The cream of the crop won’t have to wait long to hear their names called at the 2015 NHL Draft. Unlike most years, this truly is a deep draft, where numerous talents will be counted on as possible franchise players, and could possibly include every name on this list.
Every year, NHL Central Scouting ranks the top players from around the globe, and the top 10 from North America feature in what will be the final NHL Draft Primer for the the 2015 draft.
10. Timo Meier, Right Wing, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
6’1”, 209 pounds, St. Gallen, SUI
There’s not much that Timo Meier can’t do, and as one of the most versatile players in the draft, Meier has the statistics to back it up. Among draft-eligible QMJHL forwards, Meier finished first with a 1.46 points-per-game pace, finishing with 44 goals and 46 assists in 61 games, and an additional 21 in 14 playoff games.
Not only can Meier score, but his straight-line physical game is something scouts have become enamored with. Meier is an incredibly consistent performer who rarely takes a shift off, and with a solid work ethic to draw from, he will be well served as a professional.
9. Zach Werenski, Defenseman, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
6’2”, 207 pounds, Grosse Pointe, MI
As the youngest player in the NCAA during the 2014-15 season, Zach Werenski was also among the best defensemen of any age. Werenski tallied 25 points, leading all Michigan defensemen in all major categories, including 59 blocked shots, telling of his complete game.
His ability to transition play became apparent early in the season as he picked up at least one point in four of his first five collegiate games. Still just 17 years old, Werenski is the first of three franchise-caliber rearguards available in this draft.
8. Pavel Zacha, Center, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
6’3”, 212 pounds, Brno, CZE
For those who haven’t seen Pavel Zacha play this season, you sure are missing out. Despite missing nearly half a season due to suspensions, minor injuries, and time away at the 2015 World Junior Championship, Zacha impacted the game in many ways this year. Zacha brings an uncontrollable physical element, playing with a borderline tenacity that he will need to get under control at the next level.
His numbers, 34 points in 37 games, don’t particularly stand out, but they are also deceiving. To understand Zacha’s game, you really have to watch it. He’s capable of shutting down top players, winning faceoffs, and can also play the wing capably and already possesses many traits that are NHL-ready right now. He projects as a top-line forward and will make any team selecting him quite happy with their investment.
7. Ivan Provorov, Defenseman, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
6’0”, 201 pounds, Yaroslavl, RUS
One of the draft’s most interesting players is Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov, who has been gaining momentum and closing the gap on Noah Hanifin. Provorov has the ability to dart in and out of traffic off the rush, and is always under control and never seems to panic.
Provorov is a gifted skater, deft with the puck, and has a cannon for a shot to go along with a deceptive release that has caught many goalies off guard this season. He impacts the game in so many ways, and is capable of adjusting his style depending on what the team needs. Overall, he is a top prospect and very deserving of a top 10 selection.
6. Mitch Marner, Right Wing, London Knights (OHL)
5’11”, 163 pounds, Markham, ON
The London Knights have been blessed over the years with exceptionally talented forwards, and the next-in-line is Mitch Marner. The Knights forward is one of the most gifted and explosive offensive talents in the draft. Marner is one of the best stickhandlers in the draft, with the ability to create something when the play appears to be dead.
Marner scored 44 times and added a staggering 82 assists this season, unbelievable totals for a player considered to be undersized. With the NHL shifting philosophies, Marner represents the new breed of talented and dynamic offensive geniuses taking the game by storm.
5. Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
6’4”, 216 pounds, London, ON
Opinions of Lawson Crouse are all over the place this year – some believe he is worthy of being a top-five pick, while others feel he won’t be in the first half of the first round. The main reason for the discrepancy is Crouse’s deceptive offensive totals, as the big-bodied and physically dominant power forward plays in a defensive system in Kingston under Head Coach Paul McFarland.
Crouse potted 29 goals and 22 assists in 56 games, and profiles as a sure-fire NHL player in some capacity. If he’s not scoring, Crouse creates space for his teammates and is willing to play a rough-and-tumble style. Make no mistake, however, as Crouse has an NHL-ready shot and many other traits NHL teams will be jockeying for.
4. Dylan Strome, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
6’3”, 185 pounds, Mississauga, ON
For teams who missed out on the draft lottery and a chance at McDavid or Eichel, Dylan Strome offers a solid consolation prize that deserves attention in his own right. Strome finished the season with 129 points, and took home a bevy of hardware for his contributions this season with the Otters.
Strome constantly creates chances for himself and those around him, and with his size and determination, he has the potential to blossom into a franchise center.
3. Noah Hanifin, Defenseman, Boston College (Hockey East)
6’2”, 205 pounds, Norwood, MA
Playing against skaters more than three or four years his senior, Noah Hanifin approached the game with a fearlessness rarely seen. Hanifin is poised no matter what the situation, and has the confidence to move the puck up the ice himself.
He is versatile enough to run a power play, control things on a penalty kill, and drive a consistent level of play at even strength. He was a catalyst at Boston College, and was rarely caught out of position or in the midst of making a bad decision. Overall, he is the type of defenseman coaches covet, and he will be off the board shortly after the first two picks.
2. Jack Eichel, Center, Boston University (Hockey East)
6’2”, 196 pounds, Chelmsford, MA
More than just the player available after McDavid, Jack Eichel would be the sure-fire first overall selection in most other draft years. Eichel is a consistent scoring threat and an elite-level offensive talent that elevates everyone around him.
Eichel took home an astonishing number of awards, none more impressive than his Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player. Most players who attempt to take Eichel on fail, and while the sincerity of his interest in going to the NHL right away is being questioned, his talent level surely isn’t.
1. Connor McDavid, Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
6’1”, 194 pounds, Richmond Hill, ON
At every stage of his career, Connor McDavid has elevated his game to the occasion each and every time. Like a fine wine, McDavid has gotten better with age, a scary thought for those who will be taking him on in the NHL next year.
Every bit the superstar he has been billed as, teams have waited years for a player like this to come their way. McDavid has drawn fans, sponsors, and teammates wherever he has gone, and now that the Oilers hold the key to their success in their hand, it’s time for a new era in Edmonton.
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