Looking Ahead to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft: Take Two

What players could Scott Luce and staff be scouting extensively with the draft inching ever closer?

Back in late November, we took a look at some players that the Panthers could have on their radar headed into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, especially given the team needs and how well the prospects involved looked to fulfill those needs. Since then, Mitch Marner has soared up draft boards, while Evgeni Svechnikov, Daniel Sprong, and Dennis Yan have stayed put. Jordan Greenway and Filip Ahl are opposite Marner, and have seen their draft stock fall from the start of the season.

The team needs remain the same, with both the pipeline and pro roster lacking options at winger and goaltender. Drafting a goaltender may not always be the most cost effective option, however, so we'll look past the goaltenders for now until more scouting can be done on them.

The Panthers are currently in 19th place in the league standings, which would give them the 11th overall draft pick, assuming Buffalo wins the draft lottery. There are still 16 games left, and the Cats are only four points out of a playoff spot, but as of right now, it looks like Dale Tallon will have a pick in the 10-15 range to deal with. Wingers who are ranked mostly in the second tier of prospects and would be good selections in that range include Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier, and Travis Konecny. We already covered Daniel Sprong in our first Look Ahead, but he could also be a possible selection. Other wingers who aren't necessarily ranked high on draft boards, but who could be great later round additions include Anthony Beauvillier and Conor Garland. We already covered Dennis Yan in our first Look Ahead, but he could be another good late round pick up.

(NHL point expectations (NHLe) taken from chlstats.com or from Gabriel Desjardins's work on league equivalencies. Age adjusted points per game (aaPPG) taken from chlstats.com)

Mikko Rantanen

Player Team/League GP G A P PIM SOG/G NHLe aaPPG
Mikko Rantanen TPS Turku/Ligga (FIN) 54 7 17 24 18 N/A 20 N/A

Scouting Report - Clocking in at 6'4, 195 lbs, Rantanen already has NHL-level size. The big-bodied Finn couples this with a knack for making plays, as well as smart, responsible play in all three zones of the ice. His hockey sense and size make him an attractive option for NHL teams, as defensively sound players can be extremely valuable in today's league, where puck possession is so important.

Timo Meier

Player Team/League GP G A P PIM SOG/G NHLe aaPPG
Timo Meier Halifax Mooseheads/QMJHL 56 42 44 86 55 5.49 32 1.28

Scouting Report - Meier is another stout European, standing at 6'1, 208 lbs, and hailing from Switzerland. Meier is currently playing in the CHL this year, and is helping Nikolaj Ehlers and the Halifax Mooseheads contend in the QMJHL despite losing Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin respectively in each of the past two seasons. Meier's goal-scoring skills are evident, as he averages almost five and a half shots per game and has 40 goals this year in the Q. He constantly puts himself in position to get a shot off, and he has an impressive arsenal of shots to unleash when he is in position. He's almost exactly what the Cats need for next season; a shoot first winger with a knack for getting open. Just imagine Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, or Jokinen feeding this guy...

Travis Konecny

Player Team/League GP G A P PIM SOG/G NHLe aaPPG
Travis Konecny Ottawa 67s/OHL 60 29 39 68 34 N/A 27 1.02

Scouting Report - Konecny may not be the biggest player on the ice, as he stands at 5'10, 176 pounds, but he certainly will be the player working the hardest, flying around the ice, never stopping, and making plays the whole time. He's incredibly fast and agile, which, when combined with his playmaking skills and deceptive shot, make him a threat every time he touches the puck. He's had a bit of a down year in Ottawa, but has the speed, skill, and goal-scoring ability to be a dangerous player at the NHL level.

Anthony Beauvillier

Player Team/League GP G A P PIM SOG/G NHLe aaPPG
Anthony Beauvillier Shawinigan Cataractes/QMJHL 62 42 47 89 66 5.15 31 1.39

Scouting Report - At first glance, Beauvillier simply looks like a smaller, and therefore less efficient, Timo Meier. Both get tons of shots off, and average a good number of goals per game. Meier scores a bit more often, however, and already has a pro size body while Beauvillier stands at 5'10, 181 lbs. It would certainly help for him to get a bit bigger. This is where junior league stats come in handy; despite the fact that Meier has a higher point per game rate than Beauvillier, the latter's age-adjusted points per game is higher. This is because Beauvillier was born three months before the September 15th cutoff; he's one of the younger players in his draft year. Meier, on the other hand, was born a mere 23 days after the cutoff, making him one of the oldest players in his draft year. Those extra nine months can make a big difference, and teams looking for a smart pickup in later rounds should be scouting Beauvillier extensively. He looks like he could end up being a second or even a third round steal.

Conor Garland

Player Team/League GP G A P PIM SOG/G NHLe aaPPG
Conor Garland Moncton Wildcats/QMJHL 63 31 86 117 66 4.0 39 1.39

Scouting Report - Garland was eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, but had a bad season, only posting 54 points in 51 games. For any other player, those would actually be good numbers, but Garland is only 5'8, 168 lbs, so he needed to show a little bit more scoring touch in order for someone to take a chance on him. He's done that this year, topping everyone else in the CHL, besides Marner, with his impressive 117 points. Garland was also a younger player in his draft year, which gives him his relatively high age adjusted points per game number; he's equal with Beauvillier. Though it may not make sense to use a third round pick on Garland, he seems like he's got the upside to become an effective player at the pro level. Taking a chance on a guy with potential seems like a better move than making the safe pick for a guy who will only ever make it to the AHL.