On Friday, the New Jersey Devils and most of the National Hockey League will make a decision that will impact their future in the next few years. It's the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Some teams will look for that young player to build their team around, some will look for someone to become a contributor in years to come, and all are looking for the next one in terms of NHL talent. It's very much a big deal, especially for a re-building team like the Devils.
Therefore, there are a multitude of mock drafts available online ahead of this year's draft. It's a bit more than a simple ranking of draft prospects. A mock draft is a fun exercise where one considers who's actually making the pick in order to identify who they think they would select. The actual draft can still surprise with trades and selections few have expected outside of the team. So mocks should be taken with a little grain of salt. However, after reviewing many mock drafts from various sources - expert and amateur alike - it can help get a sense of where in the draft a prospect may end up being taken.
The first two picks for this year's draft are straight forward: Connor McDavid is going first and Jack Eichel is going second. It would be a massive shock if that didn't happen. After that, nothing is yet written in stone. The New Jersey Devils are selecting sixth overall this year. How the third, fourth, and fifth overall picks go will likely drive what the Devils do this year. Therefore, as an exercise, I decided to review as many mock drafts as I could find for #3 through #6 overall picks. This way I not only get an idea of who the consensus pick may be for New Jersey but how those earlier picks will breakdown.
Here's a full list of what mock drafts I reviewed. There are 37 in total and I listed the selections for Arizona, Toronto, Carolina, and the Devils. I'd like to thank Matchsticks and Gasoline and Habs Eyes on the Prize for similar posts that they did earlier. I used some of those mocks they linked to here. I orgnized the mocks by date they were made available. All are relatively up to date, with the exception of Gus Katsaros' mock and the two at NHL.com. I believe there will be a new one from Morreale and Kimelman later this week; not sure if Katsaros will do a second version. For the sake of transparency and wanting to give out some attention, all mocks are linked and I recommend checking them out. Lastly, be aware that some (CSN Philly, Sportsnet) have auto-playing videos.
|Dougherty - CSN Philly||06/21/15||Strome||Hanifin||Provorov||Marner|
|Pantorno - Bleacher Report||06/20/15||Hanifin||Strome||Marner||Barzal|
|Riday - CSN Philly||06/20/15||Hanifin||Strome||Marner||Barzal|
|Along the Boards||06/18/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Haggerty – CSN NE||06/17/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Dub From Above||06/17/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Fisher – The Hockey Writers||06/16/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Zacha|
|My NHL Draft||06/16/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Wheeler – McKeen's||06/16/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Cox – Sportsnet||06/13/15||Strome||Provorov||Hanifin||Marner|
|Last Word on Sports||06/13/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|ILWT – SBN||06/11/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|Pretty Skate Machine||06/10/15||Marner||Hanifin||Strome||Crouse|
|Two in the Box||06/10/15||Marner||Strome||Crouse||Barzal|
|Johnson – Flames||06/08/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Provorov|
|Mawdsley – Flames||06/08/15||Strome||Hanifin||Marner||Provorov|
|Peterson – Flames||06/08/15||Hanifin||Strome||Marner||Rantanen|
|Schopp – Flames||06/08/15||Strome||Hanifin||Marner||Barzal|
|Vickers – Flames||06/08/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Provorov|
|OT Sports Nation||06/03/15||Hanifin||Strome||Marner||Barzal|
|Woodlief – USA Today||06/01/15||Strome||Hanifin||Marner||Crouse|
|Pucks & Pitchforks – Fansided||05/30/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Barzal|
|The Sports Bank||05/20/15||Strome||Hanifin||Marner||Crouse|
|Nice Skates, Wanna Puck||05/17/15||Marner||Strome||Hanifin||Connor|
|Katsaros – Yahoo!||04/20/15||Strome||Marner||Hanifin||Zacha|
|Kimelman – NHL #3||04/20/15||Hanifin||Strome||Marner||Rantanen|
|Morreale – NHL #3||04/20/15||Hanifin||Strome||Crouse||Marner|
Before breaking down the results, I want to highlight three. First, Larry Fisher's mock draft at The Hockey Writers is particularly impressive. He did three rounds and a team-by-team breakdown. It's all good work. Second, Steve Kourianos runs The Draft Analyst. While his first round mock is older than most on this list, he's currently five rounds deep and each pick has a brief explanation. Also very good work. Third, Draftsite has multiple mock drafts submitted in by users. I just took what was on the front page.
Let's break it down. As the headline indicates, the most common selection was Mathew Barzal. That's who we picked in the SBN Mock Draft, 17 out of the other 36 mock drafts agreed. It was one mock shy of a majority opinion. Beyond that, it's a menagerie of prospects.
Out of the 19 non-Barzal mocks, nobody really took a commanding lead. Four mocks decided to have Mitch Marner fall out of the top five. Another four thought Pavel Zacha would be the guy. Out of all of the mocks I reviewed, only four had the Devils not take a forward and in each of those four, Ivan Provorov was the pick. There were three each for Lawson Crouse and Mikko Rantanen. One of the earlier ones thought Kyle Connor would sneak in at #6; I don't know if that would hold true today.
Overall, the majority of mock drafts out there have the Devils selecting a forward. I think it's safe to say most Devils fans would want that. A plurality has them taking Barzal. If not him, then it's up in the air mostly among other second-tier forward prospects in this year's draft. It's that variety that has dulled some excitement for this pick. On the recent episode of Talking Red, Dave and I discussed that notion. It's apparent Devils are going to take someone with some kind of flaw despite being a great prospect and it's not set in stone who that is, so it's not as easy to get hyped for it. I think that will change on Friday when it's draft day and the fact that the Devils have options will generate it then.
As I also listed third through fifth overall picks, I wanted to break down who was common in this range of prospects. We know how #6 breaks down among these 37 mocks, but what of the other selections? Devils fans should pay attention to these picks on Friday as what happens there will help drive who New Jersey picks. Based on a total count, here's what I found out:
Essentially, #3 through #5 are mostly some combination of defenseman Noah Hanifin, forward Dylan Strome, and forward Mitch Marner. Every single mock had Strome and Marner in the top six; only one had Hanifin miss the top six - and that one had him going seventh overall. Mock drafts for the third overall selection had Strome more often than not; 22 to Hanifin's 10 and Marner's 5. For the fourth overall selection, Strome just edged Marner in mocks 15 to 13 while another 8 had Hanifin and one spoiling the trio with Provorov. Fifth overall had Hanifin more often than not with 18 mocks, followed by Marner (13), Crouse (3), Strome (2), and Provorov (1). Barzal, Zacha, Rantanen, and Connor were never higher than sixth overall in any of these mocks.
Basically, the only ways the Devils can get one of the trio of Strome, Marner, and Hanifin would be to either trade up or hope a team ahead of him takes someone other than those three. Given the lack of assets the Devils have, they may have to hope one of Arizona, Toronto, or Carolina thinks highly of someone else - or that someone trades up to take someone else.
At this point, it's more reasonable to think the Devils will have their choice between Barzal and company. Among the mocks, Barzal is the most common pick - just as we picked and I would be more than fine with that. (For what it's worth, I personally would rate the rest as Barzal, Rantanen, Zacha, Provorov, Crouse, and Connor.) In addition to that, Strome, Marner, and Hanifin should be penciled in between third and fifth overall on Friday. The order is in play, but I wouldn't expect either to be available for New Jersey. That said, stranger things have happened on draft day.
What do you make of the consensus from the mock drafts available so far? Do you agree with the plurality of the mocks picking Barzal for the Devils? How do you think picks #3 through #5 turn out, which directly affects the Devils?