NHL draft depth is a difficult topic. If we look at the NFL’s draft format first, we will discover one significant difference to the NHL. The football draft prospects are at least 21 years old at the time of the selection and are therefore much more mature and developed than the 18-year-olds in the NHL draft. Why this is important when analyzing the NHL draft depth?
Well, when you make a selection in the NFL draft, you want to get a player that can have an immediate impact. Looking at the draft-class before the draft, it is fairly easy to analyze how many of the players have a chance to have an immediate impact with their team — and therefore how deep the draft is. In the NHL on the other hand, it is much harder than that. Teams try to pick players that they believe have the biggest potential to have long NHL careers.
NHL draft depth is a guessing game
Before the NHL draft, it is a little bit of a guessing game, how many players will actually succeed as NHL professionals. However, hockey analysts try to analyze the NHL draft depth anyway, and many came to the conclusion that this year’s draft may be the deepest since 2003. That 2003 draft was without a doubt the deepest we have seen so far, featuring 16 All-Stars only in the first round and ten more in the eight other rounds. Furthermore, every single player selected in the first round has actually played in the NHL.
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft-class is already regarded one of the strongest of all time as well. That is mainly because we have two generational talents, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, that are expected to go off the board as the No. 1 and No. 2 selections. As of now, it seems safe to say that these two beat the first overall pick from 12 years ago, Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury. But how do the two drafts compare depth-wise? We dared to compare.
Behind the “generational two”, we have a somewhat big drop-off in talent. However, there are at least eight other players that are in their own tier above the rest of their draft-class. That includes forwards like Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Lawson Crouse, as well as defensemen Noah Hanifin, Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov. Behind the, say, top-12, there is another little drop-off.
Drop-off? Yes. Little talent? No. In the top-20 of the 2015 NHL Draft, we still find players that have the potential to become elite one day. Timo Meier, Nick Merkley, Jansen Harkins, Thomas Chabot and many others are names to remember — they can be expected to stick around in the NHL for a very long time and prove good NHL draft depth.
The top-20 is much closer together than usually
When doing mock drafts, it is usually easy to put together a top-15 or top-20. There won’t be many differences between those done by the NHL’s big analysts or even fans. The rankings often kind of just make up themselves. This time around, however, it is much harder.
Will the Coyotes go with defenseman Noah Hanifin or center Dyland Strome? What about the Leafs, Hanifin, Strome, or even Marner? Let’s take a look farther back. Who will the Colorado Avalanche pick? Mikko Rantanen? Zach Werenski? Timo Meier? What about Nick Merkley? Let me say this: you cannot go wrong with any one of the mentioned players.
This year’s NHL draft depth is at least close to 2003
This years NHL draft depth is incredible. Will you find a Corey Perry with the 28th overall pick like in 2003? A Patrice Bergeron at No. 43 and a Dustin Byfuglien at 245? Well, as much as I would love to give you the answer, I simply can’t. That is not because I am missing knowledge about the players, but because it is impossible to predict how many players will actually make the NHL.
When you have five different options with the tenth overall pick that all seem like great ones, you know you have great depth in the first round. It is way too early to say if all 30 of the first round draftees will play NHL games like it happened with those drafted in 2003, but the potential is certainly there. And who knows, maybe we will even see some more players making an immediate impact in the NHL than usually.