Dan Di Sciullo - NHL Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The talk surrounding this year's NHL Draft has been all about two players.
But just because Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are grabbing all the headlines doesn't mean the draft isn't deep.
McDavid and Eichel are considered to be game-changing, generational talents and the hockey media has seized on the duo because they are what makes this draft special. Like it or not, these two will be linked together for a long time as pundits compare and contrast the players throughout their NHL careers.
If the Edmonton Oilers do anything besides use the No. 1 overall pick on McDavid, it would go down as one of the more shocking moments ever at the NHL Draft. So it's safe to say the uber-talented centerman is headed to the "City of Champions," where he'll try to do what a trio of recent Edmonton No. 1 overall picks couldn't -- get the Oilers back to the playoffs.
It would be nearly as surprising if the Buffalo Sabres didn't take Eichel with the No. 2 pick. The Boston University product and reigning Hobey Baker Award winner is pretty spectacular as far as consolation prizes go, and you better believe a kid with his array of skills is going to be hell-bent on proving he's second to nobody, including McDavid.
Over the next several years, we'll be treated to story after story updating the developments of both McDavid and Eichel. Think Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, who were selected No. 1 overall in 2004 and 2005, respectively, but were linked together forever after both players made their NHL debuts in 2005-06.
With McDavid and Eichel all but certain to be gone two picks into this weekend's draft in Sunrise, Florida, let's take a closer look at the credentials and achievements of some of the other kids who could get lost in the shuffle this weekend at the BB&T Center:
CONNOR MCDAVID - C - ERIE (OHL)
McDavid is the complete package, but what sets him apart from Eichel and the rest of the field is his offensive skill set makes him as close to a "can't- miss" prospect as you can get. Like Gretzky or Crosby, he is guaranteed to make others around him better, and McDavid is expected to pay off for Edmonton as early as next season.
With no obvious flaws in McDavid's game, critics have had to take shots at him in other ways. One way is lumping him in with other recent Oilers No. 1 overall picks -- Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov -- who have had varying degrees of success in Edmonton but ultimately haven't been good enough to get the Oilers back to the playoffs. While Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov were de facto No. 1 picks because they were considered to be marginally better than some of their draft-year rivals, McDavid is something completely different. He has the ability to not only succeed on his own, but also make those previous Edmonton draftees reach their own individual potential. The Oilers' three previous shots at No. 1 came in lean years, but with McDavid they expect to have finally hit the draft lottery.
JACK EICHEL - C - BOSTON UNIVERSITY (HOCKEY-EAST)
The Sabres were at their worst in 2014-15, making sure they'd have the best shot at landing the No. 1 overall selection. Unfortunately for Buffalo, having the league's worst record only resulted in it landing the second pick.
Luckily, Eichel is a tremendously exciting player who brings a lot to the table for the Sabres, a team that was tough to watch last season. Eichel may not be on McDavid's level offensively, but he has talent worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in most NHL draft years. Considering how bad it was in Buffalo last season, it shouldn't be too difficult for Eichel to make the Sabres easier to watch in 2015-16.
Eichel became only the second freshman in NCAA history to win the Hobey Baker. He also showed he can hold his own playing among men when he notched two goals and five assists for Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Championship this spring. Like McDavid, he's a dangerous offensive player with ability to create for others and score goals. He's also a superb skater with an impressive burst of speed and is considered to be an excellent defensive player who can play in all situations.
But making the leap from college freshman to savior of a long-suffering NHL franchise is a lot to ask for right away. Eichel will need time to grow into his full potential, but there's every reason to believe he can be the cornerstone the Sabres need to make this current rebuild project work.
NOAH HANIFIN - D - BOSTON COLLEGE
There is little debate Hanifin will be the first defensemen off the board on Friday, but whether he will go directly after McDavid and Eichel or a little later is still up in the air.
For what it's worth, Hanifin already is used to being in Eichel's shadow. He also was a freshman last season in Beantown, playing at Boston College, where he finished third in the NCAA in scoring among freshman blueliners. However, even more than Eichel, Hanifin is going to need time to figure out the NHL game and he'd probably be better off playing another season at BC.
While Eichel will help Buffalo get over missing out on McDavid, the Coyotes are the team which really lost big at the draft lottery. Arizona only had two points more than the Sabres in 2014-15 and were six points worse than the Oilers, but that didn't help the club in the McDavid-Eichel sweepstakes. Instead, the Coyotes are forced to settle for No. 3. That's not a knock on Hanifin or anybody else Arizona decides to pick here, it's just a fact. Although this is considered to be a deep draft, there is no question there's a big drop-off in talent once the two big prizes are off the board.
DYLAN STROME - C - ERIE (OHL)
Another option for the Coyotes at No. 3 is Strome, a teammate of McDavid with the Erie Otters and the younger brother of Ryan Strome of the New York Islanders.
Strome won the OHL scoring title in 2014-15, registering 129 points on 45 goals and 84 assists. He has the size (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), skating ability and offensive skills to be a big contributor at the NHL level, although it may not be as a No. 1 centerman like Eichel or McDavid.
There's a chance he could get a shot with an NHL club at the start of next season, but he'd be better suited at making the full-time jump to the big time sometime after the 2015-16 season.
MITCHELL MARNER - C - LONDON (OHL)
Yet another possibility at No. 3, Marner is an undersized centerman who has built a reputation as a strong two-way player despite his 5-foot-11, 160-pound frame.
Marner plays for the London Knights, the same junior club that once counted former No. 1 overall selection Patrick Kane among its ranks. That's fitting because Marner draws comparisons to the Chicago Blackhawks' star winger, although that's mostly because of their smaller statures. In reality, it's unlikely Marner will be the same type of offensive threat as Kane, but he won't need to be that good to justify a selection early in the first round.
LAWSON CROUSE - LW - KINGSTON (OHL)
While Marner needs to prove he can be an effective NHL player despite his stature, Crouse's appeal is the opposite. At 6-4, 213 pounds, the Frontenacs' power forward has drawn comparisons to former NHL star Eric Lindros for his ability to combine physical play with high-end offensive skill.
Nicknamed "The Sheriff" due to his desire to stick up for his teammates, Crouse has the intangible qualities many NHL GMs are looking for in draft- eligible players. He may not become an MVP-type player like Lindros was during his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it's not a stretch to say he could develop into a physical forward in the vein of Boston's Milan Lucic.
IVAN PROVOROV - D - BRANDON (WHL)
Considered to be the second-best defensive prospect after Hanifin, there are many scouts who think Provorov could be better than the BC blueliner. One reason he will likely go later than Hanifin is the fact he's a Russian and GMs are still worried about players from that country abandoning their NHL dreams to play at home in the KHL.
For now at least, there is no question Provorov wants to play in North America. He nearly went the NCAA route like Hanifin, but instead opted to play for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. He'll likely spend most of next season in Brandon, too, but depending on which team selects him, there is a chance he could be ready to join an NHL roster as early as next season.
MIKKO RANTANEN - RW - TPS (FINLAND)
Unlike the forwards mentioned above, Rantanen doesn't expect to wow people with any one skill. Instead, the Finnish winger combines size, skill, positioning and hockey IQ to rate as one of the most balanced players available on draft day.
The 6-4, 211 pound forward spent last season playing among men at the top level of Finnish hockey (SM-liiga), registering 28 points in 56 games for TPS to lead all under-20 players in scoring.
In the run-up to the draft, Rantanen's name has been mentioned regularly as a possible option for the Flyers, who hold the seventh pick and desperately need help on the wings.