2014 NHL Mock Draft: Final Projections for All 30 1st-Round Picks
After weeks—and in some cases months—of speculation, intrigue and projection, the 2014 NHL draft is finally upon us.
Today, the 30 NHL teams will take their pick of this year's best prospects to bolster their organizations—in some cases immediately, in others either years down the road or not at all.
This is Bleacher Report's final mock draft prior to the real thing, providing our best guesses as to which players go where. In most cases, teams select the consensus best prospect available with their selections, but things like positional need and drafting history have also come into play to provide as realistic a mock-up as possible.
Read on for our final take.
1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, RD
2013-14 Stats: 58 games, 53 points (Barrie Colts, OHL)
Skill Set: A mature defender who adds size and a two-way game, Ekblad is expected to make the jump to the NHL immediately. He's a safe pick, and the only real question is whether he'll bring enough offence to the majors to be an impact player in that regard.
Why He Fits Here: Florida's defence has a number of up-and-coming prospects, but not nearly as many as the front end—and nobody in Ekblad's range. He's a good fit for need and is the consensus No. 1 selection.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Sam Reinhart, C
2013-14 Stats: 60 games, 105 points (Kootenay Ice, WHL)
Skill Set: A highly intelligent pivot, Reinhart brings decent if unspectacular size and a well-rounded game that includes high-level offensive production and enough responsibility to play in all situations.
Why He Fits Here: After stocking up on defencemen in 2013, Buffalo snaps up the best forward in the draft to lead the charge up front. In this case, the best player available is a perfect fit for team need.
3. Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl, C
2013-14 Stats: 64 games, 105 points (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)
Skill Set: A big, powerful centre who plays a well-rounded game, Draisaitl can do a little bit of everything and is a classic puck-possession player.
Why He Fits Here: With two excellent centres still on the board, Edmonton opts to take size and maturity over the aggressiveness and potentially higher ceiling of Sam Bennett. Draisaitl is a better bet than Bennett to immediately make the jump to the NHL. That he's used to playing in northwestern Canada doesn't hurt either.
4. Calgary Flames: Sam Bennett, C
2013-14 Stats: 57 games, 91 points (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Skill Set: Aggressive, versatile and blessed with excellent offensive potential, Bennett is the last of the three brilliant centres at the top of the 2014 draft to come off the board. He's also renowned as a leader and character player.
Why He Fits Here: Bennett fits the Flames' need for impact forwards, and his physical intensity is also a nice fit for a team run by Brian Burke (President of Hockey Operations) and Brad Treliving (general manager). That he's the best player left on the board makes this decision a no-brainer for the Flames.
5. New York Islanders: Michael Dal Colle, LW
2013-14 Stats: 67 games, 95 points (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
Skill Set: Dal Colle is the best offensive winger available in this year's draft, a first-rate talent who also has a very pro-ready 6'2" frame. His willingness to go to the net and fight for possession along the boards bodes well for his NHL future.
Why He Fits Here: The Islanders are loaded with excellent defensive prospects and had no fewer than four centres born in 1990 or later who played major league minutes in 2013-14. Adding a big winger with major offensive ability makes sense from a positional standpoint, and taking the best player available always makes sense.
6. Vancouver Canucks: Nick Ritchie, LW
2013-14 Stats: 61 games, 74 points (Peterborough Petes, OHL)
Skill Set: Ritchie's offensive performance in 2013-14 was excellent, but there's something else that makes him attractive to NHL teams. At 6'2" and already weighing over 220 pounds, Ritchie is that oh-so-rare power forward: a scorer who can physically overpower his opponents.
Why He Fits Here: New GM Jim Benning comes to Vancouver from a Boston team that placed a heavy emphasis on size and strength. The Canucks have had a reputation for being easy to push around, which Ritchie will help counter. Additionally, he'll be a high-end wing prospect on a team that lacks them.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Virtanen, LW
2013-14 Stats: 71 games, 71 points (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
Skill Set: Virtanen combines three things that anybody who watches hockey loves: He boasts the speed to blow past defenders, he has an incredible shot that led to a ton of goals for the Hitmen this season and he's mean.
Why He Fits Here: Carolina can use help pretty much everywhere, so adding a goal scorer like Virtanen makes sense. His physical edge is a nice bonus for a team that could use it.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brendan Perlini, LW
2013-14 Stats: 58 games, 71 points (Niagara IceDogs, OHL)
Skill Set: Another big left winger with a goal-scoring touch, Perlini exploded in 2013-14, jumping from 12 points and a minus-15 rating to 71 points and minus-two. He's a good skater with a hard shot and above-average strength.
Why He Fits Here: Toronto had hoped that either Ritchie or Virtanen would be available in the No. 8 slot, but with both gone, it decides to take a bit of a risk and grab a different offensive player with excellent size and solid speed.
9. Winnipeg Jets: William Nylander, LW
2013-14 Stats: 22 games, 7 points (MODO, SHL)
Skill Set: Celebrated as one of the most dynamic players in the draft, Nylander brings ridiculous skill to the rink and has an exceptional combination of goal scoring and playmaking. Like his father, Michael, he's a touch on the small side for the NHL game.
Why He Fits Here: Winnipeg took a chance on a small offensive forward in 2013, and Nic Petan's development has been everything the team hoped for. With a number of strong young defenders, the Jets could use an infusion of offensive talent.
10. Anaheim Ducks: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW
2013-14 Stats: 63 games, 104 points (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)
Skill Set: An elite skater with exceptional creativity and a shot that's well above average, Ehlers could potentially be a high-end point-producer in the NHL. His small frame (5'11", 163 lbs) is a bit of a concern and he'll need some time to develop strength.
Why He Fits Here: Anaheim is blessed with a big, strong forward corps as well as a pile of prospect defencemen, so it is well-positioned to take a chance on a player who could be one of the best offensive finds in the 2014 draft.
11. Nashville Predators: Robby Fabbri, C
2013-14 Stats: 58 games, 87 points (Guelph Storm, OHL)
Skill Set: A highly competitive pivot despite his smallish stature (5'10", 170 lbs), Fabbri has emerged as a top-notch scorer in the Ontario Hockey League thanks to his speed and creativity.
Why He Fits Here: In need of both some help at centre and an injection of offensive creativity, the Predators manage to cover both needs with the selection of Fabbri. His determination and hockey sense set him apart from a player like Alex Radulov, whom Nashville took the last time it was looking for a pure offensive forward.
12. Phoenix Coyotes: Haydn Fleury, LD
2013-14 Stats: 70 games, 46 points (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
Skill Set: An intelligent defender who projects as a shutdown player in the NHL, Fleury is a very good skater who plays a simple, efficient game and can log a ton of minutes.
Why He Fits Here: The soon-to-be Arizona Coyotes don't really need a top-end defender, but Fleury represents the best value on the board and the team has had excellent success with developing rearguards over the years.
13. Washington Capitals: Alex Tuch, RW
2013-14 Stats: 26 games, 32 points (USNTDP Juniors, USHL)
Skill Set: A 6'4", 213-pound winger, Tuch also brings ability with the puck and offensive creativity to the mix, making him a potential power forward with first-rate scoring ability.
Why He Fits Here: Washington has long looked for a big power forward, even drafting Tom Wilson exceptionally early (16th overall in 2012) to find those skills. With Tuch available, it adds both size and skill up front.
14. Dallas Stars: Julius Honka, RD
2013-14 Stats: 62 games, 56 points (Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
Skill Set: A highly skilled defenceman who may well be the best offensive defender in this year's draft, Honka needs to gain size and strength but competes and thinks the game at a high level.
Why He Fits Here: The Stars have a very good group of young forwards and some strong defensive prospects, but they don't have an up-and-coming player who can match Honka's offensive potential from the blue line.
15. Detroit Red Wings: Kasperi Kapanen, RW
2013-14 Stats: 47 games, 14 points (KalPa, SM-Liiga)
Skill Set: An all-purpose forward, Kapanen brings speed and skill in a small package (5'10", 179 lbs)—much like his father, ex-NHLer Sami, did.
Why He Fits Here: The Red Wings have a pretty decent history with undersized European forwards and will demonstrate the appropriate patience as Kapanen bulks up and refines his game overseas.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets: Kevin Fiala, RW
2013-14 Stats: 17 games, 11 points (HV71, SHL)
Skill Set: An exceptional skater, Fiala combines speed and agility with offensive vision and an ability to win puck battles despite below-average size. His determination, for which he gets high marks, also helps. He's also one of the younger players available in the draft.
Why He Fits Here: Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen loves intelligent players, telling Aaron Portzline of The Hockey News (print) that "how you think the game is everything." Fiala has exceptional hockey sense and the Jackets have a nice group of skilled forward prospects, which makes him a fit for the team.
17. Philadelphia Flyers: Dylan Larkin, C/LW
2013-14 Stats: 26 games, 26 points (USNTDP Juniors, USHL)
Skill Set: A competitive forward with decent size (6'1", 192 lbs), Larkin's an intelligent player with good speed and defensive instincts as well as decent offensive ability.
Why He Fits Here: Larkin fits the team's love for pivots who can play in all three zones and is also arguably the best player still on the board at this point in the draft. He's performed well in a variety of roles, including some time at the wing, and seems like a good bet to emerge as an NHLer.
18. Minnesota Wild: Sonny Milano, C/LW
2013-14 Stats: 25 games, 39 points (USNTDP Juniors, USHL)
Skill Set: A major point-producer, Milano has a versatile offensive toolkit and is both a capable goal scorer and playmaker. He also has excellent speed. The knock on him is his size (6'0", 185 lbs) and two-way game, but his offence goes a long way toward making up for that.
Why He Fits Here: Milano fits a need in Minnesota. The Wild are loaded with quality young defenders and—as always—have a responsible group of forwards in front of them, but they do well here in landing a significant scorer in the middle of the draft.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ivan Barbashev, C/LW
2013-14 Stats: 68 games, 48 points (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)
Skill Set: Barbashev is a complete forward and arguably the best defensive forward in the draft. He posted major numbers in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but his abilities extend far beyond scoring totals.
Why He Fits Here: Tampa Bay is loaded at every position. Ten different players under the age of 25 played regular NHL minutes last year, including four defencemen, four wingers and two centres. The Lightning still have Jonathan Drouin, Slater Koekkoek, Andrei Vasilevsky, Brett Connolly, Adam Erne and Vladislav Namestnikov in the system behind those guys.
Centre is the closest thing to a position of weakness, and Barbashev's two-way game will fit nicely, but the Lightning could forfeit the pick and still be in good shape.
20. San Jose Sharks: Jared McCann, C
2013-14 Stats: 64 games, 62 points (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Skill Set: McCann is an intelligent forward with strong skating and excellent playmaking vision. He's not overly big (6'1", 176 lbs) and it's reasonable to wonder how high his offensive ceiling is, but he does many things well and contributes everywhere on the ice.
Why He Fits Here: San Jose's prospect system really isn't that good, but McCann helps and is the kind of two-way player the Sharks have repeatedly drafted in the past.
21. St. Louis Blues: Nikita Scherbak, RW
2013-14 Stats: 65 games, 78 points (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
Skill Set: The 6'2", 174-pound Scherbak needs to get stronger, but has the makings of an NHL frame and put up major point totals for the Blades, where he was the only offensive player of any note.
Why He Fits Here: A big puck-possession player who can bring offence too? Sign the Blues up. While the need for young wingers isn't overly strong in St. Louis, Scherbak brings the size and tenacity that the Blues love while also adding an offensive dimension the team could use.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: David Pastrnak, RW
2013-14 Stats: 36 games, 24 points (Sodertalje, Allsvenskan)
Skill Set: An agile skater who charges the net with the puck and doesn't shy away from traffic, Pastrnak brings good offensive value at this point in the draft and projects as a reasonably responsible forward.
Why He Fits Here: Pittsburgh's system isn't all that strong, and it's particularly lacking impact forwards, as most of the team's top prospects are defencemen. Pastrnak brings a dimension that the team doesn't have.
23. Colorado Avalanche: Jakub Vrana, LW
2013-14 Stats: 24 games, 3 points (Linkoping, SHL)
Skill Set: An offensive star who lit up international tournaments and Sweden's top junior league in 2013-14, Vrana didn't put up a lot of points in limited ice time at the senior level in Sweden. However, he's fast and boasts a wicked shot.
Why He Fits Here: Colorado's prospect system is strongest on defence and the team is overloaded with excellent young centres, so adding a scoring winger to the mix just makes sense.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Nikolay Goldobin, RW
2013-14 Stats: 67 games, 94 points (Sarnia Sting, OHL)
Skill Set: Often described as a one-dimensional player, that dimension is probably the most significant one for a forward: Goldobin can score with the best of them. With fast hands, excellent speed and a great shot, he has the potential to be a game-breaker in the majors.
Why He Fits Here: With multiple first-round picks and a strong group of prospects, Anaheim can afford to take a home run swing late in the draft. While Josh Ho-Sang was one option, the team instead opts for Goldobin, a winger with no parallels in the Ducks' system.
25. Boston Bruins: Travis Sanheim, LD
2013-14 Stats: 67 games, 29 points (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
Skill Set: A mobile defender who thinks the game well, Sanheim is an option to go much higher in a draft short of high-quality defenders. At 6'4" and 205 pounds, he has a pro frame. His lack of draft-year production is something of a concern, but he came on strong late, posting 21 points in 35 games in 2014 after managing just eight in 32 games in the first half of the year.
Why He Fits Here: Boston addressed a weak prospect defence corps to some extent with the addition of Joe Morrow in the Tyler Seguin trade, but Sanheim helps round out the group and offers a defensive presence to complement offensive prospect Morrow and young NHLers Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug.
26. Montreal Canadiens: Adrian Kempe, LW
2013-14 Stats: 45 games, 11 points (MODO, SHL)
Skill Set: Kempe just missed the cutoff for the 2015 draft by two days. He's one of the youngest players in the draft, but has good size at 6'2" and 187 pounds. He has good speed and a hard shot but is also a physical presence, which will improve his chances of finding steady NHL employment.
Why He Fits Here: Kempe plays with the speed that Montreal loves without sacrificing size, like so many Canadiens do. Given his youth in relation to the rest of his draft class, there's more time for him to develop than some of the other players available.
27. Chicago Blackhawks: Roland McKeown, RD
2013-14 Stats: 62 games, 43 points (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Skill Set: Everybody raves about McKeown's skating—he's among the best players in the draft in that particular skill. He's a puck-moving and puck-rushing defender with decent size (6'1", 194 lbs), but is seen as a soft player.
Why He Fits Here: Chicago has worked hard to add young defenders through trades, but being a successful team has really damaged the team's prospect core. McKeown instantly becomes the top blue-line prospect in the system.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning: Vladislav Kamenev, C/LW
2013-14 Stats: 16 games, 1 point (Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL)
Skill Set: If not for the fact that he plays in the KHL, Kamenev would likely be slotted higher by the various independent scouting services. The 6'2", 203-pound centre is a highly intelligent player who defies traditional Russian stereotypes by playing an accomplished two-way game. Despite his low KHL production, he excelled at the U18 tourney and scored at lower levels in Russia.
Why He Fits Here: Tampa Bay can take a bit of a risk with its second pick of the first round, and there are a bunch of players who fit the bill. The Lightning opt to risk the Russian factor, taking a big pivot who fits positional need and plays a similar style to fellow selection Ivan Barbashev.
29. Los Angeles Kings: Conner Bleackley, C
2013-14 Stats: 71 games, 68 points (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
Skill Set: Red Deer's captain isn't overly big (6'1", 196 lbs), but he's solidly built and competes in front of the net and along the boards. A high-character player with a well-rounded game, the big question is how much offence he'll produce at the NHL level.
Why He Fits Here: Bleackley plays the kind of responsible two-way game Los Angeles values, and with him being coached by Brent Sutter, it's a good bet the Kings have the inside scoop on the player. He's also a centre, which fits a positional need in the prospect pipeline.
30. New Jersey Devils: Josh Ho-Sang, C/RW
2013-14 Stats: 67 games, 85 points (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
Skill Set: Ho-Sang is regarded as a high-end talent but also a problem personality-wise. He's fast and plays a chippy game on the ice, with the latter being a little odd for a 5'11", 176-pound forward.
Why He Fits Here: New Jersey's prospect system needs an infusion of talent, and picking 30th isn't going to help. In a perfect world, the Devils would be turned off by Ho-Sang's reputation, but with a need for an injection of offensive talent, they take the risk on a highly skilled player who could turn out to be a major steal.
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