Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2014 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2014 Draft Articles Click here.
Now that the order of 28 of the first 30 picks have been determined, I will be releasing my 3rd annual NHL mock draft.
For those who haven’t read the LWOS mock before here are the rules.
1) No trades except for those that have already been made by NHL teams.
2) A two-round Mock draft will be done in four parts. The first two parts (ie the first round) will be done today and tomorrow. The next two parts (ie the second round) will be done next week.3) Since the final two positions in the draft (this year picks 28 and 29) will be determined by the Stanley Cup Final, as always we will be assuming that the the team with home-ice advantage in the Cup Final will win the cup. (This is not a slight to the New York Rangers, its just a fact that we need some way of determining draft order).
3) Clicking the Player’s name will bring you to a full scouting report.
So with that out of the way, I present.
The LWOS 2014 NHL Mock Draft
Part 1 (Picks 1-15)
1) Florida Panthers – Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts, OHL: Normally, I always say that the team picking first overall should take the best player available. This year is no different, and with the Florida Panthers I believe they will take Aaron Ekblad, who is number one on our draft board. That said, the Panthers are also in good shape at forward with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov as recent top 3 draft picks who have done well at the NHL level. Adding a defender to the cupboard, especially one as talented as Ekblad, would be ideal.
2) Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice, WHL: The Sabres were the worst team in the NHL this season, but then lost the NHL Draft Lottery to the Panthers. Despite that Buffalo will still get the player they covet in this draft class, taking the youngest (and best) of the Reinhart brothers. With Reinhart in the number one slot, Cody Hodgson as the number two, and Zemgus Girgensons as a number three centre, the Sabres will be extremely strong down the middle when they develop. If they also get Mikhail Grigorenko to develop to his potential, it will be an embarrassment of riches.
3) Edmonton Oilers – Sam Bennett, C, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL: The Oilers get another high draft pick, after another disappointing season. Obviously, the Oilers would love Ekblad to be available, but with him off the board they take Sam Bennett. Many blame the Oilers’ defence for the teams struggles, but the reality is that some defensive help from the forwards would also help their team, and Bennett has that two-way game that they have lacked in the middle of the ice. With Bennett in the fold look for the Oilers to try to move Sam Gagner to try and get some help on their blueline.
4) Calgary Flames – Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes, OHL: Its the first pick that doesn’t follow the order of my draft rankings, as the Flames take Nick Ritchie. When I look at this draft though I see clear tiers, there is little difference from 1-3, and little difference from 4-8, so its not really a reach. Here I think that Brian Burke has promised Flames fans a big, tough (dare I say truculent), as well as talented team. Ritchie can score goals, he can hit hard, and he can win fights; that’s a combination that Brian Burke will find attractive.
5) New York Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals, OHL: The Islanders are set down the middle with John Tavares and Ryan Strome, so they take Dal Colle who is a big, powerful, and extremely talented left wing who will soon be playing with one of those centres in their top six. The possibilities of having Dal Colle on one wing, and Kyle Okposo on the other are extremely intriguing.
6) Vancouver Canucks – Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL: Its the first draft for the new Canucks GM, Jim Benning, who will be extremely pleased to see Leon Draisaitl fall to the sixth spot. The Canucks need an injection of young talent right now as the team got old in a hurry under Mike Gillis, and taking the best player available is a no-brainer. He may play the same position as prospects Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce who the Canucks have taken recently, but with one of the highest picks the Canucks have had since the Sedins were drafted, this is all about getting a potential elite player in the fold.
7) Carolina Hurricanes – William Nylander, C/RW, Modo, SHL: Like the Canucks, the Hurricanes also have a GM in his first draft, Ron Francis, but since he came up through the Hurricanes front office, he doesn’t bring quite the same radical organizational change that Benning does. The Hurricanes took Elias Lindholm last year, and go back to Sweden to take William Nylander this year. He was incredible at the Under 18s and his versatility to play both centre and the wing is something that the Carolina organization has always liked in their forwards.
8) Toronto Maple Leafs – Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL: Obviously the Leafs are hoping to get their hands on a centre with this pick, but the reality is that with the way this mock has broken down taking a centre here would be a real reach. There isn’t a centre who is near as talented as Ehlers, and so the Leafs go Best Player Available here and take the skilled forward from the Halifax Mooseheads. Look for the “Electric Ehl” to be playing with Nazem Kadri in the near future, likely by the start of the 2015-16 season.
9) Winnipeg Jets – Jake Virtanen, RW, Calgary Hitmen, WHL: The Jets had their run at a playoff spot derailed by an injury to Mark Scheifele (SIA Profile) who was looking every bit the part of a future number one centre in his rookie season. The team now looks to put a future winger with Scheifele, and the powerful Jake Virtanen looks like a natural fit. A line of Evander Kane – Schiefele – Virtanen would provide a lot of headaches for Central Division and Western Conference opponents down the road. Fast, skilled, powerful, great stickhandling and passing, gritty, the line would have it all.
10) Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL: The Ducks have a lot of young talent in the system and have been a regular in the top of our annual prospect rankings. The seem to be well built going forward in nearly all positions, as Bob Murray has done a fantastic job. Getting a top 10 pick included in the Bobby Ryan trade was an unexpected surprise, but now that they have it, the Ducks have the luxury of going best player available in the spot. Brendan Perlini is a big and skilled winger who will only add to the Ducks roster that is already full of size and skill.
11) Nashville Predators – Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL: If there is one thing we know about GM David Poile, he just loves to build the blue line. The Predators draft philosophy is usually defence, defence, defence, and what do you know? There is a good one on the board here if the Preds want him. However, there comes a time when you need to draft a forward, and the Predators do that with Jared McCann a two-way centre who has a ton of speed.
12) Phoenix Coyotes – Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer Rebels, WHL: The Phoenix Coyotes have gone with forwards with their top two picks in 2012, and their top 3 picks in 2013 after spending three straight years going defence. With the top two players left in my rankings both being defencemen, and Haydn Fleury as the clear best player available they get another big, two-way defenceman which is important in the western conference.
13) Washington Capitals – Alex Tuch, RW/C, USNTDP, USHL: The Capitals look to take the big and talented power forward prospect out of the US National Team Development Program. His combination of size, power, and skill is something the Capitals have always been big on come draft day, and even with a new GM, he’s an internal hire, so I don’t see that changing.
14) Dallas Stars – Julius Honka, D, Swift Current Broncos, WHL: Jim Nill did a masterful job with Dallas last year, picking up a steal in Nichushkin in the draft, making a fantastic deal to get Tyler Seguin out of Boston, and taking the Stars back to the NHL playoffs. This year he goes and drafts a mobile two-way defender who can play top line minutes and quarterback the powerplay going forward. Honka may be undersized, but he plays bigger and has high end skill.
15) Detroit Red Wings – Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Kalpa, Sm-Liiga: This year showed the talented forwards in the Red Wings system with Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar making NHL impacts, while Anthony Mantha was the CHL player of the year. On defence players like Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet had solid seasons on defence in the AHL. As such the Wings can go best player available again. That is Kapanen, the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, and a speedy winger with two-way ability.
For Part Two and the rest of the first round, click here.
For a listing of NHL Mock drafts around the internet, please check out our friends at the NHL mock database.
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