Tuesday, May 6th
Better late than never….right? Here’s what is trending in the prospect world as we draw closer to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
I’ve been knee deep in writing prospect profiles for the upcoming DobberHockey Prospect Guide and after seeing a sneak peak of some of the other contributors’ work, it’s safe to say that this guide is one for the ages.
Hundreds of prospect profiles of both drafted and soon-to-be-drafted hockey stars at your own fingertips. Be sure to support DobberSports and pick up your copy.
With my responsibilities for the guide focused on the draft eligible players, I’ve been going back and forth for the past six months on who deserves to go #1. I love what Aaron Ekblad has done and his progression has been extremely steady, improving in every aspect of the game. Yes, I get the concerns that he may be closer to his upside but then he shows us a little bit more, leaving me to second guess how high his upside is. In the end, I do buy that he’s closer to his ceiling than any other talked about top 5 prospect so I am cautious. He is the safe pick though and would be a great addition to Florida’s backend. The next few contenders include Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle. I go into much more detail in the prospect guide but my basic thinking is that there are several ways of analyzing these four forwards and the outcome will depend largely on how much you are willing to invest in their “ceiling”.
Sam Reinhart is the safest forward selection. You’re going to get an absolute gem of a two-way forward with the ability to play in all situations and really control the pace of the game. The downfall, his offensive ceiling isn’t quite as high…but really, how many forwards clear 80 points every year anyways (stat junkies: you’ve got homework).
Sam Bennett is the most enticing prospect as he is the type of player that will sell tickets. His compete level is off the chart with a no-fear approach to puck recovery. Splash in a ton of skill and the ability to score that timely goal and you’ve got a budding star. He was one of the most consistent draft eligible skaters. He’s a favourite of mine.
Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle are the two players who make this whole process more difficult. While MDC isn’t getting the spotlight the rest of these kids are, his upside and ability to play a pro game really intrigues me. I’ve viewed Dal Colle a ton and he’s never had an off game for me. His ability to control the pace of the game is extremely impressive and he’s equally as dangerous at playmaking and shooting too. Basically, he does everything well offensively. He played with some talented prospects in Scott Laughton (Flyers) and Cole Cassels (Canucks) but he’s the guy that made Oshawa’s powerplay really click this year. I love his PP abilities. If only he played with a little more jam, he may have surpassed the likes of Bennett and Reinhart. On the bright side, watch out if Dal Colle develops that “jam” in his game because he certainly has the size and strength to do so. Oh ya, Dal Colle is a tremendous kid off the ice too.
Out west, Leon Draisaitl seems to be a polarizing player for most scouts I talk to. Everyone loves his upside (including yours truly) as his game does have similarities to Anze Kopitar. Consistency seems to be his biggest knock against the German forward but he shows good competitiveness so that helps lessen the concern. His upside is damn impressive and with his size, playmaking ability and puck possession game, Draisaitl could be that one superstar player down the road. That’s tempting for some teams.
Worth a mention, Robby Fabbri (a player I’ve been big on all season) is starting to get the press his game has warranted all year. Being undersized is his ONLY weakness and I am willing to overlook that because he’s elite in every other area – compete, goal scoring, playmaking and hockey sense. If I’m holding, let’s say, the 12th pick (just an example), I’m preparing to flip tables in the war room to get people to seriously consider drafting him.
Moreso than any other recent year, I feel that the 2014 draft will unfold with some highly skilled undersized or one-dimensional forwards falling farther than most are expecting. I’m preparing for the draft to unleash some real gems throughout the middle and end of this draft.
Kevin Fiala is a name that has surfaced in mainstream media since the World Junior Championships after a strong showing and he did his best encore performance at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships last month playing for Switzerland. The highly skilled winger is a game-breaker and he’s climbing the draft boards faster than any other prospect, with many considering him a mid-to-late 1st round selection. Fiala doesn’t turn 18 until the end of July and just led his Swiss teammates in scoring with four goals and nine points in five games.
Other standouts from the Under-18 WC’s include leading scorer and potential top 5 pick William Nylander (SWE, 7GP-6G-16P), Axel Holmstrom (SWE, 7GP-3G-11P), Jakub Vrana (CZE, 7GP-8G-10P), and Sonny Milano (USA, 7GP-3G-10P). Canada’s leading scorer was Jake Virtanen with three goals and six points in seven games.
Maple Leafs’ prospect and former 6th round pick, Connor Brown (follow link to DP profile), was named the OHL Most Outstanding Player of the Year. He was a 13th round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft after playing third line minutes on a Toronto Marlboros’ minor midget team. Now that’s an impressive ascend. Brown will be joining the AHL Marlies for their Calder Cup run and it’ll be interesting to see if he draws much ice time. He’ll be in the AHL full time next season and I really like his potential. His game has come along over the past few years and NO, his production isn’t a result of playing shifts with Connor McDavid. He’s an intelligent forward and plays with a bit of grit which is always a positive in my books.
After being left off the roster last year, Calgary Flames forward Sven Baerstchi was added to the Swiss roster for the 2014 World Championships. It will be a good opportunity for a prospect that hasn’t quite developed like we all expected.
The New York Islanders hold the 5th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. As part of their brutal trade for Thomas Vanek, the Islanders need to either give Buffalo their 2014 or 2015 1st round selection. Now, giving up either pick is a BIG hit to the franchise but with the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel available at the 2015 NHL Draft, both generational talents, can Garth Snow actually justify keeping the 2014 pick? Welp, it looks like he’s ready to make another massive mistake.
Long Island News 12 producer Rob Del Muro with a good tip: Islanders GM Garth Snow attended a season-ticket holder event last week and told one fan, “It would be a safe wager on his part that we would utilize this year’s (first-round draft) pick.” The team has until June 1 to let the Buffalo Sabres know about the selection. If not, Buffalo gets New York’s 2015 first-rounder. The GM added the fan “could wager any amount of money because it wasn’t MY money.” Good line.[From Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts]
How many chances does Snow get?
Sure, it’s a blow giving up the 5th overall selection given that It’s not a sure bet that their 2015 pick will be a higher selection but you have to prepare for the worst. And given that the team has finished in the bottom of the standings and in lottery territory more often than not recently, Snow has to be realistic. McDavid and Eichel are huge gets but the list of talent doesn’t stop there with Noah Hannifin, Travis Konecny, Matthew Barzal, Mitch Marner, Sprong, Werenski, Roy, Crouse and the list goes on.
Be smart Garth Snow.
Thanks for reading,