As a prospect junkie, I’m always looking forward to draft day.
I find just as much suspense in those teenagers getting called to the stage as I do watching the Stanley Cup final. No offence to the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning, who staged an entertaining series and an epic ending to another NHL season, but draft weekend is sure to give me a bigger adrenaline rush.
Strange as that may seem, it probably has something to do with growing up in a family of Edmonton Oilers fans, with part of me still rooting for them to, well, win the draft lottery — which they did again this year. I would like to take this opportunity to also congratulate the Blackhawks on winning their third Stanley Cup in six years, echoing the majority of team officials who will step up to the draft podium in Sunrise, Fla., on June 26th-27th.
This draft is extra special with two generational talents highlighting one of the deepest crops of all-time. Topped by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, many believe the 2015 draft will rival 2003 and potentially even 1979.
Those years set the bar awfully high and only time will tell, but the prospects seem to be getting better and better in this day and age. Look no further than the 2014 draft, which is shaping up to be a strong one in hindsight, with most those first-rounders taking a big step forward in their development this past season.
History of mocking
I’ve been doing mock drafts for a few years now — see above links for past editions — and have enjoyed modest success. Not so much in predicting the right picks for each team, but in terms of getting the right prospects in the top 30. I stuck to the first round in 2012 and 2014 but was brave enough to try two rounds in 2013 and now I’m taking it a step further with the inclusion of a third round for 2015. Simply because of the quantity of quality prospects available this year.
My first kick at the can in 2012 didn’t go so well, as I only got one pick completely correct — that being Nail Yakupov, first overall to the Oilers. I finished with 25 of my top 30 prospects getting picked in the first round — a respectable showing — and that included seven of my top 10 going in the top 10, albeit six of them to the wrong teams. That year saw eight defencemen selected in the top 10, including a run of seven in a row, which threw most mocks for a loop.
By comparison, the benchmark, at least in Canada, is Bob McKenzie’s annual draft rankings. He puts out a list of his top prospects and typically has his finger on the pulse of draft day despite not making predictions based on the teams picking. In 2012, McKenzie was good on 27 of the top 30, seven of the top 10 and had three of top four in the right place. You win, Bob, but being the sucker for punishment that I am, I kept coming back for more.
In 2013, I actually got the upper hand by getting 26 of the top 30 to McKenzie’s 25. We both got nine of the top 10 and our misses all went within the top 42, so we can pat each other — or ourselves — on the back for those efforts. I also improved in terms of matching prospects to teams, with four correct picks in Nathan MacKinnon (1st, Colorado), Jonathan Drouin (3rd, Tampa Bay), Michael McCarron (25th, Montreal) and Morgan Klimchuk (28th, Calgary). I sort of had a fifth pick right with Bo Horvat going 9th, but I had him to New Jersey before the Devils traded that pick to Vancouver straight up for Cory Schneider. Is that a gimme? I’ll take it.
In 2014, McKenzie and I both brought our A-game in getting 27 out of 30, though Bob went a perfect 10-for-10 off the start and I “only” got nine of the top 10. Nevertheless, I was feeling a sense of pride for keeping pace, and especially because I upped my total of correct picks again to five with Aaron Ekblad (1st, Florida), Sam Reinhart (2nd, Buffalo), Leon Draisaitl (3rd, Edmonton), Sam Bennett (4th, Calgary) and Jake Virtanen (6th, Vancouver). Ironically, another Vancouver trade at the draft table bumped that total to six, as I had Jared McCann going 24th to Anaheim before the Ducks packaged that pick to the Canucks for Ryan Kesler.
Doing the math, I’m at 78 out of 90 over three years — with 12 exact matches — which puts me right there with the best in the business, Mr. McKenzie at 79.
Worth noting, and making my efforts more impressive, is the fact that I have always released my mock draft prior to McKenzie’s rankings in years past. He typically unveiled his list the week of the draft — on Tuesday if memory serves correct — and my mocks were posted the previous day as a primer and to avoid any copycat criticisms.
This year, McKenzie switched it up by putting out his rankings prior to the pre-draft scouting combine. Fortunately, I had my mock essentially finalized, but my preference has been to hold off until after the combine — where plenty of pertinent information is gleaned — as well as the Stanley Cup final, to ensure my draft order is correct throughout.
Enough tooting my own horn, that brings us to today with the 2015 draft on the horizon from the home of the Florida Panthers next weekend. This promises to be one of the more exciting drafts in recent memory, even without any drama over the top two picks — spoiler alert: Edmonton is picking McDavid and Buffalo will follow with Eichel.
Starting at third overall, with the Arizona Coyotes’ pick, it can go sideways in a hurry and nothing is guaranteed. Not with a cluster of comparable prospects talent-wise in that No. 3 to 10 range, and the trade winds already blowing stronger than usual. As it stands, six teams hold two first-rounders each — totalling 12 of 30 picks — and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few more change hands on draft day. But for the sake of this mock, I’ll leave my trade ideas for another day and just stick with the official order.
Before we begin
I had hoped to come across a complete list of updated heights and weights from the combine testing, but that information has yet to be made available as far as I know, which is both disappointing and shameful on the league’s behalf. TSN’s Scott Cullen tweeted out a handful of measurements — for McDavid, Eichel, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifin and Lawson Crouse — as did HockeyProspect.com, which filled in further blanks on HFBoards.com. Besides that, the best I could find was this Bleacher Report compilation, which had conflicting numbers for those prospects and doesn’t appear to be the most current either.
I listed the rankings from Central Scouting, ISS, McKeen’s, Future Considerations, TSN’s McKenzie and Craig Button, as well as Sportsnet’s Damien Cox. And I must note that I admire Button’s willingness to be different and go with his gut rather than conforming to the consensus rankings.
I’m also sticking to my guns with some of my “out there” predictions because there are surprise picks every year and nobody is wrong until those selections are announced. Haters are going to hate, but I will admit that I might be partial to WHL prospects and perhaps show slight favouritism towards them just because those are the players I’m most familiar with and have watched live on several occasions. With that said, I spent several hours researching each and every player on this list over the course of the season and attempted to rank them accordingly.
Without further a do, I present to you my fourth annual mock draft:
1) Edmonton Oilers — Connor McDavid (C, OHL’s Erie Otters)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.5/188 pounds
Playoff Stats: 19 GP-21 G-28 A-49 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 47 GP-44 G-76 A-120 PTS
Central Scouting: 1 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 1
McKeen’s Hockey: 1
Future Considerations: 1
TSN Bob McKenzie: 1
TSN Craig Button: 1
ANALYSIS: This is a no-brainer, the easiest decision Peter Chiarelli will make as the Oilers’ general manager. Coming from Boston, he’s been enamoured with Eichel as well, but even if he’d personally lean in that direction, Oilers owner Daryl Katz would never let McDavid slip through his fingers. Not only is McDavid a generational talent on the ice — and his numbers speak for themselves — but his marketability off the ice makes for good business going forward.
2) Buffalo Sabres — Jack Eichel (C, NCAA’s Boston University)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/194 pounds
Playoff Stats: NA
Regular Season Stats: 40 GP-26 G-45 A-71 PTS
Central Scouting: 2 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 2
McKeen’s Hockey: 2
Future Considerations: 2
TSN Bob McKenzie: 2
TSN Craig Button: 2
ANALYSIS: Tim Murray might have groaned over the prospect of picking second for the second year in a row, but this consolation prize is nothing to pout about. Eichel would have gone first overall last year and in most recent years, a very special player in his own right. The Sabres have since smoothed things over with Eichel, making this pick another slam-dunk. Presumably, Eichel was already handed a key to the city of Buffalo at the draft combine.
3) Arizona Coyotes — Dylan Strome (C, OHL’s Erie Otters)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2.5/185 pounds
Playoff Stats: 19 GP-10 G-12 A-22 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-45 G-84 A-129 PTS
Central Scouting: 4 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 3
McKeen’s Hockey: 7
Future Considerations: 4
TSN Bob McKenzie: 5
TSN Craig Button: 3
ANALYSIS: Everybody likes a big centre, including Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett. After finishing with the second-worst record, they had hoped to be selecting Eichel, if not McDavid, but instead they get “stuck with” Strome because the Oilers won the draft lottery (again). Stuck with being tongue-in-cheek, of course, as Strome is still a solid if not elite prospect. Ryan’s little big brother has a bright future and would be a good fit in the desert alongside the likes of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.
4) Toronto Maple Leafs — Mitch Marner (RW, OHL’s London Knights)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11/160 pounds
Playoff Stats: 7 GP-9 G-7 A-16 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-44 G-82 A-126 PTS
Central Scouting: 6 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 6
McKeen’s Hockey: 4
Future Considerations: 5
TSN Bob McKenzie: 4
TSN Craig Button: 4
ANALYSIS: This is one of the tougher picks to make, but I think acting-GM Mark Hunter will get his man in Marner, who he helped develop in London before joining the Leafs’ front office. He’s an Ontario kid who plays quite similar to Patrick Kane, a flashy style that could potentially complement William Nylander on a high-skill line in a couple years. The other side of me had Mike Babcock wanting big all-around defenceman Noah Hanifin to be his new Nicklas Kronwall and step right into Toronto’s lineup, especially if Dion Phaneuf is still getting shopped. But Hunter seems to have the strongest voice, at least on the draft front.
5) Carolina Hurricanes — Noah Hanifin (D, NCAA’s Boston College)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2.25/200 pounds
Playoff Stats: NA
Regular Season Stats: 37 GP-5 G-18 A-23 PTS
Central Scouting: 3 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 3
McKeen’s Hockey: 3
Future Considerations: 3
TSN Bob McKenzie: 3
TSN Craig Button: 12
ANALYSIS: Ron Francis probably planned on picking a forward here, especially after drafting a defenceman, Hadyn Fleury, in the top 10 last year. Francis still might, but with Hanifin falling into his lap, it would be very tough to pass on the top defenceman in the draft. Hanifin at fifth would be similar to Seth Jones dropping to fourth in 2013, and after Aaron Ekblad’s stellar rookie season, I can’t see Hanifin slipping out of the top five. Some see Hanifin as a pretty similar player to Ekblad, so if Francis sees that, he won’t have to second-guess this selection. After all, they say defence wins championships.
6) New Jersey Devils — Pavel Zacha (C, OHL’s Sarnia Sting)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.3/209 pounds
Playoff Stats: 5 GP-2 G-1 A-3 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 37 GP-16 G-18 A-34 PTS
Central Scouting: 8 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 10
McKeen’s Hockey: 6
Future Considerations: 15
TSN Bob McKenzie: 6
TSN Craig Button: 24
ANALYSIS: Ray Shero had a successful stint in Pittsburgh thanks largely to a big European centre that came into the league with some question marks. Granted, it was his predecessor, Craig Patrick, who drafted Evgeni Malkin, but Shero will be tempted to take a similar risk on Zacha. Not to directly compare the two as Zacha’s talent isn’t on Malkin’s level, but he was once thought to be a top-five prospect for this draft and he’s got that size you can’t teach. Shero will trust in John Hynes to get the most out of Zacha, who has a mean streak but lacks intensity on a shift-in, shift-out basis. He has some maturing to do, but if he develops that consistency, Zacha could be a force in the years to come. If Hanifin does get past Carolina, New Jersey might not take him either, given the Devils abundance of young defencemen.
7) Philadelphia Flyers — Zach Werenski (D, NCAA’s University of Michigan)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/211 pounds
Playoff Stats: NA
Regular Season Stats: 35 GP-9 G-16 A-25 PTS
Central Scouting: 9 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 11
McKeen’s Hockey: 9
Future Considerations: 7
TSN Bob McKenzie: 11
TSN Craig Button: 7
ANALYSIS: Ron Hextall is likely to draft a defenceman and assuming Hanifin is long gone, a lot of people have Ivan Provorov penciled in here. However, my gut is telling me that new coach Dave Hakstol will be higher on Werenski coming from an NCAA background at North Dakota. Hakstol could sway Hextall in the decision between two puck-movers, and the Flyers saw the benefits of having Michael Del Zotto in that role this past season. Philadelphia also has former NCAA stud Shayne Gostisbehere in the pipeline, but he’s more of a power-play specialist whereas Werenski is reminiscent of Ryan McDonagh. If not Werenski or Provorov, then budding power forward Lawson Crouse would fit the bill as a prototypical Flyer.
8) Columbus Blue Jackets — Mikko Rantanen (RW, Finland, TPS)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3.5/211 pounds
Playoff Stats: 7 GP-6 G-8 A-14 PTS (junior)
Regular Season Stats: 56 GP-9 G-19 A-28 PTS (pro)
Central Scouting: 1 EU
ISS Hockey: 9
McKeen’s Hockey: 8
Future Considerations: 8
TSN Bob McKenzie: 10
TSN Craig Button: 16
ANALYSIS: The best Finnish prospect in some time won’t get past the best Finnish talent hawk in the league, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. He will have the book on Rantanen and providing he’s a fan, which I’m assuming he is, this will be an easy pick for Columbus. If Rantanen is off the board — and he could go as high as fourth or fifth — then I’d expect the Blue Jackets to draft a defenceman, likely Werenski or Provorov assuming one or both of them are available.
9) San Jose Sharks — Timo Meier (RW, QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/208 pounds
Playoff Stats: 14 GP-10 G-11 A-21 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 61 GP-44 G-46 A-90 PTS
Central Scouting: 10 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 14
McKeen’s Hockey: 13
Future Considerations: 14
TSN Bob McKenzie: 12
TSN Craig Button: 8
ANALYSIS: Doug Wilson could go a few different directions with this pick, but Meier is a fast riser much like fellow Swiss sniper Nino Niederreiter in 2010 or Sweden’s Mika Zibanejad in 2011. Meier was really good at the worlds juniors against his best peers and carried that momentum back to Halifax, which boosted his draft stock towards the top 10. I’ve seen him as high as sixth, but this spot seems more suitable. Meier plays a bit like Tomas Hertl and the Sharks probably wouldn’t be opposed to cloning him. If not Meier, then Crouse or Provorov make quite a bit of sense for San Jose too.
10) Colorado Avalanche — Ivan Provorov (D, WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.3/201 pounds
Playoff Stats: 19 GP-2 G-11 A-13 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 60 GP-15 G-46 A-61 PTS
Central Scouting: 7
ISS Hockey: 7
McKeen’s Hockey: 5
Future Considerations: 6
TSN Bob McKenzie: 8
TSN Craig Button: 5
ANALYSIS: Joe Sakic will be ecstatic to make this pick if Provorov slides that far because of other teams’ preference towards drafting forwards. Not only do the Avs need help on the blue-line, but Colorado has a history of selecting WHL defencemen in Stefan Elliott, Duncan Siemens and Tyson Barrie, amongst others. There has been some turnover in that scouting department, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Avs go back to that well for Provorov, who is a great skater with a booming shot that some think will be better than Sergei Gonchar was at the peak of his career. If so, that’s a special player and one that Sakic might have to trade up to get. Could the Avs make a deal with the Devils if Provorov is still available at No. 6? That’s a possibility, perhaps sending No. 10 and Ryan O’Reilly to New Jersey for No. 6 and either Jon Merrill or Eric Gelinas. If the Avs stand pat and Provorov is gone, I could see Crouse being next on their list. Sakic might see Crouse as the second-coming of Jarome Iginla and take him regardless.
11) Florida Panthers — Lawson Crouse (LW, OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4/211 pounds
Playoff Stats: 4 GP-2 G-1 A-3 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 56 GP-29 G-22 A-51 PTS
Central Scouting: 5 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 4
McKeen’s Hockey: 10
Future Considerations: 10
TSN Bob McKenzie: 7
TSN Craig Button: 10
ANALYSIS: Dale Tallon could use some size on the wings in Florida and liked what Jaromir Jagr brought to the table this past season. Crouse’s skill-set is more like Iginla than Jagr, but that size and scoring combination would be a welcome addition to the Panthers’ depth chart. Opinions really vary on Crouse, which is why he could go anywhere inside the top 15 — well, outside the top two, of course. Those who are really high on Crouse could see a poor man’s Rick Nash, while his detractors see a David Clarkson type. At this point in the draft, even if Tallon is taking the best-player-available approach, Crouse is probably his guy.
12) Dallas Stars — Oliver Kylington (D, Sweden, Färjestad)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.5/180 pounds
Playoff Stats: 6 GP-0 G-5 A-5 PTS (junior)
Regular Season Stats: 18 GP-2 G-3 A-5 PTS (pro)
Central Scouting: 6 EU
ISS Hockey: NA
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 28
TSN Bob McKenzie: 24
TSN Craig Button: 47
ANALYSIS: Call me crazy, but I see Jim Nill stepping up and taking a chance on Kylington, who was once thought to be a top-five pick but has fallen out of favour with most scouts. Nill came from Detroit to Dallas and still has plenty of connections to that European staff that stole the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. If they haven’t lost faith in Kylington and believe his top-end potential still exists, then Nill won’t be scared off. Nill also had the pleasure of watching another Swedish puck-mover, John Klingberg, develop into a star with the Stars this season. Now, if I am crazy, which is entirely possible with this reach, then the fallback for Dallas might be a WHL forward, either Matt Barzal or Nick Merkley. Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who also owns the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, likes the Western brand of hockey and might be campaigning for one of those guys.
13) Los Angeles Kings — Mathew Barzal (C, WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.5/181 pounds
Playoff Stats: 6 GP-4 G-4 A-8 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 44 GP-12 G-45 A-57 PTS
Central Scouting: 11 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 8
McKeen’s Hockey: 11
Future Considerations: 9
TSN Bob McKenzie: 9
TSN Craig Button: 15
ANALYSIS: It speaks to the depth of this draft that Dean Lombardi is going to land a talent like Barzal in the mid-teens. In other years, Barzal could be close to cracking the top-five and had he been healthy all season, he might still be up there. Barzal excelled at the world under-18 championship this spring, which should have boosted his stock, but yet it is difficult to place the former first overall WHL bantam draft pick much higher. If Los Angeles gets him, he’ll be a great fit on that roster as a pure skill guy to complement the size and all-around ability of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. With Mike Richards fading and Jarret Stoll now an unrestricted free agent, the Kings will need to replenish their centre depth in the coming seasons, but Barzal might be a couple years away and shouldn’t be rushed. The Kings have also taken a liking to high-skill centres from the WHL in years past with Linden Vey and Jordan Weal, so Barzal fits that pattern. Personally, I see a lot of Matt Duchene in Barzal.
14) Boston Bruins — Kyle Connor (LW/C, USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1.3/173 pounds
Playoff Stats: 4 GP-3 G-1 A-4 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 56 GP-34 G-46 A-80 PTS
Central Scouting: 13 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 13
McKeen’s Hockey: 12
Future Considerations: 12
TSN Bob McKenzie: 13
TSN Craig Button: 6
ANALYSIS: Cam Neely and Don Sweeney are definitely going to like this kid. Connor is considered another riser who could crack the top 10, but if he’s available here, the Bruins’ brass will be pretty stoked. He’s quite similar to fellow American prospect Dylan Larkin, who went 15th to Detroit last year, and some even see Jonathan Toews characteristics in Connor. Boston would benefit from getting bigger down the middle and Connor could be pushing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for playing time sooner than later. He could be a one-and-done at the University of Michigan next season much like Larkin was this season.
15) Calgary Flames — Nick Merkley (RW/C, WHL’s Kelowna Rockets)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10.5/190 pounds
Playoff Stats: 19 GP-5 G-22 A-27 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 72 GP-20 G-70 A-90 PTS
Central Scouting: 23 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 19
McKeen’s Hockey: 15
Future Considerations: 17
TSN Bob McKenzie: 17
TSN Craig Button: 11
ANALYSIS: Look for Brad Treliving to make Merkley’s dream a reality. He’s a Calgary kid, but his performance in the WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup tournament assured he’s deserving of this draft position. Merkley will also get a ringing endorsement from Ryan Huska, who coached him in Kelowna before taking over Calgary’s farm team this past season. Merkley beat out Barzal for WHL rookie-of-the-year honours under Huska’s tutelage, so that familiarity will have him near the top of Calgary’s list regardless of who falls from above. The Flames’ roster already features another former Rockets forward in Mikael Backlund, but they could use some more playmaking wingers behind top-liners Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler. Those guys aren’t the biggest, so don’t expect Merkley’s size to be much of a concern here.
16) Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh) — Ilya Samsonov (G, Russia, Magnitogorsk)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3/200 pounds
Playoff Stats: 2 GP-.937 Save %-2.83 GAA
Regular Season Stats: 18 GP-.918 Save %-2.66 GAA
Central Scouting: 1 EU Goalies
ISS Hockey: NA
McKeen’s Hockey: 17
Future Considerations: 40
TSN Bob McKenzie: 19
TSN Craig Button: 14
ANALYSIS: Bob Green has been Edmonton’s director of player personnel since January and recently hinted that the Oilers would use their other picks to address certain needs. The most glaring being in goal and on defence. Samsonov is the best goalie in this draft and the only first-round talent, very similar in size and style to Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. He won’t likely be available when Edmonton picks again at 33rd overall, not with Buffalo, Toronto, Philadelphia and Arizona also picking twice in the first round and all needing long-term solutions between the pipes as well. Winnipeg is the sixth team with two picks, but the Jets are set in goal with Michael Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie in the system. This might be a reach worth making for Chiarelli, but if he isn’t sold on Samsonov, don’t be surprised if the Oilers trade this pick for a more established goaltender such as Ottawa’s Robin Lehner or perhaps even Kari Lehtonen out of Dallas. The Oilers have been successful in luring their Russian prospects to North America with Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev joining Nail Yakupov in the fold, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern with Samsonov. For those wondering, my Google searches and casual inquiries couldn’t determine any relation between this Samsonov and former Oilers winger Sergei Samsonov.
17) Winnipeg Jets — Travis Konecny (RW, OHL’s Ottawa 67s)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-9.5/176 pounds
Playoff Stats: 5 GP-3 G-7 A-10 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 60 GP-29 G-39 A-68 PTS
Central Scouting: 14 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 12
McKeen’s Hockey: 14
Future Considerations: 11
TSN Bob McKenzie: 15
TSN Craig Button: 33
ANALYSIS: Expect Kevin Cheveldayoff to go with a safer pick, be it Konecny or a similar player out of the WHL in Jake DeBrusk. Perhaps Jansen Harkins, another WHLer. The Jets are probably holding out hope for Merkley, having watched him alongside 2013 first-rounder Josh Morrissey over the last half of this season, but I can’t see Merkley getting past Calgary. Konecny is a nice consolation, a gritty goal-scoring forward along the lines of Ryan Callahan. Konecny could be a nice complement to Nik Ehlers in a couple years.
18) Ottawa Senators — Jansen Harkins (C, WHL’s Prince George Cougars)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1.25/182 pounds
Playoff Stats: 5 GP-0 G-4 A-4 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 70 GP-20 G-59 A-79 PTS
Central Scouting: 15 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 25
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 25
TSN Bob McKenzie: 30
TSN Craig Button: 23
ANALYSIS: Bryan Murray and Pierre Dorion probably would have picked Konecny, who is developing in their own backyard, but they have had success with forwards from out west over the years. Curtis Lazar panned out for a 17th overall pick and Harkins could follow a similar path to the NHL. He’s a bit bigger than Lazar and projects as more of a Ryan O’Reilly type. Having Kyle Turris, Zibanejad, Lazar and Harkins down the middle wouldn’t be a bad thing.
19) Detroit Red Wings — Jakub Zboril (D, QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.75/184 pounds
Playoff Stats: 5 GP-1 G-2 A-3 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 44 GP-13 G-20 A-33 PTS
Central Scouting: 12 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 22
McKeen’s Hockey: 18
Future Considerations: 20
TSN Bob McKenzie: 14
TSN Craig Button: 26
ANALYSIS: This might not be a typical Detroit pick, but nor was Dylan Larkin last year or even Anthony Mantha in 2013 for that matter. Ken Holland has simply been taking the best player available in the first round over the last couple years, and this year it could be Zboril in this position. The Red Wings could use another top defence prospect in case Ryan Sproul doesn’t pan out and Zboril is still available here because other teams went with forwards. Zboril is considered a potential high-reward pick, which Detroit tends to prefer, and he’s been compared to everybody from Keith Yandle to Dmitry Kulikov.
20) Minnesota Wild — Colin White (C, USHL, USNTDP)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0.3/177 pounds
Playoff Stats: NA
Regular Season Stats: 54 GP-23 G-31 A-54 PTS
Central Scouting: 29 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 15
McKeen’s Hockey: 19
Future Considerations: 19
TSN Bob McKenzie: 16
TSN Craig Button: 32
ANALYSIS: Chuck Fletcher will take a liking to White, whose scouting reports sound a lot like Mikko Koivu. The other possibility here could be big winger Paul Bittner, who played with Matt Dumba in Portland the previous year, but I think White is a good long-term fit, especially if Charlie Coyle stays on the wing.
21) Buffalo Sabres (from N.Y. Islanders) — Jeremy Bracco (RW, USHL, USNTDP)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10/165 pounds
Playoff Stats: NA
Regular Season Stats: 24 GP-14 G-18 A-32 PTS
Central Scouting: 60 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 28
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 22
TSN Bob McKenzie: 53
TSN Craig Button: 60
ANALYSIS: The Sabres probably would have risked taking Samsonov or Kylington had either of them been available with their second pick, but knowing their prospect cupboard is well stocked, Tim Murray takes a swing for the fences with this pint-sized point-producer. Everybody wants to land the next Tyler Johnson and Bracco is the closest thing to him in this year’s draft in terms of skill-set. The Sabres’ scouts believed in Nathan Gerbe, who is even smaller, and it also helps that Bracco hails from the state of New York. Buffalo can afford to wait on his development at Boston College.
22) Washington Capitals — Denis Gurianov (RW, Russia, Togilatti)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/189 pounds
Playoff Stats: 4 GP-3 G-1 A-4 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 23 GP-15 G-10 A-25 PTS
Central Scouting: 7 EU
ISS Hockey: 24
McKeen’s Hockey: 22
Future Considerations: 24
TSN Bob McKenzie: 21
TSN Craig Button: 20
ANALYSIS: The Russian factor doesn’t really apply to the Capitals, not with Alex Ovechkin as the team’s captain and top recruiter, not to mention Evgeni Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky also in the fold as impressive young forwards. Add another to the list, although it might be surprising to see Gurianov go ahead of Evgeni Svechnikov, who came to North America to further his development. Brian MacLellan could have his pick of those two and, by most accounts, Gurianov has the higher ceiling providing he crosses the pond.
23) Vancouver Canucks — Paul Bittner (LW, WHL’s Portland Winterhawks)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4.5/200 pounds
Playoff Stats: 17 GP-4 G-8 A-12 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 66 GP-34 G-37 A-71 PTS
Central Scouting: 26 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 17
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 29
TSN Bob McKenzie: 20
TSN Craig Button: 35
ANALYSIS: Jim Benning wants to beef up the Canucks and bring some of that big, bad Bruin mentality to Vancouver. Bittner isn’t as mean as Milan Lucic, but he’s a power forward with a wicked shot. Put Bittner and 2014 first-rounder Jake Virtanen on the same line and there is a good chance of both chaos and goals. There is also some familiarity at play here with Travis Green, who coached Bittner as a rookie in Portland before moving on to coach of Vancouver’s farm team. Green’s success with the Utica Comets will help his voice be heard in drafting Bittner.
24) Toronto Maple Leafs (from Nashville) — Brandon Carlo (D, WHL’s Tri-City Americans)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5/199 pounds
Playoff Stats: 4 GP-0 G-1 A-1 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 63 GP-4 G-21 A-25 PTS
Central Scouting: 25 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 21
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 38
TSN Bob McKenzie: 22
TSN Craig Button: 52
ANALYSIS: There is nothing fancy about this pick, as Toronto steps up and takes arguably the best shutdown defender in this draft. Carlo would make a good future partner for a puck-mover like Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner. Babcock will need somebody on the back end to play the tough minutes and Carlo could be that guy. I see a lot of Barret Jackman in Carlo, who had a strong showing at the pre-draft combine, which should cement him as a first-rounder. The Leafs might also consider Vince Dunn out of the OHL or Jeremy Roy out of the QMJHL with this pick, but they are both offensive types, which is redundant in Toronto.
25) Winnipeg Jets (from St. Louis via Buffalo) — Joel Eriksson Ek (C, Sweden, Färjestad)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1.75/180 pounds
Playoff Stats: 3 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 34 GP-4 G-2 A-6 PTS
Central Scouting: 4 EU
ISS Hockey: 20
McKeen’s Hockey: 16
Future Considerations: 23
TSN Bob McKenzie: 23
TSN Craig Button: 13
ANALYSIS: Despite an abundance of quality defencemen still available, the Jets overlook that organizational strength in favour of another forward. Eriksson Ek is a riser for this draft, a responsible player at both ends with good size and offensive upside. Often times this season, scouts went to watch Kylington and came away more impressed with Eriksson Ek. Those stats are his pro numbers, but he was more productive in the junior ranks this past season with 21 goals and 32 points in 25 regular-season games followed by 5 goals and 10 points in 6 playoff games. If the Jets aren’t keen on Eriksson Ek, other options include QMJHL teammates Daniel Sprong or Filip Chlapik or perhaps Svechnikov, but they all come with more question marks.
26) Montreal Canadiens — Jeremy Roy (D, QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.8/185 pounds
Playoff Stats: 6 GP-1 G-4 A-5 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 46 GP-5 G-38 A-43 PTS
Central Scouting: 21 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 23
McKeen’s Hockey: 24
Future Considerations: 13
TSN Bob McKenzie: 29
TSN Craig Button: 27
ANALYSIS: Marc Bergevin won’t be able to resist the temptation of this French Canadian defenceman. Roy is somewhat similar to current Habs blue-liner Nathan Beaulieu, but with even more offensive upside, making him a potential replacement for Andrei Markov once he retires. Roy was another standout at the world under-18 tournament, so that performance should secure him a spot somewhere in the first round.
27) Anaheim Ducks — Daniel Sprong (RW, QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0/183 pounds
Playoff Stats: 10 GP-7 G-4 A-11 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-39 G-49 A-88 PTS
Central Scouting: 20 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 26
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 18
TSN Bob McKenzie: 33
TSN Craig Button: 38
ANALYSIS: Bob Murray won’t hesitate to take a talent like Sprong this late in the first round. Some say Sprong has top-10 tools, but the Dutch citizen is still very raw, which makes him a boom-bust type at this point in his career. He’s a little bit like Emerson Etem, but with a higher ceiling. The Ducks have enough prospect depth to roll the dice here.
28) Tampa Bay Lightning (from N.Y. Rangers) — Evgeni Svechnikov (C, QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1.5/200 pounds
Playoff Stats: 7 GP-1 G-6 A-7 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 55 GP-32 G-46 A-78 PTS
Central Scouting: 17 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 18
McKeen’s Hockey: 23
Future Considerations: 16
TSN Bob McKenzie: 18
TSN Craig Button: 17
ANALYSIS: If Svechnikov is somehow still available here — which seems unlikely — Steve Yzerman won’t let him fall any further. Svechnikov is highly skilled and he’s already in North America, so that will only make him more attractive to the Lightning. One of Yzerman’s first selections as Tampa’s GM was another Russian forward from the OHL, Vladislav Namestnikov as a late first-rounder (27th overall) in 2011, and he appears to be panning out. With Nikita Kucherov’s emergence this season — he too played major junior, in the QMJHL, and was a second-rounder in 2011 — and with Vasilevskiy also on the roster, Tampa Bay is a welcoming environment for Russian prospects. Watch for Yzerman to take advantage of that with this pick.
29) Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay) — Jake DeBrusk (LW, WHL’s Swift Current Broncos)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.75/174 pounds
Playoff Stats: 3 GP-0 G-0 A-0 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 72 GP-42 G-39 A-81 PTS
Central Scouting: 19 N.A.
ISS Hockey: 27
McKeen’s Hockey: 25
Future Considerations: 27
TSN Bob McKenzie: 28
TSN Craig Button: 21
ANALYSIS: Ron Hextall gets one of his guys, a tough kid from the Western league where Hextall carved his teeth. But unlike his father, former enforcer Louie DeBrusk, Jake has softer hands and a goal-scorer’s touch around the net. He’s not overly big, but he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty and would fit in nicely with the Broad Street mentality. The Flyers will hope DeBrusk turns into the next John LeClair or at least somebody like Mike Knuble.
30) Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago) — Vince Dunn (D, OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11.8/186 pounds
Playoff Stats: 8 GP-6 G-4 A-10 PTS
Regular Season Stats: 68 GP-18 G-38 A-56 PTS
Central Scouting: 32 N.A.
ISS Hockey: NA
McKeen’s Hockey: NA
Future Considerations: 34
TSN Bob McKenzie: 36
TSN Craig Button: 54
ANALYSIS: With their second pick of the first round — which came courtesy of the Antoine Vermette trade that helped Chicago hoist the Cup — the Coyotes snatch up one of the best offensive defencemen in the draft. It might seem a bit early for Dunn, but if you really like a player, you go get him and don’t risk getting scooped. Maloney could be looking to add a couple defencemen with his late-first and early second-round selections and Dunn could be topping his list, especially since there have been comparisons to former Coyotes blue-liner Keith Yandle.
Recapping the First Round
1) Edmonton — Connor McDavid
2) Buffalo — Jack Eichel
3) Arizona — Dylan Strome
4) Toronto — Mitch Marner
5) Carolina — Noah Hanifin
6) New Jersey — Pavel Zacha
7) Philadelphia — Zach Werenski
8) Columbus — Mikko Rantanen
9) San Jose — Timo Meier
10) Colorado — Ivan Provorov
11) Florida — Lawson Crouse
12) Dallas — Oliver Kylington
13) Los Angeles — Mathew Barzal
14) Boston — Kyle Connor
15) Calgary — Nick Merkley
16) Edmonton — Ilya Samsonov
17) Winnipeg — Travis Konecny
18) Ottawa — Jansen Harkins
19) Detroit — Jakub Zboril
20) Minnesota — Colin White
21) Buffalo — Jeremy Bracco
22) Washington — Denis Gurianov
23) Vancouver — Paul Bittner
24) Toronto — Brandon Carlo
25) Winnipeg — Joel Eriksson Ek
26) Montreal — Jeremy Roy
27) Anaheim — Daniel Sprong
28) Tampa Bay — Evgeni Svechnikov
29) Philadelphia — Jake DeBrusk
30) Arizona — Vince Dunn
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.