Nick Merkley had a stellar season with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets

NHL Draft: Barzal, Merkley high in McKenzie’s final rankings; Carlo, Kylington for Canucks?

The Kelowna Rockets centre and Seattle Thunderbirds star pierced into TSN's final draft list, ranked 2nd and 3rd among all WHL players.

There are no surprises at the top of Bob McKenzie’s list. But even so, that’s where most will look – to see Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, of course, first and second overall on the TSN insider’s final ranking ahead of this month’s NHL Draft.

Noah Hanifin, the American defenceman thought to be the only one within striking distance of either A or B, remains at third. But there’s a small surprise at four, where the often-imploding Toronto Maple Leafs pick – London Knights dynamo Mitch Marner has taken the spot, replacing large-and-in-charge centre Dylan Strome, who’s dropped to fifth.

Read: Who should the Vancouver Canucks take 23rd overall? (by Kolby Solinsky, Black Press – April 30, 2015)

(While most scouts have had Strome at four for most of the season, a slow playoffs and his questioned skating ability have since led to doubts about his place in the draft’s Top 5. Marner, who’s been a Top 10 favourite since Day 1 of his OHL season, has impressed as much as anyone in the class, as of late.)

“He’s elusive and very hard to keep in check because he is constantly in motion,” writes TSN’s head scout, Craig Button, in the network’s profile for Marner. “The best winger in the draft.”

The highest B.C.-born player in the draft is Seattle Thunderbirds star Mathew Barzal, from Coquitlam, who’s ranked ninth on McKenzie’s board – relatively the same spot other predictors and analysts have placed the electric pivot.

Read: Mathew Barzal, the perfect fit for Philadelphia? (via Broad Street Hockey – June 3, 2015)

Barzal is also McKenzie’s second-highest WHLer, just behind Brandon defenceman Ivan Provorov in eighth – and far ahead of the next, Kelowna Rockets centre Nick Merkley at 17th.

Read: Rockets’ Merkley high on NHL scouts’ radar (via Kelowna Capital News – May 27, 2015)

It’s down at No. 23 where the Vancouver Canucks will make their first selection of the draft, and their only selection in the first round (barring a trade before now and then).

From 20th to 25th, McKenzie has placed Portland’s Paul Bittner, Denis Gurianov, Tri-City’s Brandon Carlo, Joel Eriksson Ek, Oliver Kylington, and Saint John’s Thomas Chabot, in that order.

“Has a real steadiness to his play and goes about his tasks in a nondescript manner,” Button writes of Carlo, who’s been linked to the Canucks by bloggers and the rumour mill – perhaps that’s not evidence of a planned selection, but it’s smoke.

“Effective moving puck but not considered an offensive contributor.”

So, Tanev?

VIDEO: Brandon Carlo Highlights – Tri-City Americans

VIDEO: Oliver Kylington Highlights – Farjestad (Sweden)

VIDEO: Joel Eriksson Ek Highlights – Farjestad (Sweden)

VIDEO: Thomas Chabot Highlights – Saint John Sea Dogs

VIDEO: Denis Gurianov Highlights – Togliatti

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