The 2014 NHL draft is finally here, and all 30 teams—especially those with lottery picks—will begin the two-day process of making serious young additions to their talent pools.
There's certainly no shortage of talent to choose from. Just like last year, there are three or four can't-miss prospects at the top of the board who stand out from the rest. But also just like last year, the potential doesn't end there as the class is deep with star talent long into the first round.
The draft is right around the corner, so let's break down everything you need to know to be ready for Round 1—set to unfold on Friday night.
2014 NHL Draft
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: Friday, June 27 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Round 1 Order
|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 (Conditional to Buffalo)|
|28||Tampa Bay Lightning (From New York Rangers)|
|29||Los Angeles Kings|
|30||New Jersey Devils|
Note: Complete seven-round draft order available on NHL.com.
Will Aaron Ekblad Break Trend at No. 1?
Since 2006, no defenseman has been taken with the top overall pick in the NHL draft.
But Aaron Ekblad looks like he will change that by the end of Friday night. The 18-year-old Barrie Colts (OHL) star has the prototypical size and ability on the blue line to be a first-line defenseman on a talented roster, if not a franchise player.
Although his ability to play stout and strong on defense is his biggest calling, Ekblad is dangerous on the offensive end as well. He scored 23 goals and added 30 assists in his final season in the OHL and netted a masterful plus-29 rating along with 17 playoff points in 2012-13.
But that doesn't mean he's a lock to go to the Panthers at No. 1, per Fox Sports Florida's Steve Goldstein:
Don't assume #Flapanthers take Ekblad if keep number 1 pick. Still need gamebreaking forward. Have lots of young D.— Steve Goldstein (@goldieonice) June 27, 2014
There is a noticeable top tier of prospects in this year's class that will be dissected below, but Ekblad is the cream of the crop. The draft hasn't seen a defenseman taken first since 2006, but that doesn't mean the value of a top-flight blueliner is any lower.
Whether it's to Florida or another team that trades for the top pick, expect Ekblad to break the trend of forwards being selected at No. 1 overall on Friday.
Which of the "Fab Four" Will Become Face of Class?
Ekblad isn't alone among top prospects in this year's class that have the potential of being the best to come out of the 2014 draft when their careers are over.
And this year, the Fab Four — the two Sams, Bennett and Reinhart, book-ending another centre, Neon Leon Draisaitl, and a man-boy, defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who’d have no trouble growing one of those lumberjack playoff beards despite being only 18.
Are they “franchise-defining players,” to use TSN scouting guru and former NHL GM Craig Button’s words? No. They are excellent kids, but there’s no Steven Stamkos here. No Drew Doughty. No Patrick Kane. Or farther back, no Sidney Crosby nor Mario Lemieux.
It shouldn't be too much of a knockout blow to anyone that there is no Crosby or Lemieux in this class. After all, players like that only come around so often.
However, that doesn't mean the 2014 class has any less potential. Reinhart can take over games with his pure skill, Draisaitl has great size and speed for his position and Bennett is loaded with potential.
But it will still be worth following to see who ends up as the top pick in the class. With this many players who are capable of being the best, the team at No. 3 or No. 4 could end up with the most impressive pick when we dissect this class again in the coming years.
Trades Running Rampant
Even with a class that boasts a number of ultra-talented players at the top and a number of promising high-potential prospects behind them, the hours leading up to the draft have been dominated by something else—trade talk surrounding some of the league's better players.
A move that likely won't be one-upped by any other deal throughout draft day is the one in the hours leading up to Friday night.
Vancouver Canucks' star forward Ryan Kesler was traded to Anaheim, per NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
Kesler to ANA for Bonino, Sbisa, No. 24 pick would be solid in all ways. ANA gets legit 2C; VAN gets younger w/underrated Bonino, plus more.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 27, 2014
And why not? With seven rounds of selections to deal and free agency looming, teams are flooded with assets on draft day unlike at any other moment.
Some NHL teams, like the Calgary Flames, are even asking their fans what they think of trade options:
While the Flames took a more cryptic approach in suggesting a possible trade at No. 4 overall, the Sabres—who select second—admitted days before the draft of some trade interest:
With teams at the top of the draft board exploring potentially moving their picks, there's no telling where the top tier of prospects will end up by the conclusion of Round 1.
No player is safe on draft day. While there are obviously untouchable players on every roster, some of the aggressive teams will leave no stone unturned to make the deals they are looking for—even if it means dealing an important piece.
Trades can complicate a draft and leave it tough to comprehend, but the potential of deals will make this year's NHL draft even more exciting than it already guaranteed to be.
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