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Expert Analysis

2015 NHL Draft: First Round

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It has been a wild afternoon in the NHL as the Bruins picked up the 13th pick for Milan Lucic after they earlier traded Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for the 15th pick as well as a couple of second round selections. They owned the 14th pick heading into the draft and the rumor is that they are interested in defenseman Noah Hanifan and could trade up with their multiple picks.


Earlier, the Senators dealt goaltender Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand to Buffalo for the 21st overall selection.

 

Expect a lot more trading to go on in the first round.


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1. Edmonton Oilers - Connor McDavid (C) Erie

 

Connor McDavid is a once-in-a-generational talent who blends together the best skills of Hockey Hall of Famers at warp speed. He is blessed a 6’1, 190-pound frame, great character and an awesome array of moves that produced 169 points in just 67 games through the OHL regular season and playoffs. He is the catalyst for positive plays on every inch of the ice due to lightning-quick decision-making, a powerful stride, brilliant puck skills and his intuitive ability to find the open man or take his shot — no matter the quality or quantity of the defense he is facing. The Newmarket, Ontario-native appears to have the capacity to produce at over a point-per-game pace as a rookie and put together the type of career that ranks amongst the best of all time. His star power to the sport compares to what LeBron James brought to the NBA in 2003 and Andrew Luck brought to the NFL in 2012.

 

2. Buffalo Sabres - Jack Eichel (C) Boston University

 

Jack Eichel is the best consolation prize since the Pittsburgh Penguins snagged Evgeni Malkin second overall in the 2004 NHL Draft after Alex Ovechkin. The Chelmsford, Massachusetts-native has the size, speed and skill to single-handedly take the game up a notch every time he steps onto the ice. Coming off the most dominating NCAA season for a freshman since Paul Kariya in 1993, Eichel led Boston University to a conference title, led the nation in scoring with 71 points in 40 games and earned the Hobey Baker Award as the league’s best player. Highlighting Eichel’s deep collection of skills are his superior hockey IQ, his heavy shot, relentless work ethic and capable defensive prowess. The 18-year-old comes with all the trimmings of a franchise center and it's highly likely that we'll see him in the NHL next year.  

 

3. Arizona Coyotes - Dylan Strome (C) Erie Otters

 

Strome was the  OHL’s leading scorer (129 points in 68 games) and boasts a robust 6’3, 187-pound frame that has number-one NHL center potential written all over it. Strome thrives with the puck in open-ice and can find his teammates with his 360-degree vision, or finish off the play with his quick, accurate shot. While Connor McDavid was sidelined, Strome had a golden opportunity to prove he was not the byproduct of the projected superstar’s brilliance in Erie, and succeeded with 18 goals and 35 points in 21 games. Strome’s points-per-game dipped from two to 1.67 without McDavid, although for the most part the duo only played together on the power play anyways. Strome’s acceleration is a work in progress, as are his defensive game and physicality.  Although there is room for fine-tuning, the Missiauga, Ontario-native’s strength, puckhandling skills and creativity have spurred comparisons to some of the best centers in the game.

 

4. Toronto Maple Leafs - Mitchell Marner (C) London Knights

 

Marner stands out as an impact player in all three zones of the rink — and it’s not because of his frame. At 5’11, 163-pounds, Marner is a lightweight with a heavy dose of electrifying offensive talent that belongs in the top-five of any draft class, including this year’s special crop. With 123 points in 63 games for the London Knights this year, Marner proved to be a tremendously talented force with elite speed, vision, hockey sense, a finishing touch and the ability to make people around him better. He overcomes his lack of size with outstanding elusiveness and deceptiveness with the puck, and answers the call in his own zone and on the penalty kill. Marner needs to get bulkier and stronger, but he has the potential to become a top forward.  He's probably not going to play for Toronto next season, but he's a cornerstone of the franchise's rebuild.

5. Carolina Hurricanes - Noah Hanifin (D) Boston College

 

With a wide arsenal of NHL-ready skills, the two attributes that push Noah Hanifin on top of the pack are his size and skating abilities. At 6’2, 203 pounds, the Norwood, Massachusetts-native plays with tremendous composure and finished just five points shy of Boston College’s team scoring race as a 17-year-old (23 points in 37 games). Hanifin excels at rushing up the ice and distributing the puck, but he understands good offense also means good defense. As a result, his transition to the defensive game is exceptional, and as a rookie, he was relied upon for edgy play in his own zone. Hanifin projects to be a top-pairing NHL defenseman because he can dictate the play offensively, absorb and adapt to the game defensively and he rarely makes mistakes. He'll get every opportunity to make the big club out of training camp.

 

6. New Jersey Devils - Pavel Zacha (C) Sarnia

 

A challenging, inconsistent and injury-shortened rookie season in the OHL was not enough to drown out Zacha’s irresistible blend of size, speed and skill. The 6’3, 214 pounder may be a wild card due to his underwhelming results with Sarnia (34 points in 37 games) highlighting the Czech’s slow transition to North American style hockey. But with tender mitts and overwhelming grit, many scouts see this as a hurdle rather than a roadblock. Zacha’s dynamic stickhandling, blazing foot speed and booming shot parallel the tools of a top-line NHL scorer. His competitive drive is exceptional.  He wants to be a difference maker and play physical, but those factors resulted in him taking two suspensions last season totaling eight games. Zacha has an abundance of raw skills and thus, massive potential. But the 18-year-old has a lot to prove and overcome before earning an NHL roster spot.

 

7. Philadelphia Flyers - Ivan Provorov (D) Brandon

 

There are scouts who allege that Ivan Provorov is the best defenseman of the 2015 NHL Draft class, and the six-foot, 201-pounder certainly makes a case. Though he’s not as big or as fluid a skater as Noah Hanifan, Provorov’s strength, offensive talent and defensive ferocity have spurred comparisons to Duncan Keith and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Playing on the top pairing for the WHL’s most dominant team, Provorov notched 61 points in 60 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings and took charge of the power play and penalty kill. He’s quick, intelligent, poised under pressure and commonly leads to impact physical plays. Provorov’s adeptness on the rush, at the point and battling in his own zone should lead to him having a long NHL career.  Their Flyers' defense has been an ongoing issue for years and while they have made strides towards addressing that, Provorov is a big boost in that regard.

 

8. Columbus Blue Jackets - Zach Werenski (D) Michigan

 

Much like Connor McDavid overshadowed Jack Eichel, Zach Werenski has the tools to be a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL, but has been overshadowed by fellow American Noah Hanifin. Werenski joined the Michigan Wolverines as a 17-year-old and played big-time minutes. The 6’2, 214 pounder proved to be an intelligent game manager through his skating mobility and poise with the puck. Werenski is aggressive on the forecheck, which can sometimes lead to him overextending himself and forcing plays. But he didn’t look out of place on the American blueline at the World Juniors, and notched 25 points in 35 games for the Wolverines as the youngest player in the NCAA. Werenski has some attributes he needs to refine such as amping up his physicality, but he possesses the raw skill and compete level to be a top-flight NHL defenseman.

 

9. San Jose Sharks - Timo Meier (RW) Halifax

 

Meier is one of the more NHL-ready players from this year’s draft class and has the ability to step right into game action with his 6’1", 209-pound body. He played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL for the last two seasons and finished second on the team with 90 points (44 goals) in just 61 games last season. He also produced a franchise-record 23 power-play goals in 2014-2015. Meier can be a dominant winger and also play center to add versatility. He is a very bright player and is aware of game situations both in the offensive and defensive zone. The Swiss-born power forward was the highest-ranked player from the QMJHL and is particularly notable for his impeccable passes through traffic and hard, accurate shots on goal. He is the type of player you want on your team with his ability to create offense with his plethora of skill or shut down an opponent’s top line.

 

10. Colorado Avalanche - Mikko Rantanen (RW) TPS Turku (Finland)

 

Rantanen is an enticing package of size, intelligence, and skill who is always a threat to score while on the ice. The 18-year-old Finnish prospect skated for TPS Turku of the Finnish Elite League last season where he registered nine goals and 19 assists in 56 games. He is an exceptional playmaker and speedy skater but he doesn’t play a physical game despite his 6’4" frame. He rose to the number one ranked International skater in the Central Scouting final ranking prior to this year’s Draft. His style of play should fit in the NHL as he can protect the puck well and is difficult to check due to his size. In Rantanen, Colorado is getting a prospect that compares favorably to Ryan Getzlaf and Mikko Koivu in terms of upside.

 

11. Florida Panthers - Lawson Crouse (LW) Kingston 

 

At 6’4, 210 pounds, Crouse is amongst the biggest players in this draft and one of the most powerful. Though his 29-goal, 51-point output in 56 OHL games this season were below production standards for a top-10 forward pick, Crouse consistently made an impact by using his size, strength, positioning and puck skills. During the World Juniors, the London, Ontario-native proved to be a versatile two-way force, succeeding in his shutdown, bottom-six energy role with tournament champions. Crouse's prominence in the offensive zone is evident by his consistent ability to win physical battles, shield the puck, screen goaltenders and bury loose pucks. His NHL potential lies somewhere between a physical force on a top scoring line and a checking third-liner with offensive upside.

 

12. Dallas Stars - Denis Gurianov (RW) Lada Togliatti (Russia)

 

Gurianov is the prototypical Russian winger. He has great size, speed and skill and he has produced solid offensive numbers throughout his young career. The 6’2, 192 pounder had one assist in eight games with Lada Togliatti in the KHL, but had a fantastic season with the club’s junior team in the MHL where he posted 15 goals and 25 points in 23 games. The risk with Guryanov doesn’t necessarily appear on the ice. Like any Russian who’s attached to a KHL team, there’s always a risk that the player’s arrival in North America may be delayed or worse, he may never show up. If Gurianov is willing to come to North America, he has the potential to be the steal of the 2015 Entry Draft.  The Stars better hope so as they took a huge chance picking him at number 12.

 

13. Boston Bruins (via Los Angeles) - Jakub Zboril (D) Saint John

 

The Bruins acquired the 13th overall pick from Los Angeles as part of the Milan Lucic trade.  Zboril could be this year’s home run draft pick as he has the potential to be the complete package. He is one of the smarter players in the draft class and does all the little things right. The 6’2" Czech-born defenseman is not afraid to get nasty and has no problem defending his teammates as evident by his 73 penalty minutes in 44 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL last season. But don’t let that paint the full picture of who Zboril is as he tallied 13 goals, which is a franchise record for a rookie defenseman, and 33 points with a plus-two rating last season. The smooth skating defenseman has a never-ending motor, plays with poise and confidence and can even be a potential quarterback to power plays. Zboril’s biggest asset may be his positional play as he is very sound in all three areas of the ice.

 

14. Boston Bruins - Jake DeBrusk (LW) Swift Current

 

What DeBrusk lacks in size, he makes up for with hard work and the will to battle in the dirty areas on the ice. The 5’11," 170-pound left winger has a knack for scoring and finding open ice in the offensive zone. DeBrusk is a natural sniper who has exceptional creativity and individual skill with his greatest strength being his compete level. Even though the 18-year-old, Edmonton-born forward doesn’t play a physical game, he will out work his opponents and is able to put up some big time scoring numbers as evident by his team-leading 42 goals and 81 points scored for the Swift Current Broncos in 72 WHL games last season. The son of former NHL player, Louie DeBrusk, he can create havoc on the forecheck and force defenders into making poor, rushed decisions that lead to goals for DeBrusk. He is an ultra-competitive, two-way forward who could eventually turn into a Zach Parise-type player down the line for the Bruins.  

 

15. Boston Bruins (from Calgary)  - Zachary Senyshyn (RW) Sault Ste. Marie

 

Boston surprised many by selecting the 42nd-rated Senyshyn, who is a big, skilled winger with good hands and skating ability. The 6’2, 195 pounder spent his first full junior season with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2014-15, where he scored 26 goals and 45 points in 66 games. Those numbers may not stand out compared to other offensive-minded players in this draft class, but when you consider that Senyshyn played mostly in a bottom-six role on a stacked Greyhounds team, his production appears to be more than reasonable. The native of Ottawa, Ontario will surely need more time in the junior ranks, but we should see a sizeable spike in his OHL numbers next season. He appears to have all the tools to develop into a top-six winger at the NHL level, but it won't be this season.

 

16. New York Islanders (from Edmonton via Pittsburgh) - Mathew Barzal (C) Seattle

For Barzal, one of his greatest strengths is his lack of glaring weaknesses. As a playmaking center that is quick, smart with the puck and superb on defense, the six-foot, 183-pound Vancouver-native is an elite prospect despite missing 41 games to injury over the past two seasons. The small sample size hasn’t scared anyone off in predicting big things from Barzal, who has put up 107 points in 103 WHL games. Of the 57 points he scored in 2014-15, 45 were assists and 26 of those were primary assists. Barzal is a pass-first speedster who can be a force on either side of special teams. Scouts admire the pivot’s hockey I.Q, and warn his slick wrist shot could be just as lethal as his ability to distribute the puck. The Islanders traded defenseman Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton to get the 16th and 33rd overall picks and in Barzal they have gotten someone with top-six potential.

 

17. Winnipeg Jets - Kyle Connor (C) Youngstown (USHL)

 

The Jets have a great stable of prospects and were in a position to take the best player available. Connor is a gritty, two-way player who impresses with skating and quickness. He has played for the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms for the past three seasons and led all players with 80 points in 56 games last season. The 6'1", 177-pound winger is more of a playmaker than goal scorer as he averaged nearly an assist per game over the last two seasons with Youngstown. Connor has also made a name for himself internationally as he won gold with Team USA at the 2014 Under-18 World Junior Championship. During that tournament, the Michigan native scored four goals and three assists and tied for the lead with a plus eight rating in seven games. He has the potential to develop into an effective top-six forward in the NHL, but patience will be needed as he's committed to the University of Michigan for the 2015-2016 season.

 

18. Ottawa Senators - Thomas Chabot (D) Saint John

 

Chabot is a two-way defenseman with great size and excellent puck skills and mobility. The 6’2", 180-pound left-hander needs to bulk up in order to make it to the big stage, but has the potential to flourish into a very reliable all-around defenseman in the NHL. He has moved up the draft class ranks very rapidly and has quickly drawn lots of scouts’ attention. Chabot led all QMJHL blueliners with 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists) in 66 games last season and was able to improve his plus minus from a minus-29 in 2013-2014 to a plus-6 last season. In the 2015 Under-18 World Juniors, the Quebec native tied for the team lead among defensemen with five points in seven games. Chabot will need some more seasoning before he will make an impact in the NHL.

 

19. Detroit Red Wings - Evgeni Svechnikov (LW) Cape Breton

 

Svechnikov is an electric, confident winger who oozes with potential. His 6’2", 200-pound frame allows him to be aggressive on the forecheck and get physically engaged. The 18-year-old Russian is an incredibly talented and skilled winger who possesses slick skating and a lethal, accurate shot. Svechnikov came over from Russia in 2014 and played the 2014-2015 season with Cape Breton in the QMJHL where he was the team’s third leading scorer as a rookie. He amassed 32 goals and 78 points with 70 penalty minutes and a plus-19 rating in 55 games. He has adapted well to playing in North America and has learned the basics of the English language in just over a year. Svechnikov could develop into a deadly offensive threat in the NHL, but he shouldn't be expected to play at that level any time soon, especially seeing as Detroit loves to give its prospects plenty of development time in the minors.

20. Minnesota Wild - Joel Eriksson Ek (C) Farestads (Sweden)

 

Eriksson Ek is a player that moved up the draft boards very quickly over the past few months and finished the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranks as the fourth best skater among European players. He is a 6'2", 180-pound centerman who has a lethal shot and can be an offensive catalyst in the NHL for years to come. He uses his size well in tight situations and is a true power forward who is not afraid to go to the net and corners. Eriksson Ek can create scoring chances by using his size, puckhandling skills, and skating ability. In the 2014-15 season, he split time with Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League, where he scored four goals and two assists in 34 games, and their junior affiliate team, where he posted 21 goals and 32 points in 25 games. Eriksson Ek also represented Sweden at the Under-18 World Juniors and scored a team best five goals and six points.

 

21. Ottawa (from Buffalo via New York Islanders) - Colin White (C) NTDP (USA)

 

White is a strong two-way center who plays the game at a high level and can be an effective player even when he doesn’t have the puck due to his superior skating skills. The 6’0", 183-pound Massachusetts-born forward is highly regarded for making players around him better and his ability to play in both the offensive and defensive zones. White played for the U.S. Under-18 National team in 2014-2015 scoring 23 goals and 54 points in 54 games played. He also notched the gold medal-clinching goal in overtime to defeat Finland at the 2015 Under-18 World Junior Championships. During that tournament, he scored six goals and added three assists in seven games en route to the gold medal. He is committed to playing the 2015-2016 season at Boston College but he should be an impact NHL player down the road.

 

22. Washington Capitals - Ilya Samsonov (G) Magnitogorsk (Russia)

 

Samsonov is one of the top goaltenders in the 2015 Draft. The young Russian is big (6’3, 200 lbs) and technically sound for such a young player. The 18-year-old made his KHL debut this season with Magnitogorsk, where he allowed two goals in 21 minutes of action. Samsonov spent most of the year in the Russian Junior league, so he will definitely need more seasoning and development before he makes an impact at the NHL level.  Washington doesn't have any need to rush him given Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer's youth, but that being said Samsonov is reportedly locked into the KHL for another three seasons.  That's an awfully long time to wait to gain control of a first round pick and makes this pick a very big gamble in our minds.

 

23. Vancouver Canucks - Brock Boeser (RW) Waterloo (USHL)

 

Boeser has been compared by scouts to Patrick Sharp with his natural scoring ability and his accurate and quick shot release. He is a two-way power forward who is effective at finding open space on the ice and has the ability to create scoring chances off the rush by finding open teammates with his great vision and ability to read the play. The 6-foot, 195-pound, right winger has an excellent first step and is able to quickly start and stop on the dime creating separation among defenders. At the same time, scouts are looking for Boeser to improve his defensive zone coverage as well as his board play. He played for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in the 2014-15 season where he tied for the league lead in goals with 35 and finished third in points with 68 in 57 games. He is a complete player who has the potential to become an elite-level scorer in the NHL.

 

24. Philadelphia Flyers (from Toronto via Nashville) - Travis Konecny (C) Ottawa

 

Konecny is an extremely talented winger who has the ability to play center and has the determination to do anything to win a game. The 5’10", 172-pound forward has skated for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL the past two seasons where he scored a combined 55 goals and 138 points in 123 games. He was drafted first overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection draft and named the OHL’s Rookie of the Year in the 2013-2014 season. Konecny possesses above average hockey IQ, ultra-quick stickhandling skills, and a knack for scoring with his quick shot release. Combine that with his ability to play in all three zones of the ice and his willingness to play physical when needed and you’re looking at a potential game changer. Konecny will need some further time to develop before he makes his mark in the NHL. This could be a steal for the Flyers at number 24 as Konecny was as high as 11th on some lists.

 

25. Winnipeg Jets (from Buffalo via St. Louis) - Jack Roslovic (C) NTDP (USA)

 

Roslovic is a fierce competitor with incredible playmaking skills and has been known to be a pass-first type player. He is an explosive skater and uses his speed to create plays and get the puck into high traffic areas. At 6’0," 185 pounds, the centerman needs to bulk up a bit, but will have time to mature as he’s committed to Miami University of Ohio for 2015-2016. In 25 games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team last season, Roslovic scored 11 goals and 38 points playing on a line with 2016 highly touted prospects, Austin Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk. His stock has skyrocketed this season as he was ranked 52nd among Central Scoutings midseason North American Skater rankings and ended up climbing to the point where Winnipeg felt confident taking him with a late first round pick.  He is, as is the norm with picks at this point, a project, but could turn into a really solid contributor in the NHL in a few years.

 

26. Montreal Canadiens - Noah Juulsen (D) Everett

 

Going into the 2014-15 campaign, Juulsen had already shown that he was capable of playing a responsible defensive game, but he made great strides at the other end of the ice with nine goals and 52 points in 68 contests.  The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenseman still has a lot of growing to do with the puck though.  For example, while he has demonstrated some offensive creativity, he'll be expected to show growth in that regard.  He also needs to be smarter in that regard and quicker on the transition when he's carrying that puck.  That being said, he's capable of being a leader on the ice and he's willing to play a gritty game.  There's certainly enough there to make him worth keeping in the back of your mind even if he's likely at least a couple years away from being an NHL regular.

 

27. Anaheim Ducks - Jacob Larsson (D) Frolunda (Sweden)

 

Larsson is a 6’2," 192 pound, lanky defensemen who models his game after his favorite player, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Swedish born lefty is a smooth, mobile skater who makes smart plays and sees the ice well. He is an all-around defenseman who has high-end potential if he is able to bulk up and fill in his frame. Larsson spent the majority of the 2014-15 season with Frolunda’s junior team where he recorded eight goals and 11 assists in 30 games. He also played in 20 games with Frolunda’s top team last season, scoring a goal and two assists. On the international stage, Larsson was able to tally three assists in five games for team Sweden at the 2014 Under-18 World Juniors. His could be a solid top-four defenseman in the NHL down the line once he fills out a bit. Larsson will need more seasoning before he makes an impact in the NHL.

 

28. New York Islanders (from Tampa Bay via NY Rangers) -  Anthony Beauvillier (LW) Shawinigan

 

In order to get the 28th selection, the Islanders sent the 33rd and 72nd overall picks to Tampa Bay.  This is a well-traveled pick as it was originally the New York Rangers' and sent to the Lightning as part of the Martin St. Louis deal.  At just 5’10" and 175 pounds, Beauvillier is a slippery, tenacious, hard-working forward who possesses an impressive skill set and plays with a non-stop engine. He is an offensive scorer with above average puck-handling skills, hockey sense, and speed. Scouts have pointed out that he needs to work on his discipline and bulk up, but he is known for leading by example on the ice. He is a relentless forechecker and never quits on the play. The Quebec-native had 42 goals, 94 points, and 72 penalty minutes in 67 QMJHL games last season. He was also a very efficient centerman, leading the league in faceoff wins last season.

 

29. Columbus (from Toronto via Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) - Gabriel Carlsson (D) Linkopings (Sweden)

 

Carlsson is a big body, who is extremely smart in his own zone, but unlike fellow countrymen Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, he doesn't have much offensive upside. The 6’4, 183 pound Swede played for Linkoping in the Swedish junior league where he registered no goals, seven assists and 14 penalty minutes in 39 games. He also represented Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka (U18) tournament, where he registered one assist in five games. Although his ceiling might not be very high, he is an intriguing prospect because scouts know exactly what to expect from him at the next level. If he's able to improve his play with the puck even a little bit, he should be able to develop into a shutdown defenseman on an NHL roster.

 

30. Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago) - Nick Merkley  (RW) Kelowna

 

Merkley is an undersized forward with elite playmaking skills who can also play center at 5’10" and 187 pounds. He creates scoring chances as good as anyone in this year’s draft class and his work ethic is second to none. Merkley’s critics have said he is not the strongest skater, but due to his extremely high hockey IQ, he can be a valuable asset in the NHL similar to the way Tyler Johnson has become. Despite his small frame, he is still not afraid to do the dirty work by battling in front of the net and pick up scoring chances the hard way. He has spent the last three seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets and scored 90 points (20 goals and 70 assists) with 79 penalty minutes in 2014-2015. All-in-all, he is a player with high upside due to his exceptional puckhandling ability and decision making. Merkley could be a steal at number 30 as many experts had him ranked in the top 15.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 15th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.