The intrigue for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft reached its crescendo on April 18 when the Edmonton Oilers cashed out as the Draft Lottery winner for the fourth time in the last six years – thus anointing themselves as the winners in the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes.

“He’s not only the most productive junior player, but also the most dynamic, ” then-Oilers GM Craig MacTavish admitted to Mike Brophy of NHL.com
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for us to win this lottery. Any team would have been just over the moon about winning the lottery, and we’re the same. It’s a game-changer.”

While the Buffalo Sabres lost, they are also winners of a not-too-shabby consolation prize – Jack Eichel.

“We don’t have the first pick, but we have the second pick and we have said all along there are two top-end, impact players, if not franchise players in this draft and they both play the right position (center) for rebuilding, ” Buffalo GM Tim Murray explained to Brophy. “So as disappointed as we are in not having the No. 1 pick, we’re extremely happy to be picking No. 2.”

With the first two picks about as set in stone as any first two draft picks can be, the 2015 NHL Draft really begins once the Arizona Coyotes are on the clock with the third overall pick – the first of three the Coyotes own in the first round.

Arizona will shape the Draft depending on what GM Don Maloney does with the third pick. Do they look to continue to add to a young reserve of blueliners and select Noah Hanifin? If they decide on a forward, is it winger Lawson Crouse of centers Dylan Strome or Mitchell Marner? Given the intrigue and machinations swirling around the Coyotes, does Maloney entertain the possibility of dealing the third overall pick for immediate help and look to build the future late in the first round?

While there is a drop off in talent once you get by McDavid and Eichel, there is no lack of talent as there is depth throughout the draft – a point made by Red Line report’s Kyle Woodlief.

“Given the strength and depth of this year’s draft class, there appear to be a lot of teams highly motivated to get something done, so the inclination is to think we will see an active trade market at the draft, ” Woodlief predicted in a column for USA Today.

In addition to Woodliefs’ depth proclamation, I expect trades to be the name of the game in the first round of Draft Weekend at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida because of the number of teams that have multiple picks in the first round. The same also holds true for other rounds in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The Coyotes (Nos. 3 and 30) lead the charge of six teams with multiple first round draft picks. The other teams include the Oilers (Nos. 1 and 16), the Sabres (Nos. 2 and 21), the Toronto Maple Leafs (Nos. 4 and 24), the Philadelphia Flyers (Nos. 7 and 29), and the Winnipeg Jets (Nos. 17 and 25).

The Sabres and Oilers will be the most active teams early with Buffalo set to make three picks within the first 31 selections and with Edmonton scheduled to make three picks in the Top 33.

Conversely, barring a trade, the New York Islanders will not make their first selection until Round 3 (72nd).

You can expect a lot maneuvering as teams look to move up and down in the first round, as well teams who will be looking to replace lost first round selections.

For example, the New York Rangers have been discussing deals involving backup goalie Cam Talbot who whined during Henrik Lundqvist’s absence. You can bet President/GM Glen Sather covets the Oilers second 1st round pick (formerly Pittsburgh’s) as well as keeping his eyes on Edmonton’s two second round draft picks (Nos. 33 and 57) as a fallback.

However, Sather and the Rangers will draw competition from the Ottawa Senators who can offer up prospect Robin Lehner or veteran Craig Anderson. Even the Dallas Stars have floated Kari Lehtonen’s name.

Time will only tell to see which team blinks first. In a perfect world, Edmonton would keep the second of their 1st round picks and draft a goalie for the future and possibly use their 2nd round picks and/or prospects to secure their goalie of the present.

In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting “services”: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Bob McKenzie of TSN. CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters (NAS), European skaters (ES), North American goaltenders (NAG) and European goaltenders (EG). THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player (for their Top 30 rated players) and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders. McKenzie and TSN rank the Top 75 prospects along with 10 Honourable Mentions and rank skaters and goaltenders together.

The First Round Draft positions utilized are those as of 12p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

1. EDMONTON OILERS – CONNOR MCDAVID – C
CS: # 1 NAS —– THN: # 1 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 1 (Sidney Crosby) —– TSN: # 1 (Gilbert Perreault)
If new Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli plays his card properly in terms of draft selections and draft dealings, Edmonton might be able to bid a fond farewell to the NHL Lottery for some time because McDavid is that good. He is the ultimate franchise player who is so good that ISS scout Phil Myre said McDavid’s “acceleration and execution with the puck at high speed is the best I’ve seen since Bobby Orr.”

2. BUFFALO SABRES – JACK EICHEL – C
CS: # 2 NAS —– THN: # 2 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 2 (Mike Modano) —– TSN: # 2 (Ryan Getzlaf)
Eichel is no slouch in terms of the franchise player label and is in good company with comparisons to Modano, Getzlaf and Joe Sakic (according to ISS). One concern is that Eichel is not sure where he wants to play next season. It is possible he returns to Boston University, which sets the Sabres up for another round of Draft Lottery bingo and the chance to select Auston Matthews first overall in 2016.

3. ARIZONA COYOTES – DYLAN STROME – C
CS: # 4 NAS —– THN: # 4 (Top Line Center)
ISS: # 3 (Anze Kopitar) —– TSN: # 5 (Ron Francis)
The third overall pick is really where the 2015 Draft starts because it has been McDavid and Eichel one-two for a long time. Once again dark clouds rise over the Arizona sky in terms of where the Coyotes will play. If the Coyotes stay the course, Strome will help give Arizona a strong one-two punch down the middle when he teams up with Max Domi.

4. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – MITCH MARNER – RW
CS: # 6 NAS —– THN: # 5 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 6 (Patrick Kane) —– TSN: # 4 (Patrick Kane)
With no GM in place, Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter is expected to run the Leafs draft. With rumors swirling over possible deals (i.e. salary dumps) for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, T.O. could go forward or defense. If decide to go for offense then the Leafs will have a fine one in Marner.

5. CAROLINA HURRICANES – NOAH HANIFIN – D
CS: # 3 NAS —– THN: # 3 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 5 (Erik Johnson) —– TSN: # 3 (Jay Bouwmeester)
Another team that is looking to move some salary (Eric Staal or Jeffrey Skinner), Carolina could forward or defense. If Toronto goes defense, it is possible the Hurricanes would snap up Marner. If not, Carolina goes for the best d-man prospect in Hanifin. The youngster still has room for growth and maturity and will not turn 19 until the middle of the season.

6. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – LAWSON CROUSE – LW
CS: # 5 NAS —– THN: # 8 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 4 (Ryan Kesler) —– TSN: # 7 (Andrew Ladd)
A new era is dawning in New Jersey with Ray Shero taking over from Lou Lamoriello as GM. Look for Shero to change the culture of the club and to open up the offense as he is able to reload the cupboard. He is a power forward with what ISS calls “elite” level size and strength (6-4/215). He also has a mean streak as evidenced by his eight game suspension in his Junior’s teams final playoff contest.

7. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – IVAN PROVOROV – D
CS: # 7 NAS —– THN: # 6 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 7 (Andrei Markov) —– TSN: # 8 (Mark Giordano)
Another team with a new sheriff in town as Ron Hextall returns to Philly as the newest “Flyer Du Jour” as the Broad Street Bullies look to return to prominence. Hextall learned his craft well while with the Kings and should look to Provorov. The youngster is playing in the WHL and might not be as quick as Hanifin to join the rush; Provorov is a much heavier hitter.

8. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – MIKKO RANTANEN – RW
CS: # 1 ES —– THN: # 12 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 9 (Jeff Carter) —– TSN: # 10 (Jakub Voracek)
The Jackets led the NHL is games lost to injury so they might want to consider drafting help in the training staff. The failure to sign Mike Reilly might have Columbus look to Zach Werenski with this pick, but Rantanan is a solid top-six forward with size (6-4/209) and ability to play in the Finnish Elite League at the age of 18.

9. SAN JOSE SHARKS – TIMO MEIER – RW
CS: # 10 NAS —– THN: # 13 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 14 (Chris Kunitz) —– TSN: # 12 (Marian Hossa)
The Sharks might be joining the Oilers as one of those teams on the prowl for goaltending help; therefore, it is possible that this pick ends up somewhere else. If San Jose keeps it, Meier brings a European background to a player who is hard on the puck and managed 44 goals in the QMJHL last season.

10. COLORADO AVALANCHE – ZACH WERENSKI – D
CS: # 9 NAS —– THN: # 9 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 11 (Rob Blake) —– TSN: # 11 (Brent Seabrook)
For me, it was a tough decision as to which way I would go if I were the Avalanche. After looking at the later parts of the draft, it seems there is more value in Werenski at 10 and help in other areas later in the draft. While he is the third d-man taken in the draft, he has the ability and skills to be the best of the bunch.

11. FLORIDA PANTHERS – MATTHEW BARZAL – C
CS: # 11 NAS —– THN: # 10 (Playmaking Center)
ISS: # 8 (Claude Giroux) —– TSN: # 9 (Justin Williams)
Florida needs to find ways to improve an offense that was 25th in goals and 24th on the PP. Barzal brings playmaking skills to the table based on his hockey sense and skating. Played in only 44 games due to, what THN calls, a freak off-ice knee injury. He came back to lead Canada in scoring and to a Bronze medal in the U-18 championships in April.

12. DALLAS STARS – JAKUB ZBORIL – D
CS: # 12 NAS —– THN: # 22 (Physical Defender)
ISS: # 22 (Niklas Kronwall) —– TSN: # 14 (Niklas Hjalmarsson)
The Stars have a good corps of puck-moving d-men, but their physical defensive blueliners are projects. At 6-2/185, Zboril is still maturing as a player but he has a jump on other European-born players as he made the jump to the QMJHL last season.

13. LOS ANGELES KINGS – PAVEL ZACHA – C
CS: # 8 NAS —– THN: # 7 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 10 (James Neal) —– TSN: # 6 (Eric Staal)
While the Kings have concerns on defense, L.A.’s path to repeating as Cup winners was stalled by an inconsistent offense. At 6-3/214, Zacha gives the Kings the option of a solid power forward that might stay at center or shift to the wing.

14. BOSTON BRUINS – KYLE CONNOR – C
CS: # 13 NAS —– THN: # 11 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 13 (Kyle Turris) —– TSN: # 13 (Brandon Saad)
Boston is another perennial playoff team that will look to 2015 as a bump in the road and treat it as a year to reload. Like most teams, the Bruins are looking for ways to add scoring and speed. Connor used his speed, fast hands and goal scorer’s know-how to snipe 34 goals in 60 USHL games with Youngstown – helping them to league record 17-game winning streak.

15. CALGARY FLAMES – NICK MERKLEY – RW
CS: # 23 NAS —– THN: # 15 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 19 (Brayden Schenn) —– TSN: # 17 (Nicklas Backstrom)
The Calgary native might not be the fastest or most elegant skater in the draft, but he is a playmaker who is stronger on the puck than you might expect from someone his size (5-10/187). While his goal dropped from 25 to 20, his assists numbers skyrocketed to 70 from 33.

16. EDMONTON OILERS – ILYA SAMSONOV – G
CS: # 1 E-G —– THN: # 38 (Starting Goaltender)
ISS: # 1 G (Not Available —– TSN: # 19 (Andrei Vasilevskiy)
I still have to believe this pick could be in motion in the right deal for the right goaltender. Even if they moved later picks and/or prospects for a veteran-type goalie, Samsonov still makes sense moving forward. While first round goaltenders that succeed are few and far between, the Oilers can’t take the chance that another team won’t snap up Samsonov later in the first round. Besides, why have some nay draft picks if you are not going to gamble every now and then.

17. WINNIPEG JETS – EVGENY SVECHNIKOV – C/RW
CS: # 17 NAS —– THN: # 16 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 18 (Jakub Voracek) —– TSN: # 18 (Max Pacioretty)
While he is listed as a RW, Cape Breton used him at center toward the end of the regular season and the playoffs. He ended up winning 52% of his faceoffs in a seven-game losing effort against the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts.

18. OTTAWA SENATORS – TRAVIS KONECNY – C
CS: # 14 NAS —– THN: # 24 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 12 (Zach Parise) —– TSN: # 15 (Pat Verbeek)
Konecny and a few other players of his size (5-10/172) will all owe Tyler Johnson a few adult beverages because the Lightning’s play in the playoffs will have opened some eyes. Travis has had a history of concussions and shoulder problems so he will hate to adjust his game slightly, but his hockey sense and compete level should win the day.

19. DETROIT RED WINGS – THOMAS CHABOT – D
CS: # 16 NAS —– THN: # 23 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 16 (John Klingberg) —– TSN: # 25 (Alex Edler)
The Red Wings are a team whose star players are beginning to see the end of superb careers, so Detroit has to start replenishing their system. With Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on the horizon, the Wings could look to the blueline and draft Jakub Zboril’s Saint John teammate. Chabot stepped up his play when Zboril was injured and parlayed his season into a spot with Canada’s U-18 team.

20. MINNESOTA WILD – PAUL BITTNER – LW
CS: # 26 NAS —– THN: # 17 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 17 (James van Riemsdyk) —– TSN: # 20 (James van Riemsdyk)
Bittner (6-4/204) has the size that NHL scouts drool over. The Crookston, MN native has drawn some criticism for not using his size more and for not producing more despite being on a line with NHL draftees Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bittner is solid in terms on 5-on-5; PPP and PK play and is willing to drive to the net for goals.

21. BUFFALO SABRES – OLIVER KYLINGTON – D
CS: # 6 ES —– THN: # 20 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 32 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 24 (Keith Yandle)
Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report reminded everyone that current Sabres GM Tim Murray drafted Erik Karlsson when he was in Ottawa. Woodlief refers to Kylington as “Karlsson-lite” so it isn’t too much of a stretch for Buffalo to use one of their many picks on a player that one scout told THN reminded him of a cross between Niklas Kronwall and Trevor Daley.

22. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – JEREMY ROY – D
CS: # 21 NAS —– THN: # 26 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 23 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) —– TSN: # 29 (Dan Boyle)
With three veteran UFA d-men (including Mike Green), looking to bring in first round depth is not a bad thing. Roy’s size (6-0.183) isn’t ideal, but his sense for the game more than makes up for it. He is good at moving the puck, especially on that first breakout pass – and he has the ability to QB the PP as a right-handed shot from the point.

23. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – FILIP CHLAPIK – C
CS: # 18 NAS —– THN: # 30 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 40 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 38 (Sean Couturier)
Chlapik is never going to win any awards for his skating style, but his hockey sense and natural abilities more than make up for it. Born in the Czech Republic, Chlapik joined Charlottetown of the QMJHL and did not miss a beat, scoring 33 and 42 assists in 64 games.

24. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – COLIN WHITE – C
CS: # 29 NAS —– THN: # 19 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 15 (Patrice Bergeron) —– TSN: # 16 (Brandon Sutter)
A wrist injury and a bout with mono wreaked havoc with White’s USHL season with Team USA. However, the Boston College recruit responded in the U-18 with six goals and three assists in seven games. THN joined ISS in making Patrice Bergeron comparisons with White.

25. WINNIPEG JETS – NICHOLAS ROY – C
CS: # 45 NAS —– THN: # 18 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 47 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 73 (Joe Colbourne)
Roy might be a bit of a reach at #25, but for a team that is seeking to add size at center then Nicholas is worth the gamble. At 6-4/203, Roy is already an NHL center. The problem is that his skating is not. Roy needs to step up his development and production this season after a pair of 16-goal season with Chicoutimi. He did score three goals and three assists in seven games with Canada’s U-18 team.

26. MONTREAL CANADIENS – JAKE DEBRUSK – LW
CS: # 19 NAS —– THN: # 28 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 27 (Kyle Okposo) —– TSN: # 28 (Ondrej Palat)
While Jake (6-0/176) is a bit smaller than his father Louie (6-1/225), the younger DeBrusk far outshines his father in terms of offensive ability. After posting 39 points in 72 games in his rookie season with Swift Current, Jake erupted for 42 goals and 39 assists in 72 games. The offensive improvement was keyed by his strong skating and solid hockey IQ.

27. ANAHEIM DUCKS – BROCK BOESER – RW
CS: # 27 NAS —– THN: # 14 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 35 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 26 (Kyle Okposo)
While the Ducks have some youth among their secondary scorers, their big guns (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) are turning 30. Boeser affords the Ducks a solid opportunity to bring in a potential big-time scorer. Originally committed to attend Wisconsin, Boeser reopened his recruitment and chose North Dakota.

28. TAMPA BAY LIGHNTING– JOEL ERIKSSON EK – C
CS: # 4 ES —– THN: # 27 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 20 (Lars Eller) —– TSN: # 23 (Derick Brassard)
Ek is the solid two-way performer that the Detroit Red Wings won Stanley Cups with, so it shouldn’t be a stretch for GM Steve Yzerman to select the Swedish center. He split time playing in the Swedish Elite League and the Swedish Junior League. He held his own against the older players and averaged a point a game against his age level.

29. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – BRANDON CARLO – D
CS: # 25 NAS —– THN: # 31 (Shutdown Defender)
ISS: # 21 (Marc Staal) —– TSN: # 22 (Brayden Coburn)
While the Flyers are carrying Chris Pronger for salary cap purposes, they could use a physical d-man as part of their rebuild. Carlo (6-5/185) fits that need to a “T”. His reach is even bigger than what you might expect from someone 6-5. His skating ability is also better than one would expect from such a big player.

30. ARIZONA COYOTES – NOAH JUULSEN – D
CS: # 22 NAS —– THN: # 33 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 29 (Ryan McDonagh) —– TSN: # 37 (Kevin Bieksa)
Two-way d-man who has spent the last two years refining his game in North America with Everett of the WHL. While he is a little smaller than you would like (6-1/181), THN pointed out that scouts say he plays bigger than he really is – muck like Kevin Bieksa and Rhett Warrener. He played the PP in Juniors and his ability to do so in the NHL will signify the difference between a top four d-man and a third-pair defenseman.

FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK TRANSACTIONS
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on January 2, 2015 that sent David Perron to Pittsburgh in exchange for Rob Klinkhammer and this pick.
2. The New York Islanders’ first-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on October 27, 2013 that sent Thomas Vanek to New York in exchange for Matt Moulson, a second-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Buffalo will receive a first-round pick in 2014 or 2015 at New York’s choice – was converted on May 22, 2014 when the Islanders elected to keep their 2014 first-round pick.
3. The Nashville Predators’ first-round pick will go to the Toronto Maple Leafs as the result of a trade on February 15, 2015 that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to Nashville in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and this pick.
4. The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick will go to the Winnipeg Jets as the result of a trade on February 11, 2015 that sent Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf to Buffalo in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Winnipeg will receive the lowest of Buffalo’s first-round picks in 2015 – was converted on April 27, 2015 when the Islanders were eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, ensuring that the Blues’ first-round pick would be lower.
Buffalo previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on February 28, 2014 that sent Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and conditional second and third-round picks in 2014 to St. Louis in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
5. The New York Rangers’ first-round pick will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as the result of trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Martin St. Louis and a conditional second-round pick in 2015 to New York in exchange for Ryan Callahan, a conditional first-round pick in 2014, a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
6. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay in exchange for Radko Gudas, a third-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Philadelphia will receive the Lightning’s first-round draft pick in 2015 if it is not the first overall selection – was converted on March 30, 2015 when Tampa Bay qualified for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs ensuring that this pick could not be a lottery selection.
7. The Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round pick will go the Arizona Coyotes as the result of a trade on February 28, 2015 that sent Antoine Vermette to Chicago in exchange for Klas Dahlbeck and this pick.

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