2015 NHL Draft Preview: Team Depth Picks 11-20


2015 NHL Draft Preview: Team Depth Picks 11-20

As part of our continuing coverage of the 2015 NHL Draft, we now break down each individual pick in the draft, who owns it, what their roster looks like and what prospects are on the way, before giving a rough idea of who should be taken by each team. This second post will cover picks No. 11-20 of the draft. Part one can be found here.

No. 11 Overall – Florida Panthers

For years the Panthers have been a young team acquiring assets and waiting for them to take that next step and last year they finally did, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. The good news is that the majority of their top nine forwards are either young, or incredibly young. Ignoring Dave Bolland, the centres for the Panthers are 22 (Nick Bjugstad), 19 (Aleksander Barkov), 24 (Brandon Pirri) and 21 (Vincent Trocheck). They have enough depth that they often have to shift Pirri or Trocheck to the wing. Jaromir Jagr came via trade last year and has proven to be the veteran influence that Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and the forward core in general, needed.

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On defence Aaron Ekblad was outstanding as a 19-year-old and other key contributors going forward include Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Alex Petrovic, all 24 or under. With veteran help on the blueline like Brian Campbell and Willie Mitchell, the Panthers have a good mix of youth and veterans. Roberto Luongo was very solid in goal as well, but at 36 years old, how long that lasts is up for debate.

A lot of the top prospects for the Panthers are already in the NHL, but Mike Matheson has been a good defender for Boston College and could push for NHL playing time this year. Rocco Grimaldi is a scoring winger who looked good in the AHL this year and Jayce Hawryluk had another solid year in the WHL. While the Panthers have a good mix of prospects, they lack a clear top goalie prospect, relying on veteran Dan Ellis in the AHL. Other than the issue in goal, they need scoring wingers to compliment their depth down the middle. They pick at a point in the draft where a lot of the top picks are centres, so if they don’t feel they can pick one who can shift to wing, they could move up or down to get the player they want.

DRAFT – Ivan Provorov (D), Zach Werenski (D), Evgeny Svechnikov (LW), Timo Meier (RW), Lawson Crouse (LW)

No. 12 Overall – Dallas Stars

The Stars were a consensus pick to be a fringe playoff team until poor goaltending dropped them out of the playoff race. The good news is that Kari Lehtonen is unlikely to play that poorly again, as he posted the worst GAA and SV% of his career. The Stars have a plethora of great young talent like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, with another very good tier of young players like Valeri Nichushkin and Cody Eakin.

Mar 30, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) screens Calgary Flames goalie Jonas Hiller (1) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Flames defeated the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A handful of vets help lockdown the forward group which has only six players under contract past this year, giving the Stars flexibility. John Klingberg was an excellent rookie defencemen last year while every other defender except Trevor Daley is on the right side of 30. They are a younger group and got majorly overhauled last year, so while the Stars could be in the bidding for a major off-season acquisition on the blue line, they may save their money and give their prospects a shot.

Julius Honka is their top prospect and had 31 points in Texas (AHL) as a 19-year-old, which is an excellent sign. He may get a sniff of the Stars blueline this year, but he’s still only 19 until December, so another year in the AHL is hardly bad for his development. The forward’s are far less ready, with their top prospects scattered throughout junior. Radek Faksa, the No. 13 overall pick back in 2012 has completely failed to develop at this point, and while he’s not a lost cause yet, he’s a bottom six player at best. The Stars should be drafting the best player available.

DRAFT – Pavel Zacha (C), Travis Konecny (C), Kyle Connor (C), Ivan Provorov (D), Zach Werenski (D), Timo Meier (RW)

No. 13 Overall – Los Angeles Kings

Slava Voynov cost the L.A. Kings the chance to defend their title this past year when he was suspended for the entire year with his caphit still counting. With $4.166 million wasted on a tight cap team, the Kings were forced to play five defencemen at times just to stay under the cap. Depending on if he can play next season or not, the Kings could find themselves in the same situation all over again.

The Kings are crazy tight to the cap, with $9 million to spend on Justin Williams, Jarrett Stoll, Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera, Jamie McBain, Nick Shore, Tyler Toffoli, Martin Jones and Andy Andreoff. That’s simply not going to happen. Even if they let Williams and Regehr walk and buyout Mike Richards, it may still not be enough just to ressamble the team that didn’t make the playoffs last year. For teams that have salary cap room to spare, moving in with an offer sheet on Toffoli or Jones could prove cost effective, as could making a deal to grab either player.

In terms of prospects the Kings have a few good prospects but nothing earth shattering. Their two best prospects may be at right wing and neither played in the AHL last season, so their debuts are far from imminent. They do have some cheap talent in the AHL but generally only lower tier that they may have to deploy on the cheap to plug holes. The Kings will go for the best player available.

DRAFT – Travis Konecny (C), Kyle Connor (C), Evgeny Svechniko (LW), Timo Meier (RW), Jeremy Roy (D)

No. 14 Overall – Boston Bruins

The Bruins finally missed the playoffs and an off-season that looked to see changes, starting with a coaching change, has already had mixed results. Claude Julien will be back next year, after it was heavily reported that he wouldn’t, which may show some division in the Bruins’ brass. That’s not a great sign considering this off-season will likely involve a high-profile trade.

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Per generalfanager.com the Bruins have $4.881 million in cap space, based on last years cap. They have three RFA’s to sign, including the likely to be expensive Dougie Hamilton and the recently acquired Brett Connolly, but even with signing them they’d still be short of six defencemen. That likely means one of Milan Lucic or Loui Eriksson are on their way out, as expensive players with only one year left on their deal.

The good news is the Bruins forward core is still young, with Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Lucic and Eriksson all in their primes, while Connolly and David Pastrnak are still young. Defence is another story, where they’re likely to lose Adam McQuiad and Matt Bartkowski to free agency and are tied to Zdeno Chara, whose 38, for three more years. In goal they’re set with Tuukka Rask, one of the best goalies in the world.

Boston has some good prospects, but not a lot of them. Part of that is their first round pick last year, David Pastrnak, leapfrogging to the NHL already. They’re best two prospects are in goal and at centre, positions of strength already for the team, which means they’ll need to lean towards the wing and defence on draft day. They’ve also been heavily rewarded for leaning towards high upside with Pastrnak, so they could go that route again.

DRAFT – Evgeny Svechnikov (LW), Timo Meier (RW), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jeremy Roy (D)

No. 15 Overall – Calgary Flames

The Flames defied the critics by advancing to the second round of the playoffs despite some horrible puck possession numbers. While some view this as a failing of the analytics community, here’s some context.

They made if that far with some good goaltending and some inspired play, despite missing their captain Mark Giordano for a big chunk of the season. So there’s some real good there. The Flames are relatively young, especially up front.

Nine Flames forwards had 20 or more points and of them only Jiri Hudler (31) and David Jones (30) are over 30. Their top young guns, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are 21 and 20 respectively, painting a bright future for the Flames.

On defence Giordano is a top tier defender and a Norris calibre player with Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie and Kris Russell all able to chip in a lot of points from the blueline. Jonas Hiller did exactly what he was brought in to do, play at least league average in net and give the Flames a chance to win. The Flames also have a lot of cap space to invest in some veteran talent and while they do have a handful of bad contracts, none of them are long. They’ll also have plenty of cap room to pay Gaudreau and Monahan after their rookie deals expire this season.

They have some very good forward depth on the way in Sam Bennett, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk as well as some respectable depth on defence and in goal at the AHL level. While the Flames can draft whoever they feel is the best player available, they should lean slightly towards defence and could use help at right wing.

DRAFT – Timo Meier (RW), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jeremy Roy (D), Oliver Kylington (D)

No. 16 Overall – Edmonton Oilers

Laurent Brossoit is the only goalie of substance in the pipeline and while he was solid at 22 playing for Oklahoma City, he doesn’t look like an NHL starter. That being said there’s not a goalie in this year’s draft class that looks like a first rounder. Edmonton does have help coming soon in the form of Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse, but the rest of the Edmonton prospects are middle of the road.

Mar 30, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) skates past Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) during the third period at Pepsi Center. The Oilers won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

After all, the rebuild hasn’t taken this long because Edmonton whiffed on Eberle or Hall, it’s because they whiffed on all the late round picks. With Edmonton seemingly solidified for the next decade down the middle, with McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl, they’ll likely lean to either the wing of defence with this pick.

DRAFT – Evgeny Svechnikov (LW), Timo Meier (RW), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jeremy Roy (D), Oliver Kylington (D)

No. 17 Overall – Winnipeg Jets

While the Cinderella story got crushed in the post-season, Jets fans should be very eager to see what the future brings to a promising core with high level talent on the way. Wheeler, Ladd and Perreault are all in their prime up front while Jacob Trouba looks to be a standout patrolling the blueline for years to come. Throw in Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Toby Enstrom and the Jets have a solid defence.

The Jets currently only have seven forwards signed for next year, giving them a lot of flexibility and holes to fill. The issue may again be goaltending, as Ondrej Pavelec had his best season and was simply okay down the stretch.

In terms of prospects the Jets are filthy rich. Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan are high level offensive forwards, albeit undersized. That’s not a huge concern on a team like Winnipeg where cheap shots won’t be tolerated. Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek look like they’ll be solid NHLers on defence and Connor Hellebuyck had the best SV% and GAA at the World Championships when he led USA to the bronze. That’s not to mention they also have Eric Comrie who has a fine season in the WHL, looked like he belonged in the AHL in three games and was solid at the World Juniors. The Jets have a well-balanced pipeline and will select whoever they view as the best prospect available. That also makes this pick one that other teams could look to acquire to move up.

DRAFT – Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jansen Harkins (C), Colin White (C), Jeremy Roy (D)

No. 18 Overall – Ottawa Senators

While the Senators showcased some of their young talent last year, with Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman grabbing headlines and Curtis Lazar also nailing down a place on the roster, the overall core of the team should showcase what the Sens are building around.

Apr 11, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) scores his second goal of the game during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Ottawa won the game 3-1 and clinched a playoff spot. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Turris is only 25 and Mika Zibanejad is only 22. Throw in Alex Chiasson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau and you have seven forwards under the age of 26. On defence they’re much older, with only Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch under 26.

Three of the best prospects in the Ottawa system all play left wing, with Nick Paul putting up solid numbers in the OHL and at the World Juniors, while Matt Puempel and Shane Price looked good in the AHL. Ottawa has several solid if unspectacular defencemen in the pipeline and some goalie depth. They’re sitting in a well enough balanced position to look for the best player available, with a lean towards defencemen, particularly offensive ones if available.

DRAFT – Jeremy Roy (D), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Oliver Kylington (D), Colin White (C), Jakub Zboril (D)

No. 19 Overall – Detroit Red Wings

While the Red Wings are going through a small retool with their roster, the big retool will be behind the bench. The forward group has a good mix of veterans and youth, with superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg leading the newcomers of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan.

The defence isn’t as good, though. Of the five returning defenders already signed, three of them are under 30. They’re missing a true number two, which is why the Red Wings were interested in Phaneuf at the trade deadline last year. If they can shed some salary, shoring up the defence will be the focus. The easiest way to shed that salary is to move Jimmy Howard. Petr Mrazek was better in the regular season last year and got the nod in the playoffs which makes the $5.29 million salary of Howard something the Wings would like to move.

The Red Wings have a well-balanced prospect pool, with high-end wingers in Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha as well as a plethora of defenders that may be ready to move up to the NHL. They’ve graduated several contributors in the last few years while others like Landon Ferraro and Teemu Pulkkinen are just breaking in now. They don’t have a great goalie prospect, mostly because Mrazek just came up, but that’s not a huge concern right now. Detroit drafts very well and it shows when you consider they never have high picks but always find good talent. As such Detroit is always a candidate to move down if they feel they can get another pick and an equal level prospect further down.

DRAFT – Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jeremy Roy (D), Timo Meier (RW), Evgeny Svechnikov

No. 20 Overall – Minnesota Wild

The Wild rode Devan Dubnyk as far as they could while he put up Vezina level numbers and now the question remains how good is this team going forward. Clearly they have to resign Dubnyk now, but was this a 39 game blip or has he truly taken his game to a new level?

Up front the Wild have some big names capable of hanging with any team in the West and it starts with Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu.

May 5, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) clears the puck during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks in game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

All of those guys are over 30, though, and this is a team that may need to get younger. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter are good starts, with all three putting up consistent seasons over the last two years, but more young impact players are necessary. On defence the Wild are solid, led by Ryan Suter, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Only Matt Dumba is still signed, so the Wild may be in the mix for free agent defenders, though they have very limited cap space.

Minnesota has some good prospects waiting in the wings but very few great ones. Their system has a lot of two-way players and depth, though they need more at both wings, but a real lack of elite level talent. They really need to draft high upside and go for the best player available.

DRAFT – Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jeremy Roy (D), Evgeny Svechnikov, Paul Bittner (LW), Jake DeBrusk (LW)

Could the Maple Leafs move up to get a better prospect and which of the four Canadian teams in a row, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg or Ottawa will get a better prospect? Part Three will publish tomorrow.

Next: 2015 NHL Draft Preview: Team Depth Picks 1-10