Rabid Habs

Rabid Habs’ 2015 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 11-20

Lawson Crowse
  1. FLORIDA PANTHERS: LAWSON CROUSE | LW | Kingston Frontenacs, OHL

LAST SEASON: 56 GP, 29 Goals & 22 Assists (51 PTS)

Crouse is probably the player that’s getting the most mixed reactions from scouts in this year’s draft. Some believe he’s top 10 material, others feel he’s a wasted pick that early. The main concern that people have on the six foot four winger is whether or not he’ll be anything more than a third liner because some believe his hands and creativity are too limited.

Many believe he’ll never be the catalyst of his line and carry the offense and that’s okay with Florida. They already have a great crop of forwards up front with the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov. On a team with that much talent, there will be no pressure on Crouse to be the main star on his team.

The London native plays a game awfully similar to Chris Kunitz from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He already processes the game at a pro level, he plays a simple but efficient game that makes him effective in any role and allows his coaches to always have the option of moving him around the line-up and knowing exactly what to expect.

For a player of his size, his speed is nothing to scoff at and his shot is solid. He’s not afraid to pay the price either by blocking a shot or taking/dishing out a hit. He also more often than not wins the inside position during net battles in the offensive zone which makes him a great threat in front of the net.

His play without the puck is probably his best asset. He anticipates plays with ease and makes him a constant threat for interceptions or takeaways. He’s a great forechecker and along with his superb skating, he’s able to take a ton of options away via a combination of where to be, active stick work and the threat to finish his checks. He also knows where to position himself when his team is in position of the puck to make himself open for a pass or to crash the net for a rebound.

He’s a very mature player and it shows in the way he approaches his defensive tasks. Although he’s not as good in his own end as he is at forechecking, Crouse does a more than respectable job in terms of taking away the shooting lane or winning battles along the boards. He also makes sure that the puck is safely out of the zone instead of prematurely leaving it.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the main concerns about Crouse are when the puck is on his stick and he has to decide what to do with it. For the reasons I’ve pointed out above, he’ll at least be a good third liner in the NHL with the tools he possesses but only time will tell if he has the vision/creativity to become a top 6 forward in the NHL.

Crouse could play in the NHL in a bottom 6 role next season if the Panthers are confident enough that he’d help the team and that it wouldn’t hurt his development.

  1. DALLAS STARS: KYLE CONNOR | C | Youngstown Phantoms, USHL

LAST SEASON: 56 GP, 34 Goals & 46 Assists (80 PTS)

The Dallas Stars take one of the biggest risers in the draft at this spot. Connor plays a complete game that relies mainly on his hockey sense and his skills. He already plays a mature game in all three zones. He knows when to support the play and how to utilize space as a playmaker to maximize scoring chances for his team.

In his own end, he does a fairly good job at leaving himself as an option on the break-out. The Michigan native is also excellent at covering his man and rarely gets caught watching the play or being flat footed. When he’s in possession of the puck in the defensive zone, he never rushes his decisions and seems to always make the right play.

On the offensive aspect of things, the six foot one forward does a great job at keeping possession by throwing off the players defending him with little faints that helps him gain a valuable second and space to either make a pass or take the shot. Those little plays to gain that half-step is one of his specialties.

Connor will need to fill out a bit more but beyond that he’s a solid prospect with no glaring flaws. I expect him to play two full seasons for the University of Michigan in the NCAA, spend some time in the AHL before being NHL ready for a top nine role with the Stars.

  1. LOS ANGELES KINGS: TIMO MEIER | RW/C | Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 61 GP, 44 Goals & 46 Assists (90 PTS)

The Kings shocked and disappointed many fans this season by missing the playoffs. A lot of factors came into play for them missing: legal problems (Slava Voynov), cap troubles due to players not cutting it anymore (Mike Richards & Jarret Stoll) and problems on defense. But let’s not overreact and pretend that the Kings are no longer a threat, with a couple moves on their roster and some youth injection; they will most likely be part of the eight teams that make the playoffs in the West next year.

With the thirteenth pick, Los Angeles selects a player that could be a nice piece for them for years to come if he pans out. Meier is a ‘no non-sense’ forward with a pro sized frame that’s gritty and not afraid to crash the net. He knows where to position himself to get a good shot and possesses a good quick-release. Has a blue-collar mentality and loves the physical part of the game.

With his commitment to playing a complete game and his work ethic, the Swiss forward plays a North-South type of game. He finishes his checks and tries to make his presence known the most he can on the forecheck. When his team is attacking, he always does his best to be in a position to shoot. He’s particularly good at sneaking in his shot for a solid scoring chance.

Although the effort is there, the Mooseheads’ talent could learn to be less aggressive when he’s defending. He often puts himself out of position by being over-aggressive on the puck carrier which leads to chances against. Another thing that Meier can work on is his skating, it’s not bad per se but it would definitely help his chances of reaching his potential if he got his skating to another level.

Meier is a tad too ambitious and confident with his playmaking abilities. He often tries no-look or low percentage passes when he simply doesn’t have the vision or hands to pull off these plays. Those decisions often lead to a loss of possession and a counter-rush for his team so he will need to learn to make smarter decisions or be more realistic with his abilities in the future or his coach will tear him a new one.

I expect Meier to finish his career in the Q and spend one or two seasons in the AHL before making the Los Angeles Kings squad. He’s a nice project and they have no need to rush him into their line-up with Marian Gaborik, Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown on the right side.

  1. BOSTON BRUINS: JAKUB ZBORIL | D | Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 44 GP, 13 Goals & 20 Assists (33 PTS)

The Boston Bruins have gone separate ways with their former GM Peter Chiarelli following a list of questionable moves (especially the Tyler Seguin trade) and the fact that this season was the first time they missed the playoffs since 2007. The Bruins add a solid defenseman by selecting Zboril.

Although he’s from Czech Republic and this year was his first in North America, the defender plays the game the way Don Cherry likes it. This is obviously an hyperbole but he’s a defenseman with good mobility and size who keeps his game simple instead of going for risky plays. His bread and butter is mostly his positional game and it’s quite rare to see him make a bad read and commit a mistake.

He has a good first pass and plays a pretty unspectacular game. His skating abilities are also good enough for him to exit his zone with the puck if it’s necessary. His reads are on point and with his stick checking, he breaks a lot of plays. It’s worth noting that he isn’t afraid to use his body to separate the man from the puck. He doesn’t give the middle and knows how to use angles to make opposing forwards go to the outside and limit their offense.

Although he’ll never be a Power Play quarterback for a team, he gets the job done and has a knack for getting his shot through from the point. He could learn to utilize his big frame more often and rely less on his stick work. Also, when the play gets messy down low or around the net, his first reaction is to puck-watch instead of focusing on his man. He’ll need to realize that those kinds of mistakes will be costly at the pro level.

With Zdeno Chara retiring in the upcoming years, the Bruins will have to prepare to find a potential replacement for the iconic defenseman. Zboril is a good start to try to patch the hole that the Slovakian defender will leave once he hangs them up. Zboril should be NHL ready in two seasons in my opinion.

  1. CALGARY FLAMES: NICK MERKLEY | C/W | Kelowna Rockets, WHL

LAST SEASON: 72 GP, 20 Goals & 70 Assists (90 PTS)

The Calgary Flames surprised many experts and fans this season by making the playoffs and even winning a playoff round. A lot of people think they overachieved a la Colorado Avalanche (2013-14) or Toronto Maple Leafs (2012-13) but only time will tell. They have a young core so even if they do take a couple step backs next season, they will be a threat in the West for years to come!

The Flame select the local kid at the fifteenth spot! Merkley is a gritty forward that can play both positions up front. He brings a ton of attractive qualities which makes him a very unique prospect, especially at this point in the draft. That diversified skill set allows him to play in all sorts of situations offensively.

The Albertan plays a North South game and isn’t afraid of crashing the net or taking the abuse/finishing his checks. Along with his high motor, he has remarkable vision which makes him a constant menace in the offensive zone. His playmaking skills don’t simply rely on being patient and waiting for the passing lanes to open up but also by forcing turnovers with his speed and making quick passes when he gains possession of the puck.

He likes to throw passes into space at different speeds to give the option to his teammate to skate into the puck. He does those plays in a pretty instinctive way and knows exactly how much power to put being his passes for those types of plays to create a good scoring chance.

The five foot eleven prospect has good speed which he utilizes well to anticipate where the puck will be going. He’s solid in his own end and covers his man with a good balance of aggressiveness and positioning. His defensive game is good enough to be a regular on the Penalty Kill for a team who doesn’t have a glut of defensively responsible forwards.

He’ll never be considered a wizard with the puck due to his average stickhandling skills but has a solid understanding of how to protect the puck despite his small frame. He’ll still need to add strength to his frame and could learn to shoot more given his Goal/Assist ratio in order to be less predictable offensively when teams are defending him.

I expect Merkley to finish his WHL career and to spend a bit of time in the AHL before making the Flames team. This may be a shot in the dark but due to the Flames organizational depth, I could see Merkley being traded when the Flames are going for that final piece that would legitimize them as a contender.

  1. EDMONTON OILERS: EVGENY SVECHNIKOV | LW | Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 55 GP, 32 Goals & 46 Assists (78 PTS)

The Oilers might trade the sixteen pick but if they decide to keep it and Svechnikov is still on board, I’m confident that this is the player that they’ll pick. The Russian forward said that his interview with Edmonton went really well and that he’s been in contact with them since the start of the season. Bob Stauffer (journalist who covers the Oilers) also speaks highly of him.

The six foot two winger is an explosive skater with a lot of tools offensively. He plays a game that consumes lots of energies and shows a well-rounded game in all three zones. He possesses a solid shot and is able to get his shot off from practically anywhere on the ice. He’s also a good playmaker and does a good job at finding open teammates. His bread and butter will always be his mix of speed, size and sniping skills.

His style of play makes him very difficult to read for goalies. He has that quality to shoot mid-stride or angle his body to make it look like he’s not about to shoot when he in fact does. His excellent agility allows him to have many tricks up his sleeve in terms of how to get his shot off in an unexpected way or to get away from the players defending him.

In his own end, he battles for pucks and gets involved in board battles but he’ll never be known for his defensive game. His excellent speed and his reach makes him a threat in stripping off players from the puck when he’s back-checking. Has shown a willingness to block shots by not only putting himself in the shooting lanes but by throwing himself on the ice.

He sometimes tries to do too much offensively by trying some very complex dekes that result in him turning the puck over. He will need to learn to prioritize the simple play over low percentage plays. He also needs to take advantage of his big frame during board battles because he loses too many battles for a guy of his size.

The Oilers could use a player like Svechnikov right now but they are better off letting him finishing his career in the Q to work on the little things and simplifying his game. He could be NHL ready midway through the 2016-17 season in my opinion.

  1. WINNIPEG JETS: JAKE DEBRUSK | LW | Swift Current Broncos, WHL

LAST SEASON: 72 GP, 42 Goals & 39 Assists (81 PTS)

This one is quite the reach considering the highest that DeBrusk is ranked among scouting agencies is 25th by McKeen’s Hockey but I think the Edmonton native is a good and logical fit for them. They’ve shown with the selection of Mark Scheifele in 2011 that they are not afraid to select a player earlier than they’re expected and that they have a small bias for players from the WHL (11 of their 30 picks as the Jets have been from the WHL).

DeBrusk is a winger with decent size who’s got good hockey sense and offensive zone instincts. He’s a prospect that is more interested in the offensive aspect of the game than the defensive one although he’s committed to his defensive tasks and knows where to be or who to cover in his own end.

The Albertan is one of the purest goal scorers in this year’s draft and most of his goals come from in-close due to his amazing offensive awareness and doesn’t necessarily rely on his hands or his shot to be so productive at this level. Due to the nature of where his goals come from, it wouldn’t hurt if he could add some mass to his frame in order to have a bigger edge and winning more battles in front of the net.

A large portion of his scoring chances come from him using good timing to get himself open at the right time or escaping from his coverage as the play develops. He’s far from a one-trick pony though; he can create plays on his own thanks to his excellent hockey sense and has pretty good top-end speed to create offense off the rush.

DeBrusk could be more efficient on being more firm when he has possession of the puck and work on zone time, it would allow him to maximize his strengths due to his style of play at the next level.

I think DeBrusk is a project and won’t be NHL ready until he is 22 but I think he’d be the perfect replacement for the Jets captain, Andrew Ladd, once the latter is no longer effective.

  1. OTTAWA SENATORS: TRAVIS KONECNY | C/RW | Ottawa 67’s, OHL

LAST SEASON: 60 GP, 29 Goals & 39 Assists (68 PTS)

The Senators are more than happy to select a kid that plays in their own backyard in Konecny. The London native plays a game that relies on speed, intensity and his lethal shot. Although he’s only five foot ten, he’s pretty strong on his feet and his drive makes him a physical player.

His tenacity is mostly seen when he’s chasing the puck-carrier, attacking loose pucks or giving a big hit. Add that intensity with his skill level and you’ve got all the makings for a fan favorite type of player. He’s got speed, solid hands, grit and a great shot which makes him a very dangerous player offensively.

He’s not afraid of getting in the dirty areas and is usually the first one involved in scrums or battles in front of the net. He’s got one destination on his GPS and it’s the net, he’s got a ton of heart and doesn’t hold back at all when he’s out there, he gives everything he’s got when he’s out there and it’s mainly why he’s already the captain of the 67’s at such a young age.

His blue-collar also applies to his play in his own end; he’s a ferocious back-checker and gets himself involved in board battles in both ends of the rink. His positioning definitely needs some polishing but it’s something that will come with experience.

Despite his small frame, he’s great at protecting the puck and knows how to utilize his low center of gravity as an advantage. He wins most of his battles by simply outworking the players on him, similarly to a player familiar for Habs fans, Brendan Gallagher.

Obviously due to his style of play and his small frame, there are injury concerns for Konecny. He could learn to be less reckless out there but it’s hard to take out that kind of part from a player since it’s just the way he plays, you can’t tell a guy to be less intense.

Another concern is that with he could put emphasis on playing a more cerebral game rather than relying on his hustle. He sometimes rushes his decision because of that and could learn to slow the game down when options aren’t there instead of forcing the play.

If Konecny was six foot tall instead being five foot ten, he’d probably be talking in the top five for this year’s draft. I think he’s a sure bet to make the NHL unless he gets into injury troubles. He could be in the NHL by the age of 20 and I expect him to be a late cut at the next two training camps for the Sens.

  1. DETROIT RED WINGS: JEREMY ROY | D | Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 46 GP, 5 Goals & 38 Assists (43 PTS)

The Detroit Red Wings will have a new face behind the bench next season following Mike Babcock’s decision to leave the organization. The Red Wings are one of the most well-run teams in the league so I’m not worried for them. Based on Detroit’s recent trend of taking players from the Q (7 of their top 90 picks since 2009 have been from that league), I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy is on their radar.

The French Canadian defender is one of the most intriguing players in the draft in terms of upside. Roy is above average at many things but he also doesn’t have one elite quality in his game. His best quality is his hockey sense without a doubt though. He truly has the hockey IQ to be a difference maker out there by making plays that can change the outcome of a game.

Although his skating style is awkward, he’s still confident enough in his abilities to confidently skate with the puck, join the rush or take risk to gain possession of the puck. He’s already got a good balance of when to know his limitations and pick his timing well of when to pinch or attempt those risky plays. Despite being labeled as an offensive defenseman, he does pay attention to the little details and plays his position.

He’s rather raw and inconsistent in his own end but the potential is there. He will have to fix some bad tendencies like not moving his feet and being too passive or being over-aggressive in his puck pursuits. It’s clear that he hasn’t found his comfort zone in the defensive zone yet and it’s mainly due to him still being in a learning process on the defensive aspects of the game. It’s worth pointing out that despite his small frame for a defenseman, six feet tall, he’s got some bite in him and isn’t afraid to battle for pucks.

He’s fairly solid on the break-out and is quick to make his passes and they’re always on point. He also has the good tendency to not over-do things in the offensive zone in terms of dekes or plays like some offensive defenseman do. One thing that he will need to watch is to try to reduce some of high-risk passes he attempts to teammates that have players checking them from behind since their reaction time is so small and often leads to a missed pass.

One of the things to love about Roy is his desire to be a difference maker out there, similar to PK Subban in a way, and the confidence he has when the puck is on his stick. He wants his team to win and doesn’t want to be a passenger; he wants to be the catalyst.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the fact that Roy doesn’t have one particular skill where he’s elite at (other than his hockey sense) could hurt him at the next level and makes his projectability at the NHL level hard to do. Some see him as a potential Duncan Keith while others are skeptical on him being a top four defenseman.

Roy is a project worth the time, especially for an organization that’s rather thin in defenseman with top pairing upside like the Red Wings, and should be ready when he’s 22 or 23.

  1. MINNESOTA WILD: COLIN WHITE | RW/C | U.S. National Team U18 Team, USDP

LAST SEASON: 54 GP, 23 Goals & 31 Assists (54 PTS)

The Wild are rather limited with their picks in recent years, they don’t have a third round pick this year, they don’t have their second or third for next year’s draft and they didn’t have their first in 2013 nor their second last year. I think for that reason Minnesota will go the safe route and pick one of the safest player’s in this year’s draft.

White is a two-way center with a high hockey sense. He’s attentional to the little details with and without the puck and is solid in all three zones, which gives him a solid chance at being an NHL regular. He’s a player with a good compete level that makes his linemates better and he’s eager to learn new things about the game every time he jumps on the ice. He’s the type of player that coaches loves, especially one like Yeo whose very system oriented.

Defensively, he’s good at getting into lanes, covering his man and giving options to his team for the breakout. Thanks to his great skating, he’s a great back-checker and has no problem catching up to players. His size along with his high work ethic allows him to engage and compete in physical battles against other players.

White plays a mistake free game and due to his high hockey IQ, he constantly gets himself involved in the play: creating turnovers, passing the puck to his teammates, gaining entry of the offensive zone, being defensively responsible. He thinks the game naturally and it shows on the ice.

The Massachusetts native’s main knock is that since he doesn’t possess one great offensive skill (shot, vision or hands), it’s hard to see him turning into a player who’s a major threat offensively at the next level even with the hockey sense he possesses.

I think White could make the team in two years after spending the next two seasons at Boston College where he’ll fill out and polish his offensive game. The Wild might need some cheap bottom six forwards due to cap problems and White would fill the bill for that description. But ideally, a season in the AHL (after the two spent in the NCAA) would probably what’s best for his development and to help him work on his offensive game.


If you missed it, check out Rabid Habs’ 2015 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 1-10.

Follow Antoine on Twitter @HabsoluteTruth.