The Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders have it made. They’re set; they’re primed to take one of the much talked about top-5 prospects available in this year’s draft. From there, the consensus opinion across the hockey world is that there is a pool of a solid 40 prospects who make up the final 25 spots of the first-round.
While some will certainly be selected ahead of others, there’s still the possibility of a projected late first-rounder to go just after the top-10 have been called. With that in mind, let’s look at what exactly NHL teams are getting themselves into come Friday.
Ryan Strome (C) – Niagara IceDogs
In 2009-10, Strome recorded 27 points as he split time between the Barrie Colts and Niagara IceDogs. With an off-season to bulk up a bit and a clean slate with a new team, the Mississauga, Ontario product dominated for the IceDogs this past season. His 106 regular season points ranked him first among draft-eligible players and third overall in the OHL. As a playmaking center who never gives up on the puck, Strome brings a lot to the table. According to DC Prospect Report, he will end up pulling either a Senators or Winnipeg jersey over his head on Friday.
Expect Strome to go 5-10
Mika Zibanejad (C) – Djurgårdens IF
Every year when the draft rolls around, there’s that one European player that is highly touted, but at the same time a mystery of sorts to everyone but European scouts. Zibanejad, who played for Djurgårdens IF in the Swedish Elite League in 2010-11, is “that guy”. Like his fellow countryman, Adam Larsson, his body appears to be NHL-ready at a solid 6’2”, 192 pounds. The skinny on him, according to Mark Edwards of Hockey Prospect is that he’s a power forward with a scoring touch that needs to work on his skating. In 26 games against men 5-15 years older than him in the SEL, the 1993-born prospect put up a respectable five goals and nine points.
Expect Zibanejad to go 7-12
Joel Armia (RW) – Porin Ässät
As another European elite league player on the verge of being drafted in the top-20 on Friday, Armia is still a bit of an unknown. International Scouting Services is impressed with his capabilities though, ranking him third among European skaters and 13th overall. In his rookie season with Porin Ässät, the right-shooting winger tallied a healthy 18 goals in 48 games. Scouts rave about his killer shot, responsible defensive mindset and height of 6’3”. Like the majority of his peers, Armia will be told by his new club to pack on some muscle over the summer months.
Expect Armia to go 13-18
Mark McNeill (C) – Prince Albert Raiders
In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Mark McNeill managed to go about his business for a large chuck of the WHL season without being thrown into the possible first-rounders conversation. As the regular season began to conclude, however, scouts and draft gurus began taking notice of his rock solid package. For one, he can toss rights with the best of them. He is also perceived as a diligent leader; a team-first guy translates at the NHL level to a strong forward. McNeill led the Raiders to their first playoff appearance in four years with 81 points in 70 regular season games.
Expect McNeill to go 14-19
Zack Phillips (RW) – Saint John Sea Dogs
Being the top winger on the best team in the country, like Phillips was for the Sea Dogs, can do one of two things to a prospect’s stock. It can either inflate offensive numbers or draw an abundant amount of attention. Speculation aside, there’s no denying what he did to the score sheet throughout the 2010-11 campaign, registering 119 points in 84 games. At times Phillips was overshadowed by teammates Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu (even getting snubbed by Hockey Canada), yet, his consistency shone through. The Fredericton, New Brunswick native, who has a 6’1”, 181-pound frame, is strong on the puck along the walls and feisty in the corners. Phillips brings a two-way game that was on display from the first puck drop in September all the way through to the 2011 Memorial Cup.
Expect Phillips to go 22-27