Prospects Most Likely to Be Picked Too High in 2014 NHL Draft

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Prospects Most Likely to Be Picked Too High in 2014 NHL Draft

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    NHL teams are doing their due diligence as we get closer to draft day and are wrestling with the problem of best player available versus need. No matter what NHL teams say, they draft for need every year.

    But the question then becomes: How much talent do you pass over to address need? If a team is drafting in the top 10 overall, does it pass up superior talent for a quality defenseman? It will happen in this year's draft—it does every year.

    Here are the prospects most likely to be picked too high at this year's draft.

10. Hunter Smith, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 64 GP, 16 G, 24 A with the Oshawa Generals (OHL).

    Why He's Valuable: Hunter Smith was eligible a year ago but no NHL team took him. This season, he'll be sought after because of his strong year with the Oshawa Generals. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects fills in the blanks:

    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. As the season went on, his ability to play in transition improved too and he shows flashes of being able to be a solid puck possession guy. There's too much to like for NHL scouts to pass him up again, especially after his terrific playoff performance. I think he's a 2nd rounder at this point.


    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: Smith passed through the draft, so he is an older prospect and is more likely to mature quickly. He blossomed this year, which scouts will see as real growth. Finally, in a shallow draft year, teams will be more likely to select role players early.

9. Alexis Vanier, D, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 61 GP, 15 G, 21 A with Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL).

    Why He's Valuable: NHL scouts love giant defensemen, and Alexis Vanier fits the bill. Future Considerations describes him, courtesy of Elite Prospects: 

    Though he has skating issues, the rest of Vanier's package is very entertaining. The hulking defenseman isn't shy to throw the body and picks his spots well. With his frame, he also has a booming shot that is highly effective on the power play.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: Vanier is a skyscraper with an edge to his game and an idea about how to play defense. There are some concerns about his foot speed, and he's a gamble because of it. An NHL team will take him early based on his size and other assets.

8. Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Plymouth (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 61 GP, 2.88 GAA, .925 SP with the Plymouth Whalers (OHL).

    Why He's Valuable: Alex Nedeljkovic is a quality goaltending prospect. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects fills in the blanks:

    Nedeljkovic doesn't have the size that NHL teams are looking for these days (pushing 6'0), but he's got everything else. His mental make up is fantastic and he has fantastic composure for a young net minder. Just look at what he was able to accomplish this year. He was terrific for the U.S. at the Ivan Hlinka this summer. Then he had a great year for Plymouth and pretty much carried that team into the playoffs (thus the GOY nod), and then he backstopped the U.S. to a gold medal at the U18's.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: Nedeljkovic is unlikely to make it all the way to the first round but looks destined to be taken in the top 45 overall this season. His big performance at the U-18s thrust him onto the big stage and makes him a candidate to be picked well ahead of expectations.

7. Marcus Pettersson, D, Skelleftea (SHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 10 GP, 0 G, 0 A with Skelleftea (SHL)

    Why He's Valuable: Marcus Pettersson is a tall, lean defenseman with a lot of tools. Elite Prospects provides the scouting report, courtesy of Future Considerations: 

    Pattersson is a tall and lanky two-way defender who plays with good mobility, strong positioning and impressive passing ability as well as the ability to make quick decisions. He needs to use his size better as there is not much physicality in his game.


    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: Pettersson will be selected early because of his size, but he has a long way to go before graduating to pro hockey. The tool kit is there, but he's an underdeveloped talent, and that means risk. Craig Button of TSN has him inside his top 30 overall.

6. Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 15 G, 56 A with the Sarnia Sting (OHL).

    Why He's Valuable: Anthony DeAngelo is described by Brock Otten of OHL Prospects as the ultimate make-or-break junior player: 

    His skating ability is absolutely phenomenal, as is his ability to carry the puck and avoid checks. Because of this, he's generally able to enter the offensive zone with ease at this level. DeAngelo also runs the powerplay very effectively. He makes smart decisions there and does a great job of getting himself open to use his shot. For all of his amazing talent as an offensive defenseman, he has major short comings as a defensive player. The effort level just isn't there defensively a lot of the time. He'll jump up in the rush to make a play offensively, but coast back defensively. When you throw in the fact that he's undersized, that's when things become even scarier. DeAngelo is the ultimate boom or bust prospect for this draft.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: DeAngelo helps score goals, the toughest thing to accomplish in the game of hockey. Despite a very big risk-reward red flag, he'll very likely go in the first round of the 2014 Entry Draft.

5. Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener (OHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 66 GP, 16 G, 21 A with the Kitchener Rangers (OHL).

    Why He's Valuable: Ryan MacInnis is a prospect with a famous Father, former Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues star Al MacInnis. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects tells us about him:

    The potential for him to develop into an elite player is legitimate. He has the entire toolbox. He has the size NHL teams look for in centers these days. He can skate; he controls the tempo; he's able to find the open man at top speed or coming off the wall; he's got a very heavy shot (go figure); and every once in a while he plays with a high intensity level without the puck.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: NHL teams will be tempted to take MacInnis because of his potential, but the results weren't there this season. Based on performance, MacInnis isn't a first-round pick, but he could go inside the top 30 due to bloodlines and scouting reports.

4. Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary (WHL)

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    2013-14 Stats: 67 GP, 5 G, 24 A with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).

    Why He's Valuable: Travis Sanheim is an effective two-way defender in junior hockey. His impressive showing at the U-18 World Championships turned a lot of heads, and there's a buzz about him leading up to the draft.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: The relative shortage of defensemen who possess a range of skills means all of these player types will be selected above their level. It will impact two player sets: Defensemen will go early, and skill forwards will have higher value because they'll be available later. Sanheim's emergence in this draft is reflected by Craig Button's final draft ranking for TSN, in which he moved up from No. 32 to No. 8 overall.

3. Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

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

    Why He's Valuable: Thatcher Demko is the best goaltending prospect in this year's draft. Bob McKenzie's midseason list ranked him No. 32 overall and as the top goalie available.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: Goaltending is a specialized position, and teams who lack quality and depth in their system are often tempted to draft goalies out of order. A team like the Minnesota Wild—who draft 18th overall—may be tempted to take Demko in order to solve a big organizational problem. Demko is an older player who would aid a team looking for more immediate help.

2. 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).

    Why He's Valuable: Haydn Fleury is a terrific skater, and his speed is equally effective on offense and defense. Fleury fits the modern definition of a defenseman: able to move the puck efficiently and cover opponents defensively.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: This year's crop of defensemen isn't strong. NHL teams will call his number early, likely top 10 overall, despite superior talent being available. Fleury doesn't possess the offensive potential to deliver big numbers as an NHL player, so it's likely he'll be viewed as a disappointment five years from now. Craig Button has him No. 7 overall in his final draft ranking.

1. Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

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

    Why He's Valuable: Mark Seidel, Scouting Director for NACS HOCKEY gives an excellent scouting report on Nick Ritchie, via OHL Prospects: 

    Has a chance to be the best forward in the Draft, great pro size, dominant at times, indifferent play at times, strong enough to dominate physically, heavy shot, when motivated is impossible to move off the puck.

    Why He'll Be Picked Too Soon: The problem in Ritchie's case is that his size is so attractive to NHL teams that they are likely to pass over better overall prospects. Ritchie is ranked a reasonable No. 16 on Craig Button's list but will probably go inside the top 10 overall.