The 2015 NHL Draft is just over three months away, and most of the top prospects for the draft are readying themselves for playoff action. They’ll be under a microscope more now than ever before, as this will be their final chance to prove to potential suitors that they can play in pressure situations. And though we have a general idea of which names will be up on the draft board early come June (such as Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel), this is prime time for prospects to assert themselves as elite and worthy of a top pick. Here are some updates on the top of the crop for this year’s draft:
There’s little doubt that Erie Otters center Connor McDavid will be playing in the NHL next season, so he’s entering what is likely his final weekend of regular season major junior hockey Thursday night. Heading into his last three games of the season, McDavid ranks third in OHL scoring with 115 points (43G, 72A).
There’s a good chance he will surpass teammate Dylan Strome, who has just two more points in 20 more games played; McDavid’s hand injury and World Juniors stint halted his torrid scoring pace back in November for about two months, so it is remarkable that he was able to catch up the way he did.
Uh, oh, Mitch Marner. Connor McDavid is 9 points back in the OHL scoring race with 3 games left. Marner has one.
— Ryan Pyette (@RyanatLFPress) March 15, 2015
Just nine points back of the league-leading scorer Mitch Marner, McDavid has a chance to become a 120+ point scorer and OHL leading scorer in just 48 games played when all is said and done – something only a generational talent like himself can do. And if he can carry that momentum into the playoffs, it’s likely that he’ll still be playing in May at the Memorial Cup Tournament in Quebec.
There was never any doubt that McDavid is the best player in the OHL, but in the recently-announced results to the OHL Western Conference coaches poll, McDavid was named Best Playmaker and Best Skater for the second straight season, as well as Best Stickhandler for the third straight season. McDavid does provide us with some highlight-reel goals (or highlight-reel goal attempts) from time to time, but he is best known for his incredible vision and passing ability, as well as his exceptional speed and overall skating ability.
The “McEichel” comparisons have died down a bit, with each individual carving out his own identity during the 2014-2015 season. But McDavid and Eichel are still being compared in accolades, and the Boston University star was just named a Hobey Baker Award finalist. Though it can be argued, most will agree that Eichel has been college hockey’s best player this season and that he is the most deserving of the award.
Should he win, Eichel would make history. At just 18 years old, the Terriers center leads the entire NCAA as a freshman – the first to do so since the 1992-1993 season when Paul Kariya won the Hobey Baker as a freshman after scoring 100 points.
Jack Eichel becomes the first freshman Hobey Baker finalist in 12 years. #NCAA
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 19, 2015
In just 34 games, Eichel has scored 61 points (20G, 41A). He missed some time when he captained the U20 U.S. World Junior team in December/January, but has managed to maintain the scoring lead in the NCAA. The winner of the Hobey Baker Award will be announced on April 10 at the Frozen Four Tournament, and should Eichel win, he will have added another chapter in the McDavid/Eichel storyline – both will have won awards for individual excellence in their respective leagues.
The OHL leading scorer with 124 points (44G, 80A) in 62 games, London Knights forward Mitch Marner will play his final game of the 2014-2015 on Friday. The first Knights player to reach 100 points since John Tavares did it in his own draft season (2008-2009), Marner has nothing left to prove as far as offensive ability is concerned – rather, the 5’11”, 155-lb. winger must prove to scouts and NHL teams that his lack of size will not hold him back from becoming a top player at the NHL level.
The NHL right now is at a point where size doesn’t matter; it’s all about the skill and passion. I think if you go out there and show that you’re willing to go every shift, willing to prove a point and prove that you can hold your own, that skills are more important than the size.
Marner had an excellent playoff performance last season, scoring nine points in as many games. He actually improved significantly in the postseason after a 59-point rookie campaign, so he will look to shine in the spotlight of the OHL playoffs once again this season to prove himself to any remaining doubters and critics.