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First Round NHL Mock Draft: Final Version

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 22, 2015

 

It’s draft week! The NHL Entry Draft takes place this Friday so to begin our coverage this week we present the final version of our mock draft.

  1. Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid, C Erie Otters (OHL)

Cole says: The Oilers make the easiest selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and take Connor McDavid 1st overall. The undisputed #1 center long hailed as “The Next Sidney Crosby” will be the linchpin in carrying the Oilers out of their long rebuild.

  1. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)

Andi says: The Sabres also have a no-brainer pick in Jack Eichel 2nd overall.  The skills of the elite center make him impossible to pass up, so he’ll serve as the Sabre’s top pivot for years to come.

  1. Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters (OHL)

AJ says: While Noah Hanifin might be the highest rated player on their board, there’s a clear need for a dynamic center to carry the offensive workload for the Coyotes. Strome’s elite production in the OHL suggests he’s going to be a star in the NHL, making this a perfect fit.

Hanifin’s ceiling in Arizona is behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson, an annual Norris Trophy candidate,  whereas the only thing sitting in front of Strome’s path to first-line center is prospect Max Domi. With the obvious potential role disparity, Strome represents the better value of two prospects with similar ceilings.

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Mitchell Marner, RW, London Knights (OHL)

Cheryl says: Toronto needs a potent offensive talent who can make an impact on the team straight away. Marner is an exceptionally prolific scorer who averaged two points per game last season for the Knights, and while he could use another year of development in the OHL, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’d make the team out of camp this fall.

Marner grew up watching the Leafs, so being drafted by the team would be a dream come true for him. As we’ve seen many times in the past, that situation often leads to a higher level of dedication to the team. The Maple Leafs need a new franchise player, and Marner—with his electric play and never-say-die attitude—could give that to them.

  1. Carolina Hurricanes – Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA)

Casey says: The Canes have a solid choice of a winger (Crouse, Zacha) or a defender, but Hanifin is a no-brainer pick for them. They are an asset-poor organization and Hanifin is the type of nearly-there prospect they desperately need to shore up their blue line. Hanifin projects as a top-pairing NHL defender and Carolina’s entire defense is up in the air save for Justin Faulk. The Canes can build the future of their D on a home run pick like Hanifin.

  1. New Jersey Devils – Pavel Zacha, W/C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

AJ says: The Devils are young, deep, and talented already along the blue line so instead of going with Provorov, new GM Ray Shero gets his Evgenvi Malkin Lite with the selection of Zacha. A player with all-world talent but questionable production, Zacha brings quite a bit of risk but carries the upside to potentially be one of the top players from this draft class.

New Jersey’s lack of impact offensive players in the NHL and in the prospect pipeline also help the team decide to go with the extremely high ceiling of Zacha over someone with potentially lower offensive upside in Crouse or Rantanen.

  1. Philadelphia Flyers – Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Andi says: Even though Philadelphia needs scoring forwards, the 2-way play and potential of Lawson Crouse make him difficult to ignore with the seventh pick. His physical style and overall attitude make him a natural fit for the Flyers and helps strengthen their greatest area of need within their prospect system.

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Zachary Werenski, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)

Cheryl says:  After trading James Wisniewski this season, Columbus was left with two gaping holes on the blueline. The team now needs to shore up its defense as well as bring in some offense from the backend, so going with a strong, two-way defenseman with NHL written all over him is the best approach.

Enter Zach Werenski. A talented puck mover with high hockey sense, Werenski gives Columbus a star to QB the power play and to provide a clean transition from the d-zone. He has the size and skill to defend against NHL players right now, and he’s confident enough to handle the pro-level as soon as this season. He’ll be a first-pairing defenseman for Columbus in just a few short years when Jack Johnson’s age catches up with him.

  1. San Jose Sharks – Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Casey says: The Sharks are likely to go best player available, and at this stage Provorov is it. The aging core of the Sharks means their window is closing soon, so San Jose will want to draft someone who can make an impact as soon as possible. He’s got the size and the smarts to make an immediate impact on their roster, possibly climbing onto the top pairing sooner rather than later.

  1. Colorado Avalanche – Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS (Liiga)

Cole says: With the top three defensemen and Lawson Crouse off the draft board, the Avalanche opt for the next big winger on their list and select Mikko Rantanen. The Avalanche haven’t made a habit out of drafting from European leagues early, but their recent lean in European scouting and Rantanen’s skill-set make this power winger too good to resist.

  1. Florida Panthers – Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Cheryl says: Florida needs some more firepower, and with Barzal, they’ll get it. He’s magic with the puck and has the kind of vision that changes games. While he may be too small to play center in the NHL, his skills will transition well to the wing, an area of need for Florida.

Adding Barzal to a developing core group that includes Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov gives the Panthers an extra gear that could tip the scales into a playoff team rather than the bubble organization they have been.

  1. Dallas Stars – Travis Konecny, RW, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

Cheryl says: While Dallas could use some help on defense, Konecny is just too good of a player to pass up. His offensive instincts are balanced with smart play, giving him the ability to play 200 feet of ice. He plays much bigger than he is, unafraid of throwing his body around or getting into the dirty areas. That type of attitude fits right in with the Dallas brand.

Konecny also fits into the holes in the Dallas prospect pool. As he can play both wing and center, he gives the Stars options. He also brings speed to the team which will help him keep in step with other up-and-coming members of the team.

  1. Los Angeles Kings – Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

Cole says: The Kings get an excellent opportunity to retool their top six forward group with Kyle Connor falling out of the top ten selections. They’ll hope this explosive young center can bring new life to what’s been a lackluster offense in recent years. Connor won’t head to the NHL right away, but when he does the Kings may finally fill the Mike Richards void.

  1. Boston Bruins – Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Cole says: The historically “defense-first” Bruins, having missed out on what they believe are the “top-tier” forwards, choose the next defenseman on their draft list. Jakub Zboril has some size, great skating, and a bit of a mean streak that the Bruins’ scouts will love. A dependable two-way defenseman, Zboril should eventually join Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug in reinventing the Bruins aging blueline.

  1. Calgary Flames – Timo Meier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Andi says: Even though the Flames have a nice young core of forwards coming along, they could use a bit of help on the right side. Meier’s power game would complement the more skill-heavy attacking lineup, and his shoot-first mentality would make him a solid option for their future first or second lines.  He is a bit raw, but his versatile nature makes him a safe and logical pick for Calgary.

  1. Edmonton Oilers (From PIT) – Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

Cole says: After adding Connor McDavid earlier in the draft, the Oilers probably boast the NHL’s best group of young forwards. They turn to the blueline with their second pick and draft an extremely talented offensive defenseman in Jeremy Roy. If Roy develops as promised, the Oilers could quickly become one of the league’s most dangerous goal scoring forces.

  1. Winnipeg Jets – Nick Merkley, C/RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Casey says: The Jets have the luxury of two first-round picks, so to me it makes sense that they would spend the first on a high-ceiling forward. Merkley is exactly that–perhaps a riskier pick than some, but higher-reward as well. The Jets have a deeper system on defense than offense, so a feisty forward that can make an impact soon is what they want with the earlier of their two picks. Merkley has this in spades. While his size might not seem to fit with the “tough and large” stereotype of the Jets, he’s a tougher and more tenacious player than his 5’10” frame implies.

  1. Ottawa Senators – Oliver Kylington, D, Farjestads BK (SHL)

Andi says: The Senators don’t have much in the way of defensive prospects, particularly those of the smaller, more mobile variety.  Kylington would help alleviate that problem.  The Swedish blueliner has seen his stock drop quite a bit this year and may be a reach at #18, but his smooth, fast, 2-way play has Erik Karlsson levels of upside.  Even if he falls a bit short of that mark, he could be a useful player deeper on the blueline.

  1. Detroit Red Wings – Evgeni Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)

AJ says: A tough decision here, the Red Wings decide to go with the goal-scoring prowess of Svechnikov over the exceptional two-way play of Eriksson Ek. While there are several solid blueline prospects left on the board, the Red Wings continue adding to their impressive arsenal of forwards with Svechnikov, whose size and goal-scoring make him a powerful potential future linemate with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

  1. Minnesota Wild – Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Farjestad (SHL)

Andi says: Minnesota needs players who can score, and Eriksson-Ek fits that profile. The creative Swedish two-way center would help bolster a somewhat uninspiring forward prospect pipeline and fill in behind the aging Mikko Koivu.  While his offensive upside may not mimic that of the Wild’s captain, he’d complement the established young core and provide a reliable 200 ft game for the team to build around in the future.

  1. Buffalo Sabres (From NYI) – Colin White, C, USNTDP (USHL)

Andi says: Buffalo is a team that has a little of everything in their systems, so adding a very safe, non-splashy pick like Colin White makes sense with their second pick of the 1st round.  He’s the type of forward that combines hard work, two-way play, and high hockey IQ subtly make those around him better and helps round out their system.  Add in a bit of a scoring touch, and he will likely serve as a complement to their plethora of skilled forwards in the future.

  1. Washington Capitals – Denis Guryanov, RW, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)

Cole says: Maybe the most prolific European development team in the modern NHL, the Washington Capitals have used their top pick in the draft on a player in a European league every year since 2008. Guryanov could be the best pure shooter in the draft and has NHL size and skills. Any KHL flight risk is lessened by a great match with the Russian-friendly Caps and the allure of playing with Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin.

  1. Vancouver Canucks – Brandon Carlo, D, Tri-City Americans, (WHL)

Casey says: The Canucks draft based on need with this pick and what they need is a chippy blue liner who won’t take anything from anybody. Enter Brandon Carlo, 6’5” and with a reputation for already playing Kevin Bieksa style hockey. He’s a big body who skates like a smaller one. With only a year or two’s development he could likely make an impact on a Canucks defense that has struggled to punish opposition teams and play the body effectively.

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH) – Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John (QMJHL)

Cheryl says: After grabbing Marner with the fourth overall pick, Toronto must turn to the needs of the blueline. The team’s possession stats are miserable, and they need a player who can not only defend the net but also transition the play effectively to the forwards. Chabot can do both.

Chabot will bring a trifecta of talent to the Leafs: skating, smarts, and stamina. He’s a minute muncher with extremely good vision and even better feet. He fights hard on every shift, and once he has the puck, his passing and stickhandling are such that the team will maintain possession. He can also quarterback the power play, helping out a team that has regularly been in the bottom rungs of the NHL for years.

  1. Winnipeg Jets  (from STL via BUF) – Jacob Larsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)

Casey says: The latter of the Jets’ two first-round picks goes to a sturdy two-way defender that looks equally comfortable on either end of the ice. Larsson has size, consistency, and few holes in the defensive side of his game. He’s a good addition to a Winnipeg Jets defensive pool that’s developed some quality young players into NHL defenders. Larsson could be the next.

  1. Montreal Canadiens – Paul Bittner, LW, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

AJ says: A team littered with small, skill players selects the enormous Bittner. Bittner’s size is matched only by his potential as he’s a raw talent who could continue to develop into a real powerhouse of a player. A prototypical power forward who plays a heavy game but possesses immense offensive potential, Bittner fills a role the Canadiens have not had for quite some time.

  1. Anaheim Ducks – Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown Checkers (QMJHL)

Cheryl says: Anaheim is just looking to stock up the cupboards at this point, and Daniel Sprong is a prime candidate for that. Sprong oozes potential, and with a couple of years’ growth back in the Q, he’ll balance out his skills and bring more of a two-way game to the table. The Ducks are lucky in that they can spare the time to let the kid become the best he can be. The team’s roster is already a powerhouse, so there is no rush to get a player into the line up. Sprong is an intriguing talent that could complement an already potent corps.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR) – Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL)

AJ says: An organization that has a lot of everything, the Lightning have the luxury of simply selecting the best player left on the board in the high-scoring Boeser. A goal scorer through and through, Boeser is headed to North Dakota for college and the Lightning are deep enough they can afford to wait for the explosive Boeser to develop in the NCAA.

  1. Philadelphia Flyers (from TB) – Jake DeBrusk, LW, Swift Current (WHL)

Andi says:  Even though Philly took power forward Lawson Crouse earlier in the round, it makes sense to continue bolstering their left wing with the addition of the skilled Jake DeBrusk. The Flyers are somewhat short when it comes to purely offensive talent, and with their new coach and new direction, DeBrusk’s scoring knack and intelligent play could eventually find him a home in their Top 6.

  1. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI) – Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL)

AJ says: Another difficult selection with top goaltender Ilya Samsonov still on board, the Coyotes double down on their need for talent down the middle as they select the rock-solid Harkins to finish off the first round. An exceptional leader and two-way player, Harkins doesn’t play a sexy game or pile up eye-popping point totals but he plays an effective 200-foot game and his mature attitude and Arizona’s dearth of talent should see Harkins making his NHL debut sooner rather than later.

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