Ice Nation UK Mock NHL Draft! (Everyone Else Is Doing One…) – 2014 Edition

nhl draft

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NHL Draft: Friday 27th June & Saturday 28th June

The season is over, the Cup has been handed out, so what’s next?  The NHL Entry Draft of course!  That wonderful occasion where 30 NHL teams and their scores of fans fawn and fight over young men barely out of puberty.

It is what it is, and it IS a pretty exciting occasion… at least if you’re an Oiler fan like me in which case it’s the ONLY exciting occasion. To celebrate, and to feel like we’re a part of it, I present to you my mock draft ahead of the real thing.

It goes without saying that these are my views on who each team might take based on their needs and/or past drafting, as opposed to a personal ranking of the players involved.  Sincere thanks goes to Bob McKenzie at TSN, Corey Pronman at Puck Prospectus, MyNHLDraft, and Hockey’s Future for all the information they make available for free to the draft nerds like myself, it’s incredible and much appreciated.

NOTE: This is NOT a draft ranking, but rather my attempt at educated guesses as to which team will select which player.

1 FLA AARON EKBLAD, D (BARRIE COLTS, OHL) 6’3″ and ~215lbs and a monster at the junior level already, Ekblad will give the Panther’s an NHL ready defender. There are questions as to how high his ceiling is – he won’t have the same physical advantage in the NHL he does in the OHL – but there’s no doubt he’ll have a long, productive NHL career. Worst case scenario is probably he’s Erik Johnson, and that’s not a bad thing to have.
2  BUF SAM REINHART, C (KOOTENAY ICE, WHL) Sam Reinhart – brother to NYI prospect Griffin and CGY prospect Max – has been an outstanding offensive prospect for 3 years now.  He looks to be a clone of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – similar vital stats, similar skillset and draft year season, though with much better ES scoring numbers. BUF need a number 1 center – Cody Hodgson is a number 2, and Grigorenko is a big question mark. Reinhart’s ceiling may not be elite, but he is supremely talented.
3  EDM  LEON DRAISAITL, C (PRINCE ALBERT, WHL) There is little way the Oilers can lose in this year’s draft, with the team likely having a choice between either 2 top rated centers or 1 center and a high-end defender, if Ekblad drops.  If the decision comes down to Draisaitl and Bennett, they’ll opt for size.  There have been comparisons to Anze Kopitar – he isn’t overly physical, but uses his size (he’s not Kopitar big but has a nice frame) to protect the puck like few others in the draft, and has great passing ability.  The German could help solve EDM’s depth issues at center.
4  CGY SAM BENNETT, C(KINGSTON, OHL) The Flames will be quite happy to select Bennett, who while smaller than the other top center prospects, is not short on talent. His numbers look a little shy of the others too, but his ES numbers are actually very close to Reinhart’s. Has drawn comparison’s to former Flames legend Doug Gilmour – the fans will love that. Probably the most outwardly emotional and gritty player of the top four prospects, not afraid to throw his body around.  A one-two punch of Bennett and Monahan has the potential to be something special.
5  NYI MICHAEL DAL COLLE, LW (OSHAWA, OHL) Dal Colle is a really interesting prospect, and would fit perfectly on an Isles team that lacks high-end depth at the LW position, particularly after the Matt Moulson trade. His numbers stack up very well with the top guys in the draft, and is described as having some of the best skills in the draft. Is 6’2″ and has a big frame, but has yet to fill out. May or may not turn into a power forward, but either way is an excellent scoring prospect.
6  VAN  JAKE VIRTANEN, C/LW (CALGARY, WHL) This versatile forward with decent size, high speed and a knack for scoring goals might be just what the doctors ordered for the suddenly-flailing Canucks organisation. He certainly isn’t NHL ready, perhaps not even for 2 years, but his power forward style is too appealing to pass up.
7  CAR  ROBBY FABBRI, C/LW (GUELPH, OHL) This is out of line with many draft projections, but Fabbri has some of the best skills in the entire draft, excellent speed and agility, and a highly competitive spirit.  Carolina’s prospect system lacks elite talent on the wings, and Fabbri would certainly inject some of that.  The Canes did it before with Jeff Skinner, and they could do it again here.
8  TOR NICK RITCHIE, RW (PETERBOROUGH, OHL) The Leafs would surely love to move up in the draft and nab a top-rated center – well, who wouldn’t – but they’ll happily settle for a highly-rated prospect who plays in their own back yard. Draws comparisons to fellow draft-eligible Virtanen, though possesses greater size – at 230lbs he’s an absolute load.  Skates relatively well and can score goals, and if he’s anything like his older brother Brett (DAL) will make for a very nice prospect.
9  WPG  NIKOLAI EHLERS, LW (HALIFAX, QMJHL) The Jets have plenty of size up front both on the team and in the system, but lack high end skill, beyond Evander Kane.  Ehlers is certainly skilled, and indeed is one of the most electrifying players in the draft. His 49 goals were the most by a Q rookie since Crosby, and his blazing speed reminds many of Halifax alum Nathan MacKinnon.  Some posit that he benefited from playing with Jonathan Drouin, but the numbers show most of his scoring was done apart from the Tampa Bay prospect.
10  ANA (FROM OTT)  IVAN BARBASHEV, C/LW (MONCTON, QMJHL) This was a difficult choice, with a lot of talent still left on the board.  Barbashev is perhaps an underrated prospect, but enjoyed a very good year in the Q with 68 points in 48 games.  Described as highly skilled and playing good possession hockey, as well as having a strong defensive game and being impressive on the boards.  Anaheim has good depth in all areas, but a high-end center prospect is probably the most pressing need, one that Barbashev capably fills.
11  NSH DYLAN LARKIN, C (USNTDP, USHL) Larkin is perhaps not as famous a name as some of his draftees, but his stock has certainly risen during the season to earn his place at this point in the draft. His ceiling obviously doesn’t project to be elite, but his skating, intensity and hockey sense combined with his two-way skill indicates a player that could well have an impact in the NHL.  Would go a long way to replenishing Nashville’s center depth in the system.
12  PHX  HAYDEN FLEURY, D (RED DEER, WHL)  Big, fast and highly skilled, Fleury seems to be the consensus second best defender in this draft.  There is some concern over whether he’ll put all his tools together, but his 6’3″ 207lb frame combined with elite skating ability could make him something special. Phoenix has no shortage of good defenders, both in the NHL and in the system, but won’t hesitate to add another.
13  WSH  BRENDAN PERLINI, LW (NIAGARA, OHL) Washington desperately needs to refill their organisation with good prospects at all positions, and 6’3″ goal scorer Perlini would be a good start. With 34 goals and 71 points in 58 games, and excellent skating, he could end up being a handful at the pro level if continues to develop a power game.
14  DAL KASPERI KAPANEN, RW (KALPA, FIN) Kapanen is described as having some of the best playmaking abilities and vision in the entire draft. He has good bloodlines as the son of productive former NHLer Sami, and while he doesn’t have great size multiple sources state he has rare game-breaking ability. His scoring numbers in the SM-Liiga aren’t anything special, but remember that is an excellent professional men’s league.
15  DET  KEVIN FIALA, C (HV71, SWE) He’s young and he’s small, and it was a small sample size, but he produced in one of the top professional leagues in the world.  With 11 points in 17 games in the SHL, 25 points in 27 games in the J20 league, 9 points in 5 games at the WJC-18s, 5 points in 5 games at the WJC-20s for Switzerland, and 2 points in 7 games for the Swiss men’s team at the World Championships, there is little doubt the kid can play.  An agile skater, dynamic and with excellent puck skills, along with a hard-working personality, Fiala would be an excellent fit in Detroit, adding to what’s looking like a home-run in Anthony Mantha.
16  CBJ ALEX TUCH, RW (USNTDP, USHL) Tuch is part of a very strong contingent this year out of the US National Team Development Program. 6’4″ and 213lbs, this kid can score and he can hit and he isn’t afraid to battle for the puck. Everything the Columbus system is crying out for, basically. He plays a strong puck possession style, and thinks the game at an exceptional level, also possessing a great shot and decent skating ability.  Will have a few years to round out his game for Boston College.
17  PHI  WILLIAM NYLANDER, LW (SODERTALJE, SWE) One of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft, Nylander Jr (son of Michael) is frequently mentioned as having the best skills of any in this year’s draft. Unfortunately, that comes coupled with significant risk, in the eyes of scouts. While his puck skills are dazzling, he too often relies solely on that and not nearly enough on his team-mates, though he does think the game at a very high level. The draft this year is in Philly, so the Flyers will want to make some news, and taking on this flashy, sassy player who can inject some skill into a depleted system will certainly make some headlines.
18  MIN  SONNY MILANO, LW (USNTDP, USHL) The Minnesota Wild have a ton of two-way depth throughout their system, but lack skill wingers.  Enter Sonny Milano, who scored at an astounding pace in the USHL (39 points in 25 games). He also scored 10 points in 7 games at the WJC-18s. Described by Craig Button as possessing magic hands and supreme confidence on the attack. Very good, agile skater, could be a good complement one day to one of Minnesota’s top centers.
19  TBL JULIUS HONKA, D (SWIFT CURRENT, WHL) The Lightning have an outstanding crop of young forwards both at the NHL level and in the system, but beyond Slater Koekkoek they could do with some more highly rated defenders. Julius Honka isn’t a big guy, but can wheel like few others in this draft. Has elite hockey sense and intelligence, and while he won’t outmuscle anybody, he can and does outsmart them, meaning he’s rarely a liability on defense.
20  SJS  NIKITA SCHERBAK, LW (SASKATOON, WHL) This young Russian showed extremely well in his first North American season, leading the Blades in scoring. Words like coachability and intelligence are constantly attached to his name, and along with a skillful, physical, versatile game, he will be a very nice starting point for the “rebuild” the Sharks are embarking on
21  STL  JARED McCANN, C (SAULT STE. MARIE, OHL) The Blues will pounce on the opportunity to draft McCann, who in my draft here has slipped lower than several published rankings (McKenzie has him at 16). He put up solid numbers, nothing spectacular but certainly enough to show he has skill. Brilliant skating, lethal wrist shot, dangling ability,work ethic, good vision, top defensive abilities and character are but a few of the comments made about him. The Blues will particularly like his two-way ability.
22  PIT  JOSH HO-SANG, C (WINDSOR, OHL) This will be a controversial pick given the negative publicity Ho-Sang has received this year, but there is little doubting the guy’s skill-level – and it’s not as if Pittsburgh has ever shied away from controversial players. Scouts rave over his incredible skill level and his speed, and with 32 goals in 67 games there’s little doubt he can score goals. With Malkin and Crosby, the Pens aren’t short of skill forwards, but they’re constantly on the search for high-level complimentary players and Ho-Sang could be the one, given some time.
23  COL  DAVID PASTRNAK, RW (SODERTALJE, SWE-2)  The Avalanche could do with some skilled wingers in the system, and the Czech Pastrnak certainly delivers in that regard. Posting some very good numbers as a 17 year old in a decent pro league (24 points in 36 Allsvenskan games), he utilises his speed and puck skills to bull his way through and around defenders. Will need to add some bulk to his 6’0″ frame to have a serious shot as an impact NHLer.
24  ANA NIKOLAY GOLDOBIN, LW (SARNIA, OHL) Considering the Ducks have one of the most enviable prospect lines in the NHL, with depth at almost all positions, they can afford to go a little off the board with this pick. One thing they could do with more of is some high-end forward skill, and Goldobin has that in spades. With 94 points in 67 games, he was one of this year’s highest scoring draft-eligibles, after scoring at a point-per-game rate in his 16/17 year old season. Finesse winger with excellent poise, if the Ducks are patient with him he could prove to be a very good scorer at the pro level.
25  BOS  NICK SCHMALTZ, C (GREEN BAY, USHL) The Boston Bruins like smart players, and Nick Schmaltz is very, very smart. Possesses great hockey sense, skating and puck skills, and makes those around him better. Had 63 points in 57 games in the USHL, 8 points (5 goals) in 5 games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Will attend North Dakota in the NCAA this coming season.
26  MTL  BRENDAN LEMIEUX, LW (BARRIE, OHL) Son of former Canadien Claude Lemieux, Brendan is very much his father’s son. Has the same build as his father, and the same penchant for making everyone on the other team despise him, be it by playing an aggressive physical game or by getting under their skin. Make no mistake, the kid can also play hockey, with 53 points in 65 games. Could be a useful NHLer, playing up and down the lineup and providing a different dimension to that of Montreal’s smaller skilled forwards.
27  CHI  ADRIAN KEMPE, LW (MODO, SWE) Not a famous prospect, but had a decent year in the Swedish Hockey League. His scouting report reads like a more aggressive version of former Oiler pick Magnus Paajarvi – big, extremely fast, skilled – but drives the net harder, playing more of a power forward type game. Swedes are also often taught defensive responsibility at an early age, so could wind up a decent two-way player, allowing him to fit right in wherever Chicago needs him in a few years.
28  TBL (FROM NYR)  CONNER BLEACKLEY, C (RED DEER, WHL) Having already added a talented defender to their system with Honka, the Bolts will continue to build up the middle by adding Bleackley to the fold. Had a solid year with 68 points in 71 games. Strong character player and trustworthy on defense, he isn’t the greatest skater but never stops working hard and projects to be a good third liner or perhaps even a top six guy if he continues to develop his offensive skills.
29  LAK JOHN QUENNEVILLE, C (BRANDON, WHL) While there are a good few defensive prospects still left on the board, LA opts to add to their center depth with this versatile and competitive player. Quenneville has decent size, and scored pretty well with 58 points in 61 games. The second cousin of Hawks’ head coach Joel, he plays with a physical edge and protects the puck well – sound like a King to you?
30  NJD JAKUB VRANA, RW (LINKOPING, SWE) The Devils have very little (nothing?) at the right wing position in terms of prospects, so will gladly snap up draft faller Jakub Vrana. His numbers in the Swedish Hockey League were underwhelming – just 3 points in 24 games – but scouts assure us that he has a great offensive mind and is a one-shot scorer, something that was on display both in the J20 league, with 14 goals in 24 games, and on the international stage with an astonishing 8 goals in 7 WJC-18 games, and 3 goals in 4 games at the Ivan Hlinka. This Czech has great talent, but will need some time to fully develop that into something the Devils can use.

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