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Super 16: Second place in '15 draft not bad place to be

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

Connor McDavid's credentials to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft are beyond reproach. The sensational center for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League is one of the most-hyped prospects of the past 25 years, reaching a level only Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby and maybe John Tavares have.

Jack Eichel's resume is also pretty great. The freshman forward at Boston University is also one of the best prospects to enter the draft of the past quarter century. He'd have a chance to go No. 1 in any of the seasons since Tavares was picked in 2009, but he's likely destined to be the second half of the "McEichel" sweepstakes.

Craig Custance from ESPN.com recently wrote about the astronomical price another team would have to pay if whoever gets the No. 1 pick would consider moving it and passing on the chance to add McDavid. One general manager, Tim Murray of the Buffalo Sabres, told Custance on the record he'd try to trade for the No. 1 pick if the Sabres end up in the No. 2 spot.

While that is not meant to be a slight against Eichel, it might also not be the best move for whichever GM ends up with the No. 2 pick. Eichel is having an incredible season, leading the NCAA in scoring despite being one of the youngest players in the country.

He's putting up numbers no freshman has since Paul Kariya played for Maine 22 years ago, and that was during a more high-scoring era. Check out the accompanying table that shows McDavid and Eichel against some of their top comparables.

Player, League, Year Games Goals Points Points/game League goals/game
Mario Lemieux, QMJHL, 1983-84 70 133 282 4.03 10.02
Eric Lindros, OHL, 1990-91 57 71 149 2.61 8.95
Sidney Crosby, QMJHL, 2004-05 62 66 168 2.71 6.38
John Tavares, OHL, 2008-09 56 58 104 1.86 6.86
Connor McDavid, OHL, 2014-15 45 43 115 2.56 6.98
 
Paul Kariya, NCAA, 1992-93 39 25 100 2.56 N/A
Thomas Vanek, NCAA, 2003-04 45 31 62 1.38 6.28
Phil Kessel, NCAA, 2005-06 39 18 51 1.31 5.86
Jonathan Toews, NCAA, 2005-06 42 22 39 0.93 5.86
Jack Eichel, NCAA, 2014-15 34 20 61 1.79 5.40

For McDavid, it's pretty simple. He has Crosby-like potential, and he could be the best player in the world within a few years in the NHL.

For Eichel, it's a little different. He has all of the tools to be a franchise center, and no one has dominated college hockey like this at that age in a long time. He's already playing against men, opponents who are 21, 22, even 23 or 24 years old. He's also essentially a high school senior masquerading as a college freshman because of his birth date. There's little reason to think Eichel wouldn't be torching OHL defenses as well, but comparing college players to junior players can be tricky.

What are the chances Eichel has a better career than McDavid? It's probably a little higher than most people think at this stage. It's subjective, but from 1980-2009, 13 of the 30 No. 2 picks either had better careers, are having better ones as active players or it is too close to call (try picking between Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, for example).

Even when the No. 1 guy is better, players like Evgeni Malkin and Jason Spezza have been pretty excellent consolation prizes.

In a year where there is a big drop between No. 1 and 2 (think Crosby in 2005), it might have made sense for a team at No. 2 to try and tempt the franchise above them to swap picks. In a draft class like this, with two potential franchise players (at least), yielding other quality young assets to move up one spot in the draft really could backfire.

If the Penguins had traded up in 2004, they might have been able to draft Alex Ovechkin. (Photo: Getty Images)

Imagine if the Pittsburgh Penguins had traded up in 2004. What might it have cost them, beyond Malkin, to land Alex Ovechkin? Or the Los Angeles Kings to move up in 2008 to get Stamkos?

Teams have moved off the top of the draft board, but it has almost always been in a year where there wasn't a consensus about the No. 1 pick. Everyone knows who the No. 1 guy is this year, so the price tag would likely be enormous.

Custance suggested a package that started with a player like Stamkos might keep the conversation about the No. 1 pick from being a short one. Buffalo, Arizona and Edmonton are the three teams most likely to land at No. 2, so what would they have to pay to move up?

Would it be worth it for the Coyotes if they had to start a package with Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (and the pick for Eichel, of course)? What about Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl for the Oilers?

This has happened before. The Philadelphia Flyers traded for Lindros in one of the biggest trades in NHL history. That trade helped one franchise win the Stanley Cup twice, but it wasn't the Flyers.

McDavid could be a Hockey Hall of Fame member someday, but Eichel could be at that level as well. For any of the teams that could end up with the second pick, they should probably be happy with Eichel and plan on building around him.

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks just held the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division to one goal between them. Chicago is 8-1-1 since Patrick Kane was injured, and has yielded 14 goals in that span. The Blackhawks are allowing three more scoring chances per 60 minutes (27.7, compared to 24.7, according to war-on-ice.com) since Kane was injured, but the goaltending has been superb and they're still creating lots of chances (29.6 per 60 minutes, up from 29.4 pre-Kane injury).

2. St. Louis Blues

For months the Blues and Blackhawks have been chasing the Nashville Predators in the standings, and it looked like another Chicago-St. Louis first-round matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was imminent. Now those two teams could be locked in a battle for a division title, and two games against Chicago in the final seven days of the season could end up being a lot of fun.

3. Los Angeles Kings

While the Kings brought back essentially the same roster from last season, this version does not have the 2014 editions of Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards. That center depth is part of what made the Kings champs, but Richards is in the American Hockey League and Stoll has struggled. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, a great defense corps and Darryl Sutter's suffocating system masks that to a degree, but they might not be better than everyone down the middle this postseason.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

Regular-season results don't mean a whole lot once the playoffs start. That said, the Lightning are 7-0-0 against the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers this season, have won six of the seven in regulation and outscored the two teams most likely to be division champions by a combined 31-11 margin.

5. New York Rangers

The Rangers are 30-8-4 since Dec. 6. That's more than half a season of incredible dominance, and to have gone a chunk of that without Henrik Lundqvist is even more remarkable. They are 18th in the NHL since Dec. 6 in shot attempts percentage (and 18th in War on Ice's scored-adjusted SAT%). They have relied on their goaltender for their success more than any other team in the NHL except for the Montreal Canadiens.

No team has finished in the bottom half of the League in SAT% and won the Stanley Cup since 2005-06. Two teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and Boston Bruins in 2011, were middle of the pack for the full season, but the Bruins were a top-eight team from Jan. 1 until the end of the season and the Penguins improved after Dan Bylsma arrived while also having the two best players in the world at the time produce the two best individual postseasons by points since 1996.

6. Detroit Red Wings

From the start of the season until early February, the Red Wings were the best team in the NHL at suppressing shot attempts. Detroit is 7-7-2 in its past 16 games, and during that period the Red Wings have slipped a little to the fifth-best team (behind Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and St. Louis).

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins are scoring goals at the lowest rate of the Crosby-Malkin era (save for 2010-11, when each superstar missed the final half of the season), but they are also preventing goals better than any season save for that one. They are averaging 0.3 goals more per 60 minutes for than allowed, which is the same differential Pittsburgh had in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

8. Anaheim Ducks

Among the 49 goaltenders with at least 750 minutes played (the guy with the fewest games on this list has 17), John Gibson is ninth in even-strength save percentage at .933. War on Ice breaks down shots into low, medium and high danger, and Gibson's breakdown is fascinating. He's first among those 49 goaltenders in low-danger save percentage at .992, but he's 43rd in high-danger save percentage at .804.

The Ducks are going to have a tough decision on which goaltender to start in the playoffs. Gibson has played well of late, but Frederik Anderson has been better on medium- and high-danger shots this season.

9. Minnesota Wild

The Wild, like the Rangers, are also obviously riding some hot goaltending. Minnesota is one spot behind the Rangers at 19th in SAT% since Jan. 1, but for the season they're still in the top half of the League. The way Devan Dubnyk is playing, one of those three teams in front of them in the Central Division isn't going to be all that excited about seeing the Wild to start the postseason.

10. Nashville Predators

The Predators are 2-8-1 since Feb. 24. In that span, they have the second-worst shooting percentage (all situations) and fifth-worst at even strength. Each is at 5.7 percent and should get better. The possession numbers still look good for the top forwards, but James Neal, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg have combined for two goals and five points.

11. Boston Bruins

The Ottawa Senators have gone on a huge run, but gained little ground on the Bruins. Boston is 8-2-2 since a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 20. Andrew Hammond has been incredible for the Senators, but the Bruins goaltenders have been just as good. Boston's save percentage in that span is .946, and .958 at even strength. Ottawa is at .961 in its 12 games since Feb. 22 and .955 at even strength.

12. Montreal Canadiens

It has not been a good month for the Canadiens. Since Feb. 20, the only team that has a lower percentage of scoring chances at even strength is the Buffalo Sabres. It didn't cost them at first because of Carey Price, but Montreal went 0-for-California and is 3-4-2 in March.

13. New York Islanders

That is four games, four goals and four losses with Nick Leddy missing from the lineup. The Islanders got Kyle Okposo back, but they clearly miss Leddy. The Rangers are now the clear favorites to win the Metropolitan Division, but the Islanders will be motivated to earn home-ice advantage in a potential opening-round matchup with the Penguins.

14. Washington Capitals

Since adding Curtis Glencross prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, the Capitals have tweaked how they deploy their forwards. Glencross has the highest percentage of defensive zone starts among the forwards since arriving, and his linemate Troy Brouwer is right there with him. The third line (Eric Fehr, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera) had typically absorbed the toughest start assignments. Glencross and Brouwer have been excellent possession players even with the tough assignments in their brief time together.

This could just be a small sample size/randomness thing. Glencross and Brouwer have already switched centers, which can change usage plans. It might be something to monitor moving forward though.

15. Ottawa Senators

Like P.K. Subban in Montreal, Erik Karlsson's strong play might be getting overshadowed a bit by the goaltender. Karlsson has been on the ice for 318 shot attempts by Ottawa since Hammond took over in net, which is 27 more than any other player in that span. He's in the top 10 in shot attempt percentage relative to his team's average among defensemen since Feb. 18, and he's 11th for the full season. He now has a four-point lead on Subban in the defensemen scoring race. This late-season charge might help his Norris Trophy chances, but he's deserved to be among the top candidates all season.

16. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have dealt with so many injuries, particularly on the back end and now they face a new opponent in their quest to reach the playoffs for the first time since moving from Atlanta: the schedule. There are four teams vying for three spots in the Western Conference.

The Calgary Flames have five games remaining against playoff contenders and seven against non-contenders, counting a game Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Vancouver Canucks have six against contenders and seven against non-contenders. Los Angeles has six against each.

Winnipeg has 10 games against contenders, including the game Thursday against the Blues, and two against non-contenders -- each on the road. It's not going to be easy for the Jets to make it.

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