2015 NHL Entry Draft Primer

Will the 2015 NHL Entry Draft be one with Fireworks?

The upcoming 2015 NHL Entry Draft could be the most interesting and intriguing we have had in the last ten years.  Rumours are running rampart about teams trading players and picks.  There’s a lot of smoke but will there be fire?

Edmonton will select Connor McDavid and Buffalo will select Jack Eichel.  If not it would be a shock to many. I have watched both play and both players are phenoms in my opinion.  McDavid’s skating reminds me of the great Gilbert Perreault who ironically played for the Buffalo Sabres for seventeen seasons. Buffalo who might have felt like losers at the draft lottery will not be when they get to see Jack Eichel don the Sabre’s jersey with the number two pick.  He is a physical beast and will be a dominant player barring injury for the Sabres for years to come!

After the first two picks all bets are off.  This is where it might get interesting. Both Arizona and Toronto have stated they are interested sellers of their picks. Kyle Dubas of the Toronto Maple Leafs has stated they would be interested in stock piling more picks with a potential trade.  This is such a deep draft that it might make sense as you could still get a decent prospect later in the draft.

The other team to watch is the Edmonton Oilers.  With Peter Chiarelli as the new General Manager I expect to see him being aggressive with his later picks to add experienced players.  Defencemen and goaltenders are most likely to be on his radar and he has the prospects to trade to make it a possibility.

When I look at the prospective defencemen in this draft there are many that NHL teams will covet.  Where will Noah Hanafin be selected?  He’s a fabulous skater who some have rated highly while others not as much.  Where will other top rated defencemen such as Ivan Provorov, Zack Werenski, Jeremy Roy, Thomas Chabot, Oliver Kylington, Jakub Zboril, and Noah Juulsen be selected and by whom?

It is a deep draft defencemen wise but it’s just as deep with forwards.  One player who is generating a lot of debate is Lawson Crouse.  Projected by some scouts as the prototypical power forward while others do not rate him as high stating he has limited offensive capabilities.  One person in his corner is Doug Gilmour, General Manager of the Kingston Frontenacs who raves about his leadership qualities.  I would take that endorsement any day.

Forward prospects who I will be interested to see where they are picked include Timo Meier, the big Swiss Halifax Moosehead right winger, Mikko Rantanen the skilled Finnish center rated number 8 by International Scouting Services, and Pavel Zacha the powerful left-wing Czech who played for Sarnia in the OHL this season.

Nick Merkley2

WHT favourite Nick Merkley

Two other players of interest to me are Nick Merkley and Mathew Barzal.  Both are extremely skilled center ice prospects.  Mathew Barzal who played for the Seattle Thunderbirds is rated as a number 7 pick by International Scouting Services while they rate Nick Merkley who played for the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets is rated at 18.  I’m partial to Nick Merkley as I was sold on the kid after watching him in the Memorial Cup Tournament.  He’s a steal at number 18.

I would be ecstatic to see either one of these two selected by the Jets, but realistically both should be gone when the 17th pick rolls around.  I believe Calgary would take either player if available with their 15th pick, or even Edmonton if they kept their pick.

I think the Jets are in the market for skilled center or left wingers.  Evegeni Svechinkov, and Paul Bittner both big left wingers could be possible targets for the Jets.  Jansen Harkins the skilled center from Price George ( WHL) would be another player they might be interested in.  Left winger, Jake DeBrusk, the prolific scorer from the Swift Current Broncos is another player who is likely on the Jet’s radar.  Either way if the Jets use both picks they should pick up two skilled players.

This is such a deep draft with an added story to it.  There a are a number of small forwards who played extremely well this year in the CHL.  Which teams will take a chance on players like Connor Garland 5’8″ 168 lb. right-winger from the Moncton Wildcats who led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring.

Brad Morrison the 5’11” 160 lb. center from the Prince George Cougars is another player who has big upside but most likely will be passed over by many teams.  Anthony Richard is another small center who played for Val d’Or Foreurs and scored 91 points in 66 games.  I suspect most of these players will be selected in the later rounds but could turn out to be diamonds in the rough.

Why this draft is so deep this year is because of the rise of skilled players coming out of the United States Development Program and the United States Hockey League.  More and more American players are starting to get noticed and drafted by NHL teams.  Their junior teams are getting stronger every year and I believe they will be a force at the World Junior Tournament in Finland early next year.  The rise of skilled American players only helps the NHL going forward.

There has been a lot of coaching and GM changes in the NHL and whether we see big movements at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft or at free agency is still a guessing game.  We will see if this draft has some fireworks!

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