Welcome to the 2nd mock draft in our series. You can check out Brett’s mock draft here. As you know, the first 14 spots in the draft have been put in order and now, I will try to predict who will be chosen in those first 14 spots and why. We will see if I am right on June 26 at the draft in our very own BB&T Center but until then, read more below to see my predictions.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Selection: Connor McDavid, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 47 GP, 44 goals, 76 assists, 120 points
Well, this one is a no-brainer. The kid has 120 points in 47 games and he is bar-none the best available player in this draft. The Oilers desperately need a player who can take them to the next level, after their last three first overall picks have not performed up to snuff (Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011, and Nail Yakupov in 2012). With McDavid added to the mix, maybe something will click with the team. I just can’t see McDavid underperforming next year. McDavid is the type of player that every team would like to have and he definitely has elite potential. There is really no argument; Connor McDavid will go to the Edmonton Oilers.
2. Buffalo Sabres
Selection: Jack Eichel, Center, Boston University (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 40 GP, 26 goals, 45 assists, 71 points
This pick is pretty set-in-stone as well. With Buffalo finishing in last place in the NHL, they knew they would be getting either McDavid or Eichel. Although they are not getting Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel has great potential and can make a big splash in the NHL next year. He just won the Hobey Baker Award as a freshman, a feat that no player has achieved since Paul Kariya in ’93. Plus, the Sabres can definitely use a center. I also think that it is pretty clear that Jack Eichel will end up on the Buffalo Sabres.
3. Arizona Coyotes
Selection: Dylan Strome, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 68 GP, 45 goals, 84 assists, 129 points
I know, I know. “You don’t think the Coyotes are going to choose Hanifin?” No, I do not. Although the team did just get rid of their top defenseman, Keith Yandle, they still have Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Their defensive line is not in as much need as their offensive line. The Arizona Coyotes are going for a pretty complete rebuild and what more could they need than an all-star center? With 129 points in 68 games, Strome will certainly be able to score some goals for the Coyotes and may be able to help the team win a few more games. Expect him to play alongside Max Domi in the coming years on the Arizona Coyotes.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
Selection: Noah Hanifin, Defenseman, Boston College (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 37 GP, 5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points
Oh, there he is. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of a lot of things. Hope, support, stable coaching, and a few more come to mind. Yes, they do need a good forward with the possible trading of Phil Kessel. Yet, what the team really needs is a defenseman. It has become quite clear that Dion Phaneuf cannot carry the team defense-wise. The team doesn’t have much of a problem with offense. They are able to score goals without much of an issue. The reason why they had been losing so many games was because they could not keep the puck out of their net. With no real chance of a goalie going in the first round, a defenseman is just what the Leafs need and this defenseman is sure to be Noah Hanifin.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Selection: Mitchell Marner, Center/Right Wing, London Knights (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 63 GP, 44 goals, 82 assists, 126 points
The Hurricanes have been struggling in recent years to generate offense. They already have a plethora of young defensemen in their core and could definitely stand to add a forward with great potential like Marner. At this point in the draft, Marner is certainly the best pick available, tallying 126 points in only 63 OHL games. With the help of the Staal brothers, Marner can use his small frame to his advantage and he even has the chance to become an elite player. I believe that the Carolina Hurricanes will be thrilled to be able to have Mitchell Marner on their team.
6. New Jersey Devils
Selection: Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 56 GP, 29 goals, 22 assists, 51 points
The New Jersey Devils have an older offensive line as well as just an overall older team, so they will be thrilled to be able to get a young gun out on the ice as soon as possible. It is for this reason that the team will probably go with the best available player that they believe will be NHL-ready. Who would be better for that job than Lawson Crouse? He could add size and power to the worn-out Devils’ wing. His point production seems underwhelming, but he is a passionate player that would be more than willing to do anything it takes to get the puck to the net as well as keep it out of his own. He plays with a defensive touch, which makes him a great two-way player and a favorable choice for the New Jersey Devils.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
Selection: Zachary Werenski, Defenseman, University of Michigan (NCAA)
2014-15 stats: 35 GP, 9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points
The Philadelphia Flyers already have a dream offensive pairing in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. What they need now is a defenseman to help out the overstretched Steve Mason. A good goalie and some elite forwards will not help a team succeed unless the team is also backed up by a great defensive line. Right now, that is what they are lacking so the acquisition of Zachary Werenski could change that. Some even think he can have the defensive upside of Noah Hanifin. There is no doubt in my mind that the Flyers will go with a defenseman if a suitable one is available and I think that Zachary Werenski could be the perfect fit.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Selection: Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing, TPS (Sm-Liiga)
2014-15 stats: 56 GP, 9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points
The Columbus Blue Jackets had trouble with injury this year but really picked up the pace during the end of the year, so they don’t really need a player who will be ready for the first game this season. They have a strong middle and their left wing is also pretty promising but what the team is lacking is a few strong right wingers. Rantanen could be a good option for the Blue Jackets because he could add to their already large-in-size team and would be a strong offensive force up the right wing for the team. The Blue Jackets could use a defenseman, but with Werenski gone by this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team fulfilled their need of a right wing and went with Mikko Rantanen.
9. San Jose Sharks
Selection: Ivan Provorov, Defenseman, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
2014-15 stats: 60 GP, 15 goals, 46 assists, 61 points
Usually, when a team starts off well and then begins to crumble, it is because they have a few high-scoring forwards but still have less-than-satisfactory defense and goaltending. The Maple Leafs are an extreme example but another casualty to this abundance of offense and scarcity of defense is the San Jose Sharks. Right now, Brent Burns is the best that they have and yeah, he had a good year but he excels more in toughness than in straight skill. I think that Ivan Provorov could fill a gap in a team with a generally older defensive line. He is a great two-way defenseman, who can’t hurt a team that has a decent offensive front but that holds onto that title only because of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. Adding Ivan Provorov to the San Jose Sharks’ roster could fill a big gap.
10. Colorado Avalanche
Selection: Jakub Zboril, Defenseman, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
2014-15 stats: 44 GP, 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points
Jakub Zboril is expected to go later in the first round but with the Avalanche in need of stronger defense, they may take the chance on a promising defenseman. The team already has a couple of strong, young forwards such as Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. With the exception of Tyson Barrie, there are no defensemen on the team under 26 years old. Zboril is a great two-way defenseman that could help the team liven up their defense. He is a present force on the Sea Dogs and a present force in the World Juniors and I expect him to do the same in the NHL. Although Jakub Zboril has been expected to go as late as the 28th pick, I think that he will drop down to fit the needs of the Colorado Avalanche.
11. Florida Panthers
Selection: Pavel Zacha, Center/Left Wing, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2014-15 stats: 37 GP, 16 goals, 18 assists, 34 points
For those of you that have read my draft profile on Pavel Zacha, you would know that I love him and believe that he is truly the best choice for the Panthers. If you haven’t read the profile, stop reading this now and go check it out. The link is on his name. Pavel Zacha is big, speedy, and has a nasty wrist shot. Many teams will shy away from him because previous injury and suspension only allowed him to play in 37 games last season. Before all of his suspension and injury, Zacha was the third highest scorer in the OHL with 19 points in 21 games. The Panthers have an overflowing pool of promising centers and defensemen. What the Panthers really need is a good left wing sniper. Pavel Zacha could be their guy and also, he would be sure to benefit from some advice from fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr. If Pavel Zacha is available at this point, I’m sure the Panthers will jump on the opportunity to pick him.
12. Dallas Stars
Selection: Timo Meier, Right Wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2014-15 stats: 61 GP, 44 goals, 46 assists, 90 points
The Dallas Stars will be thrilled to see that Timo Meier is still available at this point in the draft. He is a high-scoring right wing who would be beneficial to have on a team that is heavy in the center and on the left wing but could use a little help on the right. Plus, imagine him on a line with center Tyler Seguin and left wing Jamie Benn! I know that line may be wishful thinking, but it is a testament to the ability and promise of Timo Meier. Meier could be NHL-ready this coming season, which could be just what the Dallas Stars, a team on the brink of a breakout, may need. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dallas Stars choose Timo Meier.
13. Los Angeles Kings
Selection: Kyle Connor, Left Wing/Center, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
2014-15 stats: 56 GP, 34 goals, 46 assists, 80 points
Another player that I think has great promise is Kyle Connor. Recently, the USHL awards have been piling on. This season he was named both USHL Player of the Year and Forward of the Year. He is a goal scoring machine and is comfortable on the left wing, which is why I think he is a viable option for the Los Angeles Kings. The team has a strong center and a decent right wing but their left wing leaves much to be desired. In fact, this is the only area that the team is lacking in. With the addition of USHL superstar Kyle Connor, I think that a void will be filled and the Los Angeles Kings could even go back to being a strong playoff contender next year.
14. Boston Bruins
Selection: Mathew Barzal, Center, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
2014-15 stats: 44 GP, 12 goals, 45 assists, 57 points
Mathew Barzal is a bit of a wild card in the draft pool and has been picked all over the place in mock drafts. Nonetheless, I think that the Bruins will be extremely happy to hear that Barzal has not been chosen yet. The team is pretty strong all around, but the players are on the older side and the reason why the Bruins missed the playoffs is because they had been lacking liveliness and strength in the middle stretch of the season. The Bruins have started to go down a slippery slope and need to start rebuilding soon if they want to become playoff contenders in the near future. At this point, there is nobody better to help them do this than Mathew Barzal, a young, talented center. In the future, he could be a number 1 center, which the Bruins need because Patrice Bergeron is not going to play forever. The Bruins will be glad to have Mathew Barzal on their team.
I did not expect this mock draft to be so arduous. I found myself so confident in the first two picks, as well as the Panthers’ pick, but every other choice had me wavering back and forth a few times. Even so, I feel that I made good choices and I stand by everything I said. The 2015 NHL Draft pool is so skilled and versatile, probably more so than it has been in years, to the point that other than McDavid and Eichel, every other player on this list could probably be switched around quite a bit and the mock draft would still make sense. For this reason, it is difficult to predict who will go to what team because sometimes, the team will pick skill over necessity and there sure is a lot of talent in this pool.
I believe that the Panthers will try to choose Pavel Zacha if he is available, but many informed speculators believe that he could go earlier than the 11th pick. By this point, I have thoroughly studied all of the Panthers’ options in this draft. If Zacha is not available when the Panthers are up to bat, I believe that the team will go with either Timo Meier or Kyle Connor. Both are high-scoring wingers that are both smart and passionate players. Meier isn’t necessarily speedy but he is strong and full of energy. Kyle Connor, on the other hand, is very fast and knows how to drive the puck into the net. Pavel Zacha is a mixture of the two; He is a big guy but still is surprisingly fast. He is strong, tough, and smart and he too knows how to score some goals, even if they aren’t visually pretty. All three of these guys are physical players who are willing to stand up for their teammates. This is important for the Panthers, a team that is very keen on togetherness. The Panthers are going to have a tough time deciding who to choose for this 11th pick, but they have a lot of great, NHL-ready options.
Stay tuned for more draft profiles from our other staff members and look out for the COTP team at the NHL Draft on June 26.