While the 2015 draft has been extensively hyped on the wings of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, a pair of generational center talents guaranteed to go with the first two picks of the draft, the depth of the 2015 class has been sorely underrated. There are several other players with the potential to become stars and valuable contributors at the NHL level.
At the top of every month preceding the draft, we at TodaysSlapshot.com are willing to help familiarize hockey fans with a new list of the top available prospects for the upcoming entry draft. As opinions tend to vary even among the most respected scouting bureaus, I am also providing the reader with the March ratings by the International Scouting Services (ISS), McKeen’s Hockey (MK), Future Considerations (FC) and Hockey Prospect (HP).
[Note: ‘NR’ indicates the player was not rated in the top 30 (first round) by a particular draft bureau.]
1. C Connor McDavid, Erie, OHL, 6’0-190 (ISS 1, MK 1, FC 1, HP 1)
This generational talent has lived up to his hype with 120 points in just 47 OHL games — he is not only the best player in this draft, he is the top amateur hockey talent since Sidney Crosby in 2005.
2. C Jack Eichel, Boston University, NCAA, 6’2-195 (ISS 2, MK 2, FC 2, HP 2)
Eichel accomplished something unheard of since the days of Paul Kariya — absolutely dominating against much older NCAA competition as an underaged freshman. In any other draft year since 2005, this generational talent would be hands-down the first overall pick.
3. D Noah Hanifin, Boston College, NCAA, 6’3-190 (ISS 4, MK 3, FC 3, HP 3)
A two-way threat with off-the-charts athleticism, most scouts believe Hanifin would be a no-brainer over last year’s top overall pick, Aaron Ekblad. His upside is a perennial Norris candidate, his downside is Jay Bouwmeester 2.0.
4. C Dylan Strome, Erie, OHL, 6’3-190 (ISS 6, MK 8, FC 4, HP 6)
Overshadowed by McDavid on his own junior team, Strome plays a terrific all-around game while offering a ton of offense to the tune of 129 points in 68 OHL games. Although several scouting bureaus have Strome rated behind stud wingers Marner and Crouse, we moved him up because of our perceived value of an Eric Staal-like two-way threat at center being higher than even a star-caliber winger.
5. C/RW Mitch Marner, London, OHL, 5’10-165 (ISS 5, MK 4, FC 5, HP 5)
Displayed unbelievable offensive skill with 126 points in 63 OHL games and drew comparisons to ex-Knights star of similar stature in Patrick Kane. We love his offensive upside, but dropped him behind Strome because we feel his limited size and defensive capabilities will force him to move from the middle to the wing at the NHL level. This is not to slight Marner — he will be a lightning bolt plugged into the turbines of any NHL offense.
6. LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston, OHL 6’4-215 (ISS 3, MK 6, FC 6, HP 8)
A unique power forward threat, Crouse could be the perfect hybrid of Milan Lucic and a young Keith Tkachuk. He fears no one while being the most feared player in the OHL, plays a complete two-way game, and has the skills to play on a top line at the NHL level — a combination which makes him potentially a rare, impact player.
7. D Ivan Provorov, Brandon, WHL, 6’0-200 (ISS 9, MK 5, FC 10, HP 7)
Certain words come up every time we read a scouting report on Provorov — “smart”, “character”, “leader” to name a few. He has several characteristics reminiscent of a young Brian Leetch and is, without a doubt in our minds, a future No.1 blue liner for a lucky NHL team.
8. D Zach Werenski, University of Michigan, NCAA, 6’2-190 (ISS 10, MK 7, FC 7, HP 9)
You need a butter-knife to cut the difference between Provorov and Werenski. We believe they will both be terrific players in the NHL. Werenski is more athletic than Provorov, and we like to compare him to Minnesota Wild star Ryan Suter.
9. C Matthew Barzal, Seattle, WHL, 5’11-170 (ISS 7, MK 10, FC 13, HP 17)
An injury prone draft year has dropped Barzal in the eyes of some draft pundits, but we love this kid. He reminds one of Claude Giroux in the offensive zone, but with a superior all-around game and compete level to the Flyers’ star pivot. Were he healthy all year, Barzal may have challenged for a top-five spot on the TSS prospect board.
10. C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia, OHL, 6’3-210 (ISS 11, MK 9, FC 9, HP 4)
The top Czech talent in the 2015 class, Zacha offers ideal size and an all-around game at the crucial center position. The hulking pivot is a low-risk pick — at the very least he will be a terrific second or third-line center at the NHL level — the only question is whether his offensive game will develop enough to become a top-line player. We ranked Barzal slightly ahead because of his upside, but we feel Zacha has very little downside.
11. RW/C Travis Konecny, Ottawa, OHL, 5’10-175 (ISS 14, MK 11, FC 8, HP 20)
Quite simply, we can watch this kid all day — he has fan favorite written all over him. He will do virtually anything to win, whether it be doling out big hits, scoring highlight-reel goals or diving face first to block a shot. He reminds us of Ryan Callahan or TJ Oshie, he gives 150% on every shift and that is why we have this versatile forward rated higher than players who may offer more skill, size and upside.
12. D Brandon Carlo, Tri-City, WHL, 6’5-190 (ISS 20, MK 21, FC 22, HP 22)
The obvious question is: why do we have Carlo rated 8-10 spots higher than anyone else? The answer: we believe there is no way a 6’5″ shut-down defenseman with the skating ability of a much smaller man, the toughness of a young Derian Hatcher and untapped offensive upside will possibly be passed over by 20 NHL teams in the draft. We love this Colorado native’s compete level and feel the physical, shut-down defenseman is the most underrated job description in the NHL.
13. LW/RW Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton, QMJHL, 6’3-205, (ISS 22, MK 23, FC 19, HP 18)
As far as available wingers go in the 2015 NHL draft, Marner offers the most offense, Crouse brings the best power game, Konecny displays the top character and two-way acumen. Svechnikov is our fourth-rated winger because he brings the greatest combination of these traits — showcasing top-line skill with an unheralded power game and reminding us of a young Max Pacioretty.
14. RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS Turku, Finland, 6’3-205 (ISS 8, MK 12, FC 11, HP 19)
How good is the 2015 draft? We love Rantanen, the top Finnish export for the draft, but we have him rated in the middle of the first round. A two-way power forward with terrific hands, he offers top-line upside, top-tier size, and further proof of the depth at the right wing position available this upcoming June.
15. C Kyle Connor, Youngstown, USHL, 6’1-185 (ISS 13, MK 14, FC 17, HP 11)
Again, Connor offers proof of the depth of this draft class. With elite vision and the ability to enact creative plays at high-speed reminiscent of Mikko Koivu, Connor might have helped his draft position by playing in the Canadian junior leagues but instead chose the USHL route.
16. RW Brock Boeser, Waterloo, USHL, 6’1-195 (ISS 29, MK 28, FC 29, HP 14)
Boeser is very similar to Konecny in that he plays a two-way power game with an off-the-charts compete level on every shift, while offering superior athleticism and size. We love this kid and have him rated ahead of most of the scouting bureaus — if he falls to the late first round as many expect, he could wind up becoming the next Joe Pavelski and one of the steals of the 2015 draft.
17. RW Timo Meier, Halifax, QMJHL, 6’0-200 (ISS 12, MK 13, FC 20, HP 15)
Skating was the only question for this soft-handed, skilled power forward entering the season, but he has worked hard to improve his balance and speed. The top Swiss export for the 2015 draft, Meier potted 44 goals and 46 assists in just 61 games for the Mooseheads and is yet another right winger with first-line upside available in the 2015 draft.
18. LW Paul Bittner, Portland, WHL, 6’4-205 (ISS 16, MK 20, FC 28, HP *nr*)
The first player not rated as a first rounder by one of the major scouting bureaus, and we have no idea why. Though he does not throw around his size and intimidate like top left winger Lawson Crouse, Bittner offers comparable offensive upside and is a huge net-front presence. He reminds us a great deal of Andrew Ladd at the same age and could have some late helium as draft day approaches.
19. C/LW Jansen Harkins, Prince George, WHL, 6’1-180 (ISS 26, MK *nr*, FC 21, HP 25)
A highly intelligent and versatile forward who is outstanding in the defensive zone and more than adequate in the offensive zone, Harkins will never challenge for the NHL scoring title but is the type of player every NHL team needs to win. Reminiscent of several underrated NHL players like Antoine Vermette, Tyler Bozak, Travis Zajac and Mike Fisher.
20. G Ilya Samsonov, Magnitogorsk, KHL, 6’3-200 (ISS 2-G, MK 29, FC *nr*, HP *nr*)
Drafting a goaltender in the first round may be a thing of the past in the NHL, but Samsonov offers superstar upside at the game’s most vital position. He has ideal size, outstanding athleticism, and a never-say-die attitude; a combination which makes him the top European goaltending prospect since Andrei Vasilevski was selected 19th overall by Tampa Bay back in 2012. A team with multiple first-rounders and an organizational need between the pipes (i.e.: Edmonton, Winnipeg, Buffalo) would be wise to take a chance on this unbelievable talent late in the first round.
21. RW/C Colin White, US-NTDP, USHL, 6’0-185 (ISS 17, MK 19, FC 18, HP 26)
More proof of the depth at the right wing position in 2015: White has the upside to become a first line winger at the NHL level and is one of the most dynamic skaters in the draft, yet could be available more than 20 picks in. He is a battler with a strong shot and great versatility, reminiscent of a faster Patrick Sharp at the same age.
22. RW/C Nick Merkley, Kelowna, WHL, 5’11-190 (ISS 15, MK 17, FC 16, HP 16)
The fact that we have Merkley rated lower than any of the other bureaus is not a negative indicator of Merkley — we think this kid is one of the top playmakers in the draft. We simply love some other non-CHL players (Carlo, Svechnikov, Boeser, Samsonov) more than the other (Canadian-based) scouting coalitions. We also think Merkley’s NHL future is not up the middle, but at the wing, where he is very comparable to other terrific perimeter passers like a young Alex Tanguay.
23. D Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke, QMJHL, 6’0-180 (ISS 28, MK 22, FC 14, HP 10)
Many pundits describe Roy as a one-way, power-play QB type of defenseman, but we like what we have seen from every aspect of his game. He has a high hockey IQ and, though not big, does not back down to anyone. We believe he can be a 40+ point scorer from an NHL blue-line with an outstanding outlet pass who is very solid defensively. If Roy can improve his average skating skills, he has the upside of a top-pairing player.
24. C Joel Ek Eriksson, Farjestads, Sweden, 6’1-180 (ISS 21, MK 18, FC *nr*, HP *nr*)
This is not the strongest year for the Swedes, but Ek Eriksson offers the top talent from the Scandinavian hockey mecca. A two-way player who has seemingly improved with every game this season, he has rocketed up draft boards. He shows flashes of elite offensive instincts which indicate an upside as a top-six pivot at the NHL level.
25. RW Denis Guryanov, Tolyatti, KHL, 6’2-185 (ISS *nr*, MK *nr*, FC *nr*, HP 27)
Due to the maddening tendency for many NHL teams to draft Russian players far below where they deserve to be taken, Guryanov could conceivably fall far into the second round. Yet he is, without a doubt, a first-round caliber talent. His skating, shot and offensive instincts are all elite, and though his defensive zone play needs work, he displays effort in all three zones. To us, he is the 2015 version of current Lightning standout Nikita Kucherov.
26. LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current, WHL, 6’0-180 (ISS *nr*, MK 24, FC *nr*, HP 23)
The son of former NHL-er Louis DeBrusk, Jake is a strong skater with crafty playmaking ability and a sneaky shot. He plays with an edge to his game and is one of those players without a sky-high ceiling but who is almost certainly an NHL player. We feel his upside is that of a second-line two-way player, and his downside still has him contributing night in and night out on an NHL third line.
27 (tie). D Jakub Zboril, Saint John, QMJHL, 6’2-185 (ISS 19, MK 16, FC 26, HP 21)
The defensive class of 2015 has been overlooked to us at todaysslapshot.com: Hanifin, Provorov and Werenski are all surefire top-pairing guys. Carlo has elite shutdown upside, while Zboril and his Sea Dogs’ teammate Thomas Chabot (along with fellow QMJHL-er Jeremy Roy) all offer top-pairing upside. Zboril is a terrific skater with tremendous offensive instincts whose defensive play is above-average and has room to grow.
27 (tie). D Thomas Chabot, Saint John, QMJHL, 6’2-180 (ISS 18, MK 15, FC 23, HP 12)
We could not separate Chabot from his also sublimely talented teammate Zboril. Cabot offers superior skating skills while Zboril’s game is more polished at the same level. Both of these players project to a second-pairing contributor at the NHL level, but they both have the talent ceilings of top-pairing, two-way standouts.
29. D Oliver Kylington, Farjestads, Sweden, 6’0-180 (ISS 24, MK 27, FC 12, HP 13)
Kylington baffles us. Despite an Erik Karlsson-like skill-set with elite skating, vision and shooting, he has dropped on our rankings board all year long. Kylington’s play can often be described as rote and uninspired, even more frustrating when juxtaposed with flashes of offensive brilliance. We are not giving up on this player’s talent ceiling, which rivals that of top-ten players Provorov and Werenski, we just would like to see more out of him. If there is a boom-or-bust defenseman in the 2015 draft, it is without a doubt Oliver Kylington.
30. C Jack Roslovic, US-NTDP, USHL, 6’1-185 (ISS *nr*, MK 30, FC *nr*, HP *nr*)
Quite simply, we have no idea why this kid does not receive more attention from scouting bureaus. For much of the season, he has been perhaps the best all-around player on a US Development team which features not only Colin White, but likely 2016 top-three picks Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk. Roslovic’s propensity for forcing turnovers reminds us of a young John Madden, and he could develop into a shut-down defensive center at the NHL level. Don’t count out his offense, either — he is an outstanding passer, averaging almost an assist per game in the defensively brutal USHL.
As we stated, goaltending is the most difficult position to forecast and this has led to net-minders being drafted later and later in recent drafts. Still, we love the upside of Barrie’s Mackenzie Blackwood and Slovakian sensation Matej Tomek, currently a wall between the pipes for Topeka of the NAHL.
On the blueline, Nicolas Meloche plays a mean defensive game and features a great shot for Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL while Frolunda’s Jacob Larsson is a smooth-skating threat ranked in the top 30 lists of the ISS and McKeen’s.
On the wing, Charlottetown’s Daniel Sprong offers excellent speed and skill and could be the first Netherlands native drafted in the first round in the NHL’s history. Meanwhile, Jeremy Bracco is an undersized player with extreme puck skills who draws comparisons to top Florida Panthers’ prospect Rocco Grimaldi.
At center, Charlottetown’s Filip Chlapik tallied 75 points this year and could be a huge steal early in the second round, while Tom Novak has showcased some tremendous offensive upside for Waterloo of the USHL.