So I held off a while this year to do my first mock draft. It just makes no sense to do it in mid November or early December, not a mock draft anyway. But now that the World Juniors, Prospects game and Bob McKenzie’s mid season rankings have all come and gone, now seems like the right time to start them up.
As always, a little insight to how I look at things. I’m looking at what teams have 25-27 and under in their organization. I look at need more than BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL. Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past 4 or 5 drafts. Do they go CHL heavy? Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids? Maybe they’re head over heals for Europeans?
Remember, just because McKenzie or Redline report or ISS or CSS have one guy ranked higher than another doesn’t mean that he is the BPA for that particular team. This is why they have their own scouting staffs people. Ok, so that’s my little pre game speech, game time.
Standings as of 2/18/15
1. Connor McDavid Erie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Joe Sakic
Tough to put a comparison on McDavid because he’s so elite. I heard Craig Button say a few months back that he was Sakic with more speed and I see that. Sakic had that amazing wrist shot, amazing vision, and had the head for the game to know exactly when to utilize each of those attributes. Anyway, so that’s McDavid, you know how great he is. If I could chalk up the Sabres in 1 word it’s karma. Management is openly tanking and while I have no issue with that, it just feels like when that happens karma will always bite you in the ass. Then again if karma “getting them” means they end up with Jack Eichel, I think they’ll be cool with it.
2. Jack Eichel Boston University NCAA
Pos: C Ht: 6’2 Wt: 196 Shot: R
Comparison: Mike Modano
I could really see Eichel refusing to go to the Oilers. They’ve been a mess for a long time, he’s an American kid and some Americans don’t like to leave their country (not a knock on them, just reality) and I can’t see him having any issue going back to school for 1 more year holding out on them. Should this be the pick and the Oilers get him, then they are in one hell of a good spot. They could then package up Leon Draisaitl to get a top end D-man they so desperately need, or a high end goaltender (would probably be a younger/inexperienced guy). The moronic thing to do, A.K.A. the most likely thing this management group would do, is move one of Eichel or Draisaitl to the wing. As for Eichel, I’m sure most of you know the scouting report already. Probably a bit more raw talent than McDavid. More explosive skater, maybe a better shot. Not near the same level of vision and not as defensively polished either. But that’s in comparison to McDavid. He would be the top pick of the draft is just about any other year.
3. Dylan Strome Erie OHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Niklas Backstrom
IF it fell this way with Arizona picking 3rd and Carolina picking 4th I believe you could see a small deal between the 2 organizations to flip picks. Because the Coyotes are pretty desperate for a high end center and with OEL, Gormley, Murphy, and possibly another high end kid in a potential Keith Yandle trade, the Coyotes are pretty loaded up on the blueline moving forward. Strome is going to have questions around him basically because he’s had the luxury of being sheltered by McDavid, but he and McDavid hardly ever play together even on the PP. The one thing that scares me a bit with Strome is his skating. I said Backstrom, but as a prospect he is nearly identical to Leon Draisaitl.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: Scott Niedermayer
The Hurricanes have to get this kid. If they don’t win that lottery than this just has to be their guy. I’ve said it for years now, Jim Rutherford completely ignored taking D-men (and again, Ryan Murphy doesn’t count, D-man in name only) which is why the Canes are where they are as a franchise. And again, if things fall like this, the Canes should look to trade up with the Coyotes to ensure they get Hanifin. I’ve heard Niedermayer, I’ve heard Pietrangelo, both amazing comparisons. Hanifin is putting up eye popping numbers in the NCAA when he still should be in the USHL. Didn’t have a GREAT World Juniors, but again he is only 17.
5. Mitch Marner London OHL
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 164 Shot: R
Comparison: Patrick Kane
Here is the big question for me: Is Marner going to be a center? Bob McKenzie has him listed as a RW, everyone else has him as a center. If he IS, cool. If he’s not, the Leafs can’t pick him. This team just has far too many holes down the middle and on D to pick ANOTHER highly skilled and undersized winger. Take it from an Oilers fan, Marner and Nylander would be fun to watch, but if neither guy can play the middle then the team isn’t going anywhere. If Marner can play the middle though, despite being undersized I would be more than thrilled with it if I were a Leafs fan because he’s got incredible skill and you can get away with a lack of size down the middle in the East. And once Marner puts on 20-25 pounds he really won’t be THAT small. Has some grit in his game too, but above all else he’s just got really elite skill.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 214 Shot: L
Comparison: Ryan Whitney
If Lou is such a genius then he’ll start rebuilding his blueline already. Adam Larsson is finally starting to flourish but they still have a long way to go. Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson, these are just so-so kids. MAYBE one of them takes a huge step and emerges as a top pairing guy, but you can’t just sit back and expect one of them to. Never can have too many good D-men so start stockpiling them. Werenski has a real nice all around game and has really shot up the rankings this season. People might scratch their heads at a Ryan Whitney comparison because it’s not flashy, but remember what Whitney was before he got hurt. Really solid at both ends of the ice, leaves people wanting more physically.
7. Oliver Kylington Farjestad SHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’0 Wt: 174 Shot: L
Comparison: Sandis Ozolinsh
Tough year for the Jackets. Just too many key injuries to overcome this season. But they still look solid moving forward, however I really think they’re about a year overdue to rebuild their blueline. Had a chance to grab Travis Sanheim last year and took Sonny Milano. So maybe they’re all about just taking the BPA, but I can’t imagine they’re willing to overlook the blueline much longer with how the group on the big club has looked so poor this season and no help is on the way. Elite skater, constantly jumping into the rush, remember Ozolinsh when he first came into the league? That is exactly who Kylington reminds me of. Ozolinsh would be revered today, but around 2000-2001 everyone was hell bent on changing the guys game rather than just loving having such a great offensive threat from the back end.
8. Mathew Barzal Seattle WHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 177 Shot: R
Comparison: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
At this point, at this time, Lawson Crouse is well ahead of Barzal. But how many more wingers do the Sens need?! They really need centers. Kyle Turris is what he is at this point. He might have a career year where he puts up 65-75 points at some point, but he’s settled into just being a nice 2nd line center. Barzal has fallen down the rankings because he’s been hurt this season, not because he’s playing poorly. I would say he’s the final guy who has 1st line center potential left on the board, so the Sens need to take him if this is the position they’re in. The Nugent-Hopkins comparison has been there for Barzal since he was taken 1st in the WHL draft 3 years ago. Cerebral player, great vision, deceptively good speed, plays a 200 foot game, not much size but too shifty to get a clean hit on him.
9. Lawson Crouse Kingston OHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 212 Shot: L
Comparison: Dustin Brown
The Flyers could go in a lot of directions here. I’ve harped on how they needed to build up their blueline the last few years. But they have. Having said that, they still could use a guy like Ivan Provorov in this spot. Ron Hextall is a lot more of a conservative guy than Bob Clarke and Paul Holmgren were and so that would be more his style. But Hextall also was with the Kings, and the Kings had Dustin Brown who was extremely valuable to their 2 Cups, the 1st in particular. Crouse to me is a lot like Brown, and Brown is a Flyers type of guy. Also in this scenario, Crouse has fallen and Provorov would be a slight reach at least according to Bob McKenzie’s board.
10. Ivan Provorov Brandon WHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’0 Wt: 200 Shot: L
Comparison: Hampus Lindholm
The Flyers might WANT a kid like Provorov, the Avs are DESPERATE for a kid like Provorov. They absolutely have to take a D-man. Man alive this team is awful on D. In the same class as the Oilers and Canes. Don’t give me Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, just shutup if you think they’re solid because of guys like that. That’s at best a 2nd pair. Provorov might not be here come June though. One of the fast risers in this draft class, he was incredible in the WJC this year, and on a loaded Wheat Kings blueline he has stood out. I don’t know what else to say other than this kid is just REALLY solid at both ends of the ice. Doesn’t do anything amazing, but just does everything really well.
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4 Wt: 209 Shot: L
Comparison: Marian Hossa
I would think D would be the preference with the Stars much like it would be with the Avs, Jackets, Devils, Canes, Oilers, etc. But in this scenario all the D-men that you wouldn’t be drastically reaching on have already been taken. Really the way this has shook down, this comes down to Rantanen vs Zacha and even though Zacha is ranked higher on Bob McKenzie’s list than Rantanen, I’ll say the Stars go with Rantanen who has had the much more impressive season. Great size, plays a 200 foot game, goes to the tough area’s on the ice, if this kid were Canadian I would guess he would already be in the top 5 of most rankings. Not a pretty skater, but he can move.
Pos: C Ht: 6’3 Wt: 210 Shot: L
Comparison: Tuomo Ruutu
This kid has had a tough season thus far, but when he’s on he brings a style of game to the table that fans will love. I believe he is without question a winger in the NHL, but he plays the middle in Sarnia. Would be a great add for the Panthers now that they appear to be set on the blueline and down the middle. Also, I’m cutting this short because nobody really cares about the Panthers.
13. Kyle Connor Youngstown USHL
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 182 Shot: L
Comparison: Kyle Turris
It wasn’t that long ago that the Hockey News was celebrating this club’s incredible talent pool that was on the way. 2 years later, the Wild’s farm system is basically dry. This is why I roll my eyes at “organization rankings” because the people doing them can’t help but try to outsmart the room. Anyway, the Wild have a lot of holes. I don’t like what they have up the middle. When you get down to pick 13, even in a great draft like this one is projected to be, it is extremely unlikely your top pick is going to step in next season. Mikko Koivu is going to be 32 in a few weeks, he’ll be 33 or 34 by the time Connor would be ready to step in, and even then he would likely start on the 3rd line. Mikael Granlund is ok, but hasn’t been the star that some were expecting him to be. And NOTHING is on the way so center is pretty much a must here. Connor doesn’t have real high end potential, but if he became what Kyle Turris is or a little better, that’s a damn good 2nd line center.
Pos: C Ht: 6’0 Wt: 183 Shot: R
Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
A year ago, this team could simply sit back and take their guy, and make no mistake they are a team that has a “type”. But now, while they don’t have a big need, I can’t help but think they would look to add a center. Kopitar is in his prime, but they put Mike Richards on waivers, Jeff Carter is almost done his prime, Jarret Stoll is a UFA after this season. They’ll need new blood down the middle soon and nothing is coming. White has had a tough season, only playing in 7 games to this point. So it’ll be interesting to see where he goes. Prior to the season, some were comparing his game (not talent level, but style) to Jonathan Toews. Would fit perfectly with the Kings organization.
15. Jakub Zboril Saint John QMJHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 185 Shot: L
Comparison: Sergei Gonchar
The Bruins like having a good blueline, and don’t have much of one on the way. Now they do develop guys pretty well (Krug, Hamilton, McQuaid, Boychuk, even though they didn’t draft the latter 2 they did develop them) but it doesn’t look good right now. Zboril skates well, has a big shot, and is willing to engage physically. I’m sure some prefer Brandon Carlo to Zboril, in my opinion you can’t go wrong with either of those 2. Also the hulking Paul Bittner I would think would be intriguing for the B’s, but they’re smart and will know they have bigger needs (no pun intended).
16. Travis Konecny Ottawa OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 5’10 Wt: 171 Shot: R
Comparison: Zach Parise
A couple things here. The Sharks are pretty depleted on the prospect front, but they still have Logan Couture entering his prime, and Joe Pavelski is 30 next season so down the middle this team isn’t that old moving forward. Another thing is that Doug Wilson is still the GM, and Doug Wilson hasn’t been shy about going after 67’s before. From 05-08 Wilson selected 5 Ottawa 67’s in those 4 years. He hasn’t taken one since 08 though, so perhaps I’m over thinking this. But Konecny is the BPA at this point, and Wilson will have all the inside knowledge on him so I think he would be tough for Wilson to pass up (should Wilson still be the GM). Tough not to love Konecny’s game. He’s small but he’s talented and he’s gritty. A heart and soul type of guy with big time skill.
Pos: D Ht: 6’5 Wt: 185 Shot: R
Comparison: Brent Seabrook
Such an awesome season for the Flames. Horrible for Oiler fans to see, but awesome for a fan base who haven’t had a whole lot more success than the Oilers in the last 20 years. I think you have to look for a D-man if you’re the Flames. Loaded with undersized wingers, loaded with goaltenders, and have taken centers with their last 3 top picks (not last 3 first rounders, last 3 first picks they’ve had in each draft). The blueline now is fine in Calgary, but moving forward I believe they need to re-stock the cupboard. Everything I read on Carlo I love, a total throwback. Great size, RH shot, physical, nasty, joins the rush, big shot, he has all the physical gifts you want in a hockey player. He needs to be coached up and it’ll be a question of whether or not a team believes they can do that with this kid.
Pos: D Ht: 6’0 Wt: 189 Shot: R
Comparison: Dan Boyle
The Canucks much like a lot of other teams have a pretty big need for D-men moving forward. They look very solid down the middle having taken a center in the 1st round in each of the last three drafts, and they’ve taken a winger in each of the last two (obviously had two 1st rounders in each of the last two drafts). This organization has taken a D-man once in the 1st round in the last 16 drafts (the late Luc Bourdon in 05). In fairness, the Carburners have used 7 of their 14 picks in the last two drafts on D, but until their 4th pick in both years. ANYWAY, they need D so I have them reaching for Roy (at least according to McKenzie’s rankings), but they have put themselves in a position where they might have to. As for Roy, scouts seem to be torn on him much the way they were on Josh Morrissey two years ago. And like Morrissey, Roy is a smaller but highly skilled D-man. Hasn’t had the season some expected him to have, but still a very intriguing upside.
Pos: C Ht: 5’10 Wt: 187 Shot: L
Comparison: Claude Giroux
If there is one pattern I’ve noticed, it’s that the Jets don’t like going oversea’s for their draft picks. 2 of 30 picks under Kevin Cheveldayoff have been kids out of Europe. Anyway, ideally the Jets would be looking for a D-man. Not a big need, they have Morrissey coming, Trouba, now have added Myers, have a couple of wildcards in Jan Kostalek and Jack Glover in the system, so it’s not bad. But I would say it’s the biggest need they have. Then, I would say it’s center so with no D worth reaching for here, they sit back and take the undersized but talented Merkley. They have guys a lot like Merkley with Bryan Little and Nic Petan (although I believe the latter will play the wing in the pro’s), but you can never have too many center’s. Merkley doesn’t have elite wheels which scares me a little, but he has a great all around game. Vision, shot, gritty, 200 feet, he does it all.
Pos: D Ht: 6’3 Wt: 203 Shot: R
Comparison: Eric Desjardins
Maybe I’m just comparing Eric’s here, but that’s who I came up with. Cernak leaves a little to be desired in the toughness category, but plays a pretty complete game. Smooth skater, moves the puck well, good postionally, good shot from the point, he’s slowly but surely worked his way up the rankings this season much the way Hampus Lindholm did in 2012 and Oscar Klefbom did in 2011. The Caps have a pretty good blueline right now, but Mike Green is likely on his way out as a UFA and Dmitry Orlov can’t stay, or even get healthy. So they’re not looking so set and with so many picks used on frowards the last 3 drafts the time is right to go get a solid D prospect.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 179 Shot: L
Comparison: T.J. Brodie
At this point the BPA is Paul Bittner and the Wings are a team that pretty much just takes the best player on their list. But they don’t like the WHL. 1 kid taken in the top two rounds out of the WHL for the Wings since 1996. Also, Bittner just doesn’t feel like their type. They love skill. I’m going to say this year they finally go after a D-man in the 1st round. In 2011, 12, and 13 they took a lot of kids out of the Q, so Chabot seems to make a lot of sense for them. An elite skater. He needs to put on weight and he’s all around game is a bit rough but that is where the Wings can mold him into a top 4 D-man and developing kids is what they do best. A highly competitive kid too.
Pos: LW Ht: 6’4 Wt: 202 Shot: L
Comparison: Jon LeClair
Obviously this was the Pens pick that went to the Oilers for David Perron. I think this pick should be moved by the time the 22nd pick is on the clock. The Oilers HAVE to use it to bring in a vet that can help them now and with the way the cap is looking that could be a damn good player. But again, it’s the Oilers and chances of them doing the right thing are slim to none. So with that being said, they take the BPA which is also a late 90’s/early 2000’s type of Oiler. Bittner has all the tools, and will play in the league. But will he develop into an elite power forward? He could, but he also could be Ethan Moreau. Nothing wrong with Ethan Moreau, but you hope to do a little better than that in the 1st round of a deep draft. Bittner is raw. I had a really tough time thinking of a good comparison, I settled on LeClair but Bittner is a much better skater than LeClair was. Not overly physical, but a very gritty player.
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Shot: L
Comparison: Alexander Semin
This was the pick they acquired last year from the Rangers in the Callahan/St.Louis trade. Last year they really addressed their need which was the blueline, adding Anthony DeAngelo, Dominik Masin and Jonathan MacLeod with their top three picks. Man though is it ever already looking like they made an enormous mistake in 2013 when they passed on Seth Jones for Jonathan Drouin. Time will tell, but all I know is that a Hedman and Jones pairing would have been something pretty damn special. Anyway, I think they look to add size with their two 1st rounders this year, and this is a good spot to do that. They also haven’t been scared off by Russians, so this all adds up to them taking the big Russian. He has high end skill, but his skating is a bit suspect, he has no defensive game and he like a lot of Russians before him can be very inconsistent.
Pos: LW Ht: 6’5 Wt: 223 Shot: L
Comparison: Blake Wheeler
This pick intrigues me, just like the thought of Nick Schmaltz to the Hawks intrigued me last year…which happened. Greenway is very raw and needs a lot of time to develop. He’s had a tough year. But ALL the tools are there for this kid to become a superstar and an organization like the Hawks could develop him into just that. He’s not a physical kid, much like Wheeler. But like Wheeler he uses his size effectively and if you do that and have great speed and put up numbers fans won’t bitch and moan about how you aren’t putting opposing players through the boards every night. The Hawks I have to think are yet ANOTHER team that will prefer to draft a D-man as they are getting a little thin in the system, but in this scenario I believe Greenway is too intriguing to pass up and they would have to reach to get a D-man.
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 177 Shot: L
Comparison: Brendan Gallagher
The Lightning are becoming one of those teams that have zero need in their organization. With two 1st rounders in this draft the smart move in my opinion would be for them to package the picks along with a little something else and either move up, or go after a veteran D-man whom a team may have to deal. Don’t be shocked if at least one of these two picks are dealt by the deadline. Anyway, I had them going with a RW at 23, let’s go with a LW at 25 and gritty Jake Debrusk. Not the heavyweight his old man was, but he’s far from a finesse guy. Great wheels, competes everywhere on the ice, good hands, real good wrist shot, he’s the type of guy you hate to play against.
Pos: RW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 209 Shot: R
Comparison: Nail Yakupov
Formerly the Blues pick that went to the Sabres in the Ryan Miller deal. After moving Brendan Lemiuex and Joel Armia to the Jets, the Sabres cut into their depth on the wing a bit. That top pick will net them one of McDavid or Eichel, and with Bogosian, Ristolainen, Zadorov, Pysyk, and Jake McCabe they look ok on the blueline. So I have them taking Meier here who would be excellent value in this scenario. Was on Switzerland’s top line at the World Juniors and really looked good. Great speed, has some power in his game, works hard, great hands, he has everything you look for in a top 6 winger. He likely will go a lot higher than this, but some of the teams that may pick him have much bigger needs.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 200 Shot: R
Comparison: Mattias Ohlund
Ok…so this was the Sabres pick and might remain the Sabres pick but the standings as of writing this say that this would be the pick the Jets get from the Evander Kane deal. Got it? With this pick I’m going to suggest the Jets grab another D-man. Possible that Chevy moves back to do this and grab another pick, but point being that he uses this pick to get another D-man. Meloche is in this range. He was just outside of McKenzie’s top 30, Button has him at 30, ISS has him 28th, so he’s not a reach. He needs to work on his balance a bit, but he is a kid who loves to battle in his own zone. Not a big hitter but he is more than willing to get his nose dirty, and at the other end he can get off a pretty heavy shot.
Pos: C Ht: 6’1 Wt: 180 Shot: L
Comparison: David Krecji
They really need to start addressing center. I’ve stressed this for a few years now, the Ducks are thin at best down the middle moving forward. Yes, currently they’re one of the best in the league with Getzlaf and Kesler. Both guys are 30 though and by the time the late 1st round pick for the 2015 draft is ready to go those guys will be 33 or 34. Also, Kesler isn’t a picture of health so in 2 or 3 years he might not be able to log many minutes. They’ve really stocked the cupboard with D-men the last 3 drafts, they’re loaded on the wings, they need some centers. I have them taking Harkins over Nic Roy despite most having the latter ranked higher. Reason? Ducks draft history shows they don’t have much love for the Q. Harkins is a very polished player already, really intelligent 2 way kid which will lead scouts to believe he doesn’t have much upside. But once he puts on 10-20 pounds he could turn into an excellent 2nd line center.
Pos: C Ht: 6’4 Wt: 202 Shot:
Comparison: Mark Scheifele
From what the rumor mill is suggesting as the trade deadline approaches, the Habs want to get bigger. So this pick isn’t much about the french Canadian kid being picked by Montreal, but rather them needing the big center still on the board who just happens to be french Canadian. Roy has slid in the rankings this season, but still is a very intriguing prospect. He isn’t just one of these big kids who only uses his size to protect the puck, but he engages physically too. The issue? His skill set is very raw. But given the proper amount of time to develop he could become a dominant 2 way center.
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Comparison: Eric Brewer
Great news Leafs fans…not a FREAKING CHANCE that this pick is 30th, or 29th, or 28th, or 27th. It is now, but it won’t be because the Preds aren’t getting out of their division. Hell if they end up getting Minny in the 1st round I would take the Wild! So this won’t be the 30th pick but it has to be for now. A D-man is a must with one of their two 1st rounders as I said earlier. They may get that guy at the top, but if they don’t then this pick has to be it. Larsson is a safe kid, plays a solid 2 way game and has some grit in his game too. A very smart kid too which I always look for above all else in D-men. Once he packs on 20-25 pounds he could be a real nice top 4 guy.
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