NHL Draft Grades 2015: Report Cards for Every Pick in Round 1

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJune 26, 2015

NHL Draft Grades 2015: Report Cards for Every Pick in Round 1

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    The first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was selected on Friday evening in Florida, and there was no shortage of drama.

    At the top end of the draft, franchise players such as Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were selected, along with other significant talents. 

    The Boston Bruins made their presence felt early in the day, making two big trades to acquire a block of three picks early in the first round; their decisions Friday will likely define the franchise for the next five years. The New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs were all busy too, making trades to improve their teams. 

    The following slideshow features our analysis of every first-round selection. It breaks down each player's skills, how each pick was acquired and also gives our assessment of how each team did with its selection(s). Value was the primary factor in determining the grades, with team needs and any transactions made to acquire the pick also being considered. 

    Read on to see all of the picks made and our view of your club's effectiveness.

No. 1 Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid

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    The Player: Connor McDavid

    The Pick: No. 1 

    Analysis: This was a no-brainer selection. McDavid has been hyped all season as the best prospect to come along since Sidney Crosby in 2005. He's big (6'1", 195 lbs at age 18), insanely gifted offensively and often compared with a straight face to people such as Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. He's a franchise centre for the Oilers and immediately the team's most important player. 

    Grade: A

    Great pick but avoids A+ grade because 29 other general managers would have made the same selection.

No. 2 Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel

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    The Player: Jack Eichel

    The Pick: No. 2 

    Analysis: This was a second consecutive no-brainer selection. In most years, Eichel would be an above-average No. 1 overall selection; it was just his misfortune (and the Sabres’ gain) that he happened to be drafted in a year that featured a generational talent. Eichel combines good size with exceptional speed and puck skills and is projected as a franchise player.

    Grade: A

    Yet again, this is a great pick, but it misses the highest-possible mark because every other team in the NHL would have made precisely the same decision.

No. 3 Arizona Coyotes: Dylan Strome

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    The Player: Dylan Strome

    The Pick: No. 3 

    Analysis: The brother of the New York Islanders' Ryan Strome, Dylan is a 6'3" centre with elite puck skills; there isn't a team in the league uninterested in that combination. His defensive zone play and skating are only average, but he's just 18 years old, and he still projects as a top-line centre with exceptional offensive ability.

    Grade: A-

    Arizona lands a key piece of its offence over the long term; the team's forward corps will be constructed around him.

No. 4 Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitchell Marner

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    The Player: Mitchell Marner

    The Pick: No. 4 

    Analysis: The only question about Marner is size. Listed at 5'11" and 160 pounds, Marner is smaller than ideal for the pro game. He's so good offensively; however, it almost doesn't matter. Toronto takes the most dynamic player left on the board, a player who should be a first-line point producer for the team.

    Grade: A-

    This is an interesting choice in that Toronto passed on defenceman Noah Hanifin, but there's no question this was the most talented offensive player still on the board.

No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes: Noah Hanifin

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    The Player: Noah Hanifin

    The Pick: No. 5 

    Analysis: Hanifin is a big, mobile defenceman, the kind of two-way workhorse who can anchor a top-pairing for the next decade. He does absolutely everything well; the only real complaint scouts seem to have is that he doesn't play as physically as a 6'3", 203-pound defenceman would in a perfect world.

    Grade: 

    The Hurricanes have substantial prospect depth on the back end, but they couldn't pass on the best prospect available to them.

No. 6 New Jersey Devils: Pavel Zacha

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    The Player: Pavel Zacha

    The Pick: No. 6 

    Analysis: The story on Zacha is raw talent: He has it in abundance. A massive (6'3", 210 lbs) power forward with a sickening array of offensive skills, when Zacha is on his game, there aren't many players better. He's coming off a very tough year, however, in which he scored less than a point per game in the OHL and fought through injuries. He's also had his work ethic questioned by scouts, according to the ISS NHL Draft Guide.

    Grade: C-

    The draft really opened up at No. 6, but Zacha is a slight reach given the year he just had, and there's quite a bit of risk associated with this selection.

No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers: Ivan Provorov

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    The Player: Ivan Provorov

    The Pick: No. 7 

    Analysis: Provorov is another reasonably big, mobile defenceman who can do a little bit of everything. He scored better than a point per game in the WHL last season, and his best attribute is extraordinary hockey sense. He should play in all situations in the NHL and is projectable as a top-pairing defenceman.

    Grade: A

    Provorov could have gone as high as No. 3; he might be the best defenceman in this draft, when we look back a few years from now.

No. 8 Columbus Blue Jackets: Zach Werenski

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    The Player: Zach Werenski

    The Pick: No. 8 

    Analysis: Another college defenceman, Werenski is again a nice combination of size and mobility. He's a solid offensive rearguard, but he also has good defensive value; there aren't any glaring weaknesses to his game. He's occasionally prone to cheating a little offensively, and he needs to file down some rough edges, but he has top-pairing potential.

    Grade: B+

    The expectation was that Columbus would take a defenceman, and they picked the best one still on the board.

No. 9 San Jose Sharks: Timo Meier

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    The Player: Timo Meier

    The Pick: No. 9 

    Analysis: A big right wing who scored 44 goals in 61 games in the QMJHL last season, Meier was expected to fall just outside the top 10 in most predraft rankings. His skating was reportedly an issue a few years back, but it's improved to the point where it isn't a noticeable weakness, even if it still isn't a significant strength. He should be a top-six forward in the NHL.

    Grade: C+

    This is a slight reach, but it's not a massive one, and San Jose lands a player with a nice range of skills.

No. 10 Colorado Avalanche: Mikko Rantanen

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    The Player: Mikko Rantanen

    The Pick: No. 10

    Analysis: The top-rated European forward in the draft, Rantanen is a 6'4", 211-pound winger who plays a two-way game and has experience at the senior level in Finland's top league. He's not as aggressive physically as would be ideal for a player of his size, but other than that there really isn't much to complain about here.

    He should be a top-six forward in the NHL and could be ready for major league action quicker than a number of other players in this range. 

    Grade: A

    Ideally, the Avs would have landed a defenceman, but there's nothing wrong with taking the best player available.

No. 11 Florida Panthers: Lawson Crouse

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    The Player: Lawson Crouse

    The Pick: No. 11 

    Analysis: Many expected Crouse to be a top-10 pick in the 2015 draft, but he slipped to No. 11. He is a 6'4", 215-pound winger who is probably the most physically imposing player in the draft, and he gets top marks for his two-way game. The question surrounding Crouse is in regard to his production; he had just 51 points in 56 games in the OHL this year. He'll play in the NHL for sure; he may even end up as a top-line winger. 

    Grade: B+

    This is a pick most people will either love or hate; I don't like the mediocre offence, but everything else is in his favour.

No. 12 Dallas Stars: Denis Gurianov

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    The Player: Denis Gurianov

    The Pick: No. 12 

    Analysis: A tall, lanky winger currently playing in Russia, Gurianov was a somewhat surprising selection at No. 12. He has good speed, a heavy shot and a more developed defensive game than is typically associated with scoring forwards. He has high-end puck skills and should be a top-six forward in the NHL.

    Grade: C+

    This was the first really unexpected pick, especially with some of the talent still on the board, but it's not a wholly unreasonable gamble.

No. 13 Boston Bruins: Jakub Zboril

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    The Player: Jakub Zboril

    The Pick: No. 13 (Los Angeles' first-round pick; acquired along with goalie Martin Jones and prospect Colin Miller in exchange for Milan Lucic)

    Analysis: A highly competitive, albeit mildly undersized (6'1", 184 lbs) defenceman, Zboril spent last season in the QMJHL, where he posted 33 points in 44 contests. He does a lot of things very well, although his defensive zone positioning still needs to be fine-tuned. He's a good skater and makes intelligent decisions. 

    Grade: C-

    Zboril was a bit of a wild card, but he was generally projected to go in the bottom half of the draft.

No. 14 Boston Bruins: Jake DeBrusk

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    The Player: Jake DeBrusk

    The Pick: No. 14

    Analysis: An under-sized two-way winger, DeBrusk gets high marks for his competitive nature and intelligent approach to the game. He scored 42 goals for Swift Current of the WHL and is a high-end skater. He stands at just 6'0" and 174 pounds, so size is a bit of an issue.

    Grade: D+

    This isn't a bad pick, per se, but it's the Bruins' second consecutive time picking a player who, on most lists, was rated in the bottom half of the first round and, on some lists, even slipped to the second round.

No. 15 Boston Bruins: Zachary Senyshyn

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    The Player: Zachary Senyshyn

    The Pick: No. 15 (Calgary's first-round pick; acquired along with the No. 45 and No. 52 picks in exchange for Dougie Hamilton)

    Analysis: A two-way winger with excellent speed and work ethic, Senyshyn has raw offensive skills but still has lots of rough edges to file off. He only managed 45 points in 66 games in the OHL this year and has been criticized for his lack of a physical game.  

    Grade: F

    Many projected this player to be available in the back half of the second round, his numbers aren't great, and there was crazy talent left on the board.

No. 16 New York Islanders: Mathew Barzal

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    The Player: Mathew Barzal

    The Pick: No. 16 (Pittsburgh's first-round pick, previously traded to Edmonton, acquired along with the No. 33 pick for Griffin Reinhart)

    Analysis: A high-end offensive pivot who fought through injury this season, Barzal was projected on most lists as a top-10 selection. He's exceptionally mobile, intelligent and boasts playmaking vision and puck skills. Just 5'11" and 175 pounds, he's not afraid to go into traffic, either. 

    Grade: A+

    The Isles moved a (somewhat) fading prospect for two very good picks and got better value than could reasonably be expected at this point in the draft in Barzal. Fantastic sequence of moves.

No. 17 Winnipeg Jets: Kyle Connor

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    The Player: Kyle Connor

    The Pick: No. 17 

    Analysis: Connor destroyed the USHL this season, putting up 80 points in just 56 games. He's not overly big (6'1", 177 lbs), but he has a lot of offensive tools and boasts exceptional speed. He's probably the best offensive player still on the board at this point and should be a top-six forward in the NHL. 

    Grade: A

    This is a very nice get at No. 17; Winnipeg adds speed and firepower in one selection.

No. 18 Ottawa Senators: Thomas Chabot

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    The Player: Thomas Chabot

    The Pick: No. 18

    Analysis: Chabot is a skating defenceman who makes a good first pass and good decisions with the puck overall, even when being pressured. The lanky (6'2", 180 lbs) rearguard isn't a physical presence and will need to add muscle to play in the majors, but he could ultimately end up playing on an NHL team's top-pairing because of his strong possession game.

    Grade: A-

    This is a good player in this range of the draft, but he's a few years away.

No. 19 Detroit Red Wings: Evgeny Svechnikov

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    The Player: Evgeny Svechnikov

    The Pick: No. 19

    Analysis: Svechnikov is a 6'2", 199-pound winger who spent last season in the QMJHL, where he managed 78 points in 55 games. He makes good decisions with the puck and can both score and set up scoring plays; he also has a reasonably good physical game. His skating isn't a weakness, but he's not lightning-quick, either. He should be a top-six forward at the NHL level.

    Grade: A

    Detroit's selections always seem to look good immediately, and Svechnikov is no exception.

No. 20 Minnesota Wild: Joel Eriksson Ek

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    The Player: Joel Eriksson Ek

    The Pick: No. 20

    Analysis: A big, two-way forward, Eriksson Ek fits the traditional Minnesota Wild love for responsible scorers. He has a very good shot, makes good decisions with the puck and spent some time in Sweden's top league last season. He's versatile and capable and should play in the majors.

    Grade: B+

    Really solid pick who should play in the majors and might play very well indeed.

No. 21 Ottawa Senators: Colin White

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    The Player: Colin White

    The Pick: No. 21 (NY Islanders' first-round pick, previously traded to Buffalo; acquired in exchange for Robin Lehner and David Legwand)

    Analysis: A clever two-way forward, White's best qualities are on the puck's defensive side. He makes consistently good decisions, particularly in his own end of the rink. He's not overly big (6'0", 183 pounds) or overly physical, but he's competitive and doesn't shy away from traffic. He's also not the best offensive player in the draft, but he put up good numbers in the USHL, and he can contribute. 

    Grade: B+

    White's a quality prospect and a guy who can help a team in a lot of different ways, but he's probably not a future first-liner.

No. 22 Washington Capitals: Ilya Samsonov

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    The Player: Ilya Samsonov

    The Pick: No. 22

    Analysis: The best goalie in the draft, Samsonov goes to a team with a good history for developing goalies and, in Mitch Korn, perhaps the best goalie coach in the NHL. At 6'4", Samsonov has the massive frame that has become ubiquitous for top goalie prospects, and he's extremely athletic for such a big man. He has No. 1 potential, though as Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes, he is "under contract in the KHL for three more years." 

    Grade: B-

    This is one of those picks that could really pay off because of the team's development system.

No. 23 Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser

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    The Player: Brock Boeser

    The Pick: No. 23 

    Analysis: A 6'0", 191-pound centre, Boeser scored 35 goals in 57 games in the USHL last season. He thrives in traffic and doesn't shy away from using a very good shot. His defensive game is reasonably mature for his age, too. He projects as a middle-six forward at the NHL level. 

    Grade: C+

    There isn't much separating the players at this point in the draft; Vancouver opted to take a safe pick and sacrificed some skill in the process.

No. 24 Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Konecny

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    The Player: Travis Konecny

    The Pick: No. 24 (Nashville's first-round pick, previously traded to Toronto; acquired in exchange for the No. 29 and No. 61 selections)

    Analysis: Konecny is small. At just 5'10" and 175 pounds, it's reasonable to worry how he'll handle the physicality of the professional level. However, he's well-regarded both as a clever offensive talent and for a relentless motor. He makes good decisions at both ends of the rink, doesn't give less than his best and has significant offensive potential, especially this late in the draft.

    Grade: A

    There's risk here, but Konecny could well be a top-six and perhaps even a top-line offensive player in the majors if things go well.

No. 25 Winnipeg Jets: John (Jack) Roslovic

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    The Player: John (Jack) Roslovic

    The Pick: No. 25 (St. Louis' first-round pick, previously traded to Buffalo; acquired along with Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux in exchange for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf)

    Analysis: Roslovic is a straight-line player who gets good marks for both his work ethic and his skating. He plays a gritty game despite being a little undersized (6'0", 182 pounds) and pays attention to detail in the defensive zone. He put up 79 points in 65 games in the USHL this season.

    Grade: B+

    A very solid prospect with no major holes in his game.

No. 26 Montreal Canadiens: Noah Juulsen

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    The Player: Noah Juulsen

    The Pick: No. 26 

    Analysis: A lanky 6'2" rearguard, Juulsen's best point is his skating; he boasts both straight-ahead speed and mobility in the defensive zone. He plays an offensive game, putting up 52 points in 68 WHL contests this past season, and he has a heavy shot. He's also a physical player, though he can go overboard on that particular quality. 

    Grade: A-

    He's raw, and he sometimes gets too aggressive, but all the tools are there.

No. 27 Anaheim Ducks: Jacob Larsson

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    The Player: Jacob Larsson

    The Pick: No. 27 

    Analysis: A big, polished, mobile defenceman, Larsson is just the latest example of a remarkable well-rounded Swedish defenceman. He's not overly physical, and his offensive upside isn't top-level, but there's a lot to like here. He's an exceptional positional defender, and his mobility makes him very difficult to beat at his own end of the rink.

    Grade: B

    Anaheim's had very good luck with this sort of player lately.

No. 28 New York Islanders: Anthony Beauvillier

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    The Player: Anthony Beauvillier

    The Pick: No. 28 (NY Rangers' first-round pick, previously traded to Tampa Bay; acquired in exchange for the No. 33 and No. 72 selections)

    Analysis: Once again, the Islanders decided to move up, and once again they add a guy with a lot of talent. Beauvillier is just 5'10" and 173 pounds, but he scored 42 goals and put up 94 points for Shawinigan of the QMJHL last season. Like Travis Konecny, outside of size there isn't much to worry about there; Beauvillier is smart, fast, skilled and works hard.

    Grade: A-

    Garth Snow has had a really good year; the Isles make another solid move here.

No. 29 Columbus Blue Jackets: Gabriel Carlsson

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    The Player: Gabriel Carlsson

    The Pick: No. 29 (Tampa Bay's first-round pick, previously traded to Philadelphia and then Toronto; acquired in exchange for the No. 34 and No. 68 selections)

    Analysis: A massive shutdown defenceman, Carlsson plays a smart game and has at least some potential as a home run selection. He plays a dogged defensive game and has some ability with the puck, though he lacks high-end creativity. He may end up as a top-four shutdown guy at the NHL level. 

    Grade: C+

    This isn't a steal, but it does represent reasonable value at this point in the draft; it may not have been worth sacrificing the extra pick to move up and get this player.

No. 30 Arizona Coyotes: Nick Merkley

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    The Player: Nick Merkley

    The Pick: No. 30 (Chicago's first-round pick, acquired along with Klas Dahlbeck in exchange for Antoine Vermette)

    Analysis: A highly talented offensive forward, Merkley put up 90 points in 72 WHL games. He's a little undersized but not unreasonably so (5'10", 191 pounds), and he makes up for that lack of size with speed and hockey sense. He works hard and has offensive instincts that are hard to teach; he could be a second-line forward at the NHL level. 

    Grade: A

    Players with this much skill aren't generally available at No. 30.