NHL DRAFT PREVIEW — Forwards That Could Be Available at #15

The Islanders will be picking in the middle of the first round for the first time under Garth Snow’s tenure, and while it’s always hard to handicap the draft outside the Top 5, today we’ll take a look at who may be available for the Islanders in the middle of the first round at 15th overall.

Forwards:

Anthony Mantha — 6-4, 190 // Val D’or (QMJHL)

Mantha was a decent prospect, scoring at about a point per game pace in the high-scoring Q until this past season. He exploded for 50 goals and 89 points in 67 games and added another 12 points in 9 playoff games. The question with him becomes is this a flash in the pan or the sign of taking a very significant step in his game? There are also some questions about motivation and that he is a big guy who doesn’t use his size as much as he should. But there are certainly positives for a player ranked so highly, as per Corey Pronman:

Mantha made significant strides over the last year, aided by his late birthdate, which gave him an extra year of development. He is a well above-average skater for a big man. He picks up speed quickly, with a certain smoothness in his skating technique. That skating ability, combined with his 6’4″ frame, makes him an intriguing physical package. He does possess some skill, but he is more of a good thinker than a fancy puck handler

Alexander Wennberg — 6-1, 183 // Djurgarden (Sweden)

Lighthouse Hockey selected Wennberg with SB Nation’s 15th pick in their mock draft, a two-way player who seems to be better at setting up goals than scoring them. Here’s what Hockey’s Future has to say:

A tall and rangy player who has turned three-zone into his calling card. Alex has nice, soft hands and a sense for when the time’s ripe for a pass or a shot. He displays good anticipation and in-game intelligence. Despite a still somewhat lanky frame, Alex has some good wheels and strong side-to-side movement. Doesn’t hesitate to throw the body around and plays with a sense of great responsibility for his defensive duties. A player who can compliment all sorts of line-mates.

Bo Horvat — 6-0, 205 // London (OHL)

Horvat comes from the London Knights, John Tavares’ former team, and had a point per game over 67 regular season and 21 playoff games this season. He’s an all-around player and Pronman describes him as “one of the most complete forwards in the draft” and “that it is difficult to find a weakness in his game.” Horvat excelled on the penalty kill in London, is very responsible defensively and capable offensively. The International Scouting Service had exceptional praise for him saying he is “built for playoff hockey and potential to be a team captain down the road.”

Curtis Lazar — 6-0, 195 // Edmonton (WHL)

Lazar spent the past year playing with Isles 2012 first round pick, Griffin Reinhart, for Edmonton in the WHL. He had 38 goals in 72 games but don’t let that fool you, he’s another well-rounded and defensive-minded player like Horvat, according to himself:

“I won’t ‘wow’ people with my offensive numbers, but it’s the little things that I take great pride in,” he said. “If it’s blocking a shot or winning a faceoff in the [defensive] zone, those are the types of things I like to do.”

Max Domi — 5-10, 190 // London (OHL)

Yep, this is the son of former Crazy Pants and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi. Unlike his dad, Max can score goals with 39 in 64 games this past season in London, Ontario. Domi has played with Horvat, so one or the other’s numbers could be skewed because of that (or they could both be really good, in all fairness). But Domi is such an offensive threat on the ice that it could pull him out of the Islanders’ range and into the Top-10 of the draft. He’s small but very quick and is getting compared to Dustin Brown and last year’s draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko. Here’s what USA Today’s Kyle Woodlief (yeah, that guy) said about Domi:

Domi is built like a bowling ball at 5-9, 194 pounds, and uses his speed and low center of gravity to gain leverage in battles and drive through checkers to get to net. Unlike his famous dad, he’s a highly skilled offensive player with a blurry-fast release on an accurate shot that makes him supremely dangerous from the circles in. He’s also a real opportunist around the net and can explode through even the slightest of openings.

Hunter Shinkaruk — 5-10, 180 // Medicine Hat (WHL)

Shinkaruk is another guy, like Domi, that could be off the board just in front of the Islanders. And, like Domi, he is a small but offensively gifted player notching 37 goals in 64 games this past season. That is actually a drop off from the 49 he had the prior year. Unlike most of these players, he’s already spent three full seasons years playing in the CHL, having started playing for Medicine Hat when he was 16. He was also named the team’s captain this year. Here’s Copper and Blue’s take, with a big caution flag about that drop-off:

The most probable outcome for Shinkaruk looks to be a middle six NHL forward who might play on the top line so long as someone else is driving the bus. Size doesn’t seem to have a negative impact… None of the players in that original study had worse results in their draft year than they did the year before, and just one guy improved less than 10%: Rob Schremp. The only other player I can think of off the top of my head who regressed offensively in the CHL and was drafted in the first round is Angelo Esposito, which… yikes.

Shinkaruk brings more offense than either Schremp or Esposito did when they were drafted, and it’s quite possible that a slight regression in offense doesn’t actually matter. But given that Shinkaruk’s likely outcome if it doesn’t matter is good-but-not-great and his likely outcome if it does is something less than that, the uncertainty is going to push him down my list.

Valentin Zykov — 6-0, 207 // Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

Zykov made the jump from Russia to the CHL this year and did it in style with 40 goals in 67 games. His skating could be an issue but he’s a big, tough forward who gets into those proverbial ‘dirty areas’. He may be a bit of a reach though, as most mock drafts seem to have him in the later part of the first round. Here’s Hockey’s Future:

An under-the-radar threat, Zykov is a solidly-built winger who uses his big frame to his advantage when taking punishment in front of the net and in the corners. Extremely dangerous in close, Zykov has a quick release and is always looking to drive to the net or jam in a rebound. Still raw, between his size and his nose for the net, Zykov has plenty of potential but needs to continue to improve his skating.

Ryan Hartman — 5-11, 185 // Plymouth (OHL)

Hartman is the first American born player in this feature, and he hails from Illinois and comes from the US’ developmental program. He’s a smaller forward but he plays a very tough and in-your-face kind of game and has a scoring touch to boot. The knock on him is whether or not his size will be a detriment to his physical style of play at the NHL level. Here’s what Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards had to say:

“Ryan is one of the best skaters in this year’s draft class,” Edwards said. “He has a long, smooth stride and his agility, acceleration and speed are all excellent.”

As Central Scouting’s chief scout for the OHL, Edwards has seen Hartman several times this season.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he shows no fear of getting involved and battles for the puck,” he said. “He can hit hard and is aggressive on the forecheck. He sees the ice well, gets the puck through traffic with creative passes and offers a very good shot that he gets off quickly.”

We’ll be back later with a look at the defenders, and one goalie, who could be available for the Islanders to pick.