Perfect Fits for 10 Top Prospects in the 2014 NHL Draft
NHL teams have made their lists and are now talking trades before the NHL draft on June 27-28. Many teams will trade up or down on the draft floor in Philadelphia in pursuit of a perfect fit.
Some clubs will be looking for size and toughness, while others are in need of snipers or playmakers. The great thing about every draft is that all are available, and teams are working hard at putting themselves in positions to succeed.
Here are 10 top prospects and their perfect fits ahead of the 2014 NHL draft.
Jakub Vrana to the San Jose Sharks
The Player: Jakub Vrana is a skill winger from the Czech Republic with the ability to play a two-way game. Goran Stubb, NHL Director Of European Scouting, told reporters:
He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-round skills. He is able to control the game and create a lot of scoring possibilities with his quick moves.
The Team: The San Jose Sharks are an excellent drafting team and hit a home run with Czech player Tomas Hertl, who took very little time to turn into an NHL player.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: The Sharks are committed to a rebuild. Vrana should be ready to help in a couple of years, and the Sharks love forwards who can fill multiple roles.
Jake Virtanen to the Calgary Flames
The Player: Jake Virtanen is a fine offensive prospect who brings a physical element to his game. As Peter Sullivan of Central Scouting reports via NHL.com, Virtanen is a player who can do it all.
The Team: The Calgary Flames are building a young club to compete in the dynamic Pacific Division and are looking for tough men who can play on skill lines. Calgary executive Brian Burke is famous for his rugged teams, and the Flames will have that look in due time.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Calgary drafted offensive center Sean Monahan a year ago, and his rookie season points to plenty of offense in the future. Adding a strong winger who can cash in offensively on a future No. 1 line is a nice fit for the Flames.
Thatcher Demko to the Minnesota Wild
The Player: Thatcher Demko is a quality goaltending prospect with an impressive resume. Central Scouting's Al Jensen gives a report via NHL.com:
He has that NHL pro-type potential. I can see him three or four years down the road becoming a monster in the net, and for any franchise in need of a future top goalie that’s what you want. He’s big, aggressive and confident, and has remained strong and focused most of the year.
The Team: The Minnesota Wild employed five goaltenders in 2013-14 and struggled at the position all year long. Michael Hussey of Sports Injury Alert details the various maladies of Minnesota goalies recovering over the summer.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Demko is the No. 1-ranked goalie among North Americans this season, per NHL.com, and is likely to be the first goalie selected. The Wild may consider him with their first-round selection.
Kevin Fiala to the Anaheim Ducks
The Player: Kevin Fiala is an exceptional offensive talent, able to beat defenders with speed, puck-handling and precision passing, as described by Central Scouting's Goran Stubb for NHL.com.
The Team: The Anaheim Ducks are a brilliant offensive team, but there's a large gap between their top scorers—Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf—and the rest of the team. The Ducks were lucky this past season, with many players having career seasons. The club is going to need more offensive players in the near future.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Several Ducks had unusually strong seasons offensively, but a player like Fiala could arrive quickly and make an immediate difference. He was a strong player in the SHL this past season and may be NHL-ready after another season in Sweden's top league.
Leon Draisaitl to the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Player: Leon Draisaitl is a big center with plenty of skill. He projects as a future No. 1 center in the NHL. Bruce McCurdy of The Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey gave an excellent scouting report on him after a mid-March game.
The Team: The Toronto Maple Leafs have been without a true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin. The club boasts a brilliant sniper off the wing in Phil Kessel but needs an equal talent to help him to the next level.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Toronto needs a true center to help optimize their offense. Draisaitl has size, great puck skills and vision—all elements required to deliver offense at even strength and the power play. Draisaitl may take a year to get to Toronto, but he and Kessel could make beautiful music together.
Nick Ritchie to the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Player: Nick Ritchie is a huge winger with skill. Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com that the big man has a power-forward mentality.
The Team: The Toronto Maple Leafs value toughness and intimidation more than any other NHL team. Their 48 major penalties in 2013-14 led the entire NHL; Toronto values that part of the game in a big way.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Ritchie scored 39 goals in 61 games and posted 136 penalty minutes during the season. That's an ideal fit for Toronto's brand of hockey.
Nikita Scherbak to the Detroit Red Wings
The Player: Nikita Scherbak is an intelligent winger who displays a range of skills according to Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan. He also told NHL.com that Scherbak can play all three forward positions.
The Team: The Detroit Red Wings rarely draft in the top 15 overall—the last time was 1991. Their draft picks often display a wide range of skills and can succeed on multiple levels in the lineup.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: Scherbak took to WHL hockey quickly and performed very well. The Detroit Red Wings' template for success involves drafting players with many skills and then allowing them to develop in the AHL before their NHL arrival. Nikita Scherbak is a perfect fit for Detroit.
Aaron Ekblad to the Edmonton Oilers
The Player: Aaron Ekblad is that rare plug-and-play defenseman who should be able to step right into the NHL without any more seasoning. A team drafting Ekblad will have the opportunity to improve their depth chart immediately. Ekblad's 16 power-play goals last season suggest he may be able to help out his new team's power play as well as their defense.
The Team: The Edmonton Oilers spent most of a generation in last place and have procured an impressive group of offensive forwards. As you might expect, all of their forces are facing in one direction, leaving them vulnerable along the flank and susceptible to offensive onslaughts.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: This is a match made in heaven. The Oilers badly need a franchise defenseman, and Ekblad fits the bill. Corey Pronman of ESPN (Insider subscription required) suggests his skill set is unique, and Edmonton badly needs that in a defenseman.
Sam Reinhart to the Buffalo Sabres
The Player: Sam Reinhart is the best offensive player in this year's draft and one of the best in recent draft history. That's Offside factors in all elements of prospect scoring, including age, and finds that Reinhart is the No. 12 offensive prospect in the last decade.
The Team: The Buffalo Sabres were the worst offensive team in the NHL this season. They trailed the top-scoring team in 2013-14 by 113 goals and the 29th place team by 38. The Buffalo Sabres are a historically bad offensive hockey club. No team this century scored fewer goals than the Sabres' 150 in 2013-14.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: One player can't turn the disaster around, but the Sabres have a great opportunity to add a foundation player for their future. Reinhart's passing ability and creativity are badly needed in Buffalo.
Sam Bennett to the Vancouver Canucks
The Player: Sam Bennett's resume reads almost too good to be true. Central Scouting's David Gregory gave an update to NHL.com:
He plays the kind of game you think cannot be sustained for a whole season because it’s a high-energy game and compete game at all ends of the ice. He ends up playing that game for the whole year and has led his team. He just never stops, and put that with the skill package he has and how well he thinks the game, he’s pretty much a top-notch player.
The Team: The Vancouver Canucks are coming off a terrible season and are under new management. New president Trevor Linden may be looking for a foundation cornerstone...much like the one Vancouver acquired in 1988.
Why It's A Perfect Fit: The Canucks would have to move up to No. 1 or No. 2 in the draft, but acquiring Sam Bennett would jump start the fanbase and give the Canucks an exceptional young player to build around in the future.