Welcome to the first in a series of mock drafts we’ll be creating over the next few weeks leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft on June 26th. A few of our staff members will create a mock draft which will contain their predictions as to which player they think will be selected at each draft position from picks 1 through 14 (the teams that were involved in the draft lottery).
Read on for a look at my 2015 mock draft.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Selection: Connor McDavid, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 47 GP, 44 goals, 76 assists, 120 points
Despite the Oilers picking forwards with their first-round pick 4 out of the past 5 years, it’s pretty much impossible to pass over Connor McDavid. He has the potential to be an elite player, and the hope is that he will be able to turn the Oilers’ franchise around. McDavid is the only logical pick for the Oilers and would be for every other NHL team. Truthfully, there’s no discussion or argument to be had, because McDavid should and will go 1st overall no matter what.
2. Buffalo Sabres
Selection: Jack Eichel, Center, Boston University (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 40 GP, 26 goals, 45 assists, 71 points
With the Sabres finishing last in the league, they had the luxury of knowing they’d end up with either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Since they lost the draft lottery, they’ll pick second and will end up with Jack Eichel who is more than just a “consolation prize.” Eichel also has the potential to be a elite player in the NHL, a potential franchise changer, and will likely be centering the Sabres top line sooner rather than later. He became just the second freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award in the trophy’s 35-year history and the first since Paul Kariya in 1993. There is no doubt that Eichel will be chosen second overall.
3. Arizona Coyotes
Selection: Dylan Strome, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 68 GP, 45 goals, 84 assists, 129 points
The Coyotes will skip over the possible franchise defenseman in Noah Hanifin and select Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters. The Coyotes are starved for offense as well as a number one center with Max Domi likely to play the wing when he turns pro, and their other center prospects not currently projected to crack the top line. Strome will add size down the middle in that he’d be the second-tallest center for Arizona if he was on the roster right now. Also, the Coyotes already have several young and promising defensemen, such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, Brendan Gormley, Andrew Campbell, and Philip Samuelsson, among others.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
Selection: Mitchell Marner, Center/Right Wing, London Knights (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 63 GP, 44 goals, 82 assists, 126 points
As they enter some sort of rebuild, the Leafs will need all the skilled players they can get. Having not had a true number 1 center since Mats Sundin, the Leafs will be glad to choose Mitchell Marner with the 4th pick of the draft. While they probably would’ve liked to have chosen Strome who is larger than Marner (5’11” vs. 6’3″), the Leafs assistant GM was quoted in April as saying “we aren’t good enough to be picky about smaller players” and that “we need as many elite players as we can [get],” when asked if they’d consider passing over Marner because of his size. Also, recently-hired Mark Hunter was apart of the London Knights coaching staff that Marner played under during his 2013-14 season. With the Leafs needing some offense, and with Phil Kessel possibly headed elsewhere this offseason, Marner will be a good option for the Leafs at this spot despite their need for a defenseman.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Selection: Noah Hanifin, Defenseman, Boston College (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 37 GP, 5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points
The Hurricanes will be thrilled to see that Noah Hanifin is available when they get ready to make their selection at number 5. When they pick Hanifin, they’ll be adding him to a really promising and young defensive core which consists of 2014 Olympian Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Roland McKeown, and Haydn Fleury, among others. While they could stand to add a elite level forward to their depth chart, Noah Hanifin is the best player available at this point and it’d be tough to pass him up, especially with various dream defensive pairings staring them down.
6. New Jersey Devils
Selection: Mathew Barzal, Center, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
2014-15 stats: 44 GP, 12 goals, 45 assists, 57 points
With 5 of the Devils’ forwards being 34 years or older and with two of those being centers, they’ll certainly be glad to select Mathew Barzal with the 6th pick. Of all the players available at this point, Barzal is the only one left who has the potential to be a number 1 center in the NHL, which is something the Devils currently lack. Although their wing depth is thin, they have Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau as wingers who could step into the lineup soon. Potential number 1 centers are not available everyday and the Devils could use their other picks to even out their wing depth. A defenseman should not be an option considering the Devils have plenty of young d-men such as Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas, and Steve Santini.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
Selection: Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 56 GP, 29 goals, 22 assists, 51 points
Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall said the Flyers would likely be selecting a forward rather than a defenseman, and he’ll do just that when he selects Lawson Crouse. The Flyers will love Crouse’s combination of size and skating ability, and he could immediately become one of the Flyers’ best left-wing prospects. The Flyers have a stockpile of young defensemen which includes Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, and Samuel Morin therefore taking Provorov and Werenski out of the equation as possible selections.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Selection: Ivan Provorov, Defenseman, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
2014-15 stats: 60 GP, 15 goals, 46 assists, 61 points
Since the Columbus Blue Jackets have several young options up front such as Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, and Kerby Rychel, they’ll look to solidify their back-end by selecting Wheat Kings standout Ivan Provorov 8th overall. I give Provorov the edge over Zach Werenski due to his higher offensive upside and he’ll fill a hole for the Blue Jackets while also being the best player available at the 8th position.
9. San Jose Sharks
Selection: Zachary Werenski, Defenseman, University of Michigan (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 35 GP, 9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points
The Sharks are in need of a future true top-pairing defenseman (or at least another top 4 defenseman), and they’ll get that in Zach Werenski. The Sharks won’t necessarily be drafting out of need when they make their selection, because they don’t really have a need that stands out. Werenski is the best player available at the number 9 spot and he’ll give the Sharks a high-end, two-way option on the blueline if Mirco Mueller doesn’t turn out to be exactly the player they’d like him to. Plus the Sharks have just one defenseman on their main roster under 25 years old and that is Brenden Dillon.
10. Colorado Avalanche
Selection: Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing, TPS (Sm-Liiga)
2014-15 stats: 56 GP, 9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points
The Avalanche are thin on the wings and on the right-wing in particular, so picking Mikko Rantanen will be a no-brainer for them at 10th overall. Colorado is fairly stable as far as their top two defensive pairings are concerned with guys like Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, and Nick Holden, and they have guys like Chris Bigras and Stefan Elliot waiting in the wings. Rantanen will add size and skill to a team already filled with guys of that nature.
11. Florida Panthers
Selection: Pavel Zacha, Center/Left Wing, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 37 GP, 16 goals, 18 assists, 34 points
The Panthers will have a tough time passing up the skillset of Pavel Zacha when they make their selection at 11th overall. Zacha brings a combination of high-end offensive skill, speed, size, and an elite level wrist shot, many of which the Panthers have not seen much of in the history of their franchise. Zacha, although a left winger or center, fills the Panthers need for a scoring winger and someone who can change the course of the game when the puck is on his stick. While many believe Zacha will go within the top 10, I believe teams won’t be willing to take a risk by selecting him à la Vladimir Tarasenko in 2010. This past year was Zacha’s first in North America, and he’s had some injury and suspension issues thus far, however the reward could be very high if Zacha emerges as the player he has shown flashes of being through World Juniors and his rookie season with Sarnia.
12. Dallas Stars
Selection: Timo Meier, Right Wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2014-15 stats: 61 GP, 44 goals, 46 assists, 90 points
The Stars are another team that is shallow on the right-wing, and Timo Meier will certainly fill that void by bringing with him his offensive skill and large frame. He set the Halifax Mooseheads franchise record for powerplay goals by scoring 23 this past season and he’ll do nothing but add to the offense the Stars already have which was 2nd in the league with 261 goals for. He’ll also join the Stars’ 2013 first-rounder Valeri Nichushkin as their top two right-wing prospects.
13. Los Angeles Kings
Selection: Yevgeni Svechnikov, Left Wing, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
2014-15 stats: 55 GP, 32 goals, 46 assists, 78 points
The Kings are shallow on the left-wing, and Yevgeni Svechnikov is a 6’3″ left winger that brings a high-end offensive game and skillset that the Kings lack. One could hope that he makes it onto a line with playmaker Anze Kopitar which could create a dangerous line with both size and skill. The Kings may surprise some with this pick by passing over the USHL’s lead scorer Kyle Connor.
14. Boston Bruins
Selection: Travis Konecny, Center/Right Wing, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 60 GP, 29 goals, 39 assists, 68 points
Konecny will bring a combination of skill and grit which will fit in with that of Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. Although Konecny primarily played center, he’s a right shot and could likely switch to the right-wing where the Bruins have more of a hole compared to down the middle. Konecny will add to the already hard-to-play-against lineup of the Boston Bruins.
In conclusion, this mock draft was admittedly very difficult to put together. Although myself and almost everyone else can say with confidence that McDavid and Eichel will go 1st and 2nd overall respectively, all of the picks after that can go so many different ways, because the 1st round is filled with a lot of talent and is incredibly deep. I personally switched several guys back and forth between teams before making my final decisions. We may often see teams drafting the best player available even if he doesn’t fill a need because it wouldn’t make sense to pass up said players. Several players from the first 15 picks of the draft could easily make the jump to the NHL next year, and that’s a testament to how talented this draft pool is.
When it comes to the Panthers and the 11th overall pick, the main options should be (in no particular order) Pavel Zacha, Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier, and Travis Konecny. They all play the wing and bring a slightly different game. If you’re looking for a guy with high-offensive talent, you’ll want to look at Zacha and Meier. If you want a winger that’s a bit more cerebral than the others and makes plays in addition to scoring, you’ll want to look at Rantanen. And if you want a guy who plays a gritty game but can score and make plays with high-end vision, you’ll want to look at Konecny. In the end, it all comes down to who’s available when the Panthers are ready to make their selection, and it’s very likely that two of those guys listed above won’t be there. Each of them project to be viable top 6 players in the NHL, and some more so than the others. However, no matter how the first 10 picks of the draft pan out, it’s likely that a very desirable player will drop to the Panthers which could make their decision more difficult.
The 2015 Draft is sure to be exciting because nearly every top player is a wildcard, and the Cats on the Prowl team will be there when it begins on June 26th.