Kelowna Rockets star winger Nick Merkley will be drafted in the first round this Friday

NHL Draft: Best-Case First-Round Picks For All 30 Teams

Forget the mock draft. Here's a list of who every NHL team should love to draft in the first round this Friday, June 26 in Florida.

If you’re like me, you love mock drafts – even though you know they’re bad for you.

They offer very little, really, in the way of any kind of prediction. All they do is provide you with exhaustive scenarios that your team could escape the first round with, and when you don’t like what one says you’ll just head back to Google and find another that suits your taste better.

Don’t want to go with that defensive defenceman everyone’s raving about? But you also don’t want the flashy Russian you just don’t quite trust, because you’re Canadian and bashing Russians is the last acceptable practice of prejudice? Luckily, SBNation and TSN and Sportsnet and The Hockey Writers and Yahoo and the Bleacher Report have all created 1,000 mock drafts in the past two months, so you can now find ‘rumours’ that link your team to just about every prospect up for grabs in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Well, this isn’t a mock draft. Not quite.

Instead, I’m just going to list the best-cases for every team selecting in the first round, from the Oilers and Sabres at the top through to the Flames, Jets, Sens, and Canucks in the middle, even to the Lightning and Ducks at the back.

It’s not science. It’s just a guess, based off real work from smarter hockey people.

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1. Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid, Centre – Erie Otters

Duh.

2. Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel, Centre – Boston University

Duh.

3. Arizona Coyotes

Dylan Strome, Centre – Erie Otters

Noah Hanifin, Defence – Boston College

Reports have the Coyotes all over Strome, but maybe not because they think he’s the third-best player in the draft. The howlers want a potential No. 1 centre, and they’d prefer someone with Strome’s pedigree and wingspan – he’s a 6’3″ OHL scoring champion, who held his own on Connor McDavid’s team all season (surging without McDavid, too).

Some have questioned his skating, but you could probably question the skating of Anze Kopitar or the Sedins or Jeff Carter or Ryan Getzlaf, and they’re all doing just fine in the NHL. So Strome’s worthy of a No. 3 pick or better, pretty much every year.

But is he the best player available, here? No – that would be Hanifin.

I’m all for teams drafting based on their positional needs, but I don’t see the point in reaching when you have a third overall pick. You need to hit a home run with that opportunity – even if you’re probably going to be terrible again next year, and the Coyotes definitely could be, you don’t know whether or when you’re ever going to get to select that low again.

If the Yotes think Strome is all that and a tin of salsa, then fine. Draft him and don’t look back.

But if they’re drafting him just because he’s the best centre available, not because he’s the best player available, you have to wonder if they’ll regret passing on Hanifin, or even Ivan Provorov (who some think is the best d-man in this draft).

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VIDEO: Dylan Strome #19 – Erie Otters Highlights

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4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Noah Hanifin, Defence – Boston College

Ivan Provorov, Defence – Brandon Wheat Kings

Mitch Marner, Winger – London Knights

The rumour winds have shifted in Provorov’s direction, which explains his inclusion here – earlier than expected, even a month ago. And it very well could be Provorov the Leafs end up taking, if they want to be edgy and bold. Marner’s got a lot of offensive ability, something the Maple Leafs will need – it’s something every team could use a little more of, actually. When do you not need dynamic offensive talent?

But it would be a huge mistake if the Leafs didn’t draft Hanifin here, based on what the scouting’s been like since last season, and how the hulking puck-moved has fared throughout that whole, overdone process.

If a defender comes along and carries the hope that he could become a Drew Doughty or a Duncan Keith – and Hanifin does – then you can’t pass him up. Every Stanley Cup champion since ever has had that one stud defender, who can skate and shoot and pass and log big minutes and hold the seams together. Whether it was Brian Leetch in 1994 or Scott Niedermayer countless times or Zdeno Chara in 2011 or Keith three times since 2010, that stable, lean-forward blueline rock has always been a champions’ common denominator.

Read: ‘Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock appears keen on defenceman‘ by Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun (June 22, 2015)

5. Carolina Hurricanes

Noah Hanifin, Defence – Boston College

Mitch Marner, Winger – London Knights

Matt Barzal, Centre – Seattle Thunderbirds

Drafting Hanifin at fifth would be a dream – no matter what your team needs, you don’t piss on that chance.

Marner I have to put here, because it’s possible he could fall, or that both he and Hanifin could – what if the Coyotes take Strome (as expected) and the Leafs reach for Provorov?

But I like Barzal more than most, and I think it would be outrageous if he falls outside the top 10. In fact, I think he’s closer to the top four forwards than any other player in this draft – above Zacha, above Crouse, above Rantanen – and he’s a player no team would regret selecting.

You’re not taking a chance on Barzal. And with the fifth pick, the Hurricanes need to hit a home run.

WATCH: ‘Craig Button: Provorov the best defenceman in 2015 Draft‘ by TSN Video (June 25, 2015)

6. New Jersey Devils

Ivan Provorov, Defence – Brandon Wheat Kings

Mitch Marner, Winger – London Knights

Again, Marner could very well fall to six, so he’s here for the Devils to steal if that happens. (McDavid-Eichel-Strome-Provorov-Hanifin as the first five? Weirder’s happened.) New Jersey’s never really had dynamic forwards to build a powerplay around, save for those few years they flirted with the comet that was the combination Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise – but it didn’t bring them a Cup.

Even in the Devils’ glory years, it was Brodeur, their defenders, and their coaching that brought Stanley to the Garden State. And forwards like Patrik Elias and Claude Lemieux played fooseball at the other end, giving their Hall of Fame goalie some run support when needed.

So what a dream Marner would be, to actually control the puck and put it on net.

But if he’s gone, the Devils go with Provorov, the slick-skating, head’s-up blueliner who can keep the biscuit away from Cory Schneider a little more. Maybe their Scott Niedermayer for the next generation. Maybe.

7. Philadelphia Flyers

Matt Barzal, Centre – Seattle Thunderbirds

Mikko Rantanen, Winger – Turku TPS

Lawson Crouse, Winger – Kingston Frontenacs

Outside of Claude Giroux, the Flyers very suddenly lack a go-to guy at pretty much every spot on the ice. They’re a fine team – they’re filled out with plenty of bodies in plenty of positions, but they need scoring forwards and a cornerstone defenceman. But hey, almost every NHL team does.

I’d say the Flyers need a defenceman first – and they do – but they’ve selected blueliners in the past two drafts, with Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim going in the first rounds in 2013 and 2014. And with Provorov and Hanifin almost sure to be picked before Philly takes the podium at seven, I hope the Flyers focus on their front-end.

Mikko Rantanen is the top European player available, a smart and creative Finnish winger who was studly at the World Juniors. Lawson Crouse fits the Philly mould, as a big Milan Lucic-type – but questions surround his production and his point-getting consistency. Crouse’s draft stock revolves around his size and his potential, basically the enemies of Moneyball. But he looked real good for Canada at the World Juniors this past year, outplaying (in my opinion) 2014 top 10 picks like Jake Virtanen and Nick Ritchie, even Max Domi and Nic Petan on occasion.

I mentioned Barzal earlier, and I think he’d be a great grab for Philadelphia here. Even though most analysts predict him falling outside the top 10, the Flyers aren’t far from that threshold, and Barzal’s a dynamic impact player – a Brendan Gallagher-type with just a little more size and the same motor.

Then again, it seems Philly may not be that high on Barzal. Or they just missed his booth.

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VIDEO: Mikko Rantanen #96 – Remember the Name

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8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Mikko Rantanen, Winger – Turku TPS (Finland)

Zach Werenski, Defence – Michigan

Oliver Kylington, Defence – Farjestad (Sweden)

Werenski, because of course. He’s the draft’s third best d-man, and they drop off quickly after him.

Kylington, because even though some think he could drop out of the first round, he was in the top five at last season’s start and is the best skater of the blueline bunch.

Does Columbus need a defenceman? Probably, yeah. But I have a feeling Rantanen could work his way to Ohio and could thrive there, and it’s for a very shallow reason – I could see the Jackets’ general manager, fellow Finn Jarmo Kekalainen, loving the chance to draft the dynamic winger, his countryman, and give his team maybe their most talented youngster outside of Ryan Johansen, who’s already an all-star.

Sometimes, general managers go with the vain pick, with their confidence riding high, and they pick over convention. So here, I see Kekalainen picking Rantanen, making him his guy.

He’s also 6’4″ and tops 200 pounds.

“This is about the most corn-fed Finn you’re ever gonna see,” writes Blue Jackets beat blogger Matt Wagner, on The Cannon. I like that line.

Rantanen – like Barzal or Crouse – is a risk for most teams, but he wouldn’t be in Columbus. They took a chance on Johansen in 2010 and it’s worked out, and I think they’ll be bold and jump for Rantanen if they can.

Read: ‘Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier top right wings for 2015 NHL Draft‘ by Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com (June 22, 2015)

9. San Jose Sharks

Zach Werenski, Defence – Michigan University

Lawson Crouse, Winger – Kingston Frontenacs

Mikko Rantanen, Winger – Turku TPS

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

If last year was as bad as it gets for the Sharks, it really isn’t that bad in Northern California.

Yes, they’ll soon be without both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who are aging and perhaps holding in check the potential of pending leaders Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. And yes, M-E Vlasic is doing it all on the blueline, sort of a less-renowned Doughty or Duncan Keith.

But there’s comfort in knowing you could literally go anywhere with your ninth overall pick.

So here, best-case scenario is that Zach Werenski is floating around still, the third-best defenceman in an elite top three for 2015, and the Sharks take him as the best player still on the board. Forwards like Connor or Crouse would be a nice fit, as would a centre like Barzal or Zacha.

But while those would all be fine additions, Werenski’s the last remaining standout in this draft.

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VIDEO: Pavel Zacha #13 – Sarnia Sting / U18 Highlights

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10. Colorado Avalanche

Zach Werenski, Defence – Michigan University

Matt Barzal, Centre – Seattle Thunderbirds

Timo Meier, Winger – Halifax Mooseheads

Pavel Zacha, Centre – Sarnia Sting

I don’t like including four possible picks for one team. I know it seems lazy and there’s no courage in it. So, sorry about that, Colorado. But you are drafting 10th in a very strong first round, and there are several possibilities when you’re the bridge between the lost boys and the playoff contenders.

So here’s the short sum-up: if Werenski’s still available, the Avs would do well to nab the top defenceman remaining – the last of the draft’s definite best three blueliners – with the 10th pick.

If not, I like Barzal. You know this by now.

And if not Barzal, I’d tell the Avs to go for either of the lanky, skilled left-handed scorers in Meier or Zacha. I think both will be here at 10, unless Jersey or Philly shake it up and take Zacha early, and I think which one the Avs go with depends on which one they like the most.

11. Florida Panthers

Timo Meier, Winger – Halifax Mooseheads

Pavel Zacha, Centre – Sarnia Sting

Matt Barzal, Centre – Seattle Thunderbirds

Craig Button has Kyle Connor going here to Florida, and has both Meier and Barzal falling just after 11th to Dallas and Boston, respectively. He also has Zacha jumping up to sixth overall, to the Devils.

But I have a hard time seeing Florida passing on either of the three guys above. I think Meier could be a good fit for the home crowd, on a team with a lot of potential-stuffed pieces that could still use another effective scoring forward or two – Meier’s a plug-and-play Marian Hossa-type, Zacha’s more of a rotate-around-him center (think Valeri Nichushkin, but down the middle).

Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov are locked in long-term at center (the Panthers hope) with only the 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau servicing the Panthers’ future from the wing. So while there’s temptation to think the Cats need another defender to join Aaron Ekblad, with Erik Gudbranson’s potential up in the air, I like Meier as another compliment that Florida can build from.

Adding him would be like working out your triceps or deltoids – it’s not as flashy as the bicep or the abs, but it’s absolutely necessary.

12. Dallas Stars

Kyle Connor, Winger – Youngstown Phantoms

Meier, Zacha, or Barzal

I had to include Meier, Zacha, and Barzal, because it’s easy to see either or any or all of them (maybe) falling to the Stars at 12th. (They’re really lucky when you think of it, being just outside the top 10 to choose from a stacked draft class, where the first 11 teams will almost make their selection for them.)

But to give you something different here, as I’ve already written enough on the three lumped together above, I’ll include Kyle Connor. Watching the Stars enough over the past couple seasons, I think they’re missing creativity – up front and on their blueline, and they need stability in goal, where you could fault Kari Lehtonen for being too creative.

The Stars are big and fast and scary when they’re on, but they were swallowed hole by the Anaheim Ducks two years ago – and never got their footing in 2015 – as soon as their opponent figured out how to contain Tyler Seguin. He can’t handle the puck like other Western guys his size can – think Corey Perry or Anze Kopitar or even Marian Hossa – and it hurts his team when they can’t cycle or lean on Jamie Benn. (The Winnipeg Jets have this same problem, and the Canucks will as soon as the Sedin twins move onto the glue factory, too.) Sure, Dallas picked up Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky last year, and Nichushkin is still growing as an NHLer, but there was something missing from the Stars’ 82-game attack last year – and neither Spezza or Hemsky are young enough to plant in the dirt.

So with Connor, the Stars get a playmaking, potentially game-breaking winger they sorely need, and then they can focus on adding to that lunchpail backend in 2016.

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VIDEO: Kyle Connor #18 – Youngstown Phantoms Highlights

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13. Los Angeles Kings

Travis Konecny, Centre – Ottawa 67s

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Thomas Chabot, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Brandon Carlo, Defence – Tri-City Americans

Most analysts have Konecny going here to the Kings – a dogged, undersized winger with a lot of skill who could help the Kings ease away from Mike Richards or Dustin Brown or whatever era they’re in now. Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter have a few years – or more – to give L.A., and Drew Doughty has the next decade on the backend taken care of, and Konecny is a sweet piece for a team lucky to miss the playoffs in a strong draft year.

But personally, I think the Kings need a lot of help next to Doughty, where aside from Jake Muzzin, the Hollywood blueline is falling apart. Slava Voynov’s legal troubles make his return questionable – morally and realistically – and it would be nice to give Doughty someone that can take some of his ice time.

Chabot and Zboril are both offensively inclined, stable prospects – or the Kings could leap for someone like the astronomical but inconsistent Kylington.

But how terrifying would Brandon Carlo be in L.A. colours? He’s huge, he can skate, and you gotta think Darryl Sutter would love to strike some fear into the Pacific, once again.

14. Boston Bruins

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

Matt Barzal, Centre – Seattle Thunderbirds

Brandon Carlo, Defence – Tri-City Americans

I know I’ve had Barzal all over this board so far, but if he’s not taken real early, there’s a very good chance he falls to 14. And if he’s there, grab him. A steal at 14.

If not, I could see Merkley fitting in real well with Boston. I could see either of these forwards fitting in with Boston.

With Bergeron and Krejci and Hamilton and Rask, the Bruins have a lot of safe, durable players taken care of. But having lost a lot of lightning the past few years, especially Tyler Seguin, I think Boston’s forgotten exactly what won them that Cup in 2011. It wasn’t that they pushed the Canucks over and stole their lunch money – it was that they outscored them..

For a very short time, the Bruins weren’t just the meanest team in the NHL, they were the fastest and most skilled, too – a championship blend of wheels and will.

A creative playmaker like Merkley is exactly the kind of anti-Boston player Boston needs to take the cement of their skates.

(I’ve included Carlo here because he’s a 6’4″ stud and Boston’s average height is going to take a serious shave once Zdeno Chara keels over.)

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VIDEO: ‘Rockets’ Nick Merkley’ by ShawTVOkanagan (February, 2015)

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15. Calgary Flames

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

I’d be shocked if the Flames don’t go with Merkley here.

Partly because he’s a Calgary kid, but definitely because he’s the kind of player the Flames sorely need to round out what they’re brewing. They’ve got the jam with Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, they’ve got the defence with Giordano and TJ Brodie, and they’ve got a younger Patrick Kane in Johnny Gaudreau. Throw in Merkley, who had 70 assists with the Kelowna Rockets last year, who can saucer pass better than anybody, and the Flames are a scary sight on every Pacific team’s horizon.

Yeah, they could use another defender – every team could. But the Flames are now in an arms race with the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid, and Merkley’s a warhead.

Read: ‘Prospect of Interest: The 411 on Nick Merkley‘ by Sportsnet (June 16, 2015)

16. Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh)

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Brandon Carlo, Defence – Tri-City Americans

Ilya Samsonov, Goaltender – Magnitogorsk (Russia)

They’ve got a lot of young talent at forward, and sure they could use another veteran or two to massage the whole thing over, but they won’t find veterans here.

This is the draft – as much as you need it to build a contender, you won’t get a Toews or Kane or Datsyuk every year, early or late.

Some might think Evgeny Svechnikov or Paul Bittner or Denis Guryanov or maybe even Daniel Sprong would be a fit, especially if the Oilers consider moving Yakupov or Taylor Hall – or even last year’s third overall pick Leon Draisaitl – sometime soon.

TSN’s Craig Button – and several have others – have goalie Ilya Samsonov pegged here, although I think there’s as good of a chance no goalie gets picked in the first round. (Wouldn’t it make more sense to just trade for Cam Talbot or Martin Jones if you’re Edmonton, instead of taking a flyer on Samsonov? Few goalies can succeed when they’re throwing into the NHL right from the draft, so the Oilers would presumably have to develop Samsonov before they play him in Edmonton, meaning he wouldn’t cure their net woes anyway.)

Instead, I think this is a great chance for the Oilers to finally stock up on defence, a position they’ve neglected for years now. A lot of that’s been because they’ve been ‘fortunate’ to land so many No. 1 picks, but a lot of it’s just poor planning on the part of Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish et al.

Look to Zboril here first, Edmonton. He’ll be your Vlasic. Then consider Carlo, who could give your team their first truly imposing player since, like, Dave Semenko.

17. Winnipeg Jets

Ilya Samsonov, Goaltender – Magnitogorsk (Russia)

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Oliver Kylington, Defence – Farjestad (Sweden)

So there I am, slamming the idea of Edmonton using a 16th overall pick on a goaltender… and then I have Samsonov as the best-case scenario for the Jets just one selection later?

Well, Winnipeg has the advantage of another first-rounder waiting for them at No. 25. So maybe they can address one of their needs – a powerplay quarterback on defence, a playmaker and possession guy at forward – there. There’s a good chance players like Sprong or Guryanov or Harkins or DeBrusk will be available only eight more picks after their first trip to the podium, so why not grab Samsonov now?

Winnipeg has the luxury of a couple serviceable netminders like Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson in the meantime, guys who can give Samsonov a three-year runway in the AHL.

If not, I like Merkley here – if Calgary lets him slip through their fingers. The Jets’ lack of any true playmaker was evident in their first-round sweep to the Ducks, where they seemed intent on dumping, chasing, and hitting without any care for actually controlling the puck.

*NOTE: The Jets do, of course, have 2014 first-rounder Nikolaj Ehlers coming down the pipeline, too. Like Merkley, he should help to give the Jets some sizzle to go with their steak.

18. Ottawa Senators

Travis Konecny, Centre – Ottawa 67s

Evgeny Svechnikov, Winger – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Jake DeBrusk, Winger – Swift Current Broncos

No doubt, everyone outside of the GTA loves the Sens and loves what they did last year. But you’re lying to yourself if you think this team has enough firepower – or any firepower – to compete, long-term and consistently, with the Beasts of the East.

Kyle Turris is a fine player, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman were great surprises, Andrew Hammond was awesome in goal, Mika Zibanejad shows plenty of promise, and there’s always Erik Karlsson. But the Sens lack the wave of dynamic scoring threats of other teams – the Penguins, the Capitals, the Rangers, the Lightning, even the Islanders – in their conference.

Malkin. Crosby. Ovechkin. Backstrom. Tavares. Nash. Stamkos… who do the Sens have that comes close to any of those names? Even the Maple Leafs have had Phil Kessel’s occasional magic, and they could add Marner or Strome in this year’s first round, as well.

This bland attack has cost the Sens in the playoffs before and it’ll cost them for a while – it feels like they’re always playing from behind, doesn’t it? Unless they can add a scorer like Konecny or Svechnikov or DeBrusk, that is.

Many analysts have the Sens looking toward a defenceman here, like Zboril or Chabot or Kylington, and that would be fine, too. But I worry about this team’s ability to repeat whatever it was they did last year, especially since it won’t be a fluke as a sequel.

19. Detroit Red Wings

Oliver Kylington, Defence – Farjestad (Sweden)

Joel Eriksson Ek, Centre – Farjestad (Sweden)

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

I’ve seen Eriksson Ek’s name next to the Wings a lot, in the mock drafts flung out over the past week, and it makes some sense. The Wings love their Swedes and they love safe bets. By all scouting reports’ indication, Ek would fit their mould.

I also like Merkley here. Like what I said about Calgary and Winnipeg, I think the Red Wings will need to add some creativity to their offence for the future. What happens when Zetterberg and Datsyuk retire, or leave, or whatever? Can Gus Nyquist and Tomas Tatar – or last year’s first pick, Dylan Larkin – really replace those two legends, both Hall of Famers?

And I trust Detroit to bring along their prospects soundly and properly, meaning Merkley will get a chance and time to grow through the AHL with Grand Rapids before he’s thrown to the NHL fire.

But I think Kylington would be gold in Detroit – in fact, I don’t think there’s a more perfect spot for him to go in the first round. With any other team, he’s a risk. In Detroit? He’s exactly what they need, and they’ll know how to handle his talent.

20. Minnesota Wild

Paul Bittner, Winger – Portland Winterhawks

Not saying I wouldn’t look somewhere else here, if I was Minnesota. I think they’ve been lacking a real superstar since Marian Gaborik left town, especially since Zach Parise has become more of a Toews than a Kane, and since Thomas Vanek won’t get it done like he was once predicted to.

Maybe Evgeny Svechnikov would fit here, or Daniel Sprong? Brock Boeser, perhaps?

But no, the Wild are going with Bittner. He’s a Minnesota kid and he’s worthy of a 20th overall selection. Like what the Canucks did last year, taking the hometown kid Jake Virtanen over the maybe-sorta superior skill of an Ehlers or Nylander, the Wild will do that with Bittner. (And I’ll bet the Flames do the same with Merkley, too.)

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VIDEO: Paul Bittner #7 – Portland Winterhawks Highlights

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21. Buffalo Sabres (from New York Islanders)

Colin White, Centre – USA U-18

Jeremy Roy, Defence – Sherbrooke Phoenix

Oliver Kylington, Defence – Farjestad (Sweden)

Very quickly, with the additions of Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian, and the expected drafting of Jack Eichel, the Buffalo Sabres are melting some of that never-ending winter with a sunny future. Cheesy, right?

So where do they go from here, with Eichel already on the board and the excitement of that still keeping their dimples defined by the time the next 18 picks have disappeared?

I’d look to defence, probably to a puck-mover like Jeremy Roy or Thomas Chabot, or the polarizing Kylington.

Or maybe the Sabres grab another Yankee to grow with Eichel – I’ve forgotten about Colin White to this point, so I’ll put him at the top here. If not, I’d look to someone like Jeremy Bracco, a setup man who could have a long career flanking Buffalo’s blooming crop of young forwards.

*UPDATE: The Ottawa Senators have acquired the 21st overall pick from the Buffalo Sabres, in a trade that sends Robin Lehner and David Legwand to Buffalo. But, fu*k it. I’ll keep Colin White here.

22. Washington Capitals

Jeremy Roy, Defence – Sherbrooke Phoenix

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Jansen Harkins, Centre – Prince George Cougars

Mike Green is probably gone. So if you’re Washington, you have reason to jump in and patch up that hole on your blueline – and sure, Green hasn’t been the best offensive defenceman in the NHL for a few years now, but I wouldn’t underestimate what he’s meant to the Caps – and their churning offence – for a long time now.

Roy could be a perfect fit here, a running mate that will play well in the Capitals’ 60-minute when’s the powerplay? style. If not, they could always grab the Russian Guryanov, basically just another one of the same player they’ve always had a bunch of, or why not look to a player like Harkins?

The Caps could use a two-way anchor like the Cougars’ captain, someone to balance out Barry Trotz’s roster.

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VIDEO: 2015 NHL Draft Profile – Jeremy Roy

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23. Vancouver Canucks

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Jakub Zboril, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Brandon Carlo, Defence – Tri-City Americans

Ah, finally… my team.

Everyone’s talking defence, and that makes sense. The Canucks haven’t drafted a d-man – hell, you already know this, don’t you? – since Luc Bourdon in 2005, and their prospect pool is strong at forward, where Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jake Virtanen, and Jared McCann have all been added from the first round in the past two drafts.

So yeah, of Zboril or Roy or Kylington is available here, and apparently GM Jim Benning has had his eye on Brandon Carlo for a while, nobody’s gonna freak out when they pick one of them.

But a lot of analysts have Nick Merkley falling out of the Top 20, especially if he’s not taken by Calgary or Winnipeg or Ottawa, and dropping even past the Canucks at 23.

Me, I can’t see Merkley being on the board this late and going ignored by Vancouver. Benning has been adamant about building depth in his position, and he’s not afraid to take the best player available – regardless of where or what they play.

Plus, what if the Canucks can move Eddie Lack or Kevin Bieksa or Zack Kassian for a 2nd Rounder? Maybe Vancouver can select a defender early on Day 2, and can then focus on planning for the Sedins’ retirement with a much-needed playmaker.

None of the Vancouver’s promising youngsters – not Horvat, not McCann, not Cassels, not Virtanen – will ever give the Canucks what they’ve come to take for granted from the Twins the past 15 years, but a guy like Merkley or Guryanov (or even Daniel Sprong or Jeremy Bracco) could rack up some apples once the Sedins take their long sleep.

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VIDEO: Canucks’ 2015 Draft Preview, with GM Jim Benning

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24. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Nashville)

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Evgeni Svechnikov, Winger – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Jansen Harkins, Centre – Prince George Cougars

So this is what the Maple Leafs get for Cody Franson, an end-of-the-first round pick. But it’s much bigger than just one selection for Toronto – it’s also a chance to hedge their bets on their own.

With the ability to select either a dynamic forward or a cornerstone defenceman at fourth overall, the Leafs can now play strategically at 24. If they draft Marner first, they’ll look to defence here. If they take Hanifin, they can add one of the remaining snipers, someone to ride shotgun with William Nylander, maybe even someone who can teach Frederik Gauthier how to be interesting.

Either Svechnikov or Guryanov would be cool picks for Toronto, as would a puck-moving blueliner like Roy or Kylington.

And I do like Jansen Harkins here, as well, regardless of who they pick at No. 4.

The Leafs have seen first-hand just how fast depth down the middle – or depth everywhere, really, in their case – can evaporate. Tyler Bozak’s value will take a hit if the Leafs deal Kessel, and Nazem Kadri hasn’t shown he’s a legit top-line pivot yet. So Harkins would be a great fit for Toronto, a long-term investment and a great linemate for Marner or a great passing destination for Hanifin and Morgan Rielly.

25. Winnipeg Jets (from St. Louis)

Nick Merkley, Winger – Kelowna Rockets

Evgeny Svechnikov, Winger – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Again, best-case scenario is that Merkley falls all the way to 25. It could happen, as opinion is split on the playmaking Rocket. And if he’s here, Winnipeg would do well to add his brain to their brawny roster.

If not, roll with either of the Russians – the higher-rated Svechnikov first, and Guryanov next.

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VIDEO: Evgeny Svechnikov #37 – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Highlights

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26. Montreal Canadiens

Brock Boeser, Winger – Waterloo (USHL)

Daniel Sprong, Winger – Charlottetown Islanders

Jake DeBrusk, Winger – Swift Current Broncos

Sprong certainly fits that Montreal mould, a smaller and speedy skilled player with white stick tape.

And DeBrusk I like here – he doesn’t have a lot of size, but he’s got a lot of compete and would give Montreal a dogged goal-scorer they frankly haven’t had for a long time.

But Brock Boeser’s where the Habs go here, with both Sprong and DeBrusk still on the board.

27. Anaheim Ducks

Joel Eriksson Ek, Centre – Farjestad (Sweden)

Jake DeBrusk, Winger – Swift Current Broncos

Thomas Chabot, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

DeBrusk would give Anaheim yet another young goal scorer, some insurance on their recent dynamic picks like Emerson Etem (2010) and Nick Ritchie (2014). And Thomas Chabot is easily the best defender left on the board, if he’s indeed still on the board.

But Eriksson Ek’s another heavy name who could fall this far, especially if Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal address their needs and ignore the steady Swede’s game in the picks just before. In my limited viewings of Ek, I haven’t seen the dynamic play that Harkins has, or the excitement that Svechnikov or Guryanov have, but the Ducks are already robust and they can bet on Central Scouting here, drafting the second-ranked European forward at the bottom of the first round.

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VIDEO: Joel Eriksson Ek #28 – U18 Goals

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28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from New York Rangers)

Jake DeBrusk, Winger – Swift Current Broncos

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Thomas Chabot, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Jacob Larsson, Defence – Frolunda (Sweden)

DeBrusk. Guryanov. Chabot.

All would be perceived steals this late in the first round, so all lead (in no particular order, really) the best-case scenarios for Tampa at 28th. If not, Larsson could definitely fall, or his fellow Swede Gabriel Carlsson.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay)

Jake DeBrusk, Winger – Swift Current Broncos

Denis Guryanov, Winger – Togliatti (Russia)

Thomas Chabot, Defence – Saint John Sea Dogs

Jacob Larsson, Defence – Frolunda (Sweden)

Ditto the above. What do you want me to do, are you still actually reading this?

30. Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago)

So let’s assume the Yotes go with Dylan Strome, third overall. And they’ve got yet another pick to spend at 32nd, where I’d recommend they go with Daniel Spring or Filip Chlapik. Maybe Noah Juulsen, if he’s still around – and I think he will be, if Vancouver doesn’t leap for the local kid (Juulsen’s from Abbotsford, played his junior hockey in Everett).

On my mock, I had Guryanov here. Sort of like musical chairs, he was the last name left standing of the guys listed at 28 and 29 – although Carlsson and Larsson, who were ranked 2nd and 3rd among all European skaters (respectively), would be worthy here.

I’ve got nothing left. Does anyone care about the end of the first round? It’s basically the second…

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