The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is 7 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 daily mock draft. We are at pick number 24 today.
The Predators traded their first round pick to the Maple Leafs along with Olli Jokinen (who was quickly traded to the Blues for Joakim Lindstrom) and Brendan Leipsic, and barring any other trades, that twenty-fourth pick will be the Leafs second of the 2015 draft. The Leafs are currently rebuilding, but if they keep making smart trades like this one, they won't be rebuilding for very long. The Predators spent this season using picks and prospects to improve their team for what they expected would be a long playoff run. Then they met the Blackhawks in the first round and got two measly playoff wins.
The Predators could have really used a right wing as they don’t have any NHL caliber prospects at that position, and while Filip Forsberg is great, the Predators don't have much beyond him. Basically, the chronically understaffed offensively Predators lost two top six forwards when they traded for Franson and Santorelli because the guy who they would have picked and Brendan Leipsic both will probably play a lot of games in the NHL. The Maple Leafs and their fans will love Brendan Leipsic, who adds irritating and sometimes dirty play to fast skating and great shooting. (The ultimate "pesky" moment of his junior career was when he took his team off a 5 on 3 power play during a playoff game because he wanted to drink out of the opposition goalie’s water bottle. He’s the kind of guy who teammates and fans love and opponents love to hate.)
While the Predators should have used this pick on a forward, the Maple Leafs can use this pick for just about any position. The Leafs prospect pool is weakest for goaltenders, but there aren't any "sure thing" NHL goalies available this year, so in a draft with a large number of almost certain NHL skaters, it would be a bad idea to spend a first round pick on a goalie. It would be a reach for the Leafs to take one and their need isn't great enough to make that reach necessary.
It would make sense for them to take a defenseman with this pick if they took a forward with their own first round pick, and since they took the explosive Mitch Marner with their first pick in the HW Mock Draft, they will take defenseman Thomas Chabot with their second pick.
Scouting Thomas Chabot
There are so many elite draft eligible players this year that every junior team seems to have at least two top prospects. Thomas Chabot plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs along with fellow defenseman Jakub Zboril, who should be picked a little earlier than Chabot.
Whether 5 on 5 or on the powerplay, Chabot is a smart player who makes plays happen by both shooting, passing and jumping into the play when necessary. He’s a graceful skater, and his smooth, confident stride helps exude a calming presence that calms his team in turn. Chabot also works hard to enter the zone with possession, an increasingly important skill to have as the NHL shifts away from dump and chase style hockey. He is a good offensive contributor who makes it easy for his team to score, but doesn't sacrifice too much defensively to make offense happen.
Future Considerations likes his passing and skating:
"A strong passer who delivers pucks with good timing and accuracy…has the ability to read the play and pick-and-choose his spots…has a powerful stride that generates power but could improve the overall quickness in his feet…willing to join the offensive attack…handles the puck well…not a big point shot but gets it on net consistently…reads the play well in his own zone and defensively he has the size and reach to close off lanes…good transition defender that moves the puck up ice."
Scout Cody Nickolet summarizes his skill set:
"While he could clean up some of his decision making from time to time, he features a ton of potential. His game is built around his solid skating stride, accenting that with puck moving ability and a big shot."
His biggest weakness is that he doesn’t make physical plays when needed, especially in his own zone. He would rather out-think his opponent than out-hit him. Sometimes a physical play is needed, and perhap Chabot will develop that skill as he matures as a hockey player and adds more muscle. At 6'2" he has enough size that he could add physicality to his repertoire. It’s certainly easier to teach hitting than it is to teach the kind of hockey smarts that Chabot already possesses.
Thomas Chabot is a potential top four pairing defenseman who will log a lot of minutes when he gets to the NHL.
Would he fit on the Wild?
Considering the Wild's biggest weakness is not having enough players who are willing to shoot, I would be a little disappointed if they drafted two-way defenseman Chabot. He is, however, a left shot defenseman, and because the Wild are less stocked with left shot defenseman, picking Chabot wouldn't be as big of a mistake as some of the players who might be available when the Wild pick at 20th.