There are a number of very good players available in the 2017 NHL Draft, but Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings is a franchise centre and superior talent who stands alone at No. 1.
Patrick stepped into the WHL two seasons ago and has shown that he has all the capabilities to be the top centre teams covet. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound pivot was named WHL Rookie of the Year in 2015 after scoring 30 goals and racking up 56 points in 55 games. He was awarded MVP of the 2016 WHL playoffs, following up a 102-point regular season with 30 points in 21 postseason games.
Brandon owner Kelly McCrimmon was named assistant GM with the NHL expansion Las Vegas team in August. And winning the draft lottery could allow Las Vegas to draft and build around Patrick. He could do for the NHL’s newest franchise what Gilbert Perreault did for the Buffalo Sabres when the lottery wheel spun in the Sabres’ favour in 1970. Ironically, Patrick’s father Steve was a first-round pick of the Sabres in 1980 and played with Perreault.
Patrick has an ease to his play, both physically and mentally, that he combines with excellent skill to impact the game in every situation. He’s already demonstrated the ability to excel when the challenges are great and the stakes are high. Patrick had off-season sports hernia surgery and is on the mend. He very well could suit up for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Toronto.
Timothy Liljegren of Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League has all the attributes and skills of a top-pairing defenceman. He’s an outstanding skater who uses his feet to his advantage defensively and in transition. Liljegren has good offensive skills and a real desire to leave an imprint on the game when required. He played 19 games in the Swedish Hockey League at the age of 16, contributing one goal and five points - no small feat for such a young player in a very demanding league.
There is always a tendency to compare a player to another from the same country, but Liljegren has a game similar to Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. If he can achieve that level, his impact in the NHL will be great.
There were no goaltenders selected in the first round of the 2016 Draft and only one in the 2015 Draft — Ilya Samsonov to the Washington Capitals. The 2017 Draft could see multiple goalies considered for selection in the first round. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of HPK in the Finnish SM Liiga is the highest rated netminder on our list at 14. He was stellar in leading Finland to the U-18 Championship in Grand Forks back in April.
Others netminders who have high potential include Canadians Ian Scott (Prince Albert), Stuart Skinner (Lethbridge) and Michael DiPietro (Windsor). There’s also American Jake Oettinger (Boston University), Russian Maxim Zhukov, who will play with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL this season, and Swede Olle Eriksson Ek (Farjestad). The draft is shaping up as a certifiable United Nations of hockey goalies.
Like every other draft, it’s a long and winding road for the players and scouts. But selection day will be here before you know it.
Craig's List - September Ranking
|1. Nolan Patrick||Brandon (WHL)||C||CAN||R||6'2 ¾/198|
|2. Timothy Liljegren||Rögle (SHL)||D||SWE||R||6'0/191|
|3. Gabe Vilardi||Windsor (OHL)||C||CAN||R||6'2 ¾/198|
|4. Ryan Poehling||St. Cloud State (NCAA)||C||USA||L||6'2 ½/202|
|5. Maxime Comtois||Victoriaville (QMJHL)||LW||CAN||L||6'2 ¼/199|
|6. Eeli Tolvanen||Sioux City (USHL)||RW||FIN||L||5'10 ¼/170|
|7. Lias Andersson||HV71 (SHL)||LW/RW/C||SWE||L||5'11 ¼/198|
|8. Kristian Vesalainen||Frolunda (SHL)||LW||FIN||L||6'3 ¼/207|
|9. Klim Kostin||Moscow (KHL)||RW||RUS||L||6'3/196|
|10. Casey Mittelstadt||Green Bay (USHL)||C||USA||L||6'0 ¼/194|
|11. Martin Necas||Brno (Czech)||C||CZE||R||6'0 ½/167|
|12. Shane Bowers||Waterloo (USHL)||C||CAN||L||6'1 ¼/178|
|13. Nico Hischier||Halifax (QMJHL)||C||SUI||L||6'0 ¾/176|
|14. U-P Luukkonen||HPK U20 (SM Jr. Liiga)||G||FIN||L||6'0 ¼/170|
|15. Marcus Davidsson||Djurgårdens (SHL)||C||SWE||L||6'0/191|
|16. Grant Mismash||USA NTDP (USHL)||LW/C||USA||L||6'0 ¼/186|
|17. Antoine Crête-Belzile||B-Boisbriand (QMJHL)||D||CAN||L||6'0/186|
|18. Miro Heiskanen||HIFK (SM Liiga)||D||FIN||L||6'0/170|
|19. Kailer Yamamoto||Spokane (WHL)||RW||USA||R||5'8/155|
|20. Cal Foote||Kelowna (WHL)||D||USA/CAN||R||6'3/200|
|21. Nicolas Hague||Mississuaga (OHL)||D||CAN||L||6'5 ½/208|
|22. Henri Jokiharju||Portland (WHL)||D||FIN||R||5'11 ¾/176|
|23. Josh Norris||USA NTDP (USHL)||C||USA||L||6'1 ¼/192|
|24. Matthew Strome||Hamilton (OHL)||LW||CAN||L||6'3 ½/206|
|25. Antoine Morand||A-Bathurst (QMJHL)||C||CAN||L||5'10/178|
|26. Nick Suzuki||Owen Sound (OHL)||RW||CAN||R||5'10 ¾/187|
|27. Michael Rasmussen||Tri-City (WHL)||C/LW||CAN||L||6'5 ¾/215|
|28. Markus Phillips||Owen Sound (OHL)||D||CAN||L||5'11 ¾/202|
|29. Owen Tippett||Mississuaga (OHL)||RW||CAN||R||6'1½/202|
|30. Elias Pettersson||Timrå (SHL)||LW||SWE||L||6'1 ¼/156|
|31. Alexei Lipanov||Balashikha (MHL)||C||RUS||L||6'0/165|
Craig's List - Players To Watch
|Jaret Anderson-Dolan||Spokane (WHL)||C||CAN||L||5'11/180|
|Sasha Chmelevski||Ottawa (OHL)||C||USA||R||5'11/188|
|Cale Fleury||Kootenay (WHL)||D||CAN||R||6'1/196|
|Jake Oettinger||Boston U (NCAA)||G||USA||L||6'4/203|
|Scott Reedy||USA NTDP (USHL)||C/RW||USA||R||6'1 ½/204|
|Ian Scott||Prince Albert (WHL)||G||CAN||L||6'3/174|
|Stuart Skinner||Lethbridge (WHL)||G||CAN||L||6'3 ½/209|
|Urho Vaakanainen||Jyvaskala (SM Liiga)||D||FIN||L||6'0 ½/185|
|Sebastian Walfridsson||MODO (SWE J20)||D||SWE||L||6'0 ½/194|
|Maxim Zhukov||Green Bay (USHL)||G||RUS||L||6'3/180|