The first round of the 2014 NHL draft takes place on Friday, June 27, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the excitement surrounding the top prospects has hockey fans ready for the festivities.
The two biggest names being talked about are Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart and Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, but this is also a deep class that features several players who could eventually blossom into stars.
Here is the full 2014 NHL draft order, vital viewing information and projections for the top prospects.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: June 27-28
Watch: NHL Network
|5||New York Islanders|
|8||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|10||Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa)|
|15||Detroit Red Wings|
|16||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|19||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|20||San Jose Sharks|
|21||St. Louis Blues|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning (from New York Rangers)|
|29||Los Angeles Kings|
|30||New Jersey Devils|
Prospects to Watch
Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice
The best prospect in the 2014 draft class is Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart. According to TSN.ca, the International Scouting Services has Reinhart as the No. 1 player available, and that should make the Florida Panthers' first overall selection easy.
After winning the draft lottery, Florida has the chance to add a future star to the franchise.
Many scouts are high on the Kootenay Ice center, but the words of former NHL player (and Sam’s father) Paul Reinhart when he spoke to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com showcased how much pride he has in his son:
He sees the game extremely well and he's a very cerebral player. All three are [cerebral]. I think I was a very good player but marvel when I have an opportunity to watch Sam play. I marvel at some of the small things he does with the puck and away from the puck and his ability to understand the game.
Reinhart has exploded over the last two seasons with his WHL team. Not only did he rack up an incredible 85 points in the 2012-13 season, but he also scored 36 goals and added 69 assists for 105 points in 60 games during the 2013-14 campaign.
That’s what you call offensive production.
At 6’1” and 185 pounds, Reinhart is already at a size that will translate to the NHL. While he could use some time in a professional gym adding the mass needed to be a top center, there is nothing but upside for the prospect.
Predicted Landing Spot: Florida Panthers, No. 1 Overall
Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts
The Buffalo Sabres were forced to settle for the No. 2 overall selection, but the franchise will be lucky enough to draft one of the best defensemen prospects in a long time with Barrie Colts captain Aaron Ekblad.
While Buffalo would be a great destination for Ekblad, the Florida Panthers could still throw a wrench in the works, according to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel:
Panthers source tells Sun Sentinel if they don't like offers for No. 1 pick then most likely they'll go for D Aaron Ekblad #FlaPanthers— Harvey Fialkov (@hfialkov) June 9, 2014
If Ekblad does fall to the Sabres, though, the franchise will have the leader on defense and in the locker room that it has needed. As arguably the most mature player in the draft and measuring in at 6’4” and 216 pounds, the young defender is ready to step right into the NHL.
Jason Brough of NBC Sports shared how well-spoken Ekblad is for a young player:
Just chatted with Aaron Ekblad. Big guy. Well-spoken. Confident. Great hair. Kinda hated him.— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) June 9, 2014
One of the biggest changes that Ekblad made over the last season with the Colts was his focus in the offensive zone. He is already one of the best pure defenders in the class, but his 53 points (23 goals and 30 assists) in 58 games shows the strides he has made with his shot.
Not only does Ekblad have the hockey IQ and ice vision to make the proper outlet passes and zone-clearing attempts, but it will also be his ability to rally his team using his words and effort that will make him a star regardless of where he lands.
Predicted Landing Spot: Buffalo Sabres, No. 2 Overall
*Stats via NHL.com.