Friday, July 11th
After coming down from the NHL Draft high, it’s time to do a little analysis.
I am currently (slowly) working on producing draft grades for each team and will post them in groups over the next few weeks. With that said, here are some initial thoughts that come to mind….
I felt that every team picking in the first round did a great job at not only drafting skill but also selecting players to fit within their system.
Ekblad is exactly the defensive pillar that Florida needs.
Sam Reinhart will wear a letter in Buffalo and become a huge character to build around.
The Oilers may have landed the best long-term prospect in Leon Draisaitl and finally got the big center they’ve searched for. Now, let’s see if they will show any sort of patience with him.
Sam Bennett joins Sean Monahan in Calgary and is the exact one-two punch that successful teams need down the middle.
Michael Dal Colle was one of my favourite players entering the draft and this high-character player with a high-end processor will surely look good flanking the wing on Johnny Tavares’ or Ryan Strome’s line. Mark it, I see a lot of Brandon Saad in him and he could be one of the earliest fantasy producers. Sounds like Dal Colle made a good impression at camp…
Dal Colle, a big left wing, made a neat little pass in his own zone to start a rush that led to his White team’s first goal. Dal Colle took a hit to make that pass, and that likely drew the attention of the team’s coaching and development staff.
The Canucks opted for local kid Jake Virtanen and he’ll provide weary Vancouver fans with some excitement as he comes with blazing speed, good physicality and an ability to break twine.
Carolina was the true wild card in the Top 10 but it was good to see them address a team need while selecting a highly coveted mobile defender in Haydn Fleury.
Sitting with Nick Ritchie, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers (the three targets I wanted the Leafs’ to focus on) still on the board when Nonis was called to the stage, I thought for sure Ritchie would be called. He fit their MO with size but was pleasantly surprised management changed their tune and took a much needed gamble on highly skilled winger William Nylander.
Nikolaj Ehlers was quickly snatched up at 9th overall to the Jets suggesting that Winnipeg was changing their drafting tune to skill over brawn as well.
Finally, Nick Ritchie landed in Anaheim and put a big smile on my face as these Ducks got a lot more scary (between you and I, I think Ducks are scary animals anyways). With Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Smith-Pelly and now Ritchie, Anaheim is extremely big and strong up front.
Even through the next few selections – the skilled and tenacious Kevin Fiala to Nashville (11th), speedy sniper Brendan Perlini to Arizona (12th), confident and opportunistic Jakub Vrana to Washington (13th), mobile offensive defender Julius Honka to Dallas (14th) and a smart industrious Dylan Larkin to Detroit (15th), I felt each team nailed their picks.
After an outstanding 2013 draft, Columbus was afforded the luxury of swinging for the fences with their 16th overall pick and Sonny Milano is exactly that type of exhilarating talent. Reports are indicating that Sonny Milano is considering taking the OHL route, where the Plymouth Whalers own his rights.
I was shocked to see the Flyers go back to the defensive well with their 2014 opening selection after rolling the dice on Samuel Morin in 2013 but Travis Sanheim is a defender I really took a liken to.
After rumblings of a potential Top 15 selection, Minnesota adding the powerful, intelligent and skilled Alex Tuch at 18th was a good value pick and he should thrive around the net and in board battles.
It was a guessing game on where volatile yet skilled Anthony DeAngelo would end up but I was pleasantly surprised to see Yzerman step up a grab this uber-skilled offensive defenseman with the Lightning’s 19th pick. He should be high on fantasy lists.
One of the first round shockers was Chicago trading up with San Jose to nail down Nick Schmaltz at 20th overall. Prior to the draft, Chicago was one of a few teams I publicly stated who would target this talented playmaking pivot and they certainly showed how much they valued him.
The St. Louis Blues were on their game in the first round selecting my personal favourite prospect, Robby Fabbri. He’s small but this elusive and highly competitive centerman has done nothing but overachieve at every level and he’s going to be a great professional. Smart pick at 21.
For me, Kasperi Kapanen falling to 22nd and the Pittsburgh Penguins was the biggest first round surprise. I had this dynamic offensive Finn ranked 11th so the Pens should be licking their chop with a player of his upside in their system….and finally a promising high-end forward prospect.
The Avalanche needed help on their back end but without any standout defenseman available at 23rd, they opted for a blue-collared high character and hard-working pivot in Conner Bleackley. He’s the type of forward who can play tough minutes while also providing secondary scoring.
With the Canucks acquiring this 24th pick from Anaheim in the Ryan Kesler deal, Jim Benning identified two-way centerman Jared McCann as the best fit. In a similar mold as 2013 1st round pick Bo Horvat, McCann is an intelligent forward with good shooting ability but his offensive upside remains a bit of an unknown.
David Pastrnak (ranked 21 on my list) heads to Boston and this was one great fit for a Bruins team that needs more offensive spark in their front lines. Highly intelligent and creative, Pastrnak may just follow the same path as fellow Czech and Bruins forward David Krejci.
Everyone and their mother seemed to have Nikita Scherbak pegged for the Montreal Canadiens (including myself) and that’s exactly how it played out. This big intuitive Russian comes without the traditional “Russian Risk” (he’s never suited up for them nationally) and will offer the Habs the size and playmaking ability in their top-six wings.
Unlike myself (who had Nikolay Goldobin ranked as one of the most impressive offensive options in the draft), many projected this highly talented Russian to be selected in the second round allowing the Sharks to trade down and snatch this offensive dynamo up with the 27th pick. The fact that the Sharks are committed to rebuilding and them identifying Goldobin as a special 1st round talent certainly bodes well for his future. Goldobin is an extremely creative forward that’s able to snipe and set up goals but he’ll need careful development; specifically, identifying his weaknesses while still allowing his creative to shine. Ironically enough, his criticism for most of the year was that Goldobin doesn’t “compete” hard enough. However, I often compared his style of play to current Shark Joe Thornton as both are methodical and cerebral players and that can come off as lazy and disinterested at times. It’s not a fair criticism as it’s merely their style of attack.
Stick tap to the New York Islanders for moving up to select one of the most dynamic forwards in the draft with Josh Ho-Sang. He can get tunnel vision at times and occasionally appears arrogant but few can skate and handle the puck. He’ll likely be permanently switched to the wing (a bonus in my opinion) and the fact that he will line up alongside either John Tavares or Ryan Strome is a scary, scary thought. It appears Josh Ho-Sang has already impressed at development camp…
Ho-Sang set up a pair of goals for the Blue team and scored a nifty breakaway goal that highlighted the young winger’s speed and creativity. That goal brought the biggest cheers of the night from the dedicated fans on hand.
Coming off their second Stanley Cup in three years, the Los Angeles Kings had a stellar 2014 draft scooping up players as they fell to them. With the 29th selection, LA selected one of the youngest and best skating forwards in this draft in Swede Adrian Kempe (ranked 23rd on my list). He will fit the LA Kings mold perfectly as he offers both good levels of physicality and skill..
Capping off my first round pick-by-pick analysis is the New Jersey Devils at 30th, a pick they recouped from the league after initially being punished in the Kovalchuk saga. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that the Devils made the best selection here. With the John Quenneville selection, New Jersey added a high character and opportunistic scorer inside the hash marks who comes with question marks on his skating. Personally, I would’ve liked the Devils to add a prospect with a higher upside and with Brendan Lemieux, Ivan Barbashev and Eric Cornel still available, I felt these would’ve been reasonable swings for long-term skill.
Every year players go through the draft and fail to land on a team’s draft board. The 2014 NHL Draft was no exception and here are a few notable prospects that went undrafted…
Sebastian Aho – undersized yet sturdy defenseman with elite vision and a confident puck handler. At 5-foot-9, his height is a concern but I can’t fathom a team not spending a 7th rounder on him.
Vladimir Tkachev – undersized one-dimensional Russian (ahem) with dazzling puck skills and exciting one-on-one rushes. I understand the concern about his size and Russian passport, but he did venture to Moncton to compete in the QMJHL so the latter doesn’t freighten me, especially late in the draft. He could pull a Sergey Tolchinsky.
Gavin Bayreuther – He was ranked in my Top 75 and after passing through three drafts, Bayreuther will become a free agent. The high scoring, hard shooting defenseman will continue his path at St. Lawrence University and surely will be signed by an NHL club.
Blake Clarke – No player had a worst draft season than Blake Clarke, who failed to find his way even after being traded to a new team. Coming off a 19 goal, 51 point rookie season in 2012-13, Clarke posted a measly two goals and 12 points between North Bay and Saginaw last season. Clarke received an invite to the Detroit Red Wings Development Camp.
Darby Llewellyn – Another undrafted invite to Red Wings Development Camp, Llewellyn is a scorer who just finished his first season in the OHL. He didn`t tear apart the gamesheets but gained confidence as the season unfolded. He will have a bigger role in Kitchener next season.
Phil Baltisberger – He quietly starred on a deep Guelph Storm blue line, Baltisberger was deserving of being drafted after showing great improvement throughout the season. He’s a two-way mobile defenseman who will most certainly get more opportunity to shine in 2014-15 with Matt Finn graduating.
Luke Philp – Posting 77 points in 71 games while playing on the same team as Sam Reinhart wasn’t enough for the undersized pivot to find a team on draft day. He was the highest scoring CHL player that went undrafted.
Reid Gardiner – Ranked as a Top 100 player by some scouting agencies, Reid Gardiner is a hard-working forward that owned good bottom six qualities. He will attend the Minnesota Wild’s Development Camp.
Mads Eller – The younger brother of Habs Lars Eller, Mads is a speedy forward who was passed over again at the draft despite having a strong playoff showing.
Brady Vail – Unsigned 2012 4th round selection, Brady Vail re-entered the draft but failed to find an interested team. He`s a bit of a tweener even though he posted 32 goals and 89 points with Windsor last season.
Scott Salvage – Surprised to see Boston College defender Scott Savage go undrafted after outscoring both Ian McCoshen (Panthers) and Steve Santini (Devils) from the blue line.
Ryan Foss – Big forward witnessed teammate Cristiano DiGiacinto get drafted ahead of him but didn`t hear his name despite showing the power game that scouts usually like. He was projected as a late round selection anyways and with more opportunity in his future, he will get his time to shine.
Tyson Baille – Intelligent and hard-working, Baille’s two-way assets unfortunately didn’t land him an NHL jersey in his first time through the draft.
Andrew Mangiapane – Not overly surprising to see this undersized sparkplug pass through the draft but his game impressed me tremendously in Barrie. He hounds the puck and is a factor on almost every shift. Questions on how his game will translate to the next level were probably the biggest reasons for him going undrafted but I was pleased to see the Arizona Coyotes invite him to camp.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Maple Leafs Development Camp on Wednesday and posted my honest thoughts over at McKeen’s Hockey. Feel free to give it a read, which also includes video footage on William Nylander going through some skill drills.
Anthony DeAngelo (Lightning) mic’d up at the draft:
William Nylander at Development Camp:
Thanks for reading and be sure to continue following our ramblings,
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