As everyone knows, the Carolina Hurricanes have the 5th overall pick in this summer's NHL Entry Draft. Who should they pick? Most fans seem to have an opinion about that, but not everyone agrees.
After the first two obvious choices of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, things could go down in a variety of different ways on draft day.
But for this discussion, let's assume that the Arizona Coyotes select the highest rated defenseman in the draft, Noah Hanifin, and the Maple Leafs take Dylan Strome, the leading scorer in the OHL.
(Both Adam Kimelman's and Mike Morreale's mock drafts start out this way).
Next on many expert's lists would be Mitch Marner, who finished second in scoring to Strome.
Marner has often been compared to Patrick Kane and it's been said that he has some of the quickest hands in this year's draft. He finished with 44 goals and 82 assists in 63 games for the London Knights.
Some of the quotes about him include:
"High end skill set with puck handling and playmaking ability. Plays bigger than his size and is not afraid to get involved in traffic or battle for pucks. He is an excellent skater with very good quickness and agility. He possesses some of the quickest hands in this year's draft class."
NHL Central Scouting - Dan Marr
"Smallish forward with a real scoring touch…scores in multiple ways…always in the right spot to receive a pass…a good wrist shot, and he plays with a lot of grit and isn't afraid to crash the net for chances…has the hands and creativity to go end to end with the puck…speedy and very agile…excellent foot speed and quickness, and is tough to contain when he gets going; he can beat nearly anyone on the ice with his speed…impressive hand speed and creativity…sees the ice well and makes some really good passes…is a threat on each shift…work ethic and compete level are impressive…relentless pressure on the puck. (August 2014)"
Some think that it's a no-brainer, if Marner is available at number five, the Canes should pick him. But not so fast. The one knock on the speedster is his size. Some list him at 5'10, some at 5'11. Regardless of his height, everyone agrees that he needs to beef up a bit, which is not unusual advice for a younger player.
Another highly ranked prospect, in some cases higher ranked than Marner, is Lawson Crouse.
Crouse has a large frame and unlike some big players who have yet to mature, he uses it to his advantage. Here are some quotes regarding the big bruiser:
"A big-bodied power winger with the ability to physically dominate, making him a prominent forechecking presence every night. Possesses good hands that can be used to make crisp passes or to let loose accurate, NHL-level shots; paired with his strength and skating ability, his skill set allows him to contribute offensively, as well as create space for teammates."
"A 6-foot-4, 215-pound power forward who is engaged physically each time he steps on the ice, he led the Frontenacs with 29 goals, two shorthanded goals and 51 points in 56 games. Some scouts have compared his style of play to Hockey Hall of Fame member Cam Neely and Eric Lindros."
Mike Morreale - NHL.com
The knock on Crouse is that his point total of 29 goals and 22 assists was rather meager for such a highly touted prospect.
Still, the ISS and the CSS both have him ranked higher than Marner.
The other day, I was listening to the "Pipeline Show" podcast and Chris Mooring, from the ISS was absolutely gushing about Crouse.
At the three minute mark, the host called Crouse, a "divisive player" because fans have different opinions about him. "Some look at his numbers and say, you can't take this guy in the top 10, he hasn't got the numbers to justify it. Why do you and the ISS not only pick him in the top 10, but the top 5?"
(Mooring) "Sometimes the numbers don't show the player's full potential. In this case, Crouse is a big power forward that every team would covet. He has exceptional skill, great scoring ability, he's a kid that owns the front of the net. There is not a lot of negative in his game. He competes every shift, is physical, he plays quality minutes. He's one of those players that don't come along often, with that much skill, that much size, and that much compete in his game"
(Host) "His numbers would suggest that he is a power forward on a checking line, or defensive line in the NHL, a third liner. Can you use a top 5 pick on a third liner, or do you see him as having untapped offensive upside which might show up and have him considered to be a top six forward and therefore a top 5 pick?"
(Mooring) "We would not have him rated in the top 5 picks if we thought he would be a third liner. The kid has an exceptional shot. I would say that he's a power forward that will play in the top two lines. He's going to make players better around him, he's going to be one of those players that you win with, especially in the playoffs when the ice gets smaller. There just isn't anything negative to say about this kid. He's just a solid, solid pick in the top 5."
They go on to discuss other prospects you may find of interest but needless to say, Mooring did not hedge on the high ranking of Crouse.
The Hurricanes staff has certainly seen enough of him so that they can make an informed decision, considering he is on the same team as defenseman, Roland McKeown, who was recently acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the Andrej Sekera deal.
Speaking of Marner, the boys over at Section 328 got an interview with him in their latest podcast. Check that out here- Podcast Extra - Mitch Marner Interview.
We will be talking much more about the draft in the near future here and will look at other potential selections as well. Of course, we will also post our annual mock drafts, as we approach the date.
No matter who the Canes select, it's going to be a very good player who will help the cause.