The halfway point of the NHL season has passed and that means prospects expected to be drafted in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft are starting to show scouts what they’re really made of. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the players that are expected to be highly sought after in the first round.
Nolan Patrick – Canada
The current captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL (Western Hockey League) has been plagued by injuries over the past few years, even going back to his time playing AAA. Despite his injury-riddled WHL career, Patrick has excelled tremendously, putting up points with ease. He has always managed to score over a point per game player through his injury shortened seasons. He was WHL Rookie of the Year in 2014 and was also named WHL Playoff MVP in the 2015-16 season.
From what I’ve seen, it seems like Patrick can do it all, he is a strong center who can keep players away from the puck while protecting it, his shot is hard and accurate, and he can work the dirty area in front of the net. His senses and vision are incredible, allowing him to find passing lanes on what seems like a dead play, leading to scoring chances. Although hasn’t been as hyped up as Connor McDavid was Patrick will definitely be an effective forward presumably on the last place Colorado Avalanche if the Draft Lottery treats them right.
Nico Hischier – Switzerland
Hischier will likely be added to the short list of Swiss players to make it to the NHL after this years’ Draft. At only 18 years old, he’s in a battle with Patrick to be the elusive first overall pick. This season is his first in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, and he has been doing fantastic. He is nearly even in goals and assists with a 37-39 split for a total of 76 points in only 43 games. If he keeps up this pace, Hischier may have a chance at most points this in the QMJHL this season.
Hischier is a lot like the previously mentioned Nolan Patrick. Strong on and off the puck, shoots well, etc… A strong skill Hischier has is the ability to control the pace of play, usually trying to speed it up. He is a fast skater and wants to wear down the opponent to create scoring chances or score on the rush. Hischier seems to be bound to be drafted either first or second overall depending on the thoughts of the teams who have the first picks.
Martin Necas – Czech Republic
Another centerman that is poised to be an early pick in this years’ draft, Necas has been playing the highest level of Czech hockey: Czech Extraliga, with HC Kometa Brno. After excelling on the U16 & U18 teams he was able to move to the 18+ level. He captained the Czech team in the international 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, leading them to gold.
At only 170 lbs and 6 feet tall, Necas is a very fast and agile skater with his primary mentality set on being a playmaker who tries to set up his teammates every chance he gets. Necas might be chosen between fifth and seventh overall depending on team needs and the order of the draft. I believe there is still some more developing to be done before he is able to make his NHL debut.
Casey Mittelstadt – USA
Currently playing the the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers, Mittelstadt is my favorite prospect in the upcoming draft. He started the season on his high school team putting up gaudy numbers with over 2 points per game. That’s right, he’s still in high school. Has not played in the CHL, not even in college yet and he’s expected to be drafted in the top 10. If that doesn’t make you wonder where you went wrong, I don’t know what will. Mittelstadt has committed to the University of Minnesota for next season.
Watching some of his play in high school was outstanding. Although it is “only” high school hockey, the dominance he asserts over not only the other team but also his own teammates is absurd. Whenever Mittelstadt is on the ice, you take notice. He’s fast, he has a big body, and he knows how to use it well. An amazing playmaker and great goal scorer, I believe he will continue his path to UMN. He does have quite a bit of developing to do before going pro and UMN will help tremendously with that. I expect to see him in the NHL about four years from now.
Andrew Ostrosky is the “Global Puck” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @HockeyGuyFromSL.