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NHL Mock Draft 2017: New York Islanders select Elias Pettersson with No. 15 pick

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A speedy, smart forward with enticing upside in Sweden

On behalf of the New York Islanders, Lighthouse Hockey would like to thank the city of Chicago and the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization for hosting the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. We’d like to congratulate the Pittsburgh Penguins for...{REDACTED}. Most importantly, we’d like to thank our fans back home and those who loyally support us from throughout North America and the globe.

With the 15th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders are proud to select from Timra IK in the Swedish 1 Division, Elias Pettersson.

Elias Petterson 2017 NHL Draft profile | SB Nation NHL Draft M...

Elias Petterson's NHL draft stock dropped this season, but he could still be a first round pick.

Posted by SB Nation NHL on Thursday, June 8, 2017

Behind the Scenes: the Road to Elias Pettersson

To prepare for the first round of the draft, our scouts at Lighthouse Hockey (hereafter LHH) were assigned the following Five Tasks:

  1. Compile and rank a list of the top 10 prospects mostly likely to be gone by the 15th selection.
  2. Compile and rank a list of the top eight prospects NOT on your list in task one.
  3. Provide a brief synopsis for the top five prospects most likely to be available after the top ten are chosen.
  4. If you feel we should target a specific prospect or two (a plan B if the first targeted choice is gone), provide prospect's name and rationale.
  5. Name any prospect you recommend avoiding, with rationale.

The Plan

The scouting staff came to a consensus: unless a prospect we ranked higher should drop to 15th, the Islanders are in a position to roll the dice on either of two highly skilled prospects, each of whom could predictably slip in the draft due to size: center Nick Suzuki (5’11, 183) of the OHL or right wing Kailer Yamamoto of the WHL.

Suzuki was deemed less of a risk, due to the fact he has at least two inches and up to 30 pounds on Yamamoto. (This depends which website one chooses to believe, as Yamamoto is listed anywhere from 5’7 to 5’9, and 153 to 161 pounds). We kept in mind that Suzuki is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, so he could still grow some more.

Two other forwards LHH scouts tagged for their offensive play are LW/C Elias Pettersson (6’2, 160) of Sweden and C/RW Martin Necas (6’0, 160) of the Czech Republic. Pettersson’s puck skills and top speed stand out, whereas Necas’s strength is his overall skating ability. Each has plenty of upside, if Suzuki and Yamamoto are both gone by the 15th selection.

The Rationale

A) If either of Suzuki or Yamamoto should pan out, he will bring his team elite-talent upside.

B) It is a 15th overall pick, not a top-5 pick, so this is not a major gamble that could potentially set the team back. After seeing post-draft development from offensively minded mid-round picks Ryan Pulock (15th in 2013) and Mathew Barzal (16th in 2015), we believe the middle of the first round is a good place to swing for the fences. Well-rounded middle-six forwards are very attainable via trade and free agency, whereas players available in the middle-to-late first round often become high-impact players, as we’ve seen from the 2014 draft class of Dylan Larkin (15th), Robby Fabbri (21st), David Pastrnak (25th), and possibly even Josh Ho-Sang (28th).

C) The talent level from around the 12th to 20-plus draft positions is wide-open in this particular draft. There is even a chance that a top prospect falls to 15th overall, if the Boston Bruins trade up to the 12th, 13th, and 14th selections if things break right for us.

D) The Islanders’ prospect pool is deep, so we can afford the risk. We have 11 players and prospects under 25 with a very realistic chance to be NHLers: Ryan Strome (23), Anthony Beauvillier (20), Michael Dal Colle (20), Kieffer Bellows (19), Devon Toews (23), Parker Wotherspoon (19), Ilya Sorokin (21), Linus Soderstrom (20), Barzal (20), Ho-Sang (21), and Pulock (22). This list excludes Adam Pelech (22), Scott Mayfield (24), Shane Prince (24), and Alan Quine (24), plus a host of other decent-to-longshot prospects.

Best case scenario: high-end reward with a mid-range 1st round pick.

Worst case scenario: the pick busts but repercussions for a busted mid-1st round pick are lessened via the strength of the prospect pool.

The Selections

As the draft unfolded, the top 10 picks were as follows: (NHL.com mock rankings to right of player)

  1. New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier (2)
  2. Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick (1)
  3. Dallas Stars: Casey Mittelstadt (4)
  4. Colorado Avalanche: Miro Heiskanen (3)
  5. Vancouver Canucks: Gabriel Vilardi (5)
  6. Vegas Golden Knights: Owen Tippett (6)
  7. Arizona Coyotes: Timothy Liljegren (15)
  8. Buffalo Sabres: Cale Makar (7)
  9. Detroit Red Wings: Cody Glass (8)
  10. Florida Panthers: Kristian Vesalainen (17)

With four draft picks remaining until our parade to the podium, the top prospects on the board according to the NHL mock rankings are C Michael Rasmussen (9), LW/C Klim Kostin (10), C Elias Pettersson (11), D Juuso Valimaki (13), RW Eeli Tolvanen (14), and C/W Martin Necas (16), as well as our two main targets Nick Suzuki (12) and Kailer Yamamoto (NR). Since the consensus best few forwards are off the board, it is easy for us to be confident to stick with our plan to swing for the fences with Suzuki or Yamamoto.

We are somewhat surprised Finland-born defenseman Valimaki (13) and Pettersson (11) have not been selected yet, as our insiders suspected Arizona and Detroit may take a chance on them. While we aren’t looking to draft a defenseman such as Valimaki, Pettersson may be a good fall-back plan.

Toronto is calling. They are interested in trading up from #17 if Valimaki is still available at #15. That may make sense for us, if Suzuki and Yamamoto are unclaimed. But what is the chance that none of the three players will be selected in the next four picks?... Toronto said they tried Los Angeles, but the Kings won’t budge from the #11 spot. I wonder if they are about to select 6’6 center Rasmussen.

11. Los Angeles Kings: Nick Suzuki (12)

It stings to see Los Angeles take Suzuki. We expected them to go with Rasmussen or Kostin. Three more picks to go, and any of them could be Yamamoto. Should we try to trade up to #12? If we do, we may not have enough pieces left later today to land Duchene, Eberle, Drouin, and PK Subban. Hmmm…

12. Carolina (SBN site trades to STL): Lias Andersson (NR)

Fantastic! Thank you, St. Louis. Now at least one of Yamamoto, Pettersson, and Necas will be available with our pick.

13. Winnipeg Jets: Juuso Valimaki (13)

Nice. One more pick to go and Yamamoto is still available. Who is selecting next? Shit, it’s Yzerman. He’s awfully crafty and likes those small, crafty forwards. (Picks up phone) "Steve, this is the New York… uh, Rangers…. Yes, you’re welcome for all those draft picks we sent your way.

Look, I’m calling to help you out. Do you have an idea who you’re picking next?... That’s okay, you don’t have to tell me. But if you’re thinking of this Yamamoto kid, it’s probably not a good idea. He’s listed at 5’8, but I hear he’s more like 5’3 with skates on…. I know, crazy huh? I thought skates made everyone taller too! And between me and you, he said he doesn’t believe you ever played with a broken leg, and that his favorite player back in the day was Claude Lemieux…. Twenty years ago?... Yeah, that’s the other thing, Steve. My sources say Yamamoto is actually 28 years old, so 5’3 is the tallest he’ll be on skates, I’m afraid. The kid is bad news, I tell ya. I’m glad I could reach you, Steve.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning: Kailer Yamamoto

It was worth a try. I wonder if Steve knew it was me on the phone.

It’s our pick now. At least Pettersson and Necas are still available. Our scouts favor Pettersson by a hair, due to more scoring upside, so let’s go with Pettersson.

15. New York Islanders: Elias Pettersson

Profiles:

"A pure talent…. What concerns scouts and NHL teams the most is his physique, or lack thereof, weighing in at 161 lbs…. One could easily expect him to get picked between 10th and 20th in the first round." - David Carlsson, Hockey Writers

"The team that drafts (Pettersson) will have to be patient, but he has the tools to make their patience pay off." - Jeff Marek, Sportnet

"His biggest gift is that he has an incredible understanding of the game. He sees the game from every angle and he is ahead of you all the time, so he always knows what to do with the puck." - Roger Forsberg, former coach

"If you’re looking for a ‘swing for the fences’ type player, I can’t think of anyone better…. What separates Pettersson from the pack, at least in my eyes, is his complete 200-foot game. At one end of the ice he’s able to make defenders look foolish with the puck on his stick, and in his own zone he’s fantastic at breaking up opposing offenses and getting into shooting lanes." - JoshMVP, Winging it in Motown, via this article

"Pettersson is a positionally-sound pivot with edge-of-your-seat highlight reel worth puck skills…. His biggest standout attribute is certainly his speed, as defensemen have great troubles keeping up with him when he rushes through the neutral zone…. Needs to work on his leg strength as his explosiveness and first few steps are rather lacking at this stage." - Future Considerations

“He is incredibly creative and poised with the puck and is lethal both in open space and in one-on-one situations with the goaltender. His best assets are his playmaking and his ability to read game situations both with and without the puck.” - kleblanchockey, Canes Country

Elias Pettersson’s points-per-game this past season compares favorably to that of fellow Europeans David Pastrnak, William Nylander, Filip Forsberg, Alexander Wennberg, and William Karlsson for their under-19 seasons in the same Swe-1 league. Pettersson finished second on his team in scoring rate this past season, within four points of the leader in two fewer games:

Swedes under 19
Pettersson’s stats during his U-19 season in Swe-1 compare favorably to other recent draft picks

We decided to select Elias Pettersson with the 15th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Given how the first 14 picks in the SB Nation mock draft went, who would you have selected here?

Editor’s note: You may have noticed we handed off draft duties to LHH regulars CanadianIslesLifer and North Dakota Red Eagle. With the amount of thought and insight they bring to this, you can see why. Many thanks!