SB Nation NHL Mock Draft: Picks 17-21

New Jersey gets a pair of picks in the first round.

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is sneaking up on us, with Round 1 starting next Tuesday and Round 7 wrapping up on Wednesday. We had a tight turnaround, but SB Nation NHL came together for our annual mock draft, where our team sites play backseat general manager to our favorite franchises.

If the real first round plays out anything like our mock draft, it’s going to be plenty of content to debate over until whenever it’s safe to start next season.

Catch up on the picks so far here:

Picks 1-5
Picks 6-11
Picks 12-16

Now, picks 17 through 21:

17. Chicago Blackhawks — Connor Zary

From Second City Hockey:

The draft did not go as we had expected with Mercer off the board — or at least as high as he was — and Wallinder also picked up. Mercer was under consideration for us because of his offensive playmaking ability and two-way game.

We were also surprised to see Holloway still available. He’s a player the Blackhawks like and saw a lot of this past season at Wisconsin, where current prospect Josh Ess plays. We decided against Holloway because we think he’ll be gone by No. 17, and we’re trying to take a player we think the Blackhawks will be able to select. That line of thinking narrowed us down to Rodion Amirov, Hendrix Lapierre and Zary. It’s hard to see the Blackhawks selecting yet another defenseman, although if they were to left-hander Kaiden Guhle of WHL Prince Albert is the likely option. Zary doesn’t have the injury questions Lapierre does and has more size and a two-way game compared to Amirov.

Zary is more well-rounded and consistent player than others at this spot. He’s an offensive playmaker that thinks the game well and turned up his production down the stretch with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 29 games to finish tied for fifth in WHL scoring. His skating needs work, but he’s able to mask it with his compete level and strong defensive play. He’s considered by some as a “safe bet” with the expectation he can be a great third-line center and potentially a second-line center.

18. New Jersey Devils — Rodion Amirov

From All About The Jersey:

Alex wrote this prospect profile on Amirov back in April. Then in the 2019-20 season, Amirov split time between very limited minutes with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL (common for young players), limited appearances with Toros Neftekamsk in the VHL (he did appear for them in their playoff series), and more often and for more minutes with Tolpar Ufa in the MHL. While his production alone does not seem impressive, what is impressive was what he did on the ice. He was a positive factor in both ends of the rink. He has received praise for his intelligence on the ice on and off the puck. It was noted that with Tolpar, he was featured on both their power play and their penalty kill. Amirov is a smart player with a lot to like with his game.

In terms of improvement, Amirov does need to get stronger. Being 6’0” is fine in the NHL. Being just 168 pounds is not so fine. But he is an 18-year old forward; I expect he will make (physical) gains in due time. When he does so, he will have an easier time going in for puck battles. From what I understand, he can definitely forecheck and he does not shy away from dangerous areas or physical parts of the ice. Not getting physically outmatched will help him in those regards and allow him to flourish more in both ends of the rink. If that is the biggest knock on a prospect, then he is likely a very good prospect.

19. Calgary Flames — Jeremie Poirier

From Eyes On The Prize:

There is little consensus when it comes to Poirier, and a lot of that is how tolerant you are to the risk he provides as a prospect. Poirier was not a structured player at the Junior level, and his defensive play left a ton to be desired.

He’s obviously a young player, and while that doesn’t excuse him, there is a feeling among scouts that maturity and a professional structure could be beneficial to him rounding out the edges of his game.

Players like Poirier with his skill level do not come around often. While you may not take a top pick on the defender, he is the ultimate home run swing in the top part of this draft. There is a ton of high risk in taking this player, but the potential reward is also sky high.

20. New Jersey Devils — Jacob Perreault

From All About The Jersey:

Devin wrote this profile about Perreault back in April. The concerns and frustrations about Perreault are real. Defensively, he is not that sharp. It did not help at all that Sarnia as a team was bad at that aspect of the game. There are times where one has to wonder about the work ethic both on and off the ice. I get it. These are issues that any team will have to work with him to address. He will need to ultimately want to change those things to make it in pro hockey at all. However, I absolutely think the effort to do so is not only possible but absolutely worth it for the Devils to take him on.

Perreault’s skills alone would warrant this. His skating is an asset. He can be quick, he skates smoothly, and he can weave through traffic well enough. While he is not large, he can win pucks in battles along the boards and facilitate offense. Perreault is more than a shooter. However, being a shooter is absolutely Perreault’s best role. His shot release is among the best in the draft class. Whether he is in tight or from distance, he can wire pucks to the net. For those who want a shooting right winger, then Perreault has the skills you would want in one.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets — Kaiden Guhle

From The Cannon:

MrSwift wanted to take the best forward available. Will and I were focused on a center specifically. Elaine pointed out the lack of defensive prospects in the pipeline. [...]

While I think the biggest immediate need for the Jackets is on offense, I also know that few if any of these prospect outside of the top 10 are likely to make the team this season. This pick is someone to join the team in two years. At that point, both Zach Werenski and Seth Jones will be due for new contracts (though I think both will re-sign). Ryan Murray and David Savard are free agents next off-season. Markus Nutivaara could be selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. Andrew Peeke, Tim Berni and Eric Hjorth seem promising as prospects, but they’re far from certain to be NHL regulars.

With the way this is team is built, it’s important the blue line remain a strength, with depth on all three pairs. That depth also gives the team valuable trade chips to upgrade at other positions.

The New York Rangers are on the clock with pick 22.