Cleat Geeks

NHL Draft; Top Ten

Every decade or so, a group of young talented hockey players all come together and make draft history, forever edging their mark on the NHL This years array of top draft prospects is one of those special groups. Three or more players could be the number one pick in any other draft year.

#(1) Connor McDavid

CM

As soon as Connor McDavid was granted Exceptional Player Status by the Ontario Hockey League, to enter the draft as a 15 year-old, there has been a tremendous amount of expectations put on the young hockey star. And deliver he has. In his first year in the OHL he was an above a point per game player being named the league’s rookie of the year. In his next season, McDavid recorded 99 points en-route to cracking the Canadian World Junior roster at just 16. Now in his third full OHL season McDavid has separated himself as the consensus number one pick in this June’s NHL draft. In just 41 games McDavid has scored 40 goals and picked up another 68 helpers for a total of 108 points. Although he has missed almost 20 games due to a broken hand and helping Team Canada win gold at this year’s World Juniors, McDavid still sits third in league scoring and fourth overall in Canadian junior scoring. McDavid is a true talent that is dangerous from anywhere on the ice. He can make passes a seasoned NHL vet would have difficulties making and his hands are second to none in this year’s highly skilled group of prospects.

#(2)Jack Eichel

USA Hockey Juniors v Boston

In any other draft year, the 6-foot-2, 194 pound Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native would undoubtedly be the number one pick. Being described as a generational talent, Eichel is the complete player. He has NHL size and speed and uses both to control the puck at a highly efficient level. Eichel leads through example by competing at a high level every shift, every night. It was this determination and drive that saw him named captain of this year’s American World Junior team. A prodigy in his own right, his highly anticipated arrival to Division 1-A college hockey was not a disappointing one. Eichel currently leads all freshman in scoring and his Boston University Terriers have a real chance of winning an NCAA title. Eichel cannot reach McDavid at number one, but don’t look for him to be overthrown at number two either.

#(3) Dylan Strome.

Dylan-Strome

One of the luxuries for Canadian Hockey League players entering their draft year, is the long playoff season most can look forward to padding their draft stock, allowing scouts all over the NHL to see them a few more times, and hopefully moving them up on individual draft boards. Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters is a player who will benefit greatly from a long playoff run. With Erie hoping to compete for a Memorial Cup (awarded to Canada’s top junior team) Strome will rise the most on draft projections everywhere. Dylan is the younger brother of New York Islanders standout, Ryan Strome, and posses the same ability to control the puck down low. Dylan has an exceptional shot for an 18 year old and has the size to be a coveted NHL number one center. On a roster that includes Connor McDavid, Strome leads the team in assists with 76 and total points (114) in 61 games played.

 

#(4) Noah Hanifin

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One of the reasons why this year’s NHL entry level draft will be remembered for years to come is because of the sheer talent on display outside of the first and second pick. Hanifin has floated around the third spot on most draft preview lists and scouts believe he will be a number one d-man very soon and a player you could build a franchise around. At just 18 years old, he is facing some of the biggest and best players in the NCAA playing for Boston College. As a freshman Hanifin has not had a problem transitioning to playing at a higher level and its because of this that experts think he will have little problem in the NHL. At 6-foot-3 he has the stature to play among men and already posses the composure level of an elite defenseman.

 

#(5) Lawson Crouse

Lawson+Crouse+Canada+v+Finland+2015+IIHF+

Anytime Doug Gilmore believes enough in you as a hockey player that he takes you in the first round of the OHL draft for his team in Kingston, Canada, the hockey world takes notice. When you are 6-foot-3 183 pounds and you get drafted by Doug Gilmore, then people don’t stop noticing. It has been an up and down year for Crouse and the rest of the Frontenacs. Injury woes would be an understatement for a team who, in February, had just six players attend a regularly scheduled practice. The team has not been the offensive powerhouse of years past, but every member of the team is learning what it means to be a responsible defensive player. Crouse has just 40 points this season but is another player who will benefit from a long playoff run, one Kingston is poised to travel far in thanks to the return of last year’s fourth overall pick Sam Bennett who has been injured since Calgary Flames training camp. Crouse was one of only two 17 year olds playing for Canada at the World Junior Championship. Crouse received high praise for his energetic and physical play against some of the world’s best junior players.

 

#(6) Mitchell Marner

Marner

Size is the hardest thing to overcome in hockey, and at 5-foot-11, 164 pounds it seems Marner would be outside of most top ten draft projections. Especially when most NHL teams are coveting a big number one center. What Marner lacks in size, he more than makes up for in natural scoring potential. It’s easy to silence your critics when you dominate the score sheet like Marner. Currently first in OHL and CHL scoring with 119 points, Marner has been lighting lamps everywhere he has been. Now in his second full OHL season, Marner has scored 44 goals and 76 assists in just 58 games. Marner recorded 59 points in his rookie season in the OHL and another 86 the year before playing in the Greater Toronto Minor Midget Hockey League. With two shorthanded goals this season Marner is a threat in any situation.

 

#(7) Zach Werenski

Zach Werenski

Any team looking for a defenseman after Noah Hanifin won’t have to look very far up most draft boards. The 6-foot-2, 206 pound blue-liner is currently a standout freshman for the University of Michigan. Werenski is a graduate of the USNTDP and has great hockey fundamentals as a result. An all around solid defenseman who is tough to play against makes Werenski the obvious second choice for a great puck moving blue-liner.

 

#(8) Pavel Zacha

 

There has been a revival to hockey in the Czech Republic over the last few years . No longer do young Czech hockey players have to leave home at 14 years-old in hopes to one day play NHL hockey. A benefactor of staying home and pursuing hockey in Europe, Pavel Zacha is exactly what every GM envisions when they say they want a big number one center who can score. Zacha knows how to get to the net and be effective, thanks to his experience in the pro Czech Liga playing against men. Zacha has since came to the OHL to learn a North American game and has tallied 29 points in 32 games with the Sarnia Sting.

 

#(9) Timo Meier

Halifax Mooseheads 96 Timo Meier

At number nine, Timo Meier will likely be the first right winger chosen this spring. Many people will remember Meier’s impressive 3-point performance as McDavid’s line mate in the CHL Top Prospects game. Meier, who stands at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, uses his hockey sense to establish offensive separation without the puck and, in turn, creates scoring chances for himself and teammates. Meier plays for the Halifax Moosehead in the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League and sits tenth in scoring.

 

#(10) Travis Konecny

Travis Konecny of the Ottawa 67's. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

No player has bounced around the top 30 more than Konecny. A former teammate of Lawson Crouse in the GTMMHL Konecny has had a more difficult draft year. Slipping all the way to 26th on the Central Scouting Service midterm ranking the 18 year old Ottawa 67’s captain takes a hit due to his 5-foot-9 inch frame. Konecny should catapult back into top ten status before June when the big “I” word is thrown around. His intangibles are what will set him apart as a top prospect. Leading an OHL team at 18 is no easy task and the determination he brings when scoring makes him a player any NHL front office will be hard to pass at with the number 10 spot. Konecny has 142 points in two OHL seasons and has scored over 50 goals.

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