Redrafting the 2017 NHL Draft
Following up two of the best drafts in recent history, the 2017 NHL Draft was expected to be below-average both in terms of the top talent available and depth. The top-two prospects in the draft, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, were projected to be second-line centers at best.
Three and a half years on, it still might not be a deep class, but three players selected after Patrick and Hischier have emerged as potential franchise talents. On top of that, some of the players selected later in the first round have proven they should’ve been taken much earlier.
RELATED: REDRAFTING THE 2018 NHL DRAFT
With the NHL season kicking off, we’re at the point where a full round of players are all in the NHL or at least on the taxi squad. This season will prove as a breakout year for many and a chance for some to solidify their spot on a roster.
With plenty of hindsight, let’s see how the draft would pan out today.
1 – New Jersey Devils: Elias Pettersson, C (+4)
Actual selection: Nico Hischier, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 8
With two standout NHL campaigns and an excellent playoff to his name, Elias Pettersson has already established himself as a bonafide star in the league. After the draft, the consensus was that the Canucks stretched a bit to pick the Swede at fifth overall – the talent was there, but he needed to put weight on in order to play at the next level. He has since comfortably been the best player from the class so far. In the offensive zone, he is one of the most dangerous players in the league, with an incredibly powerful and accurate release – all the more impressive considering how lanky is. He produces highlight-reel plays night in, night out, with tremendous hands in tight. In his own zone, he is efficient at breaking up play with an active stick. Projected as a second-line centre, Pettersson could end up being one of the best middle-men in the league very soon.
2 – Philadelphia Flyers: Cale Makar, RHD (+2)
Actual selection: Nolan Patrick, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 7
Once viewed as a high risk, high reward pick, Cale Makar has solidified himself as one of the best young players on the planet after just one season in the NHL. He was one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, tying John Carlson in points per 60. His incredible mobility combined with some of the best hands and shot in the league makes him a threat from anywhere on the ice. It’s impressive how much he drives offense for Colorado considering he plays with Nathan MacKinnon. Although he isn’t particularly strong defensively, he literally never stops moving and can close gaps effortlessly with elite four-way skating ability.
3 – Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen, LHD (-)
Actual selection: Miro Heiskanen, LHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 3
Makar over Miro Heiskanen was basically a coin-flip. Both will compete with Rasmus Dahlin, Charlie McAvoy and Quinn Hughes for the Norris trophy for the next decade. Whereas Makar usually creates offence rushing full-speed at defenders, Heiskanen is much more subtle. “Cerebral” is a perfect descriptor. He scans the zone from the point and makes little feints before finding his target. He is every bit as good a skater as Makar and his zone entry and exit numbers are also elite. Heiskanen is significantly better defensively, playing 25-plus minutes in both of his playoff campaigns. He is incredibly efficient at stunting offense with his body and stick. If he ends up having a better career than Makar, it will be from shutting down the game’s stars in big games. The Stars will be content having picked Heiskanen third.
4 – Colorado Avalanche: Nico Hischier, C (-3)
Actual selection: Cale Makar, RHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 2
There is a sense we haven’t seen the best from the first overall pick yet. His ranking here isn’t so much a result of him being a disappointment as it is the other players exceeding expectations. We’ve seen him make high-end plays at times, but he hasn’t had much help in New Jersey since Taylor Hall left and has struggled with injury.
5 – Vancouver Canucks: Robert Thomas, C (+13)
Actual selection: Elias Pettersson, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 33
Robert Thomas has done well in-depth roles so far in the NHL but is poised to make a jump this season. He is a terrific playmaker – he ranked 10th in assists-per-60 last season – and his tireless work ethic makes him difficult to play against. He never stops competing, winning pucks and generating chances for his teammates. He has shown some flair this season, too.
Passing by Robert Thomas has been so nice this season pic.twitter.com/opXFCNhAY3
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 24, 2021
With just 19 goals in two seasons, Thomas could benefit from shooting the puck more. He has an elusive release and picks corners with ease. He should feast on weak matchups as a second-line center this year.
6 – Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Suzuki, C (+7)
Actual selection: Cody Glass, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 19
Nick Suzuki was projected as a 200-foot workhorse guy with a bit of skill but has since shown significantly more offensive ability. In his final year of junior, he carried the Guelph Storm to the Memorial Cup with 42 points in 24 playoff games. In the NHL, he has continued to produce at an impressive rate and has shown he can run a powerplay. Suzuki’s brain is what makes him so effective. He has the motor and the puck skills, but he’s also got the smarts to know what to do with the puck and how to get it when he doesn’t have it.
7 – New York Rangers: Nolan Patrick, C (-6)
Actual selection: Lias Andersson, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 1
Patrick has started his pro career slow out of the gate, but the player that went second overall is still there. Some have given up on him, but if he remains healthy he can still reach his potential. He’s an above-average skater with a and feasts in and around the net. His frame means he can win pick battles and maintain possession, and his quick hands and creativity mean he can create chances. He is just as good as a setup man or a finisher. If anyone deserves a breakout season, it’s him.
8 – Buffalo Sabres: Martin Necas, C/RW (+4)
Actual selection: Casey Mittelstadt, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 9
Martin Necas is a fun player to watch, his skating is explosive and he has a proclivity to make flashy plays. He’s got a great shot and is effective from the flank on the powerplay, but he lands behind Thomas, Suzuki and Patrick because he’s lacking defensively. If he can round out his game and start to make the simple plays more consistently, he may end up higher on this list. However, the players above him have been more effective thus far.
9 – Detroit Red Wings: Gabriel Vilardi, C (+2)
Actual selection: Michael Rasmussen, C/LW
FCHockey’s Rank: 4
After missing almost all of 2018-19 with back problems, Gabriel Vilardi returned to the ice last year and reminded everybody how good he can be. Standing at six-foot-three, 200 pounds, he is most effective below the hash marks where he can dictate play with his size, shot and vision. He also possesses a powerful release, making him a well-rounded threat. This season we will see whether or not Vilardi can fully recover from the injuries that have plagued his career thus far.
10 – Florida Panthers: Josh Norris, C (+9)
Actual selection: Owen Tippett, RW
FCHockey’s Rank: 67
Josh Norris had a fantastic first season in the pros, winning the AHL Rookie of the Year Award and finishing as the only rookie who scored over a point per game. He plays a simple but highly effective game, using his slick hands to carry the puck into vantage points where he can beat the goalie himself with or find a teammate with ease. He is a safe bet to be a second-line center, having produced well but not extraordinarily at all levels.
11 – Los Angeles Kings: Cody Glass, C (-5)
Actual selection: Gabriel Vilardi, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 10
After an injury-ridden past couple of seasons, Cody Glass will try to gain some momentum this season. He is lethal in the offensive zone, hard to get off the puck and is an elite passer.
*Pretend you don't see, then BOOM, hit him with the perfect pass*
Cody Glass to Max Pacioretty. pic.twitter.com/XhwonAXpfR
— NHL (@NHL) December 3, 2019
His shot and skating don’t stand out, but they are NHL quality. Similar to Patrick and Vilardi, Glass is another big, talented Canadian centreman whose future is hard to project given his injury history.
12 – Carolina Hurricanes: Owen Tippett, RW (-2)
Actual selection: Martin Necas, C/LW
FCHockey’s Rank: 6
Owen Tippett gets knocked on for a lack of effort, which is not atypical for a player with his skillset. However, he has shown improvement at the pro level and he is too talented not to make the NHL. He’s known for his shot, but he’s getting good at the thing all good goalscorers do – use their shot as a decoy to make passes. When the opposition inevitably closes in on him, he can also make space for himself with his creativity. You’re going to be seeing a lot of this shortly.
13 – Vegas Golden Knights: Filip Chytil, C (+8)
Actual selection: Nick Suzuki, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 70
RELATED: FCHOCKEY REWIND: BEMSTROM, CHYTIL, ROMANOV & TEXIER
Entering his third full season in the NHL, Filip Chytil has been decent in a bottom-six role, but he doesn’t look comfortable. Considering he’s six-foot-two and weighs 203-pounds, he doesn’t hit often, but he does protect the puck efficiently. He is a fluid skater, so he generates a lot of offense on the rush and he is effective on the powerplay. Despite having the fourth-most games played out of this class, the upside of the players above him is higher.
14 – Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Formenton, RW (+33)
Actual selection: Cal Foote, RHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 66
Alex Formenton possesses incredible speed which allows him to cause havoc at all ends of the ice. There was a lingering worry that his hands wouldn’t be able to keep up with his feet, but he dispelled that when he joined Norris on the AHL All-Rookie team this year. His skating does carry him – as he’s just average in other categories – but he knows when to use it. Rather than trying to rush the puck every time, he identifies when he can burn the defender and when to make a play. He is also getting better at producing from a standstill and could play on the powerplay in the NHL.
15 – Vegas Golden Knights: Eric Brännström, LHD (-)
Actual selection: Eric Brännström, LHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 18
Eric Brannstrom plays in the mould of his Swedish predecessors. He is an elite skater who is incredibly poised with the puck on his stick. Although he didn’t impress in his first NHL stint, he was paired with poor players and has produced very well at the AHL and SHL levels. He won’t ever be a shutdown or penalty kill guy, but he will make an effective fourth-forward type.
16 – Calgary Flames: Kailer Yamamoto, RW (+6)
Actual selection: Juuso Välimäki, LHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 15
It’s hard to rank a player who has exclusively played with two of the best players in the league, but Kailer Yamamoto’s 32 points in his last 34 games are hard to ignore. He hasn’t slowed down this year and there is something to be said about his ability to keep up with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. 14 of his 19 assists have been primary assists, too – so it’s not as if he is a passenger. He projects somewhere between where his NHL numbers are and his 34 points in 50 AHL games puts him.
17 – Toronto Maple Leafs: Alexandre Texier, C (+28)
Actual selection: Timothy Liljegren, RHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 211
Alex Texier, the French phenom, is relentless on the forecheck and has been an effective player at the NHL level. The analytics rate him highly due to his efficiency at carrying the puck, but he will need to start using his standout puck skills to create offense to justify this ranking. This season he has thrived in an increased role.
Still thinking about this Alexandre Texier goal… 🔥
It needs a nickname. pic.twitter.com/GXAVfDpIpt
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) January 29, 2021
18 – Boston Bruins: Morgan Frost, C (+9)
Actual selection: Urho Vaakanainen, LHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 55
Morgan Frost has calmed down a bit after rising sharply in his two post-draft seasons with the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, but he still projects as a top-six offensive talent in the NHL. He hasn’t looked out of place in the NHL despite lackluster production, and it’s a matter of time before those numbers start to heat up. His physical game and skating ability aren’t nearly at the level that his playmaking is at, which has resulted in his progression stagnating.
19 – San Jose Sharks: Drake Batherson, RW (+102)
Actual selection: Josh Norris, C
FCHockey’s Rank: Not Ranked
The first huge jump in this redraft, Drake Batherson was a reentry in 2017 after playing his first full season in the QMJHL. He then exploded the next year and was one of the best players in the league and for Team Canada as they won gold at the World Juniors. His size and skill have turned him into a menace at the AHL level. His average footspeed is the only thing holding him back.
20 – St. Louis Blues: Nicolas Hague, LHD (+14)
Actual selection: Robert Thomas, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 20
Speaking of size, Nic Hague is a six-foot-six, 214-pound, puck-moving defenseman. He hasn’t shown it at the NHL level, but his booming shot makes him a goal threat. His foot speed is below average, so he’s going to have to improve in that regard or learn to use his reach and frame more efficiently when defending.
21 – New York Rangers: Henri Jokiharju, RHD (+8)
Actual selection: Filip Chytil, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 35
Another player who broke into the NHL earlier than expected, Henri Jokiharju already has 113 games played under his belt. His offense has slowed down a bit after turning pro in his draft-year-plus-one season but has been playing tough matchups and killing penalties. He is effective at breaking out of his own zone, but we haven’t seen the offensive ability we saw out of him in junior yet.
22 – Edmonton Oilers: Juuso Välimäki, LHD (-6)
Actual selection: Kailer Yamamato, RW
FCHockey’s Rank: 12
An ACL injury that required surgery saw Juuso Välimäki sit out all of last season, but he showed no signs of injury on loan in Liiga at the start of this season. He moves around very well for a big man, allowing him to break up plays and then join the ensuing rush. Similar to Jokiharju, he’s not a game-breaker offensively but he does have enough vision to play on a powerplay unit.
23 – Arizona Coyotes: Casey Mittelstadt, C (-17)
Actual selection: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, LHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 5
Casey Mittelstadt was no doubt taken too high at eighth overall, but his development hasn’t been helped by being rushed into the NHL. His average skating and one-dimensional game have been exposed and the high-end puck skills are yet to shine through. It’s not over yet for the former World Juniors MVP, he just needs to find ways to make plays at the pro level. More time in the AHL could be helpful.
24 – Winnipeg Jets: Maxime Comtois, LW (+26)
Actual selection: Kristian Vesalainen, LW
FCHockey’s Rank: 24
Max Comtois has cooled off offensively after his dominant final year in junior but is still showing he can play in the NHL. He’s got skill in his game but he’s more effective when he uses his body to win and hold onto the puck. He has a good, quick wrist shot and passes the puck well enough, but his lack of foot speed holds him back from being a truly dynamic player.
25 – Montreal Canadiens: Jason Robertson, LW (+14)
Actual selection: Ryan Poehling, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 27
Jason Robertson is a player who has dominated production-wise at all levels in his career. Despite his large frame, he doesn’t play a very big game, he’s more of a finesse player. He’s not a great skater in terms of foot speed or edgework, which is the main thing holding him back, but he scores too much to not at least be a middle-six and powerplay option in the NHL.
26 – Dallas Stars: Conor Timmins, LHD (+6)
Actual selection: Jake Oettinger, G
FCHockey’s Rank: 44
Conor Timmins is a first-round pick this time around after being selected 32nd overall in 2017. Another player in this class who has struggled with injuries, he missed all of 2018-19 due to a concussion. He played just 40 games in the AHL last year and really blossomed near the end of the season with 11 points in his last 13 games. At six-foot-two, 185-pounds, he could add some weight but has managed without it due to his smooth skating stride and four-way quickness. He already looks like a powerplay anchor-type, but we could very well not have seen the best of Timmins due to the injury problems.
27 – Philadelphia Flyers: Emil Bemstrom, RW (+90)
Actual selection: Morgan Frost, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 218
A Swedish winger, Emil Bemstrom had a breakout 2018-19 season in which he was the leading goalscorer in the SHL. He had a decent rookie season in the NHL, scoring 20 points in 56 games, but struggled to keep up with the increased pace of the league. He is most effective from mid-range, with a lethal wrist shot. He can skate and has good hands, but his small stature may hold him back from being more than a secondary scorer.
28 – Ottawa Senators: Dylan Samberg, LHD (+15)
Actual selection: Shane Bowers, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 85
Dylan Samberg spent three years as a crucial part of the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s blueline as they won two NCAA championships. He is an all-round rearguard with average offensive ability who carries his six-foot-four, 216-pound frame around very well. He is reliable defensively, able to keep up with quick forwards and break up play with his long reach or lay the body. Should be a useful NHLer.
29 – Chicago Blackhawks: Ian Mitchell, RHD (+28)
Actual selection: Henri Jokiharju, RHD
FCHockey’s Rank: 83
Ian Mitchell progressed nicely in three years playing against Sanberg at the University of Denver. He is a little undersized but is an above-average skater and a mobile defender. Offensively, he is efficient, letting the play develop in front of him before finding an outlet. He has held his own so far in the NHL this season.
30 – Nashville Predators: Jack Dugan, LW (+112)
Actual selection: Eeli Tolvanen, RW
FCHockey’s Rank: Not Ranked
Jack Dugan was selected as an overager in the draft after leading the USHS-Prep league in scoring. Last year, he led the NCAA in scoring for Providence College. He does the majority of his work in the offensive zone, beating defenders before dishing it off to a teammate. Critics of Dugan will say he passes too much and doesn’t have an NHL-quality shot.
31 – St. Louis Blues: Jack Studnicka, C (+22)
Actual selection: Klim Kostin, C
FCHockey’s Rank: 65
Jack Studnicka is a highly-skilled forward who loves to dangle through defenders. He’s not a terrific skater, which means he relies on his hands to get to the net. He will have to really show he can pull off those plays in the NHL to move up this list.