FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Picks one and two in the 2015 NHL Draft are – essentially – already accounted for.
What happens after that is up for a lot of – and I mean a lot of – debate.
Starting with Kris Baker’s Top 30 here on Sabres.com, then digesting the lists of experts like Bob McKenzie and Craig Button at TSN.ca, and adding to that the work of my colleagues at The Hockey News, International Scouting Service (ISS) and Sportsnet… and then cross-referencing all of that with the comprehensive work done by NHL Central Scouting, you will no doubt come to the same conclusion:
Surprises will be in order Friday night during the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft here in Sunrise.
And what makes this all the more interesting for Sabres fans is the fact the club has two first-round selections, with the 21st overall pick very much up for debate.
Here are 10 names to keep in mind based on how others have them ranked – in many cases the rankings are dramatically different:
A defenseman who played on various teams in Sweden this season, a great skater who has been described as the biggest wildcard of this draft after not meeting expectations in his draft year. The scouts/analysts mentioned above see him going anywhere from 20th overall to potentially the back half of the second round.
A right winger who scored more than 30 goals with Waterloo (USHL) and is now taking the next step in his career at the University of North Dakota. Boeser can be seen on lists as Top-10 material, mid- to late-first round on others, or out of the top 30 altogether.
The 6-foot-4 left winger out of Kingston (OHL) is probably the most consistently, highly rated prospect on this short list but he’s not without intrigue. Much of the talk all season was the possibility of him cracking the Top 5. ISS still sees him there, but my recent interview with Gare Joyce of Sportsnet paints something more towards the middle of Round One.
As captain and a center for the Ottawa 67’s (OHL), Konecny seems impossible not to like. Under-sized but relentless, he starred in the CHL’s Top Prospects game this season. Yet the experts see him anywhere from 12th to the 20s to an early second-round selection. A couple of those scenarios could well be in the Sabres’ wheelhouse.
The games played were limited due to injury and illness (mono) for this center from the USA U-18 program, but his NHL-habits make him perhaps a safe selection. Ranked by most in the high teens, he did slip out of the first round on a couple of scorecards.
JOEL ERIKSSON EK
On Central Scouting’s ranking of International Skaters, Eriksson Ek trailed only Mikko Rantanen among forwards. TSN’s Craig Button - who has also has seen a ton of the European players, ranks this 6-foot-2 center at 13th overall. The majority have him in the 20’s. The consensus is that he is a terrific two-way player already.
With this 6-foot-4 left winger out of Portland (WHL), the NHL size is obvious, as is his ability to score (34-37-71 in 66 GP). But on three of the lists we’re looking at, he’s in the Top 20 – and on three others he’s not first round worthy.
This right winger is also 6-foot-4, but out of Chicoutimi (QMJHL). The Hockey News went high on Nic, pegging him at 18 on their list. But for many others he was barely in the Top 50, or not at all. Skating will be the question that follows Roy, until it’s answered at the NHL level.
MITCHELL VANDE SOMPEL
A Memorial Cup champion defenseman with Oshawa (OHL), Vande Sompel has the fewest first round projections on this list - only Button took the chance on him. At 5-foot-10, he averaged more than a point per game, but was the only one seen in this group as a potential third-round selection.
No list is complete without a goalie, especially since a former first rounder just won the Hart Trophy (among others)! A Russian, Samsonov (6-foot-3, 201 lbs) won’t be drafted as high as Carey Price (fifth overall in 2005) but he is garnering a lot of buzz as someone who could go mid-first (Button), mid-20s (Baker) or become the guy who starts the run on goalies sometime in the second round.