The biggest ovation(s) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena during the upcoming NHL Draft will undoubtedly be for former Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who was behind Nashville’s bench from its inaugural season in 1998 until 2014, and for David Poile, the Predators’ first general manager who will officially turn over the job to Trotz on July 1.
That and Chicago making it official and selecting generational talent Connor Bedard first overall will highlight the two-day draft. The real suspense — and what may dictate how the early part of the draft goes — is at what point top Russian prospect Matvei Michkov, who has three seasons remaining on his KHL contract, gets picked.
The first round will be on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN) and rounds two through seven will be conducted the next day starting at 11 a.m. (NHL Network).
The Rangers will select 23rd overall while the Islanders again do not have a first-round selection, having sent what turned out to be the 17th overall pick to the Canucks — who in turn traded the pick to the Red Wings — as part of the package for Bo Horvat on Jan. 30. The Islanders last picked in the first round in 2019.
Newsday’s Mock Draft for the first round:
1. Chicago – Connor Bedard, C, Regina (WHL), 5-10, 185: A no-brainer who will usher in a new era for the franchise with the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane days at an end. His masterful wrist shot and playmaking ability produced 71 goals and 72 assists in 57 games for Regina and he should immediately make the jump from juniors to the NHL.
2. Ducks – Adam Fantilli, C, Michigan, 6-2, 195: The Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s top player with 30 goals and 35 assists in 36 games will bring both size and high-end skill to the NHL, though he may return to Michigan for one more season. NHL Central Scouting ranked him second behind Bedard among North American skaters.
3. Blue Jackets – Leo Carlsson, C, Orebro (Sweden), 6-3, 198: Carlsson, the top-ranked European skater per Central Scouting, has played two seasons among men in the Swedish Hockey League with 10 goals and 15 assists in 44 games last season. He could immediately provide the Blue Jackets with the help they need at center.
4. Sharks – William Smith, C, USA Under-18 (National Team Development Program), 6-0, 181: Smith, the third-ranked North American skater, projects as a No. 1 center and shined on the national stage with nine goals and 11 assists as Team USA won the gold at this year’s IIHF Under-18 World Championships. He’s headed to Boston College.
5. Canadiens – David Reinbacher, D, Kloten (Switzerland), 6-2, 185: The Canadiens may not want to wait for Michkov. Reinbacher, the fifth-ranked European skater, is the top defense prospect in the draft. Plus, he’s a righthanded shot, which adds to the value. He had three goals and 19 assists in 46 games in the Swiss league last season.
6. Coyotes – Ryan Leonard, RW, USA Under-18, 6-0, 192: The Boston College-bound Leonard, ranked fifth among North American skaters, brings a good combination of a hard shot and a feisty grittiness that should translate well in the NHL.
7. Flyers – Nate Danielson, C, Brandon (WHL), 6-2, 185: New president Keith Jones and general manager Daniel Briere want to bring some more skill to the Flyers’ game, but size will never go out of style on Broad Street. Danielson is a solid two-way player who handles the puck well.
8. Capitals – Matvei Michkov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (Russia), 5-10, 172: The second-ranked European skater might be the most talented player in the draft other than Bedard. He’s certainly the next-most dynamic player offensively. Michkov could replace Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals’ Russian superstar.
9. Red Wings – Dalibor Dvorsky, C, AIK (Sweden), 6-1, 201: The third-ranked European is a slick skater who is at his best with the puck on his stick. He had eight goals and five assists in seven games for Slovakia at the Under-18 World Championships.
10. Blues – Eduard Sale, LW, Brno (Czechia), 6-2, 174: The fourth-ranked European skater has played two seasons in his country’s top league and is both a skilled skater and stickhandler. His size may also raise his draft standing.
11. Canucks – Oliver Moore, C, USA Under-18, 5-11, 188: Moore is potentially the fastest skater in the draft and also possesses an above-average shot, leading to 26 goals and 38 assists in 53 games.
12. Coyotes (from Senators) – Zach Benson, LW, Winnipeg (WHL), 5-9, 163: His size and speed are definite question marks but his compete level and willingness to work in the dirty areas are not. He had 36 goals and 62 assists in 60 games.
13. Sabres – Matthew Wood, RW, UConn, 6-4, 193: The Sabres could eventually team Wood with another former UConn Huskie, star forward Tage Thompson. His size and shot make him a high-end talent.
14. Penguins – Gabriel Perreault, RW, USA Under-18, 5-11, 165: Strong puck skills and a high hockey IQ allowed Perreault, the son of former NHLer Yanic Perreault, to set a Team USA Under-18 record with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists).
15. Predators – Brayden Yager, C, Moose Jaw (WHL), 5-11, 166: Trotz instructed the Predators’ scouts to be bold and Yager is strong at both ends of the ice and has a heavy shot despite his lighter weight.
16. Flames – Samuel Honzek, LW, Vancouver (WHL), 6-4, 186: Honzek is a strong, two-way wing who had 23 goals and 23 assists in 43 games in his first North American season after coming over from his native Slovakia.
17. Red Wings (from Islanders via Canucks) – Tom Willander, D, Rogle Jr. (Sweden), 6-1, 180: The superior skater projects as a solid, two-way defenseman at the NHL level. And Willander is a righthanded shot, which is always a bonus. He’s committed to Boston University.
18. Jets – Colby Barlow, LW, Owen Sound (OHL), 6-0, 190: His straight-ahead style netted him 46 goals in 59 games and he captained his team as a 17-year-old, which speaks to his leadership qualities.
19. Chicago (from Lightning) – Axel Sandin Pellikka, D, Skelleftea Jr. (Sweden), 5-11, 176: The righthanded-shooter dominated at the junior level and was a standout at the World Juniors for Sweden despite being an underaged player (18). He’s not big but is feisty with 64 penalty minutes in 31 games.
20. Kraken – Dmitri Simashev, D, Yaroslav Jr. (Russia), 6-4, 198: A good skater, especially for his size. Simashev is not flashy, but has plenty of upside.
21. Wild – Daniil But, LW, Yaroslav Jr. (Russia), 6-5, 203: But bounced between juniors and the KHL. He is huge and a good skater who plays a 200-foot game.
22. Flyers (from Kings via Blue Jackets) – Lukas Dragicevic, D, Tri City, (WHL), 6-1, 190: He had 15 goals and 75 points in 68 games and is righthanded, which is appealing. Some question his skating ability and decision-making, however.
23. RANGERS – Calum Ritchie, C, Oshawa (OHL), 6-2, 185: A right-handed shooter and good faceoff man, Ritchie is a clever playmaker and passer who plays a sound, two-way game. If there’s a knock on him, some say his skating is a little slow.
24. Predators (from Oilers) – Otto Stenberg, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden), 5-11, 180: Good skater, good hands, good shooter, great with the puck. But some are bothered by his seemingly pedestrian numbers (11 goals, 26 points in 29 games).
25. Blues (from Maple Leafs) – Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury, (OHL), 6-2, 200: One of the younger players in the draft, Musty has good size, a good shot, good stickhandling and passing ability and is good on the boards, too.
26. Sharks (from Devils) – David Edstrom, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden), 6-3, 185: A skilled power forward who split the season between the junior and senior teams and didn’t look out of place playing with men. He’s not a great skater, but effective.
27. Avalanche – Riley Heidt, C, Prince George (WHL), 5-10, 178: Heidt is a strong skater and good playmaker (72 assists in 68 games) who sometimes is guilty of overpassing. He’s also a good faceoff man who plays a feisty, edgy game.
28. Maple Leafs (from Bruins via Capitals) – Etienne Morin, D, Moncton, (QMJHL), 6-0, 180: Morin led his team in scoring with 72 points in 67 games and his 21 goals were the most in the league among defensemen. He’s a physical defender.
29. Blues (from Stars via Rangers) – Oliver Bonk, D, London, (OHL), 6-2, 180: A righthanded shot who was an important player on a good team. He projects as a solid, top-four defenseman at the next level.
30. Hurricanes – Ethan Gauthier, RW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL), 5-11, 175: The son of former NHLer Denis Gauthier and cousin of ex-Ranger Julien Gauthier, he’s a pesky forechecker with a solid all-around game.
31. Canadiens (from Panthers) – Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin, 6-3, 212: A big body who struggled early as a freshman but looked good in a bottom-six role for Team USA at the World Juniors.
32. Golden Knights – Michael Hrabal, G, Omaha (USHL), 6-6, 209: The success of the Devils’ Akira Schmid showed it’s possible for a big goalie from the USHL to make it to the NHL. Stanley Cup champion Vegas needs some stability in the net.