The Los Angeles Kings are still breaking in their second Stanley Cup in three years, but all 30 NHL teams have long been at work assessing the top prospects in this year's NHL draft.
The two-day draft gets started on Friday and runs until Saturday in Philadelphia. The Florida Panthers came out on top of the draft lottery this year, meaning they will be first on the clock and have their choice of the top players.
Let's get right to it and break down a fresh NHL mock draft.
1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)
With the coveted No. 1 selection in this year's draft, the Panthers have been fielding numbers of offers. But according to Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov, Aaron Ekblad is their guy if no offer knocks them off their feet:
It's not hard to see why. Ekblad is widely considered the most NHL-ready player in the draft and after amassing 53 points in 58 games with the Barrie Colts of the OHL last season, he'll be ready to go right away.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)
There's little doubt that Sam Reinhart is the best forward available in the draft. The Kootenay Ice star tore up the WHL with a whopping 36 goals and 69 assists in 60 games played—don't worry, I'll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor after reading that stat line.
3. Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
If Reinhart is the best forward in the draft, Draisaitl is a close second. With a big frame at 210 pounds and well over six feet tall, the German international has the size to contend for loose pucks and the pure skill to serve as a building block for the future.
4. Calgary Flames: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)
Michael Dal Colle is mature beyond his years and possesses an elite skill set that will allow him to thrive with the Flames. Dal Colle is far and away the top winger available in the draft, and Calgary won't be able to pass him up.
5. New York Islanders: Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)
If Sam Bennett happens to fall past the top four picks, he won't last past No. 5. The Islanders are very close to taking the next step with a number of young players, allowing Bennett to fit right in with a budding team.
6. Vancouver Canucks: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
One of the most dynamic players in the draft, Nikolaj Ehlers has the skills to fit right in with the Canucks. Vancouver isn't far from contending for a Stanley Cup, with a heap of talent on the roster, and Ehlers would be an injection of youthful talent to balance out a roster of veterans.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)
Nick Ritchie will bring plenty of size and skill to Carolina. The former OHL standout uses his size to make space as he attacks the net and will use his unique blend to make an early impact with the Hurricanes.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)
There might not be a player in the draft more dangerous in even-strength situations than Jake Virtanen. The former Calgary Hitmen standout lit up his WHL opposition with 33 even-strength goals this past season, and the Maple Leafs will be happy to insert him quickly into their lineup.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Kevin Fiala, HV71 (SHL)
Kevin Fiala is just 17 years old, but has one of the highest ceilings out of any player in the draft. If he were a year older, he might come off the board a bit earlier, but the Jets won't argue with nabbing the high-potential player at No. 9 overall.
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Senators): Alex Tuch, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
Alex Tuch is yet another player in this draft with the size to compete with the NHL's best. It will take some time for the rest of his game to come around, but as suggested by a 31-point campaign in 26 USHL games, it won't be long before he's ready for the big stage.
11. Nashville Predators: William Nylander, LW, MODO (SHL)
The Predators weren't able to address their need on offense in last year's draft, instead selecting defenseman Seth Jones with the fourth-overall pick. General manager David Poile made it clear to The Tennessean's Josh Cooper that Nashville might trade its top pick, but if not, they'll get William Nylander to address the offensive need.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
There are very few forwards in this draft better at playing on both offense and defense than Jared McCann. The Phoenix Coyotes could use more forwards to come back and help out on the defensive end, and they will be happy to add McCann to the fold to help in that department.
13. Washington Capitals: Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)
The Capitals were in the bottom 10 of the league in defense last year, helping pave the way to a playoff-less season. With new head coach Barry Trotz in town, expect more of a defensive presence in Washington, starting with the Caps selecting defenseman Haydn Fleury to help stop the bleeding.
14. Dallas Stars: Ivan Barbashev, C, Moncton (QMJHL)
The Stars made some serious strides in 2013-14 by making the playoffs but will need more talent to compete deep into the postseason. That will spur Dallas to go with the top talent on the board, and there's no doubt that's Ivan Barbashev.
15. Detroit Red Wings: Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can't do it alone. The Red Wings need more offensive firepower for them to avoid another early playoff flameout. Nikita Scherbak would offer just that as he looks to make a quick impact in Detroit.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)
Among the safest players in the draft class is Brendan Perlini, who will make an early impact in Columbus. The former Niagara standout has the size to muscle out the opposition, with skilled shooting prowess and a knack for goals that will translate to the NHL.
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)
Based off his dominating performance last season with the Windsor Spitfires, where he scored 32 times and assisted 53 more, Josh Ho-Sang is flying up draft boards. The Flyers could use a player like him that can generate offense by himself and inject real energy into the third and fourth lines as he gets accustomed to the league.
18. Minnesota Wild: Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)
The Wild seemingly have everything they need to make a deep playoff run—scoring forwards, a strong defense and elite star playmakers to guide them through long series. All that's left is addressing the gaping problem at goalie, which Boston College netminder Thatcher Demko would fill nicely after a short time for development.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (SM-Liiga)
Kasperi Kapanen has long been one of the top forwards in this year's draft, and the 17-year-old hasn't wavered from the first round, despite a poor performance in the U18 World Championship. The Lightning are in a transitional phase and looking to surround their young talent with more young talent—Kapenen would immediately become among the best youthful pieces in the system.
20. San Jose Sharks: Jakub Vrana, LW, Linkoping (SHL)
Jakub Vrana is one of the more under-the-radar players at the top of the draft, hailing from Linkoping of the SHL. But the Sharks won't give up the chance to add him to the fold, and soon his ability to get pucks into the net will be on center stage.
21. St. Louis Blues: Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)
The Blues were one of the NHL's best last season, but the wheels came off in the playoffs. A couple of young dynamos would be well-received to bring a scoring punch, and Robby Fabbri showed in the Memorial Cup that he can be the best player on the ice—even against elite competition.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Dylan Larkin, C, U.S. U18 (USHL)
One of the best young American players in the sport, Dylan Larkin figures to make a strong impact wherever he lands. That happens to be Pittsburgh, where the offense is so strong that Larkin can take his time developing and find himself surrounded by great players to work with when he arrives.
23. Colorado Avalanche: Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)
Brendan Lemieux won't have to sell himself to Colorado—his dad can. The son of former Avs great Claude Lemieux, this Barrie standout has a knack for impacting the game with his work ethic and will fit in well with a hard-nosed Colorado team.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL)
Already landing a promising forward with the 10th pick, the Ducks will be quick to add a plug-and-play defenseman to bolster an already formidable back line. Anthony DeAngelo out of Sarnia is the best defenseman on the board and will immediately threaten for one of the top six spots.
25. Boston Bruins: Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary (WHL)
Travis Sanheim exploded in the second half of the WHL season, putting up 27 points in his final 36 games as opposed to just two assists in his first 31. Boston is already loaded with championship-caliber talent but could use some help in the end of the bench on defense. Sanheim will be able to log minutes early on.
26. Montreal Canadiens: David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)
David Pastrnak has wowed NHL draft scouts with his elusive offensive ability and a shifty presence that allows him to get into scoring positions. Montreal made serious strides in 2013-14, but in order to get further, they'll need to add young talent like Pastrnak.
27. Chicago Blackhawks: Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL)
Already one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, the Blackhawks will add another standout blue-liner in Roland McKeown. He's incredibly strong and uses that to make his presence felt on offense, both with a powerful shot from the blue line and the ability to trickle into the attacking lanes.
28. New York Rangers: Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer (WHL)
Conner Bleackley exploded in the WHL last season with a whopping 68 points, and after captaining the Red Deer Rebels, he brings both experience and scoring talent to the next level. The Rangers could use both as they look to build off making the Stanley Cup Final this past season.
29. Los Angeles Kings: Sonny Milano, LW, U.S. U18 (USHL)
As told by their incredible run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings are in a great position already to contend for the next few seasons. That will give Sonny Milano, one of the most promising young American players, time to develop and grow into the player he's capable of becoming.
30. New Jersey Devils: Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
The Devils are left to select last in the first round after sanctions from the Ilya Kovalchuk contract fallout, but they'll still land a promising youngster. Nikolay Goldobin has the craftiness and scoring ability that New Jersey needs to bounce back from a poor season.
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