The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is 16 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a mock draft. We are at pick number 18.
Ottawa Senators Prospect Report
Despite making the playoffs this season, Ottawa generally isn't seen as one of the up-and-coming teams in the league. They've got a great, great piece to build around in Erik Karlsson, a 25-year-old defenseman who is peerless at generating offense (and is better than you think defensively), but other than that? Not a ton to write home about, as far as older players go. They tied up huge money in Bobby Ryan, who is not only unable to spell "intense", but who hasn't done a particularly great job spelling "goals" since leaving Anaheim.
Fortunately, the Senators have some young help in the NHL already. Mark Stone had a great rookie season, scoring 26 goals and 64 points en route to a Calder Trophy Nomination. Center Mika Zibanejad is way more than an awesome name- he's a two-way center that potted 20 goals at the young age of 21. Curtis Lazar didn't produce much in his first full season, but he should still develop into a powerful center. On the defensive side of the puck, Cody Ceci, Patrick Wiercioch, and Jared Cowen are all young and should be able to help the Sens going forward.
The prospect pool is a bit lacking. It's not that they don't have fine prospects, they do in guys like Nicholas Paul. But there's not really anyone with elite upside in the system to compliment a solid supporting cast.
Fortunately, say it with me, this draft is good and deep. The Senators will have a great opportunity to select a player who can develop into an elite prospect.
The Pick: Jakub Zboril, Defenseman, St. John Sea Dogs
As we said earlier, Ottawa has a lot of good young defenders in the NHL, as well as some defensive prospects that are near the NHL. So why are we picking a defenseman?
Because Zboril has a really good package of skills that put him at the top end of those players. Zboril has a lot of great attributes to him, both defensively and offensively, and he could make a great all-around counterpart to Erik Karlsson one day. Ottawa's defensive depth also helps in that it's unlikely the Senators will have to rush Zboril until he's ready.
Instead of having one quality that draws everyone to Zboril, the Czech native can do just about anything. He's a very good, smart skater who is able to use his mobility to move the puck up the ice. He's got good offensive skills, with most citing his shot as being notable. He's got decent size (6'1", 184) that he's able to use in the physical game, playing with an edge to his game.
Love this kid's willingness to play a little dirty defensively and contribute to the offensive side of the game as well. He has some areas and wrinkles to work out and improve about but he is a versatile defenseman that's got all the raw tools it takes to become a top-pair minute munching defenseman in the NHL. - Future Considerations
Jakub is more of a puck mover... but can play the power play and contribute with a good shot. He competes physically, bears down on others, doesn't give an inch and can be nasty. A Top-three defenceman who makes it hard on opponents. Compares to Niklas Hjalmarsson.- Craig Button, TSN
While he doesn't aim to impress, he does all of the little things right and plays with an edge. Smooth skater with lots of energy to burn. Not afraid to lay the body, or take a hit to make the play. Possesses good hands and awareness on the cie, as well as a hard shot that is quite accurate. All-in-all, a complete defenseman that is relied upon to offset any oncoming attacks, as well as create chances in the opposing end.- Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
It's entirely possible that Zboril may "just" be a reliable defensive defenseman that can move the puck, which is still incredibly valuable in the NHL. But if he puts all his skills together and develops well, he's got a high ceiling.
How Would He Fit With the Wild
I'm not quite certain if Zboril would be the best pick for the Wild at this range. The Wild have a glut of blueliners in the NHL right now, with Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and Mathew Dumba leading the way at forward. Guys like Christian Folin and Gustav Olofsson are still trying to get a full-time NHL job. The Wild could maybe even sign Mike Reilly, if he makes the wrong choice for his career and goes to anywhere but Chicago. Whereas at forward, there's no blue-chip prospect other than Alex Tuch, and a black hole at center.
Even noting all that, I wouldn't be upset if the Wild found Zboril to be the Best Player Available and draft him. Even with long-term contracts out to Ryan Suter, Brodin, and Scandella, it's hard to tell what the Wild's blueline will look like in three years. Furthermore, Zboril has a combination of skating, skill, and nastiness that sounds pretty similar to Marco Scandella, and there just aren't many of those kinds of players in the Wild's system. I'd imagine that it'll be hard for the Wild front office to resist the temptation to go for an area of immediate need, seeing as Minnesota is in "win-now" mode, but if they try and play the long game, Zboril is a good bet.