With the NHL Scouting Combine underway in Buffalo this week and the NHL Draft less than a month away at the BB&T Center home of the Florida Panthers, it’s finally time to bust out the always crowd-pleasing CSNNE NHL mock draft. We’ve projected that the Blackhawks will eventually prevail over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final as the teams with the 29th and 30th selections in the first round are still uncertain until the Cup his hoisted. 

1. Edmonton – Connor McDavid (Erie): The generational prospect compared to Sidney Crosby is expected to finally be the young, high first round pick that will elevate the Oilers out of being the NHL’s perpetual punch line. The Oilers put everything on hold in the second half of last season hoping they’d get the dynamic, dominant McDavid, and now that’s going to be a reality.

2. Buffalo – Jack Eichel (Boston University): Tim Murray needed a few minutes to get over the lack of reward for tanking the Sabres last season, but Eichel is the best consolation prize in the history of the draft. Scouts compare his game to big franchise centers like Mike Modano or Evgeni Malkin, and he should be fun to watch with Evander Kane and Matt Moulson.

3. Arizona – Noah Hanifin (Boston College): After netting a stud offensive forward prospect (Anthony Duclair) in the Keith Yandle trade, the Coyotes can use the draft to replace their former All-Star defenseman with the outstanding Boston College freshman. He’s got prototypical NHL size and has the offensive skills to run with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, even if it might take a few years for him to get completely up to speed.

4. Toronto –Dylan Strome (Erie): Perhaps netting the offensively gifted Strome will free up Brendan Shanahan to trade Phil Kessel, and start to rebuild the dumpster fire with the Leafs. Or he could be the dynamic center that Kessel has never had during his time in Toronto.

5. Carolina – Lawson Crouse (Kingston): One thing the Hurricanes could use is a dynamic, physical power forward, and the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Crouse qualifies as the best in the draft. Some skill in Carolina, but not nearly enough size, strength and power up front right now.

6. New Jersey – Mitchell Marner (London): The 5-foot-11, 160-pound center is a prolific playmaker that elevates his game in big moments, and would give the Devils some needed youth and electric skill. The size is really the only caveat at this point, but the skills are all there.

7. Philadelphia –Zachary Werenski (Michigan University): the biggest need for the Flyers is a shutdown, potential franchise top-pairing defenseman, and this is arguably the best D-man in the draft along with Hanifin. He’s 6-foot-2, 206 pounds that led the Wolverines PP in points, and also led the team in blocked shots. That’s a rare commodity.

8. Columbus – Mikko Rantanen (Finland): A 6-foot-3, 211-pound left winger that led Finland in scoring at World Juniors, and also has a Finnish GM running the show for the Blue Jackets. This is like a match made in Finland.

9. San Jose – Pavel Zacha (Sarnia): A strong, smart, skilled two-way player that should be a good partner-in-crime with fellow Czech Tomas Hertl. He’s 6-foot-3 and 214-pounds, so he’s already got good NHL size.

10. Colorado – Ivan Provorov (Brandon): A 6-foot, 201-pound left shot defenseman that’s solid at both ends of the ice, and will be a nice complement to the star-studded group up front for the Avs.

11. Florida – Timo Meier (Halifax): The versatile forward can play center or right wing, and does everything well in another well-rounded selection for the Panthers. They are putting together a talented bunch down there, and the 6-foot-1, 209-pound Swiss forward could be a player that really grows into something special.

12. Dallas – Kyle Connor (Youngstown): The speedy, skilled scoring machine is exactly the kind of piece that could fit right in with the offensive powerhouse getting built in Dallas. Talk about the perfect fit.

13. Los Angeles – Thomas Chabot (Saint John): A slick, offensively gifted defenseman with a 6-foot-2 frame sound exactly like what the Kings need given the understandably uncertain future of Slava Voynov.

14. Boston – Jakub Zboril (Czech Republic): The Czech-born defenseman is good enough offensively to quarterback a power play, and also plays with an intense, physical edge. Sounds like a perfect fit in Boston. Alternate pick: Paul Bittner, a 6-foot-4 winger that can skate and topped 30 goals in junior hockey last season.

15. Calgary – Mathew Barzal (Seattle): A skilled skater with 45 assists in 44 regular season games for the Thunderbirds, and had four goals in six playoff games. Calgary is turning into another skill factory with their personnel and talent level.

16. Edmonton (original pick of Pittsburgh Penguins) – Jansen Harkins (Prince George):  I fully expect this pick gets traded somewhere for a D-man or a goaltender prior to the draft, but Harkins is a player with few weaknesses. The bloodlines are great – his dad Todd and uncle Brett both played in the NHL – and he’s a good-sized, well-rounded center that can make plays offensively while also battling in the D-zone.

17. Winnipeg – Paul Bittner (Portland): The Winnipeg Jets are starting to stockpile big, heavy bodies up front and in back to deal with the other titans in the Western Conference, and the smooth-skating 6-foot-4 winger knocked home 30 plus goals in junior last season.

18. Ottawa – Travis Konecny (Ottawa): Another home run for the Senators as their hometown Ottawa 67’s forward is waiting for them when they get to the podium. The only risk with a player that can do it all: he’s just 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds.

19. Detroit – Oliver Kylington (Sweden): Some have made comparisons to fellow Swede Erik Karlsson in terms of his skating and skill set, and the Red Wings would seem like a natural landing spot for that kind of D-man.

20. Minnesota – Colin White (U.S. NDTP): Charlie Coyle has worked out so well with the Wild that they roll the dice on another mega-talented Massachusetts kid. White’s name is on the rise entering the draft after some big tourney performances, and his two-way game has never been in question.

21. Buffalo (original pick of New York Islanders) - Gabriel Carlsson (Sweden): The run of defenseman continues with this 6-foot-4 D-man that would make another nice big-bodied building block after the trade of Tyler Myers. He’s a stay-at-home type, but Buffalo could use a little of that.

22. Washington - Jeremy Roy (Sherbrooke): You can never have enough mobile, right-handed shooting defenseman.

23. Vancouver - Evgeny Svechnikov (Cape Breton): The big (6-foot-3, 205-pounds) Russian winger has a wicked shot, and the kind of dangerous skill that Jim Benning likes in his players.

24. Toronto (original pick of Nashville Predators): Nick Merkley (Kelowna): A smart, savvy winger that knows how to create offense, he makes it two forwards for the Leafs with their two first round picks.

25. Winnipeg (original pick of St. Louis Blues): Anthony Beauvillier (Shawinigan) – He’s only 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, but he brings an electric skill level to an organization that could use more top end forwards.

26. Montreal – Jeremy Bracco (U.S. NTDP): He’s a playmaking trigger man for the US National Development Program, and brings the kind of creativity and skill they yearn for at the Bell Centre.

27. Anaheim – Jordan Greenway (U.S. NTDP): The production numbers aren’t there, but you can’t teach being 6-foot-5 and 222 pounds as a teen-ager. That’s a project ready for some team to take a chance with, and Anaheim loves big and strong.

28. Tampa Bay (original pick of New York Rangers) – Daniel Sprong (Charlottetown): A Dutch-born player that’s lived in Montreal most of his life, he’s got the flashy skill required to be a member of the Lightning organization. He can most definitely hang with their forward group.

29. Arizona (original pick of Tampa Bay Lightning) – Brock Boeser (Waterloo): A heavy forward that also scored 30-plus goals last season in junior, this would be a long term investment as he’s headed to North Dakota. Perhaps that plan will change now that Dave Hakstol is gone from the program.

30. Philadelphia (original pick of Chicago Blackhawks) – Brandon Carlo (Tri-City): The Flyers take another defenseman, and this time they go with a 6-foot-5 bruiser that could finally someday return that Pronger-like presence to the heart of the team on Broad Street.