The Carolina Hurricanes will select fifth in the first round of tonight’s NHL draft, but who they select could be as much about what the teams in front of them do as who they have at the top of their list.
Without further ado, here’s my mock draft for the first round of this weekend’s 2015 NHL Draft. (You can check out Bob’s here.)
1. Edmonton Oilers: For the fourth time in six years the Oilers get first dibs on the crop of draft eligible prospects. This one’s as easy as can be: they take phenom Connor McDavid.
2.Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo did everything they could to land McDavid, tanking in unprecedented fashion to finish dead last in the NHL. Karma got them when they lost the lottery, but Jack Eichel is a good consolation prize.
3. Arizona Coyotes: The phones are on fire for Arizona’s pick, but what the Yotes need is a big, No. 1 center. Dylan Strome is there — you take him.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are talking about shipping out Phil Kessel. Well, Mitch Marner could be a good replacement.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes land the sliding Noah Hanifin, shoring up their defensive corps for the next decade.
6. New Jersey Devils: The Devils probably coveted Marner, but he’s gone. They might look to move down a few picks, but will end up settling for the talented Mathew Barzal.
7. Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers want to be big, bad and mean again. Lawson Crouse is Ron Hextall’s type of guy.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets wanted to move up for Hanifin, but couldn’t. Conventional logic says they would avoid the college guy (after getting burned this summer by Mike Reilly), but Zach Werenski is too good to pass up.
9. San Jose Sharks: Doug Wilson isn’t scared to make a move in the first round, but with Ivan Provorov available he lands a guy he wants in his original spot.
10. Colorado Avalanche: The Avs already have too many centers, so they look to the wing and grab Finnish talent Mikko Rantanen.
11. TRADE Anaheim Ducks (from FLA): The Panthers are loaded with young talent on their NHL roster, but Dave Tallon makes the first big gamble of the draft by trading down. The Panthers get the Ducks’ 27th overall pick, plus their first next year. Anaheim gets one of Florida’s two thirds this year, and uses this pick to pounce on Pavel Zacha.
12. Dallas Stars: Last season was a surprising step back for the Stars, but it means they get a lottery pick. Travis Konecny is a solid pick for them here.
13. Los Angeles Kings: Another surprising top-half-of-the-draft team, the Kings will yield their first next year to Carolina as part of the Andrej Sekera trade. Timo Meier could be a good Justin Williams replacement down the road.
14. Boston Bruins: The Bruins are on the cliff right now — cap troubles plus aging veterans means they need to make sure this pick sticks. New GM Don Sweeney doesn’t take a chance and take the best available player, Kyle Connor.
15. Calgary Flames: The Flames are coming off a breakthrough season, so they can afford to gamble a little given their wealth of young talent. They try and hit an Erik Karlsson-like home run with Swedish defenseman Oliver Kylington.
16. Edmonton Oilers (from PIT): The Oilers already have McDavid, so they need to look to defense with their second first round pick. Giant Brandon Carlo is a bit of a reach, but he gives them some size on the back end.
17. Winnipeg Jets: Another team stocked with young talent, the Jets can afford to gamble. But they don’t — they take hard-working and reliable Nick Merkley.
18. Ottawa Senators: The Sens covet size, so power forward Paul Bittner is an easy pick for them here.
19. Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are still searching for the next Lidstrom. They’re unlikely to get one here — or anywhere — but defender Jakub Zboril could help them on the blue line down the road.
20. Minnesota Wild: Opinions vary on — some rankings have him in the top 15, others barely with a first-round grade — but he works here for the Wild.
21. Buffalo Sabres (from NYI): Eichel’s already in Tim Murray’s front pocket, so the 21st pick is gravy. The Sabres opt to take a chance on skilled winger Evgeny Svechnikov.
22. Washington Capitals: Svechnokov would have fit here — the Caps love taking sliding Russians in the draft — but with Mike Green on the way out it makes sense for Washington to try and eventually replace him with power play quarterback Thomas Chabot.
23. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks are a year removed from dealing Ryan Kesler. Perhaps Jansen Harkins can fill his skates one day.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs (from NSH): The Leafs landed Marner at No. 4, so they go with some size and skill with their second first, taking Denis Guryanov.
25. Winnipeg Jets (from STL via BUF): The Jets make the common sense pick again, drafting the best available forward in center Joel Ek Eriksson.
26. Montreal Canadiens: It’s too early for the undersized French-Canadian winger that would seem like the ideal Habs pick, so Montreal takes stay-at-home defender Jeremy Roy.
27. TRADE Florida Panthers (from ANA): Tallon gets the guy he wants while also moving down and adding assets, drafting goalie Ilya Samsonov to eventually succeed Roberto Luongo.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NYR): Steve Yzerman likes to roll the dice on draft day, so he takes the aforementioned undersized French-Canadian, Anthony Beauvillier, with one of the picks they received from the Rangers in last year’s Martin St. Louis trade.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (from TBL): The Flyers are loaded with D, so they go forward again, taking QMJHL forward Daniel Sprong.
30. Arizona Coyotes (from CHI): The Coyotes close out the first round with a surprise pick: speedy, but undersized, defender Mitch Vande Sompel.