With the NHL draft just a day away [7 p.m., NBCSN] and just 130 miles up the road at the WellsFargoCenter in Philadelphia, it’s time for our predictions on who will go where in the first round.
The Caps own the 13th selection, but new general manager Brian MacLellan said he is willing to move up or down in the draft to land the player he wants in the first round.
Let’s get started:
1. Florida Panthers – Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie [OHL]
Panthers GM Dale Tallon says he is more than willing to trade his No. 1 pick for an attractive package. No matter who makes the pick, this game-changing defenseman is expected to go first overall.
2. Buffalo Sabres - Sam Reinhardt, C, Kootenay [WHL]
A playmaker who sees the ice as well as anyone in this draft class, Reinhardt could be the best pure passer and overall offensive talent available.
3. Edmonton Oilers - Leon Draisaitle, C, Prince Albert [WHL]
Some believe this German-born center is good enough to supplant Reinhardt. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds he’s drawn comparisons to Jaromir Jagr.
4. Calgary Flames - C, Samuel Bennett, Kingston [OHL]
This draft is top-heavy with centers and if a team wants to trade up, the Flames would probably entertain offers. Bennett adds grit to his offensive arsenal and that will be attractive to other teams.
5. New York Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa [OHL]
Isles GM Garth Snow says he’d trade his pick for a top-six forward [Marcus Johansson?]. Dal Colle is one of the fastest skaters in the draft, making him one of the best forecheckers in his class.
6. Vancouver Canucks – Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary [WHL]
A sturdy power forward who racked up 45 goals and 100 penalty minutes last season, Virtanen could be the first power forward to go in the draft, unless …
7. Carolina Hurricanes – Nicholas Ritchie, LW, Peterborough [OHL]
Ritchie is another power forward who already has a pretty impressive package. Listed at 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, he put up 39 goals and 136 penalty minutes with the Petes last season and has a lot of Tom Wilson in him.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs – Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara [OHL]
This is where things get a little fuzzy. Blessed with speed, creativity and an accurate shot, Perlini could go as high as eight or as low as 12, depending on where NHL teams rank this years defensemen.
9. Winnipeg Jets – Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer [WHL]
Ranked as the second-best defenseman in the draft behind Ekblad, Fleury is an offensive threat who could go higher, depending on teams’ needs. If the Caps are interested in moving up from No. 13, it could be to take Fleury at 8 or 9.
10. Anaheim Ducks [from Ottawa] – Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa [Finland]
The son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, Kasperi plays a crash, bang and score style reminiscent of his father, with more offensive upside.
11. Nashville Predators – William Nylander, RW, Sodertalje [Sweden]
The son of former Caps forward Michael Nylander, William is a sniper and power-play specialist who played with his father in a men’s league last season and could be ready to step into the NHL.
12. Phoenix Coyotes – Alex Tuch, RW, USA-18 [USHL]
At 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, Tuch is another power forward with a hard, accurate shot but he’ll require some patience before developing into a dominant force in the NHL.
13. Washington Capitals – Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia [OHL]
If the Caps can’t move up to take Fleury and they’re set on taking a defenseman, it will be a toss-up between DeAngelo and Julius Honka, a pair of dynamic puck rushers. DeAngelo is three inches taller at 5-foot-10, which could top the scales in his favor.
14. Dallas Stars – Julius Honka, D, Swift Current [WHL]
His size [5-foot-7, 180 pounds] is a concern but his offensive skills are off the charts and will keep him in the top 15.
15. Detroit Red Wings - Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax [QMJHL]
Born in Denmark, Ehlers had an incredible rookie season in the “Q” with 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets – Kevin Fiala, LW, HV 71 [Sweden Junior]
He’ll need a full season in the Swedish men’s league before proving he can handle elite competition, but 56 points in 62 games at the junior level is a good start.
17. Philadelphia Flyers – Sonny Milano, LW, USA U-18 [USHL]
An agitator who put up 87 points in 58 games last season, Milano is a rich man’s Steve Downie and would be a perfect fit under new GM Ron Hextall.
18. Minnesota Wild – Adrian Kempe, RW, Modo [Sweden Junior]
At 6-foot-1, 178 pounds Kempe is a smooth skater but has not yet put up the offensive numbers to match it. A bit of a project.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning - Jared McCann, C, Saulte Ste. Marie [OHL]
Some believe McCann could go in the top 15 of the draft because of his overall game.
20. San Jose Sharks – Robert Fabbri, C, Guelph [OHL]
The Sharks are looking for a refresh and Fabbri was impressive in the OHL and Memorial Cup playoffs, something the Sharks may want after their spring fizzle.
21. St. Louis Blues – Jakub Vrana, C, Linkoping [Sweden]
A hard worker who can find his scoring spots on the ice, Vrana is a bit like Mikhail Grabovski in terms of hockey sense.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins – Thatcher Demko, G, BostonCollege [Hockey East]
Somebody’s got to take a goalie in the first round and it might as well be a team that may be thinking about developing a new one.
23. Colorado Avalanche – Brendon Lemieux, LW, Barrie [OHL]
Patrick Roy may have a tough time speaking with Claude Lemieux if his son is on the board and he doesn’t take him. His numbers? 53 points and 145 PIMs in 65 games.
24. Anaheim Ducks – Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener [OHL]
He’s not the dynamic defenseman his father was, but the son of Al MacInnis is an all-purpose centerman who could be a solid No. 2 in the NHL.
25. Boston Bruins – David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje [Sweden]
One of the more creative players in the draft, Pastrnak is a flashy winger who can score goals and set them up with equal acumen. Could be a good shootout weapon.
26. Montreal Canadiens – Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon [WHL]
A playmaker who can score [28 goals, 50 assists], Scherbak is a north-south player who drives hard to the net and distributes the puck well for a winger.
27. Chicago Blackhawks – Dylan Larkin, C, USA-18 [USHL]
A product of the University of Michigan, Larkin is a strong two-way center who wins battles along the wall and has a good touch around the net.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning [from Rangers] – Anton Karlsson, RW, Frolunda [Sweden Junior]
A strong and intense player who uses his 6-foot-, 192-pound frame to get to loose pucks and hit opponents, Karlsson could be a second-line pest in the NHL.
29. Los Angeles Kings – Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton [QMJHL]
Russia’s youngest player at the World Juniors, Barbashev made the commitment to play in North America last season and contributed 68 points in 48 games for Moncton.
30. New Jersey Devils – Roland McKeown, D, Kingston [OHL]
A 6-foot, 190-pounder, McKeown can play a solid two-way game [7 goals, 22 assists] but his strengths are in his own end, where he is a reliable penalty killer.