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Prospects to Watch: 2015 NHL Draft

by Mike Lewis / Florida Panthers
With the 11th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, the Florida Panthers are in a position with many available options. The following list is comprised of prospects that NHL Central Scouting has listed as potential players who could be selected at 11. 

RW Mikko Rantanen

Team: TPS – SM-Liiga

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 211 lbs.

Born: October 29, 1996 in Nousianen, Finland

Final Rank: 1 (European)

The big-bodied, Finnish winger recently completed his third season in the SM-Liiga, notching 28 points (9-19—28) in 56 games. Rantanen represented Team Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, scoring four goals in five games.

NHL Central Scouting Report

Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb:

“He’s a physically strong power forward with very good playmaking abilities, smart, active and involved on every shift. He has very good speed and quickness for a big man and plays with authority. He’s difficult to check, protects the puck well and has good hands.”

C Pavel Zacha

Team: Sarnia Sting – OHL

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 210 lbs.

Born: April 6, 1997 in Brno, Czech Republic

Final Rank: 8 (North American)

Finishing his first season in North America, Zacha recorded 34 points (16-18—34) in 37 games with Sarnia. Spending the majority of the 2013-14 season playing for Liberec in the Czech league, Zacha played alongside longtime NHLer Petr Nedved. The 18-year old center plays an aggressive style and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.

NHL Central Scouting Report

Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards:

“He's got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor; he plays an excellent two-way game. He's physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck."

D Zachary Werenski

Team: U-Michigan – BIG-10

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 206 lbs.

Born: July 19, 1997 in Grosse Pointe, MI

Final Rank: 9 (North American)

Werenski posted a solid freshman campaign with the University of Michigan, recording 25 points (9-16—25) in 35 games to lead the team’s defensemen in scoring. A product of the USNTDP U-17, Werenski was a big part of a Wolverines defense core that includes Florida Panthers prospect Michael Downing (2013 4/97).

NHL Central Scouting Report

Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen:

"He's such a cool, calm and collected player. He's smart, always in the right spot, moves the puck and makes all the right plays.”

F Timo Meier

Team: Halifax Mooseheads – QMJHL

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 209 lbs.

Born: October 8, 1996 in Herisau, Switzerland

Final Rank: 10 (North American)

Meier finished the season as Halifax’s second-leading scorer notching 90 points (44-46—90) in 61 regular season games. Meier’s regular season success translated to the playoffs as he notched 21 points (10-11—21) in 14 postseason contests. The Swiss winger represented his home country at the 2015 World Junior Championship and notched six points (2-4—6) in six games.

NHL Central Scouting Report

Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr:

"He's a solid and strong skater both with and without the puck, has high-end hockey sense and reads the play very well. He is very effective in 1-on-1 situations."

C Mathew Barzal

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds – WHL

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 175 lbs.

Born: May 26, 1997 in Coquitlam, BC

Final Rank: 11 (North American)

A smooth-skating playmaker, Barzal entered major junior as the No.1 overall Draft choice in the WHL Bantam Draft back in 2012. Despite suffering an injury mid-season, Barzal still managed to post 57 points (12-45—57) in 44 games, before notching eight points (4-4—8) in six postseason contests with Seattle.

NHL Central Scouting Report

Central Scouting’s John Williams:

"He's the best skater I've seen in the WHL in terms of his east-west game while creating time and space with his feet. He has great vision and puck skills.”

D Jakub Zboril

Team: Saint John Sea Dogs –QMJHL

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 184 lbs.

Born: February 21, 1997 in Brno, Czech Republic

Final Rank: 12 (North American)

From the same hometown as fellow 2015 prospect, Zacha, Zboril also made the jump to North America this season, posting 33 points (13-20—33) in 44 games for Saint John. Zboril’s 13 goals set a Sea Dogs franchise record for goals among rookie defensemen.

Curtis Joe of

"Jakub Zboril is a smart, fleet-footed two-way defenseman that plays to his strengths in all three areas of the ice. While he doesn't aim to impress, he does all of the little things right and plays with an edge."

LW Kyle Connor

Team: Youngstown Phantoms – USHL

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 177 lbs.

Born: December 9, 1996 in Clinton Township, MI

Final Rank: 13 (North American)

Committed to play for his hometown University of Michigan next season, Connor possesses great speed and the ability to excel at both ends of the ice, recording back-to-back 74 point seasons for the Phantoms, Connor improved at both ends of the ice this season and earned both the USHL Player of the Year award and Forward of the Year award.

NHL Central Scouting Report

NHL Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen:

"He's a solid two-way player and plays hard in both zones. Nice stride and quickness and good in tight with the puck.”

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