The first two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft seem to be obvious locks, but from there the rest of the league is eagerly anticipating the results of Friday’s selection process at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
At No. 1 overall the Edmonton Oilers, who own the coveted spot for the fourth time in the last six years, are expected to select Erie Otters center and “once-in-a-generation” prospect Connor McDavid and the Buffalo Sabres should use the second pick on Boston University center Jack Eichel.
Hailing from Newmarket, Ontario, the 18-year-old McDavid further cemented his status as the draft’s most coveted player with 120 points to guide the Otters to third in the OHL’s Western Conference and totaled 21 goals and 28 assists over 20 games in the playoffs.
Eichel, also 18, figures to be the first American taken this high in the draft in eight years after dominating the college world with 71 points and helping the Terriers reach the NCAA championship game. He was also just the second freshman to take home the Hobey Baker Award.
But once McDavid and Eichel hear their names called, it’s quite murky how the rest of the draft will unfold. The Arizona Coyotes are next up at No. 3, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 4, and the Carolina Hurricanes at No. 5.
In the mix for the top five are center Dylan Strome, an Otter teammate of McDavid’s, Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, and centers Mitcher Marner and Pavel Zacha of the OHL.
Arizona, one of five teams with two picks in the first round, is coming off its third straight losing season after finishing with the second-worst record in the league. The Coyotes were 29th in goals scored and 28th in goals allowed, and thus a case could be made for any of the three centers or Hanifin to bolster a beleaguered defense.
The Sabres originally held both the No. 2 and No. 21 picks, but they consummated a trade with the Ottawa Senators Friday, sending goalie Robin Lehner and center David Legwand to Buffalo for the 21 st selection, according to ESPN.
The Maple Leafs make their first pick in head coach Mike Babcock’s era after failing to make the postseason for the second straight year and ninth time out of the last 10 seasons. Like the Coyotes, help is needed all over the ice, but with leading scorer and winger Phil Kessel potentially on the move, taking a fresh young scorer might best serve Toronto’s rebuilding process.
The first round will all take place Friday, and rounds two to seven begin at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Sportsnet in Canada and NBC Sports Network in the U.S., which you can find for your cable or satellite provider here, with the first round. The second day can be watched on Sportsnet and the NHL Network.
Live Online: NBC Live Extra