Future Considerations has asked a few of our evaluators who have been in the rinks all season, scouting 2015 eligible prospects, to give their input on team need, drafting tendencies and who they think NHL teams will be looking to add to their prospect pool in this first round mock draft.
For more in-depth analysis on the draft and its prospects pick up your copy of the annual FC NHL Draft Guide featuring rankings, full scouting profiles of the top 211 prospects and much, much more.
21st Overall Selection – Buffalo Sabres (from NY Islanders)
The Sabres are in need of some puck moving defenders, an offensive catalyst, and a showstopper in net. The worst team in the league this season, Buffalo embraced the tank and have fully committed to a rebuild under new GM Tim Murray. With Murray and his staff bringing in veterans like Josh Georges, Brian Gionta, and Zach Bogosian, the Sabres can afford to take their time to make this rebuild a success. A number one goaltender is a priority in upstate New York, as the Sabres saw eight different netminders dress for them in 2015, but they will likely find their man through trade or free agency.
Buffalo has one of the games best talent evaluators in Tim Murray at their disposal. The man isn’t afraid to take risks and go off the board from the consensus – proving to be right more often than not (Karlsson, Silfverberg, Pageau in Ottawa). He listens to his staff, a rather large one in Buffalo, but his past drafts in Ottawa showed he likes to primarily stick to North Americans and Swedes.
The Buffalo Sabres select from Halifax of the QMJHL, RW Timo Meier
In Meier, the Sabres get the man that can play up and down the lineup on the wing, helping to set up trigger man Jack Eichel or Evander Kane in the future. Has the ability to be a difference maker and showed he can play with the big guns. Good skater, strong shot, and high-end vision; has the raw tools that coach Dan Bylsma can bring the best out of.
Analysis and selection by Daniel Deschenes (FC Evaluator)
22nd Overall Selection – Washington Capitals
With several young goaltenders of note in the system, and three defensemen that look like they’ll be NHL material in the near future, the Capitals have basically just one blue chip forward in the system in Jakub Vrana, if one views Andre Burakovsky as having already made the jump after these playoffs. The team is well built at the NHL level now, but scoring was hard to come by at times in past playoffs. The team has a lot of brawn, some of which will likely head out via free agency, but could really use a second wave of scoring prospect on the way.
It’s been three first round European forwards in a row. It’s been three Swedes in a row. Going back to 2008, it’s actually been five Swedish forwards out of seven first round picks. Evgeny Kuznetsov was one of the others. It wasn’t too long before that when Niklas Backstrom was Washington’s first rounder. Do you see a pattern here? So do we; but the guys the Capitals had hoped would be here, namely Eriksson Ek, Guryanov and Svechnikov, no longer are. Even Merkley and Meier are gone. This is where the draft sees its first surprise pick.
The Washington Capitals select from the NTDP U18, C Jack Roslovic
Many other players are currently rated higher, but there’s so much to like about Roslovic. He does have skills and can play a real meat and potatoes game, but it’s his boatload of intangibles that will have the Capitals believing he just wouldn’t be available when they pick next, whereas perhaps another player of interest will be.
Analysis and selection by Chapin Landvogt (FC Evaluator)
23rd Overall Selection – Vancouver Canucks
As a team in flux, the Canucks can use help at pretty much every position however their defensive cupboard is especially bare. While Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening are close to NHL ready the Canucks lack a true blue chip prospect on the back end. Up front the Canucks have some promising offensive talents however they could use added depth. Same goes in net where Thatcher Demko stands alone as the organization’s only high end goaltending prospect.
Linden, Benning, and Co.’s first year at the helm saw them draft hometown kid Jake Virtanen with the No. 6 pick and follow that up with six players from six different leagues. Based on last year’s draft and his time as assistant GM in Boston, Benning is unlikely to shy away from any league or nationality.
The Vancouver selects from Sherbrooke of the QMJHL, D Jeremy Roy
With Roy the Canucks add the potential top pairing defenseman they desperately need. A future power play quarterback, Roy should slot in as an offensive catalyst that can take care of his own end as well.
Analysis and selection by Donesh Mazloum (FC Evaluator)
24th Overall Selection – Toronto Maple Leafs (from Nashville)
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have a lot of holes to fill. With the addition of Noah Hanifin earlier in the first round, they have addressed a major need with a potential two-way first pair defender. With their second pick in the first round, the Leafs will need to stick with the best player available. With so many spots to fill, it comes down to talent, and they could use an abundance of it at every position.
The Leafs have struggled to find impact players the last few seasons with later picks in the first round and beyond. With the abundance of talent available in this draft, they should be able to find at least a serviceable player that will play at least 200+ games in the NHL with the No. 24 pick. With former late first/early second round picks like Stuart Percy, Greg McKegg, Kenny Ryan and Jesse Blacker yet to establish themselves as NHL ready, the need to hit a home run with this pick is essential. They know skill is needed but size with skill can be a difference maker.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Select from Portland of the WHL, LW Paul Bittner
With the addition of Bittner, the Leafs hope to have hit a homerun in the later half of the draft. The kid has all the tools to be an impact power forward at the NHL level, if he applies himself and works on some consistency issues. He’s a big, strong, athletic forward, with a lot of poise and the ability to snipe and/or dish the puck.
Analysis and selection by Scott Palmer (FC Evaluator)
25th Overall Selection – Winnipeg Jets (from St. Louis via Buffalo)
Winnipeg Jets have a couple of high end defensemen in their system starting with Josh Morrissey. They also have skilled center Nic Petan and other good depth players at this position. Nikolai Ehlers is by far their best prospect up front being a left wing. With the trade of Evander Kane they received Joel Armia, whose development slowed a bit since coming over in North America.
Since being back in the league in 2011, Winnipeg has a tendency to draft multiple defensemen and goaltenders. In four drafts, in the first round they draft one center (Mark Scheifele), two defensemen (Jacob Trouba & Morrissey) and a left winger (Ehlers). In those four years, they only drafted from Europe twice, selecting three of their four 1st rounder from the CHL. They also like to look to the American junior circuit, whether USHL or high school leagues, to mine college bound talent later in the draft.
The Winnipeg Jets select from St. John of the QMJHL, D Jakub Zboril
Zboril will add depth to the Jets junior prospects pool. He will have fellow countryman Jan Kostalek to serve him as mentor as both play a similar two way game, Zboril being a little bit better offensively. He will definitely fit in the Jets future top-four with Trouba, Morrissey and Myers as he can add some physicality and jump offensively.
Analysis and selection by Guillaume Gervais (FC Evaluator)
26th Overall Selection – Montreal Canadiens
Montreal already have good depth on the blue line with some young guns like PK Subban, Nathan Beaulieu and Jared Tinordi, and now with Jeff Petry signed for the next six years. They are also in business in the net with Carey Price, who is still only 27 years old and prospect Zach Fucale who has NHL potential. Montreal needs more offensive punch, more specifically a top two center or right winger. Another factor that seems important for GM Marc Bergevin and Co. is to get bigger and stronger without losing the speed already on this team.
They usually select the best player available in the first round and then, in later rounds, they often look to go with some francophone talent from the QMJHL. They are not afraid to pick a long term project and like their college bound (Paciorrety, Kristo, Leblanc, McCaron were all commited to college when selected) or European players (De La Rose, Lehkonen, Collberg, Nygren).
The Montreal Canadiens select from Waterloo of the USHL, RW Brock Boeser
With this selection Montreal gets a natural scoring winger which is exactly what most think they need. Adding a big body to their offensive prospects pool was important as with the exception of Mike McCarron, most of their good offensive prospects are of the smaller variety (Hudon, Andrighetto, Reway, etc.). Boeser will have the chance to get even bigger and better while attending North Dakota University.
Analysis and selection by Patrick Pilon (FC Evaluator)
27th Overall Selection – Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have a solid roster which is bolstered with high-end talent down the middle and two highly regarded young goaltenders on the horizon. They like their prospects to have some size, skill and grit. They will likely look to add another top net minder to the prospect pool in the next year or two due to the fact that Gibson or Andersen will have permanently graduated. They also need some offensive skill coming at wing positions.
Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, and Hamphus Lindholm have been their past three first rounders. The Ducks often seem to draft the best player available, regardless of position. The Ducks also seem to steer clear of the Russian players; using most of their high-end picks in the CHL or the Swedish Elite League.
The Anaheim Ducks select from Swift Current of the WHL, LW Jake DeBrusk
A highly intelligent center who can skate and outwork opponents is always an asset to a team who is constantly in the post season. Could rise as high as a second liner, but could easily end up being a important third liner on a deep Ducks roster.
Analysis and selection by John Healy (FC Evaluator)
28th Overall Selection – Tampa Bay Lightning (from NY Rangers)
Since taking over, Steve Yzerman has done a masterful job of building the team from the ground up through trade, free agency and especially the draft. They have assembled quite the mix of prospects, many of which have made their mark on the NHL roster already. If anything, Tampa Bay could add a bit of size and grit up front and on the back end to compliment the offensive talent that they currently have. Tampa has taken skilled defenders Tony DeAngelo and Slater Koekkoek in the first round in recent years. Potentially adding a defense first type on the back end wouldn’t be out of the question at some point and could be a focus in round one. If they opt to go with a forward, a big bodied middle-six forward might be just what the doctor ordered.
When it comes to the draft, Tampa Bay keeps proving that its scouting team is unbiased when he is making selections. The Lightning’s pipeline boasts a variety of different player types and strength at every position. Recently, Russians have been becoming more and more prevalent in their system and there appears to be no hesitation to draw from there or any other European nation. As is the trend, Tampa Bay still seems to draw considerably from the CHL which provides the highest quantity of draft worthy players. With recent first round picks, Tampa has alternated between defenseman and forwards each of the last 3 years. Tampa preaches patience and whatever prospect they take with their first round pick will not be rushed.
The Tampa Bay Lightning select from Prince George of the WHL, C Jansen Harkins
Late in the first round, they are thrilled to pick up a strong and smart two way center. Harkins isn’t the fastest or flashiest guy in the draft but intelligence and his willingness to play all over the ice is a big draw for the Lightning. He won’t be relied on to be a huge scorer as a professional, but could be penciled in anywhere on Tampa’s forward group and produce.
Analysis and selection by Justin Froese (FC Evaluator)
29th Overall Selection – Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay)
Philadelphia added Crouse earlier in this round but could use this pick as well to continue to address their forward prospect group. It would be a hard decision with plenty of skilled defensemen and the goaltending crop yet untouched. But after adding plenty of defensive prospects over the last couple years the forwards and adding a top end puck stopper remains the top need for their prospect pool.
Director of scouting Chris Pryor has done well with going with guys he feels fits well into the teams system. Never afraid to make the brash move and select a wildcard and with the Flyers hold two first round picks we could see this play out again this year.
The Philadelphia Flyers select from Magnitogorsk, G Ilya Samsonov
As the saying goes, defense wins championships. Even with mid-level goaltending prospect Anthony Stolarz already in the system, the Flyers go with the drafts top puck stopper for the future.
Analysis and selection by Randy Stoochnoff (FC Evaluator)
30th Overall Selection – Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago)
The Coyotes are in need of high-end players in all areas of their prospect pool with a specific need for additional defensive depth and goaltending. The team has elite forwards Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and now Dylan Strome, who was drafted at No. 3 on the way, leaving the focus on defense and in net. They have plenty of skill but could also make a push for more grit and a physical element up front now.
Arizona has been pretty open to taking any nationality of player in the draft and I see that trend continuing. With some mixed results from Europe in the past few years, expect them to keep an eye on the CHL based prospects. They have taken forwards with their top selections in the last four drafts now.
The Arizona Coyotes select, from Everett of the WHL, D Noah Juulsen
After making a safe selection in Strome to compete in the physical Western Conference, the Coyotes grab a raw, rugged defenseman that will crash and bang with the best of them. Juulsen displayed excellent development in his puck handling and projects as a two-way defenseman with top-pairing upside.
Analysis and selection by Zenon Herasymiuk (FC Head Scout)