It might come as a bit of a shock, but this year's NHL draft class goes deeper than just Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
McDavid and Eichel are almost universally regarded as the top two prospects in the draft. It's also essentially a foregone conclusion that McDavid will go No. 1 overall to the Edmonton Oilers, leaving Eichel for the Buffalo Sabres at second.
The two are unquestionably talented, but they're far from the only young stars who should make a major impact in the league. The 2015 draft shouldn't resemble the 2004 edition, where Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went first and second. The drop-off after those two was pretty steep.
Looking at some of the brightest talent beyond McDavid and Eichel, the four players below are among the most promising.
NHL Mock Draft—1st Round
|1||Edmonton Oilers||Connor McDavid, C, Erie|
|2||Buffalo Sabres||Jack Eichel, C, Boston University|
|3||Arizona Coyotes||Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College|
|4||Toronto Maple Leafs||Dylan Strome, C, Erie|
|5||Carolina Hurricanes||Mitch Marner, C, London|
|6||New Jersey Devils||Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia|
|7||Philadelphia Flyers||Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku|
|8||Columbus Blue Jackets||Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon|
|9||San Jose Sharks||Zach Werenski, D, Michigan|
|10||Colorado Avalanche||Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle|
|11||Florida Panthers||Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston|
|12||Dallas Stars||Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown|
|13||Los Angeles Kings||Timo Meier, RW, Halifax|
|14||Boston Bruins||Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa|
|15||Calgary Flames||Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton|
|16||Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh Penguins)||Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John|
|17||Winnipeg Jets||Jake DeBrusk, LW, Swift Current|
|18||Ottawa Senators||Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John|
|19||Detroit Red Wings||Paul Bittner, LW, Portland|
|20||Minnesota Wild||Filip Chlapik, C, Charlottetown|
|21||Buffalo Sabres (from New York Islanders)||Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna|
|22||Washington Capitals||Oliver Kylington, D, Farjestad|
|23||Vancouver Canucks||Colin White, C, USA U-18|
|24||Toronto Maple Leafs (from Nashville Predators)||Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke|
|25||Winnipeg Jets (from St. Louis Blues via Buffalo Sabres)||Ryan Pilon, D, Brandon|
|26||Montreal Canadiens||Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Farjestad|
|27||Anaheim Ducks||Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning (from New York Rangers)||Noah Juulsen, D, Everett|
|29||Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay Lightning)||Brandon Carlo, D, Tri-City|
|30||Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago Blackhawks)||Dennis Yan, LW, Shawinigan|
|Source: Draft order via NHL.com|
Top Prospects Outside Top 4
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Mitch Marner, C, London
Mitch Marner isn't exactly physically imposing (5'11", 160 lbs). However, he's the kind of player who seems to take exception to any sort of critique about his size. Marner isn't afraid to get physical and won't shy away from contact on the ice.
He's also an offensive dynamo.
Looking forward, he might not become a high-volume goal scorer, but that shouldn't hinder his potential. Marner is a supreme playmaker with an uncanny ability to read the ice and find his teammates.
In an interview with Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press, the 18-year-old admitted that he's faced his fair share of doubters, but that never dampened his motivation to succeed:
Multiple people tell me I’m small and will never make it. I know a lot of people think my dad (Paul) is a little crazy sometimes, but without him, I would not be in this situation. He has taken so many beatings—yelling battles and stabs in the back—for me. I play hockey, obviously, for the city of London, but I play for my family.
After reading that, it's hard not to root for Marner.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon
Noah Hanifin will most likely be the first defenseman off the board in the first round. The Boston College star is virtually a lock for the third or fourth overall pick. Forecasting the next blueliner drafted is a bit trickier.
Ivan Provorov will be the name atop many fans' lists.
Back in January, TSN's Craig Button ranked the 18-year-old as his top defenseman ahead of Hanifin:
Ivan can make the game look effortless with a brilliant understanding of what's unfolding in front of him either from a defensive or offensive standpoint. His skating, quickness and balance, pinpoint passing, poise under pressure and a great competitive determination align to make him a defenceman who can influence the play and the outcomes in a consistent and positive manner.
A large part of what makes Provorov so appealing as a prospect is his ability to play both ways. Not only does he position himself well to deny the opponent a scoring chance, he's also very adept with the puck. He scored 15 goals and assisted on another 46 for the Brandon Wheat Kings this past season.
Should Provorov fall to the eighth pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets would be foolish not to take him.
11. Florida Panthers: Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston
One of the first things you notice about Lawson Crouse is his size. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, he casts a big shadow on the ice for a winger.
Crouse had a solid individual record with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2014-15 (29 goals, 22 assists), which gives you an idea of what to expect from him at the next level.
Some might be of the opinion that Crouse is simply a battering ram who runs through opposing defensemen first and asks questions later. In actuality, Crouse has pretty soft hands and handles the puck well.
While you're unlikely to see the 17-year-old rely heavily on his finesse and agility, it would be unfair to pigeonhole him based solely on his physical stature.
16. Edmonton Oilers: Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John
Since the Oilers are all but guaranteed to draft McDavid, they'd be wise to address the blue line with their second first-rounder. Should Jakub Zboril fall into their lap, that would be a great haul in the first round.
Zboril is also considered more of a two-way defenseman. His numbers are a bit below those of Provorov (13 goals, 20 assists) but impressive nonetheless.
At 6'1" and 184 pounds, Zboril can use his speed and agility when out on the attack. He also makes up a lot of ground in a short amount of time when rushing out to defend. His size also doesn't preclude him from mixing it up with the opponents. He won't shy away from a hit.
Sixteenth might seem a bit low for Zboril, but he remains pretty raw as a player. The potential is obviously there, but that's no guarantee for success. That could be a turnoff for some teams.