Mock drafts are popular this time of year, and we’ve decided to do something a little different at the Nation this summer. Instead of presenting our picks, we’ll show consensus rankings and offer up scouting reports, than ask our readers to vote on the order they would select those players in.
We start with the top-10 selections.
The list order below is based on a weighted draft ranking done by NHL Numbers. The scouting reports are my own and are intended as summaries of other sources, including TSN, The Hockey News, Hockey Prospectus, Future Considerations as well as others.
The Consensus Picks
1. Seth Jones (WHL: 61GP, 14-42-56). 6’4”, 205-pound defender is expected to emerge as a complete player. He’s highly mobile (he skates well, not just well for a big man), has real puck skills, and his ability to read and react seems to be universally praised. If there’s a drawback, it’s that he isn’t known for playing with a lot of edge, though nobody seems to question his ability to play a physical game.
2. Nathan MacKinnon (QMJHL: 44GP, 32-43-75). Just barely old enough to be eligible for this year’s draft, MacKinnon lacks ideal size (6’, 182 pounds) but that’s basically all he lacks. He’s an elite-level scorer, a fantastic skater, and despite his average frame he plays a power game and his work ethic gets rave reviews. His defence, as with most young players, will need to improve over time.
3. Jonathan Drouin (QMJHL: 49GP, 41-64-105). MacKinnon and Drouin are neck-and-neck, and in some eyes the left wing has outshone his centre. The Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus both rank Drouin ahead of MacKinnon, and given his offensive numbers it’s easy to understand why. He’s a fantastic scorer and has what Craig Button calls “exceptional intelligence.”
4. Aleksander Barkov (FIN: 53GP, 21-27-48). Like MacKinnon, Barkov is extremely young – both players are only two weeks removed from a spot in the 2014 NHL Draft. The 6’2” centre excelled in the Finnish men’s league, and his on-ice vision and ability to read a play – both offensively and defensively – get top marks. His skating isn’t at the same level as other players in this draft, however. Read more at Flames Nation.
5. Valeri Nichushkin (KHL: 18GP, 4-2-6). The 6’3” winger combines high-level skating with a power forward frame, and his abilities with the puck mean he may end up being an elite NHL winger; some have even said that he’s a contender for the top spot based on his tools. Nichushkin committing to playing in the NHL means KHL fears are lessened. Hockey sense gets mixed reviews – sometimes even by the same scout, as The Hockey News quotes one who questioned Nichushkin’s decision-making early in the year but ultimately decided he had excellent vision. Defensively, he’s not seen as a strong player and his scoring numbers (15 points in 43 KHL regular season and playoff games) are underwhelming. Read more at Oilers Nation and Flames Nation.
6. Elias Lindholm (SWE: 48GP, 11-19-30). Another player with average size, Lindholm can play both centre and wing. His scoring numbers in Sweden are exceptional, but scouting reports suggest he may not have the same offensive threshold as others in this draft. Where he excels is as a two-way player – the combination of high-level skating and extreme intelligence on the ice make him projectable as an all-situations player; Future Considerations went so far as to compare him to Patrice Bergeron and Henrik Zetterberg. Read more at Flames Nation.
7. Sean Monahan (OHL: 58GP, 31-47-78). Monahan’s two-way game gets strong marks, but his offensive ceiling simply isn’t as high as the players ranked above him. Playmaking, size (6’2”, 187 pounds) and intelligence are all regarded as strengths; speed is the most significantly mentioned weakness while some question his scoring ability. Read more at Oilers Nation and Flames Nation.
8. Darnell Nurse (OHL: 68GP, 12-29-41). He’s big (6’4”, 185 according to the NHL; I’ve seen him listed anywhere from 6’3” to 6’5”), and at least as importantly he’s mean – he plays with more of an edge (both hitting and fighting) than any of the other top-ranked players in the draft this year. He’s not a one-trick pony, either; he makes a good first pass (though he isn’t likely to be a high-end offensive defenceman) and provides solid coverage in the defensive zone. Read more at Oilers Nation.
9. Hunter Shinkaruk (WHL: 64GP, 37-49-86). He can skate, and he can score goals, and that’s a highly attractive blend of skills for NHL teams. The winger lacks ideal size (5’10”, 181 pounds) and his defensive game is apparently something of a mess, but he doesn’t lack courage.
10. Rasmus Ristolainen (FIN: 52GP, 3-12-15). The 6’3” Ristolainen has a wide range of skills, but most of them at the ‘good not great’ threshold. He is a good skater, makes a good first pass, plays well in the defensive zone, but he’s not seen as an elite-level player in any of those areas. Some reports also suggest a fear that he may struggle with the speed of the NHL game, given the more passive nature of the game on European ice. He projects as a two-way defenceman.
On The Outside
11. Nikita Zadorov (OHL: 63GP, 6-19-25). Another big defenceman (6’4”, 200 pounds according to the NHL site; most media outlets list him at 6’5”, 230 pounds), Zadorov is seen as a bit of a project. He’s a dominant physical player and extremely strong, and he fares well enough in other areas – he skates well given his size, makes a reasonable first pass – to be of real interest. The trouble is that while he has a lot of tools they haven’t come together yet; he’s raw defensively and lacks high-end offensive upside. If it all comes together, though, he could be an elite shutdown defender.
12. Ryan Pulock (WHL: 61GP, 14-31-45). Nobody doubts his elite shot, and he Pulock has a strong puck-moving abilities, too. The trouble is his size and skating both fall into the average range, and there are mixed reports on his defensive play, which seems to be solid but unexceptional.
13. Adam Erne (QMJHL: 68GP, 28-44-72). The winger is a good skater, he’s strong on the puck, and he has goal-scoring ability. He isn’t seen as a strong offensive player otherwise, and he isn’t a high-end player in any category, but he has a well-rounded skillset. One scout The Hockey News quoted indicated that fitness might be an issue right now, but that he had potential to be even better if he his conditioning improved.
14. Josh Morrissey (WHL: 70GP, 15-32-47). Size is the issue here – the WHL defenceman is listed at 5’11”, 182 pounds. Otherwise there is a lot to like: he’s smart, he’s an excellent skater, his offensive tools are good and he relishes playing a physical game.
15. Max Domi (OHL: 64GP, 39-48-87). Smallish winger is an “offensive dynamo” and gets pegged by The Hockey News as a power forward despite generally being listed at 5’9” or 5’10” because he plays such a fearless game (he’s also expected to play at 200 pounds or more at the NHL level). His effort level is questioned by some, and Future Considerations says that “self-control and maturity are still a work in progress.”
16. Curtis Lazar (WHL: 72GP, 38-23-61). Lazar gets high marks for character and defensive play; he’s also seen as good skater and a safe pick. The question is how much offence he will generate in the NHL, because despite strong goal-scoring numbers he is seen by some as a player who lacks the creativity to be a top-six forward in the NHL. Read more at Oilers Nation.
17. Anthony Mantha (QMJHL: 67GP, 50-39-89). The 6’4” winger skates well and is a one-shot scorer, but he doesn’t play the physical game scouts would like to see. He’s also at the old end of the draft curve (he missed being eligible for the 2012 Draft by less than a weak) and outside of his shot he’s not seen as overly creative offensively by the consensus.
18. Frederik Gauthier (QMJHL: 62GP, 22-38-60). A 6’5” centre who skates well for his size, Gautheir gets good grades as a defensive forward and an intelligent player. What he lacks is a willingness to play a tough physical game, and his offence is open to question.
19. Bo Horvat (OHL: 67GP, 32-28-60). Horvat’s trending upward since the NHL Numbers consensus rankings because he can do it all. He’s tough, plays a 200-foot game, scores goals and skates, too. The only question is how high is ceiling is offensively.
20. Alexander Wennberg (SWE2: 46GP, 14-18-32). 6’1” forward can play either wing or centre; he skates well, has good offensive tools and hockey sense that makes him both a threat to score and a good defensive forward. He needs to add bulk to his frame.
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