With the sports world paused due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to take a look back and redo the first round of several past NHL Entry Drafts. Each article will feature a brief summary of who the team selected at the time, and who we believe they would select now in hindsight.
Part 5 – featuring the class of 2015, is below...
(Note: team needs are not taken into account at the time of selection)
1- Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid (F, Erie-OHL), Original Pick: McDavid: Are you surprised?
2- Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel (F, Boston University-NCAA), Original Pick: Eichel: This draft was absolutely loaded but Eichel is a top-five talent with franchise-altering potential. Now the Sabres just have to get their act together and surround him with some talent before he demands to leave town.
(Writer's Note: The next dozen names listed have all developed into stars and the gap between each player is very, very small)
3- Arizona Coyotes: Mikko Rantanen (F, TPS-Liiga), Original Pick: Dylan Strome (F, Erie-OHL): Strome has had an up-and-down career. He's played considerably better for Chicago than he did with Arizona. Rantanen has blossomed into a superstar alongside Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado. I thought he'd be a good player but not on this level.
4- Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner (F, London-OHL), Original Pick: Marner: Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty positive I had Marner No. 3 on my draft board this year behind McDavid and Eichel. The vision and playmaking abilities he displayed in his junior days have carried over to the NHL.
5- Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho (F, Karpat-Liiga), Original Pick: Noah Hanifin (D, Boston College-NCAA): This draft is so loaded that Hanifin, who has become a second-pairing NHL defender, is in the back-half of Round 1 here. Thankfully for Carolina they nabbed Aho with their second round (35th overall) selection.
6- New Jersey Devils: Thomas Chabot (D, Saint John-QMJHL), Original Pick: Pavel Zacha (F, Sarnia-OHL): Chabot has developed into a legitimate minute-eating stud defenseman. We all know how good he is and he'd probably look even better if he wasn't on the Senators.
7- Philadelphia Flyers: Kyle Connor (F, Youngstown-USHL), Original Pick: Ivan Provorov (D, Brandon-WHL): Provorov is a stud and we'll talk about him shortly but Connor skates like the wind and has good hands. He's scored at least 30 goals in each of the past three seasons and had a career-high 38 this year before play was suspended.
8- Columbus Blue Jackets: Mathew Barzal (F, Seattle-WHL), Original Pick: Zach Werenski (D, University of Michigan-NCAA): If a team is looking for a defenseman, Werenski or Provorov would fit here. Barzal is among the most talented passers in the league but his defensive play is still lacking. He's a pending restricted free agent this summer and he could make for a tricky contract negotiation with the Isles.
9- San Jose Sharks: Werenski, Original Pick: Timo Meier (F, Halifax-QMJHL): The Sharks had Brent Burns at this point and they later traded for Erik Karlsson so an argument can be made they would end up needing Meier's services more than Werenski's. Meier has had a down season (49 points in 70 games, minus-22 rating) but he's a legitimate top-line forward.
10- Colorado Avalanche: Provorov, Original Pick: Rantanen: Everyone who picked in the top 10 pick other than Carolina and New Jersey ended up with a star. This would had worked out for Colorado no matter what happened.
11- Florida Panthers: Travis Konecny (F, Ottawa-OHL), Lawson Crouse (F, Kingston-OHL): Anyone who has read my work for any length of time knows I was strongly against Crouse leading up to the draft and he's basically turned into the exact player I forecasted him as. That being a bottom-six winger with limited offensive ability. I always liked Konecny but I was worried about his concussion history. I still am, but he's an excellent player when healthy.
12- Dallas Stars: Brock Boeser (F, Waterloo-USHL), Original Pick: Denis Gurianov (F, Lada Togliatti-KHL): Boeser as the No. 12 pick in any draft is a pretty good get. He's constantly injured but when he's healthy he always puts up points. Gurianov has turned into quite an asset in his own right after struggling to find his way for a while.
13- Boston Bruins: Meier, Original Pick: Jakub Zboril (D, Saint John-QMJHL): The Bruins started their stretch of three picks in a row with Zboril. He's still with the organization but has played just two NHL games to date. He might be an NHL regular in a depth role but his ceiling is pretty limited.
14- Boston Bruins: Kirill Kaprizov (F, Mettalurg Novokuznetsk-KHL), Original Pick: Jake DeBrusk (F, Swift Current-WHL): I ranked Kaprizov as the top prospect in the league in my most recent update for RotoWire. He's going to get bumped out of the top spot in the near future due to 2020 draftees but he's a potential superstar who is set to arrive in Minnesota this fall. DeBrusk is a good player and by far the most valuable asset Boston obtained with their three first-rounders.
15- Boston Bruins: Ilya Samsonov (G, Mettalurg Magnitogorsk-KHL), Original Pick: Zachary Senyshyn (F, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL): Many teams still shy away from spending a first round pick on a goaltender but Samsonov is one of the better goaltending prospects in recent memory. He has had a nice season for Washington (2.55 GAA, .913 save percentage in 26 games) and is poised to take over as the Caps No. 1 goalie if Brayden Holtby moves on this summer as a UFA. Senyshyn can skate like the wind but the rest of his game has failed to develop a lick. It's disappointing for a player who was viewed as a pretty good prospect at one point.
16- New York Islanders: Strome, Original Pick: Barzal: The Barzal pick was great for the Isles and it was made that much better due to the fact they acquired the pick from Edmonton in exchange for Griffin Reinhart, who had limited trade value at the time. Yes the Oilers needed a defenseman and they paid dearly for it. Credit to the Islanders and their staff for nailing the selection.
17- Winnipeg Jets: Hanifin, Original Pick: Connor: Hanifin ended up being a reach for Carolina at No. 5 but he would have been a perfectly fine pick for Winnipeg this late. I expected more offensively from him but a second-pairing guy who contributes 30-odd points a season has a bunch of value.
18- Ottawa Senators: Anthony Cirelli (F, Oshawa-OHL), Original Pick: Chabot: Cirelli has turned into the ideal middle-six role player for Tampa Bay. He can chip in offensively, he's a solid penalty killer, and he can play up and down the lineup.
19- Detroit Red Wings: DeBrusk, Original Pick: Evgeny Svechnikov (F, Cape Breton-QMJHL): I still hold out hope for Svechnikov to develop into a decent NHL player but he's been constantly injured. He has played just 20 NHL games to date and that's a shame because he would be in prime position for a ton of ice time on a rebuilding Detroit team if healthy.
20- Minnesota Wild: Gurianov, Original Pick: Joel Eriksson Ek (F, Farjestad-SHL): Gurianov had 20 goals in 64 games for Dallas prior to the stoppage. I feel pretty confident he will finish with at least 25 goals in 2020-21. Eriksson Ek is a useful depth piece with limited offensive ability.
21- Ottawa Senators: Roope Hintz (F, Ilves-Liiga), Original Pick: Colin White (F, US NTDP-USHL): Hintz ended up going 49th overall to Dallas. He set career-highs in both goals (19) and points (33) this season and there appears to be quite a bit more room for improvement. White is trending in the wrong direction after a nice start to his pro career.
22- Washington Capitals: John Marino (D, South Shore-USPHL), Original Pick: Samsonov: Marino was a sixth round (154th overall) selection of Edmonton. His game improved throughout his three seasons at Harvard and he was traded to the Pens and signed with them in July 2019. He's had an excellent rookie season (26 points in 56 games) in Pittsburgh and he should remain a solid second-pairing option even if there is an offensive regression coming. Marino never scored more than 16 points in any single college season.
23- Vancouver Canucks: Rasmus Andersson (D, Barrie-OHL), Original Pick: Boeser: Andersson is a personal favorite of mine. He's an excellent skater and very difficult to knock off the puck. He should take on a bigger role for the Flames in the coming seasons.
24- Philadelphia Flyers: Brandon Carlo (D, Tri-City-WHL), Original Pick: Konecny: Carlo is essentially the player he was projected to become on draft day. That being a huge, crease-clearing defenseman with a limited amount of offensive ability. Boston does an excellent job of deploying him correctly.
25- Winnipeg Jets: Conor Garland (F, Moncton-QMJHL), Original Pick: Jack Roslovic (F, US NTDP-USHL): Plenty of teams missed on Garland (a fifth-rounder by Arizona) and it's easy to see why. His lack of size was a real concern despite the fact he scored 257 points over his final two QMHJL seasons. He has proven to be an elusive force at the NHL level and quietly racked up 22 goals for Arizona this season prior to the stoppage.
26- Montreal Canadiens: Zacha, Original Pick: Noah Juulsen (D, Everett-WHL): Juulsen's entire pro career has been ruined due to injuries. He's played just 37 games over the course of the last two seasons. I always thought he was a pretty solid two-way guy in his junior days but he simply hasn't gotten the necessary reps to develop as a professional.
27- Anaheim Ducks: Vince Dunn (D, Niagara-OHL), Original Pick: Jacob Larsson (Frolunda-SHL): Dunn will almost certainly be higher on this list if this exercise is completed again down the line. He's slowly earning a bigger role for the Blues and has played well for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Larsson has been a big disappointment for me. I expected more from him offensively. He might be a regular, but if he is it's in a bottom-pairing role.
28- New York Islanders: White, Original Pick: Anthony Beauvillier (F, Shawinigan-QMJHL): I remain hesitant to write off White but he's had a dreadful season. He's posted just 23 points in 61 games after finishing with a career-high 41 points in 71 games a season ago.
29- Columbus Blue Jackets: Beauvillier, Original Pick: Gabriel Carlsson (D, Linkoping-SHL): Carlsson was probably the worst pick of the first round looking back on it. He's a massive kid (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) with no offensive ability. The Jackets drafted for floor over ceiling here and they paid for it. Beauvillier is inconsistent but he's scored 18 goals in each of the past two seasons for the Isles.
30- Arizona Coyotes: Erik Cernak (D, HC Kosice-Slovakia), Original Pick: Nicholas Merkley (F, Kelowna-WHL): Cernak is essentially the player Columbus hoped Carlsson would become. The difference between the two is that Cernak is more agile and a better passer. Merkley could never establish himself with Arizona and ended up being traded to the Devils in the Taylor Hall deal. New Jersey should offer Merkley a prime opportunity to rebound. He's always played well in the AHL.