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NHL Entry Draft

2015 NHL Entry Draft – 1st Round Prospect Primer (Part 1)

Part 1 of our primer looks at all the prospects who likely won’t be available for the Jets’ pick at 17.

Note: Part 1 looks at all the prospects who likely won’t be available for the Jets’ pick at 17. 

Want to get a feel for who is available at the top-end of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft? Here’s a brief profile of the likely first-round selections:

Mitch Marner at the Combine

Mitch Marner at the Combine


(1) Connor McDavid (C)

Will be selected by: Edmonton

Comparable Style: None.

Simply put, McDavid is the best prospect since Mario Lemieux. At 6’1, and likely the best skater in the entire world, McDavid has incredible speed, balance, and power. He can turn on a dime – even at top-speed – and do things on his skates which no one else can do. He possesses equally tremendous hands, vision, and playmaking ability, which are reminiscent of Wayne Gretzky. He loves to attack his opponents at top-speed, which is nearly impossible for most of his peers (to date) to defend. Not only is he the best prospect in decades, but he’s so committed to overall excellence that he was also named the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year. While there really is no comparable for McDavid, one OHL coach was quoted as saying “he skates like Bobby Orr, handles the puck like Mario Lemieux, and has the vision of Wayne Gretzky.”

(2) Jack Eichel (C)

Will be selected by: Buffalo

Comparable Style: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim)

In most draft years, a team would be absolutely elated to get a player like Jack Eichel. And McDavid aside, some think Eichel is the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby in 2005. He absolutely ripped up the NCAA this past season, putting up numbers that haven’t been seen from a College Freshman since Paul Kariya in the early 90’s. Eichel is at least 6’2, and has an efficient, powerful skating stride. A right-handed shot, his play is somewhat reminiscent of Ryan Getzlaf, as his vision and playmaking ability are what set him apart. However, Eichel is more explosive than Getzlaf, and might be a better goal scorer too. Like McDavid, he’s the very definition of a franchise player, and many expect him to put up big numbers in the NHL, especially if paired with a good finisher.

(3) Dylan Strome (C)

Likely Draft Spot: 3-4

Comparable Style: Joe Thornton (San Jose)

The younger brother of Islander forward Ryan Strome, Dylan is a big centre who does most things very well. His game is based on skill, smarts, and his overall ability to make those around him better. While he’s not physically mature yet, he’ll be a handful once he fills out his 6’3 frame. Despite playing in the shadow of his Erie Otters teammate, Connor McDavid, it was actually Strome who led the OHL in scoring this season with 129 points. And while some attribute his offensive numbers to McDavid, both play centre-ice, so the two rarely played together. While Strome probably isn’t a franchise player like McDavid or Eichel, he certainly has the potential to be the big, first-line centre that every NHL team is looking for.

(4) Mitch Marner (RW)

Likely Draft Spot: 4-5

Comparable Style: Claude Giroux (Philadelphia)

Beyond the obvious players mentioned above, Marner is the most interesting player in the draft. He put up 2 points-per-game with the London Knights (OHL) this past season, and was in no way dependent on fellow teammate Max Domi for offence – Marner’s numbers were actually better while Domi was away at World Juniors. While he doesn’t have elite physical attributes like McDavid and Eichel – he’s just 5’11, and very slim – his vision and playmaking ability are nearly on par with “Mac and Jack”, and his overall skill level is well above most others in the draft. When the puck is on his stuck, he has a knack for creating scoring chances, seemingly out of nothing. He’s also a very good skater, which helps make up for his lack of size. In terms of pre-draft stats, only six top CHL prospects since 1997 have a better points-per-game average than Marner’s 2 points per game – Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Drouin, Jason Spezza, and Joe Thornton.

(5) Noah Hanifin (LD)

Likely Draft Spot: 3-5

Comparable Style: Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis)

Noah Hanifin is ranked among the top-5 draft prospects by almost every major scouting service, and is probably ranked at #3 more often than Mitch Marner or Dylan Strome. His dominant attributes are his size (6’3), and his skating ability, which is second to none among draft-eligible defencemen. However, the big question with Hanifin surrounds his upside, as his offensive contributions at the collegiate level were slightly underwhelming this past year. That has some people questioning whether he will ever become a true #1 defenceman, or if he’s more suited to a complementary role alongside a more skilled defenceman. All that said, chances are he’ll still be the first defenceman selected in this draft, as he seems like a near-lock to become a top-4 NHL defenceman who can play 20+ minutes per game.

(6) Ivan Provorov (LD)

Likely Draft Spot: 5-8

Comparable Style: Justin Faulk (Carolina)

Ivan Provorov is the best all-around defensive prospect in this year’s draft. While not physically imposing at a hair over 6’, no other defenceman has his combination of skill, smarts, and skating ability. He spent last season with Brandon in the WHL under the tutelage of junior hockey sage Kelly McCrimmon, and put up 61 points in just 60 games. And although he’s from Russia, it doesn’t appear that many people are concerned about the so-called *Russian factor – and they shouldn’t be, given that Provorov has already been in North America for three seasons, playing in the USHL when he was just 15.

*Some teams are reluctant to draft Russian players in case they choose the KHL over the NHL



(7) Zach Werenski (LD)

Likely draft spot: 7-10

Comparable Style: Ryan Suter (Minnesota)

Zach Werenski is a very good, all-around defenceman. While he doesn’t quite have the skill of Provorov, or the skating ability of Hanifin, he has size (6’2), smarts, and a good shot. He had an impressive freshman season at the University of Michigan, putting up 9 goals and 25 points in 35 games. He also played at the World Junior Championship along with Noah Hanifin – a rare feat for a 17-year-old defenceman. His upside is probably as a #2 defenceman, who can play in any situation and complement a variety of defensive partners.

(8) Pavel Zacha (F)

Likely Draft Spot: 6-11

Comparable Style: Patrik Berglund (St. Louis)

Prior to the season, most scouts had Zacha ranked in the top-5 – at 6’3, and a good skater, there was a lot to like. However, Zacha’s debut season with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting was pedestrian, as he scored just 34 points in 37 games. While the big Czech forward’s draft stock fell, it’s not because he played poorly, so much as other prospects displayed more upside. He did show good flashes – he’s a good finisher, who likes to tee-up one-timers from the right-circle, and he has the size and speed to go wide and drive the puck to the net. He’s also pretty committed defensively, and has been lauded for his character and attitude. Overall, Zacha may not there may not be as much upside to his game as some thought initially, but there isn’t much downside either.

(9) Mikko Rantanen (RW)

Likely draft spot: 7-12

Comparable Style: Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota)

Mikko Rantanen is the top-ranked player in this draft not playing in North America. Rantanen plays in the Finish professional league – the SM-Liiga – where he put up strong numbers for an 18-year-old – 28 points in 56 games. Rantanen uses great size (6’4) and speed to play an attacking style, always driving the puck to dangerous scoring areas. He was also Finland’s best player at the World Junior Championships this past year, scoring 4 goals in 5 games on a Finnish team that otherwise struggled to score. Rantanen doesn’t have the pure skill of many of the players ranked above him, but he would be a very nice piece for any team looking to add a big top-6 winger.

(10) Lawson Crouse (LW)

Likely draft spot: 7-12

Comparable Style: Milan Lucic (Boston)

If you’re looking for a power forward, look no further. While he’s 6’4, and already over 200 pounds, Lawson Crouse is nowhere near his NHL playing weight. As they say, “you can’t teach size”. But what’s even more impressive about Crouse is his hands. His obvious comparable is Milan Lucic –the big, rugged Boston Bruins winger – but Crouse probably has softer hands; he certainly has more impressive numbers than Lucic did at the same age. Crouse has already represented Canada at the World Junior Championships – a rare feat for a17-year-old Canadian – and scored 29 goals without much help on a Kingston team which struggled offensively. (He also led the team in points, with 51). Crouse looks like a strong bet to be a top-6 NHL winger, and would be a great complement to a highly skilled, playmaking centre, like Claude Giroux for example. (Philadelphia picks 7th).

(11) Mathew Barzal (C)

Likely draft spot: 8-13

Comparable Style: Ryan Strome (New York Islanders)

Barzal is among the most creative players available in this year’s draft. While not big at 5’11, he shows tremendous patience with the puck, as well as the vision, skating, and puck skills needed to make something out of nothing. Primarily a puck distributor, he’s the type of player who can create offence in any situation – even-strength, powerplay, and perhaps the penalty kill, once he rounds out his game. While his WHL season was hampered a bit by injury, (57 points in 44 games), he had a strong finish to the year, leading Canada in scoring at the Under-18 World Championships. He would fit well on any team looking for an offensive centre, and it’s hard to see him getting past Dallas and LA at picks 12 and 13.

(12) Kyle Connor (C)

Likely Draft Spot: 8-13

Comparable Style: Kyle Turris (Ottawa)

For a player ranked universally in the top-15, Kyle Connor remains a bit of a sleeper. That’s likely because he doesn’t play on the US Under-18 team like the majority of top US prospects, or even in the CHL. Instead, Connor plays in the USHL, where he has consistently impressed with a dynamic blend of speed, skill, and goal scoring ability. Connor is particularly dangerous in transition, as he has the speed and desire to attack the net, but he is also able to slow the game down and play a more patient game. While most scouting services have him ranked around 12 or 13, he is ranked as high as #5 by others. Like Barzal, expect Connor to be gone before the middle of the first round.

(13) Timo Meier (LW)

Likely draft spot: 9-15

Comparable Style: Milan Michalek (Ottawa)

Before last season started, Timo Meier wasn’t high on any scouting lists. But as the year went on, all he did was impress, and produce. When the season was over, he had scored 44 goals – tied for second-most among draft-eligible prospects with McDavid and Marner, and only one behind Dylan Strome. As a result, he made a steady progression up the draft rankings, until he had moved into the top-15 on virtually every scout’s list. Meier plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, where he was a great complement to the dynamic speed and skill of Jets’ prospect Nik Ehlers. While Meier doesn’t have tons of speed, or fantastic playmaking ability, he’s built solidly at 6’1, 210, and has the skill, smarts, and shot to perfectly complement players with high-end skill.


Coming later today – The Rest of the First Round