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.
The Detroit Red Wings saw their playoff streak end this season after an incredible quarter-century run. They now find themselves with their highest pick in the first round since 1991. General manager Ken Holland orchestrated some of the most dominant teams of the last generation, but over the past few years it seems like he has lost his fastball. The long term contracts he has handed out to his aging veterans are enough to make even Chuck Fletcher blush. With those contracts hamstringing this team, it appears that after a wildly long period of success, the Wings are in for a sustained rebuild.
The Wings do have some solid young talent in players like Anthony Mantha, Joe Hicketts, Andreas Anthanasiou, and Evgeny Svechnikov. Their biggest area of need may be at center, but this team is a long way off from competing with the top teams in the NHL, so they will no doubt be selecting the best player available to them. In this instance, that just so happens to be Cale Makar of the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL.
The Scouting Report
Makar's game is dripping with offensive talent. He's an elite skater who's not afraid to carry the puck in traffic. His body control is what sets him apart as a puck-carrying defender. He uses incredible balance to fend off opposing players and his edge control allows him to make plays like this:
Makar uses that great skating ability on the defensive side by deftly breaking up rushes as they attempt to enter the zone. Listed at 5'-11", 180lbs, Makar is not physically imposing by any means, but he does play an aggressive game and is rarely out-muscled off the puck.
The biggest question mark around Makar is not his quality of play, but rather the quality of his opponents. Playing in the AJHL allows more opportunities for Makar to cheat into more favorable positions, and take risks he will not be able to take at higher levels. All adjustments aside however, Makar's dynamic skill-set and obscure path could make him the steal of the draft for Holland and the Wings.
How He Fits the Wild
Makar is exactly the type of defender the Wild should be chasing. With Suter entering the twilight of his dominant career, there should be some focus on going after players with top pairing upside, and Makar fits that mold. He would be a no-brainer to fill the role of power-play quarterback after a couple years of seasoning. Not to mention, you can never have enough right-shot defenseman in today's NHL.
How Could the Wild Get Him?
The Wild could send everyone's favorite trade chip, Jonas Brodin to the Wings for this pick. The Wings currently only have two solid defenders to protect in the expansion draft in Danny DeKeyser and Mike Greene (solid is being generous to DeKeyser). However, the Wings are up against the cap, so Minnesota would likely have to take back some salary from the Wings, making the whole deal rather unlikely.