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With the playoffs still underway and draft coverage kicking off in earnest today at BSNDenver.com, there was no better time to put up our first attempt at a mock draft for the draft positions that are set. As the playoffs continue on and more draft positions become locked in as well as the post-season scouting process sharpens the focus of the prospects in discussion we will do more complete mock drafts.
For today, Cole Hamilton and I alternated draft picks and provided commentary on why we made the decisions we did. Cole won the coin flip and opened the drafting with the Edmonton Oilers.
1. Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
Cole says: This pick was all but decided back on draft lottery day. McDavid is the unquestionable #1 in this draft and likely the best draft eligible prospect since Sidney Crosby. The Erie Otters center finished his season with a ludicrous 120 points in 47 games and has scored another 42 points in 15 playoff games so far. He’ll be the Oilers number one center next year and with an excellent supporting cast in Edmonton, he’s the odds on favorite for the 2016 Calder Trophy.
2. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
AJ says: The consensus second best player available in this draft, the American Center is going to help shape the future of Sabres hockey. With the additions of Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, and now Eichel, the Sabres suddenly find themselves one of the most dangerous young teams in the league.
3. Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
Cole says: The jelly to McDavid’s peanut butter. Dylan Strome led the entire OHL in scoring this season playing as the second line center behind Connor McDavid. Just like in 2013 when Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin were selected 1st and 3rd overall, this dynamic duo will crack the top three together.
Arizona leaves some serious talent on the board in Noah Hanifin and Mitch Marner, but with a decent crop of defensive prospects led by NHL All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes will instead look to land their first top-flight center in the history of their franchise.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs – Mitch Marner, C, London Knights (OHL)
AJ says: A consensus top tier talent, Marner would have been in consideration for the #1 overall pick in almost any other draft year. An extremely talented and high-scoring forward, Marner looks to lead the next generation of disappointing Maple Leafs teams to 10th place finishes for years to come. With the likelihood of them trading Phil Kessel in the coming months, the Maple Leafs are going to need to start over at forward and passing up this electric offensive talent would be unwise.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA)
Cole says: Although the Hurricanes would likely prefer the help at forward, Ron Francis won’t be able to pass up on Central Scouting’s 3rd ranked North American skater. Just like Seth Jones with the Nashville Predators two years ago, the Hurricanes will grab a steal of a defenseman to complement a group that already includes Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, and top prospect Haydn Fleury.
6. New Jersey Devils – Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
AJ says: The shifty playmaker from the WHL gives the Devils the kind of dynamic offensive player they have lacked since Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk skated for them. Not the biggest player in the draft, Barzal succeeds with his excellent vision and hockey sense. With a group of very good young defensemen already manning the New Jersey blue line, Barzal adds the fire power up front they have sorely lacked in recent years.
7. Philadelphia Flyers – Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Cole says: In true Flyers fashion, Ron Hextall will select the most divisive player in the top half of the first round and take winger Lawson Crouse 7th overall. With Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, and Robert Hagg already a part of their defensive prospect pool, the Flyers add a forward who will play on their NHL roster next season. Crouse has the big body and mean streak that the Flyers organization identifies with and if he can find a way to score at the NHL level, he may help to fill the void Scott Hartnell left in their lineup.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets – Zachary Werenski, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
AJ says: The Columbus Blue Jackets are probably in better position than anybody else in the top half of this draft class because not only is their NHL roster ready to make a move up the standings but their prospects are also in excellent shape. With high-flying forwards Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Sonny Milano beginning to knock loudly on the NHL door and top defensive prospect Mike Reilly expected to leave via free agency this summer, Columbus would be best served drafting this silky smooth defenseman from the University of Michigan.
As one of the safest prospects in this draft, Werenski would be fast-tracked to the NHL roster to provide stability along a blue line that has started to show cracks in recent years. His maturity and all-around excellence is a perfect fit for an organization that lacks potential high-end defensive prospects. While nothing about his game is particularly great, Werenski is a classic “jack of all trades” defenseman. With so many quality young players already in their system, Columbus doesn’t need to hit a home run here.
9. San Jose Sharks – Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL
Cole says: The Sharks begin their inevitable rebuild in earnest by selecting an excellent two-way defenseman from the WHL. Provorov joins Marc Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Brendan Dillon, and Mirco Mueller to give the Sharks a young defense that should compete in the NHL for many years to come. With veteran defensemen Matt Irwin and Scott Hannan on expiring contracts, Provorov could join the Sharks sooner rather than later.
10. Colorado Avalanche – Mikko Rantanen, LW, TPS (Liiga)
AJ says: With the Avalanche organization in desperate need of forward prospects, they select the best Europe has to offer in the big-bodied Finn. At an imposing 6’4”, 220 pounds Rantanen is the kind of skilled power forward that Patrick Roy covets. With great hands and playmaking skills for days, Rantanen should push for a job on the Avalanche roster almost immediately.
11. Florida Panthers – Timo Meier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Cole says: After missing out on the big Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen, the Florida Panthers select the QMJHL’s top prospect in hopes of building around Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad at center. Meier’s size and nose for the net, combined with his top notch shooting ability give Florida an excellent complement to their young playmakers Barkov, Bjugstad, and Jonathan Huberdeau. Hopefully Timo Meier uses a year of training camp with Jaromir Jagr to mold his power forward game for the NHL.
12. Dallas Stars – Pavel Zacha, C Sarnia Sting (OHL)
AJ says: While Dallas desperately needs help on the defensive end, the drop off between the top D prospects is a bit too significant and they go ahead and stick to their draft history by taking the best player on their board. After drafting Valeri Nichushkin 2 years ago, the Stars have shown they aren’t afraid to take the boom-or-bust type of prospect and do so again with the enigmatic Zacha. Injuries slowed the dynamic Zacha in his draft year, a big reason he falls this far down the draft board, but Zacha has the toolbox to be an elite offensive player in the NHL.
Durability, motor, and consistency are all questions that plague Zacha but should he turn the corner and reach his potential, Dallas walks away with potentially the steal of the draft. This is precisely the type of selection GM Jim Nill watched his bosses make for years in the Red Wings organization and he follows suit here.
13. Los Angeles Kings – Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Cole says: After years of NHL dominance the Kings slipped out of the playoffs in 2015. Now with Mike Richards in steady decline and Jared Stoll’s future with the Kings organization in doubt, Los Angeles will look to rebuild their center depth behind superstar Anze Kopitar. Travis Konecny is a small player with a huge motor and great offensive talent. The Kings desperately need a player like him to ignite an offense which finished in the bottom third for goals scored two years in a row.
14. Boston Bruins – Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
AJ says: With Peter Chiarelli no longer around to run the draft room, there’s plenty of questions about how the Bruins will proceed into the next era of their organization. Without knowing who they’ve hired, I’m sticking with recent history and giving the Bruins Jansen Harkins, a 200-foot player whose all-around game and lack of weaknesses should see him as a safe pick, a la Werenski. While he’s unlikely to ever light up the score sheet, he has enough offensive ability to justify a Top 6 forward role early in his career and coaches will love his willingness and aptitude on the defensive end.