Your resource to the 2015 NHL Draft and its midseason rankings – who’s too high/low, Maple Leafs rant, Dylan Strome vs. Mitch Marner debate, Johnny Gaudreau and Max Domi post-WJC update…
As a draft enthusiast and one that follows its eligible players religiously, January/February is an extremely busy time of the year. Some of the world’s best prospects have just wrapped up competing in the illustrious World Junior tournament, league play resumes shortly after for them and then the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (as well as USHL Top Prospects Game) unfolds. Following that busy stretch, it marks a time where new rankings are constructed based on first half play and those rankings are usually very close to the final lists that come out pre-draft. Of course, there’s always chance to elevate their stock down the final 20 game stretch in their schedules and a long standout playoff run can certainly help a draft stock but generally speaking, scouts have a good idea of where players will fall in the upcoming draft.
On Wednesday, I put out my updated 2015 NHL Draft rankings (Midseason version). It was the first time that I have included players outside of the OHL. I wanted to make sure that I’ve been able to catch most of the top prospects live (if possible) or through online viewing. The Top 30 ranked prospects have profiles attached to them.
I’m quite happy with my order but that’s not to say that I didn’t have my own internal battles. You will notice that I decided to break the first round into tiers. This allows the reader to grasp how players within their own “tier” are so closely ranked. Specifically, the second tier featuring Marner, Strome, Zacha, Crouse, etc. was EXTREMELY difficult. I literally juggled these names around hundreds of time, and that’s not an exaggeration. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my gut and as a result I had to stick my neck out on a few of these guys. In all likelihood, each of these players will become special in their own right so the difference is minute.
Remember, the above rankings are not “fantasy-based”. If you want a fantasy based ranking, grab Dobber’s midseason guide and you will find my ranking for that in there.
In addition to my personal rankings, Future Consideration’s released their rankings Thursday.
Some others that you can take a look at (some older than others) include: Sportsnet’s, TSN’s Craig Button’s, ISS Hockey’s, NHL Central Scouting’s, my colleagues’ over at McKeen’s Hockey, The Hockey News’ and ESPN’s Corey Pronman’s, who I finally met at the Top Prospects Game.
I won’t comment directly on any of the above but I will say that I prefer and trust some over the others.
The mother-daddy of all prospect rankings was released last night when TSN’s Bob McKenzie released his Top 60 and I will comment on a few players from this list. Remember, Bob polls a group (10) of NHL scouts and surprise, surprise, Connor McDavid received 10 out of 10 votes for 1st overall. In his preseason rankings, three of the 10 had Eichel.
I was surprised to see QMJHL’er Jeremy Roy ranked 25th. I ranked him 13th and tried to get him higher in my list but it was just too difficult. He’s an offensive defenseman with outstanding skating skills (take not fantasy gurus).
Former 1st overall QMJHL pick Nicolas Roy (30th and in the same spot I had him) found himself ranked ahead of Daniel Sprong and that was shocking. Sprong isn’t the most complete player and apparently he walks with some “swagger” but he does own some of the dirtiest offensive tools in this draft. Sprong fell into the 32nd spot, just outside of the first round.
Jeremy Bracco is a player who keeps getting snubbed, in my opinion. He’s very small but after watching him live several times, he’s one of the most exhilarating talents in this draft. Hell, he’s broken records held by Patrick Kane, an NHL all-star that he compares favorably to. I love him (ranked 15th and I think that’s too low).
Yup, I’m talking about Timo Meier again. My new favourite player after showing me that he can impact the game in so many ways. Not only do I feel he has great NHL certainty but he’s proven that he could be a fantasy hockey star. Bobby Mac had him 20th while he fell into the 16th spot on my list.
I’m not a big Jordan Greenway guy (ranked 22nd on Bob’s list and 50th on my own) but I get that his skills should translate to the NHL game. He’s a huge winger with the USNTDP and projects as a tough power forward. I’m just not thrilled about these big types translating their offense to the next level. He hasn’t necessarily dominated his age group and that’s a bit concerning given his size advantage.
One omission from Bob’s list that I was shocked with was undersized offensive defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel from the Oshawa Generals. He’s a player I am very familiar with after following his development since his OHL draft year. He’s one of the best puck movers in the league and he just keeps continuing to get better. I get that his size is an issue but I’d be shocked if he slides outside of the Top 60 (I’ve got him penciled in at 31).
Anthony Beauvillier is too low on most lists too (ranked 32nd on my list, 58th on Bob’s). Not only has he proven to be a productive QMJHLer but he’s owns some of the best intangibles in the draft. He’s a great two-way presence and his motor never shuts down. Sure, he’s small but so are players like Travis Konecny and Blake Speers, who are both ranked higher. Beauvillier just finds a way to get things done and I could see him following a similar path as Charles Hudon, Gallagher or Desharnais. His drive will get him there eventually, whether he’s a high pick or not.
More on the tight fight in the second group of 2015 draft prospects (Strome, Marner, Crouse, Zacha, etc), give my colleague Sean Lafortune’s article a read as he breaks down the Dylan Strome vs. Mitch Marner battle. He’s bang on in his analysis.
“From the first time I saw Dylan Strome, there was no doubt in my mind that he had pro potential. Strome has lit the OHL on fire this year, producing 1.89 points a game while elevating those around him to higher levels of performance. The skills are impressive, a Joe Thornton type of offensive talent, one who has high end instincts and creativity. He’s at his best when slowing the game down, surveying the ice and patiently waiting for things to develop. In other years there wouldn’t be a debating point, Strome would be the top skater in Ontario, but this is a pretty special year at the top of the draft. Strome has development needs, he lacks explosiveness and agility, he doesn’t have that elite secondary level of speed, but if you had the opportunity to see his skating a few years ago, you’d see he’s already made significant gains.”
“Mitch Marner has had an absolutely incredible year, one that has the potential to be among the top offensive years for any player in their draft year. Dating back to his time with the Don Mills Flyers, no one has questioned Marner’s offensive tools, his intelligence, speed and puck skills have always been among the top of his age group. What limited him was his size and strength, but in two short years he’s added 5 inches and gained 30lbs.A dynamic offensive player, Marner has been averaging over 2 points a game in just his second season in the OHL, which is substantial by any measure. A quick, possession type with elite creativity, his one-on-one elusiveness is elite, as he routinely has made defenders bite this year with a quick move, pulling the puck in tight and utilizing his feet to get to open ice. He sees plays develop well ahead of time and seems to have a 360 degree view of the ice, he always is aware of his options and more times than not finds ways to deliver the puck”
Who wins the battle, check it out….
As a quiet Maple Leafs fan, I’m loving this free fall under Peter Hora—what’s his name again? No seriously, I have to feel for Peter Horachek as there’s basically no way he stays with the Leafs after this season, and he might prefer that ;). However, he’s doing the best job he can under the shitty circumstances. Sure, the wins aren’t coming in but hell, this team doesn’t need to win. Dropping further and further into the draft lottery is their best bet. I do applaud Horachek for his attempt at getting this team to play better defensively. If he can improve this team in their own defensive zone to any degree then he’s on the right track and serving his purpose.
As I am writing this, Toronto sits 8th last in the NHL (same spot they selected William Nylander in last year) and that almost assures them one of Marner, Strome, Crouse, Zacha, Werenski, Kylington, Rantanen, Barzal or Provorov. Any one of those players would help the Leafs; however, continuing to lose will only help their odds of winning the draft lottery to move up and select Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Toronto needs a face for this franchise and while every team would like to add a McDavid, Toronto NEEDS him more than ever.
Beyond his exceptional on-ice tools, McDavid is arguably the best prepared prospect for the zoo that is the Toronto media and fanbase. He’s mature beyond his years, shrugs off pressure with ease and has shown to play through distractions. Buffalo is on a 13-game losing streak so they may be hard to pass in the McDavid sweepstakes but after dropping points in 11 of their last 12 games, Toronto is doing it right.
Jonathan Bernier certainly helped the cause with his two awful goals allowed last night…
Now, when will their 10-game winning streak start where they play themselves into another mediocre mid-round draft spot? I know I’m waiting for it.
NHL.com has released a few Mock Drafts and I am currently working on one of my own that should be out very soon….
Few notes on players already drafted….
How about Johnny Hockey? Damn, am I allowed to use that phrase? Gaudreau was held off the scoresheet last night versus Minnesota but so were the rest of his team. Gaudreau is making a case for the Calder Trophy with 14 points in his past 15 games.
Max Domi has me worrying a bit since returning from the World Juniors with gold. He’s looking a bit like he did last year when he flashed periods of selfishness and refused to back check. Don’t get me wrong, Domi has been okay but he’s lost a bit of his two-way drive that made him look like a superstar last month.
Arizona still has big things planned for him after hinting they might recall him if London gets eliminated from playoffs before the end of the Coyotes’ season.
Oh and he’s a beauty from Domi (if you’ve missed it)….
VIDEO: Top Plays of the Week in the OHL featuring Connor McDavid, Nick Paul (Senators) and Alex Nedeljkovic (Hurricanes)
Thanks for reading,
@RossyYoungblood (Brendan Ross)
As always, feel free to converse, comment or rambling in the comment section below.