The excitement surrounding the 2014 NHL draft has climbed since the Los Angeles Kings clinched the Stanley Cup, and hockey fans around the world are focused on where the top prospects in this year’s class will land.
With the season over and the first-round order finally set in stone, organizations can begin putting their game plans into action. Buyouts and trades will likely play a major factor in how this year’s draft shakes out.
Here is all the vital viewing information for the 2014 NHL draft.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: June 27 and 28
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
|1||Florida Panthers||Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)|
|2||Buffalo Sabres||Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)|
|3||Edmonton Oilers||Samuel Bennett, LW, Kingston (OHL)|
|4||Calgary Flames||Leon Draisaitl, LW, Prince Albert (WHL)|
|5||New York Islanders||Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL)|
|6||Vancouver Canucks||Kasperi Kapanen, LW, Kalpa (FIN)|
|7||Carolina Hurricanes||Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL)|
|8||Toronto Maple Leafs||Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)|
|9||Winnipeg Jets||Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer (WHL)|
|10||Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa Senators)||Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)|
|11||Nashville Predators||Nicholas Ritchie, LW, Peterborough (OHL)|
|12||Phoenix Coyotes||Ivan Barbashev, C/LW, Moncton (QMJHL)|
|13||Washington Capitals||Jake Virtanen, LW, Calgary (WHL)|
|14||Dallas Stars||Dylan Larkin, C, U.S. U-18 (USHL)|
|15||Detroit Red Wings||William Nylander, C/RW, Modo (SWE)|
|16||Columbus Blue Jackets||Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia (OHL)|
|17||Philadelphia Flyers||Alex Tuch, C/RW, U.S. U-18 (USHL)|
|18||Minnesota Wild||Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (H-EAST)|
|19||Tampa Bay Lightning||Julius Honka, D, Swift Current (WHL)|
|20||San Jose Sharks||David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (SWE-2)|
|21||St. Louis Blues||Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo (SWE)|
|22||Pittsburgh Penguins||Nikita Scherbak, RW, Saskatoon (WHL)|
|23||Colorado Avalanche||Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)|
|24||Anaheim Ducks||Kevin Fiala, LW, HV 71 (SWE)|
|25||Boston Bruins||Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)|
|26||Montreal Canadiens||Joshua Ho-Sang, C/RW, Windsor (OHL)|
|27||Chicago Blackhawks||Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay (USHL)|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning (from New York Rangers)||Roland McKeown, D, Kingston (OHL)|
|29||Los Angeles Kings||Sonny Milano, LW, USA U-18 (USHL)|
|30||New Jersey Devils||Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer (WHL)|
Order via NHL.com and projections via Donald Wood
Top Prospect to Watch: Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie (OHL)
The 2014 class is unusually deep, but the top prospect in the eyes of many scouts and experts is Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Not only is he the top defender in the NHL draft, but he is also considered a favorite to be taken No. 1 overall.
According to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel, the Florida Panthers have an interesting choice to make with the first pick:
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
Ekblad spent the last three seasons honing his craft in the Ontario Hockey League (one of the most elite junior hockey leagues in the world) and earned his role as captain of the team with his elite play on the ice and his leadership in the locker room.
The team that drafts Ekblad will be getting not only the best two-way defender in the class but also one of the smartest prospects available. Add his leadership intangibles, and this is the correct long-term investment for almost any team in the NHL.
Florida just happens to be lucky enough to be able to take him at No. 1 overall.
Keeping his emotions in check and showing the maturity for which he has become known, Ekblad told Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com about his feelings on possibly being the first pick.
"There's always the chance that one of the five of us will go No. 1; you just don't know because it's such a tight draft," Ekblad said. "But wherever I get picked I'm going to go, and I want to make that team better next year and for many years after that. That's my goal and what I believe in, so I think I can do it."
While teams are excited about the intangibles Ekblad offers on and off the ice, there is no questioning the raw physical tools that make him such a valuable asset immediately.
Will Aaron Ekblad go No. 1 overall?
Ekblad is one of the best shutdown defenders in the 2014 class, and he has a knack for clearing the puck out of the zone, but teams are also very interested in the offensive burst he showed during the 2013-14 season.
Through his 58 games with Barrie, he racked up an impressive 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points. Add his 91 penalty minutes, and it is clear that Ekblad will do whatever it takes to help a team win each game.
That’s the kind of impact player the Panthers need.
Stats via NHL.com.