After Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are taken, the intrigue starts with the third pick of our first round NHL mock draft.
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.
• 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)
• 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."
•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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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].”
• 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].”
• 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.”
• 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.”
• 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]?”
• 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.”