With just days remaining before the NHL Entry Draft, experts across the hockey universe are trying to predict where the next wave of NHL players will end up showcasing their talents.
We here at TSN are no different, and tasked two of our experts - Pierre McGuire and Craig Button – with representing the league's general managers in our annual Mock Draft.
Alternating selections - McGuire taking the odd numbers and Button the evens - the two did their best to represent both the tendencies and the needs of the teams picking in the first round on Friday.
Controversy was not long in the waiting as the two began divvying up this year's top prospects.
To date, the consensus number one choice has been Red Deer centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's topped the International Scouting Service's list, the NHL Central Scouting list and, on Monday night, was named the top prospect on our own final rankings.
But McGuire decided to go in a different direction. He kicked off the draft by addressing Edmonton's blue line needs with Swedish stalwart Adam Larsson.
"If you look at the Oilers' organizational depth on defence, it's not very good right now," McGuire explained. "Larsson can dominate with the puck, play physically, has great composure and can take charge of a game."
Button was quick to pounce on behalf of the Colorado Avalanche, taking the top-ranked Nugent-Hopkins second overall.
"Colorado would be tickled pink for Nugent-Hopkins to be available at number two," Button said. "He's a terrific playmaker. He's got that uncanny ability to see things that very few can see."
A run of forwards would ensue, starting with Florida taking Gabriel Landeskog. The Devils would counter with Memorial Cup star Jonathan Huberdeau. The Islanders would follow with Niagara sniper Ryan Strome before the second Canadian team of the night stepped up to make its pick.
Button helped Ottawa boost its forward ranks with former projected number-one pick Sean Couturier. Button was pleased with the talent, but McGuire warned that for him to make an impact in Ottawa, he had to up his game from this past season.
Pierre immediately turned to helping build the future of Canada's newest NHL franchise in Winnipeg. Hoping to gain talent from the blueline out, he took hulking Niagara defender Dougie Hamilton.
"They need to stabilize things in their own zone and Hamilton's a physical presence," McGuire said. "He's a real tower of power."
The Mock Draft continued as Columbus took Kitchener's power-play quarterback, Ryan Murphy, which left Boston to settle for the next best option in Jonas Brodin. The top 10 would round out with Minnesota taking Swiss-born Sven Baertschi.
As for the rest of the Canadian teams, they would feature prominently in the final two-thirds of the draft with an additional seven picks out of the final 20.
McGuire thought Calgary would best benefit from the play-making and vision of Saint John centre Zack Phillips at number 13. He would then address Montreal's need for big-bodied forwards with Brandon Saad at 17.
"They've been dying for a centre in Calgary, and Phillips is a great fit," McGuire explained, adding "Brandon Saad's fallen down the rankings, but Montreal needs to get more physical."
He would pick up the mantle for the Oilers and Senators' second choices of the opening round, nabbing another blue-liner for Edmonton in Portland's Joe Morrow, while giving Ottawa another offensive weapon in Morrow's teammate Ty Rattie.
Toronto would boost their prospect ranks with the 25th and 30th picks, taking pint-sized forward Rocco Grimaldi and Mississauga rearguard Stuart Percy respectively.
McGuire didn't think Grimaldi's stature would scare off a general manager like Brian Burke.
"Sometimes great things come in small packages," he said of the five-foot-six Grimaldi. "He plays with speed, tenacity, knows how to finish plays off and never backs down in a one-on-one situation."
However, with Vancouver fresh off a heartbreaking Cup final loss, McGuire reached for a feel-good story with pick number 29.
"I went off the board a bit for David Musil," McGuire said. "He's a home-grown Vancouver guy, and I think he's going to be a really good player for them."
But of course, this was just a dry-run for the real thing. With three Canadian teams possessing multiple first-rounders and with Winnipeg looking to immediately reward its fans, this is a very pivotal draft for Canadian hockey teams in the NHL.
Watch the first round of the NHL Entry Draft unfold Friday on TSN from Minnesota at 7pm et/4pm pt.