2015 NHL Draft Review: Provorov, DeBrusk head WHL first round class

By Glen Erickson
Ivan Provorov - Philadelphia Flyers - 2015 NHL Draft

Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov was the top pick for the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)



There was little drama at all when the proceedings began in Sunrise, Florida last weekend, as the Edmonton Oilers (Connor McDavid) and Buffalo Sabres (Jack Eichel) exercised the first two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft.

What ensued following the unexpected was a first round that saw its complexion change mightily due to a flurry of trades. The most unique consequence saw the Boston Bruins navigate to a position where it had three consecutive picks at #13, #14 and #15.

When the parade to the podium ended on Friday evening, a total of seven players had been called from the OHL, five from the QMJHL, four from the USHL, three each from the NCAA and Sweden, two from Russia and one from Finland.

The WHL saw five players chosen in round one, its lowest first round output since both 2009 and 2010. Overall, a total of 35 players that appeared in the WHL this past season were selected. That’s just slightly above the average for the WHL since over the past decade.

For the third straight year, the first WHL player selected was a non-Canadian. In 2013, American Seth Jones was selected fourth overall by the Nashville Predators. Last year, German import Leon Draisaitl was chosen by the Edmonton Oilers third overall.

In Florida, import defenseman Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings was the first WHL player selected this year, going seventh overall to the Philadelphia Flyers. Ranked first among WHL 2015 draft-eligibles by Hockey’s Future, Provorov is as close as any other CHL defensemen to being a “complete” player already.

The Flyers have added a player with elite offensive skills, a consistent point producer from the backend. Provorov, from Russia, is adept at making quick outlet passes, while he is also competent and effective when carrying the puck up ice. He will continue to mature on the defensive side, though he is already highly proficient in narrowing passing lanes in the defending zone. There is also no shortage of physical prowess, as Provorov can either obliterate an unsuspecting opponent or simply use his reach and skating ability to squeeze players away from areas where they may be a threat.

When the Boston Bruins traded their way to holding three consecutive first round picks, they used the second of these, 14th overall, to select Jake DeBrusk of the Swift Current Broncos. Ranked seventh among WHL draft eligibles by Hockey’s Future, DeBrusk emerged this year, particularly during the second half of the season, as a reliable offensive producer.

DeBrusk is the son of former NHL forward Louie DeBrusk. The youngster doesn’t hesitate to pound his way to the net in the attacking zone, where his quick release becomes a valuable asset. Scouts speak to his hockey sense, an attribute that saw the Edmonton native chosen ahead of some more pure WHL talent.

With the 16th pick, the New York Islanders selected Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Ranked second among WHL draft-eligibles by Hockey’s Future, Barzal was pegged by many prognosticators as the league’s top eligible prospect, and perhaps the best pure skating forward from the WHL. Barzal is also a true student of the game. An early season injury limited the Coquitlam, BC product to 57 points in 44 games, perhaps derailing him from producing a 100-point season.


The Montreal Canadiens looked west with the 26th pick, selecting rugged defenseman Noah Juulsen of the Everett Silvertips. Ranked ninth among WHL draft-eligibles by Hockey’s Future, Juulsen is at his best when playing as physically as possible. He has also developed very good puck skills in the WHL and breathed life into the Silvertips’ special teams this past season.

From Surrey, BC, Juulsen collected 52 points this past season, numbers the Canadiens simply could not ignore. It is likely that Juulsen was a beneficiary of the Canadiens focus on Everett, as their 2014 first round pick, Nikita Scherbak (signed) garnered plenty of attention this past season after coming over in a pre-season deal with the Saskatoon Blades. Indeed, the Habs have staked a claim to a pair of the Silvertips’ core players.

With the final first round selection, the Arizona Coyotes selected Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets. Ranked third among WHL draft-eligibles by Hockey’s Future, Merkley established himself as a pure playmaker this past season, collecting 70 assists and 90 points while appearing in all 72 regular season games.

Merkley is bullish in the attacking zone, committed to dogged puck pursuit. The Calgary native is not at all shy of physical play, often intent on moving forward in straight lines through opponents. He is a capable shooter, but excels as a distributor of the puck.

Here’s a look at some of the names and numbers, with reference to our pre-draft WHL rankings.

Top 10 WHL Selections

(By order of selection. Includes HF WHL “Top 10” Rank prior to Draft)

1. Ivan Provorov, Brandon Wheat Kings (HF Ranking – WHL: 1)
2. Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current Broncos (HF Ranking – WHL: 7)
3. Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds (HF Ranking – WHL: 2)
4. Noah Juulsen, Everett Silvertips (HF Ranking – WHL: 9)
5. Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets (HF Ranking – WHL: 3)
6. Brandon Carlo, Tri City Americans (HF Ranking – WHL: 5)
7. Paul Bittner, Portland Winterhawks (HF Ranking – WHL: 6)
8. Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds (HF Ranking – WHL: N/R)
9. Jansen Harkins, Prince George Cougars (HF Ranking – WHL: 4)
10. Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders (HF Ranking – WHL: N/R)

Other Hockey’s Future Ranked prospects

Austin Wagner, Regina Pats: Rd 4, 99th – LAK. (HF Ranking – WHL: 10)
Ryan Pilon, Brandon Wheat Kings: Rd 5, 147th – NYI. (HF Ranking – WHL: 8)

*Note: Goaltender Evan Smith (NSH) appeared in four games for the Victoria Royals. He is listed as being selected from the NAHL.

Total number of WHL players selected at the NHL Draft

2015: 35. (1st Rd: 5)
2014: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2013: 33. (1st Rd: 8)
2012: 32. (1st Rd: 6)
2011: 33. (1st Rd: 6)
2010: 33. (1st Rd: 5)
2009: 31. (1st Rd: 5)
2008: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2007: 37. (1st Rd: 9)
2006: 24. (1st Rd: 4)

Selections by Round (2015)

1st – 5
2nd – 5
3rd – 5
4th – 7
5th – 7
6th – 2
7th – *4

Selections by Position

*2 – Goaltender
15 – Defensemen
8 – Centermen
7 – Left Wingers
3 – Right Wingers

Selections by Country

29 – Canada
*3 – USA
2 – Russia
1 – Belarus

Selections by Western Hockey League Team

5 – Regina Pats
4 – Seattle Thunderbirds; Prince George Cougars.
2 – *Victoria Royals; Brandon Wheat Kings; Swift Current Broncos; Kelowna Rockets; Tri City Americans; Portland Winterhawks; Prince Albert Raiders; Lethbridge Hurricanes; .
1 – Everett Silvertips; Kamloops Blazers; Medicine Hat Tigers; Calgary Hitmen; Red Deer Rebels; Spokane Chiefs
0 – Saskatoon Blades; Vancouver Giants; Moose Jaw Warriors; Kootenay Ice, Edmonton Oil Kings.

Selections by NHL Team

3 – Columbus Blue Jackets; NY Rangers; Boston Bruins; Buffalo Sabres.
2 – NY Islanders; Montreal Canadiens; Arizona Coyotes; Winnipeg Jets; St. Louis Blues; LA Kings; Washington Capitals.
1 – Philadelphia Flyers; Toronto Maple Leafs; Anaheim Ducks; San Jose Sharks; Edmonton Oilers; Vancouver Canucks; Nashville Predators; Calgary Flames.
0 – Dallas Stars; Carolina Hurricanes; Ottawa Senators; Tampa Bay Lightning; Chicago Blackhawks; Colorado Avalanche; Detroit Red Wings; New Jersey Devils; Florida Panthers; Pittsburgh Penguins; Minnesota Wild.

Follow Glen Erickson on Twitter via @glenerickson51