Mock drafts are a fun way to take a look at the draft as we anxiously await to find out who the Devils will be selecting on Friday night. While writing up this mock of the first 10 picks, I decided to include some information from The Projection Project which uses NHL Equivalencies as a base for projecting future success. I also wanted to include an "alternative mock" since the Coyotes pick, be it a forward or defenseman, can really affect how the dominoes will fall on Friday night for picks 3-10.
When writing this mock draft up, I used a variety of sources to aid my decision making. First, I consulted John's post from yesterday which included links to 37 mock drafts. I also relied on the 2015 Hockey Prospect Black Book and the 2015 Future Considerations Draft Guide which are two of my favorite draft resources year after year. Finally, I took a look at some of the prominent public rankings such as NHL Central Scouting, Hockey Prospect, Future Considerations, International Scouting Services, Hockey Prospectus, Bob McKenzie's rankings, and Craig Button's rankings.
1. Edmonton Oilers - C Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) - 6'1", 195 lbs.
The most obvious pick of the draft. The Oilers jump at the chance to draft a generational talent in McDavid who has dominated every league and competition he has participated in. McDavid has been universally praised for his individual skill and ability to play a two-way game in all three zones.
The Projection Project: With an impressive NHLe of 63, McDavid is so amazing, only one player fit their criteria as a comparable - Patrick Kane. Their model gives him a 100% chance of becoming an "elite" NHL player.
2. Buffalo Sabres - C Jack Eichel (Boston University) - 6'2", 196 lbs.
The second most obvious pick in the draft. The Sabres may have "lost" out on the McDavid sweepstakes but they are certainly winners as they get to draft a player that a lot of scouts also give the "generational talent" label to. Like McDavid, Eichel has earned universal praise from scouts for his elite level offensive skill and his high hockey IQ. Eichel has also dominated every level he has played at.
The Projection Project: Eichel had a NHLe of 48 which made it hard for the model to find comparables. 4 out of 5 of the comparables did reach an "elite" level in the NHL - Jason Spezza, Phil Kessel, John Tavares, and Taylor Hall. Only a bust in Jordan Schroeder knocked down his projection level from being 100% success based on the model.
3. Arizona Coyotes - C Dylan Strome (Erie Otters) - 6'3", 185 lbs.
This is where the draft gets interesting. Do the Coyotes pick a forward or defenseman here and how will the dominoes fall? In my opinion, the Coyotes take the third best player in the entire draft in Dylan Strome. The playmaking center has earned praise for his vision and passing which makes him an attractive addition to a group of young forward prospects that includes Max Domi, Lucas Lessio, Anthony Duclair, Brendan Perlini, and Christian Dvorak. Strome's weakness seems to be his skating but that is certainly something that can be improved on.
The Projection Project: Strome's NHLe of 47 resulted in 8 comparables in their model. Some of the notable names are Jason Spezza, Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard, John Tavares, and Taylor Hall. They give him an 88% chance of becoming a regular NHL player with a 100% chance of being a "top six" forward and a 67% chance of reaching the "elite" level.
Alternative pick: D Noah Hanifin
4. Toronto Maple Leafs - D Ivan Provorov (Brandon Wheat Kings) - 6'0", 201 lbs.
This is where I can see the next interesting wrinkle in the draft occurring. Noah Hanifin has been considered the best defenseman in the draft for most of the season by almost all of the public rankings. Ivan Provorov has shot up the draft rankings after a great season with Brandon in the WHL. Their have been rumors of the Leafs taking a strong interest in the young Russian and I could see them taking the skilled defender over Hanifin. Provorov has earned praise for his impressive skating, shot, and passing from the scouting community while still being a very capable defender in his own end. He would instantly become their top defense prospect which makes him an attractive choice.
The Projection Project: Provorov's NHLe of 22 is impressive for a defenseman and earns him some high praise in this model. They give him a 71% chance of becoming a regular NHL player with a 7% chance of being "elite", 33% chance of being "top pair or better", and a 59% chance of being "top four or better". Comparables in the model included Dan Hamhuis and Jay Bouwmeester.
Alternative pick: C Dylan Strome
5. Carolina Hurricanes - D Noah Hanifin (Boston College) - 6'3", 203 lbs.
It seems like the Hurricanes have been looking to add a quality, young defenseman to their organization for bit now. I think it's plausible that Hanifin falls down to them and they rush to the podium to take the smooth skating defender. Hanifin has earned praise for his two-way game and has even been lauded as the best defenseman to come out of New England since Brian Leetch.
The Projection Project: Hanifin put up a strong NHLe of 17 last season. This gives him 69 comparables within the model and projects him to have a 54% chance of becoming a regular NHL player. The model further breaks him down to having a 7% chance of reaching "elite" status, a 23% chance of being "top pair or better", and a 45% chance of being "top four or better".
Alternative pick: RW Mitchell Marner
6. New Jersey Devils - RW Mitchell Marner (London Knights) - 5'11", 160 lbs.
With both Provorov and Hanifin going in the top 5, the Devils catch a huge break as one of the biggest offensive threats in the draft falls to them. Marner may be a big undersized and need to pack on some muscle to play in the NHL but their no denying his individual skill. Marner has earned praise across the board from scouts for his impressive playmaking ability and skills in the offensive zone. His defense has continued to develop but his lack of size does remain a concern. Regardless, Marner would not only be a huge upgrade for a Devils organization that is lacking high-end offensive skill, but he would also fit a positional need at RW going forward. While he could step into the NHL right away, it would probably be smart to allow him another year in juniors to further fill out his frame and delay starting his ELC in what will be a transitional year for the Devils.
The Projection Project: Marner is another player that had such an impressive year with a NHLe of 49, his sample size in the model is very small with just 4 comparables. The model places him in impressive company with the likes of Jason Spezza, Phil Kessel, John Tavares, and Taylor Hall - all players that have reached "elite" status according to the model.
Alternative pick: C Mathew Barzal
7. Philadelphia Flyers - LW Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs) - 6'4", 215 lbs.
Much has been made about how good of a prospect Lawson Crouse is between scouts and the stats community. I personally feel like he may just be an outside of the top 10 talent but has the size and overall skillset that could push him up in the draft. He may or may not ever produce points at a high level in the NHL but many believe he can play a two-way, rugged role as a complimentary player in the top 9, perhaps top 6. He's known for his strong work ethic, excellent defense, and his grit which makes him attractive to the Flyers at this spot in the draft.
The Projection Project: Crouse had a NHLe of 22 but did have to play on an offensively challenged Kingston team, so this total may not reflect his true potential. The model found a ton of comparables, 214 players, with a 35% success rate of becoming a regular NHL player. Those comparables fall across the board from "elite" to "depth" status.
Alternative pick: I see the Flyers taking him in my alternative mock.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets - D Zachary Werenski (University of Michigan) - 6'2", 206 lbs.
This is a really strong draft for forwards but a defenseman like Zachary Werenski may be too good to pass up for Columbus. He just completed a successful true freshman season for the University of Michigan as a 17 year old. Werenski also represented the US at the WJC where he was one of the youngest players in the tournament. He's known as a strong skater with a high hockey IQ that can excel at playing a two-way game. He put up solid offensive numbers but some scouts feel he can even improve offensively if given more time to develop. With this much upside, it would be hard for Columbus to not take Werenski at this spot.
The Projection Project: The model needs to be updated as he was so young, it interpreted his NHLe of 13 as happening in his draft -1 season. I'd have no doubts it would probably rate him very favorably though.
Alternative pick: D Ivan Provorov
9. San Jose Sharks - C Mathew Barzal (Seattle Thunderbirds) - 5'11", 175 lbs.
With the 9th pick the Sharks keep it on the West Coast and select Mathew Barzal. The former 1st overall pick of the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft possesses high end playmaking and skating skills and has the numbers to back it up. The center is still a bit of a raw prospect as he missed key developmental time this past season due to a broken kneecap, but impressed scouts as he picked up his offensive game almost immediately when he came back. He could use more defensive seasoning but is without a doubt one of the most talented playmakers in the draft and a great value pick at this slot.
The Projection Project: The model finds 119 comparables for Barzal and gives him a favorable 55% chance of becoming a regular NHL player. The model gives him a a really strong chance of becoming a top 6 player at the least with the outside chance of becoming an "elite" player. Dany Heatley, Scott Hartnell, Brad Boyes, and Justin Williams headline his comparables within the model.
Alternative Pick: C Pavel Zacha
10. Colorado Avalanche - RW Mikko Rantanen (TPS) - 6'4", 211 lbs.
With the last pick in the top 10, I could see the Avalanche going after the top ranked European skater in Mikko Rantanen. The young winger just completed his first full season in Liiga playing against men. It's notable that he already experienced a decent chunk of the league in his age 16 and 17 seasons. Scouts across the board have praised his hockey IQ, playmaking skills, and ability to use his large frame to his advantage. He's best on the wing but is capable of playing all 3 forward positions which adds extra value to this selection.
The Projection Project: Naturally, by playing in a men's league, Rantanen's NHLe of 12 is lower than his CHL and NCAA counterparts. This makes it a little tricky for the model in terms of projecting his future success. It is notable the he did double his NHLe from his age 17 to 18 season which is a positive sign.
Alternative pick: I also have the Avalanche taking Rantanen in my alternative mock. He's too good of a prospect that already has professional experience and size with a high end skillset to pass up.
Now that you've had a chance to view my mock draft (and alternative) of the first 10 picks, tell me what you think. What selections do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with? Share your mock selections in the comments! Thank you for reading!