Ranking the 10 Best Defensemen in the 2014 NHL Draft
The NHL draft is a month away, and teams are carefully reviewing their options. This year's defensemen appear to be a weaker group than normal, but astute teams will find gems in the pack.
Several defenders who are available this year offer a nice range of skills, and a few shutdown types are gaining attention. A drafting team will need to do its homework, because there doesn't appear to be much to choose from on the surface.
Here are the 10 best defensemen available in this year's draft.
10. Brycen Martin, Swift Current (WHL)
2013-14 Stats: 72 GP, 6 G, 31 A with the Swift Current Broncos (WHL).
The Story: Brycen Martin is an offensive defender who had a hot start to the 2013-14 season. He kept up the pace down the stretch, scoring two goals and nine assists in the WHL. His scouting report, courtesy of Future Considerations via Elite Prospects, indicates he offers quality offense along with some chaos defense.
Pick Projection: NHL teams value two-way types more than any other, and the pure offensive defensemen often get chosen before the shutdown, reliable types. Martin was ranked No. 43 in the Bob McKenzie midseason rankings and should go in that range in the draft.
9. Jack Glover, USNTDP (USHL)
2013-14 Stats: 24 GP, 1 G, 9 A with USNTDP (USHL).
The Story: Jack Glover is a quality two-way defenseman with size and mobility. His Future Considerations scouting report via Elite Prospects is exactly what NHL teams look for in defensemen.
Pick Projection: He brings a very nice range of skills, and the question surrounding his draft ranking has to do with delivering on potential. Bob McKenzie's midseason rankings had him No. 44, and he struggled during the second half of the USHL season. Glover impressed at the U18 world juniors and should go somewhere inside the top 40 this season.
8. Travis Sanheim, Calgary (WHL)
2013-14 Stats: 67 GP, 5 G, 24 A with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).
The Story: Travis Sanheim is a gentle giant on skates. At 6'4", 205 pounds, he's a big man with a massive wingspan, but he posted only 25 minutes in penalties during the season. Kyle Woodlief from Red Line Report wrote about Sanheim in March for USA Today: "Has been a revelation of late. Huge, rangy blue-liner's confidence has been soaring, and we love his combination of size, skating, puck skills and shot."
Pick Projection: Sanheim is a trending prospect, and Craig Button had him moving up to No. 32 in his March top 60. It's a good bet he'll be taken in the second round, but he might sneak into the first 30 selections.
7. Jack Dougherty, USNTDP (USHL)
2013-14 Stats: 23 GP, 4 G, 8 A with the USNTDP (USHL).
The Story: Jack Dougherty is a shutdown defender with good size. He's an effective player in his own zone and is difficult to play against, as reflected by his Elite Prospects scouting report. His draft stock is rising courtesy of an outstanding performance at the U18 world juniors this spring.
Pick Projection: Dougherty was just outside the first round of Bob McKenzie's midseason list, and he's heading in a good direction based on recent performances. He could be a late first- or early second-round selection.
6. Roland McKeown, Kingston (OHL)
2013-14 Stats: 62 GP, 11 G, 32 A with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).
The Story: Roland McKeown is a strong skater who uses that skill on offense and defense. He is a solid defender who also impacts the power play—three of his goals and 14 of his assists came with the man advantage. TSN's Craig Button describes a confident player who impacts the game in all areas.
Pick Projection: Bob McKenzie ranked McKeown at No. 17 in the midseason rankings, and he's likely to go somewhere in the back half of the first round.
5. Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia (OHL)
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 15 G, 56 A with the Sarnia Sting (OHL).
The Story: Anthony DeAngelo is a high-octane offensive defenseman whom Craig Button of TSN describes as an outstanding creator of offense. It's very rare to be able to project a junior defenseman as a future power-play regular, but that should be DeAngelo's NHL sweet spot.
Pick Projection: NHL teams sometimes avoid this type of player, because they are one-dimensional. DeAngelo was projected to go No. 26 in the Bob McKenzie midseason rankings, and that seems like a reasonable position for a team to step up and take him.
4. Josh Jacobs, Indiana (USHL)
2013-14 Stats: 56 GP, 5 G, 18 A with the Indiana Ice (USHL).
The Story: Josh Jacobs offers a NHL team the complete range of skills: mobility, intelligence, decision making and tape-to-tape passing. His Elite Prospects bio suggests his drafting team will get the full range of ability from him.
Pick Projection: Craig Button of TSN had Josh Jacobs at No. 26 in his March top 60, and there's a chance that number improves on draft day. Jacobs is among the best defensemen available in the 2014 draft.
3. Julius Honka, Swift Current (WHL)
2013-14 Stats: 62 GP, 16 G, 40 A with the Swift Current Broncos (WHL).
The Story: Julius Honka is a quality defenseman who is at his best when in possession of the puck. He is a natural passer and puck-carrier. There was some concern about how he would hold up playing North American junior hockey, but as Kyle Woodlief of USA Today explained in the fall, it went well: "Great puck mover has come out on fire and is unfazed by physical play."
Pick Projection: Honka was slotted at No. 18 on Bob McKenzie's midseason list and may have improved on his ranking as the season rolled along. He's likely to be inside the top 25 selections for the 2014 draft.
2. Haydn Fleury, Red Deer (WHL)
2013-14 Stats: 70 GP, 8 G, 38 A with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL).
The Story: Haydn Fleury is a smooth-skating defenseman who plays the game with intelligence and finesse. Elite Prospects supplies us with a scouting report from Future Considerations, describing a solid two-way player. His style is somewhat similar to St. Louis Blues defender Jay Bouwmeester.
Pick Projection: Bob McKenzie had him at No. 6 in the midseason rankings. Fleury is a good bet to go inside the top 10 in this year's draft.
1. Aaron Ekblad, Barrie (OHL)
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 23 G, 30 A with the Barrie Colts (OHL).
The Story: Aaron Ekblad is an elite talent. NHL teams rarely acquire plug-and-play defensemen in the entry draft, but he is such a player. He boasts the entire range of skills and is physically mature for his age of 18. His scouting report at Elite Prospects is exceptional and reflects his range of talent.
Pick Projection: Ekblad may go No. 1 overall, and he is certain to be off the market by the third selection. He is similar in quality to Seth Jones last season but less likely to fall because of a lack of overall draft quality.