NHL ETAs for All of the Top Picks in the 2014 Draft

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

NHL ETAs for All of the Top Picks in the 2014 Draft

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    Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

    The 2014 NHL Entry Draft has completed the first round. There are players who will make an immediate impact at the highest levels of hockey, and others who will have to wait a year or two.

    Jumping from junior hockey or the European pro leagues is a rare feat—only six players from the 2013 draft played more than half an NHL season in 2013-14.

    Here are the ETAs for the top 10 picks in the 2014 entry draft.

1. Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers

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

    What They're Saying: Dan Marr, Director of Central Scouting, tells NHL.com about Aaron Ekblad's range of skills:

    He’s smart and an excellent all-round skater for his size. He handles and distributes the puck well in all zones, passes with authority and possesses an accurate shot from the point.

    ETA: The Florida Panthers drafted a franchise defenseman. Ekblad is NHL-ready for this coming season. He was a man in a boys' league last year in the OHL and looked good in international tournaments. He's a big man now, and if he can adjust to the quickness of the NHL game in training camp and preseason, Ekblad will be an NHL player in 2014-15.

2. Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres

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

    What They're Saying: Brian Burke of the Calgary Flames gave Sam Reinhart rave reviews leading up to draft day. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald has the quote:

    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.

    ETA: Reinhart's NHL arrival is 2014-15. He'll make the Buffalo Sabres and get plenty of power-play opportunities. He is the most skilled player in the draft and should deliver a quality season, possibly vying for the Calder Trophy.

3. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers

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

    What They're Saying: There is a tendency to believe Leon Draisaitl is coveted because of his size, but as Craig Button of TSN explains it's size and skill that make him attractive: 

    Leon is smart and his awareness allows him to make plays and impact the game in multiple ways. He sees potential for plays that very few do and as a team mate you have to be ready because he gets puck to advantageous spots.

    ETA: Draisaitl's NHL arrival is 2014-15. The big man has terrific puck skills, and the Edmonton Oilers will probably give him every opportunity to make magic with young Russian winger Nail Yakupov. He should flourish with all the skill in Edmonton.

4. Sam Bennett, C, Calgary Flames

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

    What They're Saying: John Vogl from The Buffalo News details the pull-up story:

    Bennett infamously failed to do even one overhand pull-up at the NHL Scouting Combine. Questions arose about the 18-year-old’s strength level and put doubt in the minds of folks who pegged him as ready for the pros.

    ETA: Sam Bennett's NHL arrival is 2015-16. He could probably play in the league this fall, but chances are he waits a season. His wide range of skills and offensive ability are outstanding, but the Calgary Flames can afford to be patient with him. Bennett was mentioned in a 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.

5. Michael Dal Colle, LW, New York Islanders

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

    What They're Saying: Craig Button of TSN talks about Michael Dal Colle and what he brings to a team. He also talks about his youth: 

    Michael is just beginning to hit his physical maturity. Combination of size, skill and power will only be enhanced as he continues to grow on and off the ice. He's smart and knows how to play to his strengths.

    ETA: Dal Colle's NHL arrival is 2015-16. The New York Islanders will want him to develop some of that physical maturity Button mentioned on TSN. New York is looking for big improvement in the standings in 2014-15 and can't afford to mentor a raw rookie at the expense of wins.

6. Jake Virtanen, LW, Vancouver Canucks

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

    What They're Saying:  Craig Button of TSN gives a thorough description of Virtanen:

    Jake has undeniable skill. Excellent skater who has speed, quickness and power. Can beat defenders with his skating and when he gets an advantage, his size makes it almost impossible for a defender to get back on equal footing. Very strong shot and can beat goaltenders from out but also has the quickness in his hands to score in tight. Has the potential to be a dynamic scoring winger.

    ETA: Virtanen's NHL arrival is 2015-16. The Vancouver Canucks have no reason to push Virtanen, and he'll be recovering from surgery in the fall, as detailed by Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun. Another season in junior is the best approach.

7. Haydn Fleury, D, Carolina Hurricanes

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

    What They're Saying: Haydn Fleury was the consensus No. 2 defenseman in the draft on merit, as described by TSN's Craig Button:

    Haydn has all the attributes of a two-way defenseman. Excellent skating base and he uses it defensively and to jump into the attack offensively. Very good puck skills and he passes well out of his zone and in the offensive zone to create scoring chances. Very good awareness with the puck and is threat with his shot which makes it hard to keep him from contributing. Competitive and continues to gain confidence and get better.

    ETA: Fleury's NHL arrival is 2016-17. Defensemen take awhile to develop, and there's no hurry for Carolina. 

8. William Nylander, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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

    What They're Saying: Craig Button from TSN tells the story on William Nylander:

    High end skills highlighted by excellent puck skills. His confidence with the puck is outstanding and he has as much patience with the puck as any player in the draft. Need to celebrate his gifts not question them.

    ETA: Nylander's NHL arrival is 2015-16. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs will probably bring him to camp and see what he can do, and his skill level is electrifying. It's possible Nylander catches lightning in a bottle and stays for opening night.

9. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Winnipeg Jets

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

    What They're Saying: Craig Button of TSN talks about Nikolaj Ehlers and his wonderful skills:

    A dynamic player who plays big and is elusive. Fast and quick, he is able to see opportunity and take advantage. Equally adept finishing plays as he at making them. Rises to the challenges and overcomes obstacles in his way.

    ETA: Ehlers' NHL arrival is 2015-16. Like Halifax teammate Jonathan Drouin, a season ripping up the QMJHL will better prepare him for the NHL. The Jets are a very patient organization and will do everything to ensure Ehlers arrives only when ready.

10. Nick Ritchie, LW, Anaheim Ducks

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

    What They're Saying: Nick Ritchie is a unique player, and OHL Prospects' Brock Otten does a fine job describing him as a player:

    We're talking about a 6'3, 230lbs winger who can lead the rush across the blue line. That's a special player. He's not a plug. Ritchie has the hands and skill to match everything he's capable of physically. And we haven't even talked about how effective he is without the puck, as a steamroller on the forecheck. He hits and he hits hard. Bottom line is you're looking at a throwback power forward. They don't make many like this anymore (think Kevin Stevens).

    ETA: Ritchie's ETA is 2015-16. He is physically NHL-ready but is probably better off waiting a year. The Anaheim Ducks are an ideal team for him, as they have enough depth to be patient.