The 2015 NHL draft kicks off on Friday, June 26 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers.
While the hosts pick 11th, the top two teams of the draft are set to be very happy with their selections. Top prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will be going to the Edmonton Oilers at No. 1 or the Buffalo Sabres at No. 2, and both have the capability to become two of the biggest stars in the game.
There are plenty other talents in the draft pool who will help their prospective teams immensely as well. Continue below for a complete first-round mock draft with a look at some of the top prospects on the rise.
|2015 NHL Mock Draft: 1st-Round|
|1||Edmonton Oilers||Connor McDavid, C||Erie (OHL)||A sensational talent. It's a question of when, not if, he becomes an all-time great.|
|2||Buffalo Sabres||Jack Eichel, C||Boston University||Sabres fans will look at this day as the official turning point of their franchise.|
|3||Arizona Coyotes||Noah Hanifin, D||Boston College||The Coyotes have depth at every other position in their ranks other than defense.|
|4||Toronto Maple Leafs||Dylan Strome, C||Erie (OHL)||Strome will be able to jump-start one of the worst offenses in the league.|
|5||Carolina Hurricanes||Mitch Marner, C||London (OHL)||The Hurricanes need scoring. Marner can light the lamp plenty.|
|6||New Jersey Devils||Mathew Barzal, C||Seattle (WHL)||Another team that needs help offensively, Barzal could be a goal scorer for a Devils franchise that has built itself on defense.|
|7||Philadelphia Flyers||Lawson Crouse, LW||Kingston (OHL)||Crouse could be the best winger coming out of this draft, which means he might not drop this far to the Flyers, whom he is a perfect fit for. If he's not available, Philly must go after a defenseman.|
|8||Columbus Jackets||Ivan Provorov, D||Brandon (WHL)||If the Blue Jackets can stay healthy, they are going to be a scary team in the Eastern Conference this season. Their defense needs reinforcements.|
|9||San Jose Sharks||Timo Meier, LW||Halifax (QMJHL)||Defensive help is on the way for the Sharks. They'll need some help down the left wing.|
|10||Colorado Avalanche||Kyle Connor, LW||Youngstown (USHL)||Even if Ryan O'Reilly is traded from Colorado, the Avs are still set down the middle. Wing help is needed for Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.|
|11||Florida Panthers||Pavel Zacha, C||Sarnia (OHL)||Zacha could play next to fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr. He couldn't center a winger any more experienced.|
|12||Dallas Stars||Jacob Zboril, D||St. John (QMJHL)||The Stars could find scoring depth at this point, but a high pick could be used for their defense, which needs help.|
|13||Los Angeles Kings||Zach Werenski, D||University of Michigan||While they could also go for a center, Werenski can be a big help in front of Jonathan Quick.|
|14||Boston Bruins||Nicholas Merkley, RW||Kelowna (WHL)||Wing depth could be a necessity if Milan Lucic is traded away. Even if Lucic is a left winger. Kyle Connor would also be a great fit here.|
|15||Calgary Flames||Thomas Chabot, D||Saint John (QMJHL)||An offensive defenseman like Chabot can add another dimension to a young, fast Flames attack.|
|16||Edmonton Oilers||Jeremy Roy, D||Sherbrooke (QMJHL)||Who knows? McDavid and Roy could be the future Gretzky and Coffey.|
|17||Winnipeg Jets||Noah Juulsen, D||Everett (WHL)||Juulsen is a nice change from the usual big-bodied players the Jets are used to getting. Solid D-man who can skate well.|
|18||Ottawa Senators||Travis Konecny, C||Ottawa (OHL)||He won't have to go very far if drafted by the Senators, who need centers.|
|19||Detroit Red Wings||Mikko Rantanen, RW||TPS (Finland)||A player who could be the next right-winged version of Pavel Datsyuk, Rantanen provides the wing help Detroit needs.|
|20||Minnesota Wild||Jansen Harkins, C||Prince George (WHL)||Harkins can add to a young core of the Wild's foundation.|
|21||Buffalo Sabres||Yevgeni Svechnikov, LW||Cape Breton (QMJHL)||Svechnikov has the offensive ability to create a terrifying pairing of goal-scoring potential with Eichel.|
|22||Washington Capitals||Brock Boeser, RW||Waterloo (USHL)||A goal scorer the Capitals could use to compliment Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin down the road.|
|23||Vancouver Cancuks||Oliver Kylington, D||Fargestad (Sweden)||Another multidimensional defenseman who can move the puck well. Kylington can develop into a great facilitator.|
|24||Toronto Maple Leafs||Jacob Larsson, D||Frolunda Jr. (Sweden)||After the Leafs get their center in Strome, they can grab an offensive-defenseman such as Larsson.|
|25||Winnipeg Jets||Colin White, C||USA U-18 (USHL)||The Jets get their defenseman at No. 17 and will grab the best possible forward available at No. 25.|
|26||Montreal Canadiens||Joel Eriksson Ek, C||Fargestad (Sweden)||A forward with size could help the Canadiens protect some of their valuable wingers like Max Pacioretty.|
|27||Anaheim Ducks||Filip Chlapik, C||Charlottetown (QMJHL)||He's fast, he has solid vision and is a center that the Ducks need.|
|28||Tampa Lightning||Gabriel Carlsson, D||Linkoping Jr. (Sweden)||A big one-way defenseman, Carlsson adds size and toughness to a flashy Lightning team.|
|29||Philadelphia Flyers||Vince Dunn, D||Niagara (OHL)||Dunn has the capability to become a very solid, well-rounded defenseman, something the Flyers desperately need.|
|30||Arizona Coyotes||Jake DeBrusk, LW||Swift Current (WHL)||A hard-nosed winger such as DeBrusk can help turn the tide in Arizona along with Hanifin on defense.|
Prospects on the Rise
Mitch Marner does not possess the size that many NHL teams would want out of a forward. He is 5'11", 160 pounds, according to EliteProspects.com.
But as Jason Brough of ProHockeyTalk explains, he's entering the draft at the right time:
The NHL is different than it used to be. Look at what [Patrick] Kane does for the Blackhawks. Look at Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau. All undersized,and all starring in a league that once demanded top draft picks be big and strong and able to fight through the obstruction.
With his size, Marner can flat-out score. Last season with the London Knights of the OHL, he recorded 44 goals and 82 assists, good for 126 points in 63 games. He finished second in the OHL in points behind Dylan Strome, who is set to be selected just before him.
He also finished six points ahead of Connor McDavid in the scoring race, but McDavid played in 16 less games.
His offensive prowess could be a kick-starter for the Carolina Hurricanes, who pick at No. 5. Eric Staal was the team leader in goals with 23 this past season, and just three other forwards had 15 goals or more. Carolina ranked 27th in the league with 2.23 goals per game.
Jeff Simmons of Sportsnet is very high on Marner:
"Outside of McDavid and Eichel, Marner is the most skilled forward in the draft class. He is supremely talented with the puck, is a strong possession player, and excels in the defensive zone as well."
Marner can play either center or right wing depending on a team's need and will go high to a team such as Carolina that needs scoring help if Dylan Strome is off the board at either three or four.
The Swiss forward just completed his second year playing in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads. It also was his first two seasons playing hockey in North America.
After a freshman campaign in which he recorded 34 points, Meier exploded for 44 goals and 46 assists (90 points) in 2014-15. He proved to be incredibly reliable, too, according to Jameson Olive of FoxSports.com:
Over the course of last season, Meier matched No. 1 North American prospect Connor McDavid by registering at least one point in 27 consecutive games and was bested only by [Nikolaj] Ehlers, who found the scoresheet in a franchise-record 33 consecutive games.
Meier could be a great fit for the San Jose Sharks at No. 9, who could need help down the wings and putting the puck in the net. The Sharks averaged 2.73 goals per game last year, good enough to rank 15th in the NHL.
He could also help an already well-oiled machine in San Jose's power play. The Sharks ranked sixth in the league with a 26.1 percent efficiency rate on the man advantage. According to Olive, Meier scored 23 of his goals on the power play last season, a Halifax franchise record.
Zacha did not play much in the 2014-15 season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Despite appearing in just 37 games thanks to a pair of suspensions due to illegal hits, Zacha recorded 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists).
He has plenty of size. At 6'3", 210 pounds, Zacha is not afraid to go into the corner and throw the body around. But he couples that physicality with speed and a great set of hands.
Another aspect that makes him a tough prospect to pass on is his experience, as Olive explains:
Unlike many other players in the draft, Zacha already has a fair amount of pro experience under his belt. He competed for HC Bílí Tygři Liberec of the Czech Extraliga -- Europe's third-highest-ranked pro circuit -- in 2013-14, recording four goals and eight points in 38 games. Like his idol, Jaromir Jagr, he has the ability to shield opposing defenders from the puck with his wide frame and can win tough battles along the boards and rarely shies away from playing in the dirty areas.
The Czech native might just get his chance to play with his idol. The Florida Panthers had an offense that averaged just 2.52 goals per game this past season, 25th in the league. Despite their scoring troubles, they finished seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. A player of his scoring caliber could deliver them to a top-eight spot in a few years.