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Looking ahead to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft: Final Take

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In our last edition of the Looking Ahead series, we'll finish up looking at some notable prospects before moving onto individual prospect profiles.

Could Kyle Connor be the team's 1st selection this year?
Could Kyle Connor be the team's 1st selection this year?

With the NHL Entry Draft fast approaching, this is our final Look Ahead before moving onto our prospect profiles. We looked at Mitch Marner, Daniel Sprong, Evgeny Svechnikov, Filip Ahl, Jordan Greenway, and Dennis Yan in our first edition, and added quick glances at Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier, Travis Konecny, Anthony Beauvillier, and Conor Garland in Take Two.

With that in mind, here's three more prospects the Panthers may have their eyes on headed into the draft.

Kyle Connor

From the scouts:

Future Considerations

A smart two-way forward who sets up his linemates with well-timed passes…is mature and intelligent with the puck, and does not rush a play no matter the pressure he is under…has impressive hands and vision, but it is the creativity and hockey sense that make him most dangerous…sees lanes opening and hits his targets consistently…also has a decent one-timer, but is definitely a pass-first guy… plays well away from the puck, constantly moving in order to get open…not overly physical…comes back deep into his own zone to make himself available…needs to add considerable strength, but the potential is there.

Brendan Ross - McKeen's Hockey/Dobber Prospects

Committed to the University of Michigan next year, Kyle Connor has a bright future as a two-way forward who’s capable of becoming a top line player at the next level based on his superb skating skills, strong hockey sense and driven motor."

Connor had a great year with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, leading the league with his 80 points in 54 games. His comparables look good, with the majority of them becoming NHL players, and most of those becoming elite or first line players. Though he's more of a creative playmaker, he's still got the offensive talents necessary to fill in a top-line winger role sooner rather than later.

Pavel Zacha

From the scouts:

Brendan Ross - McKeen's Hockey/Dobber Prospects

Despite mediocre production, Zacha is a toolsy player that has yet to gain momentum in his draft class (due to suspensions, his WJC participation and now a lengthy injury). An outstanding skater with elite level hands, Zacha can make defenders miss due to his blazing speed or clever and unexpected passing ability. As he learns to slow the game down and blend his speed, vision, passing abilities and outstanding shot to give him multiple layers of attack, we will then see why I have him ranked this high.

Ben Kerr - Last Word on Sports

Zacha’s defensive game is a work in progress.  As a centre, he still needs plenty of work in the face-off circle.  He also needs to back check more effectively, as he struggles in knowing where to support the defence down low.  Its not really due to lack of effort in the defensive zone, but he continues to need time to learn how to play the game defensively in the small rink.

Coming into the season, Zacha was one of THE players to watch, and he thoroughly disappointed. Not only did he miss lots of time due to a mixture of suspensions, injuries, and the World Junior Championships, but he also was very lackluster in his production. His NHL comparables are pretty bad, and most of those who made it to the pros were in bottom line roles.

The scouting reports tell a whole different story, with most scouts loving the center's size, speed, and skill. Given the skill that is bound to still be available in this draft, I'm not too high on Zacha, but I could see the Cats taking a chance on him if their man is already gone.

Mathew Barzal

From the scouts:

Brendan Ross - McKeen's Hockey/Dobber Prospects

After an impressive WHL rookie season where Barzal showed he could produce, he entered his draft season with some jump scoring often. Unfortunately, a broken knee cap has kept him out of action for most of the season but he’s since returned and is eager to re-establish himself as one of the drafts best offensive talents. Barzal is an intelligent pivot and owns creative instincts. He’s always hovering around the puck looking to make a difference and with his slick puck skills and strong attacking skills, he usually finds a way.

Future Considerations

"A smart, creative player with a wide, strong, fluid stride…plays a 200-foot game…makes good decisions with the puck…has decent strength, and looks bigger than listed…shows flashes of dominating offensive skills, but need to do so with more consistency…not overly physical, but will engage in contact for the puck…shows his creativity, vision and playmaking ability on the power play…finds seams and open ice with his impressive senses…

Barzal is another player who started the year in the top five of scout's rankings, but fell after missing time with an injury. He also didn't exactly wow with his numbers, though his NHL comparables don't look too shabby.

Even then, I don't see the Panthers taking him unless they really, really, really, really like him. He's not exactly a goal scorer, and he is definitely a pass first player.

Now that we've highlighted some players, here's a quick comparison between a couple of players who the Cats are likely to take with the 11th overall pick.

Connor, Meier, and Svechnikov are the standouts. Svechnikov might be an interesting pick...

Now that we're done with our Looking Ahead series, we'll move on to our individual prospect profiles. We are going to do them in mock draft fashion to try and make things a little more fun. Be sure to keep checking in as we get closer and closer to the draft.

(statistics from www.eliteprospects.com, charts from www.theprojectionproject.com)