Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Mock Draft: The Top 14

Ben is a hockey nut and a recent university graduate. Like most post-uni grads he's unemployed and wants to make himself feel better by writing about something he loves. As always feel free to comment on his work if you agree or disagree, just be nice.
1. Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid (Erie Otters – OHL)
The Oilers get their fourth 1st overall pick in the last six years however McDavid unlike Hall, RNH and Yakupov is a guy that would go number one in other years drafts. While the Oilers development of previous draft picks has been poor, Connor McDavid is on another level and ruining him would require Mike Milbury stupidity.

Projection: Superstar #1 C playing in a similar style to Crosby, not Tyler Bozak.

2. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel (Boston University Terriers – NCAA)
The Sabres lost the lottery again and Tim Murray was sad, but he still settles for a great player. Eichel has a bit bigger frame than McDavid and plays with incredible speed very similar to how Buffalo has built their team in the prospect pool. Eichel called landing here back in the fall and should be a good fit for a transitioning franchise.

Projection: High end #1C with a playing style similar to Evgeni Malkin back when he seemed to care.

3. Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome (Erie Otters – OHL)
The Coyotes are the biggest losers here falling to the third overall pick while missing out on McEichel. I believe this could be a pick that is traded to either Toronto or Carolina if they wanted to have their pick of the next tier of talent, however I’m not doing trades in this mock so they get the OHL leading scorer, Dylan Strome. A big-bodied center that plays a game similar to his brother Ryan, but packs more of an offensive punch. Strome provides the Yotes a big center to build around with smaller wingers like Duclair and Domi already in the system.

Projection: #1 center in the mould of Ryan Johansen.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs – Noah Hanifin (Boston College Eagles – NCAA)
The Leafs went from a team I was seriously concerned about in December to the laughing stock of the league late, but they get a good pick in a great draft thanks to that freefall. The Leafs should be thrilled to get Noah Hanifin who probably has the least risk of any of the players in the draft to reach his projection, however doesn't carry as much upside as other top picks. Look for Hanifin to step onto the Marlies blueline next year as BC continue to lose key players.

Projection: #1 D with a similar playing style to Jay Bouwmeester but the ability to create a little more offense.

5. Carolina Hurricanes – Mitchell Marner (London Knights – OHL)
To me this is why the Canes would have wanted to trade up to three as they don’t want to be left with Marner. Nothing against Marner, but he's just another small forward with concussion history, sort of like Jeff Skinner. Marner is still an elite offensive player, but carries some question marks when it comes to physical and defensive play. He's elusive enough to avoid most hits at the junior level and uses his offensive toolset to drive play for his team, but can that translate against men in the NHL?

Projection: #1 RW with a playing style similar to Patrick Kane. Can also play C.

6. New Jersey Devils – Matthew Barzal (Seattle Thunderbirds – WHL)
At this time last year Barzal was considered the heir to the McDavid and Eichel throne however a year can change a lot of things. Barzal began to slip when he required surgery for a fractured kneecap that removed him from the lineup for two months. Upon returning Barzal was nothing short of spectacular and has continued his dominant play by leading Canada's U-18 team in scoring. Barzal gives the Devils something they’re starved for in an elite offensive C.

Projection: Average #1C with loads of offensive upside. 

7. Philadelphia Flyers – Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs – OHL)
The Flyers had a rough year and aside from terrible D (which they have the prospects to fix), a lot of it can be attributed to just an awful left side of the ice. Featuring players like R.J. Umberger, 8-goal Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Zac Rinaldo the Flyers left side could use a boost. A guy like Crouse will likely be NHL ready next season at 6’4” 220lbs and could find himself playing with some of the Flyers top players. Crouse’s size, hockey sense and play in all areas of the rink makes up for his inferior stats, could also go back to the OHL next year to improve on those stats in Hextall becomes a miracle worker with the cap.

Projection: Low end #1 LW with 200 foot play. Very similar to Andrew Ladd.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets – Mikko Rantanen (TPS Turku – Liiga)
If you watched the Columbus Blue Jackets this year you probably noticed that they are a pretty big team. Jarmo Kekäläinen is also a great scout and should dabble into his native Finland to pick up 6’4” Mikko Rantanen. Not only was Rantanen playing in the top Finnish league this year but he scored at a 0.5ppg pace while wearing an “A”. Upon TPS' elimination from the playoffs he was sent to their U-20 team where he posted a playoff high 14 points in just 7 games along with setting a record for number of hits in a U-20 playoff run with 57. Rantanen will likely spend one more year in Finland before coming over to North America, but could come over next year and join an AHL team with no loss of a contract year.

Projection: Top line winger or second line centre (plays all 3 positions)

9. San Jose Sharks – Ivan Provorov (Brandon Wheat Kings – WHL)
The Sharks need a new direction, a new identity and a new core. In reality, the Sharks just need a major shake-up and having Provorov fall to them at 9 is just what the doctor ordered. Provorov brings an offensive skill set and just about every tool he has screams high-end player. I can’t see the Sharks trading up or down from this spot but no matter what they will get a pretty decent player at 9.

Projection: Top pairing d-man with potential to be one of the draft's best. Plays a game similar to Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

10. Colorado Avalanche – Zach Werenski (University of Michigan Wolverines – NCAA)
The Avs cost themselves the 9 spot with a win in the last minute against Chicago on the last day of the regular season. The Avs were strong in the second half of the season after failing to click early and losing Erik Johnson to injury. While blueliner, Tyson Barrie, took huge strides forward the Avs still lack a potential game changing d-man that plays the left side. In Werenski they grab one of the best players remaining in the top 10.

Projection: Werenski has all the tools to be an elite top pairing offensive d-man.

11. Florida Panthers – Pavel Zacha (Sarnia Sting – OHL)
Zacha had an up and down year which forced him to play more wing than he wanted to due to injury. Zacha - who thrived at playing centre at the junior level - is a big forward with a strong shot and explosive speed. He showed the ability to match up head-to-head with some of the best players being used against McDavid in round one of the OHL playoffs and being used in matchups by the Czechs at the U-18 where he posted 5 goals in 5 games.

Projection: Zacha is one of the higher risk players due to injury concerns, but could be a top line forward.

12. Dallas Stars – Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms – USHL)
A personal favorite of mine, Kyle Connor, put up 80 points in 56 USHL games. Committed to the Univeristy of Michigan Wolverines next season, Connor has good size and is known for his strong defensive play as he won best defensive forward of the year in the USHL as voted on by the coaches. Connor is likely 2 to 3 years away and with Spezza behind Seguin for that time there’s no need to rush Connor who could eventually slot in behind Seguin and take hard defensive match ups away from the Benn-Seguin combo to let them work their offensive magic.

Projection: Connor has the potential to be a high-end #2 C. 

13. Los Angeles Kings – Timo Meier (Halifax Mooseheads – QMJHL)
The Kings have surprisingly built up a strong stable of prospects through excellent late round drafting and are able to pick up a prized horse here in Timo Meier. The Swiss born forward plays with high-end speed, but also has the physical ability to play on the cycle. Timo likes to drive the net and is good at getting himself into places where he can use his elite shot to put pucks past goalies. Very much a Kings player as his defensive game is just as good as his offensive and physical game.

Projection: Meier has the potential to be a solid 2nd line winger.

14. Boston – Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67’s – OHL)
I feel the best draft pick available for the Bruins will be Konecny. He’ll likely slide over to the wing in the NHL even though he plays predominantly at C in the OHL. While his size isn’t Bruin-like he plays a heart and soul game like Brad Marchand, but is far more skilled offensively.

Projection: Similar to Zacha, Konecny holds more risk than some other guys, but more due to his size. Projects out to be a top 6 forward with a hard nose game.


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