1. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, C. Not much to say here. The Oilers will pick the generational talent from the Erie Otters.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel, C. Barring a cognitive meltdown, it’s safe to say Sabres’ GM Tim Murray will be calling Mr. Eichel’s name with the No. 2 pick. Hard to be upset about missing out on McDavid when this guy is your consolation prize. While McDavid has slick hands and agility, Eichel beats you with speed and strength up and down the ice.
3. Arizona Coyotes: Noah Hanifin, D. Despite the wide-spread belief that Dylan Strome should be the No. 3 pick , I believe the Arizona Coyotes have a plethora of young forward talent (Domi, Duclair, Letunov, MacInnis, Rieder, Samuelsson, Perlini) and need a defenseman more than anything, as their depth chart looks paper thin after Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Hanifin is expected to be NHL ready by the start of the 2015-16 season and is the perfect stud defenseman to partner with OEL.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Dylan Strome, C. I believe the Leafs will take the “best player available” approach in this year’s draft and take Connor McDavid’s partner in crime, Dylan Strome. Were it not for a couple guys named McDavid and Eichel, I feel as though Strome would be the No. 1 pick, hands down. He’s big, strong, skilled, and hockey smart. Also believed to be NHL ready, Strome could push either Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri out of a job.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Lawson Crouse, LW. If Canes’ GM Ron Francis is being truthful about wanting to retain the services of Eric and Jordan Staal, then Lawson Crouse will be the No. 5 pick. At 6’4”, 215 lbs, Crouse is a big framed power forward who plays much like Jamie Benn or Max Pacioretty. Unlike those two gentlemen, however, Crouse loves to play the body and has dropped the gloves on many occasions. He plays a complete game and will be a great addition to a future line including Elias Lingholm and Jeff Skinner.
6. New Jersey Devils: Ivan Provorov, D. Devils’ new GM Ray Shero has indicated that his team will be choosing the best player available with the 6th pick. Despite needing an injection of young forwards into his club, if Ivan Provorov slips to No. 6, I believe he will be the best player available. He plays like PK Subban without the flash and cockiness; solid and physical defensively, but has no problem jumping into or creating a rush with his skill. Having a strong offensive defenseman to pair with Adam Larsson is nothing to snub your nose at.
7. Philadelphia Flyers: Mitch Marner, C. If Philly keeps the 7th pick, they will also take the “best player available” approach, and with Provorov being scooped up and the Flyers having an unfair cache of young defensive prospects anyways, they will select Mitch Marner. Marner’s small size will see him drop a few spots, but in the new era of the NHL, players such as Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Detroit’s Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist are proving that you don’t have to be big to be successful in today’s game, and Marner has enough skill, speed and agility to do just that and more.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Mikko Rantanen, RW. Columbus is pretty set up the middle with Johansen as the No. 1 for the forseeable future, and Alex Wennberg and William Karlsson waiting in the wings. Where they lack is on the wing; David Clarkson is buyout bait and Cam Atkinson has been mentioned in recent trade rumors, so look for GM Jarmo Kekelainen to choose he fellow countryman MIkko Rantanen. Rantanen always seems to be within 6 feet of the net, and uses his size to win battles and pounce on loose pucks. He has a wicked shot and would look good beside Johansen and Jenner.
9. San Jose Sharks: Pavel Zacha, C. Joe Thornton will be 36 by the time the puck drops to start the NHL season, and had an awkward public dispute with GM Doug Wilson earlier in the year. With the Sharks looking to get younger and to avoid further distractions, they will select the big Czech at 9 overall. Zacha is a shoot-first centerman with size and skill, who likes to park himself along the half wall and fire home bombs, like a bigger Mike Cammalleri.
10. Colorado Avalanche: Zach Werenski, D. Although Matthew Barzal will still be available at 10, Colorado has a nice 1-2 for the forseeable future in Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly (assuming he isn’t dealt prior to this pick) and have a glaring need for defensemen on their depth chart. Werenski is a solid two-way defenseman with great reach and strong ability to block shots. On the offensive side of the puck, he uses his big frame to shield defending players and likes to put the puck on net.
11. Florida Panthers: Timo Meier, RW. The Panthers are going to go off the board with pick No. 11, as long as they don’t trade down. Timo Meier is a kid who could surprise everybody next fall and make the Panthers right out of training camp. He’ll be 19 years old at the start of the season and he’s already 6’1”, 209 lbs. He has an NHL shot and great vision, and he also doesn’t mind taking a hit or driving the net to make a play. Would look great beside Alexsander Barkov.
12. Dallas Stars: Matthew Barzal, C. Although the Stars already have Tyler Seguin as their franchise No. 1 centerman, it gets pretty thin after that, as Jason Spezza isn’t a kid anymore and his production has been on the decline, and no heir apparent to the No. 2 throne. Barzal was projected to go top 10, so Stars’ GM Jim Nill will pounce on him if he gets to 12.
13. Los Angeles Kings: Colin White, RW. The Kings only have 2 right wingers under contract next season: 30 year old Dustin Brown, whose best offensive days are most likely behind him and 33 year old Marian Gaborik, who has a notorious injury history. White might need to put on 10-15 pounds before he can play in the big, fast Western Conference, but should be a bright part of LA’s core with Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Drew Doughty and Derek Forbort.
14. Boston Bruins: Kyle Connor, C. Connor is a strong two-way forward who fits the Bruins mold nicely. He plays a smart defensive game but can still score with a deadly accurate shot. Patrice Bergeron and David Krecji have the current 1 and 2 spots locked down, but won’t be around forever and with Carl Soderberg not returning, Connor could make the club next season in a 3rd or 4th line role, but may be better suited to spend another year in junior or his first pro season in Providence.
15. Calgary Flames: Paul Bittner, LW. The Flames are set up the middle for the next 7-10 years with Monahan, Bennett and Backlund, and, although the d-core is aging, the Flames could use a little size and toughness on the wing to help make room for the aforementioned centers. Bittner is 6’4”, 204 lbs and uses his big frame and serious puck handling skills to park in front of the net and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck either.
16. Edmonton Oilers: Thomas Chabot, D. Everyone knows the Oilers need defense and goaltending help, and after drafting McDavid 1st overall, could address one of those needs at 16 overall. Chances are they trade the pick, but if they can’t get a suitable deal, will pick the defenseman before the goaltender. Chabot is 6’0”, but still needs to add some weight before he can make a difference in the NHL’s tough Western Conference, especially on a defensive-lacking Oilers team, so after another year in junior, Chabot could be a nice addition beside Darnell Nurse, Martin Marincin and Justin Schultz.
17. Winnipeg Jets: Travis Konecny, C. Despite being ranked No. 12 by ISS, Konecny should slip a bit due to his size, but, like Mitch Marner, should still be able to make a strong impact at the NHL level. The Jets will take the best player approach and scoop Konecny up at No. 17.
18. Ottawa Senators: Jakub Zboril, D. Ottawa has a great group of young forwards and has so much goaltending talent that they’re shopping two of them. The Sens should look for defensive help because after Karlsson, Methot and Ceci, nobody else is top 4 material. Zboril might be a big boy at 6’almost 1”; he’s 184 lbs, which is meaty for an 18 year old, yet should still take a year or 2 to add 15-20 pounds so he can play his hard-nosed defensively solid game at the NHL level and round out Ottawa’s top 4.
19. Detroit Red Wings: Joel Eriksson Ek, C. The Red Wings organization has always had a way with the Swedes, and this year will be no different. With Pavel Datsyuk (37 in July) and Henrik Zetterberg (35 in early October) well past their prime and starting to slow down, the Wings need to start to replenish their prospect pool at the center position, as the wings and defense are well stocked. Detroit could also surprise people and choose a goalie, but the safe bet is that they take big Eriksson Ek to fill the void up the middle once Datsyuk and Zetterberg are gone.
20. Minnesota Wild: Ilya Samsonov, G. Minnesota has 2 goalies under contract next season, but neither Nicklas Backstrom nor Darcy Kuemper were anywhere near outstanding last season, so look for Minnesota to grab a goalie short term for another playoff push, but they still want to look to the future and might just go off the board and grab the best goaltender available in the draft. Samsonov is a big body but still has great side to side movement without drawing himself out of position, much like Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.
21. Buffalo Sabres: Evgeny Svechnikov, RW. After drafting Jack Eichel 2nd overall, Buffalo now has Eichel, Reinheart, Grigorenko, Girgensons, Hodgson and Ennis up the middle, while also possessing a large amount of defensive prospects in Ristolainen, Zadorov, and McCabe. What they need, besides a goaltender, is players to flank the above-mentioned centermen. Sabres’ GM Tim Murray obviously isn’t afraid of the Russian factor and bringing in Svechnikov would provide some much needed scoring in the next 2-3 years. I would actually expect Buffalo to trade this pick to either move up and select Samsonov, or trade it outright for a proven, yet still young goaltender with potential to guide this team in the right direction, such as New York’s Cam Talbot or Ottawa’s Robin Lehner. Should they decide to keep the pick and take Svechnikov, Kari Ramo looks to be available through free agency this summer as a backup plan.
22. Washington Capitals: Denis Guryanov, RW. The Capitals could look, once again, to Russia to shore up their depth on the wing. Assuming Mike Green returns and GM Brian MacLellan doesn’t move a defender, the cupboard is stocked in that position, and goaltending isn’t an issue for the forseeable future with Brayden Holtby coming off a breakout campaign. This should cause Washington to go for a forward, and at 22 overall, Denis Guryanov is a big, left handed shot that would pair up nicely with Evgeni Kuznetsov or Andre Burakovsky.
23. Vancouver Canucks: Jeremy Roy, D. Vancouver’s defense corps is aging and they don’t have much in the prospect pool besides Ryan Stanton and Jordan Subban. Jeremy Roy is a big, mobile, two-way defenseman who shoots the puck and doesn’t mind skating it up the ice. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are on the decline and Roy could take over a top 4 spot within 2-3 years.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brandon Carlo, D. After missing out on Hanifin and taking Dylan Strome with the 4th overall pick, the Leafs decide to shore up their defense by selecting 6’5” Brandon Carlo. Carlo is a tough customer who loves to drop the gloves, but still has very good mobility and puck moving skills. Could complement Morgan Rielly nicely.
25. Winnipeg Jets: Jansen Harkins, C/LW. A big, versatile power forward with smooth hands and a wicked shot, Harkins could some time fill the void left by one Evander Kane.
26. Montreal Canadiens: Daniel Sprong, RW. Montreal’s biggest need is big scoring wingers, and Sprong fits that bill perfectly. He’s a 6 foot, 180 lb sniper with great foot speed and slick stich handling abilities. Needs to put on 10-15 pounds and work on his defensive game, but could complete a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Nikita Scherbak in the future.
27. Anaheim Ducks: Jake Debrusk, LW. Debrusk has good foot speed and a strong wrist shot, but needs to gain at least 15 lbs before he can think about cracking the Ducks lineup.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jeremy Bracco, RW. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman has done a great job of building his lineup, as he has great talent from top to bottom, so the Lightning will go with the best player approach, with Jeremy Bracco being the highest rated player remaining in the first round. Yzerman has taken chances in the late rounds in the past, but taking a chance on the diminutive Bracco in this year’s first round could pay dividends for the Lighting in the future.
29. Philadelphia Flyers: Mackenzie Blackwood, G. The Flyers have limited goaltending beyond Steve Mason, who has had ups and downs his entire career, so Philly could look to the highest ranked North American Goaltender a few spots sooner than expected.
30. Arizona Coyotes: Noah Juulsen, D. Despite taking Noah Hanifin 3rd overall, Arizona sticks with the defense in the first round and grabs a second Noah with the last pick to conclude the first round.