The 2016 NHL draft begins Friday night at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York, and, as was the case last year with the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid, we already know who's going No. 1 overall.
Still, it's time to play the role of general manager for our one and only NHL mock draft.
Our first-round mock takes draft tendencies, team needs and the best player available into consideration and does not involve trades, so let's cut right to the chase:
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1. Toronto Maple Leafs — Auston Matthews (C, 6-1/194, Zurich)
Matthews will become the first American No. 1 overall pick since 2007, the first Arizonian to be taken first and seventh American selected No. 1 in NHL history. It's a no-brainer. The 18-year-old has taken a unique road not travelled before to get here, as brilliantly reported by The Globe and Mail. An intensely gifted and mature centerman, he'll become Toronto's first No. 1 overall pick since Wendell Clark in 1985.
2. Winnipeg Jets — Patrik Laine (RW, 6-4/210, Tappara)
Laine oozes with self-confidence and boasts the best shot in the draft, which has been described as the finest to enter the league since that of Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin. The Finn is a big, skilled winger who knows how to use his body and has seen his skating improve each year. He's the best pure goal scorer available and he's headed to Winnipeg.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets — Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, 6-3/201, Karpat)
Puljujarvi will miss development camp because of a minor knee surgery, but that won't derail Columbus from drafting the highly skilled Finnish winger at No. 3. The Blue Jackets are searching for a superstar and they'll get one in Puljujarvi. He's been compared to legend Teemu Selanne, and he has it all to be a lethal threat in the NHL.
4. Edmonton Oilers — Pierre-Luc Dubois (C/LW, 6-3/203, Cape Breton)
If Edmonton stays at No. 4 — the Oilers reportedly shopping the pick — it will be tempted to draft for need, which would be a defenseman. But Dubois is a complete forward who's been rising up draft boards and will be too difficult for the Oilers to pass up.
5. Vancouver Canucks — Matthew Tkachuk (LW, 6-1/195, London)
Tkachuk was a member of the most explosive line in junior hockey for the Memorial Cup-winning Knights and he'll take his tough, physical, skilled game to British Columbia.
6. Calgary Flames — Alexander Nylander (LW, 6-0/176, Mississauga)
Calgary gets a playmaking winger who fits well with its system. Nylander would serve as a quality complement to either Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett.
7. Arizona Coyotes — Olli Juolevi (D, 6-2/183, London)
The first defenseman off the board and the second member of the Knights. Juolevi's stock has skyrocketed over the year, and Arizona gets a piece to pair with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
8. Buffalo Sabres — Logan Brown (C, 6-6/218, Windsor)
An enormous center who knows how to use his body and has the ability to take over in the offensive zone. Plays both ways and has a long reach. Another building block for Buffalo.
9. Montreal Canadiens — Mikhail Sergachev (D, 6-3/195, Windsor)
Sergachev goes to Montreal as the eventual replacement for Andrei Markov. Sergachev is a smooth-skating, two-way defenseman who can quarterback the power play and dominate a game.
10. Colorado Avalanche — Charlie McAvoy, (D, 6-0/206, Boston University)
While the Avs have addressed defense in the second- and-third rounds the last two drafts, they still need help on the blue line. It just so happens McAvoy has the tools they need. McAvoy, a right-handed shot from Boston University, has great mobility with high-end puck-moving skills, and he also doesn't ignore the defensive zone. He's a riser, too.
11. New Jersey Devils — Tyson Jost (C, 5-11/192, Penticton)
Had a strong showing at the world juniors. The Devils get a talented centerman and a future captain as they continue to change the identity of New Jersey hockey.
12. Ottawa Senators — Clayton Keller (C, 5-10/170, USNTDP)
Keller has all the making of being the next great American hockey player in this draft not named Auston Matthews. He's ridiculously skilled and always has the puck on his stick. Will be a favorite in Ottawa.
13. Carolina Hurricanes — Michael McLeod (C, 6-2/187, Mississauga)
The Hurricanes will be happy to take McLeod, a hard-working pivot who's tough to play against and owns the ability to score. Has good size and is an elite skater.
14. Boston Bruins — Jakob Chychrun (D, 6-2/214, Sarnia)
Chychrun has the size and toolset to be the best blueliner in the draft, and, for a while, was rated as such. But over the course of the season, his stock dropped. Still, an intriguing pick who could still very well turn out as the best D-man in this group.
15. Minnesota Wild — Luke Kunin (C, 6-0/196, Wisconsin)
Minnesota might be familiar with Kunin from Big Ten hockey. He's a finisher who creates scoring chances for himself. He's also an A-rating skater. Also had a good combine.
16. Detroit Red Wings — Jake Bean (D, 6-0/165, Calgary)
The partner of Flyers prospect Travis Sanheim, Bean has trended upward into the first round. (Oddly enough like Sanheim did in 2014). The puck-mover heads to HockeyTown.
17. Nashville Predators — Dante Fabbro (LW, 6-1/199, Cape Breton)
Like Jost, Fabbro impressed enough to put himself on the radar at the worlds. Seems like everywhere you go, Fabbro is projected to go to Nashville. It just makes sense. The Predators have the defensive talent at the NHL level to let Fabbro mature at BU.
18. Philadelphia Flyers — Kieffer Bellows (LW, 6-1/194, USNTDP)
Flyers director of scouting Chris Pryor said last week of Bellows that "all he does is score; everywhere he’s been." The Flyers draft by best player available and Bellows is that. And he's one that fits a massive need for the orange and black. A scoring winger.
19. New York Islanders — Logan Stanley (D, 6-7/210, Windsor)
Mike Milbury isn't around to screw this one up for the Islanders. New York takes 6-foot-7 defender Stanley, who will pair well with Ryan Pulock down the line. Big, nasty blueliner.
20. Arizona Coyotes (from Rangers)— Julien Gauthier (RW, 6-4/225, Val d'Or)
A strong, powerful winger, Gauthier is a natural goal scorer who's stock has fallen a bit. He doesn't pass the puck a lot, but doesn't have to. Finished with an estimated 2.319 goals per 60 minutes last season for Val d'Or and 41 goals. Compares to Rick Nash.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (from Kings) — German Rubtsov (C, 6-1/174, Russia U-18)
A bit of uncertainty around Rubtsov because of the Russian doping scandal, but the centerman is a unique Russian prospect. He's a strong two-way pivot who makes plays.
22. Winnipeg Jets (from Capitals) — Rasmus Asplund (C, 5-11/176, Farjestads)
The Jets could go with a defenseman here out of team need and already getting Laine, but opt for the Swedish center who had an impressive showing at the U-20s with Team Sweden.
23. Florida Panthers — Alex Debrincat (RW, 5-7/163, Erie)
Florida believes it's got "probably the best young group of forwards in the league." Add another one to the list. Debrincat plays much larger than his size and is a pure scorer.
24. Anaheim Ducks — Max Jones (LW, 6-2/189, London)
Jones will fit in well in Anaheim. Big, mean, straight-line power forward. Knows how to score, knows how to toe the line between clean and dirty. He'll get a few suspensions in the league, but will also produce enough for the Ducks to justify playing him.
25. Dallas Stars — Tage Thompson (C, 6-5/185, Connecticut)
There are questions about Thompson's game and whether he will play in the middle or on the wing at the NHL level. But Dallas takes him and banks on the upside with the big kid.
26. Washington Capitals — Riley Tufte (LW, 6-5/205, Blaine High School)
Tufte went back and forth between high school and the USHL this past season, so it's tough to judge his game. He's a big boy who plays more of a skilled game. Scores a lot, too.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning — Dennis Cholowski (D, 6-0/170, Chilliwack)
Cholowski becomes the third BCHL product drafted in the first round. A little higher than expected, but Tampa gets a defenseman to join a really deep group of young forwards. He's a mobile, puck-moving blueliner who has high upside on the offensive end.
28. St. Louis Blues — Brett Howden (C, 6-2/193, Moose Jaw)
As safe as a pick you can find at this point of the first round. Howden is projected to go a higher than 28, but falls a bit to St. Louis. He's a tireless worker and respected leader, and will fit in well with what the Blues do.
29. Boston Bruins (from Sharks) — Pascal Laberge (C, 6-1/175, Victoriaville)
Don Sweeney's draft last June had Bruins fans all sorts of upset. This year, he bounces back with a rather strong first round. Grabs Laberge here, a safe pick with a high compete level, high hockey IQ and the willingness to get to the greasy areas to score.
30. Anaheim Ducks (from Penguins, via Toronto) — Lucas Johansen (D, 6-2, 176, Kelowna)
The brother of Nashville's Ryan Johansen, Lucas sneaks into the first round. Comes from Kelowna, which has produced Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Tyson Barrie, Tyler Myers and everyone's favorite, Luke Schenn.