With the sports world paused due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to take a look back and redo the first round of several past NHL Entry Drafts. Each article will feature a brief summary of who the team selected at the time, and who we believe they would select now in hindsight.
Part 7 – featuring the class of 2017, is below...
(Note: team needs are not taken into account at the time of selection)
1- New Jersey Devils: Elias Pettersson (F, Timra-Allsvenskan), Original Pick: Nico Hischier (F, Halifax-QMJHL): Hischier is a perfectly competent NHL player but he isn't on the level of Pettersson or the next two guys on this list. Pettersson has proven to be a dominant NHL player on the strength of his vision and one of the most wicked shots in the league.
2- Philadelphia Flyers: Cale Makar (D, Brooks-AJHL), Original Pick: Nolan Patrick (F, Brandon-WHL): I'd be willing to listen if anyone wants to make an argument that Makar should be first on this list. He's already one of the best defensemen in the league in his first full NHL season and he's only going to get better. I'll touch on Patrick shortly.
3- Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen (D, HIFK-Liiga), Original Pick: Heiskanen: We all know how good Heiskanen is and he'd probably be viewed even more favorably around the league if Dallas gave him consistent power-play time with their No. 1 unit. Everything he does looks so easy and his game has no weaknesses.
4- Colorado Avalanche: Hischier, Original Pick: Makar: Hischier might not be as dominant as some of the other No. 1 overall picks in recent memory but he should end up either a highly productive second-liner or a low-tier first-liner. I think he should be good for 65-70 points per year at his peak. The Devils need to surround him with better talent. That entire organization is trending in the wrong direction in a major way.
5- Vancouver Canucks: Martin Necas (F, HC Brno-Czech), Original Pick: Pettersson: Necas had 16 goals and 36 points in 64 games for Carolina this season prior to the stoppage. I could see a scenario in which he nearly doubles those total next season. He's an excellent offensive player and appears primed for a breakthrough.
6- Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Suzuki (F, Owen Sound-OHL), Original Pick: Cody Glass (F, Portland-WHL): This was the first draft pick in the history of the Golden Knights. They took Glass with that pick and ended up taking Suzuki with their second pick, 13th overall. Suzuki was traded to Montreal in the Max Pacioretty deal before ever playing for the team. He went on to post 41 points in 71 games in his rookie season with the Habs.
7- New York Rangers: Robert Thomas (F, London-OHL), Original Pick: Lias Andersson (F, HV71-SHL): The Rangers acquired this pick from Arizona in the deal that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the desert. They also acquired Tony DeAngelo in that deal. It was a great trade that would have been that much better if they didn't take Andersson. This was before the Rangers committed to their rebuild and they thought Andersson could step in and play right away. He wasn't ready and is now mired in an ugly divorce after walking out on AHL Hartford in the middle of the season. Thomas is an excellent depth option who will be pushed up the lineup in St. Louis sooner rather than later.
8- Buffalo Sabres: Glass, Original Pick: Casey Mittelstadt (F, Green Bay-USHL): Glass had an up-and-down rookie season but his future is bright. Mittelstadt's future is equally bright but he's a bigger risk at this point. His lack of production up to this point is highly, highly concerning considering how much natural ability he has.
9- Detroit Red Wings: Gabriel Vilardi (F, Windsor-OHL), Original Pick: Michael Rasmussen (F, Tri-City-WHL): I'm nearly certain Vilardi will be a top-six center if healthy but he's had back injuries for years and has barely played the past four seasons. He finally appeared to be up to full speed at the end of the year but remains a massive injury risk moving forward. Rasmussen is a big-bodied kid who is probably a depth option who can help on the PP.
10- Florida Panthers: Owen Tippett (F, Mississauga-OHL), Original Pick: Tippett: Tippett is a high-floor/low-ceiling prospect. He's an excellent goal scorer and that's why he remains so high on this list. He should be in Florida full time at the start of next season.
11- Los Angeles Kings: Filip Chytil (F, PSG Zlin-Czech), Original Pick: Vilardi: Chytil has already played 144 NHL games and won't turn 21 years of age until September. It may take another season or two but he has a very bright future.
12- Carolina Hurricanes: Drake Batherson (F, Cape Breton-QMJHL), Original Pick: Necas: Batherson was originally a late fourth round pick (121st overall) by Ottawa. He was arguably the AHL's best player this season (16 goals, 54 points in 44 games) and is primed for a major role in Ottawa shortly.
13- Vegas Golden Knights: Erik Brannstrom (D, HV71-SHL), Original Pick: Suzuki: In this scenario, Vegas ends up with a pair of players in Suzuki and Brannstrom that they originally drafted, albeit in different spots. Suzuki went to Montreal for Pacioretty and Brannstrom went to Ottawa in exchange for Mark Stone. Brannstrom should be Ottawa's No. 2 defenseman behind Thomas Chabot for years to come.
14- Tampa Bay Lightning: Morgan Frost (F, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL), Original Pick: Cal Foote (D, Kelowna-WHL): Frost is a project but he stands a pretty good chance of developing into a solid all-around second-line center. Foote should be just about ready to help Tampa Bay in a depth role.
15- Vegas Golden Knights: Patrick, Original Pick: Brannstrom: I really struggled with where to place Patrick on this list. He's missed the entire season with a migraine disorder and his future remains murky at best. He's still just 21 years old but he's already missed a full season's worth of games. He's a gigantic wild card.
16- Calgary Flames: Kailer Yamamoto (F, Spokane-WHL), Original Pick: Juuso Valimaki (D, Tri-City-WHL): Yamamoto really struggled in his first two NHL stints before exploding for 26 points in 27 games this season while playing alongside presumptive league MVP Leon Draisaitl. I'm not entirely convinced yet but he's obviously trending in the right direction. I still believe in Valimaki but he's missed the entire season due to a torn ACL.
17- Toronto Maple Leafs: Emil Bemstrom (F, Leksands U20-Sweden), Original Pick: Timothy Liljegren (D, Rogle-SHL): Bemstrom has had a respectable rookie season (10 goals, 20 points in 56 games) for Columbus. He's gotten limited minutes on many nights as he works on his all-around game but his future remains bright. Liljegren will be covered shortly.
18- Boston Bruins: Jake Oettinger (G, Boston University-NCAA), Original Pick: Urho Vaakanainen (D, JYP-Liiga): We've reached the point where the remainder of the names can pretty much be listed in any order. Oettinger looks like the future No. 1 goaltender in Dallas. He'll probably be their backup next season behind Ben Bishop. Vaakanainen might be an NHL regular but it will almost certainly be in a depth role.
19- San Jose Sharks: Mittelstadt, Original Pick: Joshua Norris (US NTDP-USHL): I mentioned Mittelstadt earlier. His talent level is right up there with anyone on this list but it just hasn't clicked so far. Norris has broken out since leaving the San Jose organization.
20- St. Louis Blues: Eeli Tolvanen (F, Sioux City-USHL), Original Pick: Thomas: Everything I said about Mittelstadt applies to Tolvanen as well. He's one of the most talented goal scoring prospects in the game today but he's struggled to develop since making the jump to North America.
21- New York Rangers: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G, HPK U20-Liiga), Original Pick: Chytil: The Rangers surprised many by grabbing Chytil here. He was viewed by most as a mid second-rounder. Luukkonen's first pro season got off to a late start due to injury. He split the year between the AHL and ECHL and didn't play all that well at the higher level. I'm optimistic a rebound performance is forthcoming.
22- Edmonton Oilers: Alexandre Texier (Grenoble-France), Original Pick: Yamamoto: Texier played just 36 games with Columbus this season due to a back injury. He's got top-six potential down the road.
23- Arizona Coyotes: Rasmussen, Original Pick: Pierre-Olivier Joseph (D, Charlottetown-QMJHL): Rasmussen't bust potential is immense but he's a far better prospect than Joseph, who was probably the worst pick of Round 1. Joseph was viewed as a safe, dependable defender with limited upside on draft day and it would be shocking to see him even reach that level at this point. He's one of three first rounders in this draft class that has yet to play an NHL game. He's currently in the Pittsburgh system.
24- Winnipeg Jets: Ian Mitchell (D, Spruce Grove-AJHL):, Original Pick: Kristian Vesalainen (F, Frolunda-SHL): Mitchell turned down the WHL to maintain his collegiate eligibility. He played three seasons at the University of Denver and signed with Chicago this spring. He has a chance to make an immediate impact in The Windy City. Vesalainen still hasn't found his game since moving to North America full time. He's another guy who could use a fresh start.
25- Montreal Canadiens: Lucas Elvenes (F, Rogle Jr-Sweden), Original Pick: Ryan Poehling (F, St. Cloud State-NCAA): Elvenes arrived stateside this past fall and was one of the AHL's most productive rookies (48 points in 59 games) despite playing the entire season at age 20. His NHL debut should come in 2020-21. I like Poehling as a depth option but the lack of offense he generates really limits his overall ceiling.
26- Dallas Stars: Jason Robertson (F, Kingston-OHL), Original Pick: Oettinger: This was a best case scenario for Dallas, as they got Oettinger here and Robertson at No. 39 overall. Robertson's detractors will say his lack of foot speed will hold him back at the NHL level but he looked just fine (25 goals, 47 points in 60 games) in his first AHL campaign.
27- Philadelphia Flyers: Jack Studnicka (F, Oshawa-OHL), Original Pick: Frost: Studnicka is a do-it-all player with the capability of playing up and down a lineup. He can help on the power play and kill penalties. He reminds me of Anthony Cirelli. He might be a regular in Boston as soon as next season.
28- Ottawa Senators: Norris, Original Pick: Shane Bowers (F, Waterloo-USHL): The Sens acquired Norris from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal. He saw his stock dip over the course of two seasons at the University of Michigan only to explode (31 goals, 61 points in 56 games) in his first AHL season. He should be in Ottawa full time this fall. I wasn't crazy about Bowers on draft day and nothing he has done since has changed my mind. He joins Joseph and Foote as the only first round picks from this draft yet to play an NHL game.
29- Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Formenton (F, London-OHL), Original Pick: Henri Jokiharju (D, Portland-WHL): Formenton is one of the fastest prospects in the league and that alone makes him a valuable property. He was far better in his first AHL campaign (27 goals, 53 points in 61 games) than I ever would have imagined. Jokiharju is a third-pairing regular for Buffalo.
30- Nashville Predators: Maxime Comtois (F, Victoriaville-QMJHL), Original Pick: Tolvanen: Comtois offers enough at both ends of the rink that I imagine he will develop into a useful asset for Anaheim. I'd still rather have Tolvanen's theoretical "upside."
31- St. Louis Blues: Liljegren, Original Pick: Klim Kostin (F, Moscow Dynamo-KHL): Liljegren was viewed as a potential top-three pick heading into his draft year but a case of mono sent him tumbling to Toronto at No. 15 overall. His ceiling is high but I'm growing more and more pessimistic that he'll ever truly reach it. I remain out on Kostin despite the positive strides he made this season. Not enough gets done for a player of his size and skill set and I'm not crazy about his engagement at times.