Tag Archives: Erie Otters

Colby’s Corner Top five Players Poised to Breakout

A new season starts today, so it’s time for me to jump in and tell you five players to keep an eye out for as they could have breakout seasons. I didn’t limit myself to just rookies; I was also looking for players who could fill some big shoes or become a standout on their team.

First up,

  1. Oliver Bjorkstrand

This one may surprise a few, but after a strong preseason performance, Bjorkstrand could really step up this season and have a big role with the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a highly rated prospect, I believe Jacket fans have been waiting for him to show up in a big way.

Bjorkstrand only has 38 games played over the past two seasons, recording 10 goals and 11 assists in that time. I remember watching him play in World Juniors a few years ago and he had the ability to take over a game and control his team’s offensive flow. If he can provide that for the Jackets, this would give them another weapon with a nice scoring touch. Bjorkstrand could be a name that you hear more of this season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 10-15 goals with another 10-20 assists.

Next up,

  1. Matthew Tkachuk

I have been a huge fan of Tkachuk for a long time – if you have listened to podcasts you know this. Tkachuk had a solid rookie season, recording 13 goals and 35 assists. If that’s what you get from a 6th Overall pick in his first year, you are not going to complain if you are the Calgary Flames. Tkachuk’s physical game and willingness to get into dirty areas allowed him to find some extra points this past season.

Last season in four playoff games, Tkachuk was held pointless and I think that left a bitter taste in his mouth. If he used that as a motivator in his offseason, than he should come back as an even better player. Not to mention the Flames signed the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal. Jagr can show Tkachuk how to use his big body to his advantage and give him other tips to have a great season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 20-25 goals with another 30-40 assists.

Next up,

  1. Alexander DeBrincat

Rookie Alert: Alex DeBrincat makes my list as a player that could be the next Artemi Panarin in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. DeBrincat has been one of the best junior players over the past few seasons trying to crack the Hawks roster, and has finally done that this season. Yes, he is a rookie – and a small one at that – but he has proven he knows were the net is. DeBrincat has scored over 100 points in three-straight OHL seasons, including his final year with the Erie Otters when he finished with 65 goals and 62 assists for a 127 points.

The argument that it won’t convert over is nonsense as junior players like Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk are finding goals in this league. Another reason he is so high on my list is the opportunity he could have to play with some of the best players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If he can learn from either of them, this kid could become a star in no time.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 20-25 goals with another 35-45 assists.

Next up,

  1. Jake Guentzel

Now you can say Jake Guentzel is already a star from his Stanley Cup-winning performance last season. I agree, but I think he can play even better than he was in the playoffs. Guentzel had 13 goals and 8 assists in 25 playoff games last spring. It was a performance so strong that he deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy – only have it ripped from him by Sidney Crosby. We haven’t seen Guentzel in playoff form for a whole season, but this is that season.

Thinking about Guentzel, Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin all performing in top form has me believing this team could be looking at a three-peat without question, as they are probably the favorite in the East again. Guentzel’s scoring touch and being on the same page and line as Crosby could see his numbers sky rocket and he could be an even bigger star in Pittsburgh.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 30-35 goals with another 40-50 assists.

Finally,

  1. Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel will look to keep pace with fellow 2015 first-rounder Connor McDavid‘s scoring this year after missing the start of last season with a high ankle sprain. In addition to ruining Jack’s chance to shine for all 82 games, his injury was also a major contributor to the Buffalo Sabres’ slow start that potentially cost them their first postseason appearance since 2011. And the fact that Eichel had to watch his buddies Auston Matthews and McDavid in the playoffs last season was surely his motivator this offseason. Just watching a few preseason games, Jack looks faster and smoother this than he did last year.

Eichel was very open about how he missed out on  a $1 million bonus for his points-per-game percentage last season. Jack had 57 points in 61 games played, but he hovered around one point-per-game for most of the season before finishing the season in a slump to fall short of his goal. After signing an 8-year, $10 million AAV Tuesday and with the potential to assume captaincy of this Sabres team and lead them to the playoffs, I bet Eichel will earn every cent of his bonus this season.

Player’s goal: I think a successful season for him could be 30-35 goals with another 40-50 assists.

2016 Mock Draft: The Complete First Round

By: Nick Lanciani

 

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Here’s a look at how I think the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will pan out. Of course, I expect just about every single one of these predictions to be wrong. Likewise, experts and draft rankings may say a player is going to go 11th overall, but there’s always a good chance that player could slip up or down on Draft day, so I’ve tried to take account for that as I see fit.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of good players, but how often do we see them get drafted in the right order— especially when hindsight is 20/20 (I’m looking at you, 2010 NHL Entry Draft).

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1) Toronto Maple Leafs–> C Auston Matthews, Zurich (SUI)

If you read my mock draft from last month, you might realize that it seems not much has changed with my top-14 picks. This one should be self-explanatory. Hope is back in Toronto in the form of Auston Matthews. A 6’1”, 210-pound center, Matthews is a two-way player similar in nature to Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles or Patrice Bergeron in Boston. In 36 games with Zurich this season, he had 24-22-46 totals.

Matthews was named the Rising Star Award winner and finished 2nd in voting for the MVP of the National League A in Switzerland. Matthews is the franchise center that the Maple Leafs have been waiting for since the days of Mats Sundin. He led the United States to the bronze with 7-4-11 totals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

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2) Winnipeg Jets–> RW Patrik Laine, Tappara (FIN)

Patrik Laine is the number one choice for number two. You read that right, folks. Laine is one of the next best things for the city of Winnipeg and Jets fans alike. The 6’4”, 206-poung right-winger is a treat to watch and could easily fill the hole left behind by Andrew Ladd’s departure around the trade deadline. We’re talking about the kind of player that could have a bigger year than Blake Wheeler’s already big year. Laine’s size and skill combined with his maturity provides some strength on an increasingly younger and talented Jets roster.

Laine had 10 goals in 18 playoff games with Tappara en route to being named postseason MVP and winning the championship in Liiga (Finland’s top professional league). He had 17-16-33 totals in 46 games during the regular season and led all Liiga rookies in scoring. As well, Laine tied Auston Matthews in goals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship while helping Finland win gold.

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3) Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (FIN)

It’d take a pretty sizeable trade to get Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to give up the 3rd overall pick— and for good reason. Puljujarvi is the next best skater in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. His talent and hockey sense drive his offensive game as one of the better prospects on the wing.

Puljujarvi would easily contribute to the youth movement in Columbus as the organization looks to get back to competitive form with a dominant AHL squad in Lake Erie leading the influx of prospects.

The 6’3”, 203-pound forward had 13-15-28 totals in 50 games played for Karpat in Liiga as a 17-year-old. In addition, Puljujarvi was one point shy of Jaromir Jagr’s record for U-18 players at the World Junior Championship level, having scored 17 points in seven games en route to winning gold with Finland this year at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors.

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4) Edmonton Oilers–> LW Matthew Tkachuk, London (OHL)

Originally, I had Jakob Chychrun pegged at 4th overall as the Draft’s best defenseman, but after seeing a second half of the season fade out from Chychrun, even I am skeptical of what he can become. With that, I still have faith in him (see mu 8th overall pick), but while the Oilers could use a young defenseman (that they won’t let slip away— *cough, cough* Jeff Petry), they’ll be forced to take Matthew Tkachuk instead. Not that that’s a bad thing. He’s a talented forward with lots of grit at 6’1”, 195-pounds.

Tkachuk tied Auston Matthews in scoring for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 11 points and hand 30-77-107 totals in 57 games with the London Knights this season. And, oh yeah, he scored the game winning goal in this year’s Memorial Cup Final for the Knights against Rouyn-Noranda. Tkachuk can also revamp a power play unit, given that 42 of his points this season with London came on the power play.

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli can’t complain about this pick jumpstarting a quick revitalization in Edmonton with Connor McDavid receiving a skilled, young, winger on his line.

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5) Vancouver Canucks–> LW Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed it yet, but there’s a dumpster fire in the Canucks management office. All kidding aside, Vancouver has had bad asset management over the last few years. Trading Jared McCann was, well, not a smooth move on Canucks GM Jim Benning’s move. Granted, Erik Gudbranson is a better defenseman than half of Vancouver’s blue line, but that’s not saying much.

Okay, now that trade analysis is out of the way, here’s the hot take on Pierre-Luc Dubois: he’s good. Dubois is a smart and versatile forward that brings a level of flexibility to the Canucks lineup. He’s more than capable of playing alongside Bo Horvat. Dubois stands tall at 6’2”, 201-pounds, but don’t let his size fool you, he’s got great hands and can play on edge. He led the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with 57 assists and 99 points in 62 games this season and was a plus-40 rating. Dubois also finished the season in the top-six in the QMJHL in goals and points.

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6) Calgary Flames–> C Logan Brown, Windsor (OHL)

Calgary has a youth movement that at times, seems to work very well, and at other times shows exactly the kind of thing you would expect from young players— inexperience. They’ve done a good job of building through the draft, though at times surprising with who they’ve selected. Their primary focus this offseason should be on a solid defenseman, but they’re not going to find the one they’re looking for at 6th overall in the draft (yes, I know Olli Juolevi exists, let me finish).

The Flames are going to have to be one of those teams that just goes with the best available player on the board, given their position, and since Logan Brown is just that. He’s also bigger than most of their defensemen, so there should be no problem with adding size to their offense without addressing their long-term defensemen needs just yet. At 6’6”, 222-pounds, Brown is a skilled center with speed and the ability to handle the puck better than any other. Think of Joe Thornton as a comparable, since Brown is apt to be a playmaker first, goal scorer second.

He had 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games with the Windsor Spitfires this season. He also had 29 points on the power play and won 53% of his faceoffs, so there’s that.

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7) Arizona Coyotes–> D Olli Juolevi, London (OHL)        

Olli Juolevi is one of the best defensemen in this year’s draft. Of course, hindsight is always better than foresight, but for all you Team Chychrun vs. Team Juolevi people, final rankings and second half of their season performance really separates the two from one another. Both are NHL ready, but one is clearly more ready than the other and has a bit more hockey sense to him.

The fact of the matter is that Juolevi fits the Coyotes style and brings an edge to their blue line that Arizona desperately needs, given the uncertainty of who they’ll bring back and for how long with plenty of pending free agents in the desert. While the Keith Yandle deal from the spring of 2015 paid in dividends for the Coyotes with the addition of Anthony Duclair, they still lost a defenseman that they put a lot of time and effort into forging. And Brandon Gormley wasn’t much of a success either, so much so that they sent him to Colorado. There’s plenty of cause to add another defenseman to forge and create some competition for a roster spot next season.

Juolevi comes ready-made at 6’2”, 182-pounds and provides some solidarity should the Coyotes part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in any fashion in the coming years. Juolevi had nine goals and 42 points for the London Knights this season with a plus-38 rating. He also won gold with Finland at the 2016 World Juniors and transitioned from Finland to the OHL with ease.

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8) Buffalo Sabres–> D Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia (OHL)

Sometimes players fizzle out a little before the draft to only prove everyone wrong when the experts say they’re unsure of how that player will turn out. At least, that’s what I hope is the case for Chychrun. Look, he’s one of the best defensemen in the draft, given the fact that he is definitely a first rounder and years later we could be looking back on this draft saying that Chychrun was the best defenseman from this draft.

The point is this, he’s a 6’2”, 214-pound, two-way defenseman and is sure to fight for a roster spot on the Sabres come this October. While Chychrun ultimately fell in some draft rankings, he is still a cut above many other defensemen in the draft, given his size and familiarity with the North American style of the game. His physicality and awareness brings a solid foundation to Buffalo’s blue line. Chychrun had 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games along with a plus-23 plus/minus rating this season with the Sarnia Sting.

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9) Montreal Canadiens–> RW Alexander Nylander, Mississauga (OHL)

Nylander had four goals, five assists and nine points for the Swedes at the 2016 World Junior Championship and blossomed as a skilled forward this year with the Mississauga Steelheads. He’s built for NHL stardom and could do so on one of the biggest stages in the sport in Montreal. Nylander is the 6’0”, 180-pound younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander, and is bound to jumpstart a Canadiens offense that was streaky at best (aside from being injured) this season. He had 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games in his first OHL season with Mississauga.

He’s a dynamic skater that is more than effective on the power play, notching nine power play goals for the Steelheads. Nylander can separate himself from any other skater on the ice with ease. If the Sabres overlook Jakob Chychrun, there’s a good chance he could go 8th overall, but since they probably won’t look past Chychrun, Nylander is best fit to go to another rival of the Maple Leafs— the Habs. I’ll say it again, he’s going to be picked by a rival of Toronto, but the question is which one?

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10) Colorado Avalanche–> D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor (OHL) 

In light of all the rumors/actual evidence that the Avalanche are/are not shopping Tyson Barrie, this one seems self-explanatory. Colorado moves a defenseman to then take a defenseman (that they’ll have to start the process all over again with) at the draft. This seems to be a very Colorado move, but stay with me for a moment on this one. Mikhail Sergachev packs a punch— we’re talking Rob Blake style impact, but with an offensively minded side of the game.

Sergachev is a big 6’2”, 208-pound defenseman and was named the best defenseman in the OHL in his first season in North America this season. His two-way presence along the blue line brings enough of an offensive element to his game to satisfy anyone that likes watching someone hit someone along the boards with their size, then start a quick transition the other way (and execute it well). With Sergachev, we’re talking almost like an Erik Karlsson, but with more strength when it comes to playing defense.

He plays with confidence and speed and had 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games with the Windsor Spitfires in his rookie season. Add to that his 31 points on the power play and maybe the Avalanche are ready to take on a young, NHL-ready defenseman that might be able to help them figure out what the heck they are doing. Sergachev is the total package that the Av’s have failed to produce on their own, but desperately want, and brings balance to their youth movement all around.

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11) New Jersey Devils–> C Tyson Jost, Penticton (BCHL)

If you’re the Devils and you’re committed to Cory Schneider as one of the league’s best-underrated goaltenders, then you should be working harder than ever to prevent the current turnaround from lasting forever. You owe it to Schneider and his goalie equipment. Okay, rant aside, New Jersey could use younger talent and it might not be a bad idea if it does take them a few years to groom it properly. After all, letting another Zach Parise get away wouldn’t be good.

The fact of the matter is this— New Jersey isn’t going anywhere unless they figure out that they need to build around Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique, Schneider and the like. Yet the Devils seem pretty insistent on going where they want with what they have, which means it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add to their lack of strength down the middle. Ray Shero is a smart general manager knows how to add talent.

Tyson Jost is perhaps one of the best-underrated players available in the draft as a 6’0”, 194-pound center heading to the University of North Dakota next season. Jost could become a cornerstone forward for New Jersey as long as they’re willing to add to their foundation. He had 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games for Penticton this season, with 14 goals on the power play and seven game-winners.

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12) Ottawa Senators–> D Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL)

The likes of another Erik Karlsson in Ottawa wouldn’t be a bad thing considering their addition of the annual butt-end of a pylon joke, Dion Phaneuf this season. Jake Bean is a solid defenseman with a considerable offensive element of his game that with some work, could flourish in the NHL. Plus his name fits the Senators obsession with defenseman with short, four-letter last names, like Cody Ceci.

Bean is a 6’0”, 173-pound offensive defenseman with excellent wheels and smart puck possession. He can make excellent passes and carry his own weight. With proper training, Bean could strengthen up enough to become a force to be reckoning with on the blue line. His stick, body and talent is sure to be a great compliment alongside any of Ottawa’s defenders in the years to come. One more thing to note, Bean led the Western Hockey League defensemen with 24 goals in 68 games in his second full season in the league with the Calgary Hitmen.

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13) Carolina Hurricanes–> C Clayton Keller, USA U-18 (USHL)

First the Hurricanes made waves by landing Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, next they’re going to make waves by selecting Clayton Keller with the 13th overall pick. Here’s why: despite what everyone tells you about size in hockey, you don’t always need size— you just need skill (and a lot of hard work). Keller is a skillful 5’9”, 168-pound center reminiscent of the likes of Martin St. Louis or Jonathan Drouin. Overlooked, doubted, under recognized, Keller is a smart, tactical, forward.

He led the USA’s U-18 program with 70 assists and 107 points in 62 games this season. As well, Keller recorded four goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2016 IIHF World U-18 Championship en route to a bronze medal. The Hurricanes need to retool down the middle in the post-Eric Staal era and Keller is likely to be their man. He’s committed to Boston University in 2016-2017 and was also selected in the second round (40th overall) of the 2014 OHL Draft by the Windsor Spitfires, proving that he’s got plenty of options for some development before making the NHL jump.

Carolina shouldn’t rush things with him, if they’re committed to the long term approach of success (though the same can’t necessarily be stated for the relocation rumors surrounding the team).

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14) Boston Bruins–> D Charlie McAvoy, Boston University (Hockey-East)

Boston needs a defenseman, so Boston drafts a defenseman they can keep their eyes on throughout his development, as McAvoy is across town at Boston University. Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason just as he did last offseason and must look to add depth on the blue line both in the immediate future and down the pipeline.

McAvoy brings an excellent 6’0”, 208-pound frame with excellent defensive awareness. While he’s not NHL ready, a year or two of development looks to pay off in dividends with his 39 blocked shots in 37 games played this season as a freshman at BU. Likewise, McAvoy had three goals and 25 points and was a plus-10 rating in his first year as a Terrier. He had a plus-5 rating with the bronze medal-winning United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Under the guidance of some veterans and Boston’s coaching staff, McAvoy could turn into a household name at TD Garden.

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15) Minnesota Wild–> LW Max Jones, London (OHL)

Minnesota has some tough decisions to make this offseason with regards to their plethora of pending free agents, potentially buying out or trading Thomas Vanek and the inquiries they face in the ongoing phone calls about Darcy Kuemper. With four picks in the 2016 Draft, the Wild could be looking to stockpile a few more (and they’ve got assets to move). With Bruce Boudreau at the reigns the Wild should become a contender with the right pieces. The only trouble is finding those pieces between now and then.

An addition that’s needed for Minnesota to surpass their previous playoff failures is found in 6’2”, 203-pound forward, Max Jones. He would bring size and physicality to their lineup along with a skilled stick that scored 28 goals and 52 points in 63 games as a London Knight this season. Barring his brutality (he had amassed 106 penalty minutes and a 12-game suspension in the OHL playoffs), Jones could be a wild enough power forward for the Wild.

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16) Detroit Red Wings–> D Dante Fabbro, Penticton (BCHL)

The phrase “defense wins championships” has long been synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings. While their offense has improved in age and dynamics, as Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan surely cannot do everything; the Red Wings have been a little lackluster on the point in prospects. Actually, it hasn’t been a little— it’s been virtually non-existent with every young defenseman in their system having either faded out or been traded.

The point is, Detroit needs a younger defense sooner rather than later to avoid a situation similar to the *ahem* Boston Bruins or New York Rangers.

Fabbro brings in a solid 6’0”, 189-pound stature that had 14-53-67 totals in 45 games for Penticton this season. The Boston University bound defenseman will need some time to develop, but the Red Wings can take a year or two to work their way with him and align everyone on the same “defense wins championships” page. Of note, Fabbro was named the top defenseman in the British Columbia Hockey League for his efforts this season.

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17) Nashville Predators–> D Logan Stanley, Windsor (OHL)

Replacing Seth Jones isn’t easy— was something I expected to say in twenty years if you asked me three years ago at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but now everything’s changed since Jones didn’t pan out the way Nashville envisioned how they’d utilize him. Still feeling the effects of Ryan Suter jumping ship (and Shea Weber almost jettisoning the Predators), Nashville goes with Logan Stanley to regain some control of developing their defensemen the way they want to.

At 6’7”, 225-pounds, Stanley packs a punch standing tall and bone crunching-ly strong. Additionally, he skates well and can pair up with just about any defenseman willing to carry the more offensive sides of the game as Stanley fits more of a stay-at-home, shutdown blue liner role. He had 5-12-17 totals and 103 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Spitfires this season and handles speedy forwards with ease, often breaking down oncoming rushes.

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18) Philadelphia Flyers–> C Michael McLeod, Mississauga (OHL)

The Flyers are in prime position for aligning themselves as playoff contenders for the next few seasons (at least) if they continue to manage their assets and commit themselves to a solid goaltender (looking at you Michal Neuvirth). Philadelphia has a lot of centers, so what’s one more? Likewise, GM Ron Hextall has mentioned that he wants to add size. He should do so, with versatility.

Michael McLeod led Mississauga in shorthanded goals (four) and 21-40-61 totals this season. Combined with his work ethic, McLeod’s 6’2”, 188-pound frame and speed shows durability as a playmaking forward that could develop well on the wing in Philly. While Shayne Gostisbehere holds down the blue line for the Flyers, drafting a smart, gifted offense will help balance the franchise’s talent pool in the coming years.

Overall the Flyers are a few steps away from taking the New York Islanders model into a deeper playoff routine…

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19) New York Islanders–> C Luke Kunin, Wisconsin (BIG 10)

…and speaking of the Islanders…

First, what were the they thinking with that Casey Cizikas extension? Second, they’re going to need someone to step up big time to replace Kyle Okposo, especially with the threat of John Tavares opting to hit the free agent market in 2017— though do you think New York won’t learn anything from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current situation with Steven Stamkos to put more than enough emphasis on valuing their best franchise player? Enough ranting about the organization overall, more about Luke Kunin.

Kunin is a 5’11”, 193-pound solid center that was named to the Big Ten Conference All-Freshmen team after leading the Wisconsin Badgers with 19 goals (five of them on the power play) and 127 shots on goal in 34 games this season. Again, “solid” is the keyword here. Dependable on special teams and durable in the lineup are other expected qualities from Kunin, especially with some time to develop, he could become one of the better two-way players in the league, emulating the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar. But again, the other keyword here is development (which he’ll certainly get in his coming years at Wisconsin).

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20) Arizona Coyotes (from New York Rangers)–> LW Riley Tufte, Blaine (HS-MN)

Having already addressed Arizona’s needs, this one is simply one of those “take one of the highly ranked guys, oh and talk about his size being important to the lineup” selections.

Look, with a roster that already has Max Domi and other skilled, young players, looking to create a dynamic mix of skill and toughness in the desert, Riley Tufte is a clear choice for the Coyotes at 20th overall if he’s still available by then. He’s a 6’5”, 211-pound left wing that wins battles along the boards. Tufte also has a heavy shot and had 47 goals and 78 points (with six power play goals) in 25 games en route to winning the 2016 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award. He also had 10 goals in 27 games with Fargo in the USHL and is committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth next season to add some more strength and development to his game.

In time, he’ll leave opponents howling for mercy in Arizona (I just wanted to make a pun, please appreciate it).

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21) Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings)–> D Dennis Cholowski, Chilliwack (BCHL)

Some things were said about the Hurricanes and some things remain. Meanwhile, they’ve got some good defensemen coming up the ranks and lots of potential trade bait on the blue line, both in the now and in the future. Sometimes a change of scenery is best for both teams in regards to the lack of development for players like Ryan Murphy. Likewise, the uncertainty of Justin Faulk’s future in Carolina looms overhead.

It only makes sense to make a selection that you intend to groom properly and insert into the lineup down the road. Dennis Cholowski is a 6’0”, 170-pound sturdy defenseman with excellent hockey sense and decent skating ability. He had 12 goals and 40 points in 50 games with Chilliwack this season and knows how to open up enough space for a breakout. With some strength and development at St. Cloud State University, Cholowski could become a solid, underrated, blue liner for Carolina.

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22) Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks)–> LW Kieffer Bellows, USA U-18 (USHL)

Barring a Patrik Laine breakdown, the Winnipeg Jets make out with two solid first round picks in my mock draft.

Kieffer Bellows is just what the Jets need for a pure goal scorer that’ll help the likes of Mark Scheifele and whoever else Winnipeg has down the middle. Bellows scored 50 goals this season with the USA U-18 national development team and is sure to make a sound next season at Boston University. His 12 power play goals and nine game-winning goals and 81 points came in 62 games this season. At 6’0”, 196-pounds he’ll be more than ready to be a durable winger coming down the pipeline in the next few seasons. Oh and he likes to shoot from anywhere, as evidenced by his 50 goals with the NTDP U-18 team.

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23) Florida Panthers–> RW Alexander DeBrincat, Erie (OHL)

The Florida Panthers are trending upwards and they appear to be only getting better, what with the Keith Yandle trade and signing as the latest piece to the puzzle and the ageless wonder— excuse me, legend— Jaromir Jagr in great shape.

Alexander DeBrincat brings a lot of skill to the Panthers roster, despite his 5’7”, 163-pound frame (but again, size doesn’t matter when hard work and talent is enough to prove people wrong). DeBrincat may have had his run-ins with trouble on the international Junior stage, but he’s not one to pass up on and cast off as uncoachable or whatever. He anticipates what comes to him with ease and has an impressive release on an accurate shot that played alongside Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome the last two seasons.

Along the way, DeBrincat amassed 102 goals in 128 games with the Erie Otters as perhaps one of the most underrated forwards alongside the likes of McDavid and Strome.

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24) Anaheim Ducks–> C Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad (SWE)

After surprising everyone with the way they flapped around the bottom of the standings at the start of this season, the Anaheim Ducks worked their way as far as a disappointing Game 7 loss in Round 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Nashville Predators. Then they fired Bruce Boudreau and hired Randy Carlyle as head coach. Apparently they think that every ten years they can win a Cup or something with the same head coach and just the same amount of confusion in the offseason. Where they’re headed nobody knows.

But drafting Rasmus Asplund certainly won’t be a mistake for the Ducks. Asplund’s a 5’10”, 176-pound center that will need some time to develop in order to strengthen up and fully transition to the North American style of the game, but he’s got superb leadership and great competitiveness in his game. The potential for this 4-8-12 total point scorer in 46 games with Farjestad this season to improve as he comes more into his development as a two-way forward is yet to be calculated as to just how far off the charts he could reach. Asplund is one of those well-liked guys you can work with and tailor to your needs.

Think of a lesser known, better kept secret, David Pastrnak type of player on the ice with the potential of being the next Teemu Selanne style leader off the ice. Anaheim fans will surely like that.

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25) Dallas Stars–> RW Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau (QMJHL)

The Dallas Stars aren’t looking to do much this offseason besides find better goaltending, if possible, and work on ensuring that Tyler Seguin is fully healed and ready to carry the team on his back alongside Jamie Benn again (slightly warm hot take).

Dare I say it, but drafting Vitaly Abramov could pay off in— stars— for the Stars. The 5’9”, 175-pound winger led the Gatineau Olympiques with 38 goals (with 11 of them on the power play) and 93 points this season en route to being named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year. Abramov is highly competitive and has a quick shot. There’s no need to worry about his transition to the North American game, because he’s already further developed than most for his skill level.

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26) Washington Capitals–> C German Rubtsov, Team Russia U18 (RUS)

Capping off a President’s Trophy winning season (and their best season in franchise history) with an early second round of the playoffs exit to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins was not something on the Washington Capitals’ list this season. But their plethora of talent isn’t sure to diminish anytime soon.

German Rubtsov is the kind of two-way player that could really excel under Barry Trotz’s guidance and/or alongside Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov— actually pretty much anyone on the Capitals roster. As a 6’2”, 178-pound forward with 26 points in 28 games for Team Russia’s U18 team, Rubtsov displayed flashes of brilliance in his hockey sense and defensive awareness, bringing forth a tremendous two-way element to his game. He’s sure to win some battles in high traffic situations for Washington in the years to come with a little fine seasoning in their system, wherever that may be.

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27) Tampa Bay Lightning–> D Lucas Johansen, Kelowna (WHL)

Tampa Bay has a lot on its plate this offseason, between the swirling rumors around trading Ben Bishop, their defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, oh and the fact that Steven Stamkos could very well be heading to unrestricted free agency and the Lightning will be left without a #1 franchise player if he decides to leave. But hey, sure, let’s look ahead for the organization, why not? What else could possibly go wrong— insert plea for Victor Hedman to tough it out and anyone else worried about what skilled Lightning player will be taken by Las Vegas at next year’s expansion draft.

Enough kidding around, Tampa could use a defenseman that is young and may need a year or two before coming into the league because, well, what else might they need. They’ve got plenty of young forwards, young defensemen (I’m looking at you Slater Koekkoek, okay actually I just wanted to type that name) and a young goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy; so really, the choice is yours Steve Yzerman and crew. Take Lucas Johansen and you’ve got your hands on a 6’1”, 176-pound younger brother of the Nashville Predators’ Ryan Johansen.

This Johansen can skate well and play at both ends of the rink and is in an organization that has produced Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Tyson Barrie. That’s some pretty good company to be in and enough reason for Tampa to look to the future of a shut down pair in Lucas Johansen and Hedman.

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28) St. Louis Blues–> C Pascal Laberge, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

David Backes is heading to free agency, Paul Stastny isn’t getting any younger, but at least Vladimir Sobotka may be making his return to the St. Louis Blues lineup next season. As an aside, I’m a huge fan of Sobotka, just throwing it out there. Tight against the salary cap, the Blues may be singing the blues in Ken Hitchcock’s final season as head coach if they can’t find a way to restock their prospect pool and finagle a way to keep high-end talent on their roster. It’s the tragedy of the salary cap era to see a team that’s so good, make it only so far, then have to dismantle nearly everything when they get behind the eight ball a bit against the cap.

With that, Pascal Laberge is a promising center that led the Victoriaville Tigres with 68 points in 56 games this season. He was named MVP of the 2016 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, by the way, and is a 6’1”, 172-pound, right-shot that goes to the dirty areas to pick up points and notch goals. His compete level and ability to play the puck along the wall, while winning battles all over the ice, prove he can develop into an all-in-one impact player for St. Louis, like Backes, but perhaps a tad better. It’s time to start thinking long term and begin building down the middle for the Blues.

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29) Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks)–> C Tage Thompson, Connecticut (Hockey-East)

Remember everything I said before about the Bruins? Yeah, well, they need a lot of help. Regardless of whatever they’re able to attract this offseason, they’re still quite a ways off from righting the ship unless they can pull off a miracle it seems. But hey, the good news is that they have two first round picks at their dispersal and some talent forming in their pipelines/already with the NHL club in the likes of Frank Vatrano, Colin Miller (who’s a pending RFA) and others.

Tage Thompson works perfectly for them to keep an eye on through his development at UConn. He led the NCAA with 13 power play goals this season and had 14 goals and 32 points in 36 games with the Huskies. The 6’5”, 195-pound forward finished his freshman year with lots of promise and has enough time to continue to develop into a solid, accurate shooting, quick with the hands center that would bring an immense boost to Boston’s power play if all goes according to plan. Thompson will also have to add some strength to match his height and the level of his game, but he’s got some time while Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci hold down the fort on the Bruins top lines.

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30) Anaheim Ducks (from PIT via TOR)–> RW Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)

I talked about the Ducks before, so I’ll cut to the chase, especially since you’ve been such a good reader making it all the way to the end of this mock draft. Thanks for that.

Julien Gauthier is a monstrous 6’3”, 225-pound power forward. Obviously I meant that in a good way. While some see him as a second or third rounder, Anaheim sees his potential and grabs him before anyone else can even begin to dream about having him in their lineup in the years to come. His 41-11-57 totals in 54 games for Val-d’Or are impressive enough to be a tactical selection by the Ducks, in light of being the only 2016 NHL Draft-eligible player to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Gauthier had two assists in five games played at the 2016 IIHF WJC.

And that does it. That’s all folks. Well, at least for the first round, but I don’t think you want to see me project all seven rounds do you? Thanks for reading. May your favorite team have the best of luck at Friday and Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. We’ll have a live blog of the first round going and keep you updated on all the trades made, as usual.

Huskies Bite Back in Rematch With Rebels, Advance to Memorial Cup Final.

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Alright Down the Frozen River and hockey fans, we here are going to try something new for the first time! This subject, surprisingly, doesn’t have anything to do with the NHL! What?!? I am covering a junior game for the first time! What does this mean?!?! Well, tonight we will be recapping the 2016 Memorial Cup Hockey Semi-Final Game between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Red Deer Rebels. The Memorial Cup is a junior hockey championship trophy awarded annually to the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) champion. It is awarded to a team following a round-robin tourney, between four teams, between a host team, and the champions of the CHL’s three leagues: the OHL which is the Ontario Hockey League, the QMJHL which is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and WHL which is the Western Hockey League.

 

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The teams involved in this year tournament are the London Knights of the OHL, Red Deer Rebels out of the WHL who are also the host team this year, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies from the QMJHL, and, last but not least, the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.

 

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(The Brandon Wheat Kings locked up the 2nd overall spot in the WHL going 48-18-4-2 with 102 points, only four points out of first. The Wheat Kings went on to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which is given to the playoff champion. Brandon winded up crushing the Seattle Thunderbirds in five games to capture the crown and a spot to the Memorial Cup. While the London Knights finished 2nd in their division going 51-14-2-1 with 105 points to end the regular season. They actually tied the Erie Otters in their division in points, but the reason why they finished 2nd was they had one less win then the Otters. So since they finished 2nd, ended up 5th overall behind the four regular season division champs. The Knights went on to capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup, which is also for the playoff champion. They only lost two games the entire playoffs, sweeping every round after the first round.)

Tonight was the play in game for the Championship Game against the London Knights who earned an automatic bid to the Final game after going 3-0 in round robin play. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies had a bye into the semifinal matchup and awaited the winner of the quarterfinal game between the Brandon Wheat Kinds and the Red Deer Rebels. The Wheat Kings jumped out to a 1-0 lead halfway through the middle period. The Rebels fought their way back into the contest tying the game with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. That’s when Red Deer tallied the game-winning goal in Over Time with a minute left in extra time to punch their ticket to the Semis aginst the Huskies.

Red Deer finished 6th overall in the Western Hockey League during the regular season going 45-24-1-2 and 93 points and clinching a spot in the playoffs. The Rebels lost in the Eastern Conference Championship Series 4 games to 1 of the WHL playoffs against, believe it or not, the Wheat Kings. While the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies were the regular season champs finishing in 1st place with an impressive 54-9-3-2 record with 113 points! That was 20 points better than the second-place team! The Huskies went on to win the Presidents Cup, which is awarded to the playoff champion. They won the required 16 games in each of the four rounds, and only lost three total games! So clearly this game was going to be a battle.

Coming into the game, the starting goaltender for each team were a little less than impressive with their stats. The Huskies goalie Chase Marchand had an amazing QMJHL playoff run appearing in all 19 games going 15-3 with an astounding 1.35 GAA and a .946 SV% and a marvelous shutout streak of 223:23. His numbers led all netminders in the playoffs (he also led all goalies in GAA in the regular season with 2.42). Coming into tonight’s game, Chase went 1-2 with a horrid 4.02 GAA and .883 SV% in his 3 Memorial Cup Games.

While Red Deers goalie Rylan Toth played nine games in their playoffs. His record was a less impressive 3-5-1 with a .905 SV% and a 3.19 GAA. As well as his 2-1 record, a 2.94 GAA and a .904 SV%. So clearly Marchand was much better in his playoffs then Toth. When Toth has been much better in his three games in the MC (Memorial Cup).

Red Deer is looking to become the first host team to advance and play in the Finals since 2012. The last team to do this were the Shawinigan Cataractes who beat the London Knights 2-1 in front of their home crowd to win it all. Now if the Huskies win, it will be their first time ever in the Final.

Alright finally (now the fun part begins) let’s get to the game! Here’s what went down:

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The game started off with a very quick pace. Both clubs combined for a total of six shots within the first four minutes of the game. Then with the seventh shot of the first period, just 4:50 into the opening frame we finally got the game’s first prime scoring chance. Huskies defender Allan Carron grabbed the loose puck along the left side boards. Carron skated to the bottom of the left side hash marks in the slot and let a sharp wrister on net. Rebel goalie Rylan Toth was up to the task and blockered the shot into the corner to keep the score at zero.

Then a minute later, it was Red Deer’s turn to try and break the deadlock. Rebels center Jeff de Wit flew down the right-hand side into the attacking zone, taking on the defender. Wit made some nifty moves and found his way to the left side dot. Wit noticed a shot opportunity and took full advantage as he rifled a wrist shot that was pegged for the top left corner. Huskies goalie Chase Marchand somehow, some way was able to get his right shoulder in the way and deflected the puck into the corner for his best save of the game so far.

Five minutes later, we would then get the games first penalty. Rebels D-man Austin Strand got a two minute trip to the sin bin for high sticking minor. This would send Rouyn-Noranda to their first manpower advantage of the game. It only took the Huskies 33 seconds to strike first for the games first goal. San Jose draftee and Huskies star Timo Meier would intercept a bad pass from a Rebels D in their own zone at the top of the left circle. Meier saw Senators draft pick Francis Perron wide open across the ice on the right circle. Meier hit Perron with a sweet pass right in his wheelhouse and Perron let a one-time clap bomb go. Perron’s heat-seeking shot beat Toth far side, back in the direction he came from, to open the scoring at 1-0. This was Perron’s first goal of the MC.

It only took Rouyn-Noranda 1:07 later to double their score. Huskies winger and Colorado pick A.J. Greer fell over with the puck in the left corner of the attacking zone. Toronto draftee Martins Dzierkals picked up the puck in the corner and drove right to the front of the net. For some reason, Rebels defenders gave him all of the time and room that he wanted. Dzierkals took advantage of this and flipped a wimpy backhand shot on net that beat Toth between his legs. Dzierkals first goal of the MC and it increased his team’s lead to 2-0.

At the 16:51 mark of the first period, the Huskies took their first penalty of the game. Bruins draftee and Huskies D-man Jeremy Lauzon got called for roughing on Rebels center Jeff de Wit. This now put the Rebels on their first PP of the game where they looked to cut into the two-goal deficit before the intermission. Unfortunately, thanks to stellar penalty killing and goaltending, the Huskies killed it off only giving up two shots.

The first period ended with the Huskies up 2-0 thanks to goals 1:07 apart and solid goaltending from Chase Marchand.

The second period opened up with the Rebels in on the attack. Just 20 seconds into the period Red Deer had an offensive zone faceoff. The Rebels won the faceoff and D-man Kyle Doetzel found himself with the puck at the point. Doetzel fired a slap shot right towards the net that was deflected on its way through. Goalie Marchand looked to glove the shot down, but since it was deflected, the puck hit the top of his glove and rang right off the crossbar and out! Red Deer was that close to scoring and cutting into the lead.

Once again, a minute later, the Rebels had another prime chance to score. Other Bruins pick and Rebels winger Jake DeBrusk came speeding down the left-hand side and into the offensive zone. DeBrusk picked his head up at the bottom of the circle and lasered a pass over to captain Luke Philp in front of the net. Philp directed the pass on net and was stoned by Marchand with his glove again to keep the score at 2-0.

Red Deer were all over the Huskies in the opening minutes of the second period. They held the puck in the attacking zone for a while and were relentless on the puck. They managed to get five shots within the first three minutes. All the shots were high-quality scoring chances but were turned away by Marchand.

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Rouyn-Noranda went back on to the power play 3:46 into the middle frame. Red Deer defender Josh Mahura got caught for interfering with Huskies winger Martins Dzierkals. The Huskies looked to strike on the PP for another crushing goal. Well, the Huskies got just want they wanted and scored with 42 seconds left on the power play. With all the PP time being spent in the offensive zone on the prowl for a goal. Ottawa draft pick and Huskies winger Francis Perron had the puck at the top of the left-hand circle. Perron passed the puck up to D-man Nikolas Brouillard who unloaded a nasty one-time slapper that beat Rebel goalie Rylan Toth over his glove, off the post, and went into triple their lead at 3-0. This was Brouillard first goal of the MC and team’s second power-play goal of the game.

With 7:31 left in period two Red Deer would get another chance to score on their second power play of the game. Rouyn-Noranda winger Mathieu Boucher got caught for slashing Rebels center Conner Bleackley. Finally, after all of Red Deer’s pressure, they were able to get one past “on point” (don’t worry, that means good) Chase Marchand after a flurry of shots (three in eight seconds). Rebels center Michael Spacek had the puck at the left circle looking for options to pass to. Spacek found fellow D-man and Hurricanes draft pick Hayden Fleury open in the middle of the ice at the top of the point with a pass. Fleury wasted no time and put a one-t slapshot on net in hopes for a rebound. His wish was granted when the puck was deflected in the slot and slid right to captain Luke Philp just above the crease off to the right. Philp grabbed the loose puck and slammed the puck into the open net right before Marchand could get his pad over to his right. This was Philp’s second goal of the MC and brought his team back in the game at 3-1.

Three minutes later Red Deer would go right back on their third man advantage hoping to strike just like last time. Huskies D-man Jeremy Lauzon would make his second trip to the box, this time for holding Rebels winger Evan Polei. Sadly for Red Deer, they were held to just one shot thanks to stellar penalty killing from Rouyn-Noranda.

Towards the end of the period, specifically 50 seconds left, Red Deer would get one last chance before the second period would come to a close. Rebel defender Colton Bobyk, who is well known for his slap shot, decided to change it up a bit. Bobyk would fancy his luck with the puck and try to take it upon his own to score a goal. Bobyk would move on into the offensive zone just above the left circle. Bobyk ripped a wrist shot on net, that was labeled for the top right corner. Huskies Chase Marchand had other ideas and reached out and robbed Bobyk with a heavenly glove save to keep his team’s two-goal lead at 3-1 going into the second intermission.

As the third period started, Red Deer’s players and fans realized their season was coming to an end and were pushing to get a goal.

Five minutes into the final period, Rouyn-Noranda would get their third PP of the contest. Rebels winger Grayson Pawlenchuk got tacked with an infraction for cross checking on Huskies Mathieu Boucher. Red Deer kept their composure, only gave up one shot, and killed off the penalty with poise. Things did not get any better for Red Deer as they took another penalty four minutes later. This time, it was D-man Kyle Doetzel hauling down Huskies winger Timo Meier with a hook and sent Rouyn-Noranda to their fourth power play. Once again, Red Deer were ecstatic on the PK and killed it off.

Then with 6:50 left in the final frame, the Huskies were looking to tack on another insurance goal. Huskies winger Timo Meier was in a battle on the left point blue line into the attacking zone. Meier made a fantastic play and tipped the puck to Av’s draft pick and streaking center Julien Nantel to send him in on a breakaway. Nantel tried fooling Rebel goalie Rylan Toth with a couple fake moves and put a little wrister on net from the slot. Toth made a confident and easy right pad save and pushed the puck into the right corner to keep the game tied and give the Rebels a little glimmer of hope.

Red Deer tried another common tactic with 2:21 remaining. They pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice and play some 6 on 5 hockey. Well, this did not work at all one bit! Thanks to some stunning defense from Rouyn-Noranda in their own zone, they didn’t allow a single shot. This usually doesn’t happen with a man advantage, especially with the goalie is pulled, but the Huskies were up to the challenge and shut the Rebels down.

The game ended with the Huskies pulling out the win 3-1. Rebels goalie Rylan Toth stopped 24 out of 27 shots for a .889 SV% while Huskies goalie Chase Marchand stopped a whopping 36 out of 37 shots for a .973 SV %.

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will now face the RED HOT London Knights and Mitch Marner in the Championship Game on Sunday afternoon at 4:30. The game can be seen on NHL Network.

2015 Mock NHL Entry Draft

By: Nick Lanciani


1. Edmonton Oilers
                                                  C Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL)200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svg

Peter Chiarelli’s reign as GM of the Oilers begins with one of the most hyped turnarounds in hockey. Chiarelli’s leadership, combined with whatever decisions he makes in the offseason and drafting McDavid has talk of the Oilers making the playoffs, if not next season, then in the near future. A lot nearer than before. McDavid’s the best, period.

2. Buffalo Sabres                                                       C Jack Eichel, Boston University (H-East)Buffalo Sabres Logo

Eichel forgives Sabres GM, Tim Murray, on the stage with a professional handshake and is reunited (?- although they were never separated in the first place) with Evan Rodrigues. It’s possible that both make the roster on the same line.

3. Arizona Coyotes                                                    C Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL)Arizona_Coyotes.svg

Big, strong, great skating abilities- Strome is NHL ready as the plethora of talent youth in the desert continues to grow, that is unless they trade this pick. No matter the owner of the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Strome is a first choice franchise changer. While McDavid and Eichel overshadow him in the leadup to the Draft, Strome finds his niche and competes next season for the Calder.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs                                             D Noah Hanifin, Boston College (H-East)Unknown-3

Mike Babcock and Noah Hanifin make their Toronto debuts as legendary head coach, and potential NHL superstar defenseman, respectively in none other than the biggest market in the NHL. Hanifin is the best defenseman in the draft and Maple Leafs fans are going to love him (more than Dion Phaneuf!).

5. Carolina Hurricanes                                              C Mitchell Marner, London (OHL)Carolina Hurricanes Logo

This guy is a really skilled playmaker with 128 assists and 185 points in 127 career OHL games. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane and Jordan Eberle, with great vision and passing skills. Not a steal of the draft, but a great player to draft.

6. New Jersey Devils                                                 C Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL)New Jersey Devils Logo

He effortlessly transitioned from the Czech Republic to North America. He’s 6’3”, 210 pounds, and can play a two way game. Think of him as this year’s bigger version of Boston’s David Pastrnak, if that suffices your hopes. Zacha could be the centerpiece to the Devils rebuild and Ray Shero’s master plan.

7. Philadelphia Flyers                                                 LW Lawson Crouse, Kingston (OHL)Philadelphia Flyers Logo

6’4”, 211 pounds, and a physical force on the ice, Crouse brings a much needed power forward caliber to the Flyers lineup and adds size to their roster. Actually, he fits the Philadelphia style perfectly, big and tough.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets                                         D Ivan Provorov, Brandon (WHL)Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

Extraordinary at the 2015 World Junior Championship for Finland- 6’4”, 209 lbs, effective on the power-play, and difficult to move off the puck. Has hockey sense and hands that supplement his shot. Next to Hanifin, he’s one of the best defensemen of the draft. Columbus fans should get used to seeing Jack Johnson pair up with Provorov in the future.

9. San Jose Sharks                                                     D Zachary Werenski, Michigan (BIG10)Unknown-3

The youngest player in NCAA history joins the youth movement in San Jose. He can block shots and adjust on the fly. He’s got some size to work with at 6’2”, 206 lbs. Werenski was named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team and the All-Big Ten Freshman Team this season.

10. Colorado Avalanche                                             RW Mikko Rantanen, TPS (FIN)Colorado Avalanche Logo

He’s a big power forward that will provide some oomph in the Avalanche’s otherwise soft lineup. Rantanen’s a decent skater for his age and should be a part of Colorado’s retooling, as they gear up to avoid another disappointing season like this past season. Signing Carl Soderberg and trading Ryan O’Reilly for valuable parts will help put them in position for being a playoff contending team in 2015-2016.

11. Florida Panthers                                                   C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL)Unknown-2

Offensively minded, Barzal was injured for a lot of WHL action. The Panthers luck out on a player that just may be able to make those around him better. He’s a 5’11”, 175-pound right shot forward with vision, playmaking skills, and had 12-45-57 totals in 44 games. Barzal also scored 4 times in 6 WHL playoff games.

12. Dallas Stars                                                           RW Timo Meier, Halifax (QMJHL)Unknown-5

Scored 44 goals in 61 games for Halifax this season. He can also be a playmaker as he had 46 assists this year too. Oh and he’s 6’1”, 209 lbs. Meier is exactly the player you want to covet if you are the Stars looking for substantial youth to build around.

13. Los Angeles Kings                                                LW Kyle Connor, Youngstown (USHL)Unknown

6’1”, 177 pounds, led the USHL in scoring with 80 points. His 34 goals ranked fourth in the USHL, with 9 game-winning goals and 32 points on the power play. Connor’s got quickness and hands that can do things with the puck on his stick.

14. Boston Bruins                                                        C Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL)Unknown

His second half of the regular season in the OHL really displayed his skill level. With that said, his size isn’t much of an issue as his compete level and willingness is unmatched- and so is his work ethic. Had 29-39-68 totals in 60 games with the 67’s this season. Despite needing defense, the Bruins go with something else they need- offense.

15. Calgary Flames                                                      D Jakub Zboril, Saint John (QMJHL)Calgary Flames Logo

Zboril plays a willingly physical game despite only being 6’1”, 184 lbs. His shot from the point could come in handy on the power play. In general, he adds versatility to Calgary’s defense and the Flames walk away filling exactly what they need, some future youth on the blueline.

16. Edmonton Oilers (from PIT)                                    D Oliver Kylington, AIK (SWE-2)200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svg

Kylington is a two-way defenseman that with proper development can fully utilize his skill set. Edmonton adds valuable youth to their blue line as their forwards continue to gain experience and begin carrying more of their weight. Likewise, they need a replacement for the deadline deal that sent Jeff Petry to Montreal. Looks like Peter Chiarelli’s still looking for a defenseman after all.

17. Winnipeg Jets                                                         C/RW Nicholas Merkely, Kelowna (WHL)Unknown-3

Merkely’s a great playmaker that knows how to crash the net with precision and skill. He also has a great hockey IQ that makes up for some lacking physical qualities in his game. Strong on the power play and spectacular on the penalty kill, Merkely brings a tremendous compete level and had 20-70-90 totals in Kelowna.

18. Ottawa Senators                                                     C Colin White, USA U18 (USHL)Unknown-2

Can’t go wrong with one of the best skaters in the draft. The Senators pick a forward that can move with the puck and carry it defiantly out of his own zone with ease. It also helps that he’s physically difficult to knock off the puck. He’s been compared to Patrice Bergeron and might be this year’s steal of the draft. White pays excellent attention to detail and wearing the opponent down by out playing his opponent all over the ice.

19. Detroit Red Wings                                                   LW Evgeny Svechnikov, Cape Breton (QMJHL)Unknown-1

He’s a big power forward that will bring some physicality to the Red Wings lineup. Svechnikov made a seemless transition to North American play, leading QMJHL rookie’s with 78 points in 55 games. This 6’2”, 199-pound left-winger is too tough to pass on and draws comparisons to another Evgeni- Malkin, that is.

20. Minnesota Wild                                                        D Brandon Carlo, Tri-City (WHL)Unknown-4

The 6’5”, 196 lb. defenseman brings size and athleticism as a shutdown defenseman. He’s definitely more defensive minded, but that fits with Minnesota given the mindset behind Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, among others. Did I mention he’s huge? Again, shutdown. Adds enough of a physical element to go deeper in the playoffs.

21. Buffalo Sabres (from NYI)                                        G Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL)Unknown-3

The Sabres are daring enough to take a chance at drafting a goalie in the 1st Round, given their numerous selections. While they skip over Ilya Samsonov, they go with the 6’4”, 215 lbs, Colts starter who had a 3.01 GAA in 51 games played with Barrie. The upside is that Blackwood’s a big goalie, fitting recent trends, the downside is that Buffalo still needs a goalie for the looming season.

22. Washington Capitals                                               LW Paul Bittner, Portland (WHL)Washington Capitals Logo

At 6’4”, 205 lbs. this LW adds some much needed size on a transitioning Capitals roster. He’s a power forward that’s willing to be the first to rush in on a dump and chase, which fits in well with Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Adding his size and aggression makes Washington a tougher team to play against.

23. Vancouver Canucks                                                D Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR)Unknown-1

6’4”, 183-pounds, this left-shot defenseman is big and intelligent for his position. He’s a stay at home defenseman. Carlsson uses his size and strength as well as you need him to. He’s not an immediate replacement for Dan Hamhuis or Kevin Bieksa, but is ready to be the plan for the Canuck’s life after one or the other. Carlsson also has a reliable reach, given his height and nature of play.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH)                             D Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL)Unknown-3

6’1”, 181 lbs. Smart transitional skating defenseman that can handle pressure in getting the puck out of his own zone- he’s a natural fit in Toronto’s energetic, young, roster. Mike Babcock will be able to manage his defensemen just fine with the Maple Leafs stockpiling on the blueline as a result of this draft.

25. Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF)                           C Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SWE)Unknown-3

Eriksson Ek is a 6’2”, 180 pound, left handed shot that is strong on faceoffs and plays a two way game. He brings size down the middle for the Jets, a much-needed commodity, and has great vision. Eriksson Ek was ranked 4th overall on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of European skaters.

26. Montreal Canadiens                                                D Jacob Larsson, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)Unknown

6’2”, 191 lbs. Sweden knows how to make solid defensemen and Montreal begins to replenish their defensive prospects, given how their current blueline is aging. Larsson reads situations well and controls the puck excellently. While he transitions well, Larsson will need to put a bit more muscle on him before seeing full time NHL action.

27. Anaheim Ducks                                                        RW Brock Boeser, Waterloo (USHL)Unknown

Boeser is a two-way forward that was tied for first in the United States Hockey League with 35 goals and 32 points on the power play in 57 regular season games. The 6-foot, 191-pound, winger was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and All-USHL First Team. Boeser will need to refine some elements of his game, but looks to continue to develop appropriately at the University of North Dakota this fall.

28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR)                            RW Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown (QMJHL)Unknown-1

Sprong is a nifty playmaker with good hands and great speed, but he’ll need to get stronger to make the transition to the NHL and add grit to his already impressive offensive game. His 270 shots on goal were the 10th most in the QMJHL, so he likes to shoot with impressive accuracy and a quick release.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (from TB)                                   LW Jake DeBrusk, Swift Current (WHL)Philadelphia Flyers Logo

DeBrusk is always following the puck, whether it’s on the forecheck or forcing turnovers. He can be excellent on the power play, focused on moving the puck where it needs to go and scoring. DeBrusk had 120 points in 144 games over two seasons with Swift Current and his tenacity is astounding. He might also bring some physicality to Philly, at 6’4”, 174 pounds, which is much appreciated by their fans who cherish hard working, tough, players.

30. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI)                                     C Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL)Arizona_Coyotes.svg

Positioning is one of Chlapik’s best assets, whether it’s with or without the puck, he goes to the right places. Smooth skating, with vision, he’s pretty decent all around as a 6’1”, 196-pound center. He was tied for the lead among QMJHL rookies with 33 goals in 64 games played. His impressive 33-42-75 totals help supplement his case as a first rounder. Chlapik also won 48.8% of his faceoffs in a solid transition from the Czech Republic to the North American style of the game.

*Barring any trades, this is how I see it progressing, but I’d like to see a lot of trades just to destroy my mock draft picks, like how someone always destroys any bracket I’ve ever made for any sport.

Other Prospects To Watch For

RW Michael Spacek, Pardubice (CZREP)

C Nicolas Roy, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)NHL Logo

C Jansen Harkins, Prince George (WHL)

LW Jordan Greenway, USA U18 (USHL)

D, Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)

G, Ilya Samsonov, Magnitorgorsk (MHL)

RW, Denis Gurianov (MHL)