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2014 NHL Mock Draft: Post-Stanley Cup Projections for Top 30 Picks

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2014

2014 NHL Mock Draft: Post-Stanley Cup Projections for Top 30 Picks

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    The NHL's long playoff season is over, and the Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup Champions. The business of a new season gets underway at the draft in Philadelphia June 27-28.

    Trade talk has increased, and general managers are talking about strategies and players they may select at this year's draft. Some of the verbal is clearly designed to increase trade value, while other quotes may in fact reflect player evaluation.

    Here is a projection, in final order, for the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Harvey Fialkov, of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, details the Florida Panthers' thinking about the No. 1 overall pick:

    The source also said that if the Panthers don't like any of the many offers they're fielding from other teams regarding their overall No. 1 draft pick, then they're leaning toward selecting 6-foot-3, 218-pound defenseman Aaron Ekblad because he's considered the most NHL-ready of the projected top four prospects.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? As Fialkov indicated, Ekblad is considered the most NHL-ready of the top-rated prospects in this year's draft. It's extremely unusual to have a plug-and-play defenseman in any draft, but Ekblad would make it two years in a row. Seth Jones was taken No. 4 overall last season by Nashville and stepped right into the NHL.

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

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Sam Reinhart is getting rave reviews as we get closer to draft day. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald quoted Calgary Flames' executive Brian Burke on Reinhart:

    "Brainiac centre . . . he dismantled our team, the Hitmen, in the playoffs. Smartest player available by a mile. This guy’s hockey IQ is off the charts. This is Albert Einstein on skates."

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Buffalo Sabres have a chance to grab a franchise center in Reinhart. He has the resume, the skills and the intelligence to deliver. He is a perfect fit for their rebuild.

3. Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert (WHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Leon Draisaitl is among the best players in the draft. Brian Burke, President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames, spoke to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce about the draft. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald was there, and Burke discussed Draisaitl:

    A 210-pound centre. Big centre. Big ass. Protects the pucks well. Really skilled. This (German) kid’s a dynamite hockey player. His English is perfect. This kid is an exceptional player

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Edmonton Oilers have been looking for a skill center with size since trading Jason Arnott in 1998. Draisaitl represents both the best player available and the best fit for the team.

4. Calgary Flames: Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL)

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    Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Sam Bennett was mentioned in the same speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce given by Calgary Flames' executive Brian Burke. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald picks up the story:

    A Doug Gilmour-type centre, who scores, puts up big numbers, has leadership skills. And this kid is a mean little (cuss). They’re making fun of him because he couldn’t do any pull-ups at the combine last week. I don’t give a (hoot) if he can do pull-ups.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Calgary Flames get the fourth player considered to be a level above the rest of the draft. Bennett's range of skills and impressive offensive ability at even strength may make him the best long-term option available in the entire draft. 

5. New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Michael Dal Colle is one of the best prospects available in this year's draft. Brock Otten of OHL Prospects describes the player:

    Dal Colle was as consistent as can be offensively this year. 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.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Michael Dal Colle is the consensus best player available at this spot and would fit right in with an emerging team in New York. His range of skills and maturity suggests he might arrive in the NHL earlier than most 2014 draft picks.

6. Vancouver Canucks: Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: New Vancouver GM Jim Benning will be happy to pick No. 6 overall, but the club will be asking about the price of moving up in the draft. Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province quotes Benning on his current plans:

    We feel at No. 6 we’re going to get a player we really like, but we’ll inquire about trying to move up and a lot of teams will. We’ll find out what the asking price is. At the end of the day, we’ll be comfortable picking a guy at No. 6 that we like. But with Dale (Tallon) stating publicly that he’s willing to listen to offers, we’re going to be no different than anybody else. We’re going to make the phone call and find out what it’s going to take and we’ll decide from there whether we’re in or not.

     Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Vancouver Canucks have a long tradition of employing tough, skilled wingers. Brock Otten of OHL Prospects describes a big, physical forward who can score goals and carry the play. The Canucks will look long and hard at Ritchie if he's available at No. 6 overall.

7. Carolina Hurricanes: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: New Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will have several options when the club picks at No. 7 overall. Defenseman Haydn Fleury, Center Robby Fabbri and power forward Jake Virtanen are still on the board, and Carolina could use any of them to improve their overall look in terms of prospects. 

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Nikolaj Ehlers brings too much talent to avoid, especially at this point in the draft. Andrew Rankin of Metro Halifax details Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish's reaction to seeing Ehlers play:

    He’s a pretty dynamic, a very dynamic player. He’s really exciting to watch. Every time he’s on the ice you can see he has a hunger and intense desire to play the game: high-speed skill, quickness, great stick skill. He looks very dangerous to me. He definitely catches your attention. It doesn’t take a scout to pick him out of the group. You don’t have to go looking for him.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Kevin Fiala, W, HV71 (SHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: The Toronto Maple Leafs are exploring trade options, including opportunities to move up in the 2014 draft. Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun quotes Leafs' GM Dave Nonis:

    There are some players we rank higher and have interest in. It’s a deep draft — that’s why you have four teams at the top open to trading down. We’re confident of getting a good player at No. 8 if we stay there.”

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Kevin Fiala is a ridiculous talent, and his U-18 performance impressed NHL scouts in a big way. The Leafs have a myriad of needs, but the best player available in this range is Kevin Fiala. Mike Morreale's article on the young prospect for NHL.com reflects a very confident young player. 

9. Winnipeg Jets: Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province details Virtanen's shoulder injury and recovery timeline. He also writes about Vancouver's interest in the young power forward.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The article by Ewen gives us some great insight into this year's draft. It confirms Vancouver's interest in Virtanen when it picks at No. 7 and suggests we will see surprise picks. Virtanen scored 33 even-strength goals this season, an outstanding total. If he's available at No. 9, Winnipeg will pull the trigger.

10. Anaheim Ducks: Alex Tuch, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Scott Cullen of TSN caught Alex Tuch's and other players' performances at the NHL combine, and had this to say about Tuch's player type:

    It's easy to see the appeal of players like Nick Ritchie, Brendan Perlini and Alex Tuch; they have huge frames and while it's one thing to be a refrigerator on skates, it's another to be able to put up numbers like those players and have the size that won't present questions about whether they can handle the physical play at the next level. The challenge for player evaluators is not to overvalue that size.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Alex Tuch is a very interesting player. Kirk Luedeke of Red Line Report profiled him at the New York Hockey Journal, and his skill set will be very attractive to NHL teams. There's a very real chance he goes inside the top 10 at the 2014 draft.

11. Nashville Predators: William Nylander, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: William Nylander is an exceptional offensive prospect. Corey Pronman of ESPN (Pay Wall) documents his skill set:

    Nylander's puck skills are elite, as he can be described as "an artist" by some scouts in terms of how well he controls the puck, and the unique plays he makes. Nylander's hockey sense is fantastic as well, in terms of his vision, and offensive intellect. You combine that with a pretty good top gear and Nylander can create all sorts of havoc offensively. Nylander can deke a defender out, make a highlight-reel pass, speed by players. He's not the biggest guy (5-11, 181 pounds), his defensive play needs work, and he can try to do too much sometimes.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Nylander's play without the puck may mean he could slide out of the top 10, but he won't last beyond the Nashville Predators. They need offense, and Nylander is a high-octane option.

12. Phoenix Coyotes: Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Brock Otten from OHL Prospects gives a scouting report on Brendan Perlini:

    Perlini has three great things going for him. Size, skating and one heck of a shot. Once he gets going down the wing, he's incredibly difficult to stop and he has both a great slapper and a terrific wrist shot, which he needs little space to get off. He does a great job of getting himself in scoring position to use his shot and has gotten better at fighting through traffic to get open.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? Perlini owns size, speed and a terrific shot. That has appeal for teams, and his 34 goals indicate there's a real chance Perlini will succeed on an NHL skill line. He is among the safer picks at the top of this year's draft.

13. Washington Capitals: Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)

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    Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Cody Nickolet from WHL From Above describes Haydn Fleury's skill set: 

    Fleury is an extremely smooth-skating blueliner for the Red Deer Rebels. He's got great size and as mentioned, his skating stride is easily his best asset. He's got great balance and power in his stride, making his mobility around the ice seem absolutely effortless. He passes the puck well, powerfully and accurately. His defensive game did improve over the course of this season and that culminated in a solid two-way performance for Team Canada at the World Under-18's this spring. He's not an overly physical player, but he's fairly smart in his positioning, benefits from having a long reach and also has the skating ability to stay with faster and smaller players while in his defensive zone.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Washington Capitals need a lot of help in many areas, but it's hard to imagine the club passing on Fleury if he becomes available. The 2014 draft lacks quality defenseman, and Fleury is considered the second best available this season.

14. Dallas Stars: Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Cody Nickolet from WHL From Above talks about Nikita Scherbak and his impressive season: 

    He's got a full arsenal of offensive tools at his disposal including a "heavy" wrist shot with a quick release and some very adept vision and passing ability. His skating isn't a strength, but it's not a huge weakness either. His top gear is just fine, but he does tend to be a bit slow out of the gate due to having a low and long stride. He's got a high hockey IQ and shows the ability to arrive at the right place at the right time in offensive situations. He comes from an athletic background as his father is a former soccer player, his mother a basketball player, while his sister plays tennis.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Dallas Stars struck gold a year ago in the first round with Valeri Nichushkin. Scherbak offers a different set of skills, but offensive acumen is something the two Russians have in common. Scherbak's impressive season lands him in the middle of the first round.

15. Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph (OHL)

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    Ken Andersen/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Scouts got a good long look at Robby Fabbri through the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup tournament. He scored two goals and six points during the championship and was one of the best players on the ice.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Detroit Red Wings will have a very difficult time passing on Fabbri, should he be available at No. 15. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects reminds us of his skills:

    He impacts the game on so many different levels. He's a tireless worker at both ends of the ice. He excels without the puck and is a real puck hound. If he doesn't have the puck, he's going to fight to get it and is great at forcing turnovers in the neutral zone, using his smarts and an active stick. On the forecheck, he showcases deceptive speed and despite his lack of size, wins a lot of battles along the boards.

     

     

16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Kasperi Kapanen, RW, KalPa (SM-Liiga)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report wrote the following at USA Today about Kasperi Kapanen after his U-18 World Championship performance:

    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. Some might overlook his performance here and feel that he has proved himself over the course of the season. But from RLR's perspective, we saw the same thing we've seen from him for two seasons now, at least on the international stage: excellent skating and skill level, but very little actual impact on the game.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Columbus Blue Jackets would be selecting a very talented forward if Kapanen falls to No. 16. A month ago, he was a strong contender for the top 10, but his U-18 performance cost him a few slots. A wise team will overlook the small sample size of a short tournament and view the longer term. Despite Kyle Woodlief's ongoing concerns, Kapanen has been generally regarded as one of the best forwards in the 2014 draft. 

17. Philadelphia Flyers: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor (OHL)

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    Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Based on pure talent and potential, Josh Ho-Sang is a lock for the first round of this year's draft. Scott Cullen of TSN wrote about something that could impact his final draft number:

    One of the most fascinating prospects in this year's draft is Josh Ho-Sang, a very talented forward who played for Windsor in the OHL. Universally, Ho-Sang is described as a talented hockey player -- no one disputes his skill -- but, there's always a "but". In interviews, Ho-Sang is described as engaging and intelligent, an independent thinker.. Uh-oh. NHL teams (and pro sports teams in general) are not known for their acceptance of independent thinkers; they tend to prefer the players that follow the script.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Philadelphia Flyers are one team that seems to invite free spirits and young men with swagger and confidence. Ho-Sang had an impact season in the OHL, and as Brock Otten of OHL Prospects writes, he brings a lot to the game.

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

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    Artur Lebedev/Associated Press

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

    Recent News: Brad MacCharles, goalie scout for International Scouting Services, told Kelly Friesen of Buzzing the Net all about Thatcher Demko:

    Not only is he playing great hockey in the here and now, but he also has a very high ceiling in terms of where he could be in the next two-three years. NHL teams are looking for bigger goalies who can make tough saves look easy, but who can also abandon convention and battle their way out of difficult situations should the need arise. Demko fits this mold.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Minnesota Wild depth chart in goal is a little chaotic due to injuries and ongoing health concerns. Demko represents good value and a perfect fit at No. 18.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Jakub Vrana, LW, Linkoping (SHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Craig Button from TSN gives an excellent scouting report on Jakub Vrana:

    Jakub is a very gifted offensive player. Excellent hands and is able to maneuver the puck into advantageous positions for himself. Very good shot with a quick release and is able to handle the puck in traffic. He sees offensive opportunities and is ready to exploit them. Skating is good, more quickness than speed but when he has a step or an opportunity, he holds it. A scoring winger.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Tampa Bay Lightning love skilled forwards, and Vrana has the added advantage of being defensively aware at a young age. The entire package makes him an attractive option at No. 19 overall.

20. San Jose Sharks: Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Jared McCann is one of the best two-way forwards available in this year's entry draft. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects explains:

    McCann is one of the top two-way players available in the draft this year. How high he goes will depend on how much potential you think he has at the next level. He's a terrific skater who is both explosive to holes, but also has a great top end speed. He can also carry and receive passes at top speed and can be a dangerous player in transition Secondly, his shot and release are top notch. McCann's production this year was definitely impressive though considering the Soo's balanced attack and I think that as he matures he'll become a more consistent offensive threat. He's a safe bet to play in the NHL, even if you aren't convinced he has top 6 potential.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? McCann is a good fit because of his wide range of skills. He can succeed as a checker if the offense isn't there when he turns pro. The San Jose Sharks are led at the draft table by Tim Burke, who has built an impressive resume. The Sharks are known for uncovering gems and getting full value for their first-round selections. Quoting the team's website:

    Since the 2003 NHL Draft, Sharks draft selections have played the second-most games of any NHL team’s draft picks (4,078), despite the organization having the lowest average draft position of any NHL team during that span (137.96).

21. St. Louis Blues: Dylan Larkin, C, USNTDP (USHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Brendan Savage of MLive.com quotes Red Line Report on Dylan Larkin:

    We're suckers for silky smooth pivots who create tons of chances and make their linemates better. Really fluid skater with a great edge who accelerates out of his cuts. Has such deceptive speed that he's able to glide past defenders effortlessly – gains the zone easily and forces defenders to back in off at the blue line and give up too much ice. Has a knack for holding onto the puck that extra split second to give wingers a chance to break free, then hits them with perfectly placed passes.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The St. Louis Blues have drafted heavily out of the USHL and U.S. high schools in the last two seasons. Larkin represents quality at this spot, with his offensive acumen a real strength.

22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Adrian Kempe, LW, MODO (SHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Future Considerations—via Elite Prospects—tells us about one of the most interesting players in this year's draft, Adrian Kempe: 

    Kempe is a strong, bullish forward that has size, strength and a work ethic to match. He can be tenacious on the forecheck and never misses finishing a check. He has a heavy shot and isn't shy to drive towards the net.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Pittsburgh Penguins need quick-developing prospects, and Kempe's size, skill and pro experience at a young age make him a quality option.

23. Colorado Avalanche: Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    2013-14 Stats: 65 GP, 27 G, 26 A with the Barrie Colts (OHL).

    Recent News: Robert Rice, writing for Eyes on the Prize in a profile of Brendan Lemieux, pulled this quote from McKeen's Hockey: 

    A chip off the old block, Brendan plays much like his father Claude, a decorated 20-year NHL pro, with an innate ability to rattle the opposition .. plays on the edge but can take unnecessary and costly penalties .. adding an element of discipline would benefit his game .. hampered by a wavering work ethic and does not always engage in a game from start to finish.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The family connection to the Colorado Avalanche is one thing, but the talent and style of play makes this a quality fit. Brendan Lemieux has enough skill to warrant a pick inside the top 50, and his edgy play gets him the rest of the way. 

24. Anaheim Ducks: Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary (WHL)

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Cody Nickolet of WHL From Above talks about Travis Sanheim and his impressive second half of the season: 

    He went from being a "who is this guy?", as a 9th round WHL bantam pick, to a player that has a chance at being taken in the 1st round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Truly impressive growth for a player. Sanheim seems to be the total package. He's got the size, the skating ability, the hands, the shot, the hockey smarts and the willingness to engage physically and defensively. There's a lot to like.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Anaheim Ducks' second pick in the first round of the draft may be an emerging defenseman from the WHL. Travis Sanheim's final draft number is a moving target—Craig Button of TSN has him in the top 10 overall—but he'll certainly land inside the first round.

25. Boston Bruins: Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    2013-14 Stats: 62 GP, 11 G 32 A with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).

    Recent News: Central Scouting's David Gregory said very nice things about Roland McKeown in an article by Mike Morreale for NHL.com:

    I love this kid … he can play offensively and move the puck and has a bomb of a shot. When defending you he presents himself as a big, strong and mobile guy. He'll push guys to the side; he's a legitimate top prospect.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Boston Bruins have had only one first-round pick in the last two seasons and spent it on a goaltender. This time there's a good chance they grab one of the mobile defenders who should be available at the end of Round 1. McKeown fits the description very well. 

26. Montreal Canadiens: David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Elite Prospects quotes Future Considerations to tell the story on David Pastrnak:

    Pasternak is a flashy, electrifying offensive talent with gifted hands and shiftiness in his feet. He also has a bullet shot and is a very dangerous finisher. He uses quickness and good lateral elusiveness to avoid bigger opponents.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Montreal Canadiens are among the strongest-drafting teams in the league. They are led by Trevor Timmins and boast one of the best modern draft seasons (2007) in recent NHL history. Pastrnak's scouting report is a match for the high-flying Habs.

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

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Cody Nickolet from WHL from Above tells us about Finland's Julius Honka, who played this season in Swift Current:

    His best asset is his skating. He's extremely quick and explosive for such a small blueliner. His edgework is impeccable as he's able to shift his angles on a dime, cutting through traffic or using that explosive ability to transition into backwards skating.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Chicago Blackhawks traditionally choose forwards in the first round of the draft, but Honka offers impressive skills. Finding his range is difficult—he could go much higher—but there's little doubt Julius Honka will go in the first round.

28. Tampa Bay Lightning: Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer (WHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Cody Nickolet from WHL from Above gives us some information on Conner Bleackley:

    Bleackley is the extremely well-rounded and talented captain of the Red Deer Rebels. He's a very smart player with a high-end level of hockey IQ, poise and leadership. His offensive game really developed this year, going from 18 points last year to 68 in 2013-14, including 29 goals. His offensive game is highlighted by both the ability to create plays and finish them, with his wrist shot release being extremely good. He plays like a true captain with a physical, rugged and gritty edge to his game.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Tampa Bay Lightning received this selection in the Marty St. Louis trade and didn't know the actual number of the pick until the completion of the Staney Cup Final. Bleackley is a strong option for the first round, and his range of skills makes him a strong candidate for the top 30 overall.

29. Los Angeles Kings: Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Elite Prospects quotes Future Considerations about Ivan Barbashev, one of the best Russian players available in the draft:

    Barbashev is a skilled playmaking winger with impressive vision and passing ability. He thrives in a high-paced offense. Has a good, hard shot and isn't transparent about making a pass or firing it on net.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The Los Angeles Kings would be thrilled to get a skill player like Barbashev this late in the first round. His assist total is exceptional and reflects his playmaking ability. 

30. New Jersey Devils: Sonny Milano, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

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

    Recent News: Kirk Luedeke of New York Hockey Journal quotes Danton Cole, who is head coach of the USNTDP Juniors, on Sonny Milano's development:

    He was a good skater before, but the added strength from his off-ice workload has made him even better. He’s improving his play on the other side of the puck; his defensive responsibilities, back-side pressure. … He’s been receptive and studious about it, watching film and applying himself.

    Why He Is The Obvious Choice? The young man from Massapequa, New York, won't have far to go if the New Jersey Devils select him. Milano has improved markedly this season, a good indicator for his future. The Devils will be thrilled to draft him at No. 30 overall.

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