Progress reports on 2014 Top 10 picks, Jake Virtanen returns from injury and prospects approach 9-game mark.
Monday, October 27th
Finishing off the third of a three part series started last week, we check-in with how the remaining top prospects from the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft are faring in action. This section will look at Nick Ritchie, Nikolaj Ehlers, William Nylander, Haydn Fleury, Jake Virtanen, Michael Dal Colle, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad.
Interested in Part One and Part Two, follow the links…
10th – Nick Ritchie (Anaheim Ducks) – There’s no denying Don Cherry loves Nick Ritchie (as do I) after ripping the Maple Leafs for not drafting this budding skilled tough Ontarian [see video below]. While I won’t comment on whether I think Don is right or wrong (an argument can be made for both), I do like how the Leafs finally took a chance and drafted someone with star offensive upside.
With that said, I loved Ritchie and what’s frustrating for most Leafs fans is that they witnessed their team draft big tough forwards with their first round picks (see Tyler Biggs) and they’ve failed to show much promise. With Ritchie, he’s different than a Tyler Biggs because in addition to being a big, tough competitor, he is also a very skilled accomplish scorer. I don’t think the Leafs could’ve went wrong with selecting Ritchie but also applaud their selection of Nylander. Ritchie leads the Petes in scoring with five goals and 13 points, as well as 25 PIM, through 10 games.
His team’s 2-6-1-2 record isn’t as promising as many projected coming into this season but there were some notable off-season additions and acclimating these players into the team game takes time.
9th – Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets) – While producing at a point-per-game pace is considered a great start for many players, it’s falling below the expectations for Halifax’s Nikolaj Ehlers, who posted 104 last season. What is more alarming is Ehlers’ minus-8 rating, one of the worst on his team. Chalk this “slow” start up to a transition period after spending several weeks amongst NHLers. It’s not rare to see star players take a while to acclimate themselves back into junior hockey after spending so much time away at NHL camp.
8th – William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs) – Thousands of Blue and White critical eyes are following the progress of Toronto’s top 2014 pick, William Nylander. While they are likely never to be 100% satisfied, I think it would be fair to suggest that Leafs fans and management should be thrilled with the young Swede’s start after Nylander sits with two goals and seven points in just a handful of games. He is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and sits with Modo’s best point-per-game production. Ice time and an ability to maintain of consistent player (points in every game so far…) are just two elements that the Leafs would like to see with Nylander playing in the SHL. He is within one point of his team’s scoring lead and played 10 less games than his teammates.
7th Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes) – One goal and four points with a minus-two rating isn’t anything to get too excited about but Haydn Fleury has helped his team to two straight wins and is coming off 2nd