The 2015 NHL draft class is loaded with excellent depth and talent, and that includes a plethora of highly skilled prospects from the United States.
U.S. players made up 25.1 percent of all draftees in 2013, and that number rose to 30.5 percent last year. We should see a similar or higher percentage in June, and this year’s group of American prospects has extra excitement surrounding it because of elite-level prospects like Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Boston College’s Noah Hanifin, who both are expected to be selected in the top five.
Here are the 10-best U.S. prospects in the 2015 draft class.
1. Jack Eichel, 6-2, 194 pounds (Center, Boston University/NCAA)
Stats: 40 GP, 26 G, 45 A, 71 P
Eichel would be No. 1 in just about any other draft. He’s a rare prospect that has very few weaknesses and a polished skill set at both ends of the ice. He projects to be a 20-plus goal scorer and an elite playmaking center for at least a decade. One of his most common NHL player comparisons is Anaheim Ducks captain and No. 1 center Ryan Getzlaf.
2. Noah Hanifin, 6-3, 203 (Defenseman, Boston College/NCAA)
Stats: 37 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 P
Hanifin is an excellent two-way defenseman with a big, physical frame and the smooth staking and offensive skill to provide consistent scoring production. He’s also a high character kid with the maturity of a veteran.
3. Zachary Werenski, 6-2, 206 (Defenseman, Michigan/NCAA)
Stats: 35 GP, 9 G, 16 A, 25 P
The Wolverines do a very good job developing defensemen and Werenski is the latest example. He’s a strong skater, a quality power-play quarterback and a polished defensive player. His puck retrieval skills also are impressive.
Werenski is among the top candidates to move up in the draft despite being ranked outside the top 10 on some prospect lists.
4. Kyle Connor (Center/Left Wing, Youngstown/USHL)
Stats: 56 GP, 34 G, 46 A, 80 P
Connor’s ability to play center or wing would give NHL teams valuable versatility. He’s also the most NHL-ready forward from the USHL after leading the league with 80 points. Don’t be surprised if he’s selected toward the end of the top 10.
5. Colin White, 6-0, 183 (Center, USA-U18/USHL)
Stats: 45 GP, 16 G, 26 A, 42
White was nearly a point-per-game player for USA-U18 despite battling illness and injuries this season. He’s without question a first-round talent and projects to be a top-six forward at the NHL level with a well-rounded, two-way skill set that includes a high hockey IQ.
6. Brock Boeser, 6-0, 191 (Right Wing, Waterloo/USHL)
Stats: 55 GP, 34 G, 31 A, 65 P
Boeser is one of the better two-way wingers among U.S. prospects and plays a power forward-type of game. He’s not a liability defensively by any means, but his best assets are scoring tools, most notably a powerful, accurate shot that features a quick release. He projects to be a mid-to-late first-round pick who could fall anywhere from No. 20 through No. 30.
7. Brandon Carlo, 6-5, 196 (Defenseman, Tri-City/WHL)
Stats: 63 GP, 4 G, 21 A, 25 P
Carlo is an exciting defenseman prospect because he has tremendous size and a high hockey IQ. He projects to be a late first-round pick and won’t be NHL ready for at least a few seasons, but his talent certainly would be worth the wait.
8. Thomas Novak, 6-0, 179 (Center, Waterloo/USHL)
Stats: 45 GP, 14 G, 34 A, 48 P
Novak is a quality playmaker and an impressive skater. He’s definitely a first-round talent, but the incredible depth at center in this class could force him to fall out of the first round.
9. Paul Bittner, 6-4, 204 (Left Wing, Portland/WHL)
Stats: 66 GP, 34 G, 37 A, 71 P
Bittner is an intriguing prospect because of his improving offensive skill set and exceptional size. He’s not afraid to go to the net and battle for puck possession in the dirty areas. Bittner would benefit from at least another season of experience in the WHL, but he also would be a nice selection in the late first round or early second round.
10. Christian Fischer, 6-1, 212 (Right Wing, USA-U18/USHL)
Stats: 57 GP, 28 G, 25 A, 53 P
Fischer is projected to be an early-to-mid second-round selection as an offensive-minded power forward. His shot and work ethic are among his best assets.
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