The 2014-15 NHL regular season is over, and eight teams continue to fight for their playoff lives.
The NHL Draft Lottery is also over, and the Sabres will end up selecting second overall in June’s Draft after the Edmonton Oilers won the Lottery. Even with the Sabres losing out on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, Buffalo is about to get a generational type player in Jack Eichel with the second pick.
With the Draft Lottery finally over, and the playoffs underway, it is time to reveal the second edition of my NHL Mock Draft.
1.) Edmonton Oilers
Selection: Connor McDavid – Center – Erie Otters (OHL)
Edmonton has won its fourth Draft Lottery in six years, and get perhaps its biggest victory in quite some time. The Oilers get a player that has been highly hyped up, and has some fans in Edmonton excited for the first time since Wayne Gretzky left town in 1988. Yet the Oilers have a lot of work to do in the draft besides just grabbing McDavid. The team still needs a starting goaltender, depth forwards, and the team needs to solidify a defensive core. The Oilers are still some time away from being a serious contender in the league, but McDavid accelerates the process even more.
Selection: Jack Eichel – Center – Boston University (NCAA)
Even though the Sabres get bumped down to the second overall pick, the organization is extremely happy to be selecting Jack Eichel. The Hobey Baker Award winner for the 2014-15 college hockey season still has not confirmed if he will return for his sophomore season with Boston University, but Buffalo will take him regardless due to his potential of changing the course of the franchise for years to come. Eichel finished his freshman year at BU with 26 goals and 45 assists in 40 games played with the Terriers, and also led the team to a NCAA Championship runner-up one year after BU finished last season with only 10 wins. Many in Buffalo are hoping Eichel can have a similar effect on the Sabres as he did with the Terriers.
3.) Arizona Coyotes
Selection: Noah Hanifin – Defense – Boston College (NCAA)
The Coyotes get bumped out of the “McEichel” sweepstakes, but now Arizona has options on what to do with the third overall pick. Do the Coyotes take Mitchell Marner to play with Max Domi and Christian Dvorak (linemates in London), Dylan Strome (McDavid’s teammate), or Noah Hanifin (best defenseman in Draft). Hanifin would definitely fit in the young group of players that are up and coming in the Coyotes system, and could highlight the prospect pool for the organization. Hanifin will most likely go back to Boston College for his sophomore year, however the Coyotes will be willing to wait another year for Hanifin to further develop his skill.
Selection: Dylan Strome – Center – Erie Otters (OHL)
The Maple Leafs are next, and they bring home the Mississauga-born kid in Dylan Strome. Strome has been under the shadow of Connor McDavid in Erie for most of the 2014-15 season, but he will still go in the top-5 in the Draft. Strome would most likely require at least another year in the Ontario Hockey League to further develop his skill set and size, but the Leafs would be fortunate to add a player of Strome’s style of play to the organization. Remember, Strome did finish with the OHL scoring title with 128 points.
Selection: Lawson Crouse – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Lawson Crouse will be available, and the Hurricanes could use a player of Crouse’s caliber. The 6′ 4″ Crouse could develop into a big-bodied scoring prowess that loves to sit right in front of the opposing team’s net. Mitchell Marner would be a good top scoring forward for the Hurricanes, but the team already as a player of similar stature in Jeff Skinner. Crouse will probably take another year or two to develop in Kingston. Crouse has maybe the highest ceiling of any of the prospects in the Draft, and he will have time to improve his game to live up to those expectations.
Selection: Mitchell Marner – London Knights (OHL)
New Jersey does not have a young perennial goal scorer in its lineup or system at this point, but Mitchell Marner would be a great addition to the organization. Marner, who finished second in scoring the OHL, may be able to crack the NHL lineup in his first season, but another year in the OHL would help develop his size more. His skill set is NHL worthy, but the Devils may not want to risk anything with Marner when it comes to his size.
Selection: Ivan Provorov – Defense – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
The Flyers continue to stock pile defenseman in the NHL Draft, and will add the second best defenseman in the draft to its arsenal. Ivan Provorov may be the best set-up defender in the Draft available, and is also one of the smoothest skating defenseman as well. Provorov is expected to possibly make the jump to the NHL in his first year, and many agree that he may be the most-ready NHL prospect behind McDavid and Eichel.
Selection: Zach Werenski – Defense – University of Michigan (NCAA)
Zach Werenski is possible the most sound two-way defender in the NHL Draft this season. Werenski will take his time to develop as he will most likely return to Michigan, but the Jackets would be happy for him to develop into a premier two-way defender in the league.
9.) San Jose Sharks
Selection: Mathew Barzal – Center – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Since returning to the Seattle lineup after his knee injury, Barzal was able to pick up where he left off and complete the 2014-15 season on a high note with the Thunderbirds. Even after an early first round exit at the hands of the Portland Winterhawks, Barzal is currently leading Team Canada at the IIHF U18 World Championships with three goals and seven assists in four games played. Canada will face Sweden in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
10.) Colorado Avalanche
Selection: Mikko Rantanen – Right Wing – TPS (Liiga)
The top ranked European prospect according to NHL Central Scouting, Rantanen has had a bounce back second half to his season in Finland. Rantanen finished the season with TPS with nine goals and 19 assists in 56 games, but had a more impressive World Junior Championships with Team Finland. Rantanen will most likely play out his contract with Finland until the end of the 2016-17 season. But when he comes to the NHL, the Avalanche will hope to have a top six forward in its presence.
11.) Florida Panthers
Selection: Pavel Zacha – Right Wing – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Pavel Zacha is a player that should be ranked higher than he is in this upcoming Draft, but if he were to be drafted by the Panthers, he would be an excellent addition to a team that is already a threat with its young group of forwards. Zacha brings the intensity of a player like Alex Ovechkin, if only he can stay out of the penalty box. Zacha has the skill set and the size to be a successful player in the NHL, but there is always room for improvement.
12.) Dallas Stars
Selection: Travis Konecny – Center – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
The Dallas Stars would love to add a player of Konecny’s versatility to its prospect pool. Konecny may be a bit undersized, but his skill and ability to play any any forward position makes him such an asset. Konecny did finish the 2014-15 season with Ottawa with 29 goals and 39 assists in 60 games, but injury affected his play down the stretch which resulted in an early playoff exit for the 67’s. If Konecny is available at 12, look for the Stars to make a push for a player like Konecny.
13.) Los Angeles Kings
Selection: Oliver Kylington – Defense – Farjestad (SHL)
Kylington has struggled all season with inconsistencies and injuries, but is still expected to go in the first round regardless. Kylington is going to take the time to further develop his size and become a more consistent players from game to game, but could make the jump to North America next season. The Kings would be happy to add a player of Kylington’s potential to be the next top defender on that team.
14.) Boston Bruins
Selection: Timo Meier – Right Wing – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Quite possibly the biggest improvement for a prospect this year, Meier has jumped into the mid-range first round when to begin the year he was not even forecasted to go in the first round. The Swiss forward is 6′ 1″, but he plays more like he is 6′ 4″ because he plays a physical style of game and he protects the puck so well. Meier also has a great shot and has underrated skill and speed that makes him not only a threat, but a valuable prospect.
Penguins Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by New York Rangers in Quarterfinals
Selection: Nick Merkley – Center – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
16.) Winnipeg Jets
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Anaheim Ducks in Quarterfinals
Selection: Kyle Connor – Center – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
17.) Ottawa Senators
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Montréal Canadiens in Quarterfinals
Selection: Brandon Carlo – Defense – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
18.) Calgary Flames
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Anaheim Ducks in Semifinals
Selection: Jeremy Roy – Defense – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
19.) Detroit Red Wings
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Tampa Bay Lightning in Quarterfinals
Selection: Jakub Zboril – Defense – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
20.) Buffalo Sabres – from New York Islanders
Islanders Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Washington Capitals in Quarterfinals
Selection: Paul Bittner – Left Wing – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
21.) Washington Capitals
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by New York Rangers in Semifinals
Selection: Evgeny Svechnikov – Left Wing – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
22.) Vancouver Canucks
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Calgary Flames in Quarterfinals
Selection: Thomas Chabot – Defense – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Blackhawks Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Minnesota Wild in Semifinals
Selection: Daniel Sprong – Right Wing – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Predators Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Chicago Blackhawks in Quarterfinals
Selection: Brock Boeser – Right Wing – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Blues Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Minnesota Wild in Quarterfinals
Selection: Jordan Greenway – Left Wing – US-18 (USHL)
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by New York Rangers in Semifinals
Selection: Colin White – Center – US-18 (USHL)
Lightning Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by New York Rangers in Conference Finals
Selection: Filip Chlapik – Center – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
28.) Anaheim Ducks
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by Minnesota Wild in Conference Finals
Selection: Jacob Larsson – Defense – Frolunda (SHL)
29.) Minnesota Wild
Projected Playoff Finish: Eliminated by New York Rangers in Stanley Cup Finals
Selection: Jake DeBrusk – Left Wing – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Rangers Projected Playoff Finish: Stanley Cup Champions
Selection: Jansen Harkins – Center – Prince George Cougars (WHL)