2014 NHL Mock Draft: Projections for Top 30 Picks After 2nd Round of Playoffs

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistMay 17, 2014

2014 NHL Mock Draft: Projections for Top 30 Picks After 2nd Round of Playoffs

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    The second round of the NHL's postseason is complete, and the tumblers are clicking for each team's draft position.

    As teams exit the playoffs, their seeding moves up or down, with the final four coming at the tail end of the draft.

    European players are also on the move, as Europe's scouts impact NHL teams' lists during their ongoing draft meetings. From there, information filters to the media and draft gurus throughout North America. The Memorial Cup is the final tournament involving draft-eligibles, and NHL teams have begun to formulate and finalize their lists.

    Here's a projection for the top 30 picks in the 2014 NHL entry draft.

1. Florida Panthers: Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 36 G, 55 A with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).

    The Story: Sam Bennett possesses a wide range of skills, including top-end scoring ability and intelligent play in all three zones. He didn't post huge power-play numbers, but his even-strength totals (57 GP, 25 G, 34 A) rank with Sam Reinhart's among the best for this year's draftees.

    Bennett's birthday is in June, making him at least six months younger than the other contenders for first pick this summer. That's a long time in the development of a hockey player, especially at his age.

    Pick Projection: The Florida Panthers have many areas of weakness and could go any number of ways with the top pick. Although the club has a fine group of young centers, including Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov, Bennett's complete skill set and early development win the day.

2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 60 GP, 36 G, 69 A with the Kootenay Ice (WHL).

    The Story: Sam Reinhart is a cerebral player and dynamic on the power play. Corey Pronman of ESPN describes him as the best pure passer in the draft. Added to his outstanding vision and ability to control the pace of a game, this will make Reinhart an impact player for any NHL team.

    Pick Projection: The Buffalo Sabres couldn't score goals last season, and it will remain the biggest problem facing the team in 2014-15. No draft-eligible player had more offensive impact than Sam Reinhart this season. His power-play ability—60 GP, 12 G, 28 A—makes him the best pick available at this position.

3. Edmonton Oilers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 23 G, 30 A with the Barrie Colts (OHL).

    The Story: Aaron Ekblad spent most of the season as the top prospect for the 2014 NHL draft. He still has a chance to go No. 1 overall, but the competition stiffened during the regular season. Ekblad's physical gifts—size, speed, shot, defensive awareness and passing ability—encompass all of the skills required to be a dominant NHL defenseman. 

    Pick Projection: If Ekblad is available at No. 3 overall, expect Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish to knock over tables, trays and hockey men in his dash to the podium. The club has three No. 1 overall picks devoted to forwards and some good young defensemen—none of whose résumés come close to Ekblad's. It's a perfect fit.

4. Calgary Flames: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 60GP, 36 G, 56 A with the Oshawa Generals (OHL).

    The Story: Michael Dal Colle is an intriguing NHL prospect. Based on scoring numbers alone, he ranks among the best-available this year. Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, told Shawn Cayley of DurhamRegion.com that Dal Colle projects as a future power forward. At 6' 1.5" and 182 pounds, Dal Colle will need to add size and strength in the coming seasons. If that happens, he could be the best player in the draft.

    Pick Projection: The Calgary Flames have a new general manager in Brad Treliving and a lot of work to do in procuring talent. They drafted center Sean Monahan a year ago from the Ottawa 67's, and this year will head down the 401 to Oshawa for Dal Colle.

5. New York Islanders: Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 64 GP, 38 G, 67 A with the Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).

    The Story: Leon Draisaitl is one of the heaviest forwards available in this year's draft. The fact that he's also a high-end skill playmaker means NHL teams are very interested in him. NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com's Mike Morreale that Draisaitl played a power-forward game in the WHL. That, combined with his offensive totals, means he'll go in the top 10 this year.

    Pick Projection: The New York Islanders will continue their build toward becoming a contender. Draisaitl might be a perfect fit between John Tavares and Frans Nielsen on their depth chart at center, and while the Islanders will have some attractive options at No. 5, Draisaitl will be the best player available.

6. Vancouver Canucks: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 63 GP, 49 G, 55 A with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL).

    The Story: Nikolaj Ehlers is an offensive force. TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button described him as "dynamic," "elusive" and "quick," and Ehler scored goals in every discipline—29 at even strength, 13 on the power play and seven short-handed—during his 2013-14 QMJHL campaign

    Pick Projection: The Vancouver Canucks may attempt a quick mini-rebuild, adding youth to a veteran group that includes the Sedins, and a player with exceptional skill and creativity like Ehlers could be a plug-and-play on a strong defensive team.

7. Carolina Hurricanes: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (SM-Liiga)

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    2013-14 Stats: 47 GP, 7 G, 7 A with KalPa (SM-Liiga).

    The Story: Kasperi Kapanen is gifted with a complete player's skills, as described by Craig Button for TSN. In this way, he's a lot like father Sami Kapanen, who played over 800 NHL games as a versatile forward. The younger Kapanen has more offensive potential while retaining the total package.

    Pick Projection: The Carolina Hurricanes employed Sami Kapanen a decade ago, and his son is a strong option in the 2014 draft. A range of abilities—including offensive acumen—makes Kapanen the right choice at No. 7.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 61 GP, 39 G, 35 A with the Peterborough Petes (OHL).

    The Story: Nick Ritchie is a mountain on skates. At 6'2" and 226 pounds, he is one of the biggest power forwards in the draft classAs with Kapanen at No. 7, Ritchie's offense isn't quite at the level of the top forwards in the draft, but he has other important qualities. 

    Pick Projection: As the top purveyors of truculence in the NHL, the Maple Leafs will acquire size, swagger and skill in a very attractive package. Ritchie will be a popular player in Toronto.

9. Winnipeg Jets: William Nylander, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 22 GP, 1 G, 6 A with MODO (SHL).

    The Story: William Nylander might be the most skilled player in the draft. His issues lie in defensive play, and he could use his teammates more wisely. An excellent account of his skills (along with his scoring numbers at the U-18 WHCs), is available at Elite Prospects.

    Pick Projection: The Winnipeg Jets may want to add a more complete player, but Nylander will be too attractive to pass on at No. 9 overall.

10. Anaheim Ducks: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 71 GP, 45 G, 26 A with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).

    The Story: Craig Button clearly loves Jake Virtanen, telling TSN about a big winger with speed, quickness and power. An effective scorer, he led the top prospects in the draft with 45 goals in the 2013-14 season.

    Pick Projection: The Anaheim Ducks love big skill players and Virtanen's scoring ability will be welcome in California. They will take the big winger with this selection, which was acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade.

11. Nashville Predators: Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 45 G, 42 A with the Guelph Storm (OHL).

    The Story: Robby Fabbri is making his own showcase this spring, as he helped the Guelph Storm win the OHL championship. The skill center with all the moves will get another chance to impress scouts at the Memorial Cup in London. 

    Pick Projection: The Nashville Predators need offense, and the best player available at this point in the draft will be Fabbri. He's a brilliant center, and the only reason he will be available this late is his size. The Predators should overlook the shortcoming, select Fabbri and consider themselves blessed.

12. Phoenix Coyotes: Alex Tuch, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 26 GP, 13 G, 19 A with the USNTDP Juniors (USHL).

    The Story: Alex Tuch is a big power forward with skill. Kirk Luedeke of New York Hockey Journal gives an excellent description of an emerging talent and a trending player for this year's draft. His U-18 performance for Team USA will help him move up in the first round of the 2014 draft.

    Pick Projection: The Phoenix Coyotes have dipped into the USHL a few times before, and Tuch's talent will be too attractive to pass on. At the very least, he will be a solid checking winger who plays with skill. If his offense takes a step forward, he could be an outstanding selection.

13. Washington Capitals: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 34 G, 37 A with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL).

    The Story: Brendan Perlini is a fine prospect with offensive skills and legitimate NHL size. His performance at the U-18 World Championships drew plenty of attention.

    Pick Projection: The Washington Capitals are in a transition period, and a big winger with skill would help the next phase. Perlini is in a group of players who could be considered best-available and thus could get the nod at No. 13.

14. Dallas Stars: Sonny Milano, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 25 GP, 14 G, 25 A with the USNTDP Juniors (USHL).

    The Story: Sonny Milano is a skilled forward with electric moves. Kirk Luedeke summed up his skill set for New York Hockey Journal. Milano was outstanding in his U-18 World Hockey Championship showcase, with three goals and 10 points in seven games played to elevate his draft status.

    Pick Projection: The Dallas Stars are building a powerhouse in Texas. Youngsters like Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin are just getting started, and Milano has the skill set to fit right in. He's a trending player likely to land in the middle of the first round.

15. Detroit Red Wings: Jakub Vrana, LW, Linkoping (SHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 24 GP, 2 G, 1 A with Linkoping (SHL).

    The Story: Jakub Vrana is a complete-player type who may end up making the NHL in a variety of roles. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told Mike Morreale of NHL.com that Vrana is a player with a wide range of skills.

    Pick Projection: The Red Wings' system involves playing multiple roles and developing their players slowly. This means that if Vrana is chosen, we shouldn't expect to hear from him in the NHL for much of the rest of the decade.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Adrian Kempe, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 45 GP, 5 G, 6 A with MODO (SHL).

    The Story: Adrian Kempe is a skill player with size and determination. His Elite Prospects bio suggests a complete winger who may succeed in a scoring or checking role. His impressive performance at the U-18 World Championships (9 GP, 6 G, 2 A) helped improve his rating.

    Pick Projection: The Columbus Blue Jackets have chosen up-sized skill players at the top of recent drafts, and Kempe would continue the trend. He's already physically mature, and could arrive quickly as an NHL-ready prospect.

17. Philadelphia Flyers: Dylan Larkin, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 26GP, 17 G, 9 A with the USNTDP Juniors (USHL).

    The Story: Dylan Larkin is a power forward who impressed at the U-18 World Junior Championships. His Elite Prospects scouting report suggests a bigger offensive player with enough skill to play on the top line. 

    Pick Projection: The Philadelphia Flyers have made a habit of employing this player type over the years. Larkin is a perfect fit for their style.

18. Tampa Bay Lightning: Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 70 GP, 8 G, 38 A with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL).

    The Story: Haydn Fleury may be the modern Jay Bouwmeester. In an interview with Mike Morreale of NHL.com, NHL Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald describes a "calm" defender who can handle the puck.

    Pick Projection: The Tampa Bay Lightning have an emerging group of young forwards, and an aging defensive group. Fleury would be an outstanding option for them at No. 18. 

19. San Jose Sharks: David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)

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    2013-14 Stats: 36 GP, 8 G, 16 A with Sodertalje (Allsvenskan).

    The Story: David Pastrnak is an outstanding offensive prospect. His Elite Prospects scouting report tells of a first-shot scorer with speed and skill.  

    Pick Projection: The San Jose Sharks have been reworking their roster over the last few years, and adding Pastrnak will continue the adjustment and give the team a quality option.

20. St. Louis Blues: Kevin Fiala, HV71 (SHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 17 GP, 3 G, 8 A with HV71 (SHL).

    The Story: Kevin Fiala is a trending player in the 2014 draft. Elite Prospects describes him as a game-breaker and a quality prospect, and his performance at the U-18 World Championships also helped his draft ranking.

    Pick Projection: The St. Louis Blues have an outstanding team, and part of their success comes from getting good value in the draft—Fiala will represent exceptional value at No. 20 overall.

21. Colorado Avalanche: Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL).

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    2013-14 Stats: 48 GP, 25 G, 43 A with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL).

    The Story: Ivan Barbashev is a skill winger described by his Eliteprospects.com profile as a quality passer and shooter. It also reflects a strong playoff showing with Moncton (6 GP, 4 G, 6 A).

    Pick Projection: The Colorado Avalanche have been collecting top talent in spades at the NHL draft since 2009. They'll need skill to pair with skill, and Barbashev should be able to deliver. The inconsistency noted in the scouting report is often typical of young players and shouldn't hurt him at the draft.

22. Minnesota Wild: Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)

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    2013-14 Stats: 24 GP, 2.24 GAA, .919 SVPCT with Boston College Hockey (NCAA).

    The Story: Thatcher Demko is a butterfly goalie with size. His performance with Boston College this season thrust him to the top of the goaltender rankings in this year's draft. His scouting report from Elite Prospects also reflects consistent improvement through his years in juniors.

    Pick Projection: The Minnesota Wild have never taken a goaltender in the first round, but the big man could change that situation this year. Demko is unlikely to impact the Wild roster for some time, but has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. 

23. Pittsburgh Penguins: Nikolai Goldobin, LW, Sarnia (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 67 GP, 38 G, 56 A with the Sarnia Sting (OHL).

    The Story: Nikolai Goldobin is an impressive winger in the OHL. As is reflected in his scouting report from Elite Prospects, the forward's skill set is across-the-board offensively and took a big step forward there over last season.

    Pick Projection: The Pittsburgh Penguins did not have a first-round pick last season and will need to make this selection count. Goldobin's impressive offensive totals make him the logical pick at No. 23 overall.

24. Anaheim Ducks: Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 54 GP, 26 G, 43 A with the Saskatoon Blades (WHL).

    The Story: Nikita Scherbak is a skilled, rugged winger who enjoyed a strong debut season in the WHL. Elite Prospects' bio on Scherbak discusses his considerable range of skills.

    Pick Projection: The Anaheim Ducks love to deploy forwards who are skilled and difficult to play against, making Scherbak a nice fit. He's a tall, thin teenager, but when he fills out this winger will fit right in with the Anaheim template.

25. Boston Bruins: Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay (USHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 55 GP, 18 G, 45 A with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL).

    The Story: Nick Schmaltz is a skill center with soft hands and an ability to create offense. His Elite Prospects scouting report also mentions his quickness. His midseason splits from Bob McKenzie of TSN show that his second half was impressive with 10 goals and 34 points in 29 games played. 

    Pick Projection: The Boston Bruins love toughness, but they also need offense. Schmaltz's second half suggests that he's an emerging talent and worth a late first-round selection.

26. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 64 GP, 27 G, 35 A with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL).

    The Story: Jared McCann may have the fewest offensive tools of the forwards in this year's first round, but he makes the grade because of his overall play. The scouting report from Elite Prospects draws a picture of a two-way forward who possesses hockey sense.

    Pick Projection: The Tampa Bay Lightning received this pick courtesy of the New York Rangers in the Martin St. Louis trade, and this will be the portion of the draft where players could jump up and grab a first-round spot. McCann's overall ability should keep him in the first round.

27. Los Angeles Kings: Connor Bleackley, RW, Red Deer (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 71 GP, 29 G, 39 A with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL).

    The Story: Connor Bleackley's scouting report from Craig Button of TSN describes a "determined" winger who plays a rugged game. He reminds some Red Deer Rebels fans of Colby Armstrong, who skated for the team 15 years ago. 

    Pick Projection: The Los Angeles Kings like smart players who know their roles, and the Rebels have been sending those players to the NHL for years. Bleackley will likely complete his junior career and play a year or more in the AHL if chosen by the Kings, and then he'll arrive in the NHL ready to play a complete game.

28. Montreal Canadiens: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 67 GP, 32 G, 53 A with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL).

    The Story: Josh Ho-Sang is a trending player with great hands and touch around the net. Craig Button's scouting report on Ho-Sang for TSN also shows second-half production of 13 goals and 34 points in 25 games played. Ho-Sang clearly took a step forward in this portion of the season after lacking consistency earlier in his junior career. 

    Pick Projection: The Montreal Canadiens will have no fear of Ho-Sang's lack of size at 5'11" and 166 pounds as they'll love his scoring, determination, and explosiveness.

29. Chicago Blackhawks: Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 62 GP, 16 G, 40 A with the Swift Current Broncos (WHL).

    The Story: Julius Honka is an undersized, puck-moving defender with a lot of natural ability. TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has the scoop on Honka's skill set, and his Elite Prospects profile tells us about his mobility as well as a strong recovery and transitional ability.

    Pick Projection: The Chicago Blackhawks are in the middle of a splendid draft run that has seen them graduate some impressive players. That will continue into 2014 if they call Honka's name at No. 29 overall.

30. New Jersey Devils: Josh Jacobs, D, Indiana (USHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 56 GP, 5 G, 18 A with the Indiana Ice (USHL).

    The Story: Josh Jacobs is a prototype defenseman for the modern game. He moves the puck efficiently, skates well and makes good decisions with quality passing. His coverage is strong, and—as his Elite Prospects bio indicates—he can be physical inside the defensive zone.

    Pick Projection: The New Jersey Devils are an outstanding defensive team. One of the reasons is their drafting department, who have been successful in identifying two-way talent over the years. Jacobs has been quietly moving up this season's draft class and now looks like a good bet for the final selection of the first round.