The 2016 NHL Entry Draft's first round will be held Friday. Multiple teams are going to end up landing a prospect that very well could change the course of their franchise, while others will be filling their prospect systems with a first-round class that has plenty of depth.
While there could be multiple trades in the days leading up to and the day of the first round (as there was last year), we decided to take a stab at what teams will be looking to do in the first round if they keep their picks.
The headliners in this draft class are obviously Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but most of the top 35 to 40 prospects are going to help bring in some significant value to each organization's prospect pool. The first round will take place Friday night starting at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network in the U.S., with Rounds 2 through 7 running the following day starting at 10 a.m. ET on NHL Network.
So without further ado, here's the CBS Sports NHL Mock Draft for 2016:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (NLA): Matthews has the look of the kind of franchise center a team can build around. Matthews was a dominant force in the Swiss league and was Team USA's best player at the World Championship at just 18 years old. He appears to be the total package, with good speed, strength, excellent hockey sense, a quick and accurate shot, high-end puck skills and improving defensive play. He could be an instant impact player for the Leafs.
2. Winnipeg Jets
Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara (SML): There's a good reason Laine has closed the gap on Matthews in the first overall debate. His MVP performance in the Finnish league playoffs during which he scored 10 goals in leading Tappara to the championship was nothing short of remarkable. A natural goal scorer with a big 6-foot-4, 209-pound frame, he has the potential to be one of the NHL's elite snipers.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (SML): The Blue Jackets are reportedly entertaining the idea of trading this pick, but it appears more likely they'll keep it. Puljujarvi, who had 28 points in 50 games in the Finnish league this year, would be the best player available. Puljujarvi is a gifted all-around forward, whose skill has allowed him to be a top offensive contributor. Puljujarvi was the MVP of the World Junior Championship last year after putting up an absurd 17 points in seven games in leading Finland to gold.
4. Edmonton Oilers
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL): Another pick that has had trade rumors swirling, the Oilers would probably do better to take advantage of the bumper crop of high-end wingers in the top of this draft class. The son of former 500-goal scorer Keith Tkachuk, Matthew has more finesse than dear old dad, but handles the physical game well, especially at the net-front.
With 107 points during the regular season and an additional 48 in just 21 playoff games (including the Memorial Cup), this kid has a knack for making big plays.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/W, Cape Breton (QMJHL): Dubois is an intriguing talent out of the QMJHL where he had 99 points in 62 games for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Another big-bodied forward who plays primarily on the wing, Dubois has some more power-forward elements in his game. He's also considered among the better two-way forwards in this group of the top five. He has the size, strength and snarl that should attract the Canucks even though they'd have to think long and hard about taking one of the top three defensemen in this position.
6. Calgary Flames
Logan Brown, C, Windsor (OHL): With Brian Burke's recent comments on the importance of size in the NHL and their desire to beef up a bit with this draft, it makes me wonder if they'll reach a little bit for it. With Logan Brown, it would not be a gigantic reach. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he is one of the biggest players in the entire draft, but he's got skills to make him more than just a big body. Brown had 74 points in 59 games for the Windsor Spitfires. He also starred for Team USA at the World U18 Championship where his combination of size and skill were often too much for the opposition.
7. Arizona Coyotes
Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL): The Coyotes' biggest organizational need is on defense and there are three great ones in this draft. It's a toss-up among the similarly-skilled blueliners, but Sergachev looks like the best fit for Arizona. He has tremendous two-way skills, skates extremely well and is a terror from the point offensively. Named the OHL's defenseman of the year, the big Russian wouldn't need long to make the Coyotes roster.
8. Buffalo Sabres
Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL): A tremendously gifted puck-mover, Juolevi is the kind of defenseman that helps teams win in the NHL today. He skates extremely well and has some incredible instincts and had 42 points in 57 games with London during the regular season. He also had seven assists over four games of their Memorial Cup run. On top of that, he helped propel Finland to gold at the World Juniors. He's been a real winner in his young career.
9. Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Nylander, RW, Mississauga (OHL): Nylander had 75 points in 57 games for Mississauga in the OHL last year and showed some of the flair of sill possessed by older brother William and dad Michael Nylander. He also starred for Sweden at the World Juniors and U18s, often looking superior offensively against many of his peers. The Habs have a lot of wings in their prospect pipeline already, but Nylander probably moves right up to the top among them based on his overall skill level.
10. Colorado Avalanche
Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia (OHL): Coming into the year, many believed Chychrun was Matthews' best competition for No. 1, but just because Chychrun slipped down the rankings doesn't mean he had a disappointing year. A solid two-way defenseman, the Avs would be loving it if he slipped to 10. Chychrun had 49 points in 62 games.
11. New Jersey Devils
Clayton Keller, C, US NTDP (USHL): Personally, I think Keller belongs in the top-five conversation, but many will note his size holds him back. Keller had a record-breaking year at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Michigan with 107 points. He also became the vaunted program's all-time leading scorer with 189 over his two years there, surpassing the likes of Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane to do it. A gifted playmaker, with tremendous on-ice vision, Keller should be a point-producing machine throughout his career.
12. Ottawa Senators
Tyson Jost, C/W, Penticton (BCHL): Another player that very well could go higher than this, Jost was phenomenal this season. Set to play for the University of North Dakota next year, teams are going to be taken by his high-end offensive IQ with the puck skills to match. He had 42 goals in 48 games for Penticton, then dominated the World U18 Championship with 15 points in seven games for Canada.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
Kieffer Bellows, LW, US NTDP (USHL): After taking defensemen with their top picks in each of the last two years, the Hurricanes could be looking at a forward at No. 13. One of the best available is Bellows, who put up 50 goals playing alongside Clayton Keller last season at the National Team Development Program. The son of former NHL sniper Brian Bellows, Kieffer has some power elements in his game to go along with his devastating shot.
14. Boston Bruins
Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton (BCHL): The Bruins are expected to be looking for defensemen, especially since the top of the forward crop will have already been selected by now. Fabbro is a talented puck mover who will also be in the neighborhood bext year as he has committed to play at Boston University. He had 67 points in 45 games last season and starred for Canada at the World Under-18 championship.
15. Minnesota Wild
Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL): After going with forwards in each of their last two first rounds, the Wild can look to defense again. Also, considering that they run the risk of losing one of their better young defensemen in a potential expansion draft, nabbing a player of Bean's caliber at 15 will feel like a steal. Bean had 24 goals and 64 points for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL last year as he showed some dynamic offensive abilities.
16. Detroit Red Wings
German Rubtsov, C, Russia U18 (MHL): The top Russian in the draft, Rubtsov has good size and is coming off of a really strong season in Russia's MHL. With 26 points in 28 games, Rubtsov's stat line isn't eye-popping, but very good for the tough MHL. The Red Wings have had good success leaning on the advice of their European scouts and have a good shot at picking up a high-upside player right here.
17. Nashville Predators
Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University (NCAA): McAvoy seems like a prototypical Nashville-type player. Reliable and mature on the back end, McAvoy played a substantial role for Boston University as a true freshman last year. He moves the puck well, but also does a great job of taking care of his own end. His poise in his first year of college hockey really stands out.
18. Philadelphia Flyers
Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d'OR (QMJHL): A fascinating forward with tremendous size (6-3, 225), Gauthier was dominant in the QMJHL this year. The power winger had 41 goals and 57 points in 54 games for Val-d'Or. He also was named to Canada's World Junior Championship roster as an underager. That's pretty significant. His lopsided goals-assists numbers are a little quirky, but he plays a style that still has a lot of value in today's NHL.
19. New York Islanders
Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL): For a good portion of the year, McLeod was viewed as a potential high first-rounder. He's fallen back a ways, but probably won't fall outside of the top 20. A centerman with a 6-2, 190 frame, McLeod had 61 points for the Steelheads in 57 games last year.
20. Arizona Coyotes
Alex DeBrincat, C/W, Erie (OHL): Having nabbed a defenseman earlier in the draft, the Coyotes can go back to building their massive stable of high-end forwards. DeBrincat would fit right in, especially in a system that already includes his Erie Otters teammate Dylan Strome. Back-to-back 51-goal seasons have set aside many of the hesitations about his size.
21. Carolina Hurricanes
Max Jones, LW, London (OHL): Jones' projections are all over the map, but the Hurricanes should be pleased if he falls to 21st. A powerful skater, whose bursts of speed might catch you off guard due to his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, Jones had 52 points for the Memorial Cup champs last season. While he's prone to some poor decisions on the ice, usually involving penalties, he brings an element the Hurricanes may lack in their system presently.
22. Winnipeg Jets
Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): Having taken a winger earlier in the draft, the Jets will be pleased if Kunin is still there at 22. He never looked like a true freshman at Wisconsin last season. The 18-year-old finished with 32 points in 34 games and was the best player on a poor team. While Winnipeg surely could be looking for a defenseman here, Kunin's skill set and maturity make him a very attractive option.
23. Florida Panthers
Vitali Abramov, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL): While he may be a bit on the smaller side, there's nothing small about his production. With 93 points for Gatineau in the QMJHL this year, Abramov torched the Canadian junior ranks. Since the Panthers restructured their front office, you'd have to imagine the team's prospect consultants will be pushing the scouts towards Abramov. He might be a little bit of a risk to take in this slot, but it's not a big one since he's so dynamic.
24. Anaheim Ducks
Riley Tufte, LW, Blaine (Minnesota H.S.): It's been a while since a Minnesota high-schooler went in the first round, but Tufte should break the mold. At 6-foot-5, 212, he's already got the size part down, but he's also proven to pack a powerful punch offensively. Tufte scored 47 goals in 25 games for Blaine. There's always a little risk grabbing a player right from the high school ranks, but Tufte looks worthy of making an exceptions, especially for a Ducks team that wants to be big.
25. Dallas Stars
Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw (WHL): There's a good chance Howden doesn't slip this low, especially after his outstanding performance at the World Under-18 Championship in the spring. He had five goals over six games at that tournament, which followed his junior season. With the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, Howden had 64 points in 68 games and put up 15 points in 10 postseason contests. Another center with a pro build, Howden should have the edge on the players remaining.
26. Washington Capitals
Rasmus Asplund, C/W, Farjestad (SHL): With a number of good options remaining in this slot, the Caps can go in a variety of directions. However, after not taking any forwards in last year's draft, Asplund may be their best bet here. Though his numbers in Sweden's top pro division were underwhelming, his two-way ability and offensive skill set make him an intriguing prospect. The Caps don't need him to rush to to the NHL either.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning
Samuel Girard, D, Shawinigan (QMJHL): One of the more gifted offensive defensemen in this draft, the Lightning should probably take advantage if other teams pass on Girard due to his size (5-9, 162). Girard had 74 points in 67 games for Shawinigan and 22 more over 21 playoff games. The Lightning tend to value skill over size and that's why Girard has a good shot at landing here.
28. St. Louis Blues
Tage Thompson, C/W, UConn (NCAA): After a breakout freshman season at UConn, Thompson really turned heads. The 6-foot-5 forward has taken a major step forward offensively and ended up putting up 32 points in 36 games with the Huskies. The knock on Thompson is that his point totals were heavily inflated by excellent power play numbers. There's a chance he slips into the second round because of that, but the Blues will be intrigued by Thompson's big body and big shot.
29. Boston Bruins
Pascal Laberge, C/W, Victoriaville (QMJHL): Laberge seems like he would be a perfect fit for the Bruins if he ends up being available at 29th. A decent-sized winger with a bit of a hard-nosed game, Laberge also can produce. He put up 68 points for Victoriaville in 56 games and also notched four points for Canada at the World U18 Championship.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver (WHL): Having both the 30th and 31st pick gives the Maple Leafs a lot of flexibility. They could package both picks and trade up in the first round or maybe even get an NHL-ready asset. Or they could just use the picks and get a lot of value in this slot and the next. Of the many options they'll have available to them, Benson is an intriguing, but risky one. Coming into the year, he looked like a lock for the top 10, but he dealt with a lot of injuries. Assuming he can get healthy, he's a dynamic talent. He had 28 points in 30 games this year and with the Maple Leafs' surplus of draft picks in 2016, they have the flexibility to take a shot with a high-risk, high-reward prospect.