Drop the Puck: 2015 NHL Draft Preview


With first-round picks at numbers 7 and 29, this draft offers the Philadelphia Flyers a chance to increase their depth in short order.

By Josh Kaz

In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, which, in terms of talent, is already being compared to the incredibly deep 2003 draft, will take place on June 26 (Round 1) and June 27 (Rounds 2 through 7) and the Philadelphia Flyers have two picks in the first round (7 and 29 overall) and ten total selections.

Although 2003 draft didn’t claim to have superstars like the 2004 and 2005 drafts (Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby), it featured Marc Andre Fleury (first overall), Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, and Corey Perry. Every player drafted in the first round in 2003 played in at least one NHL game; 28 played more than two seasons, and 21 are still currently starting for NHL teams.

The top two picks in 2015 are already guaranteed to be Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, which scouts are calling generational talents. Along with that claim, many scouts are predicting that the 2015 draft could see its top 40 players make an impact in the NHL in the near future. Just who are these players with such lofty expectations?

Before we get a look at the top projected players in the draft, let’s take a look at where the Philadelphia Flyers will pick. Prior to this season, Philadelphia only had five picks in this draft: one each in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds; however, after a slew of trades from GM Ron Hextall, that number doubled. The Flyers now have:

  • First Round (two picks): 7th overall and 29th overall (from Tampa Bay via the Braydon Coburn trade)
  • Second Round: 61st overall (from Chicago via the Kimmo Timonen trade)
  • Third Round (two picks): 70th overall (from San Jose via Tye McGinn trade) and 90th overall (from Tampa Bay via Coburn trade)
  • Fourth Round (two picks): 98th overall and 99th overall (from Columbus via Scott Hartnell trade)
  • Fifth Round: 128th overall
  • Sixth Round: 158th overall
  • Seventh Round: 188th overall

In the first three rounds of the last three drafts (nine total picks), the Flyers have chosen five defensemen, three forwards, and one goaltender:

  • 2012: 1st Rd: Scott Laughton (F); 2nd Rd: Anthony Stolarz (G); 3rd Rd: Shayne Gostisbehere (D)
  • 2013: 1st Rd: Sam Morin (D); 2nd Rd: Robert Hagg (D); 3rd Rd: Tyrell Goulbourne (F)
  • 2014: 1st Rd: Travis Sanheim (D); 2nd Rd: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (F); 3rd Rd: Mark Friedman (D)

The Philadelphia defensive pool is deepening, with Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Mark Friedman all showing promise this season. Yet the Flyers would still be wise to chose the best player available; franchise defenseman are not easy to come by. With that said, if the team has a defenseman and a forward listed equally, Philadelphia will likely pick a forward. Scott Laughton is its only promising offensive player, with Taylor Leier, Nick Cousins, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel showing potential. 

Below is a list of 2015 draft prospects ordered according to the average projection of eight, top-ranked, professional NHL scouts. The eight scouts whose ranking were considered in this analysis are Bob MacKenzie of TSNInternational Scouting Services (ISS)Future ConsiderationsDamien Cox of SportsNetMcKeen HockeyCraig Button of TSN, Hockey Prospects, and Central Scouting (North American & European). 

  1. Connor McDavid (Canada)
    • Position: Center; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’1″ 194lbs
    • Stats: 44 goals & 76 assists for 126 points in 47 games playing with the Erie Otters of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault
    • Notes:  Connor McDavid is the unanimous number one pick. Every single scout, professional and amateur, has McDavid at number one. His talent is unquestionable and he will be a star in the NHL very soon, if not next year. The only question that remains about the number one pick is, how long will it will take the Edmonton Oilers new GM Peter Chiarelli to run up on stage and yell “McDavid!”
  2. Jack Eichel (USA)
    • Position: Center; Shoots: Right 
    • Size: 6’2″ 196lbs
    • Stats: 26 goals & 45 assists for 71 Points in 40 games playing for Boston University of the NCAA
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Ryan Getzlaf 
    • Notes: Eichel is the unanimous number two pick. As sure as the scouts are of McDavid, they are equally confident when it comes to Eichel. The American center is projected on all scouting reports as the sure number two pick. Eichel also projects to be a star in the NHL and he even went as far to say that ‘he is the best player in the draft’ at the NHL combine.
  3. Dylan Strome (Canada)
    • Position: Center; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’3″ 185lbs
    • Stats: 45 goals & 84 assists for 129 points in 68 games playing with the Erie Otters of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Hall of Famer Ron Francis 
    • Notes: Outside of the two powerhouses, McDavid and Eichel, Strome is the best center in the draft. Strome, who led the OHL in points (while playing in 21 more games than McDavid) will no doubt help any team who takes him (most likely Arizona or Toronto) very soon as he is an extremely well-rounded prospect. Strome, who played on the same line as McDavid on the Erie Otters for much of the season, was questioned as to whether he could be as elite without McDavid. However, when his linemate missed 21 games due to a hand injury, Strome registered an incredible 35 points, putting an end to that question.
  4. Mitchell Marner (Canada)
    • Position: Center/Right Wing; Shoots: Right 
    • Size: 5’11” 163lbs
    • Stats: 44 goals & 82 assists for 126 points in 63 games playing for the London Knights of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Patrick Kane
    • Notes: The only knock on Marner is his size. At just 163 pounds he will have to add some muscle; however, in this day and age, the NHL is seeing more and more smaller players make impacts. To name a few: Claude Giroux, Tyler Johnson, Johnny Gaudreau and a player to which Marner is already drawing comparisons, Patrick Kane.
  5. Noah Hanifin (USA)
    • Position: Defense; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’2″ 205lbs
    • Stats: 5 goals & 18 assists for 23 points in 37 games playing for Boston College of the NCAA
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Jay Bouwmeester
    • Notes: Outside of Craig Button, who ranked him at 12, (no other scouts on this list have him lower than five), Noah Hanifin is regarded as the best defenseman in this draft. Many believed had it not been for the two superstars going one and two, Hanifin and Aaron Ekblad (2014) would have been back-to-back defenseman picked first overall for the first time since the 1995 and 1996 drafts. 
  6. Ivan Provorov (Russia)
    • Position: Defense; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’0″ 201lbs
    • Stats: 15 goals & 46 assists for 61 points in 60 games playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Mark Giordano
    • Notes: Ivan Provorov (pronounced: pro VOR off), who played at a point per game pace, had an excellent rookie season with the Wheat Kings, coming in fourth in scoring among all defenseman in the WHL (only four behind Flyers’ 2014 first-round draft pick Travis Sanheim). Some scouts have Provorov as the most NHL-ready defenseman in the draft.
  7. Lawson Crouse (Canada)
    • Position: Left Wing; Shoots: Left 
    • Size: 6’4″ 216lbs
    • Stats: 29 goals & 22 assists for 51 points in 56 games playing with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Andrew Ladd
    • Notes: Lawson Crouse (pronounced: kraus) is widely considered one of the safest yet most controversial early pick in this year’s draft. As the top power forward in the draft, Crouse is being compared to Milan Lucic. He is projected as an NHL-ready player already, but his role has yet to be determined. If his offense develops as many project it will, he could be a top-line player; if his offensive game doesn’t translate to the NHL, he projects as a third- or fourth-line battler.
  8. Zachary Werenski (USA)
    • Position: Defense; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’2″ 207lbs
    • Stats: 9 goals & 16 assists for 25 points in 35 games for the University of Michigan of the NCAA
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Brent Seabrook
    • Notes: One of the youngest prospects in this draft, Zach Werenski finished his freshman season at the University of Michigan at the age of 17. Werenski’s .71 point per game pace was the highest percentage for a 17 year old college defenseman in 25 years. Werenski doesn’t turn 18 until mid-July.
  9. Mikko Rantanen (Finland)
    • Position: Center/Winger; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’4″ 212lbs
    • Stats: 9 goals & 19 assists for 28 points in 56 games playing with TPS of the Liiga
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Jake Voracek
    • Notes: Mikko Rantanen is regarded as the best player who didn’t play in North America this season as he is ranked number one in Central Scouting for players in European leagues. Rantanen played in the Liiga or the Finnish Elite League, Finland’s top professional hockey league at 17 years old last year for 37 games then again this year for the entire 56 game season. Liiga is not generally known to be a high scoring league, not one player averaged a point per game this past season, however in his first full season, Rantanen already averaged .5 points per game. At just 18, Rantanen also showed enough leadership qualities that he was given the assistant captain role for his team, TPS.  
  10. Pavel Zacha (Czech Republic)
    • Position: Center/Left Wing; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’3″ 212lbs
    • Stats: 16 goals & 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games playing with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Eric Staal
    • Notes: Pavel Zacha (pronounced: zak-uh) is a tough one to rank. Scouts are all over the place when it comes to projecting the Czech native. Craig Button has him at 24, Future Consideration has him at 15, while McKeen Hockey ranks Zacha at 6. Many think he has possibly the best offensive upside (again excluding McDavid and Eichel) in the draft due to his excellent shot and speed. However, he lacks a two-way game and tends to be reckless at times; he was suspended twice this season for a combined eight games, two for a slew foot and six for a charge from behind. Due to the aforementioned suspensions plus a nagging injury, Zacha only played 37 games, not getting a chance to showcase his full potential; still, he averaged about a point per game. 
  11. Mathew Barzal (Canada)
    • Position: Center; Shoots: Right
    • Size: 6’0″ 181lbs
    • Stats: 12 goals & 45 assists for 57 points in 44 games playing with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Justin Williams
    • Notes: Mathew Barzal (pronounced: bar-ZEL) was so highly touted two years ago as a 16-year-old, that he was even mentioned in the same light as McDavid. The two were projected to go one and two in this year’s draft two years ago. Barzal had an impressive rookie season, averaging roughly a point per game last year (McDavid also averaged a point per game in his rookie campaign); however, this year he was heavily slowed by an early-season knee injury. Barzal came back strong from the injury and averaged more than 1.4 points per game for the rest of the season.
  12. Kyle Connor (USA)
    • Position: Center; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6′ 1″ 183lbs 
    • Stats: 34 goals & 46 assists for 80 points in 56 games playing with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Brandon Saad 
    • Notes: Kyle Connor could become the steal of this draft, especially if he falls out of the top ten, given his all-around skillset. The risk is that since he played for the USHL (United States Hockey League, the top junior amateur US league) he did not go up against the most talented competition. In the last 20 years, only three players have been drafted in the top ten directly out of the USHL (not counting the US National Development Team or USDP). Connor is committed to the University of Michigan next year, where he will be able to showcase his talents against a higher competition level; and he will succeed. 
  13. Timo Meier (Switzerland)
    • Position: Center/Right Wing; Shoots: Left
    • Size: 6’1″ 209lbs
    • Stats: 44 goals & 46 assists for 90 points in 61 games playing with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Marian Hossa
    • Notes: Timo Meier (pronounced: tee-mo, my-er) is without doubt the best prospect coming out of the QMJHL. The only question is whether Meier was so good because he played on a line with highly touted 2014 first-round draft pick Nikolaj Ehlers, who collected 100 points–or did Meier help Ehlers excel even more this season? Regardless, his numbers speak for themselves; plus, Meier added 10 goals and 21 points in 14 playoff games, when it matters the most.
  14. Travis Konecny (Canada)
    • Position: Center/Right Wing; Shoots: Right
    • Size: 5’11” 176lbs
    • Stats: 29 goals & 39 assists for 68 points in 60 games playing with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL
    • NHL Comparable Player According to TSN: Pat Verbeek
    • Notes: Travis Konecny is another player that scouts have trouble agreeing on. Future considerations have him as high as 11, citing his flashy goals and quickness, while Craig Button does not even have Konecny in his top 30, coming in at 33. However, without Button, the rest of the seven scouts average him at 13.7. But due to his impressive highlight reel goals and his drive to win, he may be the surprise of the draft if taken in the top 10. 

Here are the full results from the study:

  1. Connor McDavid: Average pick – 1.0
    • Bob McKenzie: 1
    • ISS: 1
    • Future Considerations: 1
    • SportsNet: 1
    • McKeen: 1
    • Craig Button: 1
    • Central Scouting: 1
    • Hockey Prospects: 1
  2. Jack Eichel: Average pick – 2.0
    • Bob McKenzie: 2
    • ISS: 2
    • Future Considerations: 2
    • SportsNet: 2
    • McKeen: 2
    • Craig Button: 2
    • Central Scouting: 2
    • Hockey Prospects: 2
  3. Dylan Strome: Average Pick – 4.38
    • Bob McKenzie: 5
    • ISS: 3
    • Future Considerations: 4
    • SportsNet: 3
    • McKeen: 7
    • Craig Button: 3
    • Central Scouting: 4
    • Hockey Prospects: 6
  4. Mitch Marner: Average Pick – 4.63
    • Bob McKenzie: 4
    • ISS: 6
    • Future Considerations: 5
    • SportsNet: 5
    • McKeen: 4
    • Craig Button: 4
    • Central Scouting: 6
    • Hockey Prospects: 3
  5. Noah Hanifin: Average Pick – 4.75
    • Bob McKenzie: 4
    • ISS: 5
    • Future Considerations: 3
    • SportsNet: 4
    • McKeen: 3
    • Craig Button: 12
    • Central Scouting: 3
    • Hockey Prospects: 4 
  6. Ivan Provorov: Average Pick – 6.63
    • Bob McKenzie: 8
    • ISS: 7
    • Future Considerations: 6
    • SportsNet: 6
    • McKeen: 5
    • Craig Button: 5
    • Central Scouting: 7
    • Hockey Prospects: 9
  7. Lawson Crouse: Average Pick – 8.38
    • Bob McKenzie: 7
    • ISS: 4
    • Future Considerations: 10
    • SportsNet: 13
    • McKeen: 10
    • Craig Button: 10
    • Central Scouting: 5
    • Hockey Prospects: 8
  8. Zach Werenski: Average Pick – 9.37
    • Bob McKenzie: 11
    • ISS: 11
    • Future Considerations: 7
    • SportsNet: 10
    • McKeen: 9
    • Craig Button: 7
    • Central Scouting: 9
    • Hockey Prospects: 11
  9. Mikko Rantanen: Average Pick – 9.71
    • Bob McKenzie: 10
    • ISS: 9
    • Future Considerations: 8
    • SportsNet: 7
    • McKeen: 8
    • Craig Button: 16
    • Central Scouting (European Leagues): 1 (not included in his average)
    • Hockey Prospects: 10
  10. Pavel Zacha: Average Pick – 10.5
    • Bob McKenzie: 6
    • ISS: 10
    • Future Considerations: 15
    • SportsNet: 8
    • McKeen: 6
    • Craig Button: 25
    • Central Scouting: 8
    • Hockey Prospects: 7
  11. Mathew Barzal: Average Pick – 10.5 (Zacha won the tiebreak because he scored a higher median: 8 over 10)
    • Bob McKenzie: 9
    • ISS: 8
    • Future Considerations: 9
    • SportsNet: 9
    • McKeen: 11
    • Craig Button: 15
    • Central Scouting: 11
    • Hockey Prospects: 12
  12. Kyle Connor: Average Pick – 11.0
    • Bob McKenzie: 13
    • ISS: 13
    • Future Considerations: 12
    • SportsNet: 14
    • McKeen: 12
    • Craig Button: 6
    • Central Scouting: 13
    • Hockey Prospects: 5
  13. Timo Meier: Average Pick – 11.87
    • Bob McKenzie: 12
    • ISS: 14
    • Future Considerations: 14
    • SportsNet: 11
    • McKeen: 13
    • Craig Button: 8
    • Central Scouting: 10
    • Hockey Prospects: 13
  14. Travis Konecny: Average Pick – 16.13
    • Bob McKenzie: 15
    • ISS: 12
    • Future Considerations: 11
    • SportsNet: 26
    • McKeen: 15
    • Craig Button: 33
    • Central Scouting: 14
    • Hockey Prospects: 19

With the Philadelphia Flyers holding onto the seventh overall pick, they will have many options. After their seventh pick, the Flyers will still not be finished for the night. At 29, they will still have some very good players available and many options to choose from. The Flyers will most likely pick a forward with this selection unless defensive prospect Oliver Kylington is still on the table. He is regarded by some as the best skater in the draft, but may fall due to his struggles in the professionals; Kylington registered five points in 18 games in the SHL (professional league in Sweden), before being sent down to the Allsvenskan league (a lower-level league) where he picked up seven points in 17 games. Kylington also missed showcasing his talents at the World Junior Championship due to an injury. Despite the setbacks, Kylington is still no doubt a very skilled defenseman. 

Notable forwards to keep an eye on for the Flyers at 29th overall:

  • Jake DeBrusk (LW) WHL: 81 points in 72 games
  • Daniel Sprong (RW) QMJHL: 88 points in 66 games
  • Nick Merkley (C) WHL: 90 points in 72 games
  • Brock Boeser (RW) USHL: 68 points in 57 games
  • Colin White (C/RW) USDP: 54 points in 54 games
  • Jansen Harkins (C) WHL: 79 points in 70 games
  • Jeremy Bracco (C/RW) USDP: 94 points in 65 games 
  • Jack Roslovic (C/RW) USDP: 79 points in 65 games

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