(Reuters) - There is plenty of buzz heading into this week’s NHL Draft where Canadian Connor McDavid, a dynamic center who has been anointed a generational player, is set to be taken first overall by the Edmonton Oilers.
McDavid, who is already being compared to Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, heads what is considered the deepest draft class in years given the slew of NHL-ready talent up for grabs in the June 26-27 draft in Sunrise, Florida.
The long-suffering Oilers hold the first overall pick after winning a weighted lottery that is expected to be a defining moment for a franchise that has had little on-ice success since winning five Stanley Cups in seven years from 1984.
McDavid, who racked up a staggering 120 points in 47 games while playing junior ice hockey for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters last season, is a craftsman with the puck.
The 18-year-old’s hockey sense, along with his vision and timing, have made him the most anticipated arrival to the NHL since Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidny Crosby.
Massachusetts-born Jack Eichel, also considered a can‘t-miss prospect, is a muscular center who most experts say would be the top pick in most any other draft. The 18-year-old is expected to be taken second overall by the Buffalo Sabres.
The Boston University center is one of the most highly-touted American prospects following a season where the freshman won the Hobey Baker Award, U.S. college hockey’s top individual prize, after leading the nation with 71 points in 40 games.
A strong, skilled and unselfish player, Eichel is considered to possess the tools needed to be a number one center for at least a decade.
The Arizona Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes round out the top five picks and many mock drafts have them taking centers Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and defenseman Noah Hanifin, respectively.
Strome, who played with McDavid in Erie, boasts impressive size and hockety smarts, Marner has top-end speed along with an incredible shot while Hanifin’s two-way skill make him the best blueliner in the class.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating