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  • 2017 NHL MOCK DRAFT: Vegas Golden Knights steal Miro Heiskanen, top Defenseman in Draft with sixth pick


    Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Hockey Wilderness mock draft. We’re doing things a little differently this time around. You’ll still be getting the same great draft profiles, but we’ve gone ahead and condensed the format to drive through all the picks in the first round in the 10 days leading up to the draft. In prior seasons we’ve brought you a pick each day up to the draft, but now we’re bringing 3 picks each day, culminating with the 31st pick right on draft day.

    Being the new kids on the block is undoubtedly a strange position for General Manager George McPhee and the newly founded Vegas Golden Knights.  Constructing a team from scratch is… I would imagine… really really hard.  There are so many moving parts and so many things that can potentially happen by way of the Expansion Draft, and McPhee and his newly constructed band of desert marauders will only have a couple of days to determine what it really needs after selecting its initial group. The organization will then quickly have to decide which of the available youngsters in the NHL’s Entry Draft will help them be competitive and grow with the franchise.

    As we have seen in the past couple seasons with the introduction to the NHL of Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, a generational talent pulled from the top pick or two of the Entry Draft can lift a team immediately into contention.  However, since we know that this draft doesn’t have a ton of depth, nor what scouts deem to be a generational talent at the top, the best the Golden Knights can hope for from this afterthought of an event is to find a player who can help the club down the road and quickly be a solid serviceable player to support the team’s random collection of castoffs.

    Finding a smooth-skating defenseman that can contribute offensively is not an easy task for any NHL franchise.  To some degree, the Wild has found itself in a situation where it has too many reliable defensemen to protect them all from expansion, but as a result, the excess is being seen as a collection of assets, from which Minnesota is apparently looking to deal very soon.  As such, even in this bizarre situation where the team with too many good defensemen is trying to get rid of one (or maybe two) of their blueliners, you can still make the argument that a team can never have too many good, two-way defenders on its roster. 

    Vegas has found one of these players by selecting defenseman Miro Heiskanen of HIFK Helsinki with the sixth overall pick.  As a potential top-pairing player who can move the puck and has exceptional hockey sense, Heiskanen is a great value pick.  Many expected him to go to the defensively challenged Dallas Stars with the third overall pick, as Heiskanen is clearly the best D-man in the draft.

    The Scouting Report

    Heiskanen’s stock skyrocketed over the course of this past season, as he proved in the Finnish Elite League that, even as a 17-year-old, he was able to play big minutes against professional hockey players and grown men.  Though he only posted 10 points in 37 games for HIFK, it is easy to see that there is offensive prowess there just waiting for Heiskanen to grow into it.

    Aside from his HIFK season, Heiskanen had an enormous showing at the U18 World Championships for Finland, where he posted 12 (!) points in just 7 tournament games and demonstrated to the hockey world that, for his age, there is nobody better on the blueline.  Finnish Hockey brass also included him on the U20 team for their version of the World Championships, though Heiskanen didn’t have quite as profound of an impact on the older team. 

    At 6’0” tall, 174 pounds, size may be the only knock on Heiskanen, but his puck skills and hockey sense should more than make up for this over time.  Plus, there’s always an expectation for a developing player to add muscle mass and bulk up, so if size is the only fault in Heiskanen’s collection of attributes, then this would absolutely be an exceptional pick for any team in the draft, particularly one that will give him an opportunity to play in the NHL immediately, i.e., the Golden Knights.

    How He Fits the Wild

    One way or another, it appears that the Wild is going to end up with a hole or two on the blueline when the dust settles on the Expansion Draft next week. Whether that comes through trade or simply losing one of its players to these Golden Knights, it may feel a need to backfill its defensive depth with a top prospect. It’s no secret that Minnesota has found a few gems in the past few drafts, but all of its current prospects are forwards. Additional skill on the back end would definitely benefit the organization. Plus, Heiskanen is Finnish, and we all know how the Wild feels about Finns.

    How Could the Wild Get Him?

    Although Heiskanen fell to sixth in the Hockey Wilderness Mock Draft, it is very likely that he will be taken third overall by the Dallas Stars, who are desperate to improve their defense, especially now that Ben Bishop has been signed and Ken Hitchcock has retaken the reins.  However, if Minnesota moves one or more of its current defensemen to Dallas prior to the Expansion Draft, and it ends up with the third overall pick in exchange, there could theoretically be a fit for another rising star on the blueline to fill the void left by the trade.  My guess is that the Wild would go for the more offensively gifted hometown hero Casey Mittelstadt, but then again I’m just a friendly neighborhood blogger who actually despises Eden Prairie and would prefer that my top players can do pull-ups. 

    I don’t see it being terribly likely that Heiskanen ends up in a Wild uniform, but it is possible… Time will tell.


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