This is an excercise, mostly for fun, where I put myself in each General Manager’s shoes, and make a selection based on that team’s current needs, prospects, and aspirations. I am not so much predicting the draft, but simply identifying what I would do in each situation. I am also proceeding under the assumption everyone is keeping their draft pick, which may not be the case.
For a complete list of my prospect rankings purely based of projection of success, you can refer back to my previous post, www.focusedscouting.com/2015-nhl-draft-prospect-rankings/ .
- Edmonton Oilers
Selection: Connor McDavid.
Rationale: No need to overthink this or try to get cute. This is the best player to be drafted since at least Sidney Crosby, and 29 other General Managers would like a chance to select him. He is the definition of an exceptional player. Should give Edmonton a dangerous offence for years to come.
- Buffalo Sabres
Selection: Jack Eichel
Rationale: In most drafts, he would go first overall. Big strong centerman with good hands, vision, and strength. Once again, no need to try and be the smartest person in the room. Your fan base is already uneasy with the steep price paid for Robin Lehner. You need to select this franchise centerman.
- Arizona Coyotes
Selection: Mitch Marner
Rationale: It is hard to pass on Noah Hanifin, but Arizona could potentially have a respectable defence group all 25 years of age and under next season, led by Oliver Ekman-Larson, one of the best young defenders in the game. Marner had tremendous success this season with fellow Coyotes prospects Max Domi and Christian Dvorak, and Arizona could add to their impressive pool of quality forward prospects. Marner’s hands, vision, speed, and intensity are exceptional, and two-way play is hugely underrated. Arizona also has the 30th and 32nd selection, where quality defencemen are likely to be available.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
Selection: Noah Hanifin
Rationale: I think Don Cherry would lose his mind if this was the case, but Hanifin is an elite caliber denfenceman. His skating is phenomenal, and he is good in all three zones. His ability to seamlessly change speeds while carrying the puck makes him such a good puck-rushing defenceman, and he has shown the ability to make accurate stretch passes. In the top 10 of the draft, you have to go with the best player available, and in this case it is Noah Hanifin.
- Carolina Hurricanes
Selection: Dylan Strome
Rationale: Having drafted defencemen in recent years, Carolina needs to bolster their offence. While I am not entirely sold on Dylan Strome being mobile enough to be a star at the NHL level, he is extremely skilled, sees the play well, and is a huge threat in the offensive zone. Will need some coaching and time to develop. If the Staal brothers remain in Carolina, it can be a good way to shield him during his development, and bring him up gradually at the right pace.
- New Jersey Devils
Selection: Zach Werenski
Rationale: New Jersey’s prospect bank is fairly depleted at all positions, and they lack a legitimate blue-chip prospect at every position. Werenski is a solid all-purpose defenceman capable of playing in all situations. He is intense, poised, and capable of good decision-making. His performance as a (barely) 17 year old at the college ranks was impressive. I have a feeling in 5 years, he will be the biggest surprise from this draft.
- Philadelphia Flyers
Selection: Miko Rantanen
Rationale: I just feel that Rantanen’s size-skill combo would be a great fit in Philadelphia. He is a good finisher, and could find success playing with skilled players like Giroux and Voracek. He will need to adjust to North-American hockey, but will eventually learn to use his size to be a physical well-rounded player capable of playing up and down the lineup.
- Columbus Blue Jackets
Selection: Ivan Provorov
Rationale: No-brainer for Columbus, who is in dire need of defence prospects. Provorov had an impressive season playing on a Brandon team that exceeded expectations. His play took a big step forward this year, to the point that some believe he may be NHL ready next season.
- San Jose Sharks
Selection: Lawson Crouse
Rationale: As San Jose attempts to rebuild on the fly, without taking a step back, Lawson Crouse’s well-rounded game fits into their plan. I expect the big physical two-way forward to be ready to play as early as next season. He is intense and responsible defensively, and can produce at a good rate offensively when matched with the right players. Could complement San Jose’s offensive skilled players nicely.
- Colorado Avalanche
Selection: Matthew Barzal
Rationale: While Colorado is hoping to land a blue-chip defence prospect with their first pick, I can’t justify using a top-10 pick on a defenceman if Provorov, Werenski, and Hanifin are off the board. Barzal is a very highly skilled forward, who can carry the puck and shows good playmaking and decision-making. Colorado’s quest for a defenceman will have to happen via the trade route.
- Florida Panthers
Selection: Kyle Connor
Rationale: The dynamic forward will be a welcome addition to Florida’s existing core of young forwards. Connor is responsible in all three zones, and likes to attack the net. He can add speed to an offence that revolves mostly around puck possession.
- Dallas Stars
Selection: Oliver Kylington
Rationale: The Swedish defender has struggled in his transition to the pro’s, which caused him to fall in most people’s eyes. It is never an easy transition for 17-year-old defencemen. Kylington is a project, who will need serious coaching on his defensive play, but has the potential to be an elite defenceman. His offensive upside is impressive and he is the best skater in this draft not named McDavid.
- Los Angeles Kings
Selection: Pavel Zacha
Rationale: It can be frustrating to see already good teams have potential superstars fall on their laps, and this could be the case for the L.A. Kings. Zacha has struggled with consistency, and can at times be invisible on the ice, but when he is at the top of his game, is can be absolutely dominant. His playing style closely resembles Evgeny Malkin’s.
- Boston Bruins
Selection: Paul Bittner
Rationale: I feel this is a little high to select Bittner, and would consider trading down, but if I was Don Sweeney, Paul Bittner would be my target. He is the prototypical Boston Bruins player. He is big and learning to use his frame to improve the physical aspect of his game, and has the ability to score goals. He is a good skater for someone his size.
- Calgary Flames
Selection: Nick Merkley
Rationale: Merkley was impressive for Kelowna at the Memorial Cup, and would fit in wonderfully in the Flames’ system. He plays an intense game and is not afraid to get physical. His two-way play is solid, and he never takes a shift off. His greatest asset is his vision, passing and all-around playmaking ability. With Calgary’s young core consisting of physical, grinding type forwards, Merkley could become a key part of that offence, feeding the play shift after shift.
- Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh)
Selection: Jeremy Roy
Rationale: Edmonton has three picks in the top 33, and if I am Peter Chiarelli, I am hoping for a forward (McDavid), a defenceman, and a goalie (ideally, Ilya Samsonov remains available at 33). At this point, Jeremy Roy is the best available defenceman. He is predominantly offensive-minded, with a good point shot he is able to consistently put on net, though his defensive game is not a major shortcoming. He can be a bit of a pest, doing all he can to get under his opponent’s skin, mostly in one on one battles.
- Winnipeg Jets
Selection: Evgeny Svechnikov
Rationale: This selection has the potential to be extremely rewarding. Svechnikov’s talent is high-end. He was able to produce profusely this season. The transition to North-American hockey was seamless, and he was able to perform at center and wing. For a big forward, he is extremely shifty, and able to navigate through traffic. His straight-line speed is not elite, but he uses his edges extremely well.
- Ottawa Senators
Selection: Travis Konecny
Rationale: The Ottawa 67’s forward would fit in very nicely in Ottawa’s north-south style game. He plays with the type of aggressiveness and intensity that the Senators brass would love. He does not let his small stature be an imposition, and still plays what I like to call a “cannonball” style of hockey. He is very explosive and makes those around him better. To a certain extent, plays similarly to Brendan Gallagher.
- Detroit Red Wings
Selection: Timo Meier
Rationale: The skilled forward out of Halifax had an impressive season. He is one of the most versatile players in this draft. He has had success playing center or wing, can be effective in all three zones and can be the key player on both your powerplay and penalty kill. He can contribute offensively and physically. He has a good frame and uses it strategically.
- Minnesota Wild
Selection: Jansen Harkins
Rationale: I was impressed by Harkins’ ability to perform at such a high level, on a mediocre team. He is a skilled forward, capable of playing 200-foot hockey. He distributes the puck nicely, and should be a good fit with Minnesota’s group of goal-scoring forwards
- Ottawa Senators (From Buffalo (From New York Islanders))
Selection: Jakub Zboril
Rationale: Zboril is one of my favourite defencemen in the draft. While he is not elite at any one particular skill, he is solid all around, as you expect from NHL defencemen. He can play in all situations, and can be effective playing fast, physically, with or without the puck.
- Washington Capitals
Selection: Jeremy Bracco
Rationale: Though many may be weary of his small stature, we are seeing small skilled players have success (Gaudreau, Johnson), and Bracco is as talented as they come. His skating is tremendous, he is confident with the puck, has great hands and every shot has a chance to go in. His greatest asset is his creativity, and he is able to make great passes. He is one the most skilled players in this draft and I hope his size is not a deterrent. Could provide Washington with good secondary scoring.
- Vancouver Canucks
Selection: Anthony Beauvillier
Rationale: Another fairly small player, Beauvillier still possesses an extremely well-rounded game. He plays with high intensity every shift, and his hockey IQ is extremely high. He does not play a very exciting game, but he is always in the right position, at both ends of the ice. This helped him finish the year with such high offensive numbers.
- Toronto Maple Leafs (From Nashville)
Selection: Jake Debrusk
Rationale: Debrusk is a gifted goal scorer. He is an extremely fast skater. He backchecks very hard (unlike someone else in Toronto who shall remain nameless…) and is effective on the penalty kill. Offensively, his best feature is the dual-threat he presents, as he can beat you with a deadly shot, or make a tremendous pass.
- Winnipeg Jets (From Buffalo (From St. Louis))
Selection: Joel Eriksson Ek
Rationale: I see Eriksson Ek as one of the safest selections in the draft. He is very effective defensively, and plays a low-risk game. While his offensive output is not as elite as other players in the draft, he does have the skill to produce at a respectable pace. Having selected a higher-risk, high-reward type player in Svechnikov earlier, Eriksson Ek can make Winnipeg management satisfied with their first round selections. In my opinion, he projects as a solid bottom-6 forward, with the ability to move up the lineup when need be.
- Montreal Canadiens
Selection: Ryan Pilon
Rationale: Montreal needs to add to its core of defensive prospects and I believe Ryan Pilon is the best option. He is a true quarterback style defenceman. His stretch passes are as good as any other player in this draft. He skates well with and without the puck. He is dangerous from the point, whether he uses his slaspshot, or a very heavy wristshot. Defensively he is a work in progress. His positioning is sound, but his intensity needs to increase. The combination of his size, speed, and vision could allow him to develop into a very effective two-way defenceman, as opposed to simply being offensive.
- Anaheim Ducks
Selection: Daniel Sprong
Rationale: Sprong is a purely one-dimensional offensive player, but he is excellent at it. As Bob McKenzie once said “If you’re going to be uni-dimensional, scoring points is not a bad dimension to have”. (I could be wrong, but I believe he was referring to Anthony Mantha at the time.) Sprong is a great skater, with good vision and a good shot. Needs to avoid the skate-by and one-handed stick-check on defence.
- Tampa Bay (From New York Rangers)
Selection: Noah Juulsen
Rationale: A very well-rounded two-way defenceman, Juulsen does not show major weaknesses in his game. His skating will need to improve, but it is not problematic. He is a hard-hitting defenceman but is careful not to get caught out of position. He can contribute on the powerplay, as he has a rocket from the point.
- Philadelphia Flyers (From Tampa Bay)
Selection: Vince Dunn
Rationale: The Niagara IceDogs defenceman had a slow start to the season but was one of the best defencemen in the OHL during the second half and playoffs. He is the definition of an offensive defenceman, and thrives on carrying the puck and joining the rush. His skating is very strong and smooth. He has the ability to change speed, even with the puck, to give defenders problems. His passing is good, and he has been effective moving the puck on the powerplay. Defensively, he is surprisingly solid. He has a very good stick, which he uses to clog the lanes and hold the play to the outside. He is hard to beat one on one thanks to his quick feet. He has a tendency to cheat and be too eager to join the rush, which can occasionally leave him in a vulnerable position. With some coaching, he can be a useful player at the pro level.
- Arizona Coyotes (From Chicago)
Selection: Brandon Carlo
Rationale: He is a giant-sized defender with surprisingly quick feet. He is an imposing presence in his own zone. Arizona’s young defence core needs more physicality, and Carlo can be a solution. He will need a few years to develop, as most 6’5 defencemen do, but projects as an NHL caliber player. While he is not simply looking for the big hit, his size makes him a physical threat at all times. He is never shy to get into his opponents’ face, and play “dirty” when need be.
Enjoy tonight’s draft!