NHL Draft 2015: Team-by-Team Needs and Targets

Kelly FriesenFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2015

NHL Draft 2015: Team-by-Team Needs and Targets

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Look no further than the Stanley Cup Champions for proof that the NHL draft is an incredibly important part of building a winner. The Chicago Blackhawks landed Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford with top-60 draft choices.

    Next weekend, all 30 clubs will attempt to take a step forward in building a Stanley Cup contender. Some teams will look to fill small gaps in their lineups, while others will look to lay a new foundation of young talent.

    Here’s a look at the biggest needs of every NHL team and who it would make sense for them to target in the early rounds. 

Anaheim Ducks

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    Swift Current's Jake DeBrusk is a potential target for the Ducks.
    Swift Current's Jake DeBrusk is a potential target for the Ducks.Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    The Ducks don’t necessarily have a glaring need in their prospect cupboard. They added offensive help in Nick Ritchie in the first round last year, selected rearguards Shea Theodore and Hampus Lindholm with top-30 picks in the previous two drafts and have highly regarded goalie prospect John Gibson in their system. That said, it seems it would make sense for them to go after the best prospect available with their 27th selection.


    On the offensive side of the game, Swift Current Broncos winger Jake DeBrusk, a creative passer with a high hockey IQ, and Charlottetown Islanders winger Daniel Sprong, a shifty scorer with top-notch offensive abilities, would be two of their better options.

    Tri-City Americans shutdown blueliner Brandon Carlo fits the bill for one of their needs on the defensive side of the puck, as the 6’5”, 196-pound Colorado Springs, Colorado, native has the potential to help fill the expected void left by pending free agent Francois Beauchemin down the road.

Arizona Coyotes

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    Erie's Dylan Strome is a favorite to go third overall.
    Erie's Dylan Strome is a favorite to go third overall.Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    First and foremost, the Coyotes need help down the middle with the departure of Antoine Vermette at the trade deadline. But with Mike Smith struggling in net this season and not a lot of depth behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the back end, there’s a need for improvement at every position. This should be a given for a team that finished second-to-last in the standings.


    Erie Otters center Dylan Strome is the obvious choice for their No. 3 selection. He has it all: size (6’3”, 185 pounds), a high-end skating ability, elite vision and superb offensive instincts. It will be, however, tough to pass on Boston College defender Noah Hanifin, as he has the makings of a future cornerstone defenseman.

    With their second first-round selection, the 30th overall pick, which was acquired in the Vermette deal from the Chicago Blackhawks, it would make sense for the Coyotes to add a defender if they go with Strome early on.

    Sweden’s Oliver Kylington or Gabriel Carlsson would be two of their better options. Kylington offers an elite skating ability and good offensive abilities, while Carlsson has an imposing 6’4”, 185-pound presence combined with speed and physicality.

Boston Bruins

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    Biggest Needs

    With team captain Zdeno Chara nearing the end of this career, the Bruins need young blood on the back end to help replace the All-Star defenseman. Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug are without question part of the solution, but Boston is still in need of some additional help.


    At No. 14, the likes of Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zachary Werenski should be off the board, leaving Saint John Sea Dogs rearguards Thomas Chabot and Jakub Zboril as two of the more enticing possibilities. Chabot is the better offensive option, as he possesses excellent mobility and good puck skills. Zboril, meanwhile, plays with a chip on his shoulder while making notable contributions in all three zones.

Buffalo Sabres

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    The Sabres are expected to take Jack Eichel with the No. 2 pick.
    The Sabres are expected to take Jack Eichel with the No. 2 pick.Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Biggest Needs

    Buffalo’s last-place finish clearly suggests the organization has more than one positional need. Therefore, the Sabres’ 2015 first-round selections should come down to selecting the best talents available, albeit Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov should tempt them slightly more than other prospects because the club is without a blue-chip goalie prospect.


    Boston University freshman Jack Eichel is a no-brainer selection at No. 2. According to scout Matt Grainda, USA Under-18 coach Danton Cole compared (via Yahoo Sports) his elite skill set to Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf and Kings sniper Jeff Carter for a reason. The 6’2”, 196-pounder, alongside top 2014 pick Sam Reinhart, should give the Sabres a solid one-two punch down the middle.

    Buffalo’s second first-round selection, the 21st pick, which they acquired from the New York Islanders last year in a deal involving Thomas Vanek, isn’t near as straightforward.

    Samsonov is an appealing option, but since he’s under contract in the KHL for the next three years, it might be safer to go with one of the better mid-around defenders such as Tri-City American’s Brandon Carlo, a shutdown specialist, or the Sherbrooke Phoenix’s Jeremy Roy, who possesses elite playmaking skills.

Calgary Flames

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    Biggest Needs

    After investing their last four top-30 draft choices on forwards, it seems fitting for the Flames to look for help on the back end this year. In addition, with team captain Mark Giordano only having one-year left on his contract, there’s the possibility of losing their top defender in the near future.


    Much like the Bruins, Saint John’s Thomas Chabot and Jakub Zboril are two of their better fits at 15th overall. Both defenders have the ability to play significant roles at both ends of the ice because of their complete games. A third option for the Flames could be Sherbrooke’s Jeremy Roy. He’s one of the better power-play blueliners in the draft and plays a sound defensive game in his own zone.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Noah Hanifin is in the running to go fifth overall to the Hurricanes.
    Noah Hanifin is in the running to go fifth overall to the Hurricanes.Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    Justin Faulk can’t do it all on his own. The Hurricanes are in a position where they desperately need to surround their star defender with some better talent to have any hope of getting back into the playoff picture in the near future.


    At No. 5, Boston College’s Noah Hanifin and the Brandon Wheat Kings’ Ivan Provorov are two great options on the back end. Hanifin, who is ranked third among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service, has the makings of a future No. 1 defenseman. He possesses an appealing blend of size (6’2”, 205 lbs), maturity, high-end offensive abilities and a sound defensive game.

    Provorov, meanwhile, led all WHL rookies in points this year with 15 goals and 61 points in 60 games while playing a confident two-way game.

    If the Hurricanes do snag Hanifin, there's a possibility of him being up with the big club as early as next season. 

    "Yes and no," Hanifin told Mike Brophy of NHL.com on whether he's ready for the NHL next year. "There are definitely parts of my game that I can work on to be an impact player in the NHL. One of my goals is to work hard this summer so I can potentially be ready for next season. If I were to play next season I would need to learn a lot."

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Biggest needs

    With three Stanley Cup wins in the last six years, the Blackhawks are in pretty good shape to say the least. The club is faced with some obstacles in the salary-cap world, though. It seems likely that Chicago will move some of their offensive weapons such as Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell to get under the cap. These expected moves should open some holes up front for younger, cheaper talents.


    The Blackhawks dealt their top two picks (first-rounder to Arizona for Antoine Vermette and second-rounder to Philadelphia for Kimmo Timonen) at the trade deadline.

    They do hold, however, a second-round draft choice because the league compensated them with it after losing Kevin Hayes to the New York Rangers. With that selection, USA U18 forwards Jeremy Bracco, ranked 60th by Central Scouting, and Jordan Greenway, ranked 47th by Central Scouting, would offer two different types of enacting attributes.

    Bracco, who racked up 30 goals and 94 points in 65 games, is undersized (5’10”, 165 lbs), but he is one of the best playmakers in the draft. Greenway has the size at 6’5”, 223 pounds, but he disappointed offensively this year, scoring nine markers and 44 points in 53 matches.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Michigan's Zach Werenski is an ideal fit for the Avalanche.
    Michigan's Zach Werenski is an ideal fit for the Avalanche.Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Biggest Needs

    Led by elite talents such as Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche are, for the most part anyways, sitting pretty up front. The club’s most notable area of concern is on the defensive side of the puck, as there’s a lack of talent beyond Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson.


    Although there’s a slight chance that all three could be off the board, it seems Colorado’s target market should be Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zachary Werenski. It appears Weresnki, whom ISS Hockey rank 11th overall, is the most likely of the three to drop to the 10th selection.

    The Michigan University freshman is an offensive-minded defenseman who possesses a smooth stride and smart instincts. He not only joined the college ranks a year early at 17 years old, but he also cracked Team USA’s world junior championship team. Both accomplishments are a testament to how he’s well beyond his years on the ice.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Ivan Provorov would be a solid blue-line option for the Blue Jackets.
    Ivan Provorov would be a solid blue-line option for the Blue Jackets.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Biggest needs

    Albeit the Blue Jackets have a young stud in top 2012 draft pick Ryan Murray, they need to strengthen their play on the defensive side of the puck to get back into the postseason for the third time in the organization’s history. Moreover, Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno give Columbus a solid trio to rely on up front. Their back end doesn’t have near this much star power.


    Just like Colorado, Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zachary Werenski are the ideal targets with the eighth overall selection. With Hanifin expected to don a jersey within the first five selections, it seems Provorov and Werenski are more realistic options.

    Provorov, who is ranked seventh among North American skaters by Central Scouting, seems to have the slight edge on Werenski. He has the ability to log tons of ice time at both ends of the ice, especially in offensive situations such as the power play. Look to Coyotes star Oliver Ekman-Larsson for an idea on what Provorov may look like down the road if he reaches his full potential.

Dallas Stars

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    Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

    Biggest needs

    Ultimately, after missing the playoffs four times in the last five years, the Stars could use some help at both ends of the ice. But since they invested the 14th overall selection of last year’s draft on former Swift Current Broncos blueliner Julius Honka, it would make more sense for them to look for help on forward this year.


    With the 12th overall draft choice, Dallas will be in a good spot on the draft floor. They will have a shot at an elite offensive prospect such as USHL Player of the Year Kyle Connor, Sarnia Sting power-forward Pavel Zacha and/or Halifax Mooseheads star Timo Meier.

    Connor, who possesses top-end speed and dynamic offensive abilities, would offer the most raw skill of the trio, but the pugnacity and versatility that come with Zacha and Meier will make it tough for any club in the 10 to 16 range to take a pass on them.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Biggest needs

    The Red Wings’ biggest need appears to be on defense, especially since the club hasn’t selected a blueliner in the first round since Brendan Smith in 2007. However, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk aren’t getting any younger. There’s a sound argument to suggest Detroit should take the best prospect available rather than going with the top defenseman because they need fresh faces at both ends of the rink.


    Detroit loves plucking players out of Sweden. It just so happens that Sweden’s most highly regarded draft prospect, Joel Eriksson Ek, is expected to don a jersey around the same time the Red Wings go up to the podium with their 19th overall selection. Eriksson Ek is a gritty center who protects the puck well with his 6’2”, 180-pound frame and can fire a rocket of a shot.

    At the other end of the ice, Swedish blueliners Oliver Kylington and Gabriel Carlsson are two realistic options. Kylington, ranked 32nd overall by ISS Hockey, has a nice blend of skill and speed, while Carlsson, ranked 30th overall by ISS Hockey, plays a more rugged style without as much offensive pizzazz.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Connor McDavid will don an Edmonton jersey at the 2015 NHL draft.
    Connor McDavid will don an Edmonton jersey at the 2015 NHL draft.Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

    Biggest needs

    The Oilers need a generational talent to help turn their franchise around. Good thing they hold the No. 1 pick and Connor freakin’ McDavid is in this draft class. Beyond a franchise player, the Oilers are in need of a big-bodied winger to act as a bouncer for McDavid and a future starting goaltender.


    Portland Winterhawks power-forward Paul Bittner and Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov should be enticing options for the Oilers’ 16th overall selection, which they acquired from Pittsburgh for David Perron.

    Bittner, a 6’4”, 203-pound Crookston, Minnesota, native, uses his big frame and speed to create time and space for his linemates while playing with a chip on his shoulder. Samsonov, meanwhile, is a big, athletic goalie with the potential to blossom into a star at the NHL level.

Florida Panthers

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    Youngstown's Kyle Connor is the USHL's top 2015 NHL draft prospect.
    Youngstown's Kyle Connor is the USHL's top 2015 NHL draft prospect.Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Biggest needs

    Following drafting Aaron Ekblad first overall last year, it would make sense for the Panthers to look for offensive up in the first round of this year’s draft. They could use someone down the middle to complement Aleksander Barkov, the second overall pick of the 2013 draft.


    With the 11th selection, Sarnia Sting sniper Pavel Zacha and Youngstown Phantoms star Kyle Connor would be ideal fits. Zacha, similar to Barkov, is a big-bodied forward who uses his size and strength to his advantage. Connor, on the other hand, is more of a finesse player who has an appealing combination of elite speed, a two-way game and superb offensive instincts.

    Both prospects, who can play wing and center, are expecting to don jerseys before the 15th selection.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Biggest needs

    With the future of Slava Voynov up in the air, the Kings are in need of a high-end defenseman to help take some weight off the shoulders of Drew Doughty. Moreover, the club could lose pending free agent and trade deadline acquisition Andrej Sekera this summer.


    With the 13th pick, the Kings should miss out on Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zachary Werenski, but Saint John’s Thomas Chabot, who is ranked 21st by Mckeen’s Hockey, and Jakub Zboril, ranked 18th, should be on the board. They both possess quality offensive abilities and play well at both ends of the ice, but Chabot has the edge in mobility, and Zboril plays a more physical style.

Minnesota Wild

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    Biggest needs

    The Wild seem better suited to look for offensive help in the first round with young, elite defenders like Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin in their arsenal. In addition, with speculation that Mikko Koivu might be on his way out, Minnesota might need to find a replacement for the Finnish center sooner than later.


    Ottawa 67’s center Travis Konecny and Prince George Cougars center Jansen Harkins are two great options down the middle for their 20th overall selection. Konecny’s speed, agility and smarts make him a threat in all three zones, as he has the ability to move around the ice effortlessly.

    Harkins is more of a blue-collar type, but he possesses dynamic playmaking abilities, which is evident in the 20 goals and 79 points in 70 games that he posted this year.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Biggest Needs

    Montreal’s problem this past year has been putting the puck in the back of the net. Their top forwards haven’t found a way to score at the same rate as the NHL’s top contenders. They did invest their last three first-round picks on forwards—Everett Silvertips winger Nikita Scherbak, Oshawa Generals bulldozer Michael McCarron and center Alex Galchenyuk—but one more wouldn’t hurt, especially in this year’s above-average draft class.


    Albeit they are undersized, Charlottetown Islanders winger Daniel Sprong and Shawinigan Cataractes winger Anthony Beauvillier would give Montreal a talented forward at the No. 26 pick. Sprong, who netted 39 goals and 88 points in 68 games, and Beauvillier, who notched 42 goals and 94 points in 67 contests, are both fast, agile skaters who have the hands to puck handle their way through maze of opponents.

Nashville Predators

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    Red Deer's Adam Musil is expected to don a jersey in the second or third round.
    Red Deer's Adam Musil is expected to don a jersey in the second or third round.Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    With Mike Fisher not getting any younger, the Predators could use a young two-way center to help replace him down the road. Moreover, they would benefit from bringing in another top-end forward to help complement top 2014 pick Kevin Fiala and young superstar Filip Forsberg.


    As it stands, the Predators won’t draft anyone until the 55th selection because they traded their first-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline in a deal revolving around Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli.

    In the latter half of the second round, Red Deer Rebels center Adam Musil would offer them size (6’3”, 202 lbs), grit and some offensive upside, albeit he did not reach expectations this year on the stats sheet with 15 goals and 39 points in 66 matches.

    Saint John Sea Dogs sophomore Nathan Noel, who possesses good hockey sense and creativity, would be a better option solely based on skill, but at 5’11,” 172 pounds, he is slightly undersized.

New Jersey Devils

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    Seattle's Mathew Barzal is a possible draft candidate for the Devils.
    Seattle's Mathew Barzal is a possible draft candidate for the Devils.Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    With New Jersey’s highest scorer last year, Adam Henrique, only posting 16 goals and 43 points in 75 games, it is clear as day that the Devils are in need of a dynamic offensive forward. Whether it’s a center or a winger, they could undoubtedly use a high-end talent who has the ability to put up big numbers and lead a first line.


    At No. 6, the Devils will get a shot at one of the top forwards in the draft. There’s an outside chance London Knights star Mitchell Marner will be around, but it seems more likely that Finnish playmaker Mikko Rantanen and Seattle Thunerbirds center Mathew Barzal will be two of their better options.

    Both prospects have silky-smooth hands and incredibly high hockey IQs, but Rantanen, a 6’4”, 212-pound winger, has the edge in size, and Barzal one-ups the Finnish product in vision.

New York Islanders

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    Barrie's Mackenzie Blackwood is one of the better goalies in the 2015 draft.
    Barrie's Mackenzie Blackwood is one of the better goalies in the 2015 draft.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    The Islanders have good, young forward prospects in Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, both 2014 first-round selections. They also have some blue-chip prospects on the back end such as Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock. The organization’s prospect weak spot is in between the pipes, as their top goalie prospect, Ilya Sorokin, is currently regarded as a mid-level talent.


    Unless they strike a deal, the Islanders won’t draft until the 72nd selection because they traded away their top two picks in separate deals. Barrie Colts netminder Mackenzie Blackwood, Czech Republic native Daniel Vladar and Portland Winterhawks goalie Adin Hill would be three ideal options in that respective order. All three offer a nice blend of size, athleticism and incredible instincts.

New York Rangers

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    Tri-City's Parker Wotherspoon is one of the better defenders expected to don a jersey in the second round.
    Tri-City's Parker Wotherspoon is one of the better defenders expected to don a jersey in the second round.Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    The Rangers have a solid trio of blueliners in Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, but they don’t have too many high-end defensive prospects in their system beyond former Minnesota Gopher Brady Skjei. Albeit they don’t have a top-30 pick because they traded theirs to the Tampa Bay Lightning last year in a deal for Martin St. Louis, this draft could be a good opportunity for New York to boost their blue-line prospect pool.


    At No. 59, Tri-City Americans defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, ranked 43rd by Central Scouting, and Peterborough Petes blueliner Matthew Spencer, ranked 68th, are two feasible options. Both defenders are tough to play against in their own end, as they play with an edge and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. In addition, they have the offensive tools such as quality playmaking abilities and a good shot to put up decent numbers.

Ottawa Senators

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    Biggest Needs

    Ottawa is in a situation where it should go with the top forward or defenseman available. It has a nice mixture of young, talented forwards such as Curtis Lazar and Mika Zibanejad as well as high-end defenders like Cody Ceci and Andreas Englund. The recent signing of former Boston University star Matt O’Connor puts the club in a spot where drafting a goalie early on wouldn’t make too much sense.


    When evaluating the draft class, it seems the Senators could snag a better talent at forward than on defense with the 18th overall pick. Ottawa 67’s center Travis Konecny and Kelowna Rockets star Nick Merkley would be ideal choices down the middle. They both play two-way games while possessing the offensive tools, especially playmaking abilities, to develop into future second-line forwards in the pros.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Biggest Needs

    The Flyers seem poised to draft a forward seventh overall following choosing defenders in the first round of the previous two drafts (Travis Sanheim in 2014 and Samuel Morin in 2013). Furthermore, they could be in a situation where they will need to replace the offensive production of Jakub Voracek if he walks as a free agent in 2016.


    Kingston Frontenac winger Lawson Crouse screams Flyer. The 6’4”, 216-pound London, Ontario, native uses his imposing frame to outmuscle and physically dominate opponents while possessing the hands, shot and skating ability to make his mark in the offensive zone.

    If the Flyers would simply pursue raw skill, Finland’s Mikko Rantanen has the edge on Crouse. The 6’4”, 212-pound winger is a talented playmaker who made his presence known in the top Finnish men’s league this past year, racking up nine goals and 28 points in 56 games for TSP Turku.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Biggest Needs

    Pittsburgh has two top-end goalie prospects, Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray, in their system and some elite blue-line talents such as Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington. They could use another blue-chip draft choice up front to play alongside top 2014 pick Kasperi Kapanen down the road.


    The Penguins traded the 16th overall selection to the Edmonton Oilers in a deal for David Perron. Their top selection will come at No. 46 unless they pull off a trade. Regina Pats winger Austin Wagner and Waterloo Black Hawks center Thomas Novak stand out as two possibilities in the middle of the second round.

    Wagner, ranked 43rd by ISS Hockey, is a speedy skater who broke out in Regina this past year, scoring 20 goals and 39 points following just netting two points the year before. Novak, meanwhile, is a highly skilled playmaker who is poised to join the University of Minnesota next season.

St. Louis Blues

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    Biggest Needs

    The Blues are in need of more goals. It has held them back from making their mark in the postseason the last couple of years. They could use some high-end scorers to play alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz in the future.


    Barring a trade, St. Louis won’t pick until the 56th selection because they traded their top pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Ryan Miller last year. USA U18 winger Jeremy Bracco and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds center Blake Speers are two ideal possibilities. Bracco approaches the game with loads of energy and possesses high-end passing abilities. Speers has a nice blend of offensive skills such as a great passing ability and a solid shot.

San Jose Sharks

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    Kingston's Lawson Crouse is a possibility for San Jose.
    Kingston's Lawson Crouse is a possibility for San Jose.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    With Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau nearing the end of their careers, it’s time for the Sharks to build a younger offensive core. Moreover, another elite talent could complete a solid offensive quartet alongside Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Nikolay Goldobin.


    At the ninth pick, Sarnia Sting power-forward Pavel Zacha and Kingston Frontenacs rugged winger Lawson Crouse appear to be solid options. Both OHLers are big, pugnacious forwards who play a sandpaper style while producing offense like a top-six talent. They project to develop into future second-line forwards who can be relied on to play big minutes at both ends of the ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Beauvillier (white) is one of the top scorers in the draft out of the QMJHL.
    Beauvillier (white) is one of the top scorers in the draft out of the QMJHL.Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    Tampa Bay is sitting pretty with young gems. They have top 2013 pick Jonathan Drouin and top 2012 selection Andrei Vasilevskiy up with the big club already. Not to mention, 20-year-old winger Adam Erne, 19-year-old center Brayden Point and 19-year-old blueliner Anthony DeAngelo appear to be just a couple of years away from making The Show.

    In saying that, they don’t have the pressure of having to fill a certain void in their roster on the draft floor.


    The Lightning don’t hold their own first-round pick, as they traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Braydon Coburn, but they do hold the New York Rangers’ top selection from the Martin St. Louis trade.

    With that 28th draft choice, Swift Current Broncos sophomore Jake DeBrusk and Shawinigan Cataractes playmaker Anthony Beauvillier are potential targets. They both scored at well over a point-per-game pace this past year in the CHL and have the skating abilities and intensity to develop into future top six forwards.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Mitchell Marner is a favorite to go fourth overall to the Leafs.
    Mitchell Marner is a favorite to go fourth overall to the Leafs.Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    After finishing fourth last this season, it’s evident the Leafs need serious help at both ends of the ice. A future first-line center would be great, but they are in a position where they should draft the best talent available.


    Fourth overall, Erie Otters center Dylan Strome would be ideal, but it seems the Coyotes will select him with the third pick. If that does happens, it appears the Leafs will be left with a tough decision between London Knights winger Mitchell Marner and Boston College pivot Noah Hanifin. The former offers oodles of offensive skill, while the latter has the makings of a future No. 1 defenseman.

    Whom the Leafs pick fourth overall should affect whom they choose 24th overall.

    Tri-City Americans shutdown rearguard Brandon Carlo and Prince George Cougars center Jansen Harkins have solidified themselves as two solid options in the latter half of the first round. Carlo has the tools to develop into a dominant defensive defender while Harkins has the two-way game and elite playmaking abilities to blossom into a high-end second-line center.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Jacob Larsson is one of Sweden's top 2015 draft prospects.
    Jacob Larsson is one of Sweden's top 2015 draft prospects.Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Biggest Needs

    The Canucks invested four top-30 picks on forwards in the past two years: Bo Horvat (ninth overall, 2013), Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall, 2013), Jake Virtanen (sixth overall, 2014) and Jared McCann (24th overall, 2014). They also have a blue-chip goalie prospect in Boston College’s Thatcher Demko. It is time for Vancouver to boost its prospect pool on the defensive side of the puck.


    With the 23rd draft choice, the Canucks should have a shot at a solid shutdown defenseman. Tri-City Americans sophomore Brandon Carlo and Sweden’s Jacob Larsson are expected to be available when they walk up to the podium. Carlo, a 6’5”, 198-pound monster, has the edge in play is his own end, while Larsson is the better all-around defender of the two.

Washington Capitals

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    Biggest Needs

    With talents like 20-year-old defender Madison Bowey, 20-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky and 19-year-old netminder Vitek Vanecek, the Capitals don’t have a glaring hole in their prospect pool. They could use a good, young center, but they aren’t in a situation where they need to force the position on the draft floor.


    With their 22nd overall pick, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles sniper Yevgeni Svechnikov and USA U18 center Colin White are two of the better possibilities. Svechnikov, who racked up 32 goals and 78 points in 55 games, is a powerful and talented winger who powers his way to the net with his speed and agility. White, meanwhile, is a well-rounded two-way center who will take his talents to Boston College next season.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Biggest Needs

    Winnipeg has one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. They have a quality group of blue-chip talents such as 20-year-old defender Josh Morrissey, 20-year-old center Nicolas Petan, 19-year-old winger Nikolaj Ehlers and 20-year-old goalie Eric Comrie. They are fortunate to be in a position to draft the best prospect they feel is available at No. 17.


    Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley and Sherbrooke Phoenix rearguard Jeremy Roy are two great possibilities at both ends of the ice. Merkley, who is ranked 19th overall by ISS Hockey, is a playmaking center who sees the ice extremely well and plays a bigger than his 5’10”, 192-pound frame.

    Roy, who is ranked 23rd overall, is a gifted two-way pivot who uses his intelligent hockey IQ, skating ability and solid positional play to make an impact in all three zones.


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