We are just over a month away from the 2014 NHL Draft. With just four teams remaining in the NHL playoffs, the order is almost set.
This year’s top four is full of players that are almost assured to be difference makers for the team that drafts them. After that, the draft is full of mystery as it could go anywhere.
This mock draft is trade-free but I believe there will be more than a few deals on draft day.
Let’s get started.
(Teams with a * beside them mean the pick isn’t finalized because the team’s still playing in the playoffs)
1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad
I think the Panthers could trade this pick but if they don’t, they’ll go with Ekblad. After taking a forward in Aleksander Barkov last year, they’ll go with a defenseman this year.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Bennett
The Sabres will surprise more than a few people taking Bennett over the other Sam in the top four, Sam Reinhart. There has been a lot of talk about Bennett’s leadership skills and that’s what Buffalo will need in the coming years. Bennett might not be ready for the NHL next season, but he’s a great pick regardless.
3. Edmonton Oilers: Sam Reinhart
While he isn’t a the big centerman the Oilers need, he would definitely be a good fit in Edmonton. He’s a heart-and-soul type player that will mesh well with any of the Oilers other skilled youngsters. Alternatively, the Oilers could trade down in order to draft a defenseman.
4. Calgary Flames: William Nylander
Calgary abandons the top four by taking the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander. Why? To shore up their top two lines for the foreseeable future. Imagine this: Sean Monahan as their first-line center and Nylander manning the second line. That would certainly help the rebuild.
5. New York Islanders: Leon Draisaitl
The Islanders could move this pick to Buffalo as part of the ill-fated Thomas Vanek trade. If they decide to keep this pick, they will go with the best player available and Draisaitl will fall right into their laps. Draisaitl will become the highest-drafted German player ever.
6. Vancouver Canucks: Haydn Fleury
The Canucks took forwards Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk with their two first-round picks. That’s one reason to take a defenseman. Reason number two? Vancouver’s blue line is aging quickly and they will need reinforcements soon. Fleury will help with that.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: Nick Ritchie
When you look at the Hurricanes’ roster, there isn’t much toughness there. Ritchie will give them a power forward that will give them a lot of toughness while still giving them offensive production.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Virtanen
It’s about time the Leafs go with a high-risk, high-reward player. Virtanen is a player that could really work out for the Leafs, or he might not. After years of safe picks, it’s time to take a risk.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Michael Dal Colle
Dal Colle could go higher than this but falls due to team needs. Winnipeg won’t be disappointed about this pick.
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa): Brendan Perlini
The Ducks really benefit from the Bobby Ryan trade. Here they can take the best player available and take a risk. Brendan comes from a hockey family so he has the bloodlines. His father was an eighth-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 1980.
11. Nashville Predators: Nikolaj Ehlers
The Predators have never really had an offensive dynamo on their team outside of Alexander Radulov. With a new coach and system in place, there will now be a focus on offense in Nashville. Ehlers gives them a good offensive player who comes from a good system in Halifax of the QMJHL, the same team Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin come from.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Kasperi Kapanen
The Coyotes have had a habit of picking sons of former NHLers in the last few drafts, Henrik Samuelsson and Max Domi among them. Kasperi Kapanen, son of Sami Kapanen, will allow them to continue the trend while still giving them a reliable two-way forward.
13. Washington Capitals: Alex Tuch
It’s hard to forecast a pick of a team that doesn’t have a general manager, but I think there will be a change in culture in Washington. After years of usually taking Russians, Swedes, or other Europeans in the first-round, it’s time to come back to North America. Tuch (pronounced “Tuck”) gives the Caps a future power forward.
14. Dallas Stars: Roland McKeown
The Stars have taken forwards with their last two first-round picks so it’s time to take a defenseman. McKeown projects to be a two-way defenseman that will fit right in Dallas.
15. Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
Larkin is from Detroit. He is going the University of Michigan. It just seems right for the Red Wings to make this pick. Detroit likes to give their prospects time to develop so a player going to college won’t scare them away.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Julius Honka
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Sanheim
We all know that one of the Flyers’ biggest problems is their blue line. While they will try to remedy that with trades and free agents, it would still be smart to focus on the blue line in the draft. Sanheim burst on to the radar this season and was one of the best defensemen on Canada’s under-18 team.
18. Minnesota Wild: Thatcher Demko
Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom are injury-prone. Ilya Bryzgalov is a free agent on July 1. Minnesota’s goaltending situation is a mess. Best to try to remedy that by picking Demko, the draft’s best goaltender.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jared McCann
While Tampa Bay needs to pick a defenseman, they can do that with their second first-rounder. Here, they take the best player available. That player, I believe, is McCann, who could eventually take Valtteri Filppula‘s spot as the second-line center.
20. San Jose Sharks: Robby Fabbri
Fabbri looks like a young Marty St. Louis as he is a small player who doesn’t let it affect his game at all. For a team that will be looking to change its outlook in San Jose, Fabbri is a good pick for them.
21. St. Louis Blues: Kevin Fiala
The Blues definitely need more offense as when Vladimir Tarasenko was hurt, St. Louis went back to a scoring by committee system that doesn’t always work. They need another game-breaker. Fiala has the potential to be that. This pick could go to Buffalo should the Blues re-sign or trade Ryan Miller before the Draft.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Ivan Barbashev
With Evgeni Malkin on their team, Pittsburgh shouldn’t let the “Russian Factor” intimidate them. The Penguins are still built down the middle and on defense for the long haul. However, their biggest need has always been the wing positions. Barbashev would look good on the left side of either Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
23. Colorado Avalanche: Jakub Vrana
Tomas Hertl has done a lot for Czech players at the draft. Before him, there haven’t been that many skilled Czechs this side of Jaromir Jagr. A team like Colorado will take the chance on Vrana, hoping that they can get similar results to San Jose.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Nick Schmaltz
The Ducks need to shore their wing positions and they do that even further after taking Perlini with the 10th pick. Nick’s brother Jordan was drafted by St. Louis two years ago. While there are worries about his game, Anaheim’s system would be good for him.
25. Boston Bruins: Sonny Milano
The name just sounds like he should be playing for somewhere in the northeast U.S. Besides that, Milano is another player that will require some guidance, but the Bruins can’t pass on his skill.
*26. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jack Dougherty
The Lightning will have to wait for Dougherty to come out of college but all the best defensemen available here are heading to college. Tampa Bay will patiently wait for him.
*27. Los Angeles Kings: Nikita Scherbak
The Kings are quietly becoming one of the better drafting teams in the NHL. They will take a risk here, taking the offensively-skilled Scherbak. The “Russian Factor” might come in here, but the Kings do have Slava Voynov to convince him to stay in North America.
*28. Montreal Canadiens: Conner Bleackley
Bleackley would give the Canadians some more size while also giving them a heart-and-soul player. With all the skill that Montreal has coming down the pipeline, they need to find the backbone of the team in the future.
*29. Chicago Blackhawks: Adrian Kempe
The Blackhawks have been drafting at the back end of the first round for years. That hasn’t stopped them from coming out with good players. That’s what good scouting will do for you. Kempe gives them another center that they can let develop in Sweden until he’s ready to come over to North America.
30. New Jersey Devils: Josh Ho-Sang
Ho-Sang is the epitome of a high-risk, high-reward player. He could light the lamp many times a night, but he could also play recklessly. The Devils, who are lucky even to receive this pick, have to take the risk to get some offense other than Jagr.