A few days have passed since the NHL Draft Lottery took place, giving us all some time to recover from the realization that the Edmonton Oilers will once again pick first overall. And who’s to say they shouldn’t get to lead things off again?
After all, it’s been nearly 700 days since the last time they got to make the No. 1 selection. And this will only be the fourth time in the last six years. They’re the hockey equivalent of the person who cuts in front of everybody in line and gets into the club without waiting…only to get tossed and do the same thing again the next night.
Either way, Edmonton is picking first. And there’s a decent chance everybody on this planet knows who they’re taking. But what other players are coming off the board early on June 26? Here’s a quick mock of the lottery picks.
1. Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid, Center, Erie (OHL)
Ever heard of this guy? The hype surrounding McDavid had already reached insane levels well before this season even started, and all he’s done this year is rack up 44 goals and 76 assists in 47 OHL games. So far in the playoffs, he has 11 goals and 12 assists in nine games. That’s normal right?
Then someone named Wayne Gretzky went ahead and gave his two cents on the gifted 18-year old:
“He’s as good as I’ve seen in the last 30 years, the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years, the best to come along since Lemieux and Crosby. He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes.”
That’s high praise coming from anyone, let alone The Great One. And now he’s going to the hockey icon’s former team. As much as it is pretty ridiculous that the Oilers get the top pick yet again, while teams like Buffalo, Arizona and, yes, even Toronto maybe deserved a turn instead, the fan base in Edmonton is undeniably great. They’ve waited patiently for someone to come along and drag their club back into the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm?
2. Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel, Center, Boston University (Hockey East)
Tim Murray certainly didn’t appear all that happy after losing the lottery (again) but, really, when’s the last time you saw Tim Murray appear happy? He’ll get over it. Eichel might not be McDavid, but he’d be the No. 1 pick in a normal year. The Sabres just got a lot better.
3. Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome, Center, Erie (OHL)
When in doubt, draft a center from Erie. Unlike Buffalo, Arizona didn’t complain after the lottery took place. But the Coyotes are the team that actually dropped out of the top two, so they had the bigger gripe. Regardless, they’re still getting a really good player to add to a growing collection of talented prospects.
Yes, Noah Hanifin is technically rated third on most scouting lists, but the Desert Dogs already have a lot of solid young defensemen. They also have a lot of left-handed defensemen. What they don’t have is a 6-foot-3 center who just won the OHL scoring title.
Now imagine adding him to a mix of rising forwards that already includes Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Henrik Samuelsson and Ryan MacInnis. Plus a few core vets like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker. Not bad at all.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs – Noah Hanifin, Defense, Boston College (Hockey East)
The Maple Leafs need help on the blue line. They also need help everywhere else on the ice, but Hanifin’s the best player available at this point. McDavid is the clear No. 1, Eichel is the clear No. 2, then Strome and Hanafin are essentially the next tier in this draft. Figure Toronto takes whichever one Arizona doesn’t take.
5. Carolina Hurricanes – Mitchell Marner, Center, London (OHL)
The only real knock on Marner is his size (5-foot-11, 160-pounds), but it doesn’t seem to slow him down at all. His 126 points put him just three behind Strome for the OHL scoring title, and he played in five less games. Plus he’s still just 17 years old, so it’s not like he doesn’t have time to add a little more size. The ‘Canes need someone to kick the offense into high gear, and Marner’s more than capable.
6. New Jersey Devils – Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing, TPS (Finland)
The average age on the Devils’ roster was, like, 83 this season. They need to inject some youth. While Rantanen might not reach the NHL in 2015-16, it’s tough to argue against scooping up the top international skater at pick No. 6. Especially when he already has experience playing against grown men in the Finnish Elite League and was arguably his country’s top weapon at the World Juniors.
7. Philadelphia Flyers – Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Kingston (OHL)
A big (6-foot-4, 215-pounds), physical power forward who doesn’t mind throwing his weight around. Yeah, that sounds like someone Philadelphia might be interested in.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets – Ivan Provorov, Defense, Brandon (WHL)
Provorov is rapidly moving up boards as the No. 2 D-man in this draft. The Blue Jackets already have plenty of skilled forwards in the system. Time to add more blue line help.
9. San Jose Sharks – Zachary Werenski, Defense, Michigan (Big Ten)
Still some good centers on the board, but the Sharks don’t necessarily need one of those. What they could use is a young, offensively gifted defenseman who could be dangerous while anchoring an NHL power play someday.
10. Colorado Avalanche – Pavel Zacha, Center, Sarnia (OHL)
Outside of 2014 first-rounder Conner Bleackley, the Avs don’t have a ton of young pivots working their way through the system. Now they get to add the 6-foot-3 Zacha, who has the upside to be a real steal at the end of the top 10.
11. Florida Panthers – Mathew Barzal, Center, Seattle (WHL)
The Panthers already have a nice collection of young forwards that are starting to make some noise at the NHL level. Their next wave of talented prospects are a group of defensemen led by Mike Matheson. Barzal will help restock the cupboard for another crop of even younger forwards.
12. Dallas Stars – Timo Meier, Right Wing, Halifax (QMJHL)
His 44 goals tied him for fifth in the QMJHL and his 46 assists only added to his value as a versatile forward with an impressive hockey IQ. More offense for Dallas!
13. Los Angeles Kings – Kyle Connor, Left Wing, Youngstown (USHL)
This still feels weird. Remind me again how LA missed the playoffs? Either way, now they get to add the USHL’s leading scorer (80 points). He’s heading to Michigan, so the Kings won’t be able to use him for awhile. But they don’t really need him for awhile anyway.
14. Boston Bruins – Jakub Zboril, Defense, Saint John (QMJHL)
Seeing the Bruins in the lottery is almost as weird as seeing the Kings. Could be a good opportunity for Boston to replenish its back end though, and Zboril is a quality defender who should be on the board at No. 14.