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SBNation NHL mock draft recap day six: Picks 18 - 21 and Ryan Merkley comes off the board

Several high upside players come off the board in this range

Guelph Storm v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

The SBNation NHL mock draft continued yesterday with picks eighteen through twenty-one. Over the next few days, the NHL sites here at SBN will run through the first round deciding who they think their teams should pick. The Lightning don’t have a first round pick this year, so we won’t be included. Even so, we’ll be keeping an eye on the proceedings so that you know what to expect come Friday, June 22nd when the draft starts.

We’ll cover picks 18, 19, 20, and 21 today. Every player in this group is interesting. Several of the players taken here could easily go much higher or much lower than they went in our mock.

To start, we’ll look at pick 18 for the Columbus Blue Jackets via Jackets Cannon followed by the Philadelphia Flyers via Broadstreet Hockey, the Los Angeles Kings via Jewels from the Crown, and the San Jose Sharks via Fear the Fin. The Flyers 19th pick here is the one they acquired from the St. Louis Blues last summer in the Brayden Schenn trade.

The 18th Pick - Isac Lundestrom

Lundestrom is an intriguing player because of how well-rounded he is. Teams looking for flash in the first round will look elsewhere but teams looking for some security in their pick will have Lundstrom ranked highly.

Here’s what the Habs Eyes on the Prize crew about him in their profile:

Lundeström centred Sweden’s top line in the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, and he did it very well. He has become more defensively aware, and while the opening round of the draft is light on centres, Lundeström is a good option for a team that has need of a player to play in the middle on a second line. While he isn’t the flashiest player, he does the small things right and is the kind of player you like more the more you watch him play.

They continued later in the same profile:

The team that selects Lundeström is taking the safe bet on a player that will most certainly reach the NHL in a few years. While being a bit rough around the edges, his strengths are there for everyone to see, and while there are weaknesses, Lundeström is keenly aware of them and is working hard to improve his defensive game.

He is not detered by defenders; he actually seems to cherish the challenge, and will take the shortest road possible toward the goal in a more North American style of play, which also should make a transition to the NHL and the smaller ice easier.

Lundestrom scored 15 points in 42 games in the SHL, which is solid production for a player his age. We’ll learn a little bit about teams’ draft strategy based on where he goes. If he slides, that could be an indication teams are more focused on maximizing their return on early picks than minimizing their risk.

The 19th Pick - Vitaly Kravtsov

The Flyers selected Rasmus Kupari just a few picks earlier and I praised that pick. I’m going to praise the Philly crew again here as they add another high end talent. If it’s possible to be jealous of a blog’s mock draft, I’m jealous of BSB’s mock draft. Kupari and Kravtsov is a heck of a haul and if the real Flyers replicate that on draft night, that would be a huge win.

Here’s what Broadstreet Hockey wrote about their pick

Kravtsov’s a talented player who at least in spurts can bring the complete package to the ice. He’s got good size, though some scouting reports question whether he uses that size as consistently and effectively as he could. He’s got great hands and stickhandling ability, and can absolutely wire the puck on net and pick his spots in doing so. And for someone of his stature, Kravtsov is a pretty smooth skater that moves well both in terms of straight-line speed and agility.

And here’s what they wrote about Kravtsov in their profile:

Kravtsov is quite possibly one of the most underrated players of this draft class. As an 18 year old playing in the KHL essentially full-time, putting up 7 points in the regular season, and then 11 in 16 playoff games, those are pretty impressive numbers.

Kravtsov’s skating makes him a threat each time he steps on the ice. He has an explosive stride that helps him gain the zone by pushing defenders back, and also puts himself in high danger areas with his skating. When he gets himself into those areas of the ice, he lets his quick shot do the rest of the work.

Although I think his playmaking isn’t a drawback to his game by any means, his shot seems to be at this point the more lethal part of his game. He gets himself in good shooting areas consistently, and the puck is off his stick in no time. His accuracy may need a little work, but he’s got 25-30 goal scorer potential from what I’ve seen. At times, his puck skills can be game-breaking and in addition to his shot and skating ability, this makes for a deadly trio.

With two mid-round picks, swinging for the fences makes sense because you maximize your chances of hitting on a big time prospect. Kravtsov and Kupari fit that approach and Philly has done well for themselves in this mock draft.

The 20th Pick - K’Andre Miller

Off the board at 20 goes another one of my favorite players. K’Andre Miller is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft because of his position switch from forward to defense.

Here’s some more info on the pick via Jewels from the Crown:

Miller’s skill is a little more raw than some of the other high-end prospects, and that’s largely owing to the fact that he’s a relatively new defenseman. He grew up as a forward, and switched at the request of his coach in high school, as they were trying to restock a depleted blueline. Miller adapted quickly and excelled, quickly gathering the attention of the USNTDP. Having spent most of his hockey career to date in more of the power forward type model, Miller has the advantage of being able to think through the game like a forward. He’s very comfortable jumping up and joining the rush like a forward, and is a generally strong passer, being able to anticipate where his forwards will be on the ice.

It’s Miller’s late conversion to defense that may have teams backing off of him, as he still needs more work to perfect his play in his own zone. Having committed to the University of Wisconsin, Miller could take his full four years of eligibility to study under coaches Tony Granato and Mark Osiecki in order to find the consistency in his game at both ends of the ice. With so many defense-first prospects already in the Kings’ system, there will be plenty of other players available on the blueline to bail Miller out if he gets too adventurous.

Because Miller converted positions so recently, he could have more upside than other prospects who have played their position for longer. If that’s the case, this could turn out to be a steal of a pick. The team that picks Miller will need to focus some extra resources on his development. Players changing positions this late is unusual and a smart team would come up with an individualized plan to get him caught up to his peers so that he can maximize his potential.

The 21st Pick - Ryan Merkley

The theme of this stretch of picks has been maximizing return vs. minimizing risk and this pick is the peak of trying to maximize return. Merkley is a top ten talent on defense who is going to slide because of well-documented issues being a decent human being.

Adam Herman at Blueshirt Banter wrote an excellent profile and you should read the whole thing to learn about Merkley but here are some excerpts:

Merkley is everything you want in an offensive defenseman. He’s a great skater with the puck on his stick. He keeps the puck close to his body and moves up the ice with rapid stick-handling, making him unpredictable in the routes he will take. Because he has such great agility, he is able to quickly change direction through the neutral zone and find an alternative path through the neutral zone.

In the offensive zone, Merkley may be the best defenseman in the entire draft; yes, including Dahlin. Again, great edgework and elusiveness lead to some creative plays and elongated possessions. He has a good enough shot that he can score from the point, but he truly loves to activate and shoot from below the circles.

Herman continues later:

Merkley often abdicates himself of defensive responsibility. He gets pouty and abrasive on the ice when things don’t go his team’s way, and that carries over off the ice. He does not have any signature moments of blatantly infantile behavior, as Tony DeAngelo does, but on a day-to-day basis Merkley is a bigger headache not just for his coaches, but his peers as well. It got bad enough this past season that Guelph scratched him as a disciplinary measure at time when he was the team’s leading scorer.

The Sharks are taking a risk here. But if it works, they could end up with one of the best players in the draft. As Lightning fans though, we know what it looks like when a pick like this doesn’t work. The Bolts took a similar risk on Anthony DeAngelo an ultimately ended up shipping him to Arizona for a second round pick before he ever made an impact in the NHL.

And with that, we’re through the top twenty one picks of the draft. Tomorrow’s article will cover the next three picks as we approach the end of the mock draft later this week.

Those will be picks twenty two, twenty three, and twenty four with the Senators, Ducks, and Wild on the clock.

SBNation NHL Mock Draft Recap:

  1. Buffalo Sabres - Rasmus Dahlin
  2. Carolina Hurricanes - Andrei Svechnikov
  3. Montreal Canadiens - Filip Zadina
  4. Ottawa Senators - Quinn Hughes
  5. Arizona Coyotes - Brady Tkachuk
  6. Detroit Red Wings - Adam Boqvist
  7. Vancouver Canucks - Noah Dobson
  8. Chicago - Oliver Wahlstrom
  9. New York Rangers - Evan Bouchard
  10. Edmonton Oilers - Martin Kaut
  11. Washington Capitals (via New York Islanders) - Jesperi Kotkaniemi
  12. New York Islanders - Ty Smith
  13. Colorado Avalanche (via Philadelphia, via Dallas) - Joe Veleno
  14. Dallas Stars (via Philadelphia) - Joel Farabee
  15. Florida Panthers - Bode Wilde
  16. Philadelphia Flyers (via Colorado) - Rasmus Kupari
  17. New Jersey Devils - Barrett Hayton
  18. Columbus Blue Jackets - Isac Lundestrom
  19. Philadelphia Flyers - Vitaly Kravtsov
  20. Los Angeles Kings - K’Andre Miller
  21. San Jose Sharks - Ryan Merkley