The 2014 NHL draft is not one of the deepest we’ve had in recent years, but there is a unique mix of strong international talent and several possible stars from North America.
With the regular season featuring plenty of twists and turns, the 2014 NHL draft promises to be just as wild and unpredictable.
Anything can happen on draft day, but here are the full first-round projections.
1. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)
The Buffalo Sabres will find that taking Kootenay center Sam Reinhart at No. 1 overall is the smartest move, as he is the best offensive forward in the draft. He racked up 105 points in 60 games—not to mention his two-way abilities—and will become Buffalo's franchise player.
2. Florida Panthers: Samuel Bennett, LW, Kingston (OHL)
The Florida Panthers are a franchise desperate to find depth and talent at the offensive positions. Adding a potential star left winger in Kingston’s Samuel Bennett would be the best decision.
3. Edmonton Oilers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)
The Edmonton Oilers already have one of the strongest young core groups in the NHL, but the lack of senior leadership and a strong defensive presence has been a major issue. Adding Barrie defender Aaron Ekblad is the best course of action.
4. New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)
With the elite size and strength to be a force in the NHL, Oshawa left wing Michael Dal Colle has the raw ability in the offensive zone around the net to be a viable complement to team captain John Tavares.
5. Calgary Flames: Leon Draisaitl, LW, Prince Albert (WHL)
The Calgary Flames are also desperate for offensive production. If Prince Albert forward Leon Draisaitl (105 points in 64 games) is available when Calgary picks early in the first round, the Flames have their man.
6. Carolina Hurricanes: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)
Many franchises picking early in the first round are looking to select the best player available, and the Carolina Hurricanes are one of those teams. While Niagara left wing Brendan Perlini still needs to grow into his body, his 34 goals and 71 points in 58 games last season prove he is the real deal.
7. Vancouver Canucks: Kasperi Kapanen, LW, Kalpa (FIN)
With the experience of playing in Finland's top pro league, the Vancouver Canucks will get an instant upgrade if the franchise selects left wing Kasperi Kapanen to bolster the depth and talent on the wings.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
With plenty of talent along the wings, the Toronto Maple Leafs should be focused on adding another center to the lineup. Sault Ste. Marie’s Jared McCann is the kind of player who can make an instant impact and continue to progress.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)
After yet another year of struggles, the Winnipeg Jets must get back to basics and address the defense. Red Deer defender Haydn Fleury is the correct long-term addition to the back end.
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa): Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
While there is a strong core of young players on the Anaheim Ducks roster, several big-name stars will likely walk away from the sport (e.g., Teemu Selanne). The team must add more depth at forward by selecting Halifax winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
11. Nashville Predators: Nicholas Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)
The Nashville Predators are a grinding team that uses physicality as a way of opening up the offensive pressure. At 6’2” and 226 pounds, Peterborough left wing Nicholas Ritchie has the raw upside to be a truly dangerous power forward in the NHL.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Ivan Barbashev, C/LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
One of the biggest issues with the Phoenix Coyotes is the lack of scoring from the role players on the team. With 25 goals and 68 points in 48 games, Moncton sniper Ivan Barbashev has scoring on the mind, and that tenacity will translate to the next level.
13. Washington Capitals: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)
The inconsistency on the offensive end has been maddening to a franchise with so much offensive talent, but adding Calgary left wing Jake Virtanen early in the first round may be the shot in the arm the entire offense needs.
14. Detroit Red Wings: William Nylander, C/RW, Modo (SWE)
The Detroit Red Wings are one of the best franchises in the league in terms of developing talent, but the team won’t have to do much with Modo forward William Nylander. With NHL lineage and the speed and finesse to be a star, Nylander will be a perfect fit in Detroit.
15. Dallas Stars: Dylan Larkin, C, U.S. U-18 (USHL)
University of Michigan center Dylan Larkin has the size and the raw ability to be a force at the next level, but he needs more seasoning. This would be a wise long-term investment for the defense of the Dallas Stars.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL)
After years of struggling, the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to show signs of improvement. The need for another top-tier defender should have the franchise looking to Sarnia defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to fill the void.
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Alex Tuch, C/RW, U.S. U-18 (USHL)
The Philadelphia Flyers are one of the most physical teams in the NHL, and versatile forward Alex Tuch—who stands at 6’3” and 213 pounds—fits the mold of the franchise.
18. New York Rangers: Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL)
After struggling with depth at the defensive positions, the New York Rangers must look for youth when they add a player via the draft. Kingston defender Roland McKeown is a smart player who will be able to contribute quickly.
19. Minnesota Wild: Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (H-EAST)
No franchise in the league is more desperate for long-term depth at the goaltender position than the Minnesota Wild, but the team can add a new prospect to the fold by picking Thatcher Demko of Boston College.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning: Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL)
Another franchise desperate for help in the defensive zone is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The best offensive defenseman on the board is Swift Current’s Julius Honka, and he would be an instant upgrade for the franchise.
21. Los Angeles Kings: Sonny Milano, LW, USA U-18 (USHL)
As one of the better two-way forwards in this year’s draft, USA Hockey’s Sonny Milano continues to rise on draft boards. The Los Angeles Kings are looking for gritty players, and Milano would be an ideal fit.
22. Montreal Canadiens: Joshua Ho-Sang, C/RW, Windsor (OHL)
The Montreal Canadiens are always looking to find consistency at the forward positions, and a smart selection this year would be versatile Windsor forward Joshua Ho-Sang.
23. Chicago Blackhawks: Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay (USHL)
It is hard to decipher a major weakness for the Chicago Blackhawks, but every team in the NHL could use more depth at center. Green Bay center Nick Schmaltz would be a long-term pick who should pay major dividends.
24. Pittsburgh Penguins: Nikita Scherbak, RW, Saskatoon (WHL)
The Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of depth at center, but the team is always looking for wingers to capitalize on the skills of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Saskatoon right wing Nikita Scherbak is exactly what the team needs.
25. San Jose Sharks: David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (SWE-2)
There is still plenty of room to grow for right wing David Pastrnak of Sodertalje in Sweden, but the San Jose Sharks will be looking to add depth at the position late in the first round. This is the smart selection.
26. St. Louis Blues: Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo (SWE)
The St. Louis Blues have turned the fortunes of the franchise around and are looking for an instant upgrade on the wings. The best solution in the first round will be left wing Adrian Kempe of Modo in Sweden.
27. Colorado Avalanche: Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)
The success of the Colorado Avalanche has been one of this season's biggest surprises, and the rich will get richer if Barrie left wing Brendan Lemieux falls to No. 25 overall. Claude Lemieux will be happy with his son’s destination.
28. Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Fiala, LW, HV 71 (SWE)
The complete overhaul of the second, third and fourth lines will continue as the Anaheim Ducks add more depth at forward with offensively gifted left wing Kevin Fiala from Sweden.
29. Boston Bruins: Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
It’s hard to find a weakness on the Boston Bruins, but the franchise could use depth at the center position over the next few years. While Kitchener Rangers center Ryan MacInnis is a work in progress, this is a long-term solution.
30. New Jersey Devils: Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer (WHL)
After being awarded the No. 30 overall pick due to the league rescinding the penalties levied during the Ilya Kovalchuk salary-cap-circumvention debacle, per NHL.com, the New Jersey Devils should look to add depth through the middle. Red Deer center Conner Bleackley is the right answer.
*All stats and information via NHL.com. Order based on standings via April 13. Final order determined after postseason.