2015 NHL Draft Preview: No surprises among OHL prospects with McDavid as top prospect

By Jason Menard
Connor McDavid - Erie Otters

Photo: Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid will enter the 2015 NHL Draft as the very likely first overall selection in the draft (courtesy of Aaron Bel/OHL Images)

 

 

Let’s just get Connor McDavid’s name out of the way. You know he’s going number one in the 2015 NHL Draft. I know he’s going number one. People in countries that don’t even have ice likely know he’s going number one. For the seventh time in the last nine years, a player from the OHL will be going first overall.

But McDavid is not the only marquee name coming out of the OHL this year. In fact, there are two others who, in any other year, would be in consideration for the top spot. And there are a number of interesting prospects that have the skillset to fill an obvious need, or offer an enticing blend of talent and potential.

(Not to brag, but last year I nailed all 10 of my top 10 — in order. So I’m going to go for a repeat performance. Though with such diversity of talent and many picks resting on team needs, it’s going to be tough to do.)

1. Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters – 6’1”, 195, Rank: ISS 1; CSS 1 NA

“A generational talent,” “the next one,” “an immediate franchise-changer” — we’ve all heard so many superlatives and hyperbolic adjectives used in conjunction with the Richmond Hill, ON native that it’s almost easy to dismiss them as impossible to believe.

Believe them. The kid’s that good.

Not only did he win pretty much every individual trophy this season, he also helped power Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship. In his first games back. After breaking his hand.

In a fight.

Not to mention the fact that he almost captured the OHL scoring crown despite playing in only 47 games in the regular season. Had the season been four or five games longer, you’d have to believe he would have passed his teammate, Dylan Strome.

When it counts, so does McDavid. He’s been mature beyond his years for years. He displayed a maturity and sense of calm, even as an underager racking up 66 points in 63 games as an OHL rookie. This season, he helped guide the Erie Otters to the OHL final with 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games.

The only name that hasn’t yet been bestowed upon him is Edmonton Oiler. That’s coming.

Earlier this year, Otters’ owner Sherry Bassin said 60+ points as his prediction for McDavid’s performance next year. Of course, that’s his expectation of McDavid in the NHL as an 18 year old.

2. Mitchell Marner, C, London Knights – 5’11”, 160, Rank: ISS 6; CSS 6 NA

Mitch Marner and Strome are friends off the ice. They’re friendly but competitive rivals on the ice. They even went head to head in the OHL scoring race, with Strome edging out the Marner in the final game of the season.

Marner, though, gets bragging rights at the draft.

Marner or Strome? Strome or Marner? In many ways, this pick will be made based upon the team’s needs. Let’s face it, Marner is generously listed at 5’11”. Strome has the size and the physicality, but Marner has other-worldly vision and offensive gifts that just can’t be taught.

This season he paced the Knights — and for 63 games — the OHL finishing with 44 goals and 126 points. He needs a couple of years to grow and fill out. But with some exciting new, dynamic talent coming to the Knights in the form of Max Jones and Matthew Tkachuk, Marner will get to grow into a leadership role, play in all facets of the game, and be a dominant force next season.

That confidence will help him at the professional level, where he may become a dynamic offensive force.

3. Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters – 6’3”, 185, Rank: ISS 3; CSS 4 NA

Dylan Strome has the pedigree (his older brother Ryan is already in the NHL), he’s got the size, and he’s got the skills.

At 6’3” and 185 pounds, the Mississauga, ON native is capable of using his body to maneuver into good scoring position. And once he’s there, he knows what to do with the puck as he finished the year with 45 goals and a league-leading 129 points in 68 games. His performance waned a bit in the playoffs (if you can call a mere PPG performance as waning), but Strome’s an intriguing mix of size and skill.

More importantly, he was able to show that he wasn’t just benefiting from the slipstream created by McDavid’s otherworldly season. In fact, Strome stepped up in McDavid’s injury absence to continue to produce on the ice and show that he’s a heck of a player in his own right.

4. Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia Sting – 6’3, 210, Rank: ISS 10; CSS 8 NA

The Czech forward Pavel Zacha had a mercurial season this year, with soaring highs and crushing lows. It’s almost befitting of a player whose very mercurial nature is why he’s so highly regarded.

Zacha is an offensive dynamo. In 37 games this year — his first in North America — he scored 16 goals and added 18 assists. However, it wasn’t just adapting to the larger North American ice that caused problems for Zacha.

He was suspended twice for a total of eight games this season, and he missed significant time due to injuries.

But that talent is almost too much to resist. Sure, he has trouble finding the defensive zone without a map — but that can be worked on. His true-north sense of direction when it comes to finding the back of the net is a prized asset.

5. Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs – 6’4, 215, Rank: ISS 4; CSS 5 NA

Size still matters. And Lawson Crouse has it.

At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Crouse has an NHL-ready body right now. And he’s shown a willingness to play whatever role it takes to get him to the next level. His work with Team Canada as a fourth-liner was an important part of the team’s gold-medal performance.

He hasn’t dominated at the OHL level like you would expect for someone of his size and talent. He did score 29 goals and ended the year with 51 points in 56 games, but there still seems to be more just waiting to manifest. He’s not a finished product yet, but if that size and talent can be effectively harnessed, he’s going to be a solid power forward prospect for some NHL club.

6. Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa 67’s – 5’10”, 175, Rank: ISS 12; CSS 14 NA

Travis Konecny is that all-around forward that every team is dying to have. This season, he finished with 29 goals and 39 assists in 60 games. But it was his dedication to playing in all zones — as well as his solid leadership skills — that are the most attractive assets he has.

At 5’10”, Konecny has adequate size, but that’s not going to be his calling card. His determination and ability to play in all areas of the ice, in all situations, will be. Konecny may not have the skill to be your top-line center, but he will fill in nicely. He can also slide back to the third line in a more of a checking role, kill penalties, or be on the ice for the final minute of the game when you’re protecting a lead.

Konecny is a valuable, all-around player with some offensive upside who will be a solid addition to any roster.

7. Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa Generals – 5’10”, 185, Rank: CSS 34 NA

Mitchell Vande Sompel is an intriguing pick because of his versatility. He’s a defenseman by trade, but has also been known to pick up a shift or two at the forward position.

The London, ON native has a solid scoring touch, ending the season with 63 points. He also needs to improve his defensive play, something of which he’s aware and that he chose to focus on this year.

He’s solid with the puck, good at making that first pass out of the zone, and has a nose for knowing when to jump into the rush.

8. Vince Dunn, D, Niagara IceDogs – 6′, 190, Rank: CSS 32 NA

Vince Dunn is another offensive defenseman who has been drawing attention for his offensive gifts from the blueline during both of his seasons in the OHL.

As a rookie last year, he finished with five goals and 33 points. In 2014-15, he ramped up his performance to the point where he almost became a 20-goal man from the blueline. He ended the year with 18 goals and 38 assists in 68 games.

Dunn is a great skater and passer. His strength is controlling the offensive transitions and moving the puck forward quickly and effectively.

9. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, Barrie Colts – 6’4”, 215, Rank: CSS 1 NA goalies

Mackenzie Blackwood is the top-ranked North American goalie in this year’s draft. He has that solid, NHL-desired size at 6’4”, and covers a lot of the net.

In addition to quality size, Blackwood has shown an ability to cover much of the net with quick and powerful lateral movement.

The Thunder Bay, ON native finished the season playing in 51 games, posting a 33-14-2 record behind a 3.09 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

10. Kyle Capobianco, D, Sudbury Wolves – 6’1, 195, Rank: CSS 44 NA

Kyle Capobianco endured a long season in Sudbury as the Wolves were in tough every single game, and frequently came up short. But the 6’1” defender developed nicely as an offensive-minded defenseman and finished the year with some solid personal statistics, scoring 10 goals and adding 30 assists in 68 games.

Capobianco developed a consistent game and assumed more of a leadership role both with the Wolves and on Canada’s U18 team. He’s solid in all zones and continues to refine his offensive game, developing a solid spatial awareness and understanding of his defensive responsibilities.

Honorable Mentions

Zachary Senyshyn , RW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound (CSS 38 NA)
Travis Dermott, D, Erie Otters (CSS 46 NA)
Blake Speers, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound (CSS 49 NA)
Nikita Korostelev, RW, Sarnia Sting (CSS 50 NA)

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