This draft is being called one of the best drafts since superstar Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. This year’s draft is happening in Sunrise, Florida, with Round 1 taking place tonight in prime time. In an attempt to figure out who will be taken where, let’s look at some of the top prospects who’ll be hearing their names called on the biggest night of their hockey lives.
“Build through the draft” is every team’s mantra now in a post cap era, top picks are almost never traded, and the days of overseas sleeper picks are long gone since everyone is working from the same information. This should make it a little bit easier to predict but last minute trades on the draft floor can happen and shock the league.
Strangely enough, in the cap era, there’s always some uncertainty on who the top pick will be, this is the case almost every year with the exception of 2005 (Sidney Crosby) and maybe 2008 (Steven Stamkos). Other than those drafts, there is always some sense of mystery over whose name would be called first overall.
That’s not possible this year since everyone knows this is the one of the best draft years for talent there has been in a long time. Since the draft lottery that took place earlier this month, everyone knows that the Oilers are going to take Connor McDavid with their no. 1 overall pick. After that, almost all experts and sources say that the Sabres will take Jack Eichel at number 2. There’s no secrets out there that these two players are franchise players that will likely play with the one team that drafts them for their whole career if not most.
So the first two picks make perfect sense, since McDavid and Eichel are two of the most highly regarded draft prospects the league has ever seen. Bar none. McDavid has been hyped as the next Crosby for years, and he’s been considered such a sure shot that many teams were being accused of ‘tanking’ in the 2014-15 season to increase their odds of landing him in something called the ‘Race for McDavid’.
Funny enough, after all of that intentional losing, the draft lottery was won by one of the worst teams that was actually trying its very best to make a bad situation watchable. A team that has been languishing in the bottom of the Western conference for almost a decade now, they won big with McDavid (like they did with Gretzky) who has the talent to single-handedly make the Oilers an instant playoff team, probably in the near future can make them Stanley Cup contender. He’s really that good.
Eichel is very good too, and if it was any other year, he would go no. 1 for sure. For Sabres GM Tim Murray losing the lottery was not a disappointment, as Eichel is more than a consolation prize. He’s an amazing Plan B, and a player who can help Buffalo lift itself out the basement of the East. Sabres fans will start saying “We never wanted McDavid anyway” once they get to watch him up close.
So with the obvious prediction out of the way, as McDavid will go first and Eichel will go second, it’s what comes after that, is where things get interesting.
Arizona has 3rd pick, Toronto goes 4th, and Carolina, has the 5th.
Experts have been saying that the next level of players after the McDavid/Eichel duo consists of three great players. Who? High-scoring junior forwards Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, and all-around college defenseman Noah Hanifin. That means the Arizona Coyotes and the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to figure out if they’re willing to gamble on Hanifin or make a safer bet on Strome or Marner. We think that Arizona will take the leap and go for Hanifin ahead of one or both forwards.
To complicate things, there are also two European-born junior players, forward Pavel Zacha and defenseman Ivan Provorov, who are getting accolades from scouting teams and may be moving into the conversation alongside Strome, Marner, and Hanifin. The darkhorse pick is a top European-trained prospect, a winger named Mikko Rantanen, who will bring some uncertainty over Hanifin’s ceiling. So when you look at picks no. 3-10 there is a huge combination of possibilities that can take place in the middle of the top 10.
Here is our picks for the Top 5:
1.EDM – Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)
2.BUF – Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (H-EAST)
3.ARI – Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (H-EAST)
4.TOR – Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL)
5.CAR – Mitchell Marner, C, London (OHL)