Looking back at the top ten selections of the 2015 Entry Draft.
In this week’s Journey article, we continue our three-part segment looking back on the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Part Three outlines the top ten selections, and recaps each prospects season thus far. If you missed Part One or Part Two, you can find them linked here:
Part One – http://bit.ly/1RA65OP
Part Two – http://bit.ly/1S9Ml6f
10th: Colorado Avalanche – Mikko Rantanen – San Antonio (AHL)
2015-16 Stats: (NHL) 6 GP, 0G, 0A, 0 Points, -5; (AHL) 22 GP, 10G, 16A, 26 Points, +17
It has been the tale of two leagues for Rantanen this season. His six game NHL stint was a bit of a disaster, with zero points and a shocking -54.6 CorsiOn. The young rookie was overmatched and not put in the best situation to succeed. Given that he was AHL-eligible, the Avs sent Rantanen to their affiliate in San Antonio to develop. He has had a great start to his AHL career, shaking off the early season disappointment of not sticking with the NHL club. With 26 points in 22 games, Rantanen is fifth in rookie scoring with the Rampage while playing far fewer games then all the players in front of him. He captained Finland’s World Junior Championship team to a gold medal win in Helsinki last week.
9th: San Jose Sharks – Timo Meier – Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
2015-16 Stats: 23 GP, 11G, 25A, 36 Points
In one of the biggest deals of the season, Meier was shipped from Halifax to Rouyn-Noranda this week with the Huskies looking to push for a QMJHL title. Following up on a 90-point season last year has been a bit of a struggle as the Swiss-born power forward was looked at to carry much of the load this season for Halifax. Credit to Meier for being able to put up the type of numbers he did pre-trade without playing alongside elite talent. Meier is a strong, balanced player who projects to be a multi-category fantasy prospect capable of putting up monster offensive numbers. He may be a player who could slot into San Jose’s lineup as early as next season due to his maturity and style of play.
8th: Columbus Blue Jackets – Zach Werenski – University of Michigan (US-C)
2015-16 Stats: 15 GP, 4G, 8A, 12 Points
Werenski was dynamite for the United States over the past two weeks in the WJC in Finland. With nine points in seven games, the Michigan product was the best defenseman in the tournament. His 2015-16 season with the Wolverines is on pace to surpass the terrific year he had in 2014-15 where he was named to the All Big Ten First Team. Currently at just short of a point-per-game pace, Werenski will likely exceed the 25 points he put up in 35 games in his freshman season. As a smooth skating, two-way defender, Werenski plays an incredibly heady game by controlling pace and distributing the puck to his teammates in all three zones. It is unlikely that the blueliner will play past this season in college hockey, likely joining the Blue Jackets as soon as his sophomore season ends.
7th: Philadelphia Flyers – Ivan Provorov – Brandon (WHL)
2015-16 Stats: 30 GP, 7G, 21A, 28 Points
Although Noah Hanifin was regarded as the top defenseman in the 2015 NHL Entry draft for most of the season, Provorov appeared to close the gap significantly in many evaluators’ eyes by draft day. The young defenseman plays a very simple, patient game complemented by his smooth skating and his ability to dictate the pace of games from the back end. He finished off a great performance in this year’s WJC with a silver medal and a consistent eight points in seven games for Russia. When Ivan Provorov was playing for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL in 2013-14, no one believed that he could be a top ten NHL draft pick. However, his 61 points in 60 games in his rookie season with Brandon last season put him on the map, and he has done nothing to back down from his draft slot this season as he is on pace to match or exceed his numbers from his draft year.
6th: New Jersey Devils – Pavel Zacha – Sarnia (OHL)
2015-16 Stats: 23 GP, 17G, 13A, 30 Points, 46 PIM
The Devils flirted with keeping Zacha in the NHL coming out of training camp, but instead decided to send him back to Sarnia to develop further. The big-bodied power forward was expected to dominate the OHL this season, but thus far that has not been the case. Although he has still had a solid season with 30 points in 23 games, Zacha can sometimes struggle with consistency from night to night. He has the ability to dominate on any given night, and he will have to continue to learn how to develop that consistency when he reaches the NHL level. Furthermore, he struggled along with his teammates at this year’s World Juniors, only recording one point in three games for the Czechs.
5th: Carolina Hurricanes – Noah Hanifin – Carolina (NHL)
2015-16 Stats: 38 GP, 1G, 7A, 8 Points
Hanifin has been everything that the Hurricanes hoped for as a rookie in the NHL this season. Although he has not yet had the offensive success that Aaron Ekblad had last year, Hanifin has done an extremely good job from night to night playing with poise and being responsible defensively. Playing on a team that has consistently high advanced stat numbers, Hanifin has been no slouch with a 7.18 CorsiOn in 39 games this season. He rarely tries to do too much, and is constantly in sound position in all three zones. The young defenseman’s 1.9% shooting percentage is nothing to write home about, but much of that comes from Hanifin trying to get pucks through to the net to create rebounds and deflections. As his usage on the Carolina powerplay continues to gain traction, his offensive production should not be far behind.
4th: Toronto Maple Leafs – Mitch Marner – London (OHL)
2015-16 Stats: 25 GP, 22G, 36A, 58 Points, 34 PIMs
Constantly compared to Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau due to his elite offensive talent and diminutive size, Marner has been tearing up the OHL for the second straight season. His 58 points in 25 games put him on pace to shatter his 126-point output of a year ago that was good enough for second in the OHL in scoring. Marner creates space for himself with his dynamic stickhandling ability and elusive skating and should acclimate well to higher levels of hockey due to these abilities. He was one of the few members of this years Canadian World Junior Championship team that played to his ability en route to their disappointing sixth-place finish, with six points in five games at the tournament. It is obvious that Marner’s game-breaking offensive ability has outgrown the OHL, and it will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts when he moves up a level to the AHL likely next season.
3rd: Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome – Erie (OHL)
2015-16 Stats: 25 GP, 16G, 37A, 53 Points
A bit of a surprise from pre-season rankings, Strome cemented his top three status with a dominant 2014-15 season for the Erie Otters. His 129 points in 68 games lead the OHL in scoring last season, and he has not missed a beat without Connor McDavid in the Erie lineup this year. Strome reads the game extremely well, consistently putting his teammates in situations on the ice where he can succeed. Acting as the Otters’ captain this season, the young forward has showcased the leadership, intangibles, and competitiveness that he was known for prior to being drafted. Like Marner, his skills have surpassed the league where he is currently playing and he should be close to a roster spot in the desert following training camp next fall.
2nd: Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel – Buffalo (NHL)
2015-16 Stats: 40 GP, 13G, 13A, 26 Points
Stepping into a tough situation with the Sabres, Eichel was looked to be a savior for a struggling franchise quickly. He has played well overall this year with his share of ups and downs, however, it hasn’t translated to playoff level hockey yet in Buffalo. Eichel has increased his point total in each month, capping off December with 11 points in 14 games. Head coach Dan Bylsma has done a good job of putting Eichel in spots where he can succeed offensively, with the young center’s offensive zone start percentage at 55%. Although he isn’t dominating the NHL in his rookie season, he has shown strides that had evaluators throwing around the “generational talent” tag all last season. Likely settling in around 55 points this season is a great start to an all-star level career.
1st: Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid – Edmonton (NHL)
2015-16 Stats: 13 GP, 5G, 7A, 12 Points
McDavid was everything we hoped he would be before a collarbone injury robbed NHL fans of a full rookie campaign for the number one overall pick. Showcasing blinding speed through the neutral zone and and extraordinary vision, McDavid had acclimated well to the NHL in his first 13 games of the season. Playing at close to a point-per-game pace, it was not out of the realm of possibility that McDavid could have finished as one of the NHL leaders in scoring in his rookie season. Hopefully he can pick up right where he left off when he returns from the injury after the all-star break.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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