Strome, Marner top centers after McDavid, Eichel

Friday, 06.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015 NHL Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

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Strome, Marner top centers after McDavid, Eichel
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel aren't the only talented centers up for grabs in the 2015 NHL Draft; Dylan Strome and Mitchell Marner also rate as elite.

Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel are expected to be the top two picks at the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Each has been regarded as a generational-type player capable of turning around any franchise.

The real debate begins after McDavid and Eichel come off the board. Many believe the next-best center in the 2015 draft is Erie's Dylan Strome or Mitchell Marner of the London Knights. They finished first and second, respectively, in the Ontario Hockey League scoring race this season.

"The team selecting there has a choice of a potential top-line center [Strome] or highly skilled forward [Marner]," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "You've got choices to what's going to fit into the philosophy you have of an NHL player. If you want to argue who is going to be the best down the road, they are both going to be good in their roles based on their talent because they are different type forwards."

Here are's top 10 centers eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft (positions provided by NHL Central Scouting):

1. Connor McDavid, Erie (OHL): Hockey Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky called McDavid (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) the best draft prospect in 30 years. The Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year is regarded by NHL Central Scouting as the top draft prospect since Sidney Crosby in 2005. He finished third in the league scoring race with 120 points (44 goals, 76 assists), nine points behind Strome despite playing 21 fewer games. He was first in OHL playoff scoring with 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games. McDavid had two top-10 finishes in fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine; fourth in the pro-agility test and fifth in left-hand grip.

Type of player: Franchise center

2. Jack Eichel, Boston University (H-EAST): His 71 points are the most by a college freshman since Paul Kariya had 100 points at the University of Maine in 1992-93. He and Kariya are the only freshmen to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player. Eichel (6-2, 196) also led the NCAA with 45 assists, a plus-51 rating, 23 power-play points, a 1.12 assists-per-game average and a 1.77 points-per-game average. He also won 51.1 percent of his faceoffs. Eichel was the captain for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. He finished in the top 10 in seven categories during fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine, more than any other player.

Type of player: Franchise center

3. Dylan Strome, Erie (OHL): Strome, No. 4 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, led the OHL with 84 assists and 129 points in 68 regular-season games. He was awarded the William Hanley Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the OHL. Strome (6-3, 185), the brother of New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome, had 14 goals and 29 points in 20 games while McDavid was out because of a hand injury and time spent with Canada at the WJC. Strome had 10 goals and 22 points in 20 playoff games.

Type of player: Playmaking center

4. Mitchell Marner, London (OHL): Marner (5-11, 160), No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was second in the OHL with 82 assists and 126 points in 63 games. He has 128 assists and 185 points in 127 career OHL games. Prior to sustaining an upper-body injury April 9, the right-hander had nine goals and 16 points in seven OHL playoff games. He's often compared to former Knights player and current Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.

Type of player: Offensive playmaker

5. Pavel Zacha, Sarnia (OHL): The Czech Republic native is relentless on the puck and creates scoring chances for teammates with his strength and smart decisions. Zacha (6-3, 210), No. 8 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 16 goals, 34 points and a plus-5 rating in 37 games. He exhibited good puck control, a strong work ethic and a great shot. He represented his country at the 2015 WJC.

Type of player: Offensive power forward

6. Travis Konecny, Ottawa (OHL): The right-hander, who can play center and right wing, jumped 12 spots from the midterm rankings to No. 14 on Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters. Konecny (5-10, 175), the 2014 OHL Rookie of the Year, had 29 goals and 68 points in 60 regular-season games in 2014-15. "He's a skilled forward who plays bigger than his size and is not afraid to get involved in traffic and puck battles," Marr said.

Type of player: Two-way forward

7. Mathew Barzal, Seattle (WHL): The 5-11, 175-pound right-hander had 45 assists and 57 points in 44 regular-season games; he missed nearly three months because of a fractured kneecap but returned and scored four goals in six Western Hockey League playoff games. In two seasons with the Thunderbirds, Barzal has 85 assists and 111 points in 103 regular-season games. Barzal, No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's final North American skater ranking, has great puck-handling skills and plays a solid two-way game.

Type of player: Playmaking forward

8. Joel Eriksson Ek, Farjestad (SWE): The 6-2, 180-pound left-hander, No. 4 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters, began the season with Farjestad's junior team but took advantage of an opportunity with Farjestad's team in the Swedish Hockey League and had four goals and six points in 34 games. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb called Eriksson one of the biggest surprises in Sweden this season. "A real competitive, mobile center who knows his defensive duties," Stubb said. "He has great vision, a good shot and is a great playmaker and a real sniper."

Type of player: Two-way forward

9. Jansen Harkins, Prince George (WHL): Harkins (6-1, 182), a smart, skilled, finesse player with very good puck skill and vision, led the Cougars with 79 points in 70 regular-season games in 2014-15. He excels on the penalty kill because he's relentless in pursuit of the puck. Harkins, No. 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final North American skater ranking, has 30 goals and 113 points in 142 games in two full seasons with Prince George.

Type of player: Two-way forward

10. Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown (QMJHL): The Czech Republic native had 33 goals, 42 assists and 10 power-play goals in 64 regular-season games and was second on the Islanders in scoring with 75 points. In nine Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff games he had one goal and nine points. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound lefty, No. 18 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 24 multipoint games this season, including six in March when he had six goals and 14 points in nine games.

Type of player: Two-way forward