Ranking the 10 Best Wingers in the 2014 NHL Draft

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

Ranking the 10 Best Wingers in the 2014 NHL Draft

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    The 2014 NHL draft boasts three centers and an elite caliber defenseman at the top. That group of four players is getting plenty of attention and obscuring an outstanding crop of wingers.

    The list has something for everyone: sharpshooters, first-shot scorers, speed demons, two-way players and power forwards. Incredibly, there's a great deal of quality in all areas.

    Here are the 10 best wingers for the 2014 NHL entry draft.

10. Sonny Milano, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    The Player: Sonny Milano is a skill forward who drives opponents crazy with speed and creativity. He was brilliant at the U-18 World Championships, scoring three goals and seven assists in seven games for Team USA.

    What Makes Him Valuable? Kirk Luedeke of Red Line Report gave an excellent description of Milano for New York Hockey Journal:

    Fine skater with quick initial burst, extra separation gear and excellent lateral agility/edging to shake defenders in 1-on-1 coverage. Slick puckhandler who can make moves at speed and leave opponents grasping at empty air.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Bob McKenzie had him at No. 16 in the midseason rankings, and Milano has surged since then. It's likely he is taken outside the top 10 overall and well before the 20th selection.

9. Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)

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    The Player: Ivan Barbashev is a quality offensive player with a nice range of skills. He delivered a strong season in 2013-14, tallying 25 goals and 43 assists in 48 games with the Moncton Wildcats.

    What Makes Him Valuable? The best description of Barbashev as a player comes from Craig Button of TSN:

    Ivan is an outstanding leader. He leads by his actions and there is nothing he won't do to help his team win. Versatile, skilled and competitive, he can play in many spots in your line-up.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Bob McKenzie's midseason rankings had Barbashev going No. 13 overall. He may go a little lower, but Barbashev is a first-round talent.

8. Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)

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    The Player: Brendan Perlini combines size, speed and skill into a formidable package. He delivered 34 goals and 37 assists in 58 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs this season. 

    What Makes Him Valuable? Brock Otten from OHL Prospects does a fine job summing up Perlini's skill set:

    I'm not normally a fan of comparisons, but Perlini reminds me so much of Jeff Carter when I watched him in his draft year (2003). Same kind of body type and skill set, and the same kind of concerns about consistency and physical intensity. Perlini has three great things going for him. Size, skating and one heck of a shot.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Craig Button of TSN has Perlini going No. 9 overall. That might be a little aggressive, but it's safe to say he'll be gone by the middle of Round 1.

7. Alex Tuch, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    The Player: Alex Tuch is emerging as the second-best power forward available in this year's draft. His three assists in seven games for Team USA at the U-18 World Hockey Championships cemented his status as a quality prospect.

    What Makes Him Valuable? NHL teams will often draft out of order for size in the hopes of finding the next top power forward. Tuch may not be the next Milan Lucic, but he could become a quality player on a skill line, offering teams a physical presence in their top-six forward group.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Tuch should go in the middle of Round 1, and there's a slight chance a team steps up to grab him inside the top 10 overall.

6. Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (SM-Liiga)

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    The Player: Kasperi Kapanen may be the most complete winger in the draft. He played a responsible two-way game and delivered seven goals and seven assists in 47 games for KalPa in the Finnish Elite League.

    What Makes Him Valuable? Kapanen's range of skills is a major element in his value, but he may be trending downward after struggling at the U-18 World Juniors. Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report reported via USA Today:

    Many insist he is a top 10 prospect in this year's draft. Frankly, even our own man in Finland has been a strong advocate of moving him well up our draft list. But even Kapanen's most ardent supporters would have to admit that he was a consistent underachiever at the World U-18s, where he didn't have a single good game.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Bob McKenzie of TSN ranked Kapanen No. 9 in his midseason rankings, and even with the struggles at the U-18, he should go in the top 15 overall.

5. Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

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    The Player: Jake Virtanen is a skill-winger with size and grit for the Calgary Hitmen. He scored 45 goals, which leads all prospects ranked at the top of the draft this season.

    What Makes Him Valuable? Virtanen is that rare combination of size, skill and grit. He's a sniper who can match opposition defenders physically, win puck battles and storm the net.

    Where Does He Get Picked? This Scott Fisher article from the Calgary Sun details Virtanen's shoulder surgery, and that could hurt his draft number. It may impact him marginally, but he's a good bet to be selected in the first dozen picks.

4. William Nylander, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    The Player: William Nylander is a brilliant offensive player. At the U-18 World Hockey Championships, he laid waste to the competition and scored six goals and 10 assists in seven games to dominate the tournament offensively.

    What Makes Him Valuable? The most difficult thing to do in hockey is score goals. Nylander can do it all by himself. That's also a knock, as he'll have to use his teammates more as he matures in the coming years.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Nylander is the one player in the draft who is a true wild card. He could go No. 1 or he could fall to No. 10. There's no doubt a team looking for offense will pursue him, and if a team trades into the top three, it's likely a trade for Nylander.

3. Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

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    The Player: Nick Ritchie is a huge winger who will be a power forward at the NHL level. He's 6'2", 226 pounds, according to the NHL Combine invite list, and with his skill, Ritchie is a unique player in this draft. He scored 39 goals and 35 assists in 61 games with the Peterborough Petes.

    What Makes Him Valuable? The combination of size and skill is very appealing to NHL teams. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects tells the story:

    We're talking about a 6'3, 230lbs winger who can lead the rush across the blueline. That's a special player. He's not a plug. Ritchie has the hands and skill to match everything he's capable of physically. And we haven't even talked about how effective he is without the puck, as a steamroller on the forecheck. He hits and he hits hard. Bottom line is you're looking at a throwback power forward.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Ritchie is ranked No. 8 overall by Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report in his May ranking at USA Today. Ritchie's skill set is unique, so he could break into the top five overall.

2. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)

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    The Player: Nikolaj Ehlers is a skill-winger with the Halifax Mooseheads. He enjoyed an impact season in 2013-14, posting 49 goals and 55 assists through 63 games in the QMHGL.

    What Makes Him Valuable? Craig Button from TSN had this to say about Ehlers:

    Nikolaj is a dynamic player who - while not being really big - plays big and is elusive. A very quick player, he is able to see opportunities and take advantage. He is equally adept at finishing plays as he is making them.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report via USA Today, has Ehlers as the No. 6 ranked player in this year's draft. He will be taken inside the top 10 overall.

1. Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    The Player: Michael Dal Colle is a quality scoring winger for the Oshawa Generals. He played 60 games, scoring 36 goals and adding 56 assists. He is regarded as one of the best prospects available in the draft.

    What Makes Him Valuable? Brock Otten of OHL Prospects describes his skill set:

    His wrist shot is phenomenal, more specifically it's release. And he uses his body (6'2) to shield the puck well to create the space he needs to get it off. Dal Colle is going to score his share of goals in the NHL.

    Where Does He Get Picked? Craig Button of TSN ranked Dal Colle as the No. 5 overall pick in his Draft Lottery mock draft. That's the area Dal Colle will likely be selected.