Thursday June 25th, 2015

The 2015 NHL draft has been promoted as the deepest group of young talent in more than a decade, one capable of changing the fortunes of the teams drafting deep into the first round and beyond.

While the first two selections are a lock—Connor McDavid to Edmonton, Jack Eichel to Buffalo—there’s intrigue from the moment the Arizona Coyotes are on the clock at No. 3. Their decision to use their pick, or possibly trade it as part of a blockbuster swap, will set the table for a night that could go down in hockey history.

UPDATE: We've already had three trades that shook up the draft order. They are reflected in this version of the mock.

How will it play out? We polled several scouts for their insight into the process. Of course, these guys have been known to work in some misdirection in the past—after all, they don’t want to give away any of their trade secrets just ahead of the biggest day of their year.

With all that in mind, here’s our take on how the rest of the first round will play out.

• NHL stars these prospects could be like | What scouts look for 

 All-time worst picks by Eastern teams | Western teams

 Notable draft busts | Late round gems | Greatest by slot

SI VAULT teen phenom features: Connor McDavid (2014) | Jack Eichel (2014) | Sidney Crosby (2003) | Eric Lindros (1991) | Mario Lemieux (1984) | Wayne Gretzky (1978) | Guy Lafleur (1971) | Bobby Orr (1966)

2015 NHL First Round Mock Draft
  • 1
    edmonton oilers
    connor mcdavid, C
    erie (ohl) | 6-1, 190
    44-76-120 in 47 games
    No mystery here. Drafting first for the fourth time in the past six seasons, the Oilers will add a generational talent on the order of Sidney Crosby. Adding him to a center mix that already includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl sets Edmonton up with enviable depth down the middle for the next decade.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Believe the hype. An off-the-charts talent by any measure. He'll be the best player in the world at some point in time ... and that time's not too far off."

  • 2
    buffalo sabres
    Jack eichel, C
    boston univ. | 6-2, 195
    26-45-71 in 40 games
    The only uncertainty surrounding the selection of this franchise-caliber center is whether he will leave school to join the Sabres next season. When he does, Eichel will be an elite first liner in the vein of John Tavares, a dominant offensive presence around which a championship roster can be built.
    •SCOUTS SAY: “Any other year he’d be the top pick. He’s that good. He makes the game look easy. Vision and hockey sense...and power. He’s the complete package. If he has one thing to work on it would be his shot and even that doesn’t need much. He’s a special, special player.”

  • 3
    arizona coyotes
    Dylan strome, c
    erie (OHL) | 6-3, 185
    45-84-129 in 68 games
    Here’s where the intrigue starts. The Coyotes are on the board at three, but there’s a good chance they won’t be making this pick. GM Don Maloney has admitted it is in play and says he’s had discussions with at least three teams. That number could grow by Friday night. If Arizona holds on to the selection though, Strome has to be their guy. He’s the powerhouse pivot that every contending team needs in the middle. He’s most effective as a playmaker but could score 30-plus goals at the NHL level.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There’s some Jonathan Toews in his game. A tremendous leader. He’s a fierce competitor who’ll do whatever it takes to win. He battles hard in all three zones.”

  • 4
    toronto maple leafs
    mitch marner, rw
    London (OHL) | 5-11, 163
    44-82-16 in 63 games
    The Leafs enter the draft without a GM and will rely heavily on Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter to make the big decision. Hunter just happens to be the former GM of the Knights, so he’s seen plenty of Marner and his offensive wizardry first-hand. Marner’s game is reminiscent of Patrick Kane. He’s a dazzling skater who overcomes his lack of size with an elite puck possession-based skill set. He’ll be a top-six playmaking winger in the NHL. There’s a chance the Leafs look at Ivan Provorov here, but Marner brings game-breaking talent and personality to spare to a market in dire need of both.

    • SCOUTS SAY: “A dynamic, game-breaking forward. Plays with real passion for the game. He wants to be a special player. Rarely has a quiet shift. An elite playmaker who makes everyone around him better. Not afraid to engage in all three zones. Plays bigger than his size, but will need to get stronger. Has superstar potential.”

  • 5
    carolina hurricanes
    noah hanifin, d
    boston college | 6-2, 205
    5-18-23 in 37 games
    Two years ago, the Predators benefited when a highly touted American defenseman dropped a few spots and landed in their lap. The same could happen this time around for the ’Canes. Hanifin has long been regarded as the third-best talent in the class but could be pushed down by a pressing need for offense in Arizona and Toronto. He is a strong, two-way defender in the mold of Ryan McDonagh. He’ll never be an offensive force, but he moves the puck quickly and effectively and is very useful in transition. At least one scout says a lack of high-end offensive skill could drop him further.

    • SCOUTS SAY: “There's absolutely no risk in this kid’s game. He makes good decisions as a routine. If he’s ever in trouble, he can skate his way out of it. He’s got the magic feet. He’s a Jay Bouwmeester-type. People will expect more offense from him but I’m not sure he has it in him.”

  • 6
    new jersey devils
    pavel zacha, c
    sarnia (OHL) | 6-3, 214
    16-18-34 in 37 games
    Zacha is a big, powerful center who always wants the puck. When he gets it, he drives the net, using his size and speed to get into scoring position. And that’s the knock on him. He can become a dangerous goal scorer but the aptitude to be a playmaker isn’t there. That may change over time but until it does he looks more like a winger than a pivot.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Excellent one-on-one player. Very strong on his feet. Good quickness. Loves to challenge the defense. Needs improvement in his own zone. Had some on-ice discipline issues this year. Hopefully he has that figured out.”

  • 7
    philadelphia flyers
    ivan provorov, d
    brandon (whl) | 6-0, 201
    15-46-61 in 60 games
    The Flyers have some promising blueline talent in their system but lack a clear-cut top pairing D. Provorov fills that need. A late-season riser up the charts, the smooth-skating Russian could be the best defenseman available in the draft. He’s whip-smart and blessed with uncanny instincts in all three zones. A terrific offensive player—he was the top scoring rookie in the WHL as a defenseman—but is equally committed to his own zone.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “If not for his name, you could hardly tell he's Russian. He came over [to North America] young and has really integrated himself into the culture. A great kid with a high floor and a very high ceiling.”

  • 8
    columbus blue jackets
    zach werenski, d
    michigan | 6-2, 214
    9-16-25 in 35 games
    You don’t often see teams drafting for need, but that’s what could happen here. The Jackets have leaned heavily towards offense in the past few drafts and after losing defensive prospect Mike Reilly to free agency they could really use a high-end blueline talent like Werenski. He’s a fluid skater who can contribute to the offense and is willing the pay the price defensively. He led the Wolverines with 59 blocked shots.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There’s more to his offensive game than we’ve seen so far. Put him in a different system [and] I think he becomes a more dangerous player. Has the potential to be an excellent [No. 2] defenseman.”

  • 9
    san jose sharks
    mikko rantanen, rw
    tps turku (Finland) | 6-4, 209
    9-19-28 in 56 games
    With Lawson Crouse and Rantanen still on the board the Sharks have their choice of large, physically imposing wingers here. I think they’ll take the safer of the two. Rantanen played 16 minutes a night in the top Finnish league, finishing second on his team in scoring. And as a testament to his maturity, he was wearing an A midway through the season. He could make the jump to the NHL as soon as next season
    • SCOUTS SAY: “An ideal package of size and skill. Strong skater [especially] for his a big body. Good in his own zone. Can contribute in all situations. Might not have the touch you’d want but has the determination and will to score the ugly goals. He’s a guy you want come playoff time.”

  • 10
    colorado avalanche
    mathew barzal, C
    seattle (whl) | 6-0, 183
    12-45-57 in 44 games
    The Avs might prefer to load up on D here, but there’s better value in the forwards who are still on the board. Crouse is a possibility, but Barzal is a safer bet ... if he’s there. One scout was adamant that Barzal won’t last this long. He struggled with injuries this season but finished strong and was outstanding for Canada at the U18 tournament to reinforce his standing as one of the top offensive creators available.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Blazing speed. A natural with the puck. Dangerous playmaker. Elite vision and hockey sense. Will do what it takes to make a play. His work ethic is off the charts. [I’m] not worried about his knee injury at all.”

  • 11
    florida panthers
    lawson crouse, lw
    Kingston (OHL) | 6-4, 212
    29-22-51 in 56 games
    The most divisive prospect in this year’s draft. One scout told us he’d consider taking Crouse if he had Arizona’s third pick. Another said he was glad he wouldn’t have to make the call because “I’m not sure the upside is there.” Crouse is a hulking power forward blessed with undeniable raw physical tools and a desire to be an impact player. He creates chances on sheer power and force of will, but those will be tougher to come by at the next level when it’s not so simple to just drive through defenders. He’s worth the risk here because HIS upside—a solid 25-30 goal first liner—is so high and the floor—a heavy, third-line banger—is palatable.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There’s a lot of room for refinement in his game, but the building blocks are there. He uses his size effectively ... bowling over defenders and powering his way to the net ... and on the forecheck. But there are concerns about what his limitations are offensively. Will he score? That’s the question ... that has people thinking he’ll drop.”

  • 12
    HALIFAX (QMJHL) | 6-1, 209
    44-46-90 in 61 games
    GM Jim Nill is a strict BPA drafter, so he’ll be thrilled if Meier is still on the board. The big Swiss winger enjoyed a breakout season with Halifax, and while he played with some highly skilled linemates he can’t be accused of coattailing. He was brilliant on the power play (23 goals), highlighting his ability to get to the right places and unleash one of his blistering shots. He has the instincts, the hands and the raw determination to fulfill his top-six potential. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Very effective power forward. Uses his size and will to win battles. Highly competitive. A relentless checker. More finesse in his game than he gets credit for. Not a star, per se, but a valuable complementary player.”

  • 13
    Boston Bruins
    YOUNGSTOWN (USHL) | 6-1, 183
    34-46-80 in 56 games
    It’s a long shot that the Bruins use the pick that was acquired from the Kings in the Milan Lucic trade, but if they do they might like the idea of adding a high-end offensive center to their prospect pool. One scout compared Connor to Marian Gaborik, at least stylistically. The two share the gift of blazing speed and an uncanny ability to finish their scoring chances. Connor is a wildly agile attacker who uses his fast feet and even faster hands to befuddle defenders. His stickhandling is nimble and daring, earning him comparisons to Patrick Kane. With first-line potential, he could surprise by moving several notches up the board on draft day. If Meier drops, the Bruins might take a long look at him as well.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “His offensive instincts are impressive. High hockey IQ. He can beat you either as a finisher or as a playmaker. He has to be a fun guy to play with because of how easy he makes it for his linemates. Even on the nights when he’s not on the score sheet, he makes you take notice. Needs to gain weight/strength. Shot needs work if he wants to be a finisher in the NHL.”

  • 14
    boston bruins
    travis konecny, rw
    ottawa (OHL) | 5-10, 172
    29-39-68 in 60 games
    Despite a clear lack of size Konecny plays a classic Bruins style. He’s absolutely relentless at both ends of the ice and plays at a breathtaking pace. There’s something almost Datsyukian about his game. He’ll take risks that sometimes lead to turnovers but when that happens he’s the first guy on the puck defensively. He plays well above his weight—sure to make him a fan favorite—and fights for his space. Once in position, he has a pro-ready wrister that's a joy to behold ... unless you’re a goaltender.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Can play center but is better suited for the wing. Always wants to push the pace. Tremendous one-on-one skills. Plays bigger than his size. Absolutely fearless. I worry about his durability as a pro. Has had injury problems already.”

    • 15
      Boston Bruins
      colin white, c
      usa ntdp (ushl) | 6-0, 183
      4-13-17 in 20 games
      Assuming the Bruins hold on to the pick they acquired on Friday afternoon from the Flames, they’ll likely use it to White. Compared to Patrice Bergeron by several scouts, he’s the ideal two-way center, a high intensity performer whose hockey sense and will make him the player you want in the final seconds to protect a lead or battle for the tying goal. White does his best work along the boards. He excels at the cycle and is relentless in pursuit of the puck. Like Bergeron he might not be the highest scoring player on the team but he does so many little things so well that he might just be the most valuable.
      • SCOUTS SAY: “He’s Captain Intangibles. A born leader. Plays bigger than his size. Will pay any price to win. Doesn’t have any particular [skill] that stands out as exceptional ... but does everything well. This kid’s a player.”

  • 16
    edmonton oilers
    jakub zboril, d
    saint john (qmjhl) | 6-2, 185
    13-20-33 in 44 games
    The Oilers might consider a goalie with this pick—or trading it down in an effort to land someone like Ilya Samsonov while adding another asset to the pile. But with young goalies to be had via trade, and with a glaring need for a reliable top-four defender in their prospect cupboard, Zboril is a smart pick. He has the offensive tools, including a heavy shot from the point, to man the power play. He also has that nasty, physical edge that makes him a miserable opponent in the defensive zone.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Does his best work in the neutral zone. Makes a crisp, smart pass in transition and is just as effective breaking up the [enemy] attack as it comes out of the zone. He crosses the line occasionally [he had two suspensions this season] but that’s okay. He’s a hard man to play against.”
  • 17
    winnipeg jets
    paul bittner, lw
    portland (whl) | 6-4, 194
    34-37-71 in 66 games
    Winnipeg’s organization is pretty thin at left wing, which could make Bittner irresistible. There’s not a lot of flash to his game—he’s strictly north/south—but his size makes him very tough to handle along the boards, in the corners and in front of the net. Needs work on several areas of his game, but the raw tools are intriguing. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There's a lot of projection involved with Bittner, just like Crouse. I can pick apart almost every aspect of his game—I mean, his skating is sluggish, his puck skills are limited, he’s nowhere near as aggressive as I’d like—but you know at the same time you can see the potential for growth is there. There’s a chance he busts, but I think he just needs some time and some guidance to put it all together and become a very effective power forward.”

  • 18
    ottawa senators
    brandon carlo, D
    tri-city (WHL) | 6-5, 185
    4-21-25 in 63 games
    The Sens won’t draft for need but if a player with the potential to become a big, strong top-four defenseman like Carlo falls into their lap, they might be interested. There’s not a lot of offensive upside to his game, and for that reason alone Ottawa might pass. But there’s a certain safety in a kid who knows how to play to his strengths—his size, his skating ability and his positioning—and doesn’t worry about trying to be something he’s not. He won’t be a star, but he’ll play 18-20 minutes of reliable defense for a long time. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “He’s not the smoothest looking kid but he actually skates exceptionally well for a big man. With his speed, his wingspan and his excellent positioning, he’s a tough guy to beat to the net. He wins more than his share of puck battles and he can make a nice outlet pass. There's little risk here.”

  • 19
    detroit red wings
    nick merkley, rw
    kelowna (WHL) | 5-10, 187
    20-70-90 in 72 games
    Something of an oddity, Merkley is a playmaking winger. He has elite vision and hockey sense and distributes the puck in a way that makes the most of his teammates and their talent. Lacks ideal size but compensates for that with his competitive intensity and willingness to battle for his ice. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Terrific work ethic. His motor's always running high. A leader on and off the ice. Makes himself noticeable just by force of will. Needs to work on his skating. Has a high upside.”
  • 20
    minnesota wild
    evgeny svechnikov, rw
    cape breton (qmjhl) | 6-3, 205
    32-46-78 in 55 games
    Svechnikov is a power forward blessed with promising size and offensive instincts. He’s able to beat defenders with his strength, his speed or a sweet dangle and that versatility makes him very effective in the offensive zone. Excellent hands and a natural finisher. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “He’s going to get knocked for his defensive game, and that’s fair. It needs work. But I think he has that desire to make it happen. I saw improvements over the course of the season. It’s all about consistency ... about wanting it as much as he wants to score. This kid will score. He’s got the gift.”

  • 21
    Filip Chlapik, C
    Charlottetown (QMJHL) | 6-1, 196
    33-42-75 in 64 games
    In the first iteration of this mock, we speculated that Sabres GM Tim Murray might trade this spot for an established player. He did just that on Friday morning, sending it to Ottawa in exchange for Robin Lehner and David Legwand. That changes the possible selection from a goaltender (Ilya Samsonov) to Ottawa’s top priority: a center. Chlapik gets mixed reviews. Some see him as a responsible two-way type with upside, and if that’s how he pans out he’s well worth nabbing at this spot. Others, though, wonder about his offensive upside. If he can’t score in the 50-point range, then this pick is too early by about 20.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Has 200-foot awareness. Takes pride in defensive game. High hockey IQ. Excellent playmaker. Has a heavy shot but not a natural finisher.”

  • 22
    washington capitals
    denis guryanov, rw
    togliatti 2 (russia jr) | 6-2, 183
    15-10-25 in 23 games
    That two-year extension he recently signed with his Russian team won’t scare off the Caps, who were well rewarded for their patience with 2010 pick Evgeny Kuznetsov. Guryanov is an offensive dynamo who excels at creating space with his blistering speed and then unloading with one of the most dangerous shots in the draft. In time, he could prove to be one of the most gifted players in his class. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “His shot is something else. It just explodes off his stick. Easily one of the best in his class. Very quick on his feet. Has that extra gear that allows him to beat a defender inside or out. I question his decision-making sometimes.”

  • 23
    vancouver canucks
    thomas chabot, d
    saint john (QMJHL) | 6-2, 179
    12-29-41 in 66 games
    The Canucks need a top-end defensive prospect and Chabot is one player they’ve scouted heavily this season. He’s worked hard at improving his play in his own zone, especially his physical game, but his real strength lies at the other end of the ice. He’s a prototypical PMD who excels in transition and creating offensive chances with his vision and his passing. He has excellent speed and is very effective either leading or joining the rush. Projects as a solid power play quarterback. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There's definitely some Keith Yandle, good and bad. He’s never going to be a shutdown guy but that’s OK. You take him, you’re getting a player who is all about gaining and maintaining possession. He knows what to do with the puck when he gets it. He could be a steal late.”

  • 24
    toronto maple leafs
    jacob larsson, d
    frolunda (Sweden Jr) | 6-2, 191
    1-2-3 in 20 games
    If the Leafs don’t grab a D-man with their first pick, it’s a good bet they'll nab one here ... and he’ll probably be a Swede. Oliver Kylington and Gabriel Carlsson are options, but Larsson might be the lowest-risk. He earns high marks for his skating, his hockey sense and his competitiveness and has the size needed to be effective in all three zones. There’s not a lot of offensive upside to his game, but he makes good puck decisions. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Makes a great first pass. Strong skater. Excellent in transition. Keeps risk to a minimum. [Projects as a] complementary player on the second pair.”

  • 25
    winnipeg jets
    jeremy roy, d
    sherbrooke (QMJHL) | 6-0, 188
    5-38-43 in 46 games
    Recognizing that a team can never have too many puck-moving defenseman, the selection of Roy makes sense here for the Jets. He’s an outstanding offensive talent whose hockey sense, vision and poise under pressure makes him a potential power play quarterback. If nothing else though he excels at moving the puck in transition and plays a strong possession game. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: : “Injuries probably hurt [his draft standing] but Roy will be an excellent late-round value. He gets a lot of credit for his offense but he’s very reliable in his own zone, too. He makes good reads and uses his positioning to make up for a lack of size. Should be a valuable second-pair/second PP [player].”

  • 26
    montreal canadiens
    jake debrusk, lw
    Swift current (whl) | 6-0, 176
    42-39-81 in 72 games
    There are echoes of his father, long-time NHL enforcer Louie DeBrusk, in Jake’s game—the work ethic, the competitiveness, the character—but he has a lot more in his tool box than his old man. He’s a gifted goal scorer who can create offense with his hands and his smarts. He’s hard along the boards and fearless in the hard areas of the ice. He has the potential to be an effective scorer from the second line. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “There was so much growth in his game this year but it feels like there's still just scratching the surface of what he can be. There's a high skill level there but there’s a strong desire to improve every element of his game. I think his hockey sense [is one of his best attributes].”

  • 27
    anaheim ducks
    brock boeser, rw
    waterloo (USHL) | 6-1, 192
    35-33-68 in 57 games
    There’s a good chance the Cup-contending Ducks will look to trade this pick for immediate help, but if they hold on to it Boeser makes a lot of sense. He’s not the biggest guy out there, but that doesn’t stop him from playing a power forward’s game. He’s relentless in all three zones, using his size and strength to generate turnovers in one end and convert them into scoring opportunities at the other. A natural goal scorer who also brings a playmaker's touch. One scout suggested he could be off the board in the early teens.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Everything about his game screams “pro player.” Good size, high compete level and a real instinct for the net. Never fails to pay the price.”
  • 28
    tampa bay lightning
    joel eriksson ek, c
    farjestad (sweden) | 6-2, 185
    25-13-38 in 59 games
    The big, two-way center seems like a classic Red Wings pick, which makes him exactly the sort of player that GM Steve Yzerman might covet. He was the highest-scoring under-18 player in Sweden’s top league, so he’s already proved that he can handle himself against men. He has an excellent shot and is willing to earn his ice. He doesn’t settle for the easy opportunities. When he fills out, he could become a physical presence. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Not a lot of flash. More of a safe pick. Plays a strong 200-foot game. Fully committed to his defensive responsibilities. Can be creative offensively but not likely to play a top-six role. A solid complementary player.”

  • 29
    philadelphia flyers
    daniel sprong, rw
    charlottetown (qmjhl) | 6-0, 192
    39-49-88 in 68 games
    After using their own pick to grab a sure thing, the Flyers can swing for the fences with the selection acquired from the Lightning in the Braydon Coburn trade. Sprong, a native of the Netherlands, is a high-risk/high-reward prospect, a scoring machine with an aversion to defensive play. He’s a brilliant skater and highly creative with the puck. He’s equally adept at finishing as he is making plays. If a team believes in him, Sprong could easily go higher ... but it’s just as likely that he drops into the second round. Russian goaltender Samsonov is also a possibility here.
    • SCOUTS SAY: “In terms of offensive ability, he’s probably top-10 in the whole draft. He’s an incredibly gifted player who can create scoring chances out of almost nothing. I have no doubt that he has the tools to score [in the NHL], but will he do it often enough to overlook his [defensive issues]?”

  • 30
    PRINCE GEORGE (WHL) | 6-1, 181
    20-59-79 in 70 games
    There’s nothing sexy about Harkins, the son of former NHLer Todd Harkins, but he’s seen as a safe bet to skate a long time in the league. He plays a simple north/south game that features full commitment in all three zones. He’s an especially effective forechecker who earns his space/time with the puck by simply outworking the opposition. 
    • SCOUTS SAY: “Maybe not the high-end upside you want from a first-round pick, but a safe bet to grow into a middle-six role. He’s a smart kid who always seems to do the right thing.”

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