantage over Hischier.


Red Wings have big hopes for extra picks

Krupa: Wings left to make best out of Mrazek morass

Expansion draft costs Wings NHL-ready prospect in Nosek

Experts match Red Wings with Necas, Pettersson in mock drafts

5 defensemen for Wings: Help, patience on tap at No. 9

5 forwards for the Wings: No sure thing at No. 9


When: 7 p.m. Friday (Round 1); 10 a.m. Saturday (Rounds 2-7)

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBCSN Friday, NHL Network on Saturday.

Red Wings: They have 11 picks — the No. 9 pick in the first round; No. 38 in the second; Nos. 71, 79, 83 and 88 in the third; No. 100 in the fourth; No. 131 in the fifth; Nos. 162 and 164 in the sixth; and No. 193 in the seventh.


1. New Jersey

2. Philadelphia

3. Dallas

4. Colorado

5. Vancouver

6. Vegas

7. N.Y. Rangers (from Arizona)

8. Buffalo

9. Detroit

10. Florida

11. Los Angeles

12. Carolina

13. Vegas (from Winnipeg)

14. Tampa Bay

15. Vegas (from N.Y. Islanders)

16. Calgary

17. Toronto

18. Boston

19. San Jose

20. St. Louis

21. N.Y. Rangers

22. Edmonton

23. Arizona (from Minnesota)

24. Winnipeg (from Columbus via Vegas)

25. Montreal

26. Chicago

27. St. Louis (from Washington)

28. Ottawa

29. Dallas (from Anaheim)

30. Nashville

31. Pittsburgh