Ranking the 10 Most Intimidating Prospects in the 2014 NHL Draft

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Intimidating Prospects in the 2014 NHL Draft

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    NHL teams draft the best player available, but in certain cities that "best player" sometimes involves an intimidating skill set.

    This year, a number of big, tough defensemen and power forwards will be knocking over opposition in no time. Some of them are good enough to play on skill lines, providing extra value to their drafting team.

    Here are the 10 most intimidating draft-eligible players in the 2014 draft.

10. Aaron Haydon, D, Niagra (OHL)

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    Important Stats: Aaron Haydon is a big OHL defenseman for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, he's a big player at the junior level.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Brock Otten from OHL Prospects gives us insight into his skill set:

    With his skating ability, size, and aggression, he has the potential to develop into a top quality shut down guy. He can get lost in coverage at times, but he's already terrific off the rush and is adept at winning battles in the corners and near the crease. Basically, Haydon's game is all about projection. He's a big kid with a lot of redeeming qualities.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: Haydon is a raw talent, but NHL teams love size on the blue line. He'll take longer than most of this 2014 draft class, but he should get a good shot at making it in the pros.

9. Ryan Rehill, D, Kamloops (WHL)

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    Important Stats: Ryan Rehill is a huge defenseman in the WHL for the Kamloops Blazers. At 6'3" and 213 pounds, he's a very strong player who can win battles.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Curtis Deem from The Scouting Report tells us an impressive story about a tough teenager:

    Most impressive , and the main reason Rehill demands mention, is the +6 rating he’s carrying, while playing for a team whose goal differential is -97. Rehill keeps the opposition forwards honest, does the dirty work in the hard areas that are so important to any team’s success, and is more than just a guy throwing fists – he can actually play the game.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: It'll be a long way for Rehill, because there's not a lot of offense in his game. However, he's a big defender who can intimidate with strength and toughness. NHL teams love these kinds of players.

8. Alex Schoenborn, LW, Portland (WHL)

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    Important Stats: Alex Schoenborn is a tough winger with some skill for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. He can create trouble and back it up when required to do so.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Kyle Woodlief from Red Line Report has this to say in USA Today: "Brings size, toughness, is a good fighter, and is close to 20 goals, all with mostly fourth-line ice time."

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: Schoenborn is a big, rugged winger who can upset opponents, check hard and score some goals. The NHL is full of these kinds of players, and clubs like the Los Angeles Kings have had success with them. That will help him in the draft and when he turns pro.

7. Jack Dougherty, D, USNTDP (USHL)

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    Important Stats: Jack Dougherty was called for 99 minutes' worth of penalties during his season with the U.S. National Development Team.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Future Considerations provides the details about Dougherty, courtesy of Elite Prospects:

    Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: The modern NHL doesn't allow for head hunting, but a smart positional defenseman can still exact pain on opponents with well-timed hits. Dougherty is an intelligent defender and could fill that role for an NHL team.

6. Hunter Smith, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    Important Stats: Hunter Smith is a giant winger for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. He can fight and is effective offensively in specific roles.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Brock Otten from OHL Prospects describes Smith's offensive ability:

    His ability to disrupt goaltenders on the powerplay can be likened to the way the Bruins use Zdeno Chara with the man advantage in the NHL. He's so big and strong that OHL defenseman had a really tough time tying him up. And his hands are actually quite good, at least good enough to allow him to finish off plays in close or redirect shots. He's also a very physical player who can change the momentum of the game with a big hit on the forecheck, or with a fight.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: Smith was eligible for the draft last season but didn't play well. In 2013-14 he blossomed in the perfect role for his skills, and NHL scouts can project him into the same role at the pro level. If he can deliver consistently, he can be an NHL player.

5. Aaron Ekblad, Barrie (OHL)

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    Important Stats: Aaron Ekblad is a physically mature defenseman with a complete skill set. He's 6'4", 217 pounds, and can lean on players, win battles along the walls and outmuscle opponents.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Brock Otten of OHL Prospects writes the following for Maple Leafs Hot Stove:

    His defensive game remained dominant. Because of his Ekblad’s and the improvements made to his skating, he’s very difficult to beat on the outside, perhaps one of the toughest defenders to get around in the OHL. He also played with more piss and vinegar in the corners and in front of the net, although I’m sure scouts would love to see him play with even more aggression in those areas (to utilize his 6’4, 200lbs body). The best thing about Ekblad is how physically and mentally mature

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: The range of skills displayed by Ekblad obscures how intimidating he can be when necessary. When he turns pro, that quality will become even more important and a huge part of his overall game.

4. Alex Tuch, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    Important Stats: Alex Tuch is a big power forward who scored 42 goals during the 2013-14 season for the U.S. National Development Team.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Kirk Luedeke from Red Line Report breaks it down for the New York Hockey Journal:

    Massive power forward has every physical tool in the kit: an enormous frame and strength, long reach, powerful skating stride and booming shot. Shields the puck and is dominant on the cycle. Displays surprisingly soft hands and finishing skills around the net. Lightning-quick release on a hard shot; can find the back of the net from just about anywhere around the faceoff circles.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: Tuch is intimidating because he's impossible to handle. Opposition defensemen will have their hands full when he arrives at the NHL level.

3. Brendan Lemieux, Barrie (OHL)

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    Important Stats: Brendan Lemieux is a gritty winger with skill for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He's also the son of former NHL star Claude Lemieux, who made his living as an agitating forward. Lemieux brings toughness and a rugged style and is no fun to play against every night.

    What Makes Him Intimidating? Brock Otten of OHL Prospects tells us Lemieux is just like dad:

    Brendan Lemieux is definitely Claude's son. He's a chip off the ol' block and plays the game the same way his father does. His compete and intensity levels are off the charts. If he loses the puck, he's going to go through a wall to get it back. He's certainly not the fastest player on the ice, but he's a very effective forechecker because of his anticipation and because of his strength along the boards.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: The concerns for players like Lemieux are speed and skill. He appears to be at least adequate at both, and NHL teams will be encouraged by the bloodlines.

2. Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

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    Important Stats: Jake Virtanen scored 45 goals for the Calgary Hitmen and took 100 minutes in penalties during 2013-14.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Virtanen did a good job of describing himself as a player to Neate Sager from Buzzing the Net: "I kind of model myself after [the New York Rangers'] Rick Nash. We're kind of identical players. He likes to take the puck to the net. I think I'm a little more physical than that, I like to throw the body around."

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: The keys for Virtanen include size and speed, with quality goal-scoring ability thrown in. He can be physically intimidating, but the real fear is to see him driving toward the net with the puck. He is a dangerous winger in a variety of ways.

1. Nick Ritchie, Peterborough (OHL)

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    Important Stats: Nick Ritchie is 6'3", 229 pounds and finished fifth in penalty minutes in the OHL this season.

    What Makes Him Intimidating: Ritchie is a big man with enough skill to play with the best players on the team. This is a rare player type in any draft, and he's the best one in 2014. He can score, hit and fight, making him very valuable.

    Will It Be Effective in the NHL: The team drafting Ritchie can be sure he's a quality offensive player in junior hockey and that he can impose his will physically at that level. If his skating can keep pace, he could be one of the most valuable players in the draft.