Preface: These rankings are based upon talking to fans who watch these prospects, analysis from various amateur scouts, and my own personal viewing of these players. A prospect must have played less than 55 games in the NHL to be considered in the ranking.
- New York Rangers
The Rangers are clearly in win now mode, and the status of their prospect pool reflects just that. The Rangers traded their first round pick in the Martin St. Louis deal to Tampa Bay, and were left with the 41st pick where they select left winger Ryan Gropp. Gropp had 58 points in 67 games last season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL and looks to be a middle six forward with some speed and size. Outside of Gropp, however, the Rangers have prospects like Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei, but really lack that elite prospect in their group.
Top Prospect: Ryan Gropp, Middle 6 Potential. Comparable: Matt Beleskey.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
With the recent acquisition of Phil Kessel, the Penguins have depleted their prospect pool to a miserable state. They lost a first round pick this year in the David Perron trade, next year’s first round pick in the Kessel trade, top forward prospect Kasperi Kapenen and defenseman Scott Harington in the Kessel deal. Young puck moving defenseman Derrick Pouliot tops the prospect chart for the Penguins, although it looks like he will graduate next season and play full time with the Penguins. They added diminutive forward Daniel Sprong with their second round pick, who was a projected first round pick who fell on draft day. The Penguins hope Sprong pans out to be a top 6 forward with his skill and speed, but the focus is clearly on the present in Pittsburgh.
Top Prospect: Daniel Sprong, Boom or Bust Prospect with Top 6 Upside. Comparable: Jaden Schwartz.
- New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils added a huge piece to their prospect pool in the form on center Pavel Zacha from the Sarnia Sting with the 6th selection in last weeks’ draft. The Czech center has great size at 6’3 and 212 pounds, and has the speed and skill to make him an elite forward prospect. The knock on Zacha has always been his inconsistency, which has really plagued his ability to dominate games for long periods of time. Zacha will need to find a way to become a more consistent player if he wants to be an elite centerman in the NHL. Outside of Zacha however, the Devils look incredibly weak, with goalie prospect Mackenzie Blackwood and Damon Severson being the notable prospects in goal and defense respectively. The Devils will look to bolster their prospect pool under new GM Ray Shero in the coming years.
Top Prospect: Pavel Zacha, Potential Top Line Center, Likely Top 2 Winger. Comparable: Evgeni Malkin (Stylistically).
- Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild took center Joel Eriksson Ek from Färjestad in the SHL with the 20th pick in last week’s draft. Eriksson Ek has good size, has good offensive skill, is willing to battle at both ends of the rink, but is projected to be a middle six center, comparable to Thomas Plekanec of the Canadians. They also have winger Alex Tuch, who plays a real strong, powerforward game. Tuch had a decent but not impressive year at Boston College with 14 goals and 14 assists in 37 games. Tuch could be a top 6 forward in the NHL, but I believe he pans out as a great third line winger in Minny. Beyond Tuch and Eriksson Ek, there is not much depth there, and GM Chuck Fletcher will look to continue to grow the pool in the future.
Top Prospect: Joel Eriksson Ek, Potential 2/3 Center. Comparable: Thomas Plekanec.
- Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings dealt away the 13th overall selection in the 2015 draft in a package for powerwinger Milan Lucic. The Kings will look to be back in the playoffs this coming season, and will look to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Kings have a fine prospect in Adrian Kempe who they drafted in 2014 29th overall. He played extremely well for the Monarchs in the Calder Cup playoffs as a rookie, and looks to spend another year in the AHL for development. Center Jordan Weal had a terrific playoff run, as the skilled winger scored 22 points in 19 games and looks to be a skilled forward for the Kings in the future with some top 6 potential. Big winger Valentin Zykov had a disappointing year in the QMJHL, and the Kings will look for him to rebound next season.
Top Prospect: Adrian Kempe, Potential 2nd Line Left Wing. Comparable: David Perron.
- Chicago Blackhawks
Skilled forward Teuvo Teravainen is an elite prospect in every sense of the world. Smooth skating, elite vision, and terrific passing make Teravainen a dynamic offensive forward. Teravainen showed his worth during the Blackhawks’ past Stanley Cup run, scoring 10 points in 18 games. Teravainen projects to be a top 2 winger in the NHL, and stylistically compares to Ales Hemsky. Beyond Teravainen, the Hawks have recent first round pick Nick Schmaltz and defenseman Ville Pokka in the system. GM Stan Bowman has done a good job of keeping the prospect pool relevant while maintaining his championship roster in the NHL.
Top Prospect: Teuvo Teravainen, Projection: Top 2 Winger, Comparable: Ales Hemsky.
- St. Louis Blues
The Blues have a very deep prospect pool, and that plays to their advantage in these rankings. Robbie Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev are both very good prospects. Barbashev in particular, should not have slid to the 2nd round in the draft. Fabbri had a strong season in the OHL, scoring 51 points in 30 games for the Guelph Storm. He has top 6 upside, and showed, albeit in a small sample size, the ability to score at the pro level with 4 points in 3 games in the AHL. They have goalie Jordan Binnington and forward Ty Rattie who may turn out to be quality NHL talent. GM Doug Armstrong has done well here with late round picks to develop a well-rounded prospect pool.
Top Prospect: Robbie Fabbri. Projection: 2nd Line winger, Comparable: Zach Parise (Stylistically).
- Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers will feel like they got lucky when winger Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs fell to them at pick 11 in the 2015 draft. Crouse was widely regarded as a top 5 pick in the draft, but scouts questioned his offensive upside when he only posted 51 points in 56 games this past season. I however, believe his all-around game will really fit well in Florida. Crouse plays a man’s game, standing 6’4 and weighing 212 pounds, Crouse plays a physical game while playing an excellent defensive game. Crouse’s offense will come when playing on a skilled Florida team, and I compare him to Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets. Florida’s pool ranks so low simply because their elite young talent are already playing in the NHL. Alex Petrovic looks to be a decent prospect for the Panthers in the future, but Florida’s future is bright regardless.
Top Prospect: Lawson Crouse, Potential All-Around Top Line Left Wing. Comparable: Andrew Ladd.
- Ottawa Senators
In all fairness to the Ottawa Senators, much of their young talent such as Mark Stone, Curtis Lazar, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have graduated to full time NHL players, so their prospect pool looks a little depleted. The Senators had two picks in the first round of last week’s entry draft, with the second one coming via the Robin Lehner deal with the Sabres. With the 18th pick, they selected defenseman Thomas Chabot from the Saint John Sea Dogs. Chabot plays a strong two-way game and has top 4 potential at the NHL level, playing stylistically similar to Keith Yandle. With the 21st pick the Sens took center Colin White from the USHL, and he projects to be a middle six center in the mold of Ryan Kesler. Beyond these two however there is a bit of a talent drop off, with right winger Nick Paul projected to be the next best prospect.
Top Prospect: Thomas Chabot, Projection: Top 4 Defenseman, Stylistic Comparison: Keith Yandle.
- Montreal Canadiens:
Montreal’s prospect pool is clearly all about quantity and depth. They lack that elite prospect that other teams may have, but have some very good prospects in the system. The top ranked prospect in the pool is forward Nikita Scherbak of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. Scherbak had a good 2014/2015 season, scoring 82 points in 65 games, and looks to be a 2nd line winger in the NHL. The Canadiens took defenseman Noah Juulsen with their first round pick this year, and he looks to be a #4/5 defenseman in the mold of James Wisniewski in the future. They also have Charles Hudon who did very well in his first pro season, and defenseman Jared Tinordi in the system.
Top Prospect: Nikita Scherbak, Projection: 2nd line Winger, Stylistic Comparison: Marian Gaborik.
20. Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche selected big Finnish winger Mikko Rantenen with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. Rantenen plays a heavy two-way game and has very good offensive capabilities. He projects to be a top line winger in the NHL and resembles Marian Hossa very well to me. The Avs also drafted center Conner Bleackley with the 23rd overall pick last year, and he projects to be a third line center comparable to Nick Bonino in the NHL. They round out their top prospects with defenseman Chris Bigras, who looks to be a #4/5 defenseman in the NHL. The Avs improved their prospect pool a lot with the addition of Rantenen, but it is clear that the Avs’ best young talent is with the big club
Top Prospect: Mikko Rantenen, Projection: 1st line Winger, Stylistic Comparison: Marian Hossa.
- Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators’ prospect pool is clearly built around skill, and not size. The Preds traded away their first round pick this year in the trade deadline deal with the Leafs, but their prospect pool still remains respectable because of skilled players such as 2014 11th overall pick Kevin Fiala. The small Swiss forward has elite skill, with very good stickhandling, skating, and vision. He possess game breaking offensive talent, and has the ability to be a Jonathan Huberdeau type player in the NHL. Fiala will need to add some strength to his game, but his 20 points in 33 games in the AHL shows he could make the jump to the NHL next season. Beyond Fiala, the Preds have recently drafted center Yakov Trenin, goalie Juuse Saros and forward Vladislav Kamenev to round out the skilled prospect pool.
Top Prospect: Kevin Fiala, Projection: #1/2 Winger, Comparable Jonathan Huberdeau.
- San Jose Sharks
With the 9th overall selection the Sharks took Swiss winger Timo Meier from the Halifax Mooseheads. Meier plays a strong two way game with very high end offensive skill, and is a very hardworking player. I believe he has top line winger potential, and compares to Gabriel Landeskog stylistically. Meier had a terrific year in the QMJHL, scoring 44 goals in 61 games, and could crack the Sharks’ roster come September. Apart from Meier, the Sharks selected defenseman Jeremy Roy 31st overall last week, and he was seen as a bit of a faller. I believe he is similar to Calgary defenseman T.J Brodie in that he plays a strong two way game and has good offensive instincts. He has the potential to be a top 4 defender, but I believe he is more likely to become a number 4 defenseman in the NHL. The Sharks also have winger Nikolai Goldobin (selected 27th in 2014), a very speedy winger with great skill who projects to be a top 6 forward. GM Doug Wilson has done a very good job of stockpiling prospects here.
Top Prospect: Timo Meier, Projection: Top Line Winger, Comparable: Gabriel Landeskog.
- Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames’ prospect pool is depleted for good reason- their NHL team has one of the best young cores in the NHL. The Flames lost top prospect Johnny Gaudreau to graduation- but he lit up the NHL in his first season with the Flames. The Flames however have top prospect Sam Bennett in the system, and we got a good look at him during the 2015 playoffs, where he played exceptionally well for a rookie. Bennett plays a good two way game with grit, but has very good offensive capabilities as both a passer and a shooter. Bennett projects to be a first line forward, likely a center in the NHL, and is comparable to Doug Gilmour. The Flames traded away their first round pick, and both their second round picks in a trade to acquire stud blue liner Dougie Hamilton- a terrific trade for the Flames and their defensive core. They did however, pick extreme faller Oliver Kylington with the 60th pick in the draft. Kylington, a projected top 10 talent at the beginning of the year, fell drastically in his draft year due to a combination of poor performance and concerns about his hockey IQ. The Flames got terrific value in Kylington at 60, and GM Brad Treliving should be commended for maintaining such a quality talent pool.
Top Prospect: Sam Bennett, Projection: First Line Forward, Comparable: Doug Gilmour.
- Boston Bruins
Boston made a splash at the 2015 draft, selecting three spots in a row, at 13, 14, and 15. The results of these picks however, were largely disappointing. The Bruins took defenseman Jakub Zboril, winger Jake DeBrusk, and off the board pick Zachary Senyshyn successively. Had they taken however, a combination of Zboril, Kyle Connor, and Matt Barzal, they would be much higher on this list. Zboril is a smart two way defenseman from Saint John, and he projects to be a #3/4 defenseman in the NHL similar to Dan Hamhuis. Besides the 2015 first round picks, the Bruins have Malcom Subban, an athletic goalie, playing in the AHL, along with recent 2nd round picks Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon. GM Don Sweeney has completely revamped the Bruins’ prospect system, but made some questionable picks in the process.
Top Prospect: Jakub Zboril, Projection: #3/4 Defenseman, Comparison: Dan Hamhuis
- Carolina Hurricanes
Noah Hanifin is an elite prospect that really brings up the Hurricanes’ prospect pool in the rankings. Hanifin is such a smooth skater, and the Boston College product has been garnering attention for a very long time. His ability to play such a mature game against men has really put him on the map as one of the best defensive prospects in the past couple years. He has an excellent pass from the defensive zone, plays an excellent shut down game, and can contribute offensively on the powerplay. Hanifin does not have a particularly deadly shot, and that is something he needs to work on to be an elite defenseman in the NHL. Hanifin projects to be a #1/2 Defenseman in the NHL (dependent on him developing a stronger shot) and compares to Ryan McDonagh. Aside from Hanifin, the Hurricanes have last year’s 7th overall pick Haydn Fleury, defenseman Roland McKeown, and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in the system.
Top Prospect: Noah Hanifin, Projection #1/2 Defenseman, Comparison: Ryan McDonagh
- Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks’ prospect pool is a good mix of depth and talent. They are led by last year’s 6th overall selection, Jake Virtanen. Virtanen had a disappointing season with the Calgary Hitmen, scoring only 21 goals and tallying just 52 points after coming off shoulder surgery. Virtanen possesses great speed, hits hard, but needs to work on his finishing ability to make an impact at the pro-level. We got a glimpse of Virtanen in the Calder cup playoffs, where he did not play a major role and ended up putting up 1 point in 10 games. This will be a huge offseason for Virtanen, as the Zach Kassian trade may allow him to sneak into the Canucks lineup next season. Virtanen plays a similar game to David Booth, and is projected to be a 2nd line player in the NHL. The Canucks, with the 23rd pick this past draft, took Brock Boeser, and he looks to be a Kyle Okposo type player. Vancouver also has former Flames prospect Sven Baertschi, centerman Jarred McCann, goaltender Thatcher Demko and center Cole Cassels in the system. GM Jim Benning has done a fine job of stockpiling the prospect pool with quality prospects.
Top Prospect: Jake Virtanen, Projection: 2nd Line Winger, Comparable: David Booth.
- Dallas Stars
Some felt that the Dallas Stars reached when they took Denis Gurianov 12th overall in last week’s draft. Gurianov however, has a very high ceiling and could become a top line winger because of his high end offensive skill and a pro-style shot. Gurianov will need to improve his defensive side of the game, and can still get stronger. Aside from Gurianov however, the Stars have lasts years’ 14th overall pick, Finnish offensive defenseman Julius Honka. Honka has very good offensive skill and is very elusive on his skates, but he needs to improve his defensive play in order to make an impact in the NHL. Honka had an impressive season with the Texas Stars, scoring 31 points in 68 games, and will likely spend another season in the AHL before making to transition to the NHL.
Top Prospect: Denis Gurianov, Projection: Scoring Winger, Comparison: James van Riemsdyk
- Tampa Bay Lightning
The prospect pool of the Tampa Bay Lightning remains strong despite the departure of blue-chip prospect Jonathan Drouin. Tampa’s pool consists of depth and quality in all positions, making it one of the most well-rounded pools in the NHL. They are led by goalie prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy, who projects to be a number 1 goalie in the NHL in the future. The 20 year old was a star for Russia in the World Junior Hockey Championship, and is rebound for his positioning, quick reflexes, and large size in goal. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, selected 19th overall last year had character issues that scared off some teams, but looks like a steal a year later with the offensive minded blue liner posting 51 points in 26 games for the Soo Grey Hounds last season. Winger Vladislav Namestnikov will look to make Tampa full time next season, and winger Adam Erne will look to continue to impress at the pro-level. Tampa also added a few second round picks to the pool in last week’s draft, taking center Mitchell Stephens and defenseman Matthew Spencer 33rd and 44th respectively. GM Steve Yzerman has done a terrific job of building a powerhouse in Tampa while maintaining a quality group of prospects.
Top Prospect: Andrey Vasilevskiy, Projection: #1 Goalie
- Washington Capitals
I will admit, I may like the Capital’s prospect pool more than others. They have a good mix of highly skilled forwards, smooth skating defensemen, and quality goaltending that led me to rank them a bit higher that others may. Regardless, Washington’s pool contains former 13th overall pick Jakub Vrana, a small skilled winger who has a quick, accurate release while being a good skater. Vrana spent his 2014/2015 season in the SHL, but we got a small glimpse of his play with the Hershey Bears, where he put up 5 points in 3 games. He projects to be a first or second line winger in the NHL, and draws comparisons to Jakub Voracek. Vrana needs to improve his defensive play at the pro level. Beyond Vrana, the Capitals have World Junior standout Madison Bowey, who had an excellent season with Kelowna in the WHL. Bowey projects to be a #3 defenseman in the NHL at this point, plays a strong defensive game and is a good skater. Andre Burakovsky is another stud prospect for the Capitals, and should definitely be a top end scoring winger for the Caps capable of either player top line or second line minutes. Finally, the Capitals drafted goalie Ilya Samsonov in the first round of last week’s draft. Samsonov will likely go back to the KHL for another season before joining the Capitals or the Bears.
Top Prospect: Jakub Vrana, Projection: #1/2 Winger, Comparison Jake Voracek
- Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers, in my mind, got a steal when they selected Ivan Provorov 7th overall in the 2015 draft. I prefer the Wheat Kings defenseman to Noah Hanifin as the top defenseman in the draft. Provorov put up 61 points in 60 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, and he really burst onto the scene in his draft year. Provorov plays a very complete two way game, has the ability to skate the puck out of the defensive zone, can quarterback a powerplay, can penalty kill, and can shut down the opponents best players. Provorov does it all, and I believe in a couple years, people will look back and wonder why he was not taken higher. Provorov projects to be a #1 defenseman in the NHL, and I compare him to Duncan Keith stylistically. Beyond Provorov, the Flyers have several impressive defensive prospects include Calgary Hitmen defenseman Travis Sanheim, big defenseman Samuel Morin, and mobile defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. They also have forward Travis Konecny who they selected with the 24th pick in the 2015 draft. Konecny, who was a faller on draft day, could also prove to be a steal in due time for the Flyers. The small forward is an extremely hard worker on the ice, plays a good two way game, and has the offensive skill to be either a first or second line player in the NHL.
Top Prospect: Ivan Provorov, Projection: #1 Defenseman, Stylistic Comparison: Duncan Keith
- Anaheim Ducks
GM Bob Murray has done a terrific job of creating an elite prospect pool using late round picks, while building a Western Conference powerhouse in the NHL. Take top prospect Shea Theodore, who was drafted 26th overall in 2013, but has proven he has top ten talent. Theodore had a terrific season with Seattle in the WHL, and should end up being a #2/3 defenseman in the NHL comparable to future teammate Cam Fowler. The Ducks also have big forward prospect Nick Ritchie, drafted 10th overall in 2014. Ritchie had a good season, but an especially impressive playoffs for the Grey Hounds. Ritchie plays a power game perfect for the Ducks, has a good shot, and skates well for a man his size. John Gibson remains a top goalie prospect and should see more playing time next season for the Ducks, as the former 39th overall pick continues to prove he was a steal back in 2011. Finally, the Ducks took defenseman Jacob Larsson from Sweden 27th in 2015.
Top Prospect: Shea Theodore, Projection #2/3 defenseman, Comparison: Cam Fowler
8.Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect pool has a good mix of size, speed, and skill. Their top prospect happens to be their 8th selection in last week’s draft, Zach Werenski. Werenski is a puck moving defenseman that plays a strong two way game, can play in all situations, and is a good skater. Werenski projects to be a #2/3 defenseman in the NHL, who is comparable to Nick Kronwall stylistically. Former 3rd round pick Oliver Bjorkstrand has emerged as one of the Jackets’ top prospects, as he destroyed the WHL scoring 118 points in 59 games with the Portland Winterhawks. Bjorkstrand has average size at 6’0 and 175 pounds, but needs to improve his defensive game at the next level. The Jackets also have forward Kerby Rychel, forward Sonny Milano, and center Alexander Wennberg listed as top prospects in their pool.
Top Prospect: Zach Werenski, Projection #2/3 Defenseman, Stylistic Comparison: Nick Kronwall
7. Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have been the best organization at drafting and developing for many years now. They have excellent amateur scouting, do not rush their prospects into the NHL, put them in positions to succeed, and when they finally are ready to make the jump to the NHL, they are often “over ripe”. The current Detroit prospect pool is very clearly built around skill. Top prospect Dylan Larkin had an absolutely amazing 2014/2015 season, and if the 2014 draft were redone I would expect him to go top 5. Larkin has elite potential at both ends of the rink, playing a very solid powerforward type offensive game while being very comfortable in his own end. Larkin impressed at the World Juniors, scoring 7 points in 5 games, had an excellent season at the University of Michigan with 47 points in 35 games, but showed he is ready, albeit in a small sample size, to go pro with 5 points in 6 games during the Calder Cup playoffs. Larkin projects to be a #1 center in my eyes, and resembles Jonathan Toews stylistically. Beyond Larkin, the Red Wings have big winger Anthony Mantha, who had a disappointing season in the AHL, but still holds elite goal scoring ability. They also have 2015 first round pick Evgeny Svechnikov a very skilled offensive winger who I thought should have gone much higher. I have not even mentioned the likes of Teemu Pulkkinen, Xavier Ouellet, or Ryan Sproul who are all very good prospects in their own right. To sum it up, Detroit’s prospect pool is stacked.
Top Prospect: Dylan Larkin, Projection: #1 Center, Comparable: Jonathan Toews
- Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect pool was probably near the bottom of everyone’s rankings just two seasons ago, with a lack of elite talent and virtually no depth. The Leafs had done a terrible job scouting and developing talent, and you can look no further than bust Tyler Biggs or Brad Ross as recent examples of Toronto’s lack of success on draft day. Just two years later however, the prospect pool is loaded with elite talent up front, and includes loads of boom or bust type players. Their prospect pool is led by center Mitch Marner of the London Knights. Marner had a terrific season in London, putting up 126 points in 63 games for the Knights, and also had a good playoff run, scoring 16 points in 7 games. Marner plays a very good two-way game, is an elusive skater, terrific vision and hands, and possess a very good shot. The only knock against Marner is his lack of size, standing 5’11 and weighing 160 pounds. Marner is an elite prospect in every sense of the word, putting up better draft year points-per-game averages than Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, John Tavares, and Tyler Seguin, among others. Marner projects to be a #1 center, or #1 scoring winger in the NHL, depending on how he is developed, and I compare him to Flyers center Claude Giroux. The Toronto pool also features center/winger William Nylander, who had a terrific 2014/2015 season, putting up 32 points in 37 games in the AHL after coming over from Sweden midway through the season. Nylander needs to improve his defensive game, but is an elite skater, passer, and shooter at this point. He projects to be a #1 Scoring winger, and compares stylistically to Patrick Kane. Beyond these two, the Leafs selected some very good “bang for your buck” talent that propels them up the rankings. Left wing Dmytro Timashov was a projected 2nd round pick the Leafs picked up in the 5th round. Jeremy Bracco could have easily gone in the first round or early in the 2nd round, but was picked 60th despite putting up very good numbers in the USHL. And finally Sarnia forward Nikita Korostelev should have been picked way higher than 185th, as most projected him to go in the middle of the 2nd round or early in the third round at the latest. Mark Hunter has done a terrific job here, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in Toronto.
Top Prospect: Mitch Marner, Projection: #1 Center, Comparison: Claude Giroux
- New York Islanders
GM Garth Snow did a terrific job in trading defenseman Griffen Reinhart to acquire the picks that lead to the Islanders drafting center Matt Barzal and winger Anthony Beauvillier . Reinhart should round out to be a decent top 4 defenseman, but was obviously taken too high back in 2012 and his lack of foot speed may cause him difficulties in the NHL. Barzal, however, is easily a top 10 talent in the draft and I have no idea how he fell all the way to 16. Was it the injuries? Maybe. But what is known is that the Isles may have got the steal of the draft when they took him at 16. He is so skilled, such a good skater, such a good passer, and can shoot the puck. He played terrific for Canada at the World Championships and I know when people look back on this draft, they will wonder why he was not taken in the top 10. Barzal projects to be a very good #2 centerman in the NHL, comparable to Matt Duchene. Beauvillier is a small, scoring winger, who has the capability of being an elite playmaker at the NHL level. He is very shifty, possess a good shot, and has very good creativity with the puck on his stick. The Islanders got another steal, in my opinion, when they took defenseman Ryan Pilon 147th in the draft. Pilon was once seen as a top 15 pick in the draft, but fell hard throughout his draft year. Last year’s fifth overall selection, Michael Dal Colle, had another impressive season in Oshawa and should be a perfect complement to John Tavares down the road with a very good shot and pin point passing. The prospect pool features more high end prospects, such as defenseman Ryan Pulock, who did very well in the AHL, and winger Josh Ho-Sang. Garth Snow should be commended for his ability to establish such a quality pool, and is a very underrated GM in my opinion.
Top Prospect: Matt Barzal, Projection: #1B/2A Center, Comparison: Matt Duchene
- Arizona Coyotes
At one point, it looked very likely that the Arizona Coyotes would not be selecting 3rd in the NHL draft. They lost out on McDavid, and subsequently Eichel, and they really needed a franchise talent to save the organization in Glendale. They ended up taking center Erie Dylan Strome 3rd overall, with GM Don Maloney citing the need for a big, elite centerman to be able to compete in the Western Conference. Strome has an NHL shot, great NHL size, very good passing and vision, but needs to work on his skating to be an elite centerman at the pro level. It is not as if Strome’s skating is bad, but there is a noticeable difference between Strome’s skating and that of Mitch Marner or Matt Barzal, for example. Strome’s poor playoff run also left some scouts a bit hesitant to take him 3rd, and some thought he may drop out of the top 5 altogether, with defenseman Ivan Provorov likely to go top 5 if Strome were to drop. But Strome went 3rd, and should definitely go back to junior for another year. Strome projects to be a #1 Center if he can improve his skating, and is comparable to Ryan Johansen. Beyond Strome, the Coyotes have several high end prospects, including World Junior star Max Domi. Domi lit up the OHL in London in his final season with the club, and looks to make an impact at the pro level. Forward Christian Dvorak, drafted 58th overall last draft, looks like a steal, as he put up 109 points in 66 games in London. The pool also consists of forward Nick Merkley, drafted 30th, Brandon Perlini, drafted 12th last year, and forward Anthony Duclair, among many other good prospects in the Arizona system.
Top Prospect: Dylan Strome, Projection: #1 Center, Comparable: Ryan Johansen
- Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel. Really that is all that needs to be said about the Sabres’ prospect pool. Eichel, the “consolation prize” to McDavid is the furthest thing from that. Eichel is a franchise player in his own right, becoming the youngest player to ever win the Hobey Baker award for the best NCAA hockey player. Eichel is fast, powerful, possesses an elite shot, can pass the puck, and play both sides of the rink. He is that type of prospect that only comes around once in a while, and Sabres fans are rightfully exploding with excitement over the soon to be rookie. Eichel projects to be a franchise type centerman, comparable to Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf in my opinion. Beyond Eichel, they have last year’s 2nd overall selection, Sam Reinhart. Reinhart will likely play center behind Eichel in Buffalo, providing an elite 1-2 combination that should cause problems for years to come. Reinhart is an elite playmaker, possesses great intangibles, and plays terrific on both ends of the rink. Beyond these two, the Sabres also have many other good prospects, although defenseman Jake McCabe stands out as the best of the bunch.
Top Prospect: Jack Eichel, Projection: Franchise Center, Comparison: Ryan Getzlaf
- Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets have done a terrific job of establishing an elite prospect pool without picking in the top 5 of the draft. It is amazing that top prospect Nick Ehlers went 9th overall, but the speedy winger has shown nothing but elite potential since being selected by the Jets last year. Ehlers has elite speed, the ability to stickhandle effectively at top speeds, elite passing and a very good shot. Ehlers had a terrific year in Halifax, scoring 100 points in 51 games for the Mooseheads, but was even better in the playoffs, scoring 31 points in 14 games. Ehlers projects to be a #1 winger for the Jets, and compares to Pavel Bure stylistically. Center Kyle Connor should have been picked far before pick 17 in last week’s draft. Connor does everything well, playing well in all zones, being dynamic offensively, and possessing a lethal shot. Connor produced 80 points in 56 games in the USHL, and looks to be a dynamic #1B/2A center in the NHL. The Jets also took center Jack Roslovic with the 25th selection and projected 1st round pick jansen Harkins 47th overall last week. We have not even mentioned dynamic puck moving defenseman Josh Morrisey, who projects to be a #3 defenseman in the NHL, elite goaltending prospect Connor Hellebuyck, or Nick Petan, all great prospects in their own right. The Jets have the all-around best prospect pool in the NHL, and if it were not for McDavid, would have the best pool in the NHL.
Top Prospect: Nick Ehlers, Projection: #1 Winger, Stylistic Comparison: Pavel Bure.
- Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers have had one hell of a summer. Cleaned house, got a veteran GM who has shown he can win a cup, an elite head coach, new management structure, a few nice trades and signings, and of course, Connor McDavid. The 4th 1st overall selection in the past 4 years is the best prospect since Crosby, and is a generational talent. You probably know all about McDavid’s unparalleled skating, elite passing, and incredible shot, but it is worth a mention. McDavid projects to be a top 5 player in the NHL very soon, and likely will be the best player in the NHL at one point in his career. He is that good. Beyond McDavid, the Oilers still have last year’s third overall selection, Leon Draisaitl in the system. Draisaitl was rushed into the NHL last season but eventually did make his way back to the WHL where he did have a good season and an even better playoff run. Darnell Nurse should be a solid defenseman in the NHL, likely a #2, and the Oilers have not rushed him yet. Griffen Reinhart is also a new addition, and he should be a solid stay at home option for the Oilers in the future. This franchise has taken a clear 180 in a span of 4 months, and their fans deserve it. Congrats Edmonton.
Top Prospect: Connor McDavid, Projection: Top 5 Player, Comparison: Sidney Crosby.
July 6th, 2015
Image credit to: http://images.performgroup.com/di/library/sporting_news/3d/10/connor-mcdavid-062615-getty-ftrjpg_6ytbz36uj6qz1p6mm3jw9p653.jpg?t=842094454w=1000&h=750