The excitement is palpable. Even before the 2014 draft had taken place, folks were already talking about 2015, when phenom centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would be eligible for selection. But it goes far beyond those two pivots – there is also Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington on the back end to consider, plus a host of skilled forwards and burly power forwards. Here's my initial take on the top 30 picks for 2015:
1. Connor McDavid, C – Erie Otters (OHL): With his combination of skill and smarts, there's no reason to doubt that McDavid will challenge for the Ontario League scoring crown and also be front and center when Canada goes for gold on home ice at the world juniors in Toronto and Montreal.
2. Jack Eichel, C – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East): His size, shot and speed brought him to the NCAA as an 18-year-old where the local kid is expected to make an immediate impact. He'll also face down McDavid at the world juniors when Team USA clashes with the Canucks on New Year's Eve in Montreal.
3. Noah Hanifin, D – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East): Ultra-talented, poised and man-sized already, Hanifin will be an Eagle at just 17 years of age. Plays both ends of the ice and has brought up Seth Jones comparisons.
4. Oliver Kylington, D – Farjestad (SHL): The slick-skating Swede has decent size and excellent vision. Held out of the world under-18s last year because Farjestad needed him, he also won the puck control competition against the American League all-stars at 16.
5. Mathew Barzal, C – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): Quick playmaker has a bit of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in his game. Barzal was great for Canada at the world under-18s and will lead the T-Birds this season.
6. Pavel Zacha, LW – Sarnia Sting (OHL): The big Czech power forward was taken first overall in the CHL import draft. His speed, size and shot are high-end and he has been mentored by Petr Nedved and Patrik Stefan.
7. Colin White, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL): Committed to Boston College, White is a two-way center with great speed who leads with his character and has drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews.
8. Dylan Strome, C – Erie Otters (OHL): Smart and talented, Strome has a 6-foot-2 frame with room for more bulk. Expect big offensive numbers from the younger brother of Isles property Ryan Strome.
9. Kyle Connor, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL): A breakout talent at the world under-18s, Connor will put up major points for the Phantoms this season. The University of Michigan commit has smarts, speed and a great shot.
10. Daniel Sprong, RW – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL): Born in Amsterdam, Sprong came to Canada for the competition and he's still lighting it up. The super-smart winger has a cracking shot and a solid frame.
11. Mitchell Marner, C – London Knights (OHL)
12. Lawson Crouse, LW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
13. Zach Werenski, D – University of Michigan Wolverines (Big 10)
14. Travis Konecny, C – Ottawa 67's (OHL)
15. Jeremy Roy, D – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
16. Mikko Rantanen, C – TPS (Fin.)
17. Evgeny Svechnikov, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
18. Ryan Gropp, LW – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
19. Tom Novak, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
20. Guillaume Brisebois, D – Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
21. Jordan Greenway, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
22. Nicolas Roy, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
23. Brock Boeser, RW – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
24. Jakub Zboril, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
25. Jansen Harkins, C – Prince George Cougars (WHL)
26. Paul Bittner, LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
27. Nick Merkley, C – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
28. Erik Cernak, D – Kosice (Svk.)
29. Brandon Carlo, D – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
30. Dennis Yan, LW – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Edited to correct that Oliver Kylington won the puck control relay, not fastest skater at AHL All-Star Game.