This season the draft boards are all over the place as there is not a clear cut #1 player at the top of the list. 2014 will go down as one of the weakest drafts of the decade. There are some solid players available, but not that game breaker that teams are looking for. Unlike years past, there is not a good crop of blue-liners and the goaltending is weak. Most likley there will be no goaltender taken in the first round and as few as five defensemen. How close will I be? Odds are, not close at all as most NHL teams hold their hands’ tight. I did get last season’s top five selections correct. This season I have also added my gut feel on trades of the pick in the top ten. We have not had many major trades of picks in the top five in a long time, but with next season’s draft expected to be so good, teams might be willing to take a chance. There will be more movement this year than next that is for sure. Next year’s draft impacted the trade deadline this season and will do so next season as teams are very reluctant to give up a 2015 first rounder. I was told by one WHL scout that the second round next season may be better than the 2014 first round. So please enjoy reading my mock draft, and I would love your feedback about your team. My Twitter is Draft_Mike or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting all the Philly fans in June.
1 Florida Aaron Ekblad D
Panthers GM Dale Tallon has made it clear that this pick is for sale. The question is, what would the pick cost in trade value. The lower the Panthers need to go down on the board, the greater the cost. Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver are rumored to have offers on the table for the pick. What Tallon will do will be the big question up until the pick is made. If the pick is moved, it will be well before the start of the draft. I doubt that once the Panthers are on the clock that the pick will be traded. Last year the Panthers selected Center Aleksander Barkov. So taking Ekblad here would make sense with the slow development of Erik Gudbranson on the blue-line. The Panthers can add a blue chip to a deep pool of young defensemen already developing on the farm. (75% chance of this pick getting traded)
2. Buffalo Sam Reinhart C
After the disappointing season the Sabres endured, the reward should have been the first overall pick in the draft, but the Sabres did not win the lottery. Despite that setback G.M. Tim Murray had a wonderful season in getting several draft picks for the near future to rebuild the roster. Adding Reinhart would get that rebuild off to a fantastic start. Buffalo is in need of NHL ready talent. Reinhart, the #1 rated player for most of the year, will fill a huge void for a playmaker in the Sabres system and will be the #1 center on opening night in October. The Sabres have some talent on the farm, but most of that is on the blue-line and not NHL ready. This is the LA Kings of 2008 (0% Chance of this pick getting traded)
3 Edmonton Leon Draisaitl LW/C
The Oilers are finding themselves in the same position they have had sense 2009, drafting in the top 10. In those past drafts the blue-line has only been addressed once. Edmonton’s pathetic defense has them again selecting in the top five. The Oilers are one team that will offer the moon to Florida to try and get to #1 overall to draft Ekblad. If that fails getting Leon Draisaitl would add a solid winger to go with all their depth at center. The Oilers will get call after call about the availability of this pick in trade. The Cost I am sure would be a Top 4 NHL ready defenseman (50% chance of this pick getting traded)
4. Calgary Nick Ritchie RW
Calgary will have the first big surprise of the draft with the selection of Nick Ritchie. Even with central scouting’s #1 player still on the board Brian Burke sticks with what he loves. SIZE and takes a huge scoring winger with an NHL ready body and shot. He will fit in great with last year’s home run pick Sean Monahan to give Calgary 2/3 of their top line for the next ten years. For the first time in a decade Brian Burke has given the Flames a direction. They will be fast improving in a rugged Pacific division where size is needed to just survive. (10% chance of this pick getting traded)
5 New York Islanders Sam Bennett C
With Bennett still on the board at #5 the Islanders phone will be ringing off the hook with offers. The question is that if the Islanders move this pick, how deep are they willing to drop in the first round. If the selection is made, G.M. Garth Snow will take the most complete NHL ready forward in Sam Bennett. The Islanders may decide to move Bennett out to wing to skate with superstar John Taravares. (40% chance of this pick getting traded)
6. Vancouver Michael DalColle LW
Trevor Linden gets the Vancouver rebuild off to a solid start with the selection of DalColle., a big left winger with a knack of finding the open space. DalColle has an NHL shot and fast hands. Some scouts have him high as 3rd on there boards. Rumors are ramped that Vancouver would like to move this pick to get up in the top 3. Several current Cunucks are believed to be on the trade block so this could be a very active team in Phialdelphia (20% chance of this pick getting traded)
7. Carolina Nikolaj Ehlers LW
Ehlers is not the biggest player in this year’s draft but is one of the top skaters in the class. He has great hands and a Joe Sakic type wrist shot. What has impressed the scouts most is the way Ehlers handles the puck in traffic. He will add to a Hurricane team that is stuck in neutral. Not Good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough to be in the top five. The Canes have a good pool of prospects coming in the next few seasons and Ehlers would move to the top of that list. This pick will get the Ron Frances era off to a good start. (20% chance of this pick getting traded)
8. Toronto Haydn Fleury D
Some scouts may feel this is a little too high for Fleury to be selected, but with the Maple Leafs’ needs there is a perfect marriage here. Fleury is big, skilled, and can skate. He is the perfect mold of the new NHL defensemen. Haydn rarely panics when pressured and makes the right decision. He has the potential to skate in a top four with any NHL roster. The Leafs were one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL this year, and Fleury would help to get them back on track. The Leafs are trying to move up to #1 overall, but may not have enough to offer the Panthers. (35% chance of this pick getting traded)
9. Winnipeg William Nylander C/LW
Nylander is not the most physical center in the draft, but some scouts feel he is one of the best puck handlers in the 2014 class. The Jets’ system is loaded at the center position, but that will not make them think twice about Nylander who is projected as a second line center. He will add speed to a fast developing Winnipeg system. There is a chance that the Jets will dangle this pick to help the NHL roster as this might be GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s last chance to get this franchise in the playoffs. (40% chance of this pick getting traded)
10 Anaheim Jake Virtanen RW (From Ottawa)
Bob Murray is sitting where all of his fellow GM’s would love to be. He is the owner of one of the best rosters in the NHL with two perennial Hart Candidates in Getzlaf and Perry, a deep and very talented pool of prospects who some scouts think is the best in all the league, a top 10 pick in this year’s draft courtesy of the Bobby Ryan trade with Ottawa, and 22 million in cap space. With most of his key players locked up for the next few years, he now adds a player like Virtanen who is only available here due to a serious shoulder injury. Virtanen is a big nasty winger with soft hands and a great shot. He would already pass the struggling Emerson Etem on the Ducks’ depth charts. He is one of the few prospects in the draft that is NHL-ready right now. This move could free up other Ducks’ prospects to be included in a trade for a second line center to go behind Getzlaf. (Do I hear Ryan Kessler?) (60% chance of this pick getting traded)
11 Nashville Kasperi Kapanen LW
For the first time in franchise history, the Preds come to the draft table with a new coach who is a polar opposite in style of what we have come to expect from Nashville. Young talent is what the David Poille wants, and he gets the Peter Lavolitie era off to a good start in the selection of Kasperi Kapanen. With NHL bloodlines, Kapanen is a solid two-way forward with an offensive upside who can play in your top nine. He will never be a 40 goal guy, but is the type of player all teams need to win. Some scouts feel that he is tentative in terms of physicality, but this is the type of player that Nashville will love to have.
12 Arizona Kevin Fiala RW
For the first time in years, the Coyotes come to Philadelphia with stability in the owner’s box after a long stint of being owned by the NHL. Coming off a season where they missed the playoffs due to losing goaltender Mike Smith to injury down the stretch and two seasons removed from an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, the now Arizona Coyotes are moving forward. The roster is closer to the playoffs than most other teams. GM Don Maloney will have some more cash to spend to make improvements. Having two great defensemen to anchor the team in Yandel and Ekman-Larsson and a solid core of blue collar forwards and one of the best coaches in the league will benefit the Coyotes. They can be a team to look out for in the near future. Adding a smooth player in Fiala fits the Coyote mode. He is a solid playmaker with great hands and will do the dirty work which will fit in perfectly with what Arizona has. The phones at the draft table will be going crazy if Fiala is on the board at this point with teams trying to move up to have a shot at him.
13. Washington Brendan Perlini LW
Not many teams will go through a face lift like the Washington Capitals. With a new GM (Brian MacLellan) and a very well respected coach in Barry Trotz who stresses a defensive-first system, adding a player like Perlini will help the Capitals and the new brain trust. He is a big, smart hockey player that plays a 200 foot game and has an offensive touch. He is a third-line winger that can chip in 20 goals at the NHL level. One scout told me when I brought his name up with the Caps, “he is a Barry Trotz type of player”.
14. Dallas Dylan Larkin C
After the blockbuster trade to get Tyler Seguin, the fast development of last year’s first round pick Valery Nichushkin, and the steady play of Jamie Benn, the Stars got back into the post-season and gave the Ducks all they could handle in the first round. GM Jim Nill will solidify his bottom six with the selection of Larkin. One of the best two way players in the entire draft, Larkin is gritty and a wiz in the faceoff circle. One scout told me “Larkin is a smaller version of Jarett Stoll of the LA Kings. He could be the best third-line center in the NHL in a few years”.
15. Detroit David Pastrnak LW
In all the years I have followed the draft, the man who always blows my mind is Detroit GM Ken Holland. He has been able to keep the Wings competitive throughout the draft despite not getting top 10 talent. The Wings have the longest playoff streak in pro sports and a move to the East has made life a little easier. Detroit will always draft kids and develop them slowly in the “Red Wing Way”. Adding Pastmark will give them a player that is a bit of a project, but has tremendous upside. He has all the skills the Wings look for in a player. He is great one on one, has great hands, and a fast release. What he will need is time to become NHL-ready. Pastrnak and the Wings are the perfect match.
16. Columbus Sonny Milano LW
Bluejacket fans had a season to remember; moving to the Eastern Conference, making the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history and winning two games, and giving the Pittsburgh Penguins all they could handle in the first round. After years of poor drafting under Doug MacLean and Scott Howson, Columbus hired Jarmo Kekalainen who was responsible for a lot of the top players skating in St Louis. After just one year on the job, Kekalainen has restocked the farm and made some shrewd moves to get the franchise headed in the right direction. Adding to the crop of talent is the selection of Sonny Milano, a smart savvy playmaking winger who is a tremendous skater. Though Milano is a bit on the small side, some scouts feel this is a little too high for him to be selected. He will be heading to Boston College in the fall. The Jackets will be in no hurry to have Milano turn pro, and will let him develop with the Eagles.
17. Philadelphia Nikita Scherbak LW
The Flyers have had the same problems for years; a revolving door in there crease, a poor blue line, and several horrible contracts to old players. After using a buyout to get rid of Ilya Bryzgalov’s bad contract, the Flyers used that money and signed recent buyout victim Vinny Lecavalier to a 22.5 million dollar deal. The Flyers were rewarded by their new player with 37 points and a minus 16. Ultimately, long time GM Paul Holmgren decided it was time to move up and hand the team to new GM Ron Hextall who brings a Stanley Cup ring as Dean Lombardi’s understudy in Los Angeles. When Hextall walks to the podium, the crowd will be loud as the Flyers will serve as the host for the Draft this year. With the selection of Scherbak, the Flyers get one of the fastest risers on the board. He is a wonderful skater with tremendous puck skills and is already adjusted to the North American game playing last season with the Saskatoon Blades in the rugged WHL. He will need to improve in his own zone and put on some weight to be NHL ready, but the Flyers could have a tremendous sleeper here.
18. Minnesota Nikolay Goldobin RW
The Wild are sitting in almost the same position as the Ducks with a solid team, cap space, a solid farm system, and two of the best players in the world in Suter and Parise. The problem facing Fletcher is goaltending. Niklas Backstrom has not been healthy the last two plus seasons. Josh Harding, who is one of the best backups in the NHL, was having a tremendous season until compilcations from his Multiple Sclerosis knocked him out of the lineup. The Wild turned to prospect Darcy Kuemper, picked up Ilya Bryzgalov off the scrapheap, and still managed to get into the playoffs and win a tough seven game series with Colorado. They proved to be a tough out for the Chicago Blackhawks. So you would think that goaltending would be a major need at the draft table, but with a player with the talent of Goldobin on the board this late, the Wild cannot pass him up. Goldobin is a talented Russian who came over to play with the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. He is a wonderful, skilled player with fast hands and wonderful hockey sense. The two reasons he is still on the board this late is that he needs to improve his play in his own end, and the fact that he is Russian. Even though he played in North America, the thought is that he can bolt back to the KHL
19. Tampa Bay Alex Tuch RW
The Lighting had a roller coaster ride of a season with the injury of superstar Steven Stamkos, the face of the franchise, Martin St Louis requesting a trade after being left off the initial Team Canad roster for the Olympics by Lighting GM Steve Yzerman. The emergence of rookies Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson and huge steps taken forward by Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop. It all came to a crashing end when Ben Bishop was injured and unable to play in the post season and the Lighting were swept in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. The Lighting have the #1 rated prospect in all of hockey in Jonathan Drouin who will slot in with Steven Stamkos on the top line as soon as next season. Tampa will add to that with the selection of Alex Tuch. A fast mover on a lot of draft boards Tuch is a NHL sized body. One scout told me that he is a “Manboy” . Tuch can slot into the top line with Stamkos and Drouin and provide a powerful presents in front of the net. The Lighting will bring Tuch along very slow and let him develop as he will attend Boston College in the fall
20. San Jose Ivan Barbashev C (Being a top NHL team for years with very little post season success. Sharks GM Doug Wilson is at a crossroads, Retool a good roster to get one more run or blow it up and start the rebuild. The Sharks have Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Nieto. All of whom are still in there 20’s so talent is there. The question is how much did the learn, after jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the LA Kings in the first round. The Sharks became only the 4th team in history to lose a 7 game series to add to the long list of post season failures. The Kings made the Sharks look old and slow and showed that Antti Niemi may not be there answer in the net. Hold overs Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau recently signed new deals to stay with no trade clauses but rumors are ramped that one or both could be asked to wave that to be moved to other teams. The selection of Barbashev would be a sign that the future is now. A gifted center who can play on both the power play and penalty kill and is fantastic in the face off circle. He is very gifted offensively and makes his wingers better and can chip in a few goals himself. Of course the Russian factor is there but most feel it will not apply to Ivan as he wants to play in the NHL and slotting him in behind Couture would give the Sharks a great 1-2 punch moving forward.
21. St Louis Robbie Fabbri C
Once again the St Louis Blues had a fantastic regular season and GM Doug Armstrong did not hold back when he made a splash at the trade deadline in getting Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. This move, What many experts thought the final piece of the puzzle did not pay off as once again the Blues were knocked out of the first round in 6 after winning the first two games of the series. The only difference was this year it was at the hands of longtime hated rival the Chicago Blackhawks and not the LA Kings. With already a good roster in place Armstrong will tweak once again trying to find a way to get past the first round next season. With the drafting of Fabbri the Blues add the best 2 way center in the draft who can chip in a few goals. The best in the draft in face off circle and very responsible in the defensive zone. Fabbri will be the best third line center in the NHL in a few years and is offensive enough to skate in the top 6 if needed. Think a poor man’s Jordan Staal
22. Pittsburgh Thatcher Demko G
The Penguins are turning the page. Long-time GM Ray Shero was let go after the season and replaced by long-time Carolina GM Jim Rutherford. The first move made by the new GM was letting go of long-time coach Dan Bylsma. The Penguins were able to get past a good Columbus team, but blew a 3-1 lead to the New York Rangers, The roster is loaded up front with the two best players in the world in Crosby and Malkin. The problem with the Penguins is simple: get more depth in the bottom 6 and get a nasty, stay-at-home blue liner. The biggest question is in goal with Marc Andre Fleury and whether he is cut out for the post season. With only one year left on his deal, Fleury may be at the crossroads of his career, and Ii may be tough for Rutherford to find a taker. The selection of Demko would give the Penguins what they have lacked in the system; a long-term answer in net. Demko is at Boston College and was good enough to force the coaching staff to give him some playing time. That is a rare feat for a freshman. Demko is now the first goaltender in a long line of NHL prospects out of Southern California.
23. Colorado Julius Honka D
Colorado has one of the best stories of the season. They went from the top of the draft to losing in OT of game seven to the Minnesota Wild in the first round. This is an amazing turn around that started when legendary Av Joe Sakic was hired as VP of Hockey Operations. Sakic and long-time GM Greg Sherman stunned the hockey world and took potential Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon first overall. Then, it was all set in motion on the ice when Sakic reached back into the Colorado legends and brought in Patrick Roy as the new head coach. Turn around complete! The Av’s won the central division and looked like a new team with almost the same roster. Drafting in the 20’s, Colorado takes a flyer on Honka, Some scouts feel Honka is the most pure offensive blue liner in the draft. Honka is on the small side, but with Johnson, Barrie, and Hejda on the roster, Honka will have time to develop a two-way game.
24. Anaheim Josh Ho-Sang C
With the second pick in the first round, the Ducks are going to add to the best prospect pool in all of the NHL. The phones at the draft table will ring off the hook for this pick, and no one would be surprised if Murray decides to play let’s make a deal. If the pick is made and Ho-Sang is on the board, this would be a good match. Many scouts do not have a good feel on Ho-Sang with mock drafts having him going as high as 12th and as low as 45th. The Ducks can take a little bit of a chance at this point in the draft. Ho-Sang may be the best skater in the draft, and has tremendous speed and great hands. The downside is that he has a reputation of not using his wingers and trying to do too much. He has a bit of baggage as well as he was suspended for 15 games for a hit that caused a serious leg injury to Zach Bell of the London Knights. With time and development the Ducks could be getting a future third-line center that could skate in the top six in time.
25.Boston Jack Glover D
The Bruins won the President’s Trophy and then fizzled out in the second round of the playoffs when they ran into a red-hot Carey Price. After a compelling seven game series that had more drama then a high school hallway, the Bruins were left saying “what if” as they felt the best team in the east would not make it to the Final for the third time in five seasons. With the emergence of a young blue line of Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug, adding Glover would fill a need in the prospect pool as graduation to the big club has taken a toll on the farm. Glover would add a large two-way blue liner who can skate in an NHL top four. He will need to add weight, but the Bruins would have a fantastic passer who always keeps calm under pressure.
26 Montreal Markus Pettersson D
What a season for the Habs that just came up a little short in the Eastern Conference Finals as an injury to Carey Price in game one sealed their fate and allowed the upstart Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Montreal has a great roster, but will need to fix the blue line as there are several pending free agents. Adding a player like Pettersson would be a welcome addition as the Habs have Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi who are both showing that they may be ready to make the jump to the NHL. Petterson will need to get stronger and put on a lot of weight, but the Habs could have a sleeper here in a few seasons.
27. Chicago John Quenneville C
Chicago had a wonderful season and fought to the bitter end in a game seven overtime loss to the LA Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Considering they were one goal away from the cup final, there is no reason to blow up a fantastic roster, but a few minor changes will be made. The biggest need is a second-line center to take some pressure off Jonathan Toews. The answer may already be in the system in Teuvo Teravainen. John Quenneville would be a solid selection to add some forward depth in the system. He is a large center with a solid two-way game and can play up and down the line up. He will not be NHL ready yet, but in a few years the Hawks could have a top six Mike Richards clone, and yes, he is the second cousin of head coach Joel Quenneville.
28. Tampa Bay Jack Dougherty D (Via NY Rangers)
After taking a top six forward with the first pick, the Lighting take a long-term project with tremendous upside for the blue line. Jack Dougherty is one of the fastest movers on the board, and Tampa would be thrilled if he is still available at 28. One scout told me in Seattle that “This is the type of player a team in the top 10 would trade up from the second round into the back half of the first round to grab”. A solid two-way defenseman, Dougherty is developing his offensive game and has spent time on the power play. That same scout said “He has the skating ability of Drew Doughty”, but is not nearly in the same skill class. He will be a second pairing guy and a second quarterback for the power play in the NHL.
29. Los Angeles Kings Brandon Lemieux LW
The Kings reached a place that all 29 other teams want to be. For the second time in three seasons, the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup on home ice in a dramatic five game series with the New York Rangers. Kings GM Dean Lombardi has built this team for the long hall, mostly through the draft, and has given a blueprint to the rest of the NHL on how to build a championship roster.
14 of the 20 Kings on the ice for game five were drafted and developed by the Kings (not all were drafted by Lombardi). The Kings play a defensive-first system and love to draft size and skill, and adding Brandon Lemieux would be the perfect marriage. He is an up and down player that is good on the cycle (the Kings bread and butter) and can plant himself in front of the net. He is also very good in the defensive zone and already has an NHL-ready body. The son of former NHL pest Claude Lemieux will not need much time to develop.
30. New Jersey Devils Jakub Vrana RW
After not having a first round pick this year due to NHL penalties, the Devils were given this pick. The league reduced the punishment from the Ilya Kivalchuk contract mess. On the ice, the Devils missed the post season due to the simple fact that they could not win a shootout. They were 0-13. If the Devils could have won half those they would have made the post season. The Devils need skill, and adding Vrana would be a good start for Lou Lamoriello. Vrana is a highly skilled player with tremendous skating ability though a bit on the small side. He is smart and is a highlight reel waiting to happen. He will need to add weight to a small frame and will need to be much better in the defensive zone to stay in the NHL
I will see you all from Philadelphia for all seven rounds and am looking forward to what will be a historic draft in Ft. Lauderdale in 2015.