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The 2018 NHL draft is upon us, and it’s the first big event of what could go down as one of the more entertaining summers of the salary cap era. A handful of big names are rumored to be available via trade—we’re talking players like Erik Karlsson, Jeff Skinner and Max Pacioretty—and we could see John Tavares test the free agent market if the New York Islanders can’t re-sign him.

The first domino will be the draft itself, however, and it’s always a powderkeg-type situation when the brain trusts of each and every team in the league are all sitting in the same room together. Especially when several organizations are on the record about wanting to shake up their respective rosters.

Of course, the fresh batch of rookies will be the center of attention for a majority of the weekend and this particular draft class is intriguing for a handful of reasons.

First, we have two potential game breakers available in Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. This could be the best one-two duo since Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty were selected back-to-back in 2008, and both players are primed to jump to the NHL next season. Svechnikov could even score 20 goals.

There’s not a lot of consensus after those two selections, though.

Different scouts and mock drafts have a variety of skaters sliding five or six spots each, especially in the top-10 where things are usually relatively concrete by the time summer rolls around. For instance, some analysts see Brady Tkachuk as a slam dunk top-five pick, while others don’t think he should be picked that early.

That disparity could make for a wild first round, with teams looking to trade up into players who have slipped or trade down to beef up on the overall number of selections.

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 05:  Rasmus Dahlin #8 of Team Sweden skates the puck during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game against Team Russia at the Bell Centre on January 5, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Team Russia defeated Team

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NHL Draft 2017 Information

When: June 22 (first round) at 7:30 p.m. ET and June 23 (rounds two through seven) at 11 a.m. ET.

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas TX

How to Watch: June 22 (NBCSN, SN, TVAS) and June 23 (NHLN, SN, TVAS)

PLYMOUTH, MI - FEBRUARY 16: Andrei Svechnikov #7 of the Russian Nationals celebrates a second period goal with teammates on the bench against the USA Nationals during the 2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament game at USA Hockey Arena on February 16, 2018

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Latest First-Round Mock Draft

1. Buffalo Sabres: D Rasmus Dahlin, Frolunda (SHL)

2. Carolina Hurricanes: RW Andrei SvechnikovBarrie (OHL)

3. Montreal CanadiensLW Filip Zadina, Halifax (QMJHL)

4. Ottawa SenatorsD Quinton Hughes, US Under 18 

5. Arizona CoyotesLW Brady Tkachuk, Boston University

6. Detroit Red WingsD Evan Bouchard, London (OHL)

7. Vancouver CanucksD Adam Boqvist, Brynas (SHL)

8. Chicago BlackhawksRW Oliver Wahlstrom, US Under 18

9. New York RangersRW Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Assat Pori (SM-liiga)

10. Edmonton OilersNoah Dobson, A-Bathurst (QMJHL)

11. New York IslandersD Ty Smith, Spokane (WHL) 

12. New York Islanders (via Calgary Flames)C Barrett Hayton, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

13. Dallas StarsLW Joel Farabee, USNTDP (USHL)

14. Philadelphia Flyers (via St. Louis Blues)C Rasmus Kupari, Karpat Oulu (SM-liiga)

15. Florida PanthersRW Serron Noel, Oshawa, (OHL)

16. Colorado AvalancheD Ryan Merkley, Guelph (OHL)

17. New Jersey DevilsD Bode Wilde, US Under 18

18. Columbus Blue JacketsC Joe Veleno, Drummondville (QMJHL)

19. Philadelphia Flyers: RW Vitaly Kravtsov, Chelyabinsk (KHL)

20. Los Angeles KingsC Ryan McLeod, Mississauga (OHL) 

21. San Jose SharksC Isac Lundestrom, Lulea HF (SHL)

22. Ottawa Senators (via Pittsburgh Penguins)LW/RW Dominik Bokk, Vaxjo Lakers (SHL/SuperElit)

23. Anaheim Ducks: D Rasmus Sandin, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

24. Minnesota WildC Jacob Olofsson, Timra IK (Allsvenskan)

25. Toronto Maple Leafs: D K’Andre Miller, US U18 (NTDP)

26. New York Rangers (via Boston Bruins)C/W Akil Thomas, Niagara (OHL) 

27. Chicago Blackhawks (via Nashville Predators): D Mattias Samuelsson, US U18 (NTDP)

28. New York Rangers (via Tampa Bay Lightning): D Alexander Alexeyev, Red Deer (WHL)

29. St. Louis Blues (via Winnipeg Jets)D Jonathan Tychonick, Penticton (BCHL)

30. Detroit Red Wings (via Vegas Golden Knights): C Bo Groulx, Halifax (QMJHL)

31. Washington CapitalsLW Grigori Denisenko, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 29: Brady Tkachuk #7 and Jake Oettinger #30 of United States during the IIHF World Junior Championship at New Era Field against Canada on December 29, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. The United States beat Canada 4-3. (Photo by Kevin Hof

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Where Will Brady Tkachuk Actually Be Selected?

We mentioned Tkachuk earlier, and that’s because he’s the most divisive player available in this draft. He’s got the bloodlines that NHL organizations love—his dad, Keith, was a two-time All-Star and his brother Matthew was selected sixth overall by the Calgary Flames in 2016but some are worried that he’s getting more credit than he should due to that fact. 

Ilan MacIntyre of Sportsnet broke those concerns down perfectly in his column earlier this week: 

“There’s no issue about whether he has the game to succeed in the NHL. He has too much size, skill, toughness and pedigree to miss completely. The question is whether Brady Tkachuk is as good as Matthew, the power forward selected sixth overall in the 2016 draft who has already logged 144 games and 97 points for the Calgary Flames, or whether little bro’s status as a top-five prospect has been inflated by big brother’s immediate success.”

There is virtually no chance that Tkachuk turns out to be the best forward taken in this draft, but his surname and style of play have made him the most visible player available this weekend. So will he end up going in the top five? Or will he slide down the draft board as teams go after high-end defensemen with their selections?

Will the Erik Karlsson Trade Finally Happen?

Karlsson has been at the center of the NHL’s rumor mill for months now. He’s an elite defenseman who got himself in trouble with the Ottawa Senators for saying that he has no interest in taking a hometown discount when the time came to negotiate an extension.

This didn’t sit well with one of the most visible and hands-on owners in the league Eugene Melnyk, and it seems like only a matter of time before the defenseman is moved for a bundle of assets.

It’s a deal that the Senators can’t afford to whiff on. The last 12 months have been miserable for the franchise, as chronicled here by Joshua Clipperton of the National Post, but getting a strong return for Karlsson would at least make things a bit more palatable.

Ottawa isn’t going to be better if it trades the captain, but the franchise can at least start to fix all the internal and external problems that have plagued it, both on and off the ice.

Who will the Montreal Canadiens Select at No. 3?

Barring a huge swerve from the Buffalo Sabres or the Carolina Hurricanes, we know who the first two selections will be this weekend. What isn’t nearly as clear is who the Montreal Canadiens are eying with their third-overall selection.

Montreal has two massive, important organizational needs: a No. 1 center and a top-pairing defenseman. Reports indicate that they badly want to select a pivot in the first round.

Naturally, the third-best player in this draft is a wing. Filip Zadina doesn’t have quite as high of a ceiling as Svechnikov, but scouts agree that he has the skills necessary to be a consistent 30- or 40-goal scorer at the NHL level.

It’s tough to pass on that kind of player, even when the need for help on defense and up the middle is real. Things could get interesting if Montreal decides it doesn’t want to pick Zadina, and instead, general manager Marc Bergevin trades back a few spots to snag a center.

Chris Ryan of sees the Canadiens working out a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, for instance. In his proposed scenario, Montreal would move back to the eighth-overall pick while adding the No. 27 and No. 87 selections, and Chicago would jump up to No. 3 to snag Zadina.

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