Every year in the draft there are certain guys that I like to call “bang the table guys.” These are the guys that I have convictions about and would bang on the table in the draft room in order to get them to be my team’s selection. Every year I select 10 guys that are my favorites (not necessarily the best or highest ranked) and place them on this list.
When I look at prospects, I like guys that have size, speed, skill, hockey sense, and a commitment to the defensive side of the ice. Without further ado, here is my 2015 Bang The Table List.
Lawson Crouse LW Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Projected: Top 10
My Rank: #5
Crouse is by far my favorite player in the draft class this year. Standing at 6-4 and weighing over 200 pounds, Crouse has an intimidating physical presence on the ice. He’s physical and competes on the defensive end as well, which is something scouts and coaches love to see. Crouse skates well for a man of his stature, as he had no issues with the pace in the OHL or at the World Junior Championships this year. The biggest question around Crouse is his offensive upside. His stat line leaves a lot to be desired, but stats don’t tell the whole story. Crouse brings a complete 200 foot game to the table, and has the combination of physical strength and hockey IQ to make the leap to the NHL sooner rather than later.
Daniel Sprong RW Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Projected: Late 1st/Early 2nd
My Rank: #12
Daniel Sprong must have some serious skeletons in his closet, because his talent level warrants a borderline top 10 selection. I’ve heard Sprong called “an in shape committed Phil Kessel” and I can see why. It starts with his combination of speed and rocket of a shot. Sprong is dangerous every time he touches the puck, whether it’s off the rush or off a one timer from the circle. His hands are also impressive; he flat out makes defenders look silly at times. The question-marks come in his play away from the puck and his compete level. Sprong can appear disinterested at time, especially on the defensive side of the puck. He needs to learn to play without the puck on his stick to succeed at the NHL level. However, I want Sprong on my team. The upside is there to be an elite offensive talent, and those guys aren’t easy to find.
Alexander Dergachev C/RW SKA (MHL)
Projected: Round 2
My Rank: #29
Strong, hard nosed, and physical, Dergachev has been on my radar for awhile now. He had his coming out party for Russia at the World Juniors this year, as he was one of two underagers (Ivan Provorov the other) on the roster and he excelled in his role. Dergachev isn’t going to be a 30 goal scorer, but he’s going to anchor your 3rd line and win puck battles on both ends of the ice. He’s dominant in the corners and along the walls, and can unleash a heavy shot when he gets space. His skating stride is fine, but he will need to get quicker to have a chance at an NHL top 6. When it comes down to it, Dergachev is the type of guy you win with, which is why I’m banging the table for him as early as the late 1st round.
Ryan Pilon D Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Projected: Round 3/4
My Rank: #31
I am absolutely puzzled by the lack of love for Ryan Pilon throughout the draft process. Pilon teamed up with Ivan Provorov on the top pair for the Brandon Wheat Kings this year. While Provorov gets all the love, Pilon took a lot of heat this year for appearing disinterested at times. When he’s on his game, Pilion has NHL upside as a two way defenseman that makes great outlets out of his zone and jumps up in the play all while being responsible in his own end of the ice. I think his game is getting nitpicked and believe he has steal of the draft potential if he falls past the top of round 3.
Erik Cernak D Kosice (Slovakia Elite League)
Projected: Round 2/3
My Rank: #35
Hidden in the lower level Slovakian Elite League, opinions on Cernak differ depending on who you ask. Some see his size and physical presence and envision him playing a shut down role for their club. Others see the concentration lapses and poor decision and want nothing to do with him. Obviously his inclusion on this list means I’m on the side of the former. Cernak has impressed me the past two seasons when I’ve seen him at the World Juniors. He’s got a big projectable frame and is very tough to play against. He loves to play physical and good luck if you’re going into the corner with him. His outlet passes and offensive zone play show much room for improvement, and a team that picks him in round 2 will roll the dice that his game will blossom with maturity.
Gabriel Gagne RW Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Projected: Round 2/3
My Rank: #41
A big man that can skate and shoot the puck can play on my team any day. That’s what Gagne brings to the table. At 6-5 and only around 180 pounds, Gagne is a long-term pick that will need a few years of strength and conditioning before he’s ready for a sniff at the NHL level. On the ice, he’s long and gangly, but excels on the offensive end which is a bit odd for a player of his build. He needs to improve his compete level and win more battles in his own zone, but that will come with time. I see a kid that has the potential to be an absolute gem if he can grow into his body.
Mackenzie Blackwood G Barrie Colts (OHL)
Projected: Round 2
My Rank: #45
I don’t have a true sleeper at goalie this year, so I’ll give Blackwood a spot on my inaugural list. Blackwood has a massive frame and is very athletic. Like most young goalies, his down falls come in consistency and rebound control, as well as puck handling. Goalies are tricky, which is why Blackwood’s ranking can rise from top goalie in the draft to mid round guy depending on who you ask. I personally rank Blackwood as the #2 goalie in this draft behind Ilya Samsonov, and believe the raw tools are there to be a starting NHL goalie with development. Take a flier on him in round 2.
Kameron Kielly C Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Projected: Round 5/6
My Rank: #85
The second Charlottetown Islander to make the list, Kameron Kielly has been a favorite of mine for the past two seasons. His hockey sense pops out when you watch him, as he’s always in the right spots on both sides of the puck. Not the biggest guy, Kielly plays physically and gets involved on all 200 feet of the ice. He’s an excellent penalty killer, as his anticipation helps him get in lanes and block shots. Kielly isn’t the fleetest of foot, as his skating is only average, and he will never put up points at the NHL level. What he does have is heart and character in spades, and he seems like one of those guys that will mold himself into and NHL bottom 6 center/PK specialist.
Matteo Gennarro C Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Projected: Round 6/7
My Rank: #100
Gennaro flashed in my viewings of him this year. Big kid at 6-3 that needs to fill out, Gennaro impresses with his skating ability and his hockey sense. The knock on him is he seems to disappear for long stretches, even entire games at times. Gennaro will need to seriously commit to the defensive side of the puck as he is not a natural finisher in order to have a real shot to crack the next level. However, a developing frame and smooth skating stride give me hope for Gennaro to develop into an NHL player in the future.
Jack Poehling and Nick Poehling C/LW Lakeville North HS (MN HS)
Projected: Round 7/Undrafted
My Rank: Not in my top 100, round 6/7 grades
I wanted to pick only one, but I have a hard time separating the Poehling twins. The two of them (along with younger brother Ryan) teamed up to lead Lakeville North to their first state championship. The twins are similar players, both of them combining skill and hockey sense. Both strong skaters, the Poehlings project as bottom 6 secondary scoring threats if they reach the NHL level. They do play best together, and are both headed to St. Cloud State next year, but I don’t think they’d have any issues if separated. I would throw a 6th or 7th on either of these kids and let them develop at the NCAA level.