Just like that, another year is over. The Chicago Blackhawks have won their third Stanley Cup in six years, elevating the team’s exciting roster to dynasty status. For the rest of the league, the 2015 NHL Draft now looms large on the calendar, taking place June 26th and 27th at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
The Edmonton Oilers shocked hockey fans and players alike when they won the Draft Lottery back in April. While there is little doubt about who they will use that pick to select, the second pick in the draft is as much of a surety, held by the Buffalo Sabres.
From there, it’s anybody’s guess. In what could be the deepest draft since 2003, the top 10 is loaded with potential franchise talent. And the order in which players are selected might come down to organizational need and preference. Here at Hockey’s Future, we were surprised by the sequence players were selected in—yet every pick was firmly justified.
Without further ado, here is the Hockey’s Future 2015 Staff Mock Draft.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
McDavid is the most highly-touted prospect in this draft, and with good reason. He has the skills to excel in all three zones, and the wheels to get there in a hurry. He is the kind of puck-on-a-string stickhandler that fans fill the arena to see, and there is no way the Oilers will give up the chance to select him. A true generational talent, McDavid will be Edmonton’s franchise player for years to come.
2. Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (Hockey East)
Eichel’s selection at 2nd overall is just as much a surety as the first selection of the draft. A freshman center with Boston University, Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA, despite being one of the youngest players in the league. With young defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov already on the roster, Noah Hanifin would be a redundant selection. Let’s face it—this draft really starts at selection number three.
Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
Mitch Marner and Noah Hanifin will get consideration here, but the Coyotes would be hard-pressed to pass up on Strome’s vision, puck support, and size. Strome has the potential to become the dominant first-line franchise center that this team has always needed, and after trading Antoine Vermette at the deadline, the team has a hole to fill. Although Strome might be better-served by another year in the OHL, he will be a candidate to step in right away.
Mitch Marner, RW, London Knights (OHL)
The Maple Leafs have a lot of work to do this summer, and the selection of Mitch Marner might be the first order of business. The speedy center is also capable of playing on the wing, and what he lacks in size, he makes up for with hockey sense. At 5’11, he is not as small as rumoured, but he will need to put some weight on—regardless of his considerable talents. When he does, the Maple Leafs will have a beauty on their hands. They will be tempted by Hanifin, but they will not turn down Marner’s offensive potential.
Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (Hockey East)
Noah Hanifin would go in the top three of any normal draft, but this year’s top five is packed with top-line scoring potential. That said, if Hanifin slips to 5th overall as we predict he might, the Hurricanes will be laughing all the way back to Raleigh. With Justin Faulk emerging as a legitimate No. 1 defenseman and former lottery picks Haydn Fleury and Ryan Murphy still growing into NHL talents, the addition of Hanifin should solidify the Hurricanes’ defense for the next decade.
Pavel Zacha, C/LW, Sarnia Sting
Zacha is the high-scoring talent the Devils have needed for a long time. He possesses great puck skills and is one of the best shooters in the draft. Not only does he have a dangerous wrist shot, but surprisingly, his one-timer is quite good for his age. He is also a capable playmaker. Zacha is also explosive skater, complimented by his 6’3, 210-pound frame. In combining these ingredients, he has the potential to become a scary defensive assignment at the NHL level. He is aggressive and can protect the puck well, but needs to improve his consistency in the defensive zone.
Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
The Flyers have a massive stockpile at defense, but the team lacks forward depth—especially at the center position. Barzal is known for puck possession, but he also has a reputation for being a strong, competitive two-way player—something the Flyers have always put a high value on. Although those values have not always yielded big goal totals for the team, Barzal has a bit more offensive upside than past selections (see Sean Couturier).
Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Liiga)
The top-ranked European in the draft, Rantanen has incredible hands, nimble feet, and a head for the game. If he learns to use his size to his advantage, he could become a dominant top-line player. With Lawson Crouse still out there, it is tempting to take the best player available, but the Jackets need more help on the right side. Cam Atkinson is no slouch, but the organization still lacks a potential top-liner at this position. The team has had to hope that guys like Rene Bourque and David Clarkson start to produce again—and they haven’t.
Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Provorov is a dangerous, heads-up defenseman with the speed and presence of mind to make opponents pay for every mistake. There are a couple of “Shark-type” players in this spot (Crouse, Meier, maybe even Eriksson-Ek), but Provorov has number-one defenseman potential, and is one of the smartest players in the draft. He has the size to step in right away, though he would be better off spending more time in the WHL.
Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Crouse is considered one of the more NHL-ready prospects available in this draft, and will have the luxury of learning the pro game behind the likes of veteran Alex Tanguay and team captain Gabriel Landeskog. He struggles at times offensively, but the Avalanche already have enough offensive playmakers, so the questions surrounding Crouse’s output are of no concern to Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic. Crouse will provide the Avalanche with desperately needed depth on the wing.