The greatest draft class of all time! It's a statement that the media looks to use as often as possible when talking about the 2 days in July where teams look to improve their rosters for free. 2003 is the modern day benchmark for 'best ever' because of the overall depth, but how does 2015 compare?
2003 had Fleury, Staal, and Horton; That's a pretty good list, but it doesn't have the swagger of the American phenom Jack Eichel and the Canadian kid, Connor McDavid. Toss in the underexposed Noah Hanifin and you have a pretty amazing top of the draft this year. The media has claimed that this year could have as many as 30 players who are going to be impactful to their future organization. This would put 2015 on par with 2003, who arguably have 35-40 players who played regular minutes in the NHL (450+ games played or starting goalie).
Connor vs. Jack
This has been discussed ad nauseam! Both of these players are special... Very special! The general feel around the pundits is that Connor McDavid is a hair better than Jack Eichel right now, but you would knock children and the elderly out of the way if it meant that your organization had the opportunity to draft either one of these 2 young players.
Connor McDavid: 2.6 PPG! Yeah, he's putting up more than 2 points per game in his final junior season (technically not, but there's no chance he isn't a pro next year). Some say McDavid will be better than Crosby, others say he's already better than Sid the Kid... When I look at him, I see more of a John Tavares type of player. It may be a low projection, but that's still one heck of a player if that's what he turns out to be.
Jack Eichel: Personally, I thought that Eichel had a really nice World Junior tournament even though the American squad did not live up to expectation. There were some great shifts where Eichel dominated the ice as only a player with elite skill knows how. Eichel is having a great season at Boston U where he has put up 55 points in 32 games in the tough Hockey East conference. He plays a power game like Eric Staal, but with a bit more playmaking ability. He has also been compared to Super Mario and Captain America, Mike Modano. If he winds up being as good as projected, some team is going to be very happy!
What can we say about third ranked Lawson Crouse? He's a big strong winger who plays for Kingston of the OHL (home to 2014 1st round Flames pick Sam Bennett). Crouse has had an up and down year on the ISS rankings as he has ranged from top 5 to a late 20's ranking. Crouse was a member of the Gold medal winning team Canada at the WJHC and spent some time on the ice with the Abby Kid, Jake Virtanen on the energy line. Lawson tips the scales at 211 pounds, has prototypical power forward size and plays a complete game. He could wind up being the next version of Andrew Ladd.
Noah Hanifin has quietly gone about business and demonstrated his great 2 way abilities while playing for the Screaming Eagles of Boston College. Hanifin has been a reliable piece at BC, playing well enough to be tied for 5th in team scoring with 21 points. The physical attributes of Hanifin have scouts drooling, he lists at 6'3" and 205 pounds which gives him ideal size for a future top pairing guy along the lines of Duncan Keith or Keith Yandle. Several scouts have also suggested a less physical version of Drew Doughty.
The London Knights have another young superstar in their midst, Mitch Marner. How the Hunters manage to acquire this kind of talent year after year, I'll never know! MM is an undersized player at 5'11" and a slight 160 pounds, but that doesn't mean he won't succeed at the NHL level.
With hands and speed like his, how can you not see the similarities to former Knight Patrick Kane in this montage?!? The footage may be old, but how can you not be impressed with what 10 year old Marner was able to do with the puck?
Dylan Strome has always been the "other" one so far in his life. His older brother Ryan was highly regarded in his draft year and was the 5th choice in the 2011 draft; Now, in 2015 Dylan finds himself as the 'other' top prospect on the Erie Otters behind that McDavid fella. Dylan is a dynamic player with fantastic vision and playmaking skills. Once he grows into his 6'2" frame, he could be similar to a David Krejci or Joe Thornton. I think the biggest question for Dylan is will he be better than his brother?
It's been a rough year for the Seattle Thunderbirds forward Mathew Barzal. In November, Barzal had a screw inserted in his kneecap after suffering an injury in an off-ice incident before a practice. That could have been the end of the road for most junior players, but not Barzal! This season in 38 games played, Barzal has put up 48 points. Many writers have compared his game to that of former Thunderbird superstar Patrick Marleau which is a pretty nice comparitve, but Barzal himself says he models his game after Flyers star Claude Giroux.
McCann to Barzal... Wouldn't that be a nice duo for the Canucks in a few years?
Mikko Rantanen was one of the few bright spots for the Finnish team at the World Juniors this past Christmas putting up 4 goals in 5 games. He's a big, big youngster measuring in at 6'3" and 211 pounds who plays the game with world class playmaking skills. Rantanen wears an 'A' for TPS of the Finnish Elite league which is a rare accomplishment for teenager playing in a league that is as highly regarded as the Liiga. The speed and playmaking abilities of Rantanen has drawn him comparisons to Matt Duchene.
One of the biggest risers in this year's draft class without a doubt has been Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL). At the start of the season the 6', 200 pound Russian was seen as a mid to late 2nd round draft pick, and after a solid season of domestic and international play, he finds himself in the conversation for being a top 10 selection this year! 29 teams passed on Provorov at the CHL import draft and most likely they are all shaking their heads today because there have been very few better 2-way defencemen in the CHL this season. This guy isn't afraid to take the body, rush the puck or make the stretch pass which leads him to be compared to current Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Zack Werenski: Normally when a draft eligible defenseman makes a prominent nation's U20 club it's a big deal and the event receives tons of media. Unfortunately for the University of Michigan rearguard there were too many draft eligible players at this year's tournament and his efforts may have gone less noticed than they should have been. Werenski is already logging top 4 minutes as an underage freshman and has shown great offensive ability and a strong understanding of how to create time and space for himself. His one knock is that he likes to be the third player on the rush which leads to the occasional odd man rush the other way. In time he could round out to be a player similar to Jay Bouwmeester.
That's a wrap on the top 10 from the ISS March top 30. As it stands right now, it looks like we aren't frontrunners for any of these players but that doesn't mean that Trader Jim won't explore his options if he feels that one of these players is worth the price of moving up... Strange things happen at the Canucks table during the week of the draft!