The St. Louis Blues selected Robert Thomas in the first round, 20th overall, in the 2017 NHL draft. Source: Getty Images
Here’s how the first round of the 2017 NHL draft would play out, based on our Future Watch scouting committee's evaluation of prospects' progress so far in 2017-18.
Which picks from the 2017 NHL draft were the biggest bargains? Which teams did well selecting prospects where they did? Intelligence given to us by NHL scouts allows The Hockey News to redo the first round of the 2017 draft. Using the prospect-progress information that a panel of scouts shared with us in our recently released 2018 Future Watch issue, here’s how the 2017 NHL draft would look if we asked teams to start from scratch and do it over again.
It's important to note these are the blended opinions of 11 scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs and in many cases won't be the same thought processes as individual teams.
We asked these scouts to assess a list of 310 NHL prospects (the top 10 from each of the 31 teams) and to establish their own top 60 list, based on a five- to 10-year projection window of NHL upside. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 310 were from drafts prior to 2017 or free agents. But 86 of them – almost 28 percent – were selected last June.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2017 draft if it were to be held again today. Two players from the 2017 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. New Jersey's Nico Hischier and Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them Nos. 1 and 2 even though there's a decent chance that 2017 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe may surpass one or both of them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee's evaluation of their progression so far in 2017-18. Of course, this exercise doesn’t take into consideration individual team preferences. Though we’ll never know for sure publicly, maybe Vegas would still take Cody Glass sixth overall even though the scouting community at large wouldn’t select him until the No. 10 slot.
1. Nico Hischier, C (taken 1st by New Jersey)
2. Nolan Patrick, C (taken 2nd by Philadelphia)
3. Casey Mittelstadt, C (taken 8th by Buffalo)
4. Elias Pettersson, C (taken 5th by Vancouver)
5. Miro Heiskanen, D (taken 3rd by Dallas)
6. Cale Makar, D (taken 4th by Colorado)
7. Martin Necas, C (taken 12th by Carolina)
8. Eeli Tolvanen, RW (taken 30th by Nashville)
9. Robert Thomas, C (taken 20th by St. Louis)
10. Cody Glass, C (taken 6th by Vegas)
11. Lias Andersson, D (taken 7th by NY Rangers)
12. Filip Chytil, C (taken 21st by NY Rangers)
13. Juuso Valimaki, D (taken 16th by Calgary)
14. Gabe Vilardi, C (taken 11th by Los Angeles)
15. Owen Tippett, RW (taken 10th by Florida)
16. Erik Brannstrom, D (taken 15th by Vegas)
17. Nick Suzuki, C (taken 13th by Vegas)
18. Conor Timmins, D (taken 32nd by Colorado)
19. Michael Rasmussen, C (taken 9th by Detroit)
20. Timothy Liljegren, D (taken 17th by Toronto)
21. Kailer Yamamoto, RW (taken 22nd by Edmonton)
22. Ryan Poehling, C (taken 25th by Montreal)
23. Morgan Frost, C (taken 27th by Philadelphia)
24. Klim Kostin, RW (taken 31st by St. Louis)
25. Urho Vaakanainen, D (taken 18th by Boston)
26. Drake Batherson, C (taken 121st by Ottawa)
27. Kristian Vesalainen, LW (taken 24th by Winnipeg)
28. Josh Norris, C (taken 19th by San Jose)
29. Cal Foote, D (taken 14th by Tampa Bay)
30. Henri Jokiharju, D (taken 29th by Chicago)
31. Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D (taken 23rd by Arizona)
Early second round:
32. Dylan Samberg, D (taken 43rd by Winnipeg)
33. Alex Formenton, LW (taken 47th by Ottawa)
34. Aleksi Heponiemi, C (taken 40th by Florida)
35. Jonathan Davidsson, RW (taken 170th by Columbus)
36. Ian Mitchell, D (taken 57th by Chicago)
37. Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C (taken 41st by Los Angeles)
38. Nicolas Hague, D (taken 34th by Vegas)
39. Marcus Davidsson, C (taken 37th by Buffalo)
40. Alexandre Texier, C (taken 45th by Columbus)
Making the biggest impression in this do-over of the early portion of the draft are Casey Mittelstadt, Martin Necas, Eeli Tolvanen, Robert Thomas and Filip Chytil. Based on their advancements so far this season, they would have moved up significantly. Buffalo selected Mittelstadt at No. 8. Redo the draft today and he goes in the top three. He’s the No. 1 prospect in Future Watch 2018. Necas moves up from No. 12 to seventh, Thomas goes from No. 20 to ninth and Chytil from No. 21 to 12th. The biggest first-round mover belongs to Nashville. The 2017 Stanley Cup finalists happily selected Tolvanen with the second-last pick in the first round, 30th overall. After a standout first half in 2017-18, he easily goes in the top 10 if teams were to do this exercise again.
Just two actual first-rounders from 2017 wouldn’t go in the first round if it were re-held today: No. 26 Jake Oettinger, G, Dallas; and, No. 28 Shane Bowers, C, Ottawa (now Colorado). They’d be no higher than mid-second rounders. The 33rd pick (Kole Lind, Vancouver) and 35th pick (Isaac Ratcliffe, Philadelphia) would have dropped to at least the mid-second round as well in a redux.
First-rounders to drop the most are Owen Tippett (five spots, from No. 10 to 15), Urho Vaakanainen (seven spots), Pierre-Olivier Joseph (eight spots), Josh Norris (nine spots), Michael Rasmussen (10 spots) and Cal Foote (14 spots). But keep in mind, these are the opinions of the scouting community at large, and not every team’s thoughts. Rasmussen is an interesting example. He was a polarizing prospect heading into the 2017 draft. Many teams were of the opinion they wouldn’t take him until late in the first round. But other teams liked his combination of size and good hands around the net and would've happily selected him in the No. 8 to 12 range. All it takes is one team to follow through on that and Detroit did at No. 9. Good chance they’d do that again today. But scouts as a whole would take him 19th today.
Two players taken well into the second half of the draft would move up significantly. The biggest jump was Djurgarden’s Jonathan Davidsson, selected 170th in the sixth round by Columbus. He'd be an early second-rounder at No. 35 today. And right winger Drake Batherson has played so well this season, he’d be a late first-rounder in a redo of the draft. He was taken in the fourth round, 121st overall, by Ottawa.
Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander are on the cover of this year's Future Watch issue. Toronto’s list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL, and the Maple Leafs also had four players among the top 100 NHL-affiliated prospects.