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2017 NHL mock draft: Devils take Nolan Patrick with the No. 1 pick

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The lottery is over and now it’s time to predict.

2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

Well, that was an eventful NHL lottery.

In a stunner, the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and Dallas Stars jumped over everyone to claim the first three picks in the 2017 NHL entry draft. Now that we know the order of the first 15 picks, it’s time to roll out a fresh mock draft.

We’re only going through the first 23 picks of the first round, though. Since the playoffs are still underway, that’s as far as the order is set. We’ll drop a new mock after each round finishes, though.

The NHL draft takes place on June 23-24 from the United Center in Chicago.

1. New Jersey Devils — Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL)

Nolan Patrick 2017 scouting report | SB Nation NHL Draft Match

Nolan Patrick will be a top two pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and it's time you get to know him.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Monday, May 15, 2017

New Jersey scored at an abysmal 2.20 goals-per-game clip this past season. Help is on the way: center Michael McLeod tore up the OHL this season and could join the Devils next year. His teammate and fellow New Jersey prospect Nathan Bastian is close, too.

But so is Patrick, a center with highly coveted traits: size (6’2, 198 pounds), silky-smooth passing skills and a high hockey I.Q. that has him compared to the likes of Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar. You can build around a guy like that. New Jersey would be wise to take him.

2. Philadelphia Flyers — Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL)

Nico Hischier 2017 NHL Draft scouting report | SB Nation NHL D...

Nico Hischier has dazzling offensive talents. Will he be a Flyer or a Devil?

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Monday, May 15, 2017

Simply lit up the “Q” (38 goals, 86 points in 57 games) and the World Juniors (seven goals, 15 points in 11 games) this season. A tad undersized, and there’s some concern that puck luck helped his meteoric draft rise, but certainly one of the two draft prizes. Works hard. Scores hard. Loves the game.

3. Dallas Stars — Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (WHL)

What a nice spot for Dallas. Fans will clamor for a defenseman, but I don’t think there’s one in this draft worthy of the third overall pick. The Stars should take one of the many quality centers to prepare for life without Jason Spezza or (god forbid) Tyler Seguin.

And I think Vilardi is the choice here. Reminds one of Spezza, really: good size, good playmaking instincts, and good hands to help create space for scoring chances. And young, too; Vilardi won’t turn 18 until August.

4. Colorado Avalanche — Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finnish Liiga)

Separated himself from his defenseman peers with a nice World Juniors (12 points in seven games) on an awful Finnish team. And 10 points in 37 games as a 17-year-old in Liiga, Finland’s top hockey league, is pretty impressive. He’ll fill a deep need for the Avalanche.

5. Vancouver Canucks — Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (Minnesota HS)

The Sedins are hanging them up soon, and Vancouver doesn’t have talented center prospects to replace Henrik Sedin. Sure, Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund are nice, but not the kind of offensive dynamos you can build around. Mittelstadt might be that: he had 64 points in 25 games in high school this year.

6. Vegas Golden Knights — Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL)

2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game
Background: QUEBEC CITY, QC - JANUARY 30: Owen Tippett #47 of Team Cherry is congratulated by teammates Maxime Comtois #44 and Nolan Patrick #19 after scoring a goal
Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

This is not where the NHL wanted Vegas to land. In a draft low on surefire elite talent, sixth is a tough place for the NHL’s latest expansion team to start. But Tippet is a fine prize, considered by many to be the best pure sniper in the class. He skates well, has a fierce shot, and reminds some of Phil Kessel.

7. Arizona Coyotes — Cale Makar, D, Brooks (AJHL)

Julius Honka (soon) and Torey Krug prove that undersized defensemen with elite offensive skills and speed can thrive in today’s NHL. No wonder Makar has skyrocketed up draft rankings. The 5’11 defenseman lit up Canada’s lower junior league with 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 54 games and will skate for UMass Amherst next season. Arizona has stockpiled elite forward talent, and now they can draft a defenseman to distribute the puck to them.

8. Buffalo Sabres — Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (Swedish Hockey League)

Before the season, Liljegren was considered the draft’s best defenseman. A year of illness and rough adjustment to Sweden’s top hockey league impacted his fall. Some mocks have him as a late first-round pick. I think that’s ridiculous. I think our former Coyotes blog manager has a good point here:

Jakob Chychrun looks like a pretty good prospect for the Coyotes. Buffalo might benefit the same way Arizona did a year ago.

9. Detroit Red Wings — Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (SWE-2)

Yeah, Wings fans won’t like watching Makar and Liljegren come off the board right before their pick. Detroit could go center here, and if they do it should be Pettersson. The 6’1 center is a good two-way player, but he truly excels with playmaking. Pettersson put up 41 points in 43 games with Timra, and will play with the big boys in the SHL with Växjö next season. A long-term prospect but could pay off.

10. Florida Panthers — Klim Kostin, RW, Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

Kostin has two factors against him. First, he suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season months early. Second ... he’s Russian. And it sucks that’s a factor, but Dallas Stars winger Valeri Nichushkin bolting for the KHL due to ice time last summer didn’t help the Russian stigma.

But Kostin is good. He’s a big, 6’3 winger that’s nearly impossible to dislodge from the puck and owns a good shot. Kostin would be a nice complimentary scorer for a Panthers team needing scoring size on the wings.

11. Los Angeles Kings — Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)

Hard to know what L.A.’s philosophy is now that they fired GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter. But defensive acumen is probably still a part of it, and Glass is a good two-way player that burst onto the scene this year. He’s an opportunistic center with high hockey instincts, resulting in a terrific 32-goal, 94-point season.

12. Carolina Hurricanes — Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech league)

Elias Lindholm looks more like a winger at this point. And at any rate, the Hurricanes’ system is low on skilled talent down the middle. Necas fits that bill. The best Czech player in the draft, Necas oozes offensive pizzazz and intelligence, and dazzled at the World Juniors. As good at finishing as he is creating, Necas would be a nice fit in Carolina.

13. Winnipeg Jets — Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)

Owen Sound Attack v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

I love Nick Suzuki. OHL teams fear his penalty killing prowess, because his speed and smarts and work ethic make him a lot to handle when short-handed. He also developed a scoring touch this season (45 goals, 96 points in 65 games) that make him one of the best two-way prospects at any position in the first round. Winnipeg’s lackluster special teams could use a player like Suzuki.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning — Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)

Can’t see the Lightning not taking a defenseman here. Valimaki isn’t the right-hand shot their system could use, but he is a well-rounded, two-way defenseman with size and budding leadership qualities. Valimaki finished with 61 points in 60 games and looks more and more poised as he adapts to the North American game.

15. New York Islanders — Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City

The Isles have a lot of upcoming forwards with scoring skills (Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, and Kieffer Bellows), but none of them play the power-forward game like Rasmussen. The 6’6, 215-pound center could become a net-front presence on the power play for the Islanders’ skilled forwards to finish plays with.

16. Calgary Flames — Eeli Tolvanen, LW, Sioux City (USHL)

Outside of Tippett, nobody in the draft owns a shot like Tolvanen. The 18-year-old’s NHL-ready shot netted 30 goals in 52 games in the USHL last year, and he’ll join Boston College as a freshman in 2017-18. Rounding out the other aspects of his game may take time, but you can’t teach innate scoring prowess.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs — Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)

Bad news, Leafs fans: you exited the playoffs early. Good news: you pick high enough to land a nice prospect in a shallow draft. Two defensemen are left that might stick in the first round, and Foote is the safer pick. The son of Avalanche legend Adam Foote is as smart a two-way defender as any in the draft; Foote is the kind of defenseman who can clean up mistakes from Toronto’s high-flying forwards and send them back up-ice for years.

18. Boston Bruins — Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)

Hey, this is convenient. Bowers is committed to Boston University next year.

He’s also a good two-way player with goal-scoring ability (he scored 22 goals in 60 games this season).

19. San Jose Sharks — Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (SHL)

Andersson’s size (5’11) hides his game. The Swede is strong on the puck and in all three zones, as capable of breaking up a play the other way as he is starting a scoring chance for his own team. His skating could use improvement, but the 18-year-old has time to work on that. Andersson could be a longer-term project, but his work ethic on the ice suggests he could force his way into a NHL lineup sooner than later.

20. Montreal Canadiens — Maxime Comtois, LW, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

Victoriaville Tigres v Quebec Remparts Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

There’s a downside to hopping on scouts’ radars as a young teenager: they devote more time watching you and, thus, find more flaws. Comtois was a top-10 pick at one point but seems to be sliding a bit in his draft year.

He’s still a terrific player, coming off another 20-goal season in the QMJHL. Montreal should like the edge he plays with: he’s 6’2 but plays like he’s 6’5, willing to throw his body around and go to the front of the net to score. Comtois is the kind of player Montreal sought at the trade deadline this year. Only he has scoring skills, too.

21. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota) — Nikita Popugaev, LW, Prince George (WHL)

The Wild traded this pick to Arizona at the trade deadline for Martin Hanzal. And now the Coyotes can pick up Popugaev to add a trait their system sorely lacks: size on the wings. The 6’5 winger is big but can score in spades: Popugaev scored 29 goals this year and led Prince George in points after a midseason trade.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets — Kole Lind, C, Kelowna (WHL)

Kelowna is a center factory, cranking out Nick Merkley (Arizona) and Dillon Dube (Calgary) over the past two seasons. Lind is another quality setup man for the Rockets, piling up 87 points and 30 goals this season. Columbus could use a playmaking pivot like that after the Ryan Johansen trade.

23. Chicago Blackhawks — Kristian Vesalainen, W, Frolunda (SHL)

The Finnish winger has size (6’3), skill, and a nice shot. Vesalainen really broke out during the World Juniors, where he racked up six goals and 13 points in seven games for a bad Finnish team. He’ll play for HPK in the Finnish Liiga next season and could make the jump to the NHL sooner than most in this draft.