Welcome back to Top Shelf NHL Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day LWOS will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2015 Draft Articles click here.
The 2015 NHL draft lottery took a bit of a twist when the Edmonton Oilers won the first overall pick and the chance to get hockey’s next superstar in Connor McDavid. Many complained that Edmonton has picked first overall too many times already with no results to show for it while others are happy at the thought of McDavid playing for a Canadian team. As interesting as it will be to see McDavid drafted this June, the real intrigue lies with who is drafted after him.
The last place Buffalo Sabres expressed disappointment on losing the draft lottery as McDavid was the end goal after deciding to tank this year. While it is disappointing to lose out on drafting the Next One, American Jack Eichel is a pretty good “consolation” prize at second overall. Eichel looks like a franchise number one centre with his skill and size and recently won the Hobey Baker as college hockey’s top player, the first freshman to do it since Paul Kariya. Many would say that Eichel would be a lock for first overall in any other year.
McDavid and Eichel have been locked in as the top two picks for the last year and barring unforeseen circumstances, that won’t change. Although it gets interesting after the top two picks. The Arizona Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes round out the top five selections and all three stand to walk away with an excellent prospect. Arizona drops down to the third overall pick, and whoever they pick impacts them and the corresponding teams afterwards. The Coyotes already have a young blueline but the thought of an Arizona top defence pairing of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Noah Hanifin is downright tempting. Hanifin is already 6′ 3″ and 205 LBS (according to Hockey’s Future) with excellent mobility and did well as an underage freshman in college hockey with Boston College.
On the other hand, the Coyotes have been starved for offense for years and could be intrigued by centres Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters or Mitch Marner of the London Knights. Strome won the OHL’s scoring title just ahead of Marner and has the size (6′ 3″) teams crave out of number one centres. The thought of slotting in a top young centre between two promising wingers in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair would be scary for opposing teams and solve a lot of problems for the Coyotes.
Marner is the more offensively tantalizing player than Strome, but doesn’t have the size (5′ 11″) he does. However, despite the size bias that takes place, the NHL has evolved to benefit skilled players and size doesn’t truly matter, especially when watching Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau. Marner has drawn comparisons to current Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and has familiarity playing with Domi in London.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need a bit of everything at the draft after the year they had. They need a top flight defenceman so Hanifin alongside Morgan Rielly would be ideal. However, the Leafs have needed a number one centre since the departure of Mats Sundin. Strome is a local kid from Mississauga while Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter, who also co-owns the London Knights, has the connection with Marner.
The Carolina Hurricanes could end up with Hanifin, Strome or Marner or they could look towards power winger Lawson Crouse. Or they could even take a look at Russian defenceman Ivan Provorov to help out a weak Hurricanes blueline in need of more top end players if they don’t land Hanifin.
While the draft will no doubt be dominated by the hype of McDavid, the draft will be much more than that. The draft is one of the most interesting events on the NHL calendar due to the unpredictability and franchise changing decisions that are made. The 2015 NHL draft is one of the deepest classes in years but players are ranked differently depending on the scouting service and no team’s draft list ever looks the same. Seeing the “Next One” get drafted will be nice, but the real fun on draft day starts after him.