This year’s draft was notoriously thin in terms of elite talent, but that doesn’t mean that some of the top choices won’t make an impact. Of course, a lot will depend on training camp and whether players will return to Juniors, College, or overseas. Nico Hischier has already signed his entry-level contract with New Jersey, as has Nolan Patrick with Philadelphia. Both look primed to make their teams out of camp, even though Patrick will be recovering from an injury. It’s common for top picks to make their teams, and it would be shocking to see either fall short. Beyond these two, however, many of the top players till need seasoning.
The third pick, Miro Heiskanen, very well could return to the Finish Elite League for IFK, or theoretically be taken in the CHL import draft. Dallas doesn’t look like they’ll try to rush it with him, but anything is possible with this talented a player. Fourth overall was defenseman Cale Makar for Colorado, who is committed to play with the University of Massachussetts. Still, Colorado is hurting badly for skill and could benefit mightily from his dynamic presence on the blueline. Fifth overall was Elias Pettersson for Vancouver, who should return to Vaxjo of the SHL. He hasn’t signed an ELC and won’t attend training camp. Sixth overall Cody Glass looks primed to make a push for a spot in Vegas if he can show he belongs. The offense acquired via the expansion draft is very lean, and if Glass can round out his frame, the team may opt to toss him into the fire. He comes from a solid program with the Portland Winterhawks, and already surprised many with his ascension to first-round status in 2016-17.
Seventh overall was 5’11 center Lias Anderssson, who will fight for a position on the New York Rangers. In May, he signed a two-year contract with SHL’s Frolunda, so he might be one of the least likely of the group to see playing time in the near future. Casey Mittelstadt went eighth overall to Buffalo, and his phenomenal performance in the 2016 U-18 World Juniors played a large role in that. He only has USHL experience under his belt, however, and is committed to the Minnesota Gophers for the 2017-18 season. Michael Rasmussen is a towering, 6’6 center from Tri City of the WHL, and his overall physical package propelled him into that 9th selection by Detroit. Detroit is in need of cheap roster players on ELCs, but rushing a player of his caliber, especially coming off an injury-marred 2016-17 season, seems unlikely. GM Ken Holland is known for his patience when it comes to prospects. Rounding out the list, we have one of the few wingers selected in the first round – Owen Tippett of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads. His 44 goals in 60 games caught the attention of Florida’s scouts, and he could make things interesting with a solid camp showing.
In the final evaluation, there are really only two sure-fire picks to make their teams in the 2017-18 season. Of course, there are players later in the order who could surprise and get a look as well. Gabriel Vilardi (11) would inject some much needed offense to a floundering Los Angeles squad, and already possesses NHL size. Nick Suzuki (13) could transcend Glass in Vegas as his flashy speed and exceptional passing are already pro-level. Future teammate Erik Brannstrom (15) proved again that he belongs in the conversation in the recent Summer Showcase. Timothy Liljegren (17) is already making Toronto fans salivate at his potential, and there is always someone unexpected who completely blows away the competition in camp. We shouldn’t see more than one or two surprises, but anything is possible once the players retake the ice in August for some internal competition.
In your mind, which 2017 draft picks make the NHL starting roster for their teams, excluding the obvious Hischier and Patrick? Will any of these names compete for a Calder, or will there only be one or two immediately successful rookies from this class? (For comparison’s sake, 4 players played regularly last season of all the players selected in 2016).
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