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.
1st Overall Selection – Edmonton Oilers
Everyone knows the Oilers really need to develop a couple top-four two-way defensemen above all else to play with the hordes of young talent they possess up front. Over the past 30 years the Oilers have had an extremely dismal time developing blue liners with only Tom Poti in 1996, Jeff Petry in 2006 and Matt Green in 2002 playing top-four minutes at the NHL level during that time. The hope is that a few of the prospects they have coming, such as Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, can develop into a top-four role. The secondary need is a bonafide top-end goaltending prospect to eventually nail down the starters role.
Edmonton has shown that they are not afraid of selection any nationality before with Russian, Swedes Germans, American’s and Canadian prospects all in their current pool and on the NHL roster, however, with the changes that have been made by Ownership this offseason things are sure to be different at the Oilers table in a couple weeks. How new GM Peter Chiarelli will run his first draft in Edmonton is still to be seen.
The Edmonton Oilers select from Erie of the OHL, C Connor McDavid
Edmonton won the lottery back in April and have earned the right to select the OHL phenom with the top pick in 2015. The elite pivot’s addition will have the same effect on the Oil as the Sidney Crosby selection did for Pittsburgh 10 years ago.
Analysis and selection by Dan Stewart (FC Director of Scouting)
2nd Overall Selection – Buffalo Sabres
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 Boston University, C Jack Eichel
The Sabres make the second easiest choice in the draft by nabbing the Hobey Baker Award winner and World Championships standout. Eichel will help to move Buffalo’s rebuild along nicely – look for him, Sam Reinhart, and Evander Kane to push the Sabres to a few more victories in 2016.
Analysis and selection by Daniel Deschenes (FC Evaluator)
3rd Overall Selection – Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are in need of high-end players in all areas of their prospect pool with a specific need for a defensive depth and goaltending. The team has elite forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair ready to make the jump to the pros next year and they will need to fill their spots in the development system.
Arizona has been pretty open to taking any type of player in the draft without any clear preferences to region or type. They have mixed drafting for size and for skill in recent years. With that said, they have taken forwards with their top selections in the last three drafts.
The Arizona Coyotes select from Erie of the OHL, C Dylan Strome
In an interesting predicament with several elite and unique players on the board, the Coyotes opt to take the big center that they see one day matching up with some of the other all-star centers in the Western Conference. Strome’s poise and vision will compliment other high flying players in their organization well and they hope his game will bring some excitement to what has become “turmoil the desert” with the recent franchise uncertainty.
Analysis and selection by Zenon Herasymiuk (FC Head Scout)
4th Overall Selection – Toronto Maple Leafs
Where to start? The Leafs have made a huge stride in the right direction with the hiring of Mike Babcock, but their prospect pool is severely depleted. With the draft potentially being D-day for much of Toronto’s underperforming stars, there could be the potential for more picks added, which would be a great start to the rebuild. William Nylander looks like he could become the real deal, but after him, the Leafs lack in potential top-six forwards that will be NHL ready within the next three-to-four years. With the exception of Morgan Rielly, the Leafs are also pretty thin on the back-end. A top tier defenseman and potential top-six center should be on their wishlist, and with the rebuild in full motion, the Leafs will take the best player available at No. 4.
The Maple Leafs have continued to search for a replacement for Mats Sundin over the course of the last few years without success. With the selection of Frederik Gauthier, they hoped they have found their man, but that now looks uncertain. The Leafs have a tendency to overlook small, skilled players, early in the draft with the exception of Nylander.
The Toronto Maple Leafs select from Boston College, D Noah Hanifin
With Hanifin, the Leafs have acquired a gifted defenseman with the ability to shut down the oppositions top forwards, and contribute on the score sheet. The best defenseman in the draft falls to the Leafs at four, and makes for a very happy first addition under Mike Babcocks tenure in Toronto.
Analysis and selection by Scott Palmer (FC Evaluator)
5th Overall Selection – Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are one of those teams that could really use high upside players at all skating positions. Looking at the depth chart, in the NHL and prospect pool, their primary need should be on the wing. They have some projects in the pipeline, but none with the potential that the wingers at the top of this draft have. Another need is a future top pairing defense partner for Justin Faulk.
Carolina typically looks to North America for their draft picks, but also shows the willingness to explore the likes of Sweden or Finland for talent. One country they have heavily avoided is Russia, not drafting a prospect out of that country since 2001, when they selected Igor Knyazev 15th overall. The Hurricanes also generally go BPA in the first round, with the occasional reach but only by a few draft spots.
The Carolina Hurricanes select from London of the OHL, RW Mitchell Marner
Carolina rushes to the stage to announce Marner’s name after the draft’s top offensive winger falls into their lap. He is a dynamic offensive threat and will give the Canes a much needed infusion of high upside forwards to their prospect pool.
Analysis and selection by Colin Mayberry (FC Evaluator)
6th Overall Selection – New Jersey Devils
After so many years of competing and being one of the league’s top contenders, there is no denial that father time has caught up with the Devils. With a new regime taking over at the helm and a committed rebuild is in order. Rookie coach John Hynes envisions the Devils as a fast, attacking, supportive team, but he needs the aid of new GM Ray Shero to procure him the right tools to implement this style. New Jersey needs elite scoring talent up front on the wings, a number one center and a top pairing puck moving defenseman.
This is Shero’s first offseason as Devils GM and it will be interesting to see if Lou Lamoriello will be able to sit back and keep his fingers off this team. Shero, in his days with Pittsburgh, has been able to scope out some elite talent in the back end (Maatta, Despres, Pouliot, Harrington) of the draft but without the ability to draft many impact forwards. He hasn’t shown a fear to select from any nationality but has a healthy appetite for players that are groomed in the CHL. Under Lamoriello, the Devils loved to go the CHL and NTDP route earlier in drafts, as well as some love for the Swedes. Head scout David Conte remains in the fold and it will be interesting to see if his influence still caters to traditional Devils hockey.
The Devils select from Seattle of the WHL, C Mathew Barzal
He moves up a couple spots from the consensus, but with the top-5 selections passing and no big names falling into their laps, the Devils take the next best option to add to their forward group. The elite playmaking center is a cornerstone prospect and a step in the right direction for the offensively starved Devils.
Analysis and selection by Justin Froese (FC Evaluator)
7th Overall Selection – Philadelphia Flyers
Having concentrated on defensive picks the last few years, the Flyers need to focus on replenishing the forward group. Even though the top two lines at the NHL level are younger and intact, it is a good idea to have offensive weapons waiting in the wings. Another area of concern is goaltending, something that has been a bit of an Achilles heel at the NHL level. With Hextall being a former goalie, I’m sure he knows the importance of a good puck stopper. With two picks in the first round, I’m sure Philly should be able to address a couple needs.
Philadelphia has done well with guys from the QMJHL recently, and aren’t afraid to go against the consensus pick taking those they like earlier than most project them. Chris Pryor is the director of scouting, and under his tenure Swedes as well as USHL kids and a heavy dose of the CHL have all been picked.
The Philadelphia Flyers select from Kingston of the OHL, LW Lawson Crouse
Hextall and Pryor had plenty of talent to choose from with Provorov, Zacha and Crouse on the board. Philly ends up with the big body in Crouse, and you can’t go wrong with size, hard work and skill. They cross their fingers and hope for a second coming of Cam Neely but will settle for a Milan Lucic clone.
Analysis and selection by Randy Stoochnoff (FC Evaluator)
8th Overall Selection – Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus’s biggest need is a high upside defenseman. The team has taken a total of four defensemen in the past two drafts, none higher than pick No. 47. A secondary need is some help on the right wing, but they are more likely to fill that NHL roster need via trade or free agency.
It was quite obvious that with Jarmo Kekalainen becoming GM, scouting/drafting would be a strength of the Jackets. He has a great track record in that area since the early 2000’s and certainly carried that over to Columbus in 2013. Kekalainen and his staff, Director of Amateur Scouting Paul Castron and Head Scout Ville Siren, have their own list even if it is a little against the grain, and stick to it to get their guy.
The Columbus Blue Jackets select from Brandon of the WHL, D Ivan Provorov
Provorov is the next great defenseman in this draft and has immense potential. He is a hard-nosed, skilled, complete defenseman who will look great on the Jacket’s top pairing very soon. Columbus will be very happy to get a kid with Provorov’s upside without having to trade up to get him.
Analysis and selection by Guillaume Gervais (FC Evaluator)
9th Overall Selection – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks, when healthy, possess a solid, dependable blue line. With the likes of Marc- Edouard Vlasic, Brenden Dillon, Justin Braun and Brent Burns, the Sharks will have a talented group of blue liners for the foreseeable future. With Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aging quickly, the Sharks may need to look for a potential top 6 forward, who can make plays and has some finish, to replace some of Thornton and Marleau’s projected diminishing offensive output.
The Sharks haven’t picked in the top 10 since 2007, when they drafted potential franchise center Logan Couture. They’ve had some success in the later rounds, finding those diamonds in the rough that can contribute and play a solid two way game (Wingles, Mitchell, Pavelski). The Sharks are weak on the right wing, and may have the ability to fill that void with a potential game breaker in either Travis Konecny or Mikko Rantanen. The Sharks are always busy on draft day, and they may be again this year. The 2015 draft is incredibly deep at forward, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sharks trade down and draft one of the many capable forwards in the later picks of the first round. If no trade involving the 9th overall pick takes place, the Sharks will go after potentially the best forward currently available.
The San Jose Sharks select from the TPS, RW Mikko Rantanen
In Rantanen the Sharks get a player who can fill in at both center and the wing, and has a combination of elite puck skill and vision. The perfect fit for the Sharks.
Analysis and selection by Scott Palmer (FC Evaluator)
10th Overall Selection – Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche possesses a nice top-6 that is young, has some size and skills so what they need to do this summer is upgrade their defense on the pro team. Some of the immediate need will probably be fixed in the trade market with Ryan O’Reilly as bait and in free agency were names like Oduya, Martin, Sekera will be available. When it comes to the draft the Avs will needs to upgrade their prospect pool especially up front, only having Joey Hishon pushing for a spot in the lineup in the near future, and last years first rounder Conner Bleackley to bank on.
The past couple years the Avalanche have been focusing on North America with a little bit of Swedish touch in players such as Lindholm and Westlund. Gabriel Landeskog represents both the OHL and Sweden.
The Colorado Avalanche select from Ottawa of the OHL, RW Travis Konecny
In Konecny, they get a hardworking and speedy winger that will fit in perfect with the Avalanche system and current roster. Colorado had a big hole at the wings in there prospect pool and Konecny will help to add talent to an area or weakness.
Analysis and selection by Patrik Hansen (FC Evaluator)