2015 NHL Draft Preview: Team Depth Picks 21-30


2015 NHL Draft Preview: Team Depth Picks 21-30

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 third post will cover picks 21-30 of the draft. Part One can be found here and part two can be found here.

No. 21 Overall – Buffalo Sabres

While we’ve touched on a decent forward group and a very young defensive core, the Sabres have basically zero goaltending depth. As of right now they have one goaltender, Chad Johnson, signed for next year. Johnson is a journeyman who had a rough year last year but is at best a backup.

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With nobody ready or near ready in the pipeline, the Sabres are going to have to sign or trade for a goalie. While the Sabres could go for an Antti Niemi as a UFA or try to trade for someone like Corey Crawford or Jimmy Howard, the best route may be to go for a young goalie looking for playing time. With Ottawa signing Andrew Hammond, Robin Lehner is now a 23-year-old odd man out, signed to a reasonable contract and with some NHL success behind him. Another option may be James Reimer, while he’s older he’s played more games and is used to playing behind a bad defence.

With a decent forward young group, the Sabres have to either trade for some defensive help or pick some up here in case some of their young defenders don’t pan out. That doesn’t mean the Sabres shouldn’t take the best player available, after all they’ll be bad next year too and could go after defensive help in the 2016 off-season, but they should lean defence if they feel two prospects are very close.

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

No. 22 Overall – Washington Capitals

Offence has never been a problem with this Capitals team, with big point producers up front in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer and Evgeny Kuznetsov leading the charge. On the back-end John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Mike Green put up big numbers, but Green is a UFA.

May 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period in game seven of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

They do have good young players like Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky while Tom Wilson is a hard checking power forward that can chip in. While their defence is older than those players, Niskanen, Carlson and Alzner are all on the right side of 30, with Brooks Orpik as the elder statesman at 34. They’re set in goal with RFA Braden Holtby stepping up last year and showing he was ready to be the guy. He then improved all of his numbers in the playoffs, putting up a .944 SV% and 1.71 GAA in 13 games, although it wasn’t enough.

They have some good young prospects in goal too, so there’s depth there, while Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey lead the list of big name prospects. They could use some improved depth at every position but goal, as well as more high upside prospects. Picking at No. 22 leaves the Capitals in an interesting position, as several high upside wingers exist that could be gone in the late teens. There’s some defenders available like Kylington, Zboril and Chabot but the tantalizing point totals will likely sway them to one of the wingers.

DRAFT – Jeremy Roy (D), Oliver Kylington (D), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jansen Harkins (C), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Paul Bittner (LW)

No. 23 Overall – Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks still have some real punch, as the Sedin twins and Radim Vrbata put up very good seasons. The secondary scoring has been lacking though, as Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen all seem to take turns struggling. They also look like a sure bet to lose Shawn Matthias, which will also hurt them. The good news is Bo Horvat had a very good rookie season.

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  • The defence has been average for the Canucks, but is still roughly all around 30 with some years left to contribute. But with both Sedins, Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa all between 32-34, the window in Vancouver is closing. Goalie Ryan Miller did not deliver to the level his contract says he should and was outplayed at times by Eddie Lack. With Jacob Markstrom ready to go in the minors, if the Canucks can move Miller, they should.

    I loved the trade for Sven Baertschi at the deadline last season. At 22 years old the former No. 13 overall pick has 30 points in 69 career NHL games spread out over four seasons. He’s never been given a real shot and has high upside offensively. Add into that Hunter Shinkaruk and Nicklas Jensen in the AHL and Jake Virtanen, Cole Cassels and Jared McCann in junior and the Canucks have some solid young forwards on the way, though a lack of high-end gamebreakers. They’ve got good depth in goal, with Markstrom ready to go and highly touted prospect Thatcher Demko playing well for Boston College. Defensively they’re prospect pool isn’t very strong, especially when it comes to offensive defenders who can move the puck. The Canucks should go for the best player available, leaning towards defence if similar prospects are on the board.

    DRAFT – Oliver Kylington (D), Jakub Zboril (D), Thomas Chabot (D), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Jansen Harkins (C)

    No. 24 Overall – Toronto Maple Leafs

    We covered the Maple Leafs roster more in depth at their No. 4 overall pick, but as a team in transition they’ll need to acquire as many high level assets as they can. In terms of overall depth on players likely to be sticking around, the Leafs likely only have one position that truly looks good and that’s right wing. Assuming Kessel is sticking around, they have Richard Panik already at the NHL level with a plethora of prospects on the way. Connor Brown lit it up in the AHL and look to have a bright future. The Leafs acquired Casey Bailey and Nikita Soshnikov last year and have high hopes for both.

    Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (62) takes a shot during the pre game warm up against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    If Nylander ends up an NHL centre it hurts the wing depth, but if not he’ll slot in on the right side too. The right side may also see a boost if the Leafs select Mitch Marner at four, who also looks likely to be a winger.

    Everywhere else there are big question marks. On the left side van Riemsdyk and Komarov are proven NHLers with Brendan Leipsic and Andreas Johnson the big prospects behind them, but neither expected to be in the NHL anytime soon. Centre really only sees Nazem Kadri and Peter Holland as likely to stick NHLers currently with the team, with Sam Carrick as a question mark for a fourth line role. The development of Frederik Gauthier and Carter Verhaeghe next year for the Marlies will be of high importance to the future of the club, as well as the possible centre depth of Dylan Strome, if they draft him.

    On defence the depth is a lot harder to project. While Phaneuf is already a top pairing defenceman and Morgan Rielly on his way there, a lot of the other depth defenders likely only reach bottom pairing status. The Leafs do have a lot of good young prospects like Viktor Loov, Stuart Percy and Tom Nilsson, they have a lot of question marks too. Matt Finn had a poor first season in the AHL and will look to bounce back while Rinat Valiev will look to do well in his first AHL season.

    The Leafs are going to look for the best player available and generally around this point that’s at forward.

    DRAFT – Paul Bittner (LW), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Nick Merkley (RW/C), Daniel Sprong (RW), Jakuv Zboril (D), Thomas Chabot (D)

    No. 25 Overall – Winnipeg Jets

    As previously stated, Winnipeg has a lot of holes to fill this year up front, but have a lot of prospects to fill them. This pick, or No. 17, could be moved as part of a deal for a player under contract that Winnipeg feels can contribute right now as a return to the playoffs is the obvious goal.

    Outside of the already talked about prospects, Winnipeg has some more young depth with players like Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, both acquired in the Evander Kane deal, looking like they’ll carve out a role for themselves in time.

    DRAFT – Paul Bittner (LW), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Thomas Chabot (D), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Brock Boeser (RW)

    No. 26 Overall – Montreal Canadiens

    Considering they have the best goaltender on the planet, the Canadiens have some shockingly obvious holes that were exploited again this year. While Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller are part of the new generation, this team still heavily relies on Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Andrei Markov.

    May 6, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman

    Jason Garrison

    (5) defends Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk (27) during the third period of game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Plekanec had a very good season last year but has some serious wear and tear on his body, while Markov’s days as an impact defender are coming to a close. Signing Jeff Petry long-term and continuing to develop Nathan Beaulieu helps on the back-end, but the Canadiens will need Galchenyuk and Eller to continue to improve to help ease the burden on Plekanec and Desharnais. The good news is that’s likely to happen, particularly for Galchenyuk, the bad news is that it has to happen, as there’s no impact depth at centre.

    Jacob de la Rose played alright last year but is a bottom six centre. They’ve got some interesting prospects at wing, particularly Nikita Scherbak and Charles Hudon, but the big depth is at goal. Price is only 27 and in his prime while backup Dustin Tokarski is a highly thought of backup and potential trade chip. After him is Zachary Fuacle, the gold medal goalie for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Jarred Tinordi is forcing his way onto the team which leaves Darren Dietz as the best prospect, which means they need some defensive depth. If Zboril, Chabot or Kylington are still available the Canadiens should consider them, but if not they’ll go for depth up front.

    DRAFT – Jakub Zboril (D), Oliver Kylington (D), Thomas Chabot (D), Paul Bittner (LW), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Brock Boeser (RW)

    No. 27 Overall – Anaheim Ducks

    The Ducks have grown into a real cup contender while drafting with late picks and finding talent. Of their 10 highest scoring players this year, only two were selected in the top 15 of any draft, and it wasn’t Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, it was Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler. While Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are all 30 years old, key contributors like Patrick Maroon, Rickard Rakell, Sami Vatanen, Emerson Etem, Jakob Silfverberg and Kyle Palmeri are young, with only Maroon over 24.

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    It’ll be interesting to see what the Ducks do with James Wisniewski, the $5.5-million healthy scratch in the playoffs that they traded for. He’s got a no movement clause but would likely welcome a trade elsewhere. The defence is anchored by the young guns, with Fowler, Lindholm and Vatanen all showing their worth. They may lose veteran Francois Beauchemin to unrestricted free agency but he may want to stay in the area. In goal Frederik Anderson is 25 and John Gibson is 21, so both have time to grab the number one role if they can.

    The Ducks have good prospects up front and on the back-end coming down the pipeline. Shea Theodore and Nick Ritchie are both high level prospects while they have plenty of depth in all positions. They lack top-tier talent, that’s to be expected when drafting so low so often, but they’ve got a lot of hard-working players who could develop into more. They’ll go with the best player on their board.

    DRAFT – Jeremy Bracco (RW), Paul Bittner (LW), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Brock Boeser (RW), Anthony Beauvillier (LW/C), Brandon Carlo (D)

    No. 28 Overall – Tampa Bay Lightning

    The Lightning one of the final two teams left this season, which should tell you how good they are. What you may not know is how good they’re going to be. Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Andrej Sustr, Cedric Paquette and Joanthan Drouin are all 25 or younger, not yet in their prime, and fill out the top nine on the team.

    Jun 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman

    Victor Hedman

    (77) battles for the puck with Chicago Blackhawks center

    Andrew Shaw

    (65) in the second period in game three of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    On defence Victor Hedman is going to be in the Norris conversation for the next decade and is only 24, while Anton Stralman is signed long-term and only 28 years old. Ben Bishop is also 28, while top goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis are 20 and 22 respectively. Fill that roster out with solid veterans and you have a cup contender for a long, long time.

    But what do the Bolts have on the way in the prospect pipeline? While Drouin has had an uninspiring start to his career and has been a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs, he did manage 32 points in 70 games. When he rounds into form defensively he may be a top-tier dynamic two-way winger. Adam Erne tore it up for the Quebec Remparts this year and will move to the AHL next season. While Vladislav Namestnikov has also seen limited action in the playoffs this year, he was solid in 43 games as a rookie. Nikita Nesterov has 17 playoff games under his belt now after only 27 regular season games and looks like a dynamic young defender. They have other high tier picks like Slater Koekkoek and Anthony DeAngelo waiting in the wings on defence too. Vasilevskiy is one of the best young prospects in the league and after spending the majority of his season in the AHL he leapfrogged Evgeni Nabokov and took the backup role. Gudlevskis also leapfrogged Nabokov and if you’re not sure if you recognize his name, he was the goalie for Latvia that almost upset Canada at the Olympics. This team is stacked now and stacked in the future. Get used to seeing Tampa Bay.

    DRAFT – Jeremy Bracco (RW), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Brock Boeser (RW), Anthony Beauvillier (LW/C), Brandon Carlo (D)

    No. 29 Overall – Philadelphia Flyers

    The Flyers prospects are decently balanced, with centres and defencemen generally considered the most ready in the AHL. They have some goaltending depth but outside of Nick Cousins (C) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (RW) they may lack scoring punch. As such they should probably lean high upside forward here. If a goalie is going to go in the first round it will be very late, likely 29 or 30, and there’s a chance it could happen here. If that does happen Ilya Samsonov from Magnitogorsk is likely to be the first goalie.

    DRAFT – Jake DeBrusk (LW), Paul Bittner (LW), Brock Boeser (RW), Anthony Beauvillier (LW/C), Brandon Carlo (D), Ilya Samsonov (G)

    No. 30 Overall – Arizona Coyotes

    The Coyotes have Chicago’s first round pick from the Antoine Vermette trade. While we’ve talked about the Coyotes earlier at the third pick, the No. 30 pick will depend on who they select early and who’s left on the board. If they pick Hanifin than they may lean forward here and if they go with Marner or Strome they may lean defence, depending on who is still available.

    DRAFT – Oliver Kylington (D), Thomas Chabot (D), Brock Boeser (RW), Joel Eriksson Ek (C), Jake DeBrusk (LW), Paul Bittner (LW), Anthony Beauvillier (LW/C), Brandon Carlo (D), Ilya Samsonov (G)

    Next: 2015 NHL Draft Preview: Depth Picks 11-20