Guest Post by Matt Kopnak
Ed Note: The NHL Draft is fast approaching and we all know Jack Eichel will be officially named a Buffalo Sabre on June 26. The rest of the first round has a fair share of intrigue surrounding it and Matt Kopnak (follow him @mattkopnak) took some time to hammer out a mock draft for 2ITB. He has a few interesting picks sprinkled in and this will serve as a great precursor to the Mock Draft Instigator Podcast that will be coming in the very near future.
Enjoy Matt’s mock draft and stay tuned for the upcoming Instigator Mock Draft Podcast Spectacular.
1.) Edmonton Oilers select Connor McDavid – C – Erie Otters
Height: 6’1 Weight: 187lbs GP: 47 G: 44 A: 76 PTS: 120
If you listed the characteristics of the perfect offensive hockey player, I am pretty sure Connor McDavid would check all the boxes. His speed is what will jump out at you, but I believe his ability to make others around him better, is what will benefit the Oilers most. Edmonton has amassed quite the stable of high end forwards. If McDavid can elevate Taylor Hall to a 40+ goal scorer and push Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down to the 2nd line, which will in turn make it harder for opponents to match up, the Oilers may finally start to climb the standings.
2.) Buffalo Sabres select Jack Eichel – C – Boston University
Height: 6’2 Weight: 194lbs GP: 40 G: 26 A: 45 PTS: 71
There are many reasons Eichel dominated college hockey, but the biggest is his combination of speed and power. Jack has the speed to carry the puck end to end and the power to keep the puck away from defenders. Modern NHL is all about possession, Jack Eichel is a dream center if your goal is to build a team that emphasizes controlling the puck and pace of play.
3.) Arizona Coyotes select Mitch Marner – RW/C – London Knights
Height: 5’11 Weight: 163lbs GP: 63 G: 44 A: 82 PTS:126
The London Knights benefitted greatly by having the best line in the OHL. Christian Dvorak, Max Domi and Mitch Marner all topped the 100 point plateau. The Coyotes have the rights to Dvorak and Domi already, might as well keep the band together. Marner is an offensive savant, who I think compares favorably to recent high draft picks Jonathan Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers. With the success of smaller players like Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau, teams may be more inclined to draft a player on pure skill alone.
4.) Toronto Maple Leafs select Dylan Strome – C – Erie Otters
Height: 6’3 Weight: 187lbs GP: 68 G: 45 A: 84 PTS: 129
Having the opportunity to select the top scorer in the OHL with 4th overall pick is something the Leafs cannot pass up. Dylan Strome is not a human highlight reel like McDavid, but his production speaks for itself. A poor mans John Tavares with more bite, Strome is a multifaceted centerman the Leafs will pair with Willie Nylander as the foundation of their rebuild.
5.) Carolina Hurricanes select Lawson Crouse – LW – Kingston Frontenacs
Height: 6’4 Weight: 212lbs GP: 56 G: 29 A: 22 PTS: 51
Noah Hanifin continues to tumble and the Canes take the most polarizing figure in this year’s draft. Crouse has all the physical tools of a future NHL power forward, but has yet to put it all together. The Hurricanes need to start to invest in top end forwards to match what they have defensively in their pipeline. Adding the only draft eligible player on Canada’s World Junior roster not named Connor McDavid is a good start. Sometime you need to swing for the fences and trust that your organization can develop a player properly.
6.) New Jersey Devils select Mathew Barzal – C – Seattle Thunderbirds
Height: 6’0 Weight: 181lbs GP: 44 G: 12 A: 45 PTS: 57
If someone asked me to describe the forward prospects in the Devils organization, I would say their pipeline is about as lush as the surface of Mars. New Jersey should be in full rebuild and the best way to start is down the middle. If not for a knee injury Mathew Barzal would be held in much higher regard. Barzal is a playmaker who will elevate the production of those around him.
7.) Philadelphia Flyers select Noah Hanifin – D – Boston College
Height: 6’2 Weight: 205lbs GP: 37 G: 5 A: 18 PTS: 23
Although the Flyers boast some nice defensive prospects in Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Sanheim they simply aren’t at the level of Hanifin. I liken Hanifin to Anaheim Duck’s defensemen Cam Fowler, he doesn’t have any one attribute that wows you, but he does everything well. Fowler fell down the board on draft day too and the Ducks reaped huge benefits from it. With the addition of Hanifin, the Flyers would have a very formidable top 4 waiting in the wings.
8.) Columbus Blue Jackets select Ivan Provorov – D – Brandon Wheat Kings
Height: 6’0 Weight: 201lbs GP: 60 G: 15 A: 46 PTS: 61
There hasn’t been tangible evidence from Ryan Murray that proves he will be a number 1 defenseman, so the Jackets hedge their bet by taking Provorov. Provorov exceeded expectations in his rookie season with Brandon. He was a huge factor in the Wheat Kings run to the WHL final. In today’s NHL you need mobile defensemen controlling pace of play from the backend, Provorov has the skills to do just that.
9.) San Jose Sharks select Zach Werenski – D – University of Michigan
Height: 6’2 Weight: 214lbs GP: 35 G: 9 A: 16 PTS: 25
I’m not sure if the Sharks are aware of it yet, but they are at the beginning of a rebuild. This is the start of the team moving away from Thornton and Marleau and moving towards Logan Couture. Werenski isn’t the forward I am sure San Jose would prefer, but his value at this position is too much for the Sharks to pass on. Werenski is the most raw of the “big 3” defensemen available in this draft, but he has the most upside. From an offensive standpoint you will be hard pressed to find a defensemen in the 2015 draft that has better tools than Zach Werenski.
10.) Colorado Avalanche select Pavel Zacha – C – Sarnia Sting
Height: 6’3 Weight: 214lbs GP: 37 G: 16 A: 18 PTS: 34
The Avs may be losing a top 6 forward in Ryan O’Reilly. Zacha is the next wave in the Czech revival that is slowly making its way over the hockey world. He underachieved in his rookie season with Sarnia, but has the size, strength and finish to be successful in today’s possession era of the NHL.
11.) Florida Panthers select Mikko Rantanen – RW – TPS
Height: 6’4 Weight: 209lbs GP: 56 G: 9 A: 19 PTS: 28
The Panthers tap into Finland again for another forward with size and skill. Rantanen may end up being a long developing prospect, but he could pay big dividends. I don’t envision him being a point machine, but that doesn’t mean he won’t impact the game. Rantanen plays 200 feet, isn’t afraid of high traffic areas and can score with a lethal shot when given the opportunity.
12.) Dallas Stars select Kyle Connor – C – Youngstown Phantoms
Height: 6’1 Weight: 183lbs GP: 56 G: 34 A: 46 PTS: 80
If you want to be a successful organization in the NHL you need to look at the big picture. Jason Spezza isn’t getting any younger and the Stars will need a number 2 center behind Tyler Seguin. Connor is an exceptional talent who can not only make plays off the rush using his great speed and shot, but he also has the hockey IQ and strength to be productive in the cycle game. The career timelines for Connor and Spezza match up perfectly, just as Spezza is ready to fade, Connor will be there to jump into his role.
13.) Los Angeles Kings select Timo Meier – RW – Halifax Mooseheads
Height: 6’1 Weight: 209lbs GP: 61 G: 44 A: 46 PTS: 90
So you say there is an offensive dynamo in Halifax? Stop me if you heard this before. Meier isn’t quite as flashy as his predecessors MacKinnon, Drouin and Ehlers, but the production is there. He is exactly what the Kings like, a big body who can play a heavy forecheck game, but can also fill the net. In my opinion Meier compares favorably to current King’s winger Tyler Toffoli.
14.) Boston Bruins select Paul Bittner – LW – Portland Winterhawks
Height: 6’4 Weight: 194lbs GP: 66 G: 34 A: 37 PTS: 71
Paul Bittner is looking at all the hype Lawson Crouse is getting and is saying “what about me?”. Bittner looks like a Bruin, 6’4 200 pounds who can skate and score. The detractors will knock him because of his line mates , but you can’t argue with a point per game production from a kid his size. The Bruins will need to be patient, but Bittner could be their next great power forward.
15.) Calgary Flames select Evgeny Svechnikov – RW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Height: 6’3 Weight: 205lbs GP: 55 G: 32 A: 46 PTS: 78
The young talent the Flames have is why I love this pick for them. Svechnikov has a bit of “do it yourself” attitude, but once he realizes he has quality teammates to play with he will truly take off. Bennett, Gaudreau, Monahan and Svechnikov for a decade is a very scary thought.
16.) Edmonton Oilers (from PIT) select Jakub Zboril – D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Height: 6’2 Weight: 185lbs GP: 44 G: 13 A: 20 PTS: 33
The Oilers are set at forward, what they need now is to keep the puck out of their own net. Zboril will bring physicality to the Edmonton defense corp, as well as mobility. In my opinion it is going to be the Oilers defense that will determine whether or not this team will ever make it out of the basement.
17.) Winnipeg Jets select Travis Konecny – C – Ottawa 67s
Height: 5’10 Weight: 172lbs GP: 60 G: 29 A: 39 PTS: 68
With a cupboard as stocked as the Jets they will sit back, relax and take the best player who falls to them. Konecny doesn’t have the size, but the former 1st overall pick in the OHL draft has skill and fire. I see a lot of Brendan Gallagher in his game , but with more offensive upside.
18.) Ottawa Senators select Nick Merkley – C – Kelowna Rockets
Height: 5’10 Weight: 187lbs GP: 72 G: 20 A: 70 PTS: 90
For teams that realize small players can play in the NHL, there is a gluttony of talents to be had. Merkley doesn’t have ideal size, but that didn’t stop him from playing on the top line for the eventual WHL champions. If the Senators pair Merkley with someone who can finish like Mike Hoffman, they will be very happy they didn’t pass on him because of height bias.
19.) Detroit Red Wings select Brock Boeser – RW – Waterloo Black Hawks
Height: 6’1 Weight: 192lbs GP: 57 G: 35 A: 33 PTS: 68
I should just write “Detroit Red Wings” as my analysis and leave it as that, but I’ll elaborate a bit. Boeser is a little raw, but that won’t scare off the Wings. He will play 3 years at North Dakota, 2 years in Grand Rapids and once the rough edges are gone he will be the scoring winger on Dylan Larkins right side for a decade.
20.) Minnesota Wild select Jansen Harkins – C – Prince George Cougars
Height: 6’1 Weight: 181lbs GP: 70 G: 20 A: 59 PTS: 79
Harkins will never be the Wild’s top line center, but he could develop into a nice utility player for them. Having someone with the ability to jump from a 2nd line scoring role, down to a 3rd line checking role is invaluable. This pick isn’t sexy, but Harkins’ hockey sense and bloodlines make it very safe.
21.) Buffalo Sabres (from NYI) select Thomas Chabot – D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Height: 6’2 Weight: 179lbs GP: 66 G:12 A: 29 PTS: 41
The Sabres have some of the best defensive prospects in all of hockey, but it would be a mistake not to continue to add to it. Sabres fans should think of Chabot as Mark Pysyk with more offensive flare. With his skating and vision he could very well be Buffalo’s future power play QB.
22.) Washington Capitals select Jake DeBrusk – LW – Swift Current Broncos
Height: 6’0 Weight: 176lbs GP: 72 G: 42 A: 39 PTS: 81
Outside of Andre Burakovsky, Washington’s organizational depth at left wing is shallow. When you look at the stat line, Jake DeBrusk’s goal total will jump out at you. A 6 foot, 40 goal scorer in the WHL, taken at 22nd overall sounds like a steal to me. Jake plays a game that will translate to the NHL, he isn’t afraid of the high traffic areas.
23.) Vancouver Canucks select Jeremy Roy – D – Sherbrooke Phoenix
Height: 6’0 Weight: 183lbs GP: 46 G: 5 A: 38 PTS: 43
Vancouver quietly has a lot of nice pieces coming. They are very deep down the middle with Horvat, Cassels and McCann. Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk are potential game breakers at wing. What they are missing though, is a puck mover of Jeremy Roy’s caliber. If you play in the west and don’t have a mobile defense, good luck.
24.) Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH) select Oliver Kylington – D – AIK
Height: 6’0 Weight: 181lbs GP: 17 G: 4 A: 3 PTS: 7
If you have the benefit of multiple first round picks, you have the luxury of taking a gamble with one of them. Kylington was once thought of as the top defensemen in this class. An optimist would say Kylington sounds like a young Erik Karlsson. He is an elite skater with offensive instincts few his age can rival. You will either love or hate this pick.
25.) Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF) select Colin White – C – USNTDP
Height: 6’0 Weight: 183lbs GP: 54 G: 23 A: 31 PTS: 54
A jack of all trades Colin White would look good in any NHL team’s pipeline. He is going to forecheck hard, win crucial draws and possibly match up against the other teams top scoring line. You need to have players like White when your team becomes a Stanley Cup contender.
26.) Montreal Canadiens select Daniel Sprong – RW – Charlottetown Islanders
Height: 6’0 Weight: 192lbs GP: 68 G: 39 A: 49 PTS: 88
What I like about Sprong is his solid two year production. He built off an impressive rookie year in Charlottetown. As we all know the Canadiens have a chance in every game because of Carey Price, but they need to give him some run support. The drafting of Daniel Sprong will give Montreal a dynamic scoring wing to a prospect pool that desperately needs it.
27.) Anaheim Ducks select Joel Eriksson Ek – C – Farjestad
Height: 6’2 Weight: 185lbs GP: 34 G: 4 A: 2 PTS: 6
Like most Swedish players intelligence is high on the list of what Eriksson Ek brings to the table. What separates him though, is how physically developed he is. The Anaheim Ducks are a team of linebackers on skates. He will be about to play the heavy game the ducks love.
28.) Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR) select Filip Chlapik – C – Charlottetown Islanders
Height: 6’1 Weight: 183lbs GP: 64 G: 33 A: 42 PTS: 75
Tampa Bay is the standard that all other teams should be striving for. I believe they are poised to have Blackhawks like dominance in the upcoming years. Chlapik fits the mold of a Lightning draft pick, high skill with hockey sense to match. With their prospect pool being so deep, Chlapik will have the ample time to fully develop. Think Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist’s career timeline in Detroit.
29.) Arizona Coyotes (from CHI) select Brandon Carlo – D – Tri-City Americans
Height: 6’5 Weight: 185lbs GP: 63 G: 4 A:21 PTS: 25
Carlo is exactly what scouts look for, a big right handed defensemen who can skate. Outside of Brandon Gormley (will he ever make it?) the Coyotes defensive prospects leave a lot to be desired. Carlo won’t be a catalyst for Arizona offensively, but he could be the stay at home defensemen that allows his partner to rush up ice.
30.) Philadelphia Flyers (from TBL) select Thomas Novak – C/LW – Waterloo Black Hawks
Height: 6’0 Weight: 181lbs GP: 46 G: 14 A: 34 PTS: 48
Other than Scott Laughton I am not crazy about what the Flyer have coming in way of forward. Novak’s game may take some time to advance, but with his offensive skill set it will be worth the wait. Heading to Minnesota in the fall, Novak will rely on the tutelage of head coach Don Lucia, which has worked well for NHL hopefuls in the past.
31.) Buffalo Sabres select Anthony Beauvillier – C/LW – Shawinigan Cataractes
Height: 5’10 Weight: 176lbs GP: 67 G: 42 A: 52 PTS: 94
The Sabres land a dynamic offensive player with 1st round ability. Beauvillier can do it all and the jump in production from his rookie to sophomore season proves it. The former 2nd overall pick in the QMJHL draft is blessed with smooth hands, a deceptive shot and tireless on ice work ethic. If the Sabres want to model themselves after the Tampa Bay Lightning, picks like this will eventually put them on that level.