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The 2015 NHL Entry Draft will be held at the BB&T Center in Florida this coming Friday and Saturday. As is our annual tradition, here is HabsWorld’s official mock draft. For the third straight year, Montreal will be picking at the back of the first round as they select 26th overall. In our mock, we project the entire first round plus the Habs’ third and fifth round choices.

Joining me to pick the draft this past Thursday (the 18th) was HW Editor Norm Szcyrek. Picks were made on an alternating basis as follows:

1, 3, 5, etc – Norm
2, 4, 6, etc – Brian

Each writer offers up their rationale for their selections below.

#1 – Edmonton – Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)

McDavid entered the OHL as a 15 year old player under the league’s Exceptional Player status. He’s now 18 and will leave the OHL as its most exceptional player. He’s labelled as a generational player, likely one you only see once every decade or so.

#2 – Buffalo – Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)

He may not be McDavid but he sure is quite the consolation prize as he would be a first overall pick most years. He plays a 200 foot game while he should be a major offensive threat in a hurry as well. He’s ready to step in and play right away and will be Buffalo’s go-to guy before long.

#3 – Arizona – Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL)

Strome is a good sized offensive centre who can also play on the wing. He fills an immediate positional need and the Coyotes need some depth at that position to go up against the other big teams’ centers in the west.

#4 – Toronto – Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA)

As much as there may be the temptation to take another dynamic winger (to go along with Willie Nylander last year), it’s going to be really hard to pass up a potential #1 defenceman.   With him and Morgan Reilly, Toronto’s back end would be in great shape for years to come.

#5 – Carolina – Mitch Marner, RW, London (OHL)

Marner is a small but offensively productive forward. He has a lot of creativity to his game and would be a good compliment for the offensively-challenged Hurricanes.

#6 – New Jersey – Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL)

With Lou Lamoriello out as GM, the time has never been more right for the Devils to go after some legitimate scoring help. Zacha carries some risks due to injuries and may be better suited for the wing long-term but he has it in him to be a top line power forward before too long.

#7 – Philadelphia – Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL)

After Hanifin, Provorov is the most NHL ready defenceman, and the Flyers need help on the back end now, even though they have good prospects there that may be ready in a year or two.

#8 – Columbus – Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS (SM-liiga)

The Jackets have several high-quality prospects up front but aren’t quite as strong on the right side as the other two positions. Rantanen may not have dynamic offensive upside but should still easily slot in as a top two winger in the future and would instantly become their top RW prospect.

#9 – San Jose – Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)

The Sharks will take Timo Meier, a young power forward. They could use more depth up front, especially a top six forward to fill in when the veterans like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton retire or get traded.

#10 – Colorado – Zach Werenski, D, Michigan (NCAA)

There are some picks that just seem to fall into place for teams and this is one of them. The Avalanche are in dire need of quality defencemen and Werenski, a smooth skating two-way blueliner, would be a perfect addition for them. He won’t be ready to step in right away but he’ll be worth the wait.

#11 – Florida – Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL)

Since they’re well stocked at centre, the Panthers would be wise to pick up some help on the wing. Konecny is a diminutive winger but with a lot of offensive skill and grit.

#12 – Dallas – Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL)

Crouse has lost a bit of his lustre as a potential top-five pick as the year went on. He probably doesn’t have the offensive upside to be a top liner in the NHL but power forwards are always in high demand. He should slot in as a good second (or great third) line winger once he’s fully developed.

#13 – Los Angeles – Colin White, C, US U-18 (USHL)

White is currently a good two-way centre but he can easily adapt to the wing too. With the Kings likely to have some changes up front in the next few years, that versatility may come in handy.

#14 – Boston – Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL)

While I think Cam Neely (who probably has more say now even with Don Sweeney as the new GM) will want size, it will be hard to pass up on Barzal here. The Bruins have the centre depth to allow him to develop slowly and start on the wing. He has potential top line upside if all goes well and would be a steal for Boston at this pick.

#15 – Calgary – Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna (WHL)

Calgary may stretch a little to get Merkley, who has good combination of energy and skill at forward. He impressed many scouts and GM’s at the Memorial Cup tournament where his team went far.

#16 – Edmonton – Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown (USHL)

Connor is a player who will have a longer development path – which will scare some teams off – but should be worth the wait. He’s one of the top skaters in the draft and would be a quality replacement as the salary cap begins to push out some of Edmonton’s current young forwards. On a side note, this would also be a headline writers’ dream with the Oilers picking Connor and Connor.

#17 – Winnipeg – Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown (QMJHL)

The Jets can go for a skilled forward since they have a lot of size up front. Although he’s on the smaller side a guy like Sprong would fit the bill, and may jell with Nic Petan & Nikolaj Ehlers eventually.

#18 – Ottawa – Paul Bittner, LW, Portland (WHL)

The Senators look to be transitioning towards a bigger team but lack a true power forward that can make space for some of their more skilled players. This is admittedly a bit of a reach of a pick but the fit is there and teams do have a knack to reach when it comes to big wingers with a scoring touch.

#19 – Detroit – Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Farjestad (SuperElit)

The Red Wings will go with a safe pick at #19 and Eriksson Ek fits the bill. He’s a big centre from Sweden and has some similarities to Montreal’s Jacob de la Rose – good defensively but some questions about his overall offensive upside.

#20 – Minnesota – Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John (QMJHL)

With Mat Dumba now in the NHL, Minnesota’s blueline pipeline is looking rather weak. Zboril should be able to slide in as a solid second pairing option in a few years. He plays with a physical edge which is an element that is lacking on the Wild’s defence corps, both present and future.

#21 – Buffalo – Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL)

The Sabres need help everywhere but they already have good young defencemen so forwards should be a priority. Jansen Harkins would be a good fit for them, a two-way C who can play the wing too.

#22 – Washington – Evgeny Svechnikov, RW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

As much as the Capitals could use some help on defence, it would be hard to pass up on Svechnikov. Washington has had a fair bit of success drafting skilled forwards in recent years and Svechnikov has the upside to be a quality goal scorer at the NHL level.

#23 – Vancouver – Oliver Kylington, D, Farjestad (SHL)

The Canucks could use another good defence prospect, but the style of which one they`ll choose is the big question. Vancouver will try their luck with the offensively skilled Kylington, a teenager who also played a few games in the Swedish men`s league this past season.

#24 – Toronto – Denis Guryanov, RW, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)

Having made a very safe selection earlier, the Leafs may be more willing to take a home run swing at this pick and that’s what Guryanov is. There’s no doubt he has lots of offensive talent but lack of willingness to compete defensively will have some down on him. If he can put that part of his game together, he’ll be a steal of a selection.

#25 – Winnipeg – Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL)

Boeser is a good power forward with decent scoring ability. Even though they picked a winger earlier, the Jets will choose to concentrate on forwards in this draft with their blueline and goalie depth both being strong.

#26 – Montreal – Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John (QMJHL)

With the likes of Beaulieu and Tinordi set to move up full-time, the prospect blueline depth for the Habs is very weak. Chabot is a strong skater that fits in well with the shift towards a more mobile blueline and has some much needed offensive upside. His defensive zone play needs some work but Chabot should be a second pairing defenceman down the road.

Other players considered: LW Jake DeBrusk, D Jacob Larsson, D Jeremy Roy

#27 – Anaheim – Jake DeBrusk, LW, Swift Current (WHL)

DeBrusk is a good scoring winger with high hockey sense and plays a reliable 200 foot game. This sniper has pro lineage with his father Louie DeBrusk an ex-NHL enforcer.

#28 – Tampa Bay – Noah Juulsen, D, Everett (WHL)

Although they have loaded up on blueliners in recent years, their picks have been more offensive-minded. Juulsen is more of an all-around defender, capable of playing in any role which is something the Lightning are lacking in the system. He’ll need some time to bulk up but Tampa’s prospect base is deep enough that they could give him that extra time.

#29 – Philadelphia – Anthony Beauvillier, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

The Flyers will balance out their previous pick to go with Beauvillier, a good energy winger with high skill too, but a little undersized. He has a good chance to be a top six winger for Philly.

#30 – Arizona – Ilya Samsonov, G, Stalyne Lisy (MHL)

No one likes to draft a first round goalie anymore it seems but the Coyotes are in dire need of help at that position. Mark Visentin hasn’t developed as intended and Mike Smith only has a handful of years left in him. Samsonov is the consensus top goalie in the draft and picking him would go a long way to solidifying their future…wherever that might be by the time he comes to North America.

#87 – Montreal – Radovan Bondra, LW/RW, Kosice (Slovak Extraliga)

It seems likely that the Habs are going to want to keep trying to add some size in the draft. Bondra at 6’5 certainly fits that bill but he is extremely raw. He’s a good skater for his size but he hasn’t developed much of an offensive touch or a mean streak. He’s a long-term project but is one that may be worth the wait.

Other players considered: RW Gabriel Gagne, C Michael Spacek

#131 – Montreal – Joseph Cecconi, D, Muskegon (USHL)

In recent years, the Habs have either looked at a smaller skill guy that has slid a bit or a project blueliner. Cecconi fits the latter description. He’s a strong skater and plays well in his own end but there are questions about his offensive upside. Cecconi is off to the University of Michigan and will have a few years to round out his game.

Other players considered: D Andrew Nielsen, C Kevin Stenlund, LW Dmytro Timashev