The scrums gathered early on the second level looking over the First Niagara rink of the HARBORCENTER in Buffalo on Friday. With four NHL prospects set to speak late Friday afternoon, members of the media readied their cameras and microphones anticipating answers from what could be the NHL’s top four picks come draft day.
The McDavid-Eichel Debate
While a couple of those selections are still up for debate, Dan Marr – the Director of NHL Central Scouting – didn’t put any rest to the McDavid-Eichel debate when he stepped to the centre of the scrum ahead of the highly touted prospects.
“I’m not really comfortable with the term ‘generational,’” said Marr, noting that both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are exceptional players that will help whichever team they’re drafted by.
Marr wouldn’t commit to McDavid or Eichel as the number one pick in this month’s upcoming draft, but added that each player at the combine had nothing to prove.
“It’s not a competition here,” said Marr. “Every player matures physically at a different rate. Connor has more to grow physically. The best is yet to come with Connor.”
When asked about the future of the projected first two picks, Marr said that anything could happen, but he’d be surprised if they didn’t make their respective franchises when the NHL season starts in October.
Praise of His Mates
Following McDavid, it wasn’t long before Dylan Strome stepped in front of the cameras. However, most of the questions reporters asked of the Erie Otters forward didn’t have to do with his spot in the upcoming draft. Instead, they revolved around his fellow Otters teammate and what he thought of McDavid’s spot atop the draft rankings.
Strome on McDavid & Eichel: They're rated 1-2 for a reason. They're very good players. #NHLCombine
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 5, 2015
“It’s pretty amazing to see how he handles himself with the media,” said Strome referring to McDavid’s maturity in front of the camera. He went on to say that watching McDavid, you learn how to act and respond in certain situations.
Now, Strome is likely going to find himself playing opposite his Otters mate at some point – whether it be next year or further down the road. So 8what kind of advice did he have for anyone looking to defend the projected number one pick?
“Good luck,” he said laughing with the crowd of reporters. “He’s going to be on Sportscentre a lot.”
Eichel: Still A Possibility At Number One?
While a lot of the talk did surround McDavid and the Central Scouting rankings that seed him at number one, some of the discussion did focus on where Eichel would go.
Could he still top the Otters’ star? Or is he destined to be taken second overall – destined to be a Buffalo Sabre?
According to Eichel, he believes he’s better than the Canadian forward. In fact, according to Sabres GM Tim Murray, Eichel told the team’s interview staff that they shouldn’t be disappointed they fell to second in the draft lottery.
[ALSO SEE: Jack Eichel Says He’s Better Than McDavid]
And the confidence could be something that carries this young man’s career. While he had an okay showing at this past year’s World Junior Hockey Championship, Eichel went on to demonstrate just how good a player he is at the World Hockey Championships playing a big role on a young American team.
However, put on the spot, defensive prospect Noah Hanifin also wouldn’t make a final decision in the long standing debate. Having played with both McDavid and Eichel, he explained that both have their own strong points and both are deserving of their ranks.
So is one better than the other? Maybe. But it will take a while before that can truly be decided. On draft day, the debate remains. The Oilers will be followed by the Sabres. But will McDavid lead the way? Or will he follow in the footsteps of Boston University’s Eichel?
For more, follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or his THW column at @Tape2TapeTHW.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.