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NHL draft grades 2017: Devils stay safe, Stars get bold and most get high marks

We’re grading the first round of the NHL draft as it happens!

NHL: NHL Draft David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the 2017 NHL entry draft is over. Finally. After three hours.

And a day of trade rumors amounted to very little movement. Teams mostly stuck in their slots and took the players they coveted the most. It led to falls and surprisng picks, but ... honestly?

Great fits.

You will find our first round grades below. Many of them are ridiculous, yes. Look at who’s writing this thing. You get what you click for.

But you’ll also find few poor grades. I just thought many teams got players that make sense for them, making this an exciting first round with plenty of hope for the whole league.

Oh, and Vegas did well.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow along with the draft via our fancy live draft tracker right here! All 200-plus picks over two days the moment they happen. Send help.

So, without further ado, let’s grade the first round of the NHL draft!

1. New Jersey Devils - 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

No trade. No off-the-board pick. The Devils just stuck to common sense and took the more skilled of the two top centers at the top of the draft. If Michael McLeod ends up as a second-line, two-way center, then Hischier will lead the Devils on the first for years. They played it safe and they’ll benefit from it.

Grade: Five out of five Nicos

2. Philadelphia Flyers - 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

Another by-the-books pick. Injuries cost Nolan the top spot, but he’ll be good if the Flyers can keep him healthy.

However, we just wasted like six days fretting over these two falling. And you can never trust a man with two first names.

Grade: Phill-B+

3. Dallas Stars - Miro Heiskanen, HIFK, Finland

Miro Heiskanen NHL draft scouting report | SB Nation 2017 NHL ...

Miro Heiskanen has skyrocketed up the NHL draft rankings! Do you want your team to take him?

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Friday, May 26, 2017

I was happy with this pick. Stars fans should be. Dallas lacks an elite player at any position in their system, much less one at left-handed defense. Heiskanen could be special.

NBCSN then compared him to Scott Niedermayer as he walked up to the podium.

Grade: A- for now, F if he isn’t as good as Scott Niedermayer

4. Colorado Avalanche - Cale Makar, D, Brooks (Canada Jr. A)

Defenseman Cale Makar is a 2017 NHL Draft prospect with crafty skating and a booming shot.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Thursday, June 1, 2017

Above all, the Avalanche needed an impact defenseman. With Heiskanen gone, it had to be Makar. He’s got the vision, speed and offensive skill to make for a special puck-moving defenseman. Scouts love him.

But has to prove he can play good defense in the NCAA next year, let alone the NHL.

Also there’s no way he lives up to his Legend of Zelda namesake.

Grade: 4 Korok seeds out of 5

5. Vancouver Canucks - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Sweden)

I like Pettersson. He’s a highlight-reel kind of guy who creates more than he finishes and can fly up and down the ice. The Sedin twins are retiring soon. Vancouver needs high-skill guys like this, even though he’s not NHL-bound for years.

However, I cannot grade this pick without hearing from the kid from “Room” first.

Grade: incomplete

6. Vegas Golden Knights - Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)

Cody Glass NHL Draft profile 2017 | SB Nation NHL Draft Match

Cody Glass could be the best two-way forward in the 2017 NHL Draft class.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thinks as fast as he skates. A team like Vegas needs to build center depth very well, and with the kinds of safe, high-ceiling players you can count on being at least a good contributor if not a star. Glass is that. Proved this year he can score, too, while taking a leadership role with Portland. Making him the first of three first round picks is an excellent choice.

Grade: Four-eyes out of five
get it

7. New York Rangers (via Coyotes) - Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (Sweden)

I only know three truths.

  1. This feels like a Rangers pick. I can’t exactly describe why. Andersson is a two-way player. He forechecks hard. He will probably make the NHL sooner than most of these kids. He’s not flashy. He’s just good. This is fine.
  2. He looks a little like Daniel Bruhl. This increases the grade.
  3. It’s time for the Jedi to end.

Grade: sure

8. Buffalo Sabres - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie (High School)

Casey Mittelstadt NHL draft scouting report | SB Nation 2017 N...

Let's play SB Nation NHL Draft Match! Up next, it's Minnesota's Casey Mittelstadt! ❤️ or ?

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mittelstadt fell this far because he couldn’t do pull-ups at the combine. Or something. And questions about how good he is; he overpowered high schoolers this year but will be tested at the NCAA level next year. But the raw skills are there: speed, puck-handling and offensive ability off the rush that puts other centers in this class to shame.

A risk, but a good pickup here by Buffalo.

Grade: unless it’s not

9. Detroit Red Wings - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL)

Michael Rasmussen 2017 NHL Draft profile | SB Nation NHL Draft...

2017 NHL Draft prospect Michael Rasmussen is a 6'5 center who can skate and score. That's not a typo.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Tuesday, June 6, 2017

He’s a 6’6 forward. He is big. Gabriel Vilardi is also big. I don’t know why the Red Wings took Rasmussen over Vilardi. Maybe because he’s not as big as Rasmussen. Some scouts apparently think Rasmussen might be the steal of this draft. They also probably think hot dogs are sandwiches. I have no opinion.

Grade: @IsMichaelRasmussenTall

10. Florida Panthers - Owen Tippett, RW, Mississauga (OHL)

The best scorer in the draft. That means two things: he’s got one helluva shot and he knows how to use it. Scored more than 40 goals this year and has speed to burn, drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel. Criticisms include lack of work at the other end and lots of play on the perimeter, something people once said of Phil Kessel, too. There’s some upside here, for sure.

Grade: hE Is tHE nExT PhiL kEssEL

11. Los Angeles Kings - Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL)

NHL: NHL Draft David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Projected as a top five pick, Vilardi fell into the Kings’ laps at 11. Hard to see what scared teams off other than his skating. Sure, it’s not great. His foot-speed is not great. But he’s a beast with the puck down low and had one helluva Memorial Cup run. And you can’t teach his size or hockey sense. Los Angeles hasn’t had a center prospect of this talent since Brayden Schenn.

Grade: A

12. Carolina Hurricanes - Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)

Besides Pettersson or Mittelstadt, few of the many centers available are as strong in the offensive zone as Necas. His small stature might be an issue, but most likely not. If you can skate and elude defenders you can thrive in today’s NHL, and Necas is uber-creative with the puck. He fills a big need up the middle for the Hurricanes, too. Good pick, though Nick Suzuki might’ve been a good choice here as well.

Grade: A-

13. Vegas Golden Knights (via Jets) - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)

A year ago, Suzuki was regarded as the penalty killing threat of the OHL. After nearly leading the league in points this year, he entered the draft regarded as one of the most well-rounded forwards available. What he lacks in size (5’11) he makes up for with awareness of plays to make or disrupt and the agility to complete those goals. A heck of a get for the Knights.

Grade: A

14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)

2017 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Foote is the son of Adam Foote. Get ready to hear that sentence countless times as he plays in the NHL. This is a good need-based fit for Tampa Bay regardless of the player involved: they needed a right-handed defenseman with a high ceiling.

Foote is not flashy at all. In fact, reports this year were that he tamped down his offensive game even more this year even though he’s capable of it. But he excelled as a stay-at-home defender anyway. Build from there, work on the rest.

Grade: B+

15. Vegas Golden Knights (via Islanders) - Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)

Vegas took a strong center, a versatile forward and now a hyper-aggressive offensive defenseman with their final pick of the first round. Not bad.

Brannstrom will need some time, but he projects as a power play presence someday. Pundits seemed to love him more and more as the draft neared, but questions remain. Can he bulk up enough to defend effectively? Can coaches keep his risk-taking under control?

That last question isn’t as big as another falling offensive defenseman in this draft (TIMMY), and Brannstrom should be fun to watch in Vegas in a few years.

Grade: B

16. Calgary Flames - Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)

Juuso Valimaki 2017 NHL Draft profile | SB Nation NHL Draft Match

Defenseman Juuso Valimaki is a well-rounded 2017 NHL draft prospect.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I like Valimaki a lot. He chose to develop in North America instead of Finland, and became a reliable blue liner with some two-way upside. Think of a guy like Mattias Ekholm in Nashville: a guy who you might not notice every night as he cleans up mistakes and gets the puck out of the zone cleanly, but a guy who makes a big difference. Could be in the NHL sooner than later.

Grade: Hockey Roomba

17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (Sweden)

Timothy Liljegren NHL draft profile | SB Nation 2017 NHL Draft...

❤️ or on 2017 draft prospect Timothy Liljegren, hockey fans?

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Do you grade the player or the team and the fit? The latter, right?

A year ago, Liljegren was a top-five pick. Things fought against him this year: a lack of ice-time; playing for five different clubs; a bout of mono. But his own play worked against him, too. He’ll eagerly jump into the offense, but enough so that his senses came into question.

But at 17? To the Leafs, who have enough young talent to take a risk here? Sure.

Grade: B

18. Boston Bruins - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Finland)

Thought they’d go Nic Hague here, or Eeli Tolvanen. I think Vaakanainen has one great skill: skating. Nothing that wows you enough to warrant 18th overall, I think. A good player, don’t get me wrong. He’ll be around the league for a long time. But with the strength of Boston’s defensive pool, I’d like to have seen them take Tolvanen here.

Grade: C

19. San Jose Sharks - Joshua Norris, C, Michigan (NCAA)

Don’t know much about him. But you’ve never even heard of him. So you have to agree with my analysis.

Grade: A++++

20. Robert Thomas, F, London (OHL) - St. Louis Blues

Rose up the rankings as the year progressed. As any player with that kind of rise, some questions remain how high his ceiling is. But he’s got the instincts and work ethic to carve out a top-nine role for himself at the very least; the kind of guy the Blues covet to complement their uber-skilled players.

Grade: I accidentally put his name first this time; future face of the franchise

21. New York Rangers - Filip Chytil, C, Zlin (Czech)

Something’s been bothering me for awhile now. Did you notice the cruisers at the end of the “The Last Jedi” trailer? Are those the Mark One Starhawks? I know those were introduced late in the war against the Empire, mainly around the Battle of Jakku. It’s hard to believe they’d still be in service as much as 30 years later with the New Republic (or the Resistance). But they share design similarities with Nadiri ships, so I have a feeling that’s what they are. If so, it shows the Resistance truly doesn’t have the full support of the New Republic if they’re using such outdated cruisers in full-scale battle.

Anyway. It’s been bothering me.

Grade: What’s that? Oh, the dra—

22. Edmonton Oilers - Kailer Yamamoto, W, Spokane (WHL)

Kailer Yamamoto 2017 NHL Draft profile | SB Nation NHL Draft M...

NHL Draft prospect forward Kailer Yamamoto would be a much higher pick if he weren't so small ... and that could have teams regretting the decision to pass on him.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Maybe I’m just a fan of underdogs, but I’m excited for Yamamoto. He’s 5’8. Let’s get that out of the way. But Johnny Gaudreau proved already you can excel at that size in the NHL. Craig Button from NBCSN described defending Yamamoto and Gaudreau like defending fog, which is just perfect. Yamamoto knows how to use his lack of size to his advantage in the offensive zone.

One big hit could ruin his career, of course. And he needs to prove he’s not a pushover in his own end. But if he pans out, he and McDavid will create goals for days.

Grade: A-

23. Arizona Coyotes - Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)

A late-bloomer of sorts. Joseph’s offensive game was always there, but it developed this year as he brought his defensive game along. Not a point-producer, but more of a puck distributor. He’s good at it, though. Not going to reach the NHL for a few years.

Grade: B

24. Winnipeg Jets (via Blue Jackets) - Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW, Frolunda (Sweden)

Came on strong to end an up-and-down year. Obvious potential as a power forward, but inconsistency is as much an issue for him as any teenager. Was named the MVP of the 2017 IIHF World U-18s. He’s big, strong and can crash the net. Otherwise known as a Winnipeg Jet.

Grade: Something that rhymes with Jet

25. Montreal Canadiens - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCAA)

What’s the mantra around the Canadiens lately? Bigger? Nastier? Harder to play against?

Ryan Poehling is that. Whether he lines up at center or wing for Montreal, he’ll be a guy ready to lower the body on opponents when necessary while digging for pucks on the forecheck. He’s already shown he can do that while playing responsibly in his own end. He has a good shot at winning the Hobey Baker Trophy next year. He’s good, and he fits exactly what the Canadiens want to do.

Grade: A-

26. Dallas Stars (via Blackhawks) - Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (NCAA)

2017 Beanpot Tournament - Boston University v Harvard - Championship Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The specter of Jack Campbell will hang over this, sure. The last time the Stars took a goalie in the first round, it set their goaltending back years. But Campbell didn’t have a terrific freshman year and a Frozen Four run under his belt when he was picked.

And Oettinger possess the size and agility NHL teams crave from their goalies, as well as a focus that’s hard to teach. Trading up for this pick was a keen move by the Stars. Risk is normal with goalies, but Oettinger is the best goalie in the class. Worth a shot.

Grade: A

27. Philadelphia Flyers (via Blues) - Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Philly moved Brayden Schenn in this deal and brought back Jori Lehtera. They also took Nolan Patrick earlier, an all-around center without any real weakness but no one overwhelmingly great trait. Frost at least fills in that gap: he’s quick, can create plays one-on-one and loves to have the puck on his stick.

Grade: B

28. Ottawa Senators - Shane Bowers, C, Boston University (NCAA)

Another Terrier! And another center who makes up for his lack of size with a good two-way game.

However, I want to call him “Showers” now and that’s weird.

Grade: F

29. Chicago Blackhawks (from Dallas) - Henri Jokijarju, D, Portland (WHL)

I want to call him “Joker” and that’s cool. (Don’t get mad at me. His name is Henri. He’s a Chicago draft pick. I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’ve never watched him play. Nobody has. Are we sure he even exists?)

Grade: where am i

30. Nashville Predators - Eeli Tolvanen, W, Green Bay (USHL)

Owns a heck of a shot (described as NHL-ready) and dominated the USHL this year.

But he slid. Hard. Why?

Well. Not sure. There was a stray report that his commitment to Boston College next year ran into issues, but it was never confirmed. Is he a one-trick pony? Eh. It’s just hard to tell with teenage players.

Whatever reason, the Predators were right to scoop him up here. For that alone, I give them a good grade.

Grade: B

31. St. Louis Blues - Klim Kostin, W, Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

As NBCSN was saying, Kostin’s fall is a reflection on how odd this first round was.

We saw players taken due to needs and got glimpses into what NHL teams value in young players right now. Any other draft, maybe Kostin goes in the top fifteen.

He’s compared to Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin for good reason. Kostin is a big winger who can control the puck well and has a strong instinct and drive to the net. It led to a shoulder injury this year, but he knows what he’s good at and does it.

Unlike Nichushkin, however, there’s no sense he wants to play in Russia. He wants to make it work here. St. Louis is a great place to end up, and as good a fit as you could want this late in the first round.

Grade: B+