The 2015 NHL Entry Draft kicks off June 26 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, home of the NHL Panthers. With the 11th pick in the draft, the Panthers have a myriad of options to choose from. Whether they choose an offensive defensemen to help their organizational depth at the position or the best player available, Dale Tallon and the Panthers are sure to get a big-time star in what has been dubbed as one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Some options include, but are not limited to: Pavel Zacha, Timo Meier, Zack Werenski, Ivan Provorov and Matthew Barzal.
Pavel Zacha, Center, Sarnia Sting; 16G 18A
Pavel Zacha is a big, strong center who can also play wing. This was his first season in North America and he had a little trouble adjusting his European game to meet the standards. Zacha took a tumble in early rankings, but now he is beginning to skyrocket up the Central Scouting Rankings. At 6 feet, 3 inches and 214 pounds, Zacha is a guy who could have an immediate impact at the NHL level. His strong shot and his strength on and off the puck are just two of his greater attributes. His quickness and stickhandling ability make him a nightmare to defend against. The Panthers may have to trade up to insure that Zacha is still available.
Mike Morrelae’s mock draft: 10th overall to Colorado
Adam Kimelman’s mock draft: 7th overall to Philadelphia
My NHL Draft mock draft: 9th overall to San Jose
The Hockey Writers mock draft: 9th overall to San JoseTimo Meier, Right Wing, Halifax Mooseheads; 44G 46A
The big Swiss winger stands at 6 foot 1 inch and 209 pounds, and isn’t afraid to use his bigger frame to win battles along the boards, or bull his way to the front of the net. Meier is one of the purest goals scorers in this draft and, like Zacha, has the size to step right into an NHL lineup and contribute. His offensive awareness and powerful wrist shot helped him score 44 goals in the QMJHL this season. Meier can help bolster the Panthers depth on the wing and possibly make a push for a roster spot for next season. He should be available with the 11th pick.
Mike Morreale’s mock draft: 12th overall to Dallas
Adam Kimelman’s mock draft: 12th overall to Dallas
My NHL Draft: 13th overall to Los Angeles
THW mock draft: 14th overall to Boston
Zack Werenski, Defense, University of Michigan, 9G 16A
Werenski was the youngest player in college hockey this season. That didn’t stop him from having an impressive freshman season and looking like Michigan’s top defense throughout most of the season. At 6 feet, 2 inches and 207 pounds, Werenski has the frame to make the leap into the NHL next season. He’s a smart two-way defender that can excel on the power play, or the penalty kill. Werenski is the second- or third-rated defensemen in this draft, only behind Noah Hanafin of Boston College and, in some cases, behind Ivan Provorov. Werenski would fit on the Florida blue line rather well and his offensive touch would definitely help the Panthers. Florida might have to trade up to get Werenski, since both Colorado and Columbus are looking for a defenseman.
Mike Morreale’s mock draft: 9th overall to San Jose
Adam Kimelman’s mock draft: 9th overall to San Jose
My NHL Draft: 10th overall to Colorado
THW mock draft: 8th overall to Columbus
Ivan Provorov, Defense, Brandon Wheat Kings, 15G 46A
Provorov is a guy who has rocketed up the draft boards this season. He is ranked as high as No. 5 according to some scouts. He is a fast, agile skater that can help out offensively, but isn’t a defensive liability like some offensive-minded defensemen. Provorov would be an ideal fit with the Panthers, but he is more than likely to be gone by the time they pick at No. 11. Columbus seems to be pretty high on him, so it would take quite the package to move up to the eighth spot or higher.
Mike Morreale’s mock draft: 8th overall to Columbus
Adam Kimelman’s mock draft: 8th overall to Columbus
My NHL Draft: 8th overall to Columbus
THW mock draft: 10th overall to Colorado
Mathew Barzal, Center, Seattle Thunderbirds, 12G 45A
Although plagued by injury early in the season, Barzal still managed to register 57 points in 44 games. If Barzal managed to stay healthy this year, I believe he would be in the discussion of who goes third overall with Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner. Barzal is an unbelievably skilled center who can do it all. He doesn’t score goals like McDavid, but he is a tremendously skilled passer. He can find an open lane and put the puck on his teammates tape in a flick of the wrist. The combine only helped Barzal’s draft stock. Instead of being picked in the middle of the first round, he could go somewhere in the top ten. If Barzal is still available at No. 11 and these other four guys are not, I have a hard time believing that GM Tallon would pass on him.
Mike Morreale’s mock draft: 14th overall to Boston
Adam Kimelman’s mock draft: 11th overall to Florida
My NHL Draft: 6th overall to New Jersey
THW mock draft: 6th overall to New Jersey
It’s possible that the Cats go a different direction at the draft, but I believe that they would love for one of these guys to end up falling into their lap at No. 11. The draft is less than three weeks away, so I guess we will find out sooner than later.